Sunday, December 27, 2015

Stephen's Story, Financial Planning


*The following is a fictional account. But the details are based on a blend of true stories I've heard over the years.

Debt Free and Rich with Low Income: How did he do it? 


Hello! I'm 53 years old this year (2015). I've never won the lottery, or had a big investment payoff, and I've never earned more than $17 an hour. I'm debt free, I own three homes (paid in full). I've never paid a dime of interest on a car. And if you count my investments and retirement accounts, I'm currently worth $2.5 million.

My name is Stephen Wage, and this is my story.



The Car Fund


I started working part time when I was 15 years old, as a stocker in a Ralph's Grocery Store. I took the bus everywhere until I could afford a $500.00 car. At 15.5 I had my permit, and by 16 I had my license. I drove that cash car while I made monthly payments to myself into a savings account. That went on until 17.5 years old, at which time I had saved up and bought a $2,000.00 car.

In 1979, that was a big deal, and a nice car. A brand new car was going for less than $5,000.00.


The Individual Retirement Account (IRA)


In 1981, at the age of 19 I had heard of a new account that had become available to me, called an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). My local bank was offering a special called a Golden IRA. They said anyone who would put in an opening deposit of $2,000.00 would receive a guaranteed 10.00% Annual Percentage Rate (APR) on that money until they turned 65 years old.

That may sound enticing right now, but at the time, Certificates of Deposit were going for 23.00%. But I figured that couldn't last forever, so I decided to head to the bank.

My friends and I were on our way to the beach for a full day of beer and surfing. I told them I had to stop by the bank to open an IRA and they thought I was nuts. They went on without me. Eventually I caught up with them.

Over the years time went on, I moved up to Cashier and got many raises. Eventually I was making $17/Hr at Ralph's.


Debt Free Home Buying


When I bought my first home I knew I couldn't pay cash. I knew I could afford $1,000.00 a month. So I shopped for a condo at $800.00 month, but made the $1,000.00 payment anyway. I paid that one off in 15 years.

I got a second condo (newer one with more toys), but still $800.00 month. I made the $1,000.00 a month payment, but rented the first one out and added the rental income to the payment on the new condo. I had that one paid off in five years.

By then I was getting older, and wanted more space. So I bought a 4 bedroom house, at $1,500 a month, rented the first two condos out for $1,000.00 a month each. Then paid $3,000.00 a month on the house. Paid it off in 10 years.


More of the same: Results


So now? I continue to rent the first two condos out, and that money goes into a housing fund. I've nearly got enough to buy a third condo for cash, then I'll have three condos paying into the housing fund.

I've never paid anything other than cash for cars. By making the monthly payment on my $500 car, I saved up for a car that lasted longer. Each car was nicer and lasted longer. Eventually I was buying my brand new BMW 745 iL for cash too.

That IRA? Well I never put one more dollar of my own money into it. Just the first $2,000. It then started earning interest at 10% and it's now worth $65,000, so far (I'm not 65 yet). Why? Compound interest. Every month since 1981, my money earned interest. That interest became part of the balance. So that interest earned interest. Etc. Etc. I made other investments, 401(k), just like the first one.

My beach friends still drink, but gave up surfing because they are out of shape. They are all broke, every last one of them. Very sad to watch. Most of them have no idea how much I really own. I didn't lie to them. I told them I moved (I just left out the fact I kept both places, and now all three).

Me? I still work 45 hours a week at Ralph's Grocery Store. Why work with my financial status? I don't have to. But what would I do with my time? Watch TV? Golf?

So I go to work. It's still interesting. The bad days are never that bad, because you always know you really could leave whenever you want. But I'm irreplaceable at the store, I know where everything is. Same store since 1977.

Every so often, I take 2-3 months and go on a tour around the world. But not every year, just every few years. I don't drive the BMW that often anymore, I've decided I enjoyed my new Ford Flex much better anyway. I saw it at a Car Convention and bought it on the spot. It was special ordered with my preferences, and delivered to my home, no loan paperwork to sign, paid by Credit Card at the event. I got a lot of rewards points with that purchase, and of course I pay my Amex Card off in full every month (I NEVER pay interest on a credit card).

So... that's my story... Your Turn: What's your story?


How have you handled money? Good, bad, neutral... what lesson's have you learned?


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By Darrell Wolfe

Storyteller, Creative, INFJIntellection, Ideation, Input, Learner, Achiever





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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Ottis Johnson: Life After 44 Years In Prison



Ottis Johnson was sent to prison at the age of 25 years old, and was released at 69 years old.


In 1970 a the young Ottis Johnson was convicted of the attempted murder of a police officer. A victim himself of the affects of poverty and lack mentality, which often leads to theft and violent behavior. He served his sentence, and was released in August 2014.


44 Year Sentence



Life in prison was hard. All choices were taken away. The world was passing him by, and the only evidence he had that people were still out there, living life, was the small window that all inmates shared. The one with channels that only the guards could choose from.

Ottis watched styles and major news events, come and go, To get a feel for the events that he watched through a television lens, see this time-line of major US Events just from 1970-1989.

When he went in, Richard Nixon was president. He watched Nixon become the first president in US History to resign from office, through that small black and white window. He watched other presidents come and go; Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush Sr., Bill Clinton, George Bush Jr., and when he got out in 2014, President Barack Obama was in office.

Everything from the falling of the Berlin wall, gulf war, Y2K, and 9-11, were seen from the window of television.

Beyond the television, the only other knowledge he had was that of the guards, and the prisoners with shorter sentences who came and went over the years.

He lost all trace of his extended family, and has no way to contact them now that he is out.

Despite watching his entire life slip away without him, Ottis refused bitterness. He does not feel that society owes him anything. He committed a crime, and he paid his due time. He embraced the experience, and released anger through prayer and meditation.


I try to let that go. Deal with the future instead of dealing with the past.


Post Release Shock



So what shocked him most when he got out? What had changed on the street level from 1970 to 2014?

He was released by bus, and dropped off at Times Square, New York of all places. One of the strangest cities in the world.

There were television advertisements playing on the windows. Not on TV's behind the windows, but ON the windows. In 1970, you would see people walking back and forth inside the store, but not TV's.

Everyone had wires coming out of their ears. He was thinking "What happened? Did everyone join the CIA or become agents or stuff like that?" Because that's all he knew about wires in the ear in 1970.

Ottis laughed, " I was thinking, Why is everyone looking down at their phones? What do they call them... iPhones or something like that? How can you walk like that and not run into things?"

"I remember this, when I first got out. I was gonna make a call, and I seen the price on the pay phone was $1.00 (for 4 minutes), it used to be $0.25 when I went in?" Then he picked up, and found out that nobody even uses them anymore, and most don't work.

Grocery store options had exploded. Choices were limited in the prison system by design, but even with that aside; the choices from 1970 to 2014 were vastly improved. He said his hardest part of shopping is making up his mind. There's just so much. Boxed dinners. Gatorade in many colors. Peanut Butter and Jelly in the same jar.

At least they still had Skippy, that was familiar.



Conclusions:



This one gets to me, having had a brother who went through the prison systems before he died. What's funny is that he and I grew up the in same home, with the same parents. Somehow he would tell people that he "grew up on the streets", while I grew up in middle class suburbia.

It was his choice. He chose to leave behind one life for another. Other's make the choice to leave their hard neighborhoods and pursue a better life.

And yet we all live in various types of prisons. I was just re-reading a post I'd done a while back about Strongholds, which are prisons of the heart and mind. We are all in need of freedom, and freedom more abundantly.

How many things do we have today that we take for granted. What did you go through 10, 15, 30 years ago that God's grace allowed you to overcome? What are you not going through today, because He brought you out? And yet you are still complaining because you don't have everything you want?

