Entries by Robert Netzly

Inspire CEO’s Statement On Racial Injustice

As an upper-middle class white male, I have no place speaking about racial injustice. The closest thing to racism I have experienced are Latino people making fun of me within earshot, not realizing that this blue-eyed white-boy is fluent in Spanish. Try as I might to empathize, there is no way I can fully understand the experience of my black fellow Americans.

But, although I have no place speaking about racial injustice, I can and must speak out against racial injustice. Racism in every form is an evil that must be opposed by Christians and all well-meaning people everywhere. Systematic racism is the overflow of a broken, sin-stained world full of broken, sin-stained people. Hatred is a real force in the world, and the people of God must rise up to overcome racism in the love of God, by the blood of Christ, in the power of the Spirit. As a people who worship a Savior who chose to put on brown skin, and lived and died as a colored middle-eastern man, we of all people should live by the truth that all men and women are created in the image of God, and that image is beautiful and demands dignity.

At Inspire Investing, we try to do our part in the fight against racism by advocating for biblical values with corporations around the globe, including the biblical value to “love your neighbor as yourself” no matter their color, and that all people are created in the image of God and deserve dignity and respect. We routinely engage with corporations on issues related to God-honoring diversity practices (which differ in important ways with the world’s practice of diversity) and encourage them to be a blessing to all their employees, customers, communities and the world at large. There is no room for racism in a well-run business.

Racial Justice Investment Screens

Our biblically responsible investing screens have always included diversity issues as an important metric. In our Inspire Impact Score methodology, we reward companies with best in class performance related to God-honoring diversity and penalize companies with below average performance related to diversity. Specifically, our Inspire Impact Score currently considers diversity in the following categories:

  1. Diversity and Opportunity Controversies: Company involved in published diversity and opportunity controversies, such as wage discrimination, promotion and harassment issues;
  2. Human Rights Controversies: Company has been linked to published controversies linked to human rights issues, including supply chain incidents involving contractors and suppliers;
  3. Labor Practices (Best In Class): Company exhibits above average Labor Practices performance relative to their industry peer group. This category considers compliance with fair labor standards for union and non-union employees, including employee retention, education, training, health, safety, compensation, benefits, diversity and mentoring programs;
  4. Social Impact (Best In Class): Company exhibits above average Social Impact performance relative to their industry peer group. This category considers a company’s overall impact on their communities, positive human rights behaviors, philanthropy and charity.

Standing For, Standing Against

We stand together with our black brothers and sisters who are (peacefully) raising their voice for an end to racism in our nation. We also stand together with the (honorable majority) members of law enforcement agencies who daily work to protect the lives and liberties of the black communities in our country.

We stand against those who are attempting to pollute the Black Lives Matter movement with violence and hatred of their own. And we stand against the (dis-honorable minority) members of law enforcement who abuse their power to inflict suffering on the black community.

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)

May the Lord be merciful to our nation and grant us the grace of peace and brotherhood for all. May we as His people be ministers of reconciliation, ushering in the peace of Christ as the Day of His coming draws ever-nearer. Maranatha! Lord Jesus, come!

$100M Ex-Ameriprise Team Says “So Glad” They Joined Inspire Advisors Christian RIA Platform

Father-son $100M team left Ameriprise after 25 years to join Christian RIA firm Inspire Advisors to align their practice with their Christian faith.

San Jose, California, June 2nd, 2020 – Keith and Jacob Chandler, the father-son advisory team now at the helm of Inspire Advisors’ Palmdale, CA office say the Christ-centered culture is a big reason they joined Inspire Advisors a little over a year ago after spending more than 25 years at Ameriprise:

“What we love about Inspire Advisors is that we can now be part of a company that truly reflects our values and mission. We love that we can be part of a team of Christian professionals whose desire is to display excellence in their work and inspire transformation for God’s glory throughout the world. We are so glad that we joined the Inspire Advisors team and are excited to see what the Lord has in store for this business,” says the duo who manage over $100m of assets.

“Welcoming Keith and Jake to the Inspire Advisors family over this past year has truly been a blessing,” commented Robert Netzly, CEO of the Inspire Investing family of companies. “They are consummate professionals and exhibit God-glorifying excellence throughout their practice. We are honored to serve them and their clients as we work together to inspire transformation for God’s glory throughout the world with biblically responsible investing and planning advice.”

Biblically Responsible Investing Focus

The Inspire Advisors platform is purpose built from the ground up to support Christian financial advisors who want to run their practices with 100% biblically responsible investing (BRI) alignment, a growing conviction among financial advisors and their clients.

“When we looked across the RIA marketplace we could not find any national-brand RIA platform that was dedicated to biblically responsible investing,” said Netzly. “That’s a problem that we are solving with Inspire Advisors. There has to be a top-tier RIA firm that is sold out to the advancement of biblically responsible investing and serving the Christian advisors who want to run their practices for the glory of God.”

Financial professionals that join Inspire Advisors have access to Inspire’s deep bench of biblically responsible portfolios delivered in a turn-key, separately managed account (SMA) format, including customizable unified managed account (UMA) and robust tax-loss harvesting capabilities.

