Our Debt Independence Day Story!

July 4th always holds a special significance for my wife and me.  On July 4th, 2008, we paid off our last debt...our home.  (Well actually, the bank was closed so I paid our mortgage down to $.01 online and our family went a branch with one penny a couple of days later.  LOL)  I wrote the following shortly thereafter.  I pray it encourages someone to never quit!

A shout out to Dave Ramsey for all his help.  Bless you brother.  

--------------

Well my friends, we've done it. My wife and I have paid off EVERYTHING. House and all. We're DONE! DONE! DONE! DONE! Hold on...gotta go do the Snoopy Dance...

Ok I'm back. The bottom line is that we have paid off $200,000 in debt in 5 years. Here is our story. I hope it encourages someone.

Our Total Money Makeover journey began in earnest during the Summer of 2003. But before that, there is a story to tell. In the mid-nineties, my wife and I were both Naval Officers with no kids. We lived in the same house we live in now and I didn't really care about how we spent money. We made over $80k per year at least back then and had nothing at all to show for it. My wife gave me a copy of Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace in the 1997 time frame. I "skimmed" it to appease her, but the info didn't stick. I continued to buy cars, motorcycles, motorcycle accessories, computer games, and just about anything else I wanted (on credit of course) at a rapid pace. Although you wouldn't think someone this immature would be in ministry, I was (and am) a minister and began a church in 1997. So I continued to preach, work in the Navy, and spend money like water like everything was all good: no savings, no retirement, no plan, and no clue.

Then it happened. She cried. 

In the late nineties, my wife and I were on one of those timeshare tour things. I think they must have promised us free stuff to lure us in. Anyway, I declined the timeshare because I thought we couldn't afford it. My wife wanted it.  But I, the one "in charge," declined (which of course suggested her vote didn't count...and back then...I'm sad to say it didn't). So not much later and after spending lots of time thinking about our lack of financial discipline and stewardship, my wife just broke down and cried. She looked at me and said, "Not only can we not afford to vacation...we make all this money and we don't have anything to give to those in need." (She no longer wants a timeshare, but you get the idea.)

Wow. 

Like most men who are totally in love with their wives, her tears were simply torture for me. And like most men, I never really "heard" how important this money stuff was to her heart. Her tears were enough to begin the process of shaking me out of my little boy mindset and the beginning of my learning how to MAN-UP for my family.

To give some of you wives a bit of hope, it still took me another 3-4 years of making slow progress before the Gazelle Intensity light clicked on, but the light DID come on. LOL! I was now at least cognizant of personal finance and its impact, and the guidance the Bible offered on the subject was no longer "theory." I was beginning to pay attention, but I was still a slave to my big-ticket item impulses. During the next 3-4 years, I still made HUGE HUGE HUGE little boy mistakes...like buying an Acura MDX for $40k in 2001 KNOWING I was to soon leave the military to be a full-time pastor and take a big pay cut. The payment was over $800!!! DUMB! I did wise up though and sold that beautiful 2001 black on black mint condition wonderfully leathery smelling truck with a sweeeeet navigation system after about a year and shortly before leaving the Navy. But I'm over it. Really. I also bought at least three motorcycles during this same timeframe. Yes I said THREE: trading up all the time to have the newest and fastest. They loved me at the motorcycle dealership!

The light came all the way on in 2003. What happened? The Total Money Makeover book came out. Although my eyes were beginning to come open, my painfully slow progress was still frustrating my wife. We saw the book and I remembered: "Hey, the Financial Peace guy!" So I bought it (probably on a credit card) and read it. That was it. Something changed in me. I finally saw debt as an enemy, not a friend. I saw my wife as someone I was called by God to actually provide for. You'd think a pastor would know this right? LOL. And I did in fact "know" it. But "knowing" and "doing" are two different things. I went from a goober to a gazelle in the time it takes to read one book. I WAS DONE WITH DEBT!!!!!

My wife was soon convinced that I had really changed. During the summer of 2003, we had about $200,000 in debt: credit cards, two motorcycles, a $25k car (I didn't learn my lesson), and a $150,000 mortgage. I sold both bikes (it about killed me), rolled the car and the remaining cards into a mortgage refinance (I know, dumb. But hey, I was still a TMMO newbie!) on a 10-yr note at 4.75%, declared war on debt, and haven't looked back.

