Eight Huge Benefits of Becoming Debt Free

26 11 2018

My wife and I have been practicing debt-free living for years now.*  I say practicing because it takes discipline to reach and discipline to maintain.  So here are eight encouragements or benefits that we have discovered when it comes to debt-free living.

1. Freedom: My wife and I feel so free – free to give, free to purchase and free to save for the future.  We have more money to do these things verses being enslaved to and feeling the pressure of our debt.

2. Ownership: Owning your car or your house is an amazing feeling that continues the feeling of freedom.  You will have less stress in your life.  Who doesn’t desire less stress?

3. Agreement: You will have and discover a greater sense of agreement in your marriage and your family.  If you’ve agreed to become debt free and you reach that goal, what else can you agree about and reach?

4. Children: Your children will see you more often. You will not feel required to sign up for all the overtime you possibly can.  And besides, you’ll be an amazing financial example to your kids, your family, your friends and your neighbors.  If you can do it, you’ll be helping them to believe they can too.

5. Opportunity: Becoming debt free automatically provides better opportunities to give more money away, to help someone in need.  Rather than feeling that feeling of tightness, you will be looking for and watching for investment opportunity to increase your finances and have the cash to do so.

6. Security: You will be and feel far more secure. Debt increases the feelings of insecurity and rightly so.  You may be one last paycheck from disaster with an ongoing debt load.  While being debt free there is far less fear of financial disaster and crisis.

7. Servant: The Scriptures tell us that the borrower is a servant to the lender. Whose servant are you?  To be debt free is to not be encumbered by enslavement to another. You are literally no longer enslaved to your job or the next unexpected car repair or house repair bill.

8. Savings: You will grow a savings account and an emergency fund faster.  Your retirement savings fund will grow faster.  Your college fund for your children can grow faster.  Every savings fund can realize increase when you are no longer borrowing and having to pay back another co-owner with interest.

And if all that’s not enough to convince you, how about this?  You will have less arguments over money in your life.  If married, you and your spouse will enjoy less financial disagreement and more financial agreement.  You’ll have more resources for eating out along with short and long-term vacations or mission trips. Living debt free loosens what has been wound tight for so long.  Purpose in your heart today and begin taking steps to become debt free.  You’ll never regret it.

*A point of clarity concerning living debt-free is investment for growth. Some consider investments that grow in value, like real estate, to not be debt.  I would consider it debt with the opportunity for growth/gain in value or perhaps “good debt.”

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Dead Relationships Verses Living Relationships

12 11 2018

How much energy do you spend thinking about or trying to correct dead relationships?  Perhaps you have a failed relationship from the past, a really bad break-up or even a divorce.  In so many of these cases there is simply not a way to relieve the guilt or the false guilt one may feel.  We can find ourselves playing mental gymnastics in order to somehow convince ourselves it will possibly one day work out.

 

Perhaps the very thing we need to do is to stop misplacing time and thought into a former relationship that is not to be resurrected and place that energy appropriately into my present relationship.  To work toward building a stronger foundation and a deeper connection to my friend or my spouse rather than wasting time wishing that some past relationship would have worked out differently cannot only be productive, but rewarding as well.

 

Begin by praying about how you can better care for your friend.  Put energy and thought into how to better love the person you are married to. Try daydreaming and fantasizing about your wife or your husband.  To allow past, dead relationships your precious time just might be robbing, stealing in fact, from your present friendship or marriage relationship.  And that might be considered cheating.





A Life of Integrity or A Life of Regret?

24 09 2018

Life can be full of regrets, but integrity and high moral character will never leave one feeling remorseful.  This blog is not for those who walk in disappointment, but rather those who are doing their best to avoid moral failure and the loss of integrity.

 

Job’s wife once said to him, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!”  But the Bible says that even after all of Job’s loss he did not sin or charge God with wrongdoing.  What amazing character this man walked in.  If you’re like me, you are tempted but if you long to be more like Jesus, you realize perfection will never be reached.  However, lifelong integrity can be your testimony and that testimony begins today.

 

If you walk in integrity and avoid moral failure you will be:

 

  • Maintaining a personal testimony and walk before God
  • Maintaining an uninhibited marriage of oneness (spiritually, sexually, emotionally)
  • Not having to work at winning a spouses trust back
  • Maintaining family by not embarrassing them and not losing their respect and trust
  • Not having to walk away from a job or ministry position
  • Not having to relocate
  • Not having to face newspaper articles, publicly printed communication and social media about personal failure
  • Not having to face rumors, gossip and lies
  • Not having to face untold and far-reaching negative consequences either based on truth and fact or hearsay and lies
  • Not having to face the law or possible law suits
  • Not losing or forfeiting many friendships and local church relationships
  • Living without wounds and scars
  • Not feeling as though everyone is watching
  • Not suffering from overwhelming thoughts of failure
  • Not continually reliving the past and coming up with regret and loss
  • Living without continual condemnation and guilt or false guilt
  • Able to sleep at night
  • Waking up in the morning and looking forward to a new day
  • Not having to be concerned about who one may face in the day
  • Not suffering the loss of vision
  • Not having to go through biblical discipline and a restoration process
  • Able to look at one’s family and all others in the eye
  • Able to look at oneself in the mirror without feeling like a failure
  • Having a clear conscience; walking through life without a cloud over oneself
  • Not losing one’s peace and joy
  • Not suffering the loss and grief of broken relationship with God