There are currently several dozen SMA strategies available to Inspire Advisors recruits and their clients, with strategies ranging from passive, index based portfolios to actively managed, tactical, sector rotation and other strategies. Some strategies are built using Inspire’s popular suite of biblical ETFs, while others are built using only individual stocks and can be customized for individual practices or client needs, giving advisors one of the most robust, widely diversified selection of biblically responsible investing portfolios available anywhere.

Powerhouse Investment Team

Inspire Advisors touts a powerhouse investment team backing up their portfolios that gives financial advisors instant credibility with investors both large and small. Inspire’s investment committee is led by Chief Investment Officer, Darrell Jayroe, CFA, CFP, CKA, who has served in senior portfolio management positions for over 20 years. Inspire’s Chief Economic Advisor, Dr. Erik Davidson, DBA, CFA, previously served as the Chief Investment Officer at Wells Fargo Private Bank overseeing $200 billion in assets and a team of 400 professionals. Inspire Investment Analyst, Shane Enete, CFA, previously oversaw hundreds of billions of institutional assets at firms Meketa and Brandes Investments, and currently shares his time as Professor of Finance at Biola University and heads up Biola University’s Inspire Research Institute for BRI. Such a world-class team provides advisors and their clients with institutional-level portfolio management and expertise to invest with confidence.

Inspire Advisors is a sister company of Inspire Investing, a global leader in the biblically responsible investing industry, and leverages the size and scale of the combined organization. Together, the Inspire family of companies manages over $658M AUM as of May 29th.

Christian financial advisors interested in exploring a relationship with Inspire Advisors can email inspire@inspireadvisors.com or visit www.inspireadvisors.com to learn more.

# # #

About the Inspire Investing family of companies

Founded in 2015 and headquartered in the Silicon Valley of California, Inspire Investing seeks to create meaningful impact in the lives of people across the globe by providing high quality, biblically aligned investments and financial advice that support Christian ministry and is a leading authority in the Biblically Responsible Investing (BRI) movement. For more information, visit www.inspireinvesting.com.

*Disclaimer: Investment advisory services offered through Inspire Advisors, LLC and CWM Advisors, LLC dba Inspire, both being Registered Investment Advisors with the SEC. CWM Advisors, LLC and Inspire Advisors, LLC are affiliates.

Media contact:
Eric Smyth
(831)382-6572
inspire@inspireadvisors.com


 
 
 
 

Christian RIA Inspire Advisors Grew AUM Despite Market Meltdown

Inspire Advisors, the Christian-focused Registered Investment Advisory (RIA) firm, grew assets under management (AUM) despite the COVID-19 selloff in stocks.

San Jose, California, May 18th, 2020 – Inspire Advisors, the Christian-focused RIA platform serving independent Christian financial advisors and their clients, saw total assets under management (AUM) grow during the first part of 2020, despite a steep selloff in stocks.

Inspire Advisors began the year with $152M in total AUM. At the end of March, Inspire Advisors’ AUM was 14% higher at $174M, even after the stock market sold off more than 30%. As the market rebounded throughout April and new advisors and their assets continued to flow onto Inspire Advisors’ biblically responsible platform, AUM continued to climb to $207.9M as of May 18th, 37% higher than the start of the year.

 “We continued to see strong inflows during the market selloff,” commented Robert Netzly, CEO of the Inspire family of companies. “We successfully recruited new advisors and our existing advisors are winning new accounts. The growth and momentum of the biblically responsible investing movement proved to outweigh the COVID-19 driven crisis in terms of net AUM growth in our case. Christian advisors and their clients are hungry for a top-tier firm that is dedicated to biblically responsible investing and planning advice. We are here to serve them, no matter what the market decides to do tomorrow.”

Inspire Advisors is a sister company of Inspire Investing, a global leader in the biblically responsible investing industry, and leverages the size and scale of the combined organization. Together, the Inspire family of companies manages over $612.8M AUM as of May 18th.

Christian financial advisors interested in exploring a relationship with Inspire Advisors can email inspire@inspireadvisors.com or visit www.inspireadvisors.com to learn more.

# # #

About the Inspire Investing family of companies
Founded in 2015 and headquartered in the Silicon Valley of California, Inspire Investing seeks to create meaningful impact in the lives of people across the globe by providing high quality, biblically aligned investments and financial advice that support Christian ministry and is a leading authority in the Biblically Responsible Investing (BRI) movement. For more information, visit www.inspireinvesting.com.

* Disclaimer: Investment advisory services offered through Inspire Advisors, LLC and CWM Advisors, LLC dba Inspire, both being Registered Investment Advisors with the SEC. CWM Advisors, LLC and Inspire Advisors, LLC are affiliates.

Media contact:
Eric Smyth
(831)382-6572
inspire@inspireadvisors.com


 
 
 
 

Amazon.com Board Recommends Vote Against Viewpoint Diversity

In its recently released Notice of 2020 Annual Meeting of Shareholders & Proxy Statement, the Board of Amazon.com recommended that shareholders vote against a shareholder resolution on viewpoint diversity. The Board’s opposition suggests that an intolerant bias is alive and well in the leadership ranks of one of the world’s largest and most influential corporations.

The text of the proposed resolution, officially titled “ITEM 12—Shareholder Proposal Requesting a Report On Viewpoint Discrimination” located on page 41 of the document, states the importance of preventing discrimination based on religious, social or political views. If implemented, it would provide transparency to shareholders on the “range of risks and costs associated with discrimination against different social, political and religious viewpoints”.

