Christians, Dirty Money & Financial Revival

I had no idea that I was making money from abortions. I also had no idea I was making money on the sale of pornography. But every time someone used an abortion drug or bought an X-rated movie from Amazon or their TV provider like AT&T, Verizon, Dish Network and DirectTV, I was making a cut of that profit. With God’s money.

I was just like hundreds of millions of other Christians in this world who have the wool pulled over their eyes by the great Babylon of Wall St. For some reason, it had never occurred to me that the companies that I owned in my mutual funds, ETFs and stock and bond portfolios were the very same companies that were manufacturing, selling and promoting the vilest products of immorality and unholiness that the depraved human mind can conjure. But there it was plain as day, the truth that I was ignorantly profiting from the nails in my Savior’s hands, the thorns on His glorious brow and the spear through His broken heart.

And most likely, so are you.

Take for example the most heavily traded index fund in the world, the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (ticker: SPY). This fund has $237.26 billion dollars in assets and trades an astonishing 18 million shares, or roughly $4.3 billion, per hour. Chances are that you are invested in this fund, or some other fund like it from Vanguard, iShares, American Funds or other company. The chart below shows the information that changed my life forever, and details exactly what owners of these funds are profiting from.

The question is, do you care?

Believe me, I know this is a difficult question to answer because the ramifications of “yes” mean a complete and total departure from the so-called financial wisdom of this world. My personal “yes” cost me all the financial security this world has to offer. And yes, I have also heard the attempts by some to sidestep this issue by saying that buying stock in the secondary market (as is done on the stock exchange, mutual funds, etc) does not actually support the company or give them any money. But they miss the point completely. The issue is not about some kind of financial boycott to withhold our money from “evil companies”, the issue is the unavoidable truth that as an owner of that stock, you and I are profiting from the most grievous of sins. Instead of “take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (Ephesians 5:11), we are pocketing the cash in the name of the Lord.

Hear the merciful appeal of God in His holy word, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” (Romans 12:2). Set aside for a moment the questions and doubts of how to invest in a way that is not “conformed to this world”, and instead ask God to give you the faith to trust Him, to believe that His ways are better than our ways, whatever they may be. Ask your Lord to give you ears deaf to the commentators of this age who point fingers at you and yell “Fool! Bigot! Intolerant!”, but attentive to the voice from heaven that calls, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:21)

Pray for personal, spiritual, financial revival.

-R


About the author:

Robert Netzly is the CEO of Inspire Investing, a social enterprise creating meaningful change in the lives of people all over the world by providing low cost, biblically responsible impact investments easily accessible on the NYSE. Follow Robert on Twitter and LinkedIn and get inspired!

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Overcoming Fear

Everything involves risk.  Especially things that matter.

When faced with the risk of failure and loss, fear is a natural emotion, but fear must be overcome. The popular “self-help” style of overcoming fear is to assume a false confidence that “everything will work out”, channeling Polly Anna with her rose-colored glasses, and resolutely ignoring the risk of failure. However, downplaying or ignoring the risk is not really overcoming fear, it is just a game of make-believe. Deep down you still know the risk is there and it gnaws at the back of your mind. You are still a prisoner of the specter of failure, you just have your eyes closed. Truly overcoming fear requires you to not ignore the risk, but rather to embrace the very real consequences of failure.

You might not succeed. You might fail. You could lose everything. That’s a real possibility.

Then there is just one question that you need to answer:  Is your calling worth the risk?

If you failed, miserably failed, and your worst nightmares came true, would it still have been worth it?  Do you believe in your cause enough to damn the torpedoes, step into the fire, do your best and leave the results to God, whatever they may be?  If the answer is no, then you don’t have the conviction you will need to succeed.  Even successful endeavors spend some time on the brink of failure, staring wide eyed into the open jaws of defeat and despair.  Without the steel and grit of the unshakable conviction that you must triumph, that your work is too great to back down from, you will come upon those dark and fearful times and perish, being swallowed up by dismay.  If your fear is greater than your conviction, you will eventually fail.  If your conviction is greater than your fear, then fear will never stop you, and even though you might give out, you will never give up.

Embrace the possibility of magnificent failure, trust God, and walk in victory over your fears.

-R


About the author:

Robert Netzly is the CEO of Inspire Investing, a social enterprise creating meaningful change in the lives of people all over the world by providing low cost, biblically responsible impact investments easily accessible on the NYSE. Follow Robert on Twitter and LinkedIn and get inspired!

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Bible Values Create Raving Fans

Every (smart) business wants to deliver “wow experiences” that not only satisfy customers and employees, but turn them into raving fans.  Satisfied customers are happy, they don’t complain and probably will be loyal.  Raving fans, on the other hand, are more than happy, they are delighted; beyond not complaining, they sing your praises; and on top of their loyalty, they bring all their friends with them.  This is what separates a successful business from a ridiculously successful business.