“The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.”  (Proverbs 10:9)





The Redemption and Reentry of a Predator

10 09 2018

I had this question posed from last week’s blog, Signs of a Predator in Your Church, (and I’ll paraphrase here), “What about the reentry of a ‘predator’ to the church after experiencing redemption?”  It was a great question and calls for a follow-up answer because a major role of pastors/leadership in the local church is to protect its members.

Redemption means to be bought, paid for by another.  To redeem is to atone for a fault or mistake.  When one is redeemed by the cross they are repurchased, made right through Christ.  However, that redemption does not remove the consequences of one’s sin.  If someone is guilty of murder, goes to jail and then experiences true redemption, they will still be incarcerated and rightfully so. Salvation does not stop the consequences of our sinful behavior.  Keep in mind all of us needed redemption; none of us is or was without sin.

With that, what would be our response to this repentant one?  It is said that it takes a lifetime to create a sexual predator. What that means is they perhaps have a history of being abused and abusing.  There is most certainly a not so good background preceding the life of a predator.  And there are a lot of factors to consider, but through the love of Christ we are welcoming to the saint and the sinner.  We do not judge their heart, but hope for the ongoing completing work of salvation to wholly change a life.  First Corinthians six is very clear and concise when it says, “And that is what some of you were (the sexually immoral).  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”  It does not get any clearer than that.

Please remember not all abuse is the same, however.  Some is accomplished without ever touching the victim through exhibitionism or voyeurism. There are presently over 550,000 registered sex offenders in the Unites States.

Does this mean as the church we have an open arms policy and immediate access to our teens and children’s ministries?  Does this mean we pose no boundaries or period of caution for the one that struggled with this sin?  It clearly does not.  So, here are some suggestions when dealing with this person and their reentry into the local church. (Note: By the way, there are 600,000 persons who leave prison every year.  A reentry program for your church is something to consider.)

A few considerations

  1. You are not looking to enable an abuser in any way or further traumatize a victim. So we err on the side of caution and not on the side of mercy.
  2. At the risk of sounding harsh, if you are dealing with a registered sex offender, then in all humility and an attitude of, “If not for the grace of God there go I,” the congregation needs to be aware and the former offender should give permission to make this known. It does not need to be a public announcement, but every family should receive an email or some form of communication.  In this effort, you are protecting the whole and not just the one or two.
  3. Often the one who has been incarcerated enters a “reentry program” before reentry into society at large. Create a reentry program with clear boundaries, e.g., counseling, close accountability, Internet watch programs, close supervision in church activities and certainly no access to minors (which means no activities, no transportation and no children’s church functions unless it involves their biological children). Create boundaries in the spirit of love and not in a spirit of retribution.  (Suggestion: Designate a reentry person and assign them to this member.)
  4. Be clear on these person’s probation boundaries/terms. If this individual was arrested for their crimes and convicted, they will have probation/parole guidelines to follow and will most assuredly be on Megan’s List.  They will have a public record of criminal convictions.  Obtain this record and be informed.  Discuss their attendance to your church with their parole officer to be sure it falls within allowable guidelines.  (It’s not a bad idea to receive written permission from the PO that this person can attend your church.)
  5. This person normally spent years learning how to “groom” and “grooming” victims in that it became a lifestyle of action and thought. Time to heal, time to rebuild foundations and time to learn another way of thinking and acting is crucial.  Be aware of the propensity of the offender to be a reoffender.
  6. Be assured of ongoing counseling and one-on-one accountability in this person’s life. Depending on the level of their crime, it is not too far-reaching to have their designate reentry person with them at all times when on your church property.
  7. A violation of these guidelines will result in immediate action taken to remove this person from the fellowship.
  8. Know your states laws when it comes to sex offenders. For example, in Iowa it is illegal for a convicted sex offender to be on any school premises or public libraries.

Clinical psychologist, Anna Salter, wrote a helpful book titled, Predators: Pedophiles, Rapists and Other Sex Offenders.  In that book she said, “Decades of research have demonstrated that people cannot reliably tell who is lying.  Many offenders report that religious people are even easier to fool than most people.”

Rachel Denhollander, the attorney who summoned her personal faith in her trial of her abuser, Larry Nassar said, “It defies the gospel of Christ when we do not call out abuse and enable abuse in our own church.”

Jesus set a man free from his bondage and then that same man begged Jesus to get into the boat with Him and His disciples. Our Lord’s response to him was, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you…” (Mark 5: 19). Jesus might have been creating a boundary for further healing for this man as he left his sin-filled life and reentered his community.





We’re Always in Agreement; We Do What She Says

13 08 2018

At first I was a bit taken aback by the expression that was just spoken half jokingly. It went like this, “We’re always in agreement; we do what she says.” Do you find yourself all too often acquiescing to your spouse’s desires in order to head off an argument?  Should you be doing that?

 

Perhaps there’s a deeper issue.  It might be fear.  Or, it could be the more hidden root of mistrust.  Being fearful of push back, being wrong or feeling shamed is not a good sign in a marriage relationship.  Also, where there is fear present in a relationship, there is a lack of love and where there is mistrust, there is a root of unresolved past issues with hurts attached.

 

This leadership couple honestly confessed and was willing to talk about past issues with disagreement. They were willing to disagree. But what I think they were really saying was sometimes it’s more biblical to overlook an offense or a difference of opinion.  Proverbs 19:11 states, “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.”

 

If we’re avoiding communication thinking that it will lead to a heated disagreement, then we’re not doing the two of us any good.  You have to be committed to work through the differences.  After all, it is those differences that in the end will create a better decision. Truthfully, both of you with your collective opinion, input and insight are necessary for healthy communication and dealing with conflict.  By the way, it’s not wrong to have conflict; it’s wrong to not resolve the conflict.

 

It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.  Proverbs 20:3





Why Not Have an Extramarital Affair?

25 06 2018

Why don’t you have an extramarital affair?  Seriously, be honest with yourself and answer the question. What did you come up with?  If I could guarantee you will never be found out, you’ll never get caught, would your answer change?

 

This question came to my mind recently while having to deal with a life situation, the result of an affair.  I’ve written about emotional affairs and other areas of marriage failure, but have never been this straight forward with the question.  Seriously, admit it, most TV programs and most movies display for us in real life fashion multiple characters having multiple affairs. We read about it continually.  We even experience pastors failing in this area.  It’s everywhere around us, desensitizing us little by little.  We’ve come to expect it, maybe accept it as the norm. Methodically, the flesh can become weaker and weaker, while the spirit is screaming to our heart.

 

So, what are your answers?  I love my wife too much?  I just couldn’t do that to my husband who has been faithful?  Or, my children would be decimated?  All true, but not strong enough.  Everyday those challenges are brushed aside, caution thrown to the wind and, uncharacteristically, a man or a woman falls, succumbing to the temptation. The lust of the eyes and the flesh are simply too strong. (I John 2:16)

 

What is the answer, Steve?  Here’s one that I have come up with for myself: I love God and I want Him to know how much I love Him.  What does that mean?  Just this – Jesus said, “If you love me, obey my commandments.”  (John 14:15)  In verse 23 He went on to say, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.”

 

Do we love Him enough to obey Him?

 

God’s word: Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage.  God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery.  Hebrews 13:4

“Grow old along with me.  The best is yet to be.  The last of life for which the first was made.” ~ Robert Browning





Married Sex: An Observation (For Singles Too)

18 06 2018

I have a theory and I believe the testimony of hundreds of married couples backs up this theory. The theory is the more sex you have outside of marriage, the less sex you have within marriage.

 

My wife and I have the privilege to speak with many couples each year and we have never heard one of them remark anything remotely close to this statement, “We’re so happy that we engaged in premarital sex.”  As well, we’ve never heard, “Premarital sex helped us prepare for marital sex.”  What we have heard is that sex before marriage actually stole intimacy from their marriage.  Sex was no longer special, awaited and neither did it gather the excitement anticipated.

 

Premarital sex is titillating, full of emotion and coated in brain chemicals that run amuck.  It’s also full of the fear of being caught, and overcome by having, no, taking what does not belong to you.  Once married, that anticipation diminishes to the point in which some couples are not engaging in sexual intimacy on their wedding night.  Even further, we often hear the expression that sexual intimacy is rarely occurring now that they are married.  Imagine, this divine gift given to us by God, now stolen from us because of lust-filled desires.

 

Now, hearing from those singles who have waited, saved themselves for the one they will spend the rest of their lives with…never have we heard one single word or expression of regret, bemoaning the fact that they were inexperienced.  To discover this world with one another was a huge part of the gift itself.  Encountering one another sexually, within godly boundaries, literally helps to carry intimacy throughout the marriage, all the while maintaining their vows spoken before God.

 

Anytime we violate God’s principles, we also violate human value, respect and honor.  Sex outside of marriage is a sin against our body (I Corinthians 6:18) and a violation against our future marriage.  Because marriage is sacred, as is the act of marriage, we break covenant with God through immorality (I Corinthians 6:9). We disrupt His desire and design for our future.  When we worship the created more than the Creator, we have convinced ourselves that our will and our desires, not God’s, are best for us.

 

Have you succumbed to sex outside of marriage?  You can be forgiven of your sin and be renewed in your commitment to purity before God. He longs to give to you a fresh start, but you must be serious about that commitment.  His Spirit dwells within the Christian to not sin because, “…you were bought at a price.  Therefore honor God with your body.”  (I Corinthians 6:19 & 20)








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