The resolution reads as follows:

“Whereas, Shareholders of Amazon.com, Inc. (“Amazon”) invest in the company to receive maximum return on their ownership investment in Amazon, without the costs and risks associated with Amazon restricting specific social, political, or religious views.

Whereas, any decision by Amazon to either endorse or reject social, political, or religious views may alienate customers, harm the company’s reputation, and negatively impact business performance.

Whereas, the City of Seattle, the State of Washington, the United States, and several International Conventions prohibit discrimination against religious groups and beliefs, and the City of Seattle prohibits discrimination against political ideology.

Resolved: Shareholders request that Amazon issue a report, at reasonable cost and omitting proprietary information, evaluating the range of risks and costs associated with discriminating against different social, political, and religious viewpoints.”[1]

Amazon.com has taken great pains to portray themselves as champions of diversity, and have made public statements about their supposed commitment to respecting diverse viewpoints. For example, their website proclaims that  “diversity and inclusion are good for business—and more fundamentally—simply right.”[2]

AMAZON.COM DIVERSITY ONLY SKIN DEEP

This begs the question, if Amazon.com is such a believer in diversity, why would their Board recommend that shareholders vote against a resolution that would provide “a full evaluation of viewpoint bias and associated risks to ensure that Amazon is making balanced decisions and that it is acting consistent with its commitment to diversity?”2

The simple answer is because Amazon’s Board lacks diversity to the point that they cannot even see that a problem exists. On the surface, Amazon’s Board of Directors seems rather diverse: Of the ten Directors, five are women and five are men; there are two people of color; and they each have varied backgrounds in business, academia, law and so forth. However, this appearance of diversity is superficial. A look under the surface into the ideological perspectives of Amazon’s Board reveals a monolithically homogenous worldview committed to advancing a progressive-liberal political and social agenda.

An examination of the personal political contributions of each individual Amazon.com board member tells a striking story. Of all the independent board members who made non-corporate political contributions in the Trump vs. Hillary 2016 election cycle, all of them donated to liberal, Democratic Party candidates, Political Action Committees (PACs) or other liberal political action groups, according to data from campaignmoney.com.[3]

Prominent recipients of donations given personally by Amazon’s Board members included Hillary For America, Hillary Victory Fund, Friends of Schumer, Victory Now PAC, ActBlue, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. No conservative groups. No Republican, Libertarian or Green Party candidates. Just one flavor of super-non-diversity.

AMAZON.COM VIEWPOINT CENSORSHIP

Plainly stated, the current Amazon.com “commitment to diversity” is only a commitment to embracing a progressive-liberal viewpoint about diversity. Conservative, mainstream perspectives are not welcome. Case in point, numerous well-regarded, socially conservative, faith-based non-profits have been officially removed from the “Amazon Smile” charity platform, preventing Amazon.com customers who want to donate to those charities through their Amazon Smile purchases from doing so.[4]

This charity censorship relies upon a list provided by an extremely partisan and discredited non-profit group operating under the misleading name “Southern Poverty Law Center”, or SPLC for short. The SPLC has been under intense fire in recent years as sexual abuse, racism and financial scandal has been exposed at the highest levels of the organization and reported in major media outlets across the nation.[5] Other organizations, such as Twitter,[6] the US Department of Defense, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation,[7] have ended their relationship with the SPLC because of their glaring moral and ethical failures, but not Amazon.com.

SHAREHOLDERS’ RIGHT TO TRANSPARENT REPORTING

Shareholders are not asking Amazon.com to somehow become a stalwart defender of conservative values. All they are requesting is that Amazon.com provide a transparent reporting on its stated commitment to diversity, something that the Board of Directors should be quick to embrace as it is their fiduciary responsibility to ensure the company is living up to its promises.

But, ironically, Amazon’s board is fighting against this resolution for viewpoint diversity put forward by the very shareholders they are supposed to represent.

To be clear, I believe Amazon.com has every right to use their corporate influence to promote whatever agendas they see fit, including progressive liberalism. But don’t try to hide it. If Amazon’s leadership is committed to a progressive-liberal agenda, then shareholders have a right to know about it, as well as the potential risks that position could cause by alienating customers who hold a different view. This is basic corporate responsibility. Denying shareholders material information that can affect their investment is not just bad-form, it is unethical.

Amazon.com shareholders should be pounding the table for access to transparent reporting on Amazon’s performance regarding viewpoint diversity or lack thereof, and the risks associated with that performance. If you are an Amazon.com shareholder, you have the right to cast your vote on “ITEM 12—Shareholder Proposal Requesting a Report On Viewpoint Discrimination,” and I would encourage you to exercise your right, no matter which way you vote.

