Debt Free

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Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed
My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy rains
Unending love, Amazing grace

About two and a half years ago my wife and I set out to become debt free and make a better life for not only ourselves but for our future child/children. At the time, two and a half years ago, we were living paycheck to paycheck just barely getting by and making a whole lot less than we had in bills, loans, and expenses as I’m sure many of you reading this can relate to.

We didn’t think that there was anyway out of the situation we were in. We had an insurmountable debt that we didn’t have a big enough shovel to dig ourselves out of. We were overwhelmed, as all of us get sometimes when we loose our perspective and start looking at how big our problems are instead of how big our God is.

We had pretty much lost all hope and were at the end of our rope just holding on to dear life. Until we were over a friends of ours, who had just moved into their dream home, and they began to tell us their story of how they were in the same place that we were currently in and managed to dig their way out of it and become debt free. This was like a breath of fresh air. We didn’t have any faith to get through our situation but this was like the second-hand faith that we needed to help pick ourselves up off of the mat and get back into the fight.

Our faith had been restored. Our hope had been renewed. We sat down, came up with a game-plan, and began to slowly chip away at our debt. Now this isn’t the part of the story where everything from here on was all peaches and cream, we lived happily ever after, the end. No it was hard. We had to make a lot of sacrifices. We had to cut down all living expenses. We had to come up with and stick to a budget. We had to live off of one income. That meant we had to move in with my wife’s mother. That meant we had to get rid of cable. That meant that I had to cancel my gym membership, twice. We had to cut back on eating out. We had to live well below our means. We had to work long days and pick up overtime at our jobs. My wife did swim lessons on the side, apart from here full-time job, in order to have extra cash to pay toward our debt.

Now I say all that not to scare anyone who might be reading this and finds themselves in a similar place that we were in about two and half years ago. I say all that so that you will know that the reality of the situation is that you are going to have to be willing to make a lot of sacrifices and many tough decisions in order to become debt free. You’re going to have to learn how to say no. You’re going to have to know the difference between a need and a want. You’re going to have to do somethings you necessarily don’t want to in order to save money and also increase your income. You’re going to have to be willing to work long days and maybe have some short restless nights. All of this boils down to this one thought, in order to get yourself out of debt you are going to have to be willing to make the temporary sacrifices so that you can ultimately receive the eternal rewards. The apostle Paul wrote it more elegantly in his letter to the Romans:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

We used what is called the snowball method, which basically recommends that you attack your least amount of debt and so on and so on until you have paid off all you loans (credit cards, student loans, auto loans, etc). Just like in real life, if you ever rolled a snowball down a hill you understand this analogy, the snowball starts off really small, then it starts gaining momentum and by the time it reaches the bottom of the hill, it has grown considerably. In other words you start off with a small amount of money to attack a huge amount of debt, but then you start gaining some momentum, chipping away at your debt little by little, until you reach the bottom of the hill and the money you have to attack your debt has grown considerably and your amount of debt isn’t as insurmountable as it was when you first began.

This journey of becoming debt free that my wife and I have been on for the last two and a half years has reminded me of three stories from the Bible. Which I would like to share with you as I bring this blog post to a close.

The first is the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand with just five loaves of bread and two fish. (See Matthew 14:13-21) The lesson that I took from this story that I applied to our journey to become debt free is that the little you have when it is in your hands doesn’t seem nearly enough but when you place it in the hands of Jesus it becomes more than enough. Paul wrote it this way when he was talking to the people in Ephesus:

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Just like the five loaves of bread and two fish weren’t nearly enough when they were in the hands of the little boy and probably was only enough to feed his family, they became more than enough when they were placed in the hands of Jesus and fed 5,000 families. In other words, your little can become much when you place it in the Master’s hands.