By January 2004, all we had left was a $180k mortgage (on a house now worth about $350k). It has taken us from then until now to kill that bad boy. From Jan 2004, WE JUST DID THE PLAN. No credit cards or borrowing of any sort, doing a budget each and every month on paper on purpose, using the envelope system, getting the right kinds of insurance, fully funding an emergency fund (done by end of 2004), investing in retirement, cash flowing home repairs (about $20k worth! Take that Murphy!), cash flowing an adoption, working TOGETHER, and staying intense.

It's amazing how following what Dave teaches can add up to huge savings and increased income. As some quick examples:

  •  Extra jobs, focus and sacrifice: Our income has increased by at least 30% since we started TMMO.
  • Budgeting: Another 5% "increase" at least in terms of doing smarter things with money.
  • Insurance: The HSA alone saved us $400 per month! (We now use a Christian health sharing ministry: Samaritan Ministries.)
  • Getting rid of car and bike payments: easily another $1000 per month. 

Oh well, on with the story. Our precious little girl was born in Jan 2005. Her birth had a huge impact on me. Now I had two girls to provide for; two to ensure had a good life and a bright financial future. It's on now!!!! In Jan 2006, we kicked it up a notch on the mortgage and started going all out. No vacations. Extra work. Yelling at a red "NO MORTGAGE" circle with a line through it on the fridge. I'm talking about total attack mode. And it worked. Today, on Independence Day...we are proud and blessed to say, we are done. We are at Baby Step 7. Praise the Lord!

Over the last few years, we brought FPU to my church several times and most recently, took it up a notch with Dave's Momentum program. We put 80% of the church through FPU at one time. It was awesome. The whole culture of the church changed. So many families are following our lead and getting in position to bless others and change their family trees forever.

My unsolicited advice? Get on a plan and follow it with as much Intensity as you can muster. Seriously. Try not to play around with it. Try not to rationalize why you are different. We just read The Total Money Makeover and did what it said. It worked.

NO PAYMENTS! 

Ok...time for more Snoopy Dancing!

Self-Denial?

Luke 9:21-26  And he straitly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing;  22  Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.  23  And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.  24  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.  25  For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?  26  For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father's, and of the holy angels.

The follow are comments by Walter Chantry.  They continue to bless me!

-----------

"Only one entrance may be found to the Kingdom of God. There is a narrow gate set at the head of the path of life. "Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matthew 7:14). No one with an inflated ego can squeeze through the door. There must be self-effacement, self-repudiation, self-denial, even to become a disciple (a student) of Jesus Christ.

Our Saviour made His demand quite clear by explicitly requiring self-denial. He then re-emphasized the point by using a vivid illustration of renouncing one's self―an illustration he would soon seal with His blood, "Let him deny himself, and take up his cross." Six times in the Gospels our great Prophet refers to His followers' taking up a cross. It was one of His favorite illustrations of self-denial. At other times He would speak of selling all, or of losing one's life.

"Cross" is a word that first brings to our minds the picture of our Lord on Calvary. We think of Him bleeding while fastened to an instrument designed to inflict an agonizing death. Then perhaps we expand the idea of taking up a cross by thinking of Stephen who was stoned to death, or of Peter and John, who were beaten and put into prison, and of other martyrs across the ages. In the light of such courageous physical suffering, the Christian at ease may say to himself, "I don't have any cross to bear." Perhaps this repeated demand of Christ even brings alarm to your consciences as you read it over and over in Scripture.

Some who call themselves "Christian" in fact have never taken up their crosses. Being ignorant of the experience of self-execution, of self-denial, they are of necessity strangers to Christ. Our Lord Himself intended His illustration and His demand to deepen alarm in such individuals. If this is your condition, then there can be no relief to conviction but in taking up your cross and following Him.

Others, however, are true servants of Christ but feel a sense of dismay through a misunderstanding of our Lord's demand. It is quite possible to have taken up your cross and not to know it. Careful examination of our Lord's meaning will then be an encouragement.

In either case, the subject is vital to you. Your Master's life was dominated by a cross. He has called you also to a life with a cross. This clear gospel note is so easy to forget in flabby Western society. With a great chorus of custom, advertisement, and temptation, this world is beckoning you to a life of self-indulgence. Your flesh is drawn to that appeal, and will fall in with the world's suggestions. But the Lord of glory has called you to a life of self-denial, to a cross.

The demand of bearing a cross is universal. It is made of all who follow Christ, without exception. Our Lord addressed these words "to all," not to a select few who walked nearer to Christ. Mark 8:34 indicates that this mandate was not issued to the twelve alone. It was spoken 'when he had called the people unto Him with his disciples'. The cross is required for "any man" who will go after Him. There are no peculiar cases released from this necessity. Repeatedly our Lord was emphatic that none could be considered His disciple in any sense unless he bore a cross. "And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me" (Matthew 10:38). 

Again in Luke 14:27 our Saviour turned to a multitude following Him, to insist, "Whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after Me, cannot be My disciple." It is an absolute impossibility to be a Christian without self-denial. Whether you live in a Christian land or in a culture hostile to God's Word, you must bear a cross. 

The only way to avoid the cross is to follow the world to hell. As verse 24 explains, "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it." The "for" indicates a connection with the preceding verse. Religion without self-denial will not endure the judgment.

It is this most obvious aspect of our Lord's teaching which has been forgotten or ignored by modern evangelism. Anxious to bring sinners to life, peace, and joy in the Lord, evangelists have failed even to mention that Christ insists upon denial of self at the outset. Having failed to pass on our Lord's requirement, and forgetting it themselves, evangelists have never questioned whether their "converts" with self-centered lives are true followers of Christ. "

------------

Amen!

The Tricks of the Devil on Those Who are Rebuilding Their Lives According to Scripture

The below is from my friend, Elder Scott Brown.  So good, I just had to post it!

----------------

Hello Brothers,

I would like to point you to a sermon I preached recently on Ezra 4, “The Tricks of the Devil on Those Who are Rebuilding Their Lives According to Scripture.

Here is a description of the high points:

Nothing causes more trouble in your life than when you are with people who are returning to God - especially for those who desire to return to the regulative principle of worship. Most people in the modern church have drifted into thinking that if you are godly then you will have no conflict, your best life is now and your deepest desires will be met as you get your designer life. Most have forgotten that there was the pain of the cross before the resurrection.

Ezra 4 speaks of the effect of the troubles from opposition that was sustained for 117 years against the Israelites returning from Babylon and beginning to rebuild. The discouragement that comes from trials can be crippling and debilitating. It can sap your energy, neutralize your vision, make you listless, apathetic, heartbroken, and sometimes bitter. The devil works through discouragement. In C.S. Lewis’ book “The Screwtape Letters,” Uncle Screwtape counsels the novice in the art of temptation saying, “Work hard… on the disappointment or anti-climax…”

Ezra 4 weaves the story of how the opposition started, who started it and what they did to perpetuate it. It speaks of how to deal with both religious and secular people who have not crowned God as King of kings and Lord of lords. It is not just paganism that resists the church. Christianity “lite” will always be trying to destroy the true worship of God as well. Why, because the worship of God in the true church is the most important thing happening in the world. There will always be two kingdoms in conflict - the kingdom of the light of the world, ruled by the prince of peace - Jesus the Son of God, and the kingdom of darkness ruled by the accuser of the brethren and the father of lies - the devil. This conflict is the subject of Ezra 4. 

The church exists behind enemy lines. Opposition will always be a reality. At the beginning of Ezra 4, the devil raises up adversaries – the Samaritans. From this chapter forward, to the end of Nehemiah, all you encounter is the opposition to the efforts of rebuilding worship: slander, threats, manipulation, and half-truths.  

Following is an outline of the tricks of the devil to frustrate the establishment of the worship of God in a community:

I. Temptation to compromise - Opposition from Cyrus to Darius (536bc), the work stops for 16 years, Ezra 4:1-5, 24.

II. Accusatory letters - Opposition from Ahasuerus to Artaxerxes (522bc), Ezra 4:6-7. 

III. Slanderous misrepresentation - Rehum’s letter to Artaxerxes, an attempt to destroy using slanderous misrepresentation to apply pressure for public censure, Ezra 4:8-16.

IV. People of influence believe a lie - Artaxerxes responds to the letter, an example of self-serving and poor research, Ezra 4:17-23.

V. Intimidation and discouragement – Israel stops the work and focuses on themselves. The work ceased for 16 years, Ezra 4:24.

Here are some final applications:

1. Separation is necessary for great commission work. What was at stake was their distinctiveness as a people who worshipped God in the way He prescribed.  Would they be a holy people or would they be like the nations? Would they have only a little bit of God or would they follow Him wholeheartedly. 

2. God is concerned with His own impressiveness, not our success. The returnees refused to compromise but it did not mean that they would have an effortless, successful experience. Often we want to maintain our own impressiveness, but God wants the world to know about His impressiveness. God takes satanic attack and re-directs it for the advancement of His goodness and impressiveness.

3. Ezra is making it clear that building the temple is a multigenerational matter, one generation works and then the next takes over the work.

4. There may be long periods of difficulty where there is no revival. 

5. There is no victory without pain. There is no peace without trouble. There is no resurrection without death. God wants you to have a better life than your “designer life.” He wants you to be deeper than you are, more real than you are, more mature, more steady, more patient, more loving, and stronger. Often He uses pain and trouble to get you there. 

6. Be ye separate from the world - there is a time to stand up to the bullies. There is a time to stand your ground, refuse to compromise, and to reject the favor, money and the personnel of the world to help you.

7. Are you a success junkie? When the king shut down the work, it was the end of a dream. Their hopes were dashed. But, when mans dreams are ended; God’s visions take over.

8. Don’t pre-judge your disaster. Remember, in looking back it is often clearer. There are temporal setbacks, but they do not contradict that He is good; His love endures forever to Israel. God is taking history to its happy ending.

9. Do you trust the story line of the Bible? Do you believe that your story was designed to glorify the story of God? Have you fully embraced the idea that your life is not your own? Have you abandoned the idolatry of your perfect life? Have you considered the words of Jesus, “In the world you shall have tribulation, but I have overcome the world?” Has your loss of trust in the story line made you lose sight of the mission in the midst of the discouragement? Remember that your story is God’s story. The Bible is about the drama of the preservation of the people of God to the end.

10. Therefore…walk by faith, not by sight. Why do some flourish in trials and others dry up and blow away? Why do some find more hope in trouble and others find reason to let their hope blow away? It is their faith in God’s promises for His people.

11. The greatest battle and suffering ever is over: The suffering of the Son of God for sin. He was despised and rejected. He was spat upon. He was crucified. He destroyed the works of the devil – unraveling and disarming. Why? So that He would take the punishment that sinners deserved so that they could be set free. His suffering satisfied the wrath of God. 

 

Given Up, Given Over

 

Eph 4:17  This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,

Eph 4:18  Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:

Eph 4:19  Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

 

This powerful section of Holy Scripture describes the state of mind of who Paul calls “other Gentiles.”  In context, Paul is referring to those who aren’t saved, and rebelliously so.  We can assume this by their behavior as written in this Text.

In verse 19, there are two noteworthy descriptions of these people in their sad state.  They are “past feeling” and they have “given themselves over” to sin.

“Past feeling” literally means to become desensitized.  It comes from a Greek work that means “apathetic.”  Additionally, to give oneself over means to surrender or deliver over oneself.  Sadly, these Gentiles were apathetic to sin and unrighteousness and had totally surrendered to it.

Here is my question: It is possible that the church sometimes does the same?

It is possible that the church of the living Christ can, through coldness of spirit, carnality of the mind, and rule of the flesh, become somewhat desensitized to the commands and precepts of her Lord?  It is possible that we who are indwelt by the Spirit can sometimes act like those are are not?

When personally addressing His churches in Revelation, Jesus said through the Apostle John:

  • Rev 3:14  And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;
  • Rev 3:15  I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
  • Rev 3:16  So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
  • Rev 3:17  Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
  • Rev 3:18  I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
  • Rev 3:19  As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

Does the description of “lukewarm” denote a desensitizing to the things of God?  Isn’t the Lord after a zealous church?  Does Jesus want us to feel about Him the way He feels about us?

Look around.  Look at how often we approach the Word in haughtiness and pride instead of holy fear and trembling.  Look at how often we have the nerve to boldly teach contrary to what is clearly written.  

The Apostle Paul describes God “giving men over” to their lusts due to their own disobedience.  Is it even in the realm of Kingdom possibilities that God may be judging His church in a similar manner, allowing lying spirits (1 Kings 22:22) and strong delusion (2 Thes 2:11) among us? May the Lord’s church NEVER have to endure such a judgment…

  • Rom 1:18  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
  • Rom 1:19  Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
  • Rom 1:20  For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
  • Rom 1:21  Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
  • Rom 1:22  Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
  • Rom 1:23  And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
  • Rom 1:24  Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
  • Rom 1:25  Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
  • Rom 1:26  For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
  • Rom 1:27  And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
  • Rom 1:28  And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
  • Rom 1:29  Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
  • Rom 1:30  Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
  • Rom 1:31  Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
  • Rom 1:32  Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

———

Oh Lord, we know You won’t leave us nor forsake us.  But we also know that you reprove and discipline those whom You love.  Oh Great King, break our hearts for Thy Word.  Open our Eyes!  Restore our fear and trembling, as well as a fervent love for Thee.

Help us.