[1] Amazon.com Notice of 2020 Annual Meeting of Shareholders & Proxy Statement: https://s2.q4cdn.com/299287126/files/doc_financials/2020/ar/updated/2020-Proxy-Statement.pdf

[2] https://www.aboutamazon.com/our-company/our-positions

[3] https://www.campaignmoney.com/

[4] https://www.christianpost.com/news/amazon-removes-conservative-legal-group-charity-smile-program-splc-hate-group-label.html

[5] https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-reckoning-of-morris-dees-and-the-southern-poverty-law-center

[6] https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/op-eds/twitter-dumps-southern-poverty-law-center-stops-making-hate-pay

[7] https://www.christianpost.com/news/amazon-removes-conservative-legal-group-charity-smile-program-splc-hate-group-label.html

Important CARES Act Highlights Investors Should Know About

The CARES Act highlights contain provisions that will affect US businesses and the stock market in a big way, making it important for investors to pay attention and be educated about what is in the CARES Act and what it means for their family and their portfolio. To help shed some light on the CARES Act highlights that investors should know about, Inspire Investing has partnered with our tax advisors at Hayashi and Wayland to provide the following information about the CARES Act. (This information is provided for educational purposes only and should not be considered as tax or investment advice. Please consult your personal tax or investment advisor to discuss your individual situation.)

The $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security “CARES Act” represents the largest economic relief package in American history[1].  The CARES Act contains sweeping provisions that have powerful implications for American families and the US economy at large, both because of the gargantuan amount of money that will be flooding the US economy and also because of certain investment related directives that temporarily change the rules for retirement accounts, charitable giving and more.

The CARES Act was designed to offer assistance to individual taxpayers, business owners, and the entire economy to try to revive itself from the downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the business closures, layoffs and economic suffering that has followed.  This relief plan will offer assistance to tens of millions of American households affected by the coronavirus pandemic. 

We have outlined the CARES Act highlights below: 

INDIVIDUAL PROVISIONS

One-time, non-taxable payments

These payments will be made to taxpayers whose adjusted gross income is under $75,000 (single), $112,500 (head of household) and $150,000 (married). Single or head of household taxpayers will get $1,200.  Married taxpayers will get $2,400.  In addition, for each child 16 years old or younger, you will get an additional $500.  Above these income figures the payment decreases. Single taxpayers earning $99,000 or married taxpayers who have no children and earn $198,000 will not receive any payments.  A family with two children will no longer be eligible for payments if its income surpassed $218,000.  Payments received are not considered taxable income to the recipients.

You will not be able to get a payment if someone claims you as a dependent, even if you are an adult.  In any given family and in most instances, everyone must have a valid Social Security number in order to be eligible.  There is an exception for members of the military.

You can find your adjusted gross income on Line 8b of the 2019 1040 Federal tax return.  And if you already filed your 2019 taxes and provided direct deposit information for a refund, it will be deposited that way into your account.  If you have not filed your 2019 tax return, your 2018 return will be used for determination.  If you would prefer to have your 2019 tax return considered over your 2018 tax return we would recommend that you file 2019 as soon as possible.

If you are ineligible for the payment due to your income being in excess of the limits for 2019, you may benefit once you file your 2020 taxes because the payment is technically an advance on a tax credit that is available for 2020. 

It is not clear yet when and how physical checks will be mailed to those who will require that.  Information from different sources at this time say anytime from the end of April to the end of May.

Retirement Accounts

For the calendar year 2020, no one will be required to take a required minimum distribution from any retirement account. If you are under age 59 ½ and need to make a withdrawal due to the outbreak, the usual 10 percent penalty is waived for distributions up to $100,000 and you are able to spread the income taxes associated with this distribution over 3 years. You can also put the funds back into the account within 3 years even though the amount would exceed normal contribution limits.  These exceptions only apply to coronavirus related withdrawals.

Charitable Contributions

The bill makes a new deduction available for up to $300 of charitable deductions.  All taxpayers can derive benefits from making up to $300 of charitable deductions even if you don’t take an itemized deduction. In addition, there is no cap on the amount of charitable deductions you can take as an itemized deduction for 2020.  

Unemployment Compensation

The Federal Government will provide a temporary Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) through July 31, 2020.  This compensation is $600 per week for any worker eligible for state or federal unemployment compensation benefits. The FPUC would be paid in addition to and at the same time as regular state or federal unemployment benefits. States have the option of providing the entire amount in one payment or sending the extra portion separately, but it must all be done on the same weekly basis.

Mortgages and Foreclosure Actions

Starting March 18, 2020, most mortgages are prohibited from foreclosure actions for 60 days for borrowers who request it and can demonstrate a COVID-19 related hardship.

Eviction Proceedings

Landlords are subject to a 120-day moratorium on filing eviction proceedings for the non-payment of rent.  Unpaid rent will continue to accrue, but landlords may not charge fees or assess fines.

BUSINESS PROVISIONS

Payroll Tax Deferral, Reduction, and Credits

Employers are eligible for a 50 percent refundable payroll tax credit on wages paid up to $10,000 during the crisis. It would be available to employers whose businesses were disrupted due to virus-related shutdowns and firms experiencing a decrease in gross receipts of 50 percent or more when compared to the same quarter last year. The credit is available for employees retained but not currently working due to the crisis for firms with more than 100 employees, and for all employee wages for firms with 100 or fewer employees.

Employer-side Social Security payroll tax payments may be delayed until January 1, 2021, with 50 percent owed on December 31, 2021, and the other half owed on December 31, 2022. 

Paycheck Protection Program

This program administered through the Small Business Administration is meant to help small businesses (fewer than 500 employees) impacted by the pandemic and economic downturn to make payroll and cover other expenses from February 15 to June 30. Notably, small businesses may take out loans up to $10 million—limited to a formula tied to payroll costs—and can cover employees making up to $100,000 per year. Loans may be forgiven if a company uses the loan for payroll, interest payments on mortgages, rent, and utilities and would be reduced proportionally by any reduction in employees retained compared to the prior year and a 25 percent or greater reduction in employee compensation.

Other parts of the wide-sweeping funding bill include:

  • $150 billion for local governments for expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency
  • $8.8 billion in additional funding for Child Nutrition Programs in order to ensure children receive meals while school is not in session
  • $450 million in assistance for banks so they can continue to assist those Americans most in need
  • $30.75 billion for an Education Stabilization Fund for states, school districts and institutions of higher education for costs related to coronavirus
  • $4.3 billion to support federal, state, and local public health agencies to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus, including the purchase of personal protective equipment; laboratory testing to detect positive cases; contact tracing to identify additional cases, and infection control and mitigation at the local level to prevent the spread of the virus
  • $2 billion in direct allocation to state and local Community Development Block Grants that must be allocated within 30 days of enactment of the bill

Who Really Cares?

Because of its size and scope, the CARES Act will likely make an historic, indelible mark upon the US economy and the hundreds of millions of Americans who both power and rely upon that economy. As such, investors should be educated about the highlights of the CARES Act and how it will affect them.

Additionally, as faith-based investors we should remind ourselves that although $2.2 trillion dollars is a staggering amount of money, our hope and trust is not in government stimulus but in the one true God who is sovereign over governments, and who is infinitely more great, powerful and yes, even more caring than the CARES Act.

These are unprecedented times full of uncertainty and trials of many kinds. There are many real reasons to fear and one can hardly be faulted for feeling afraid amidst the swirl of global pandemic. But for anyone finding themselves under a cloud of anxiety, the Bible reminds us to “cast all your anxieties upon Him for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). And when you find yourself worrying about your earthly treasure, Jesus offers a peace that passes all understanding, and an “inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:4-7).

Jesus cares for you. No matter what.

Trust in Him. No matter what.

[1] https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/27/house-passes-2-trillion-coronavirus-stimulus-bill-sends-it-to-trump.html

Where Is God When Stock Markets Crash?

This past Monday, March 9th, 2020, the stock market had its biggest percentage-point drop since the Financial Crisis of 2008, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling 7.79% in just one day. In nominal terms, that is a loss of 2,014 points, the Dow’s biggest point drop ever. (Source: Wikipedia)

Furthermore, this historic one-day wipeout of stock market value came on the heels of losses greater than 10% over the previous two weeks, sending markets perilously close to official “bear market” territory, defined as a decline of 20% or more from a previous high.

This kind of market activity has many investors on edge, in a panic, as they recall painful experiences from previous market melt-downs in 2008, 2001 and 1987. And maybe 1933? Is anyone still out there?

But as Christian investors, what should our response be? As a people who have supposedly placed our faith and trust in God, we should be at rest knowing that God is good, He is in control, and we can trust Him- shouldn’t we? Yet we can be just as susceptible to panic and fear as the next investor on the street.

It is precisely at times like these that we need to remind ourselves, from the truth of Scripture, where God is when stock markets (and other things in life) come crashing down.

GOD IS OUR FORTRESS

When we find ourselves infected with fear and panic, Psalm 46 is a strong dose of good medicine,

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.  Selah
 (v. 1-3)

God indeed is our refuge and strength! He protects us, and He also strengthens us. In Him we need no other defense, and in Him the weak are made strong. Are you feeling exposed to danger? God is your refuge. Are you feeling helpless and weak? God is your strength.

REJOICE IN THE RIVER OF LIFE

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.  Selah
 (v. 4-7)

There is a river that makes glad the city of God, the River of Life which runs down from the throne of the Most High. Have you tasted of that River of Life through faith in Jesus Christ? If so, then rejoice and be glad! Your eternal soul is being kept by Him, and you have a portion in the “holy habitation of the Most High.” Nations rage and kingdoms will totter, but the Lord of hosts is with you. The God of Jacob is your fortress.

BEHOLD THE WORKS OF THE LORD

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
‘Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!’
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.  Selah
 (v. 8-11)

Look upon the works of the Lord, and remind yourself of His might and power! He alone has the power over desolations and wars, weapons and warriors. Know that He is a sovereign God, and let that knowledge bring you peace. God will be exalted over all the earth! The Lord is with you, and He is your fortress!

Your investment account may lose value—maybe even a lot of value in times like these. But remember who He is who allows it to happen, who is in control of the ups and downs of the market and your portfolio. Do not put your trust in the provision, but put your trust in the Provider. God does not promise to take care of your investment portfolio, but He does promise to take care of you. And that is really all we need to know.

“When Christian Investors Speak Up”: Inspire CEO Robert Netzly’s Guest Appearance On Faith Driven Investor Podcast

I recently had the pleasure of talking shop on the Faith Driven Investor podcast where we discussed what happens when Christian investors speak up and the influence that we can have for the glory of God when we engage in winsome conversations with the companies we invest in.

You can listen to the entire podcast here. And please feel free to share it on your favorite social media channels and help spread the word about the biblically responsible investing movement!