Today, just a few days after Thanks Giving, the period of time that greedy shoppers are trampling each other for "stuff", let's go back and Thank God for the moments we have today, and for the things we are no longer burdened by, and the freedom we have gained so far.


Change is scary


Let's be grateful for the small things, like Skippy Peanut Butter, that remind us of the things that haven't changed.

Let's be grateful for the small things, like the Windows Tablet I'm writing this on, that have changed. They remind us of the comforts we have today, that we could not have imagined 20 years ago.


To hear Ottis for yourself:


He was interviewed in this video: My Life After 44 Years In Prison (HERE).




Your Turn: What's your story?


Tell the LIFE community about a story you encountered this week, and what you learned from it. 

Comment on this post, or Hit me up on Twitter @DarrellWolfe , Google +DarrellWolfe, Facebook DarrellGWolfe



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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

ObamaCare: To pay (the penalty) or not to pay? Health Insurance Decisions for 2015 that will impact 2016




It's that time of year again. Health Insurance enrollment time.




My work gives me from 11/02/15 through 11/20/15 to make a decision that will radically impact the outcomes of my 2016.


I've been pondering making a HUGE change the last two years, but didn't put enough research into it to make the decision until now.


Why I'm considering dropping health insurance: 




I first started considering the idea of dropping Health Insurance altogether after the politicians in Washington D.C. decided to put their hands on my health insurance. As will ALWAYS be the case when the US Government gets involved, quality went down, cost went up, and the end was worse than it started.

From one year to the next, my health insurance went from being one of the primary reasons I kept my job, to something I didn't even want anymore.

Then, to add insult to injury, the US Government told me I HAD to have it, or pay a fineEstupido Tonto Burros!

My mom is a nurse, I've grown up around medicine my entire life. There is one thing I've come to understand. Medicine is Big Business. It's not there to make you well, it's there to take your money. Nurses and Doctors who fight for the patient are steamrolled by the Insurance Companies, and CEO's of the hospitals.

Most vaccines, drugs, & treatments are not the result of careful research into what will make you healthy. They are the result of careful research into what will make them wealthy. Make no mistake, the hospitals, drug companies, and research companies are not on your side.

A small handful of Nurses and Doctors (those not brainwashed by the money machine) are on your side, but they are being silenced every day by the Medicine Machine.


I've know for a while that my insurance was WORTHLESS, ever since ObamaCare ruined it.


  • So why not drop it entirely? 
  • Could the tax penalty cost me more than insurance? 
  • Are there any creative marketplace alternatives?


I have not come to ANY conclusions as I start this post. I have an hypothesis, but no conclusion.

I'm going to analyze what I can find out, and let you into my decision making process this year. I'm going to research and run the cost benefit analysis as I work through this issue. What you will see is not only my conclusions, but the process I used to get there.

* Disclosure: 
Health and Health Insurance is a very personal decision (which the US Government had no right to impose on) and you should prayerfully consider all of your options and how they will affect you. 
*Assumptions:
I will be using a household income of $50,000 (which was the average household income in the USA in 2014 (here). The average was actually $53.657.00, but I'm rounding down as a fair market average. Plus even numbers are easier to work with. 
I will be using a household of 4, two adults, two kids. 
I will be using a hospital cost of $10,000.  I'm assuming that the only time I'd ever go to a hospital was for a delivery of a baby, and this cost is an average. I've seen estimates as low as $7,500 and as high as $20,000. 
*Offer
If you would like to use my Excel sheet to do your own calculations, you can download that (here).



Also in my planning: Maximized Living Clinic (an alternative to sickness treatments)


This year, I am probably not going to have a baby. It's possible, but not in the plan. I am however already planning to engage the services of my local Maximized Living Clinic (Chiropractic and More), in the North Fort Worth/Keller area. If you haven't checked out Maximized Living, you SHOULD!


Why treat sickness, when you can prevent it?



Also in my planning: Negotiated Medical Prices:



With or without insurance, you can negotiate the cost of your health care through sites such as MDSave and PricePain. You have to pay out of pocket up front, but it can save a ton. I ran a normal baby delivery (non C-Section) through my zip code at MDSave and got an average cost of $12,992.00 and a negotiated cost of $5,673.00 (pre-paid - does not include office visits or doctors fees).



Even with prevantive care, and negotiated prices, I still have a decision to make for this year. On to data analysis.



ObamaCare Fines


So what's the IRS fine for not having Health Insurance? According to HealthCare.Gov


If you don’t have health insurance in 2016, you’ll pay the higher of the two amounts below:

  • 2.5% of your yearly household income (Only the amount of income above the tax filing threshold, about $10,150 for an individual in 2014, is used to calculate the penalty.) The maximum penalty is the national average premium for a Bronze plan.
  • $695 per person ($347.50 per child under 18) The maximum penalty per family using this method is $2,085.

Just figuring for a simple example. If you made $50,000 in 2016, you would only pay a penalty for the portion over $10,150. So you would pay a 2.50% fee on $39,850, which is $996.25

The other options was: A family of four would pay a penalty of $695.00 per adult (2) and $347.50 per child (2), which would be $2,085.00.

However, it's the HIGHER of the two (diabolical government).

Therefore, if a family of four (two adults and two kids), making $50,000 a year, doesn't get insurance, they will have to pay $2,085.00 to the IRS.

While a single person making $50,000 annually would have to pay a tax penalty of $996.25.



 If I were single, this would be a NO-Brainer, take the hit, and get rid of the insurance. I would take every penny over the tax hit of what would have gone into premiums and put that into an HSA Account (not the plan mind you, just the HSA Account). I would be unlikely to need any medical intervention for several years (if not decades) and the little I did use (Chiropractor) could be paid from here. The rest would build.


Then when I needed tests, baby delivery, etc, I could shop for the best price and pre-pay through MD Save. It's like the Dave Ramsey school of medical!


Since I'm not single (meaning the tax hit is higher)... let's keep looking.




My insurance options, as I see them today, are:


  1. Health Insurance through Work
  2. Health Insurance through ObamaCare Marketplace
  3. Direct Primary Care
  4. Medi-Share: Christian Care Ministry
  5. Out of Pocket, No Insurance, take the tax hit.

Let's break each of these options down in more detail below:


Option 1. Health Insurance through Work

* I'm going to use my workplace insurance options (because that's what I know, and the decision I'm making). However, this should be similar to a lot of other workplace insurances. Check your plans to see the differences at your work.

I have two and half options at my work:


  • HRA
  • HSA Gold
  • HSA Silver



Health Reimbursement Account (HRA)

  • Premium per Paycheck (per month): $190.26 ($380.52)
  • Premium Annually: $4,946.76
  • Deductible: $3,800.00
  • % after Deductible: 20%
  • Annual out of Pocket Maximum: $7,600.00

Note: HRA is a  plan that comes with an account. They give you a pocket of money in the HRA, and you can earn more through Health and Wellness Dollars. You can also contribute to the HRA yourself. Your money rolls over from year to year, but, if you leave the company that money disappears! Poof be gone! 

You pay out of pocket, through the HRA money and your own money until you have hit your deductible, then they pay only 80% after that. That means you still pay 20% after paying premiums plus $3,800.00. After you you have paid a total of $7,600.00, they pick up the rest. 



Gold Health Savings Account (HSA) 

  • Premium per Paycheck (per month): $177.79 ($355.58)
  • Premium Annually: $4,622.54
  • Deductible: $3,800.00
  • % after Deductible: 20%
  • Annual out of Pocket Maximum: $5,700.00
Note: HSA is a  plan that comes with an account. Unlike HRA, they don't preload this account with money. You can still earn money through Health and Wellness Dollars, and you can add money yourself. UNLIKE the HRA, this money DOES go with you if you leave the company. Think of this as your 401K for Health Expenses. 

What great about HSA's, is that you get a tax deduction for money going in, and a tax free withdrawal for money coming out, as long as you use that money for health expenses. However, this does not include the money you spend on preventative health (vitamins, and supplements) (diabolical government).

You pay out of pocket, through the HSA Gold money and your own money until you have hit your deductible, then they pay only 80% after that. That means you still pay 20% after paying premiums plus $3,800.00. After you you have paid a total of $5,700.00, they pick up the rest.

Silver Health Savings Account (HSA) 

  • Premium per Paycheck (per month): $89.28 ($178.56)
  • Premium Annually: $2,321.28
  • Deductible: $5,700.00
  • % after Deductible: 20%
  • Annual out of Pocket Maximum: $6,850.00 per person ($9,500.00 per family)

Note: HSA is a  plan that comes with an account. Unlike HRA, they don't preload this account with money. You can still earn money through Health and Wellness Dollars, and you can add money yourself. UNLIKE the HRA, this money DOES go with you if you leave the company. Think of this as your 401K for Health Expenses. 

What great about HSA's, is that you get a tax deduction for money going in, and a tax free withdrawal for money coming out, as long as you use that money for health expenses. However, this does not include the money you spend on preventative health (vitamins, and supplements) (diabolical government).

You pay out of pocket, through the HSA Gold money and your own money until you have hit your deductible, then they pay only 80% after that. That means you still pay 20% after paying premiums plus $5,700.00. After you you have paid a total of $6,850.00 per person ($9,500.00 per family), they pick up the rest.

HSA NOTE: Another factors in HSA accounts, is that I can invest the unused portion of the funds into the market (like a 401K). Therefore I could get growth stock mutual fund increase on the money, and it's mine forever (even if I leave the company).


Work Plan Conclusion:


As a ran the cost analysis imaged below, I found that as I factored in the total cost paid over the course of a year, with premiums added back in, the HSA Silver plan costs me the least with $7,281.28 (vs $8,062.54 (HSA Gold) & $8,386.76 (HRA)).

Therefore, if I am using the work plan, I'll be using HSA Silver. 


  • All future analysis will compare HSA Silver to the other options.





Option 2. Health Insurance through ObamaCare Marketplace


The following is from ObamaCareFacts.Com:
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), officially called The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and sometimes called ObamaCare, is a US law that reforms both the healthcare and health insurance industries in America. 
HealthCare.Gov is the official Health Insurance Marketplace, although many state’s created their own Marketplace.

I checked the preview of the 2016 plan options:


  • Entered my Zip Code, County, Answered a serious of questions, and got this:


Your household may be eligible for a premium tax credit

  • Your monthly premium costs could be lowered by $653 /month
  • A premium tax credit is a tax break you can use immediately to lower the amount you pay for a health insurance plan each month.
  • Based on the information you provided, it looks like your household qualifies for this tax credit.
  • Your household may also be eligible for savings on out-of-pocket health care costs
  • You also may be eligible to pay less out of your own pocket each time you get care -- for things like deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance. 
  • To get these savings, you must pick a plan in the Silver category.

Without that "could be lowered" part, the cost of this insurance is $700-922 a month. The plan closet to what I have at work (although much harder to understand) is $922.00 per month. Yes, that's right! a MORTGAGE PAYMENT!

Theoretically, I could get some tax credit for this? So after I pay $11,064.00 all year, I might get $7,836.00 back on my refund? So I would have paid $3,228.00 total? That's still more in premiums than my work HSA Silver plan.

Marketplace Conclusion: 



  • My total cost without the tax credit is $16,064.00, and with the tax credit is $8,228.00. Still more than HSA Silver at work.






Option 3. Direct Primary Care - Concierge Medicine

In fairness, this one requires more explanation:


  • What is Direct Primary Care (also known as Concierge Medicine)?


The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFA) describes the The Direct Primary Care Model  this way:

The direct primary care (DPC) model gives family physicians a meaningful alternative to fee-for-service insurance billing, typically by charging patients a monthly, quarterly, or annual fee (i.e., a retainer) that covers all or most primary care services including clinical, laboratory, and consultative services, and care coordination and comprehensive care management. 
Because some services are not covered by a retainer, DPC practices often suggest that patients acquire a high-deductible wraparound policy to cover emergencies. 
Direct primary care benefits patients by providing substantial savings and a greater degree of access to, and time with, physicians.

Wiki defines Direct Primary Care:

Concierge medicine (also known as retainer medicine) is a relationship between a patient and a primary care physician in which the patient pays an annual fee or retainer. This may or may not be in addition to other charges. In exchange for the retainer, doctors provide enhanced care, including principally a commitment to limit patient loads to ensure adequate time and availability for each patient.[1] 

The practice has been referred to as concierge medicine, retainer medicine, membership medicine, cash-only practice, and direct care. While all "concierge" medicine practices share similarities, they vary widely in their structure, payment requirements, and form of operation. In particular, they differ in the level of service provided and the fee charged. Estimates of U.S. doctors practicing concierge medicine range from fewer than 800[2] to 5,000.[3]
The Physicians Foundation found that 9.6 percent of "practice owners" and 6.8 percent of all practices were planning to convert to cash/concierge practices in the next three years.[19] In 2012, there were 4,400 private physicians - a 25% increase from 2011.[20] 


History of DPC:

You may, or may not, recall that medicine was not always run by the government and multi-national corporations. Before the modern invention of health insurance, people saw their family doctor in much the same way as they did their local farmer, or local butcher. And just as Big Business ruined the quality of farm produce and cattle, while simultaneously driving up costs... so insurance did to medicine.

The doctor doesn't perform the procedures he wants, he performs the procedures your insurance company tells him to. He (or she) is a virtual slave to an impersonal machine called medical insurance.

Just as there has been a resurgence in personal farming, and organic free range livestock, some Doctors and Patients have opted out of the insurance machine altogether.



This is how Direct Primary Care (generally) works:

You pay a fee (monthly, quarterly, or annually) called a retainer (just like a lawyer). For that fee most or all of your care is pre-paid. You want to see your doctor? Just go, no co-pay. You may pay a nominal fee for a band-aid. But instead of paying $7.00 for a $0.15 cent band-aid, you might pay $0.50 for that same band-aid.

This is possible because insurance (and it's disastrous results) adds MOST of the cost of health care.

The Direct Primary Care Coalition (DPC) is fighting hard to keep the rights of doctors and patients away from the business and government that wants to put it out of order.

I've looked hard, I could not find many DCP's in my area. I found one in South Fort Worth, but that's all I could find. I'm not driving that far to see a doctor (especially when I don't go more than once a year if that!).



Obama's Tax Penalty and Direct Primary Care:


  • You cannot, currently, use a Health Savings Account (HSA) for payment of Direct Primary Care or for other forms of preventive care (vitamins, supplements, etc). The government wants you sick, not well. They can only feed the machine (and their billionaire donors from the drug companies) if you are sick and on medications. They don't want you well. The FDA won't approve preventative medicine, only dangerous and expensive drugs either, but that's another post.
  • DCP only works to avoid the ObamaCare tax hit if it is used in combination with a Wrap Around emergency care policy. 



Direct Primary Care Conclusion:


Although this is my ultimate preferred goal, I do not have the money to pay for DCP AND a wrap around policy right now. I'll pass this year, hope the US Government enhances HSA's for this purpose, and hope more DCP's open in my area.


  • For now, I'm still seeing the HSA Silver, and my Maximized Living Clinic as my best combination. 



 Option 4. Medi-Share: Christian Care Ministry

Each month, your monthly share is matched with another’s eligible medical bills. Through a secure online portal, Christian Care Ministry publishes the bills eligible for sharing and coordinates the direct sharing of medical costs between members. You will know every month whose bills you are paying, and when you have eligible bills, your fellow believers will be sharing those and praying for you.


*This is NOT insurance, but it does meet the requirements to avoid the tax penalty.


The paragraph from their site sums it up perfectly. You agree to pay a certain amount each month into a holding account. When someone has a need, they submit the bill to Medi Share. Medi Share makes sure that the bill meets the requirements, and then negotiates with the hospital for the best possible cost.

Then they post the payment for sharing. The bill is paid directly from members accounts. If you have a cost, you decide (before you start) what amount you will pay for out of pocket before asking other's to share your bill. You pay more per month and pay less out of pocket in the future, or you pay less per month, and pay more out of pocket in the future.


This Online Cost Estimator, shows a household of more than three members, the oldest being 35.





What if I need to go to the doctor for typical/normal things?

MediShare does not pay for well visits or annual check ups or preventative care. The purpose of MediShare is to pay unexpected burdens. These are things that are expected, and planned for. However, MediShare does negotiate cost for these items.

Q. What is the provider fee? 
A. The provider fee is $35 for office and hospital visits and $135 for emergency room visits. This is the amount that a member must pay at each visit to a medical provider. Members are always responsible for paying the provider fee, even after the AHP has been met. Please note this does not apply toward the annual household portion. 
Q. Besides the provider fee, do I pay anything to the doctor or hospital when I visit? 
A. No. Even if you know you have not met your AHP, you should have the providers submit the bills to CCM for discounting, to determine if they are eligible and whether they should be applied to your AHP. Your provider will then bill you for the net amount (which is the discounted amount minus the provider fee).



So what is the cost benefit analysis for Work Insurance vs Medi Share?



  • The total cost of MediShare came out to be an estimated $14,914.00 vs $7,281.28 with Work Insurance HSA Silver.






Option 5. Pay the ObamaCare Penalty, and pay for medical Out of Pocket



What if i said: "I'm over this!", then had to go to the hospital and pay out of pocket?

  • Cost with HSA insurance: $7,281.28
  • No insurance at full cost is $10,000 (plus the tax penalty) for a total of $12,086. 
  • No insurance with a negotiated cost of $5,000 (plus tax penalty) for a total cost of $7,086.00

I actually SAVE $195.28 by having no insurance and negotiating the cost. But that is contingent upon me being able to get that deal at that time. Kind of a gamble for $195.28 in savings.





Final Conclusion:



Let's say that I have NO health expenses. I am just paying for nothing.


Here's the difference between taking the hit and using the HSA Silver:


  • I take the tax hit of $2,086.00, or I pay $2,321.28 into premiums for HSA Silver. At first glance this sounds like the tax hit wins. 
  • BUT, I'm getting Health and Wellness Dollars back from my work. They will pay me back $800.00 for me, and another $800.00 for my wife (for doing some basic assessments). 
  • In that instance I am getting $1,600.00 back, so I'm only out of pocket $721.28. 
  • Remember, unlike the HRA, this money is mine forever. If I leave the company, I can take it with me. I can also invest the HSA money in the market like my 401K. So I'm actually ahead by taking the HSA Silver (with market growth, I could be ahead a lot!). 


  • So... this year (2015 enrolling for 2016) I'll be using the work plan HSA Silver. But if the penatly for not getting insurance ever goes away, OR, if the HSA can be used for preventative health and DCP's count on their own, I'm OUT! 


  • In addition, I'll probably add another $80.00 per paycheck (80*26=$2080 annually) to my HSA. This will pay for Chiropractor visits (HSA can be used for that), dentist costs, vision/glasses, and unlikely but possible other medical expenses. 


Your Turn:



  • What's your decision going to be this year, and why?


Comment on this post, or Hit me up on Twitter @DarrellWolfe , Google +DarrellWolfe, Facebook DarrellGWolfe, Etc...


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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Topos Consulting Questionaire





Your Contact Information:


  • Your Name 
  • Your Position
  • Brand Name
  • Industry
  • Address
  • Telephone
  • Email
  • How did you hear about Topos Consulting?



The following are questions to consider. Don't worry if you don't have the answers yet, this is part of why you are using Topos Consulting. But these will get you thinking:

What is your story?

  • What product or service do you provide?
  • Why did you decide to pursue this business?
  • What makes you special, unique, or qualified to do this?
  • What is your favorite part of doing this work? 
  • Why do you find it rewarding?
  • What value do you provide?
  • What impact has it had on the people you serve?

What are your brand elements?


  • Colors (Do you have RBG, or Hexidecimal Codes?)
  • Fonts (Georgia, Times New Roman, Etc)
  • Logos (or images)
  • Do you have digital copies for any of these?

eTools: Do you already have any of the following?

  • Website
  • Domain Name
  • Facebook Account (personal not business)
  • Facebook Page (business not personal)
  • Email List Service
  • Google Place Listing

eTools: Do you already have user ID's for any of the following?


  • Wordpress.Com or Blogger
  • Domain.com
  • Facebook
  • Google Place
  • MailChimp
  • Gumroad or another way to store and deliver the PDF?
























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The Topos Model


Topos: Strategic position of opportunity and influence


There are so many businesses without a website or Facebook page.

Why?

In 2015, where everything is plug and play ready?


Why use Topos Consulting?

You have a story to tell.


What would it look like for me to use Topos Consulting?



I'd TELL their story. I'm a story teller. THAT is what I do. That is the hinge point of great marketing. The technical stuff we can outsource if need be. I can ask them questions, gather pictures, history, absorb the data, and then tell their story. I can put that together in a basic web page. Help them get onto Facebook and Google Place. Help them create some easy hand out / tip sheet for adding value to their customer's and gathering email addresses.

I'd use Blogger, Google Place, and Facebook as the trifecta of start up online presence (optionally twitter and pintrest).

I'd also teach Etsy as an online market place for Creatives.

I'd have a list of resources for people who do what I don't do. Comprehensive web design, more aggressive social marketing, etc.


Tools:

Blogger
Domain.com
Facebook
Google Place
MailChimp
Gumroad or another way to store and deliver the PDF?



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I have lots of random thoughts from today. I’ll try to organize them into some kind of flow.

What’s funny is, I feel like I have everything I need from the perspective of how to get business. I just can’t get myself to focus on a single business idea to grow it.

You mentioned two of my favorite names on the internet:

Pat Flynn and Michael Hyatt are both AWESOME!

I’ve listened to both of their podcasts for a few years now. Seth Godin and Chris Ducker are some interesting ones to read/listen to if you get a chance.

Pat Flynn has 3+ separate podcasts now.

·         His main site is SmartPassiveIncome.com. His primary 45 minute podcast goes by the same name in iTunes.

·         He also has a shorter one called AskPat.

·         His other site and podcast, which I think you would get a kick out of, is 1-Day Business Breakthrough (1daybb.com). He co-hosts that with Chris Ducker. That one is interesting because they take a person’s business who volunteers to sit on the “hot seat”, and present their one biggest problem. Then they dissect and advise for 15 minutes. They do both online and brick and mortar businesses (but specialize in the online aspects of both).

From an internet marketing perspective, there are a few things that I think Pat Flynn would call basic-need-to-know’s.

I feel like I could/should be doing all of these myself, if I only had a product or service to offer that was worth investing in… Hmm… I’ve been pondering that for a while. Started several and dropped them. Curse of the perfectionist I suppose. Or curse of Ideation… lol…

But that’s a conversation for another day.

Anyway…They are…


Advertising and Landing Pages

You don’t seem to lack ideas for how to advertise. But here are some ideas on what to do with it.

Any advertising you do (paper flyers, offline to online, Facebook, etc.) should have the singular purpose of directing people to a “landing page”. The landing page can be hosted on your site, but should take them to a special page, not just the home page.

Example an ad ending:
“Visit OfferName.KetosCreative.com for a special offer.”
“Visit KetosCreative.com/OfferName for an exclusive offer.”

And then that site-page would be set up for two purposes.

1.      To sell that special offer (whatever it may be) (should provide great value to the individual)
2.      Get their email address

They have to deliver their first and last name, and email, to get the offer.

Offer:

The offer could be anything that provides intense value, and increases their curiosity about your story/brand.

Ideas could be (reduced enrollment, special session, or even just a special pdf handout, mini book, or CD, or….? You’re creatives I’m sure you’ll have ideas).

I like the single hand out, mini book, or CD/DVD/MP3/MP4, because the best offer provides immediate reward.

You tell me that you can help me do XYZ in less than 10 minutes, I do what you tell me, and I accomplish XYZ to my own utter amazement! NOW I want to know what else you can do for me.

What’s great about that, is that this is what you are already doing with your play now teaching style anyway. So I’m sure you’ll have ideas on what your offer(s) could be. You can even try different offers for different events. Have special landing pages for each.

Note for your internet web geek: if you want to hide the link to the pdf or mp3 on the site just make sure the download page is set to “no follow” and don’t link it anywhere on the site, only link them in the ad flow. That should keep people from getting to them accidentally. If a few find them accidentally, Hurrah! They’ll get great value, and want to come back for more. It’s ok.

In essence, you did this for me personally already. In your 5-minute drum lesson demo when I was there on open house day. I sat with your drum person, and when I left I said “Hey… I could do this…” and even though I’ve been too busy to come back so far, it’s still in the back of my mind… burning… “go back… go back….”. Your offer, whatever it may be, should do the same thing that drum lesson did to me, in the minds of those who get your offer.

Remember, your brand is your story. You live to create, you love to teach. Tell that story at every interaction point. So tell your story while you sell the offer.


Email List:

There are many great services to manage an email list. I’ve tried most of them and my favorite is “MailChimp”. It’s free to get started (great feature) and you can pay for additional space and services after the list starts being profitable. Once you get enough going to start paying for anything, you can start writing that off as a business expense too.

Regardless of which program you use, the point of the email list is to deliver value again and again to your list. The subscribers should be on the edge of their seat for your next email. However, how to go about that varies from person to person, business to business. I’ve seen some that turned me off. So you have to find your own way that works for you.


Bring me back, remind me why I need you and your business in my life:

One reason more blogs show up on Google Searches than static sites, is because continuously updating content means fresh content and ideas. Some kind of updating blog feed on your site is a great way to bring repeat traffic and business. If you have no updating feed, then I see your site once, think “that’s really cool” and then get busy and forget about it.

The feed doesn’t have to be a written post. I could be a YouTube video, podcast update, or a mix of many things.

Give me a reason to come back to your site as often as you can remind me.

The two components of that are:

1.      Having a site with updating content
2.      Having an email list to remind people to come back

The content of the emails and site could be a variety of things.


As to what goes into that email and site feed.

It could be a blog feed, podcast feed, just an actual letter from you to your Creatives about the things you’ve been doing at Ketos Creative. Jesse Duplantis said it best:

“Always tell them what you did, what you are doing, and what you are going to do.”

Content: You could explore what you’ve been doing, tell stories about the business, students, accomplishments, something you’ve learned, a break through your student had, anything really. You could write about industry news, new tech, creative ideas, creative tips, etc, etc…

Student led opportunities: Whatever avenue, or avenues, you choose could be at least partially student led. Put them to work, teach, but get something out of it for the business too.

Blog: You could write about these things. Post weekly, monthly, as often or seldom as you want. Regular is more important than frequent. If I know you have a monthly newsletter, with all kinds of updates, I’ll be expecting. If I know you’ll be having a weekly tip, I’ll expect that.

Podcast/VideoPodcast: The benefit of adding video, is that you can use iTunes Audio, iTunes Video, and YouTube all at once. I know personally, I’m more likely to listen to a podcast on the go than I am watch a video, or read an article. But I find articles and videos helpful when I’m looking for some instruction that is specific to the task at hand.

NewsLetter: Similar to the blog post, but this could be done monthly, have multiple articles, and other news updates. Think “Gateway Life”.

Any combination of these could be included in an email format through MailChimp, and have links back to your site with encouraging “Calls to Action” to get people back to the site.

Another Ketos Service: Podcast Assistance

I like the podcast too, because you could even offer that as a service. If people want to podcast, but have ZERO technical ability or equipment, they could come in to your studio for 30 minutes, record a session, and you can splice (and create) their intro music and voice over… etc. Then send them the MP3/MP4.

I THINK that’s all of what you saw going through my head… I’m sure I’ll think of something else. I’ll let ya’ll digest that for now.

Shalom!

Darrell G. Wolfe
Author | INFJ | Intelection, Learner, Ideation, Achiever, Input

www.DarrellWolfe.Com
Twitter: @DarrellWolfe
Darrell@DarrellWolfe.Com














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Why Storytelling?
































































Here are some clips from great articles about using story telling in Brand Marketing:



FastCompany: Why our brains crave storytelling in marketing

When reading straight data, only the language parts of our brains work to decode the meaning. But when we read a story, not only do the language parts of our brains light up, but any other part of the brain that we would use if we were actually experiencing what we’re reading about becomes activated as well.


i-Scoop: Questions to ask yourself about your brand story


  • What is the story and narrative behind everything you do as a brand, ranging from what you stand for to the reason why you developed solution X or decided to support ‘good cause Y’? 
  • How can you get to that story that’s part of your brand and even people’s DNA instead of to just the facts? 
  • How do you actually connect with people in the language they understand best: the language they can “visualize” in a story-like context?
  • What types of stories appeal to your content marketing “personas”?
  • What about the stories your customers and ‘audiences’ are already telling? How do you listen to those and include them? 




Entrepreneur.Com: Storytelling Could Bring Your Brand to Life and Strengthen Your Marketing Impact

A brand's story is no longer limited to or controlled by the media outlets and advertising that it uses. One would even say that this has been completely reversed: the media now runs stories based on how much traction they've gained elsewhere. Your customers and advocates are now the tastemakers, giving power to the stories that resonate with them.


Forbes: 5 Secrets to Use Storytelling for Brand Marketing Success

Honesty and transparency are important in brand storytelling. Yes, you’re crafting “stories,” but they need to be rooted in the reality of your brand, products, and industry. In other words, even brand stories must adhere to the three primary steps of brand-building: consistency, persistence, and restraint.



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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Grow by reading: "Secrets of the Secret Place" - by Bob Sorge




Hi! It's been a little longer than usual.


I haven't been writing much lately. I've been busy with transitions at work and home. But the truth is, I didn't feel like writing, because I didn't feel I had anything valuable to say. I was in a mood, complaining, whining, pissy... You can't influence people for good or God in that mood.

My wife was kind enough to reorganize the house and put a comfy chair in my office. OK, it might be that she just wanted me to go away in that mood... but it was still great! This has become my prayer chair.

I've been reading:





This may be one of the most profound books I've ever read. I want to give a special thanks to my friend Allen for giving me this book. I don't know if I would have picked it up off the shelf naturally, and it's been a profound help.

As with many books, if I'd read it some time ago I may not have thought so. You have to be open and ready to grow. The book is divided into 52 mini-chapters of about three pages each. You could read straight through, or you could read one each morning or evening. I've been dong a bit of both.

Bob Sorge's insights into prayer have unlocked a new dimension to my prayer life. I've only touched the outside of the the tip of the iceberg, but I can sense a new season has already arrived. I'm not even half way through the book.

I'm not going to outline the book, or re-write it for you here. Every chapter was important so far. Go pick it up and read it!

But I do want to draw out some things that really stood out to me in this season of transition I'm going through.

I wanted to share some lesson's with you that I've picked up along the way so far:

Chapter 3: The secret of listening

Hearing God's voice has become the singular quest of my heart, the sole pursuit that alone satisfies the great longings of my heart. Things don't change when I talk to God: Thins change when God talks to me. So the power of prayer is found not in convincing God of my agenda, but in waiting upon Him to hear His agenda. 
'nough said

Chapter 4: The secret of radical obedience


The New Testament word for obedience, huakoe, is a compound word from two Greek words. Hupo "under", and Akouo "hear". To obey God is to "hear under".
Devotion to the secret place is the saint's first great act of obedience. 

If you haven't heard God, you have nothing to obey. You cannot obey God until you have heard God, and put yourself under that thing you heard.


Chapter 8: The secret of decision making


Intimacy precedes insight. Passion precedes purpose. First comes the secret place, then comes divine guidance. God doesn't simply want to get you on the right path, He wants to enjoy you throughout the journey. 
God's primary desire for your life is not that you discover His will and walk in it; His primary desire is that you draw near to HIM and come to know Him. 
God wants to be known!
And then He desires that from that knowing relationship there come a tender walking together in His purpose. 

My God. My Father (Daddy-Relationship), My Lover (the lover of my soul)... God is not a king that demands his servants serve Him. He is a Daddy who wants to be with his kids. Jesus is a husband that wants to be with his bride. This is the heart God has for you... and me. One of passion and pursuit.

God wants your heart, he wants you, not just your obedience.


Chapter 10: The secret of burning


OK... I was about to just write this WHOLE chapter out, because so far this one has had the greatest impact. Every word is awesome! God read it. Here is the biggest part:
The secret to staying ablaze for Jesus is not in responding to alter calls (as good as those are); it's not in having someone lay hands on you and pray for you (as valid as that is); it's not in listening to a good teaching tape or the latest worship CD; the only sure source for staying white-hot is in devoting yourself consistently to the place-of-the-shut-door. It's the place where the "spirit of burning" (Isaiah 4:4) ignites your soul as you gaze upon His glory with an unveiled face (2 Cor 3:18).

I've been to so many alter calls I feel like my knees wear out, but with no LASTING change. I dull down before the week is out. Sometimes before the service is out. I've grown numb to them. I don't feel anything anymore much of the time.

I thought this was a bad thing, a sign of my growing cold to God. At some level it might be that. I've been mad at God for a long time about certain things. But now I realize a deeper truth. The coldness, and the mad at God are symptoms, not root causes. Those will simply burn away in his presence through CONSISTENT time spent in his presence.

Chapter 12: The secret of humility

Prayerlessness is the first sign of prideful independence.

Chapter 13: The secret of intercession


As a body feels pain, and that is a signal to repair and replace... so THE BODY of CHRIST should feel pain in it's members. The disease of leprosy causes a deadening of the nerves so that the body doesn't feel pain. If the hand is burning the body doesn't react to stop it. For many churches, we have spiritual leprosy, the churches nerves are dead. If we do not feel the pain of our members (people hurting in our midst) than we cannot react to repair damage, and replace lost things.
Intersession is a response to pain.

If I know someone is hurting, I should go before God and intercede for them. I should also go before those demonic spirits and DEMAND they loose my brother or sister. I have the authority in Christ Jesus, I should be using it for others not just myself.


Chapter 15: The secret of radiation therapy


You don't know you're being exposed to radiation when it first happens. People who get sun-burned don't realize they've been exposed to excessive radiation until after the damage is done. The effects of radiation are always delayed. The same is true of God's glory. When you spend time in His presence, you first thought is, "This isn't accomplishing anything." However, if you will believe the truth and just devote yourself to mega-amounts of time in His presence, the effects of spending time with Him will eventually manifest... You start to think differently, and you don't even know why. 

That's all the things I wanted to share today. If you have a desire for, or even an inkling that you could benefit from, a deeper relationship with God through prayer... you need this book!

Shalom!





Your Turn:


What's the most profound, or impactful, thing you've learned about prayer. It could be about prayer, or how to do prayer. Share your thoughts with me. 

Comment on this post, or Hit me up on Twitter @DarrellWolfe , Google +DarrellWolfe, Facebook DarrellGWolfe, Etc...



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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Story Tellers Anchor Societies & Inspire Them To Greatness


Story Tellers Anchor Societies & Inspire Them To Greatness


I spent the last two weeks (or more) evaluating. What am I doing this blog for? What am I doing in life? What SHOULD I be doing with my time? I cannot devote unlimited time resources. I only have a given number of hours in a day. I must find something meaningful and compelling to do with those hours.

As an INFJ, I devote a great deal of my mental real estate to what could be, rather than what is. This leaves me prone to favor shows like Stargate SG1, Star Trek, Star Wars, Marvels Avengers, Lord of the Rings, Marvels' Agents of Shield, Forever. I like to explore spiritual realities and possibilities. I enjoy the future, and what could be. I like to explore just beyond.


Stories - Narratives That Last



Before written language, story tellers were the anchor of a society; preserving it's history, enriching it's culture, inspiring it's people. From the oral traditions of ancient peoples, to Shakespear, to Pixars John Lasseter, stories... good stories... thought provoking stories... NEEDED to be told.

It is a need, not just entertainment. It's the breath of any vibrant society. The modern prevelance of rebooting stories from our youth does not reflect a culture of creativity; rather, it reflects a bored culture. It reflects a culture that has lost it's collective ability or willingness to tell stories that matter.

It is my role, as author, to provoke thought, challenge beliefs, suspend disbelief, engage, inspire, illuminate; through honest characters with real struggles and faults... but not interpret them for you. In the end, you must decide who was right or wrong.

My tastes are for spiritual realities, scriptural studies, science, science fiction, fantasies, supernatural, super heroes, epic action adventures. It is unlikely you will find me writing romance novels or thrillers (Stephen King Territory).

I am a Seer and Teacher. I see what others do not. I see how things fit, and how to make them better. I write and tell stories (Jesus called them parables). I should not always draw their meaning for you.

What I find fascinating, is that I read more NonFiction than I do Fiction; and yet, I remember the story telling the best. Even when the book is presented to be a true story, if it is written as a narrative, I remember it, embrace it, it becomes part of me.

I cannot recall the 10 steps of, or the 7 habits of...

But i can remember walking up a mountain with Frodo, struggling with a ring. I remember how I felt, when Aslan rose from the dead. I remember how confused and intrigued I felt, as Thomas Hunter worked his way through two lives in two worlds at once. I can also remember standing with Rick Joyner, in front of Jesus, getting washed from the layers of sin built up like plaque over my soul (references below).

So... I think I'm turning my attention to narratives (fiction and non fiction). Let's see how that goes.


Stories Referenced Above:


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By Darrell Wolfe

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

INFJ: The Counselor | Finding Your Life Theme



INFJ: Counselor, list of INFJ attibutes. Title: INFJ--Jungian-16-Personality-Types-Test-Results--Richard-N-Stephenson
INFJ--Jungian-16-Personality-Types-Test-Results--Richard-N-Stephenson

In January 2015, I wrote a post called Discovery: Finding Your Place In God's Plan, in which I talked about the various personality tests I had taken. Each of these has given me another angle to view, another perspective to help me understand my Unique Value Proposition (UVP) on earth.  In other words, I can begin to understand why God has placed me on earth, and what I'm called to do.

None of these were more powerful for me than the Myers-Briggs 16 Personalities Typology, combined with my Strengths Finders top five results. The 16 Personalities test is free, and the Strengths Finders is only $10.00 for your top five.