The second story is found in Mark’s gospel. (See Mark 6:45-52) The inspiration from this passage of scripture is you have to do your part before God will do His. God isn’t going to row the boat for you. The disciples had rowed three or four miles before Jesus came walking on the water. That is a long distance to row let alone through a storm resisting you the whole way. The disciples did their part. They rowed and strained until they couldn’t row anymore. They did everything in their power to reach the other side. It wasn’t until they did all that they could that Jesus stepped in and did what they couldn’t to get them to the other side. You see you have to do the natural before God puts His super on your natural. The hope that we have though rests in the promise that if we are faithful to do what we can, God is faithful to do what only He can and what we can’t.

Finally the last lesson that was learned is found in Joshua chapter three. God’s people, the children of Israel, had finally made it through the desert and were ready to enter the land that God had promised to them. They had come out of slavery in Egypt. They had crossed the desert. They had overcame a multitude of obstacles along the way. They could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. They could see the promise of God right before them. There was just one big problem. The Jordan River stood between them and the promise land. And it wasn’t just any river. This was the Jordan River at its worst. This was the Jordan River at its flood stage. In other words, the biggest barrier the Israelites had to overcome stood right between them and their biggest breakthrough. This rang true in our journey to debt freedom because right at the end of our road, right when we reached the last student loan, right when we could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I was fired from my job. Our biggest barrier throughout this whole process hit us head on without any notice right when we had seen the promise land of debt freedom. But God was faithful. And He didn’t provide me with another job, and even at the time of me writing this I don’t have a job, but He did provide a way out. God provided financial means and opportunities that we didn’t even know we had or even existed or were even a possibility that ended up being more than enough to pay off the remaining debt that we had left.

So my hope is that after reading all of this, if you find yourself in a similar situation that my wife and I were in, you will be able to gain the strength to pick yourself up off of the mat and get back into the fight. Your perspective will have shifted from how big your problem is to how big your God is. You will place your not enough into the hands of Jesus so that it can become more than enough. You will not only get into the boat, but that you will row the boat until you can’t row anymore. And when you finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, you will not be discouraged when you encounter your biggest obstacle. But you will push through to cross over into your greatest opportunity.

After all of this, I can say without a doubt and with all conviction that the sacrifices that we made were definitely worth it. That our temporary sufferings of having to say no to the good in order to receive the greater fail to compare to the freedom that my wife and I are now experiencing. All the sacrifices. All the pain. All the hard conversations. All the tough decisions. All the suffering. All the tears shed. They were all worth it. At the time it didn’t seem so, but now looking back, they all were. Because I can finally scream at the top of my lungs: “I AM DEBT FREE!”

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How You View Your Situation Can Determine Whether You Succeed Or Fail


Your perspective in life determines your outcome. How you perceive things makes the difference in whether you succeed or fail. You can either see the glass half full or half empty. You can view your situation as a setup or a setback. You can look at how big your God is or how big your problem is.

Your failures in life don’t have to actually be failures at all. One of the most feared and successful fighters in the world today, Conor McGregor, looks at every fight as either he wins or he learns. Defeat doesn’t even cross his mind even if the actual result of the fight is a loss. McGregor acquired this mindset from his coach, John Kavanagh. In fact this way of thinking is the title of Kavanagh’s new book, Win or Learn

In life we are going to experience some tough times. Jesus even said “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” In other words it’s not a matter of coming across tough times in our lives, it’s a matter of whether we are going to let those tough times overcome us.

So how are you perceiving things? Are you looking at that job loss as a setback or a setup to the greater that God has for your life? Are you looking at that bad report from the doctor as loss of hope or an opportunity for healing? Are you looking at that debt as an insurmountable hurdle or a gateway to your financial freedom? 

You can either go through life looking at the glass as half full or as half empty. Whether you overcome that mountain before you is based on your mindset. Your progress in life is determined by your perspective. The choice is up to you.

You Hear It Before You See It

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So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. ~ Romans 10:17 NKJV

I find it interesting that in the physical world the speed of light is much faster than the speed of sound. In other words, you see something before you hear it. You see the lightning before you hear the thunder. You see the firework before you here the sound that it makes. You see the baseball player swing the bat before you hear the crack that it makes when it hits the ball.

