Category Archives: Dave Ramsey

Another sermon on giving and tithing…

Another Sunday where I feel like crap.  I want to give, I want to be obedient.  But we simply don’t have the money to pay tithe and our basic bills.  And I do mean BASIC BILLS.  Rent, daycare, electricity, natural gas, water, gasoline, groceries, phone, clothes…there is simply nothing left.  We are still a month behind on rent.  I paid our water bill on Thursday-about an hour before it would have been shut off-we still have a garnishment against my check.  And we are still behind and way, deep in debt.

We are in a season of financial difficulty and rebuilding.  I believe it is just for a time.  We are coming out of a very long season (10 plus years) where we made continuous bad decisions with our finances.  We were not good stewards with what had been given to us.  We repeatedly acted reactively and whimsical.  HOWEVER, NOW, we are planning, we have been following Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University and we have been making and sticking to a budget.  We are making better decisions, we are pro-actively budgeting and paying bills on time and communicating with debtors.

So the real issue today is do I heed the words of my pastor and act in obedience.  Or do I continue with The Plan?  This financial plan that we have is in an “emergency” mode that addresses the basics.  The next phases will include giving, saving and getting out of debt.  I keep telling myself that by not giving now we will be in a better position later to give-to be obedient and faithful and consistent with tithe.

But today Pastor is pleading with us to be obedient-TODAY and to give.  The thing is we simply don’t have money to give.

And so it goes back and forth.  On one hand there is a plan that gives us peace and security-a plan that we are being faithful to.  A plan that we are confident will lead us to a place where we have a healthy balance with our finances-a place where we can happily and fairly easily pay tithe.  It is a plan that we have entered into with prayer, faith and obedience.  It is a good plan.  It is a plan that works.  It is proven.  And right now it includes the absence of a full tithe.
On the other hand is a blind leap of faith to be obedient in my relationship with God.   It involves sacrifice.

I keep telling myself that we were not obedient before, work the plan and then we can be obedient in the future.  But sacrifice is not supposed to be easy nor affordable.

I don’t know what the answer is.  Part of that obedience is simply choosing to NOT pay a bill that can lead to not having daycare, no electricity, no water, no phone, an angry (er) landlord, no heat, no a/c (hey this IS Kansas), no hot water, no water at all, no gas, and the list goes on and on.

I don’t subscribe to a “prosperity gospel”.  I don’t believe that if I give all of my money away that God will bless me with loads of money.  The truth is I can sacrifice a basic bill to pay tithe and then NOT have the money to pay that bill.  I am behind on daycare, but have been paying on time since on the plan.  I have had my electricity shut off more than once in the past year-in the cold winter and in the hot summer.  The water has been shut off.  The phone has been shut off.

And on that one hand we are vowing to pay our bills on time.  And on the other hand we are not paying a tithe to God.  Not today.  But soon.  And freely-in obedience and consistently and faithfully.


Timing is Everything

I remember talking to a co-worker that had worked in a financial aid office. She said to NOT wait to pay backDave RamseyDave Ramsey student loans! That they would wait, allow interest to accrue, apply fines and penalties and fees and wait some more. Then they would come after you with a vengeance. That was 7 years ago.

I remember the MidAmerica Nazarene University recruiters coming to my church, into my youth group, into my Sunday School class. I had felt called MNUto ministry, to preach, to pastor a church. But neither I nor my family could afford to pay for me to go to college. I had no idea how I would afford to go to my church college that would train me for ministry and prepare me for pastoring. But the recruiters had an answer: Financial Aid, student grants and student loans. That was 16 years ago.

Now my wife and I have 2 student loans that are about $100,000 apiece. I have never been able to enter into ministry for many reasons, one being that no church would ever be able to afford to employ me where I could pay the school loans back. I’ll never forget the speech that my church history professor gave my junior year of college. He said, “75% of all Nazarene churches are 75 people or les. So if you have more than $5000 in loans the average church won’t pay you enough to pay them back.” Thanks prof. Williams. Why didn’t YOU visit my youth group?

I remember filing for bankruptcy. The bankruptcy judge asked if I had a doctorate with that kind of student loans. “Nope,” I replied, “I went to a private, religious college.” The credit card debt went away, but student loans are not easily forgiven in bankruptcy so the loans did not go away. That has been well over 8 years ago.

Now, for some reason, the US Department of Education wants their money back…and they want it pretty bad. I may be a day away from having the US Dept of Education garnish my check, @15% of my disposable income per paycheck for the rest of my life. Interest will still accrue. And that is only for one of the two loans.

In addition, the state is currently garnishing my check and my wife’s check to the total of 25% per person, per check. It is for a medical bill. We won’t be able to pay rent this month. We both have pay day loans out. We have one maxed out credit card. I have 2 401K loans that I am repaying. As I write this, my bank account is negative.

Dave RamseyThe Sunday after the Student Loan collectors started talking to me my friend, Mike called me. It was just after church and he invited me to a Dave Ramsey class. Of course I said yes. Thanks Mike.

There are a few positives. I have a great family. I have 4 boys. I have a great job. So does my wife. I am taking steps in the right direction. My good friend Bill is acting as our financial counselor, he has been great to keep us focused and encouraged-he even paid for my wife and I to attend Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University classes. I have stopped my 401K contributions. No cable. No Internet. Of course it is because we owe them too. I plan to reduce the cell phone plans to the next plan down. We rent, but both of our minivans are paid for. I changed my tax exemptions to get more money back during the year instead of a refund The federal gov’t will take that anyway). I have been taking my lunch to work instead of eating out. One pay day loan is paid off. I have 1 401K loan that will be paid off by the end of the month. I won’t be giving to United Way next year. I have even applied for several part-time jobs and my wife has been taking extra duties on at her school-that will be extra money too. I have been in contact with the people I owe, trying to make a plan and trying to take control and be responsible.

And of course, I participated in my first Dave Ramsey class last night.