Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. (1 Tim. 6:17-18)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Working the Debt Snowball Again, Take 2

Photo by Martin Deutsch
My Story

If you've been a long-time follower of this blog, then you're probably somewhat familiar with my story over the last several years. But, if you're new to Rich Christian, Poor Christian, then you can get a quick overview of my history in the following posts:
And just to give you a super fast synopsis of my journey, here we go: In my first marriage, back around 2004, I ran across Dave Ramsey's original book Financial Peace. As a result of reading Dave's book, plus going through a Crown Financial Bible Study about a year earlier, I had one of those "Ah-Ha" moments. I finally understood the stupidity of debt and the importance of getting "gazelle intense" to get out of it as soon as possible. I was able to convince wife #1 the importance of getting out of about $25,000 in consumer debt. We were able to accomplish that goal in 18-19 months, finishing that debt snowball in June 2007.

After completing that debt snowball, wife #1 didn't appear to want to move forward with the Baby Steps. We floundered around, had additional marriage issues, separated, and then went through a messy divorce. Marriage #1 ended in September 2010. The one tiny ray of sunshine for me in a very dark time was the fact that I did not go back into debt as a result of this messy, long, drawn-out divorce. I believe God honored my obedience for attempting to do right, Christ-honoring things in the process. I've written more nitty-gritty details here in this post: Staying debt free through divorce.

Going Back Into Debt, For Love

Just a few months past my divorce (in December 2010), I started dating a wonderful woman who seem to be a very solid match for me in almost every area. Since I apparently wasn't a good match with money principles with wife #1, this area was obviously extremely important to me going forward, especially since I'm a stewardship pastor and fan of doing finances according to Biblical principles.

In the "fact finding" process of our dating relationship, I found out that my potential next wife had a little over $50,000 in debt as a result of a car loan and two student loans. Even though I wasn't thrilled with the possibility of assuming this much debt at some point in the near future, I also didn't immediately dismiss her because of it, either. I shared with her my concerns. I explained that if our relationship continued to move forward and grow, that I would want to run our married finances together as a team, mostly according to the Baby Steps plan as outlined by Dave Ramsey.

In our dating process, my second wife agreed to go through Financial Peace University last spring at my request. I really needed her to understand what she was getting herself into if we decided to get married in the near future. Fortunately for me, she has a financial "producer" and saver personality, so she understands most of Dave's concepts. She's just not a details, spreadsheet kind of girl. She just leaves that job to me, which I certainly appreciate, because I love details! In Dave's terminology, I'm definitely the nerd.

The cool part of going through this process with her is that she is getting to experience the victories of working the debt snowball. I think she was a little bit in shock when I told her last month that I sent in her final car payoff amount, and we even had a little extra money remaining to put toward her smallest student loan.

The Debt Snowball Really Does Work!

I'm pleased to say that after six months of working the debt snowball together, that this stuff really works, especially if you're gazelle intense about it! We've already been able to pay off her vehicle. We also just began chunking down on her smallest student loan. I'm hoping that we'll be paid off in the next 6 months, and then we can attack the final big loan with a vengeance!

Since it's been almost five years since I last ran a debt snowball, I have been pleasantly reminded how well Dave's plan really does work. When both partners in a marriage are working the plan together and you have a decent size "shovel" to dig your way out, the snowball approach works incredibly well. Thanks, Dave, for your financial wisdom and guidance over the last several years!

Where are you at financially right now? Are you debt free or still in debt? Are you working the debt snowball with gazelle intensity? Or, perhaps, you've gotten a little weary in your debt free journey, and you've slacked off on your debt snowball intensity? If I can, let me be an encouragement to you, today. Reassess where you're at on the journey, get together with your spouse (if you're married), and recommit to getting out of debt as soon as possible. You'll be happy and excited that you did!

Also, check out these related posts:

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Developing a Deep and Abiding Prayer Life

Photo by Nanda Uforian
A New Perspective On An Effective Prayer Life

Almost two months ago, my church had a special weekend with a guest speaker, Dr. Gregory Frizzell. Dr. Frizzell has served as the Prayer and Spiritual Awakening Specialist for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma for the past ten years. He is an "expert" in the areas of church renewal and revival, specifically in the area of prayer. He is also the author of numerous books on these topics including the following: Biblical Patterns for Powerful Church Prayer Meetings, How to Develop a Powerful Prayer Life, Releasing the Revival Flood - Revised Edition, Returning to Holiness, and Seeking God to Seek a Pastor.

This final book by Dr. Frizzell was the primary reason we asked him to speak to our church congregation. Our church body is in the process of seeking a new pastor, and members of our pastor search committee have been reading his book. Dr. Frizzell understands the impact of a powerful prayer life on our personal spiritual lives as well as our corporate church body. He challenged our church leaders to undertake the task of going deeper in the their walk with Christ. If they would be willing to do this, the spiritual life of the church would be transformed, and then we would be prepared for God's man as our next pastor.