But despite the many books and blogs, conferences and coaches that offer opinions on this topic, this holy grail still eludes the grasp of most companies.  Why?  Perhaps because the most effective solution is not found in organizational leadership, but spiritual leadership.  What we need is the fruit of the Spirit.

Love

Jesus famously taught his followers to “love your neighbor as yourself“, and also to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you“.  What if your customers did not just feel appreciated, but loved?  What if employers did not just value their employees, but loved them?  That would be something to rave about.  When was the last time you felt loved as a customer or employee?

Joy

I remember walking into a certain ice cream shop one day where I got what I asked for, service was quick, and the ice cream tasted great, but leaving the business the one thing that I found myself thinking about is how much those employees obviously did not want to be there.  If someone had given me a survey I would probably say I was satisfied, and I would probably go there again, but I certainly was not a raving fan.  Why?  The place lacked joy.

Peace

Have you ever worked where people just don’t get along?  Maybe there is back-biting gossip.  Maybe there is outright arguing and name calling.  Maybe there is just an acrid fog of unspoken ill-will permeating the halls and cubicles.  Nobody likes to work in a place like that, and customers don’t like doing business with an organization like that.  Seek peace and pursue it, and not counterfeit peace that is just surface deep, but real conflict resolution and unity, despite disagreements.

Patience

The two hardest people to deal with in business are customers and employees.  Hey, I’m just saying it like it is.  But, difficult people and situations also offer the best opportunity to create raving fans.  When an agitated person vents all of their frustration and anger on you, and you reply with patience and composure, that makes an impact like nothing else can.  And not just on the person with whom you are dealing with, but also with everyone in the audience.  And in business, you always have an audience.

Kindness

I love World Help.  We support their life-changing ministry as a company and also as a family.  Every year we attend their Global Impact Summit to hear first hand about the impact we are having with our support and how we can get even more involved, and every year I am blown away by the kindness of World Help’s people.  Simple yet powerful acts of kindness, like handwritten thank you notes at our dinner table and hotel room, arranging for first-class child care for us families with littles, always seeking us out with a kind smile and genuine “thank you for being here”, all of these endear me more and more to World Help as a supporter and raving fan.

Goodness

Most businesses try to be ethical, but ethical is a pathetic benchmark of goodness.  An ethical business is a business that does not do bad things, but inspiring business don’t just avoid bad, they do good.  Business is an incredible mechanism for creating positive impact in the lives of people all over the world.  Ken Blanchard, the pre-eminent leadership expert and author of the books “Raving Fans” and “One Minute Manager“, says it this way, “We need a new leadership model that focuses not only on goal accomplishment, but also on the greater good.”

If your business is a force for good in the world, that is something worth raving about.

Faithfulness

Don’t stab people in the back.  Follow through on your promises.  Say what you do, and then do what you say.  Do you want faithful customers and employees?  Then be faithful to them.

Gentleness

Domineering boss?  Pushy salesman?  Not rave worthy.  Empathetic employer?  Service over sales?  Now you’re talking, and so are your customers.

Self-control

Delivering an experience worth talking about takes self-control.  It takes doing the hard thing because it is the right thing.  Creating wow does not happen impulsively, but takes preparation and intentionality.  And it certainly takes self-control to live out all the traits mentioned above.

Conclusion

Now, here’s the catch:  It isn’t so easy to live out these principles, and even harder still to train an entire organization to live out these principles on a daily basis.  These values do not come naturally to us — certainly not to me!  The Bible calls them the “fruit of the Spirit” for a reason.  These are traits that can only be ours by the grace of God.  Do you want these values to be yours?  Skip the conference.  Pray for revival.

-R


About the author:

Robert Netzly is the CEO of Inspire Investing, a social enterprise creating meaningful change in the lives of people all over the world by providing low cost, biblically responsible impact investments easily accessible on the NYSE. Follow Robert on Twitter and LinkedIn and get inspired!

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Good Christians Are Fools

As a Christian in business, and in life, wisdom requires you to be a fool.  You will be called on by Wisdom to make decisions that seem folly to bystanders.  Onlookers will mock you at best and do their best to destroy you at worst.  They will not understand, accept or even tolerate your path, but you will be anchored by the irrefutable conviction that your decision is right.  Because beyond the current affairs of the day, the opinions of the age, and even the temporal success of your endeavor, above all is the timeless and eternal wisdom of God revealed in the Bible.  “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul…” (Hebrews 6:19).

I can only speak from my own experiences, and I boast in nothing save Jesus Christ alone who is my only glory and sure foundation.  Such experiences as when I was compelled to leave the safety and security of my position at Wells Fargo, being compelled by the Spirit to start a company dedicated to biblically responsible investing (BRI), with no income, no savings and no clue what I was doing.  People questioned my judgement and whispered about the likelihood of my failure.

And when I steadfastly built that business by God’s grace, offering only biblically responsible investments, ready to refuse potential revenue under the conviction of scripture that “whatever you do, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31), many chided my foolishness that I would fail with such a narrow-minded focus, and yet God brought me more investors than I could handle, and also brought me advisor partners who shared my conviction to expand the scale of our growing firm.

Industry experts warned, and even scolded, that my insistence on diligent, biblical screening which filtered out hot-button issues such as LGBT activism and corporate giving to Planned Parenthood was just too radical, unnecessary and intolerant.  But how could I in good conscience profit from and recommend such things when scripture’s clarion call to “take no part in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead expose them” (Ephesians 5:11) resonated so in my soul?

And when God laid on my heart the necessity to bring biblically responsible investing to the world by launching Inspire, the world was incredulous, and even a bit outraged, that we would manage investments aligned with conservative, biblical values instead of conforming to “the pattern of the world”.  The media skewered us for our “intolerance“.  Financial experts scoffed “thou shalt not buy biblically responsible [investments]” claiming we would never be able to achieve good performance because of our “limited” investment universe of companies aligned with biblical values. Liberal activists proclaimed that we would never attract investor capital because our “approach is squarely at odds with that of nearly all of corporate America“.

And these same pundits scratched their heads when Inspire attracted massive capital, grew assets by 131% and was named among the nation’s fastest growing investment firms in the Financial Advisor Magazine 2017 RIA Ranking, with all glory to God because by worldly standards these authorities should have been right, save for one glaring omission in their reasoning which makes all the difference: God is sovereign.  And even if God had seen fit to allow me to fail in the world’s economy, I would still be a success in God’s economy, which is the only market that really matters after all.

So, when you are faced with a mocking crowd and find your convictions at odds with popular opinion, stand firm in the wisdom of God expressed in the Holy Bible.  Stand upon the firm foundation, which is Jesus Christ our Lord, “for the wisdom of this world is folly with God.” (1 Corinthians 3:19).

“Blessed is the man
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
    but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked will perish.” (Psalm 1)

Blessings,

-R


About the author:

Robert Netzly is the CEO of Inspire Investing, a social enterprise creating meaningful change in the lives of people all over the world by providing low cost, biblically responsible investments. Follow Robert on Twitter and LinkedIn and get inspired!

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Reflections On Ringing The NYSE Closing Bell

Do you know what I was doing on Thursday, April 20th, 2017 at 4:00pm Eastern Daylight Time?  (I know…why should you care, right?)  Well, if you want to know, I was ringing the closing bell of the New York Stock Exchange along with the rest of the Inspire Investing team.  So crazy!  It was a dream come true, a completely surreal experience.  Have you ever had an experience like that?  Something so great that you float through it like a dream, the reality of it all only sinking in over the next several days after?  I hope you have.

[Watch the video of our bell-ringing on Facebook!]

With the bell ringing a few days behind me, I have had some time to ruminate on the experience and thought I would share a few reflections that could come in handy the next time you find yourself ringing the NYSE bell, or doing something even more important.

1) Bring people with you.

The New York Stock Exchange is quite a place.  The energy inside that building is frenetic and contagious.  The pomp and circumstance, the liturgy and ceremony of the bell ringing connects you to a rich history dating back hundreds of years, all the way back to the first trading sessions under the famed buttonwood tree and the amazing growth of a young America into the world’s most thriving economy.

Standing up on the podium, overlooking all of this with my finger on the bell button (yes, it is a button), is exhilarating.  They allow you 14 people up on that podium, and we packed it out.  The experience was infinitely more rich because I shared it with people I love and who love me: my wife, my business partners, and their wives.  We have labored hard and sacrificed much together to get to that platform.  I cannot imagine being up there all alone.  Next time you do something great, bring people with you.

2) Make it count for eternity.

No matter how great an accomplishment ringing the closing bell of the NYSE is, or whatever achievement you are celebrating, if it is just an earthly triumph it will not last and really doesn’t matter at all.  As the apostle Peter reminds us,

“All people are like grass,
    and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
    but the word of the Lord endures forever.” (1 Peter 1:24-25)

Ask yourself how you can imbue your great deed with eternal significance.  If you don’t, then what have you really accomplished?  Nothing.  As Vernon Brewer, my friend and Founder/CEO of World Help (who joined us on the bell podium, BTW), says often, “Do something everyday that will outlive you and last for eternity”.  That is a great idea.