Listen to the Faith Driven Investor podcast:

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Inspire CEO Answers A Reader’s Questions About Biblically Responsible Investing

The Christian Post recently published my article “Financial Obedience Is Better Than Sacrifice“, which deals with the idea that God cares about the morality of the source of the money that we give back to Him as an offering, as taught in scriptures such as Deuteronomy 23:18, and the implications for investors regarding the profits we earn from our investment choices.

In reply to this article, one reader posted a comment under the name “Christian Commenter” and expressed some thoughtful questions that I have found to be very commonplace among believers when first presented with the scriptural teaching around investment stewardship and biblically responsible investing (BRI). I know there are more Christian investors out there with these same questions, so I thought it might be helpful and informative for others who are just starting to explore God’s call to holiness in the area of finances and investing to share this conversation.

Following are “Christian Commenter’s” questions and my own responses. I pray these thoughts help you catch the vision and join the BRI movement along with our Christian brothers and sisters around the globe who are investing billions of dollars of God’s money for God’s glory and their joy in the biblically responsible investing movement.


“Christian Commenter”: While I agree with some aspects of this article, I continued to read with the following question in my mind: What connection does the author have to this topic? Finally, at the end, we see that the author is the CEO of a company that would benefit directly from what he is proposing. That is self-serving and becomes a written advertisement for his company’s services under the guise of a Biblical mandate.

Robert’s Answer: Yes, I certainly have a conflict of interest as I run a biblically responsible investing (BRI) company, and as you mentioned I am not trying to hide that fact in any way. However, I got my start in this industry at Wells Fargo Private Client Services with a rather cushy job serving high net worth families and was completely oblivious to the concept of BRI. It was only after the Lord hit me with a “road to Damascus” moment that I began investing completely according to BRI guidelines – at much personal cost and risk, I might add, as it required me to leave my position and all my income and job security without much to go on but a clear calling and conviction from the Holy Spirit. (You can read about my story here if you want to learn more about my journey). 

I would also add that just because I have a conflict of interest does not mean that the biblical teaching I am sharing is incorrect. Pastors preach the biblical mandate to give money to the work of God, which is clearly a conflict of interest as it benefits them directly, but that pastor is fulfilling his duty to preach faithfully the word of God and the Bible does in fact command us to give joyfully to the church. I would encourage you to examine the scriptures I mention for yourself in relation to investment stewardship and decide if what I am saying has any merit, despite any conflict of interest I might have.

“Christian Commenter”: Beyond that, though, let’s continue with the author’s reasoning and ask him this question: If it is wrong to invest in companies that hold to anti-Christian views, isn’t it just as wrong to work for those companies? Shouldn’t Christians be told not to work for them as well because their wages would be the same as the profits from investments?

Robert’s Answer: Great question! And the answer is “sometimes”. 

Should a Christian invest in a chain of strip clubs? Certainly not. 

Should a Christian work at a strip club? Certainly not. 

Should a Christian invest in an abortion drug manufacturing company? Certainly not. 

Should a Christian work at developing and manufacturing abortion drugs? Certainly not. 

I would hope there is no disagreement on these points. However, what about a more nuanced situation, like should a Christian work in the accounting department at Netflix, even though they sell a lot of pornographic movies? I believe there is no clear scriptural mandate that would prohibit a believer from working there, as long as their work was not directly related to the production or promotion of the “adult entertainment” that is widely available on that streaming service. (For the scriptural basis of this position, please read my discussion below of Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 and 10).

But should a Christian invest in Netflix? Certainly not, because as an investor you are profiting from all of the activities that company is involved with, both good and bad, family friendly and “adult entertainment”, as opposed to an employee who is paid based on a limited scope and responsibility within the company related to their specific job. So, in the case of most businesses, Christians are free to work at those companies so long as their work on the products and services are not entering biblically immoral territory.

“Christian Commenter”: And, if it is wrong to invest in and work for those companies, isn’t it also wrong to purchase those products or services as well since Christians would be using their money to benefit ungodly positions? I’m interested in hearing the author’s position, or anyone else’s, concerning these questions.

Robert’s Answer: As mentioned above, it is not wrong to work at a company as long as your position does not directly involve you in biblically immoral activities. Likewise, Christians are free to be customers of companies such as Netflix, so long as the products and services they are purchasing are not immoral. Keeping with the Netflix example, Christians are free to be paying customers of their movie streaming service if they limit their viewing to good, family friendly content, including the many faith-based Christian films and shows on Netflix, but if they are streaming pornographic content, then clearly they are in the wrong.

In contrast, as an investor you cannot tell Netflix to only send you profits from the good movies and not the bad ones. So if you are an investor in Netflix, you make yourself an accomplice who is sharing in the profits of ungodly, sinful movies that lead people into sin and ensnare them in a wicked bondage to lust and adultery. The Bible clearly condemns profiting from immorality (see Deuteronomy 23:18, Proverbs 16:8 and other scriptures I referenced in the original article), which makes investment in such companies a no-fly zone for Christians.

The Bible Says

A good scriptural framework for this conversation is found in Romans chapter 14 and 1 Corinthians chapters 8 and 10, where Paul discusses the topic of food sacrificed to idols. Paul makes the point in these chapters that believers are free to purchase and eat the meat sold in the marketplace, even thought it was derived from idol sacrifice, “Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do” (1 Cor. 8:8). But at the same time, he denounces idol worship, “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons” (1 Cor. 10:21), with the obvious implication that those who are responsible for actually sacrificing the meat to the idol and selling it in the market are involved in a sinful act of idolatry.