In fact, I've owned these identities so much, that I've even updated my About Page and my email signature to reflect those results:

Darrell G. Wolfe 
Author | INFJ | Intelection, Learner, Ideation, Achiever, Input

Recently, I was honored to publish an article for #INFJCacafony (HERE), which is a Graphic Magazine created by (and for) INFJ's. The article is about understanding the INFJ: Mind, Will, and Emotions. To read the whole thing I recommend you check out the link above.

As I am currently going through some hard inner growth this week, being stretched out of my comfort zone in several ways, I felt like coming back to the basics and re-evaluating: What is my core? Who Am I? What am I called to do?

Then as I thought about it, I wondered if helping you understand the four elements (at least my half of them), could help you begin to gain an understanding of who you are, and who you were created to be.

Here is an excerpt from that article:

For those new to the Myers-Briggs typologies. My favorite site for testing and information is 16 Personalities. 

The Overview of the INFJ Typology 

The Mind:
Introverts (I) are energized and recharged by solitude, because it allows us to explore the uncharted world of the mind and thoughts. The world does not make sense unless we can make sense of it and see how it all fits together.
Energy:
Intuitives (N) rely on imagination and intuition. We are absorbed by the world of ideas and possibilities. We are far more likely to be thinking about what could be in the future, or could have been in the past. Back to the Future MUST have been written by an Intuitive (N) personality!
Nature:
Feelers (F) are sensitive, and tend to follow the heart and focus on harmony.Now… INFJ’s tend to FEEL deeply, and pick up on other’s emotions instantly. Even absorbing their emotions into their own. However, they tend to be totally out of touch with their own emotions as a result of being so in tune to others. Many INFJ’s mistype into INTJ for this reason. But there is an important note here. INTJ’s are truly objective and rational. Given a decision they will look to the facts. INFJ’s are just as likely to do the research, but still end up trusting what “feels” right in the end.
Tactics and Will:
Judgers (J) prefer clear rules and guidelines. They see deadlines as sacred and seek the closure of a matter. People strong in J might find that Achiever is in their top five Strengths Finders. These tend not to fly by the seat of their pants into a situation; rather, they observe it for a while an see which way it’s going.

As I was reflecting on all of this, I found the picture at the top of this post, and it hit me:

Counselor

That's who I am.

Pastor didn't feel right, because I can't tell you how much I DO NOT have the gift of Administration. I can't get a crowd together and organized, I barely want to be in the crowd myself.

But Counselor?

If there was one value added that consistently described about my non-work roles at work (all of the jobs I've worked in any field) it was that people called me the Team Pastor, because I served in the role of a what many would call a Pastor.

I was Teacher and Answer Man to those who had questions (theological to random facts), I was Mr. 411.

Also, I was calm and skillful advisor to those who were hurting. If you were looking for a party organizer, I was not your guy. If you were looking to go to someone after an upset or tragedy, that was me.

If you had to ask "Why God?", I was the one they came to.

Counselor.

Hmmm....

I think I could own that title. How about:

Online Counselor?

Online Spiritual Tour Guide? Too Cheesy... sounds like Ms. Cleo. Nope.

Hmmm...

I guess I'll keep working on that.

How about you? Looking at the life you have lived until now, and all of the roles you've played: 
What themes or common strings run through that history? 
How has your calling worked itself out over time in your life? 

Comment on this post, or Hit me up on Twitter @DarrellWolfe , Google +DarrellWolfe, Facebook DarrellGWolfe

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Saturday, May 9, 2015

Stronghold Cycles: Why do I keep making the same mistakes over and over again?







Have you ever been frustrated because you kept repeating the same failures over and over again? I have. In fact, I have been living there more often than not for most of my life. 



One of the first major steps I've taken toward getting free was joining Gateway Church, Southlake TX; and going to their Kairos event. It's open to all people, all churches, from all over the country. If you are looking for Freedom, I suggest you come.


The following are my notes from: "Kairos - When Eternity Steps Into Time" by +GatewayPeople 




Disclosures

*Originally Posted as notes on my personal Bible Study Blog, adapted for this post. 
*My Notes - This is the type of event you really need to experience, it cannot be explained. These notes below are what I got out of it. You might get totally different things. I strongly suggest you make plans to attend. It's open for all churches. You can register (HERE).


Appetite for the Eternal


The Soul (mind, will, emotions) is the place of temptation.  Our spirit was saved, our soul is being saved, our body is slowly dying now, but will be saved.

 Ecclesiastes 3 - There is an appointed season for every purpose under heaven.


  • Physical Pain is a gift of God to tell us something is wrong with our body and it needs to heal. Ex: If you were to begin slowly cutting your hand off, your body would tell you to STOP IT! Physical Pain awakens us to a physical problem.
  • Soul Pain (mind, will, emotions) is the same thing. It tells you that there is something wrong. Emotional pain awakens us to our soulish problems.
  • Spiritual Pain awakens us to our eternal needs. In the light of eternity, good things on earth should not satisfy us into complacency, nor should bad things pain us into hopelessness.


“Eternity Minded: Good things should not satisfy unto complacency; nor should pain lead to hopelessness.” Tweet That


Question: Do you want God... or just what God can do for you? 

Am I receiving the benefits of God with Gratitude, or treating them as entitlements? 


If I treat God as my servant, saying "Do what I want... now!"

  • Any answered prayer will strengthen my sense of entitlement
  • Any non-answered prayer will cause a deeper sense of pain. 

God cannot win, when you are playing the role of boss. Without gratitude there is no relationship.


What is the nature of sin? What is sin? What is not sin?

SIN = Seeking 2nd things/attachment to the wrong things. 


  • When we seek 2nd things, we loose the 1st things, and the second things are lost as well. 
  • When we seek 1st things, the 2nd things are thrown in for free.

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Matthew 6:33 NKJV 


  • Sin is not: Breaking the Rules
  • Sin is: Heart Condition, Inherited from Adam
  • Sin is not: Bad Behavior
  • Sin is: Falling Short of Glory

...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23 NKJV


  • The Sin Solution is not: Better Behavior
  • The Sin Solution is: New Heart/Spirit


Sin came when we chose knowledge of the right vs wrong over the force of LIFE.

The sin solution is not a better knowledge and practice of good, it is connecting to the Source/Force of LIFE itself.


What is a Stronghold?


Strongholds are soulish, and can be recognized when we know that God's word says "A", but we believe "X" based on our experiences. Bob Hamp


  • I know God says "Healing is yours", but I believe I won't be healed... 
  • I know God says that I will prosper by following His way, but I'll just be poor my whole life...


These are the types of statements someone makes when caught in a stronghold.
I know God's Word says... But my experience says... I believe my experience.
 We need to understand "HERE" from the perspective of "THERE"

God gave me a funny comparison. The difference between earth and heaven, is similar to the difference between the 1950's Superman Comic Book, and the 2013 Man of Steel Movie.

Compare the graphics of a 1950's Comic



To the CGI effects of a 2013 Movie.



******************


Establishing Identity/Hearing God


Story One: Deaf Guy -

There was a deaf man, and a new Sign Language (ASL) instructor came in. This man was ignored by everyone, so she took him on. She came to him and signed "My name is Karen", and he signed back in perfect ASL, "My name is Karen". She was surprised. She she signed "No, my name is Karen, what is your name?" He signed back "No, my name is Karen, what is your name?" Puzzled, she began to realize that this deaf man had words... but he did not have language. He did grasp the meaning of words. Words contain images, ideas, concepts. They are containers for thoughts. They communicate thoughts. If you have the words but no language, you cannot communicate, you can only Parrot. She worked with this man until one day he jumped from his chair and signed "I GET IT! This is a chair, things have names!" And he started the slow process of learning language.

Story Two: Pastors Kid -

There was a pastors kid who grew up to be a pastor on staff at the same church his Dad pastored. Do to some things mean church goes had said, there was a lie in his head that he had no real talent or ability, and that the only reason he was on staff was because of who his Dad was. One day God breaks through and tells him: "Listen, you have not gotten where you are because of your talent and ability, you HAVE gotten where you are because of who your Father is... and I AM YOUR FATHER! Because of that, no man can put you in, and no man can take you out."