While on the contrary, in the spiritual realm, we hear the word of God before we see the hand of God. We have to have the faith to believe for something before we actually see it happen. God spoke the world into existence. We hear the sound of a mighty rushing wind. In 1 Kings 18, Elijah told Ahab “there is a sound of abundance of rain” before he actually saw the rain. We are told to walk by faith and not by sight (See 2 Corinthians 5:7).

It’s like when a woman is giving birth to a child. For nine months, she can’t see the baby inside of her but she knows that it is there. She can feel the baby inside of her, she just can’t see it yet. She can hear the baby inside of her, but she can’t see it yet. Even though she can’t yet see the baby inside of her, she believes that it is there.

Sometimes what we see in our lives contradicts what we have heard in God’s word. That’s where faith comes in. The writer of Hebrews tells us “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (See Hebrews 11:1) Just because we don’t see it yet, doesn’t mean that what we heard isn’t going to happen. Don’t lose hope because it hasn’t happened. Hold onto your faith. And don’t stop believing.

If you wan’t to dive deeper into this thought, here is a great message from Steven Furtick, pastor of Elevation Church, on this subject.

Sometimes You Just Have To Walk Through It


Have you ever come across a situation in your life where there was no avoiding it? You wanted to be able to side step it but there was no way around it. You wanted to avoid it but you just had to walk through it.

Everyone of us has come to a pivotal moment in our lives where we had a crucial decision to make. We could either take the path of least resistance or we could hit it head on. We could take the long way around it or we could put our head down and walk right through it. 

It’s human nature to want to take the path of least resistance. It’s in our DNA to avoid conflict. Who in their right mind would rather go through something than to go around it? But sometimes in life it’s better to push through the conflict than to proceed to go around it. It’s better to fight through the situation rather than to avoid it altogether.

Recently Steven Furtick, Pastor of Elevation Church, mentioned something profound when it comes to these moments in our lives. He said “Sometimes your harvest is found by walking through something you would rather walk around.” This is so true. Sometimes in order to get what God has for us in our lives we have to go through our situation instead of going around it.

The Israelites had to go through the Jordan River in order to get to the Promise Land (See Joshua 3). David talks about going through the valley (See Psalm 23:4). Even Jesus, though he didn’t want to (See Luke 22:42), had to go through the cross. 

So what is it that you’re facing today? What is it that you have been avoiding? What situation currently in your life would you rather walk around? Go through it. Because your harvest could be waiting for you on the other side.

God Is Not A Genie And Unlike Christina You Can’t Rub Him The Right Way

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The church has made God out be be like He is some genie from the movie Aladdin. Like we are able to rub some lamp, like Aladdin, and poof out pops God to grant our wish. We have been taught to believe that if we pray more, spend more quiet time with God, read the Bible more, or even give more time and money; God is going to bless us more. It’s this theology that if you have a greater need, you have to sow a greater seed. In other words if you want more from God, you have to give more to God.

The only problem with this way of thinking is that it just isn’t Biblical. Yes there is the scripture in Galatians where Paul says “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” (See Galatians 6:7 NIV) And even Jesus said in Luke “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (See Luke 6:38 NIV) These verses have been twisted today to make them seem like they are saying the more money you give the more money you will receive. But that just isn’t true. Neither Paul nor Jesus were referring to money when they spoke these words. Just one verse before in Luke, Jesus was talking about forgiving. And Paul follows up verse 7 in Galatians saying that our sowing should be, when we have the opportunity, to do good to all people.

Even Satan himself tried to manipulate Jesus by taking certain scripture verses out of context. (See Matthew 4:1-11 NIV) It rubs me the wrong way, no pun intended, that people use the scripture and the church to push forth their own agenda and to prey on innocent bystanders. Jesus referred to this type of person as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. (See Matthew 7:15 NIV) You know who else was referred to as masquerading about as something he isn’t? You guessed it. The devil himself. (See 1 Peter 5:8 NIV) Not someone who I want to be associated with.