Similarly, Christians have liberty to be customers of businesses with murky aspects to them, as long as what they are purchasing does not involve them directly in biblical immorality (as in the case of adult entertainment, abortion, or other inherently sinful products and services). Likewise, it is problematic for a believer to invest in a company that sells immoral products because they are no longer the innocent consumer, but a guilty producer and profiteer of immorality.

Caveat Of Conscience

One additional caveat that Paul addresses in this regard is the issue of personal conscience. He states that even though Christians are free to eat meat sacrificed to idols, he acknowledges that some believers “through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled” (1 Cor. 8:7). For these believers, eating that meat would be a sin, as Paul states in Romans,  “But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23).

With this in mind, we should remember that for various reasons God may place a conviction upon a believer’s conscience that should govern their personal behavior, though that conviction would not extend to all believers in the way that a biblical command would.

For example, a Christian who has a personal history with alcoholism or with alcoholism in their family tree may have a strong conviction not to drink alcohol. They also might have a conviction that they could never work as a waiter who serves alcohol or be employed at a winery, brewery or distillery, or could never invest in a company that derives any revenue from alcohol sales.

That Christian should abide by those convictions, but also acknowledge that their personal convictions do not apply to all believers. And more to Paul’s primary point in the Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 passages, we believers who do not have such convictions should still be mindful of our “weaker” (Paul’s word, not mine) brothers and sisters who do have those convictions and should refrain from any activity that might cause them to stumble on their own personal convictions of conscience, even though we are free. We should never express our Christian liberty in a way that causes others to stumble, “But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak” (1 Cor. 8:9).

Love Above All

It is for this precise reason that at Inspire we exclude alcohol (for instance) from our portfolios. Personally, I have no problem drinking a beer or a glass of wine or investing money into a winery or craft brewery or something of the sort. However, I know that some of my brothers and sisters for personal reasons mentioned above do not want anything to do with the alcohol industry, and so we remove alcohol from our portfolios, among other things.

But while alcohol is an example of an industry that Christians can be free to invest in, the same cannot be said for other industries which are inherently sinful, such as abortion or pornography. Those areas are not up to individual conscience but rather are expressly prohibited as immoral in God’s word, and as such all believers should take care not to profit from or otherwise be involved with them.

The teaching of the Bible is rich, deep and clear in regard to the expectations God has for believers as stewards of His investment assets. At the same time, much of the depth in that scriptural teaching is aimed at fleshing out the nuance between God’s command and personal conscience. This complexity should not be cause for us to freeze up and disengage, but rather serve as an invitation to lean into God’s truth and learn more of His character, His glory and His plans for your joy as you seek to honor Him in all you do, including how you invest His money. As Paul himself concludes his treatment of this discussion, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).

Financial Obedience Is Better Than Sacrifice

God doesn’t need your money, but He does command your obedience.

Droves of Christian investors are discovering biblically responsible investing (BRI) for the first time as the BRI movement continues to gain momentum around the country and around the globe. These investors are learning the hard truth that they have been investing God’s money – and it’s all God’s money, right? – into businesses directly profiting from and supporting some of the vilest forms of depravity that the human mind can conjure.

It is currently the norm for the portfolios of millions of Christians around the world to be invested in abortion drug manufacturing, pornography sales, LGBT activism, human trafficking infested supply chains and the list goes on.

And then we give that money to God on Sunday morning and expect that He is pleased with our offering.

Hear me right, my heart bleeds with compassion for my brothers and sisters and echoes the prayer of Christ on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34), because not long ago that was me. I know the sting and sorrow of that conviction personally as it was only by the mercy of God that He caused me to stumble across the ugliness of what I was investing His money in, and what I was profiting from.

The Israelites in the Old Testament had the same problem. Over generations, the covenant people of God had lost their way. For some Israelites, theirs was a deliberately defiant disobedience. They knew the commands of God and they purposefully chose not to obey.

For others, like me and many Christian investors today, they simply were unaware. They had been “conformed to the pattern of the world” (Rom. 12:2) and were ignorant of what God expected of them as His people. Even though these Israelites were still adhering to the sacrificial system of worship with varying degrees of faithfulness, God was not pleased with their sacrifices. They brought their bulls, their rams, their doves and grain, but that wasn’t what God wanted. He wanted their heart and the obedient life that flows from a dedication to loving God above all else.

Hear God’s word to His people through the prophet Samuel, “’Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams’” (1 Samuel 15:22).

The danger for Christian investors wrestling with a newfound conviction over their investments is to seek to justify their investment in companies that profit from pornography (such as Amazon, Netflix, Roku, Dish Network and others), promote abortion (such as Pfizer, Intel, Bank of America and others), and sponsor LGBT activism (such as Wells Fargo, Target, T-Mobile, AT&T and others) by dedicating the returns from these investments as gifts to the Lord.

More than once I have heard well-meaning Christians declare that they have decided to continue to invest in companies involved in immoral activities so that they can give the profits to God. Their logic is that by doing so they are operating like a modern day Robin Hood of Christendom, profiting from the evil and giving to the holy, like some sort of spiritual money laundering scheme.