You cannot think without language. Words connected to ideas are how language takes place, and it takes language to think. Babies and Dogs probably both dream images, but they do not "think" as we do. Thinking requires language.

When we struggle with our walk with God, it is often because we are "hearing" another voice, not the voice of our Shepherd.

Questions to ask God, and listen for Him to answer them.

  1. What are you saying to me today, about me?
  2. What names have I believed about me today that are not from you?
  3. What are the names You, God, would have me believe?
  4. What lie/name have I believed about you?
  5. What name do you want me to know about you?
 Now STOP... listen after each question. Take several minutes if you need to. Listen for His answers.



Anatomy of a Stronghold


Anatomy of a Stronghold





  • Event - Caused by external factors, creates a pain point in your life. 
  • Lie - The enemy took this event as an opportunity to tell you a lie about it, that you believed. 
  • Defense/Comfort - Some action that brings comfort and feels right, based on the lie. 
  • Reaction - Either other people's reaction to my defense, or a natural by-product of the comfort/defense creates a similar event to that which caused the lie, and reinforces the lie, so I go deeper into my comfort, and the reaction happens again. 

Thus the cycle is strong with each turn.


Example One: Financial Stronghold
  1. Event - Financial Set Back
  2. Lie - I perceive that God Doesn't Come Through/Provide for Me the way I thought He would.
  3. Comfort/Defense - Seek to spend money on food/fun. "Oh well"
  4. Reaction - Money Spend unwisely creates another financial setback...
Example Two: Relationship Stronghold (affected friendships, relationships, sex life, etc...)
  1. Event - Rejected/Beat Up/Bullied by a stereo-type Male Jock
  2. Lie - I am Intellectually Superior to most men, and all Jocks.
  3. Comfort/Defense - Seek affection, comfort, and validation from Women. Keep no male friends. Reject sports unless women are there (like gymnastics). Get addicted to relationships with women like a drug, moving from one to the next rapidly seeking validation. Push most forms of male friendship away, in some cases feel greatest satisfaction when I take a woman from a male (especially a jock-type). 
    1. Only friends are women, gay men, or men who show a tendency for favoring intellectual or artistic pursuits over physical ones.
  4. Reaction -  Men keep their distance, or worse bully. Thus, rejected by men, thus reinforcing the lie...

The Painful Event was not the problem, the lie we believed about it is the problem. If you can begin to identify each of the four components of the cycle, you can interrupt the cycle, and start a positive strong hold instead.
  1. Event - Any Event
  2. TRUTH -
  3. True Comfort - 
  4. Positive Reaction -
The problem with negative strongholds, is that they create a wall that doesn't just keep bad stuff from getting in, it keeps good stuff from getting in too.

It also ties you to the very thing you wanted to be free from. Saying " I'll never by like my Dad..." is the best way to guarantee that you will be!

These vows FEEL right, but are WRONG. Nobody can take down your stronghold for you. But neither can you do it yourself. You need the Holy Spirit to show you which bricks to remove, in which order, and let Him empower you to remove them one by one.

4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,  

Solution:

Repent does not mean to change your behavior. It is a changing of the heart and mind, and behavior is a byproduct of that change. But it's not just a changing of the mind to say "Oh... that' bad, I should stop.". That is a religious change of mind. That is rooted in the Knowledge of Good, not the Tree of LIFE.

Repentance involves a change in how I perceive reality. As I connect to The LIFE, my perspective changes, and I see my current reality differently. 

One of the most fundamental changes in how I perceive reality involves changing the source of truth. I need a new source of truth, and a new source of comfort and protection. You may see in the natural that you are one guy in a house on open land surrounded by armies. Elijah.

Which would you rather be, that guy with a wall built around the house, hoping the enemy doesn't get in? Or that guy with a house on open land, with your own ARMY 10 times the size surrounding the army that surrounds you? Meanwhile, you keep the view unobstructed by walls, and good things can still come freely to visit?
2 Kings 6
New American Standard Bible
Then Elisha prayed and said, "O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see." And the LORD opened the servant's eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

  1. Ask God: "Father, reveal a significant event that happened in my life."
  2. Ask God: "Father, reveal the lie I believed about that event."
  3. Ask God: "Father, reveal the comfort/defense I seek after believing that lie."
  4. Ask God: "Father, reveal the natural/people reaction from that comfort/defense."
  5. Father, I confess "insert lie here" as a lie. Forgive me for believing that lie. What truth would you have me believe instead?
  6. Father, what comfort/defense should I believe/seek instead? 
Walk that out... day by day, event by event... building a new positive stronghold.


Grace and Receiving Forgiveness

Nothing we every DO can result in forgiveness. Everything HE HAS DONE resulted in forgiveness. Our part is to receive.

The same thing is true for all of God's benefits. God heals, we receive. God delivers, we receive. God prospers, we receive.

When we pray for people to get healed, our part is to pray in faith, and lay hands. God's part is to heal.

  1. I take responsibility to pray in faith, and lay hands. My job is done. 
  2. They take responsibility to receive healing. 
  3. God's part is to heal. 
I take NO responsibility for God's part. If healing comes I take no credit. If healing doesn't appear to come right away, I take no blame. THAT takes all the pressure off of ME, and puts it where it belongs, on God. "Sir/Madam, I can teach you about God, help you build faith and understand His will. I can pray in faith, and I can lay hands on you... and that is where I stop. I've never healed anybody. Not ever. Only God heals. You receive it. I can't do your part, and I certainly can't do God's. Are you ready to believe?" 
**************


The Worst Sinner EVER...


God showed me something during class today that floored me.
Matthew 27:45-54
45 Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. 46And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" 47 Some of those who stood there, when they heard that, said, "This Man is calling for Elijah!" 48Immediately one of them ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink. 49 The rest said, "Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to save Him." 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. 51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, 52 and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54 So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, "Truly this was the Son of God!"

Jesus had prayed earlier for the Father to forgive them (the men who were killing him), they knew not what they do. Here, at the end, when Jesus dies, there is an earthquake, and major stuff goes down... the centurion, one of the men responsible for actually doing the crucifixion feared saying

"Truly, this was God's kid"... 

I got a picture in my mind of this man being one of the several driving the nails into his hands and feet, and enjoying it, because he took pride in his work.

After all, these men deserve to die, and he was good at his job ensuring it happened.

But when he has the realization that he's just killed God's Son... he has a sinking fear that he's done something wrong... that this one didn't deserve it. He's instantly changed from executioner to murderer.

The Centurion feared not just for his life... but for his soul. And for the first time he comes face to face with his need for eternal things.

I doubt he got saved there, at the cross... maybe he did.

I do think that he recalled "Father... forgive them, they know not what they do..." and I think that phrase echoed throughout his mind and heart. I don't know if it happened right then, or if it was after Pentecost and he was among the crowd that heard the first sermon from Peter.

Maybe he was one of the first 3,000 to get saved? Maybe not, because he was a centurion and not a Jew. Non Jews didn't get saved until Paul came on the scene, or Peter at Cornelius house. But weather it was right there, as Jesus hung on that tree, or days, weeks, or months later...

Did he go back, to the spot where HE killed Jesus...? Did he receive that forgiveness Jesus offered?

And if the man who actually drove the nails into Jesus' hands could be forgiven... couldn't you?

It's hard to say how much of the story is true, but Church History does record the name of Longinus as the head centurion at the Cross, who spoke those words "surely this is God's Son" and he because a Church leader, and fiery preacher.


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By Darrell Wolfe

Storyteller, Creative, INFJIntellection, Ideation, Input, Learner, Achiever





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