The truth is that God loves you no matter what. And that God blesses us not because of what we do but because of who we are. Giving more money isn’t going to get God’s attention. Jesus already did that for us when He died on the cross. You can’t pray for it. You can’t rub some magic lamp for it. And you can’t work for it. That is a good thing. Because if we could earn God’s love, if we could earn God’s grace, if we could earn God’s blessings then we could also lose them too. Jesus already did the work so we don’t have to, and frankly we couldn’t do it anyway. God isn’t a genie. God is good. God is great. And that is why He blesses us.

 

God Speaks To Your Today From Your Tomorrow 


Have you ever been in a transition period in your life? What am I kidding. Of course you have. It’s called life. We constantly find ourselves stuck in the middle between where we used to be and where we are going to eventually end up. It can be a period of uncertainty. It could be the time between jobs. It could be the time between graduating from college and going into the business world. It could be the time between being married and settling down and starting a family.

I think we can all agree that in times like these there is a feeling of angst. We suddenly find ourselves trapped in a period of waiting. Waiting for a phone call about that job we applied for. Waiting for the test results to come back on that scan we had a week ago. Waiting for our prayers to be answered. Waiting on God to move on our behalf. 

There is only one problem with that last one. You see the whole concept of waiting on God constitutes that God is somehow a prisoner of time. But that just isn’t true. God is outside of time. God created time. God is not subject to time. Time is subject to Him.

It is hard for us to grasp this concept since all we have known since the beginning of our existence here on earth is this concept of time. We have always measured our life by time. We refer to it by years, months, weeks, day, hours, minutes, and seconds. From the very moment we are born the clock has started. 

Pastor Steven Furtick of Elevation Church put this concept into perspective when he said “God doesn’t speak to your today from your current situation, because He’s already been in your tomorrow.” God doesn’t wait, like we do, for things to happen. He doesn’t get surprised or shocked or caught off guard. God doesn’t get caught up in the past. He isn’t confined to the present. He doesn’t look forward to the future. God sees it all. Past, present, future at the same time. Because time doesn’t control God, He controls time.

So the next time you find yourself caught in a period of transition and you’re waiting on God. Stop your waiting and start moving. Take heart that God has taken care of your today because He has already been to your tomorrow.

Do You Have What It Takes To Accomplish The Goals You Have Set?


My wife and I have been earnestly working on getting out of debt and we are currently down to the last loan. During this time we have been listening to a various outlets seeking advice on what is the best way to become debt free. One of those outlets has been Dave Ramsey. 

If you are not familiar with Dave Ramsey, he is well known for helping people all over the United States gain financial freedom. Although he can be a little intense his methods, when applied properly, have proven to be successful over time. 

One thing that I have taken from Dave Ramsey was what he pointed out in these obscure verses in Proverbs. The verses say “Allow no sleep to your eyes, no slumber to your eyelids. Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the snare of the fowler.” (Proverbs 6:4-5 NIV) At first glance, these verses don’t seem like they make much sense but the lesson that can be learned from them will help in accomplishing your goals in life.

If you have ever watched National Geographic or the Discovery Channel, you would have probably come across a scene where a group of gazelles are grazing in an open field. What the gazelles don’t know at the time, lurking off in the distance is their main predator, the cheetah. But all of a sudden, like clock work, one of the gazelles heads pop up and senses that their is imminent danger. Then the gazelles take off running as fast as they can in order not to become prey to the cheetah. 

The verse in Proverbs tells us to “Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter.” The gazelle has to run with everything it has in order not to fall prey to the cheetah. In order to free itself, the gazelle can’t become passive in its attempt to escape. It has to be intense in its pursuit of freedom.