We brought eternity to bear in our bell ringing in a few different ways.  First, I preached a short message for our guests and NYSE staff on Matthew 5:13-16, letting your light shine, in the NYSE “Big Board Room” before the bell.  Second, we made sure to point people to God while we celebrated on the podium.  Third, we used the “tag the wall” tradition (where bell-ringers get to write on the wall in the stairwell just behind the bell podium) to share the eternal hope of Jesus through scripture.  All the previous bell-ringers just signed their name and date, like some grown-up financial version of a yearbook, but our team took that opportunity to write in permanent ink, indelibly in plain view of all future bell-ringers, verses of scripture and proclamations of God’s goodness and glory.  Why write our silly names when we could write something eternally profound?

Which leads me to my third and most important exhortation…

3) Give God the glory.

It is tempting to soak in the spotlight when the world shines it on you, but that is the biggest mistake you could ever, ever, ever make.  When people all over the world are telling you how great you are and how magnificent your accomplishment is, don’t fall for it.  Don’t buy the lie.  You are not great and you are not magnificent.  Sorry, but you’re not.  And I most certainly am not.

All you have is from God, who alone is sovereign over your successes and failures.  If there is anything good that you have done it is only because of the grace of God in your life — whether you believe in Him or not.  I am more keenly aware than anyone how incapable I am of doing anything good or noteworthy apart from the blessing of God.  I seek His grace each day, and ask desperately for His favor, because without it I am nothing and neither is our company.  And I pray fervently that I never make the mistake of King Nebuchadnezzar, who claimed for himself the credit for his great kingdom and was reduced to nothing until he acknowledged God as the source of his blessing.  (Read the story in Daniel 4:28-37.  It is a fascinating story of how “those who walk in pride he is able to humble” (v. 37), especially the greatest among us).

So, next time the spotlight shines on you, be a mirror and not a sponge.  Reflect the glory to God, who alone is worthy.  Only if you do that are you or I truly a success.

Blessings,

-R


About the author:

Robert Netzly is the CEO of Inspire Investing, a social enterprise creating meaningful change in the lives of people all over the world by providing low cost, biblically responsible impact investments easily accessible on the NYSE. Follow Robert on Twitter and LinkedIn and get inspired!

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Invest Different.

Sir John Templeton, one of the modern world’s most successful and famed investors, once said, “It is impossible to produce superior performance unless you do something different.”

This concept of contrarianism, purposefully spurning the direction and decisions of the masses in favor of the road less travelled, is (ironically perhaps) embraced and espoused by investors far and wide.  The wisdom of contrarian investing lies in the fact that if you are doing the same things as everyone else, you will get the same results as everyone else, which by definition is unimpressingly average.  It then follows that if an investor is to reap an above average return that he or she must follow the advice of Sir Templeton and “do something different”.  In practice, most contrarian investors who follow Sir Templeton’s methods will apply this concept by searching out companies with strong financial fundamentals and low stock prices, the companies that the average majority are overlooking, diamonds in the rough.  Templeton became a billionaire following that precise approach, so it is not up for debate whether this approach can yield dramatically impressive results.

I wonder if this same contrarian approach can be applied successfully to the values of a company, and not just the value of the stock price?

In an age where so many in corporate America are wasting company resources and investor dollars chasing after liberal activist agendas, it is those quiet, conservative companies with traditional values which are truly doing something different.  Ironically, Apple (with their famously contrarian slogan “Think different.”) is a poster child for following the masses.  Instead of thinking different, it turns out they think like all of their peers, together raising a cacophony of corporate noise in support of politically popular issues that have nothing to do with their core business, and definitely nothing to do with increasing shareholder value.  For example, Apple squanders investor dollars supporting the liberal political think tank CAP and opposing religious liberty legislation, which apparently is a pet-project of CEO Tim Cook, who wrote in an op-ed to the Washington Post in March, 2015, “On behalf of Apple, I’m standing up to oppose this new wave of legislation — wherever it emerges.”  There was indeed a time when Apple thought differently, and over the past years investors in Apple have certainly been rewarded, but it seems that those years of Apple’s uniqueness have ended, and with it perhaps also their stock market dominance.

Instead of chasing the herd and investing in the crowd of companies entangled in progressive liberal activism, I think Sir John Templeton might instead suggest to seek out those companies who quietly go about their business with humble determination to do a good day’s work, to add value to their customers and share-holders and who do not conform to the pattern of this world, but instead represent love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control throughout their organizations.  These businesses of blessing are the kind of companies I want to invest in.  What about you?

Blessings,

-R


About the author:

Robert Netzly is the CEO of Inspire Investing, a social enterprise creating meaningful change in the lives of people all over the world by providing low cost, biblically responsible impact investments easily accessible on the NYSE. Follow Robert on Twitter and LinkedIn and get inspired!

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