But there is a problem with this approach: God doesn’t want tainted gifts of sacrifice, He wants holy gifts of obedience. These believers confuse sacrifice with obedience, just as the Israelites did in Samuel’s day.

God makes it very clear He detests money earned from immoral activity and forbids His people from offering such ill-gotten gain to Him saying, “You must not bring the earnings of a female prostitute or of a male prostitute into the house of the LORD your God to pay any vow, because the LORD your God detests them both” (Deuteronomy 23:18). And elsewhere the Bible teaches that it would be better to earn lower returns than to support injustice, “Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice” (Proverbs 16:8).

Brothers and sisters, we must pay very close attention to what God is saying here. He would rather us give Him nothing than give Him an unholy offering. Better yet, God would rather us “learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1:17) with our finances and with our entire lives, and give Him the fruit of those good works, to the praise of His glorious grace.

It starts by learning what you are actually invested in from a biblical morals perspective, and you can find out for free at inspireinsight.com. Once you discover what issues are lurking in your portfolio, you can prayerfully make the changes necessary to transform your investment account into a God-glorifying financial engine that pursues righteous revenues instead of ill-gotten gain.

Let’s give Him holy gifts of obedience that are as worthy of His holy name as we possibly can by His grace. Such offerings are truly a pleasing aroma to our Lord.


 
 
 


Robert Netzly

Robert Netzly

Robert Netzly is the CEO of Inspire Investing and frequent contributor on FOX, Bloomberg, New York Times and other major media. Read more from Robert in his #1 bestselling book Biblically Responsible Investing, available at Amazon.com and other major retailers.

Follow Robert on Twitter and LinkedIn and get inspired!

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LinkedIn

*Advisory Services are offered through CWM Advisors, LLC dba Inspire, a Registered Investment Adviser with the SEC. All expressions of opinion are subject to change. This article is distributed for educational purposes, and it is not to be construed as an offer, solicitation, recommendation, or endorsement of any particular security, products, or services. Investors should talk to their financial advisor prior to making any investment decision.

Good News Of Great Joy

How biblically responsible investors are partners in declaring the good news of God’s sovereignty over all creation.

When Christ was born, the angels declared that it was “good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10). What was this good news? “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

Christians today recognize and rejoice in this good news. We certainly count it great joy that God has made a way for the salvation of sinners like us through the death and resurrection of Christ, by grace alone, through faith in Jesus alone. This is very good news!

My question is, if Christ’s birth was “good news of great joy” and if it was “for all the people”, then why were so many people upset about it? Herod wasn’t happy about it. Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes weren’t happy about it. The Roman Empire wasn’t happy about it. Why didn’t the angels declare “good news that some people will count as great joy”? Or, “good news of great joy for those people who believe”?

The answer is that Christ’s birth was truly “good news” and “great joy” because it made a way for salvation for all who would call upon His name. All people now had a way to be at peace with God and receive forgiveness from their sin, even if not all people would embrace or act upon that good news, or celebrate or even appreciate that great joy.

And Christ’s birth was an announcement of “great joy” because it means that we are not abandoned to the hopeless task of ascending to God through perfect holiness because He has descended instead with His perfect holiness to invade our unholy world and offer to us His righteousness in exchange for our sinfulness through faith in His name! “Not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith…” (Philippians 3:9).

The birth of Jesus is good news and great joy because it proclaims the sovereignty of God over all creation, that He is in control, that He cares about us (whether we believe it or not) and that He is living and actively working for His glory and our joy among us on planet Earth.

You see, the goodness and joyfulness of the news of Christ’s coming is not relative based on an individual’s subjective interpretation of the news. The goodness and joyfulness of the news of Christ is an objective fact, an indisputable truth that stands above human opinion.

In a similar way, we all have the opportunity to join in proclaiming this good news of great joy for all the people by making every decision with the glory of God in mind. When we order the actions, intentions and decisions of our life in submission to the will of God and for the glory of God we proclaim that He is sovereign, that He reigns and rules and He alone is worthy of all honor and glory and praise!

Even seemingly innocuous decisions such as choosing which investments to include in your portfolio can and should shout the praises of our God, declaring that Christ has come, the rule and reign of our God extends over all of creation now and forevermore, and that He is worthy of our worship and obedience in every area of the life He has allowed us to live.

Will you celebrate the good news of great joy and make every decision shine for the glory of God, joining with the angels’ song and with believers everywhere, ascribing “glory in the highest” to our Immanuel, God With Us?

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’ “(Luke 2: 13,14)

Shine for Jesus, Christian.


 
 


Robert Netzly

Robert Netzly

Robert Netzly is the CEO of Inspire Investing and frequent contributor on FOX, Bloomberg, New York Times and other major media. Read more from Robert in his #1 bestselling book Biblically Responsible Investing, available at Amazon.com and other major retailers.

Follow Robert on Twitter and LinkedIn and get inspired!

Twitter

LinkedIn

*Advisory Services are offered through CWM Advisors, LLC dba Inspire, a Registered Investment Adviser with the SEC. All expressions of opinion are subject to change. This article is distributed for educational purposes, and it is not to be construed as an offer, solicitation, recommendation, or endorsement of any particular security, products, or services. Investors should talk to their financial advisor prior to making any investment decision.