Now Dave Ramsey uses this example, what he calls “Gazelle Intensity,” when talking to people on how to get out of debt. But I believe this example can be applied to anything we do in life. If we want to accomplish something in life, we can’t be passive about it. We need to attack it with intensity. Just like the gazelle running from the cheetah. If we want to reach our goals in life, we can’t just go at them half-heartedly. We need to put everything we have into the pursuit of them.

So what is it in your life that you are trying to accomplish? What goals have you set for yourself that you’re trying to reach? It could be becoming debt free. It could be getting your Masters degree. It could be becoming a home owner. It could be starting a family. It could be being able to retire. Whatever it is don’t be passive about it. Attack it head on. Don’t hold anything back. Be gazelle intense.

What I Learned About God’s Love From A Squirrel 


My father-in-law has a couple bird feeders in his backyard. For a while now he has had an issue with a squirrel getting into the bird feeder and eating all the seed that is meant for the birds. My father-in-law wasn’t willing to accept the squirrel eating all the bird seed, so he went about trying to put a stop to it. He did what every true American does nowadays when you have a problem needing solving, he Googled it and he watched some YouTube videos. The solution: hanging a slinky around the middle pole of the bird feeder so that the squirrel couldn’t climb up it. This worked for a little while. The squirrel would try getting up the bird feeder but would grab on to the slinky and fall back down it. But as relentless as my father-in-law was to put a stop to the squirrel, the squirrel was more relentless in getting to the bird seed in the feeder.

This somewhat silly story of the war between my father-in-law and a relentless squirrel reminded me of God’s relentless pursuit in loving us. Probably the most famous verse of all of scripture, John 3:16, shows just how far God was willing to go because of His love for us. God was willing to sacrifice His only son because of His relentless love for us. The apostle Paul writes about the extent of God’s love in the 8th chapter of Romans where he says “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” In other words, nothing can keep God’s love from getting to us.

Just like the squirrel wasn’t willing to give up its pursuit of the bird seed no matter what my father-in-law threw in its way, God’s love for you cannot be stopped. No obstacle, no hinderance, no barrier can prevent God’s love from getting to you. No matter how you may feel, God’s love never fails. No matter how many times you may have failed, God’s love for you remains constant. God’s love is not based upon the condition you are in, because God’s love has no conditions. God’s love never fails, never gives up, and never runs out on you. God’s love is relentless.

The Way I Talk


There is a new country song on the radio today called “The Way I Talk” by Morgan Wallen. The whole message behind the song is about being authentic. It’s about being you no matter what others may think. There is a lyric in the song that stood out to me. It says “The man upstairs gets it so I ain’t tryna fix it.”

So many things we do today, we do in an effort to receive the approval of others. We go out of our way in an attempt to gain the praise and adoration of people we don’t even know. We wear clothes that aren’t comfortable in order to receive the comfort of others. We buy cars we can’t afford in order to impress people we haven’t even met. Our decisions in life revolve around capturing the attention of others. We constantly strive in vain to seek satisfaction in the sights of everyone else.

I love the message of this song by Morgan Wallen because it’s the message of our Heavenly Father. We see this in the life of Jesus. Before Jesus performed any miracles. Before Jesus died on the cross. Even before Jesus rose from the dead. God was proud of him. (See Matthew 3:17) Even Jesus couldn’t do anything to win over God’s approval. So why do we think it would be any different for us? 

God isn’t proud of us because of what we do, but because of who we are. Any parent out there can attest to this. You want to see your kids be successful. But whether they succeed or fail in life doesn’t change the fact that they are still your kid and that you still love them and are still proud of them. God is a perfect father and he loves you and is proud of you not because of your status in society but because of your position as His child.

Quit striving after the praise of others. Rest in the satisfaction of knowing God is already proud of you. Quit seeking the recognition of people. You already have the attention of God. Quit trying to look good for everyone else. You already have the approval in the sight of the only One who matters.

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