Deep, Abiding Prayer Is The Goal, Not The List

What I came away with during this weekend with Dr. Frizzell is that God is more concerned about a deep, abiding relationship with us as believers. He's still concerned about our physical needs, but He'd probably rather not hear our long prayer list each and every day. The real goal of this type of deep, abiding prayer is to go deeper with God Almighty. It is the type of prayer life that says, "God, I surrender. You can have all of me. What are some things that I need to give up to grow in my relationship with You? I'm not going to hold any part of myself back from You!"

Too many times as Christians, we want to compartmentalize our spiritual lives. We give God His particular space and tell Him, "OK, God. I'm going to give You this much space in my life, but pretty please, don't mess with these other parts; areas such as my career, my thought life, my friends, my secret sins, and so on."

In a deep, abiding prayer life, we allow God to invade every nook and cranny of us. Instead of compartmentalizing our lives, we start shining the light of God's Word on all areas. We start asking God questions like "Lord, are You convicting me about some TV shows I shouldn't be watching or songs on the radio I shouldn't be listening to? Are there some habits in my life that are damaging my relationship with You?"

This type of personal, introspective prayer life brings about spiritual transformation and renewal. As a result, individual, surrendered believers begin to live holy lives, making an impact on those around them. In an individual church, the more leaders praying this way will transform a church. The more churches across the country being transformed in this way begins impacting the nation and even the entire world. This is how revival breaks out!

How's Your Prayer Life?

Honestly, this type of prayer life is challenging for me. I typically have a difficult time quieting my mind down enough to meditate on the Lord and His Word. I'm always thinking about multiple things at the same time. I'm also a list keeper and always have been. I'm wired that way. So, when I have quieted my mind down enough to pray, my default action is to pray through a list. I've never had anyone ever come along and challenge me on my prayer life in this way. For now though, I've pretty much chucked my list. I've put it on hold as I seek to draw closer to God through a deep, abiding prayer life. I certainly haven't arrived yet, but I'm working on it!

So, how's your prayer life? Are you a two-minutes-a-day prayer warrior, working through a list as fast as possible? What do think of this deep, abiding, surrender prayer stuff? Perhaps, our Lord was addressing this very issue in Matthew 6:31-34 when He told the people:
"So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
Also, check out these related posts:

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Four-Step Process For Conquering Your Enemies

Photo by Fred Seibert
We All Have Enemies

I believe we all have enemies of one kind or another. Perhaps, we have family members with whom we can never get along. We know that they secretly want us to fail in life. Or, maybe, we have "frenemies" at work who are stabbing us in the back at every opportunity, and undermining our careers in the process. Or maybe, the biggest enemy we have is actually ourselves. We battle with mental, emotional strongholds that are keeping us from living out the victorious Christian life that God intended for us to live. Ultimately, we all battle the spiritual enemy of Satan and his demons.

Throughout their long history, the people of Israel have had an abundance of enemies. Interestingly enough, many of those same enemies exist even today! In Numbers chapters 13-14, we see the people of God in the process of preparing to invade the land of Canaan. Before an invasion can take place, though, the Israelites need to scout out the land. They need to learn more about this territory and the people who are living there. These are the enemies of God and His chosen people.

So, in the process of 12 spies scouting out Canaan, 10 of the men return with a negative report. "We can't conquer these people. They're giants, and we look like puny grasshoppers to them!" Two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, give a different report. "This is indeed a land flowing with milk and honey. Yes, there are some pretty formidable adversaries in Canaan. With God's help, we can overcome them!"

The Four-Step Plan To Conquer

As Joshua and Caleb give the people a more optimistic outlook on the situation, Caleb gave the Israelites a four-step plan in order to effectively conquer the land and the enemies of Israel. We see his plan outlined in Numbers 14:6-9. Even in today's world, we can learn much by heading Caleb's counsel.
  1. Our lives must be pleasing to God (14:8). If we truly want God to have the victory in our lives over our enemies, then we need to have an attitude of purity and holiness. We need to ask God to forgive us of sin and to cleanse our heart. We need to turn from our sin and forsake it.
  2. Our lives must be submitted to God (14:9). God hates rebellion. If there was one lesson we can learn from the Israelites, then this is certainly a big one we can all learn! Over and over again, the Israelites struggled with rebellion against God, Moses, and Aaron. The people wanted to do things their way, not God's way. Caleb advises the people to not rebel against Almighty God.
  3. Walk in faith, not fear (14:9). Caleb tells the Israelites not to be afraid of the Canaanites. Our God is greater than our enemies!
  4. God is on our side (14:9)! Caleb reminds the people of Israel that the Canaanites are not under the protection of God, but the Israelites are protected. They are God's chosen people! If God wants His people to inhabit the land, then He will make a way for that to happen. In the same way, God will make a way in our lives in order for His will to be accomplished through us.
Are You Prepared To Conquer?

So, Christian, are you locked into a battle with an enemy right now? Perhaps, you're afraid to even engage the enemy just like the Israelites were, because you fear that you will lose the battle?

If you are currently engaged with an enemy or sitting on the sidelines in fear of the enemy, I would just encourage you, today, to prepare yourself to be a conqueror through following Caleb's four-step process. When our lives are pleasing and submitted to God, when we walk in faith and not fear, and then when we understand that God is on our side, we can't fail! He will be with us and help us conquer the enemy.
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? … Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Romans 8:31, 35-37).
Also, check out these related posts: