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Holding Onto Hope

Holding Onto Hope

Reading through some old journals recently, I ran across this gem…let me share.

It was from way back in May, 2009. My wife and I were sinking in over $110,000 in debt. We were actually on a mission trip in India at the time.

There I was…doing what I love and feeling like I’m walking in my purpose. But I was painfully fully aware that we were years away from ever being free to do this on a frequent basis because of numerous poor financial decisions we made in our early years of marriage.

Holding Onto Hope

I had written Psalm 18:16 out in my journal, and next to it I wrote “Promise from God that we will get out of debt.”

Holding Onto Hope

Even though this verse was written thousands of years ago, Beth and I claimed it as a promise from God that we could hold onto. It was a life-jacket that kept us from drowning when we felt like we were going under (I guess hope does float).

We always knew we’d be debt-free. Yet there were so many discouraging months where we were just living paycheck to paycheck, making literally zero progress. We just kept praying, believing, working diligently, and supporting each other. We were resolved to do whatever it took. We yearned for freedom.

Practically, we worked our tails off, continued to budget monthly, and created a financially plan to help us get free.

But as great as budgets are for financial freedom, some months it can be an exercise in frustration when there’s more month than money. It was in those times where holding onto hope was the only thing that carried us through.

Do you have a promise for freedom?

So if this is where you’re at, then I encourage you to take this verse (or any verse that breathes hope into your situation), and hold onto it as a personal promise from God that you (yes, YOU!) will be free! Even now he is reaching down and taking hold of you! And he will draw you out!

I’ve found it incredibly powerful to pray scripture. For example…

“Father, I thank you that you see exactly where I’m at right now…and you’re acting on my behalf for my freedom! Even now you’re reaching down and scooping me up. You are drawing me out of the deep waters of debt!”

Stay hopeful, it’s going to happen!

-Wesley

Comments: Do you have any other verses that you’re holding onto as promises from God? Please share!

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3 Red Flags You May Be Deceived by Wealth

Beth & I are in the market for a new car. Not that I don’t love our old Toyota 4-Runner, or that it has 255,000 miles on it and makes weird sounds when you get above 30. But we’ve been a one-car family for three years now, and just feel that it’s time to upgrade to something, well, less old.

So what do you think of my new wheels?

7 Red Flags You May Be Deceived By Wealth

If only I could fit two car seats in here…

It’s nice right? Chill out you Dave Ramsey fans, we paid cash! Just kidding…that’s not my car. I still have a few years left before my mid-life crisis.

But, in the process of car-searching I’ve found myself doing some soul-searching.

We live in a nice little suburb of Orlando, and are surrounded by wealth (or at least the appearance of wealth…who knows…half these people may be in debt up to their eyeballs). But we rent a condo and drive an old car, so I understand the pull to “keep up with the Joneses”.

Motivation is huge for me. The “why” often outweighs the “what.” In our quest for the perfect vehicle, I’m seeing some red flags pop-up in my motivation…some warning signs that are saying, “Maybe you need to consider why you want that.” So this post is basically a confessional, with the hopes that it may help you if you’ve ever felt the same way.

In Matthew 13 Jesus states that the “deceitfulness of wealth” will keep your life from being fruitful.

Think about that statement for a moment. We all want our lives to count…to make a difference right? So if Jesus Christ says that wealth is deceiving, and even more that it can completely destroy our fruitfulness in the kingdom of God, we should probably pay attention.

So what does it look like? How can you tell when you’re deceived by wealth?

Three Red Flags You May Be Deceived by Wealth

1. Believing that ______ will make you happy.

You can fill in the blank with anything you want. New car, new phone, new job,  new house, new body, new vacation, new football team for Tim Tebow…the list is endless. Yet, the bible has a lot to say about joy, and none of it has to do with new stuff. If your relationship with God and others is out of whack nothing in the world will fulfill you. Nothing.

2. Your lifestyle corresponds to your income. 

I’m guilty of this. Our income increases and so does our lifestyle. This is actually the American dream right? Make more money so you can have more stuff? One of my heroes Jimmy Seibert always says “Live simply so others can simply live.” Those are wise words. What kind of eternal treasure (Matthew 6) would we have if every time our income increased so did our generosity, not our consumption?

3. You use net-worth to determine self-worth.

Imagine you’re getting on an elevator at a hotel. One of the housekeepers gets on at the next floor, and to your surprise so does Donald Trump. Between the housekeeper and Trump, who are you more intimidated to talk to? Who do you judge as more important? Let’s go deeper…as you stand next to these two individuals, without even saying a word which one makes you feel better about your status in life and which one makes you feel like you haven’t achieved anything?

In our country, wealth is the biggest measuring rod we use to determine success. Appearance is probably second to that. So when we’re around beautiful and wealthy people we feel a mixture of intimidation and envy. And when we’re around folks we perceive to have less money or attractiveness than us we feel proud about ourselves.

But is this how God determines a person’s value? If not, is it how you should?

Conclusion: I’m not against owning nice things or having wealth. I’m just against those things owning you. To be clear, the bible never says “don’t be rich.” But it is clear that our hope is never to be in wealth, but in God. I Timothy 6:17-19 sums it up perfectly:

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. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. 

Still on the journey,

-Wesley

PS. I’m sure there’s more red-flags than the three I listed, but these are the ones that pop-up in my life. If you can think of others, please post them in the comments section!

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Pursuing Profit at the cost of Purpose

Never pursue profit at the cost of purpose

Doing what I love, India 2004

“The two most important days of your life are the day you were born, and the day you discover why you were born.” – John Maxwell

Sadly, we’re very clear on the first day…but the second day…the day we discover why we were born, is often vague and shrouded in mystery.

I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine (thanks Chris!) and as he was explaining what he does he said “I was born for this.” For years Chris had a professional career in pharmaceuticals. Good pay, good benefits, you get the picture.

But lifeless.

Now he works at a church and even has to raise his own support to cover his monthly expenses for him and his family of five.

Risky? Yes.

Worth it? In his words…absolutely. Wouldn’t trade it for the world.

You see…too many people pursue profit at the cost of purpose. Financial security is so seductive.

Jesus said in Matthew 16 that “whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” Ironic isn’t it? When we seek to protect our lives, to secure up our resources, to pursue the ideal life, we wake up one day and realize we lost it. We have the house but lost our hearts.

I am so tempted by wealth.

At first, I wanted wealth just to be out of debt. God blessed us and we found ourselves making decent money. Soon the debt was gone. And money has quietly turned from a tool to pay off debt to an object to be pursued.

Part of me is okay with this. For years I silently judged people who had money, like there was something wrong or unspiritual about having money. I’ve had to learn that money doesn’t make you good or bad, it only amplifies what you already are.

So maybe the money isn’t my idol. Maybe it’s security. Maybe it’s reputation (“did you see where he  lives?”). Maybe it’s searching for that elusive feeling of success…how I’ll feel pulling up to work in my new set of wheels.

At the end of the day, when I can shut out the distractions, and long after “poser Wes” has gone to bed, I can honestly say I don’t really care what car I drive. Sure I want a nice place to live, but that’s not my highest aim in life.

Cars break. Houses rot.

But if you miss the kingdom of heaven because you’re focused on building your own kingdom you miss everything.

So friends, as you pursue financial freedom, heed my warning. Pursuing profit for the sake of being debt free is a noble cause. But once the debt is gone the profit itself can become your new prison.

Most people define financial freedom as having enough money that you don’t have to work. But too many folks have incredible “financial freedom” and yet are completely enslaved by their money and their desire for stuff (security, popularity, posessions, etc).

I want to propose to you a new definition of financial freedom.

True financial freedom is when money has no place in your heart, because you are full of the knowledge that God will meet all of your needs according to his riches in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19) and you live with the constant awareness that this earth is not your home.

Never pursue profit at the cost of your purpose.

-Wesley

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Managing Your Money Rule #4: How To Develop A Giving Plan

Welcome back to our Managing Your Money series. Today is on Rule #4: Develop a Giving Plan.

“One life to give; one life to live.” That’s the life-motto of pastor I heard speak years ago who was imprisoned in the middle east and tortured for his faith. Just this morning I read where Jesus said “Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”

Those are hard words to hear, especially in the land of materialism. Yet I believe true financial freedom isn’t endless wealth, but rather, freedom from the control of money and posessions. It’s more about your heart than your bank account.

Giving is powerful regardless of your faith. but since my relationship with God is at the core of who I am, it just makes sense for me to start this post with His words on giving.

Proverbs 11:25: “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.”

Proverbs 28:27: “Those who give to the poor will lack nothing…”

Malachi 3:10: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

Luke 6:38: “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.”

2 Corinthians 9:7: Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

How To Put Giving Into Practice

Here’s how Beth & I budget for giving.

1. Make giving a line item at the top of your budget. Allocate money for giving before anything else.

2. Start with giving 10% of your gross income. I know when you’re in debt that the last thing you have is “extra” money. But you have to have faith! There is a spiritual principle at work here. Read Luke 6:38 again: “with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” If you wait to start giving until you have enough, you will never have enough. If you seriously can’t give 10%, at least start somewhere. Maybe it’s just 1% and you commit to grow this by a percentage point each month.

3.  Once you are out of debt, increase your percentage each month and see where it goes!

Giving Destroys Materialism

One life to live; one life to give. Jesus said to “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

God isn’t against wealth or nice things. But we have to be very careful because “stuff” can quickly grow roots into our hearts. Every time you give something away, it is declaring that you trust God to be your provider and your source of joy and comfort, not your stuff.

Giving is very powerful. There’s a reason it’s a “rule” when it comes to managing your money. Either you will learn to manage money by giving it away, or you will learn that your money is managing you. There are no other alternatives.

Committed to your success,

-Wesley 

Comments: People have more questions about giving, as well as incredible testimonies, than most other topics. Please share!

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Top 5 Unexpected Benefits Of A Budget

Ever see your bank account dwindle away and wonder where it all went? 

You have to understand this principle about money:

If you don’t tell your money where to go it will get lost.

Welcome back to our Managing Your Money series. This post is on Rule #2: Create A Spending Plan.

Rule #2: Create A Spending Plan

What is a spending plan? Very simply, it’s a budget. It’s telling your money where to go before it wanders off and you can’t find it anymore. And according to Dave Ramsey a budget is the number one tool for getting out of debt.

We’ve done numerous posts on How to Create a Budget. So instead of the “how-to” I want to give you five reasons WHY YOU MUST have a budget every month.

Top 5 Unexpected Blessings Of Having A Budget

1. A Budget Gives You Control.

Drowning in debt feels like you’re out of control doesn’t it? A budget puts you back in the driver’s seat. You start to feel like you can wrap your hand around your finances. It gives you confidence. Even if your budget is a mess, simply having one tells you and your money whos boss.

2. A Budget Brings Unity.

Ever have that “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?!” experience when you find out your spouse spends money on something completely ridiculous? Creating a budget with your spouse eliminates that once and for all. It forces you to agree on what you will spend your money on every month.

3. A Budget Eliminates Conflict

Statistically, couples who argue more about money are more likely to separate. Why argue constantly when you can schedule one hour each month to get all of your financial arguments out of the way? (Shhh…Beth & I actually enjoy doing our budget together!)

4. A Budget Reduces Emergencies

For an event to be considered an emergency it has to be unexpected. But what most people call “financial emergencies” are actually normal events for which they failed to plan. The car needs new tires, the A/C went out, we have to buy Christmas presents, etc. A budget forces you to “expect the unexpected” and helps you be prepared for them when they inevitably happen.

5. A Budget Saves You Money.

Last but not least, a budget can save you ridiculous amounts of money. But there’s a reason almost 200 million Americans DON’T have a budget. It’s hard…it takes time…blah, blah, blah.

If I offered you $200 to sit down and create a budget in an hour or less you would take it. But what you must realize is a budget will SAVE you at least $200 a month, and every month you follow your budget that number goes up.

What You Manage Grows

Let me be candid for a moment. You know you need a spending plan. The people who don’t aren’t reading this right now. So why don’t you have one? What are your excuses? Time? Fear? Not enough money to manage?

T. Harv Eker says “You must acquire the habits and skills of managing a small amount of money before you can have a large amount. Managing your money is more important than the amount.”

Your excuses will kill your potential. Don’t let them. Take action now.

Committed to your success,

-Wesley

P.S. Do you have a budget? How has it helped you? If you don’t have a budget, what’s stopping you?

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The Seven Rules of Managing Your Money

The #1 key to growing wealth is understanding how to manage your money. In the outstanding book, Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, T. Harv Eker states that “the single biggest difference between financial success and financial failure is how well you manage your money. It’s simple: to master money, you must manage money.”

So how well do you manage money? Do you feel lost when thinking about your spending plan, your debt, and your investments? Do you ever catch yourself thinking “where did all my money go?” If so, you need to become a student of money management.

Don’t get overwhelmed, the rules of money management are simple. The problem we have is not in understanding the rules but in following them. We simply aren’t doing the things we know we need to do.

The Seven Rules of Managing Your Money

1. Take a Financial Snapshot: The first step in managing your money is to get an accurate picture of where you are financially. You may not like what you see but this is the first step to change.

2. Develop a Spending Plan: Give a task to every incoming dollar, such as buy food, pay the electric bill, or get rid of debt. Money gets lost when it doesn’t know where to go.

3. Develop a Savings Plan: Here’s where most people fall short. To grow wealth, saving is not optional.

4. Develop a Giving Plan: Want to read a crazy promise found in scripture? Read Malachi 3:10. It’s the ONLY time in scripture where God tells us to test him.

5. Develop an Investment Plan: To quote Eker again, “Rich people have their money work hard for them. Poor people work hard for their money.”

6. Track your Spending Weekly: Wealth is like a road trip, and tracking your spending is the same as keeping the car between the lines. Constantly checking and adjusting.

7. Review your Plans Monthly: This is like checking the map on a long trip, making sure you’re still on the right track.

I’m assuming if you’re reading this that you’re in a place where you are ready to take action and get control of your finances. Today is simply an overview of the seven rules of managing your money, however, stay with us for the next two weeks as we go into detail about each rule and how to take immediate action on each one.

Committed to your success,

-Wesley 

Comments? We love hearing from our readers. Let us know which of the steps you’re working on!

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What To Do When You Feel Like Quitting: The Problem

The beautiful thing about getting out of debt is that you really can’t fail. It may take longer than expected, but if you stick with it, eventually you will cross the finish line. The only way to fail is to quit.

Five Ways People Quit On Their Journey Of Financial Freedom

  • Cheating: Making small purchases that prevent you from making any real progress or getting momentum. This usually comes in the form of comfort items, such as clothing, food, music, etc.
  • Sabotage: Making large purchases which completely set you back months, even years. Examples of this would be vehicles, toys (boat, atv, etc), and travel.
  • Isolation: Withdrawing from your spouse when it comes to finances because of the emotional stress. This could be as simple as refusing to help create a budget, or as complicated as lying about purchases, hiding debt, etc.
  • Passivity: People quit on their journey when they choose not to take the steps needed to pursue financial freedom. This could come in the form of refusing opportunities for additional income, or refusing to let go of certain items that could be sold to pay off debt.
  • Bankruptcy: I’m not going to cast judgment on people who have filed for bankruptcy, everyone has their own story. But I will say that whenever possible, paying off your debt is the way to go.

In our next post, we’re going to share the solution: five things that we do personally to get us through those times when all we want to do is quit.

Committed to your success,

-Wesley

We respond to 100% of our comments! How have you experienced any of the five methods of quitting listed above? Please share!

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Why Debt is Not Your Problem

Can you explain in just one word why you are in debt? A few words that come to mind are college, unemployment, emergencies, desires, and marriage.

For me, that one word would be “easy.”

It was easy to get a car on payments. It was easy to put our honeymoon on credit. It was easy to finance new bedroom furniture. Most people are in debt for this reason – it’s easy. Is there anything you can’t finance these days?

Debt is not your Problem, and Money is not your Solution

I’m currently about 30 pounds over what I would consider my ideal weight. However, I would be deceived if I believed that I had a problem with my weight. My true problem is that there’s a breakdown of control between my fork and my mouth.

Napoleon Hill said “If you do not conquer self, you will be conquered by self.” If you dig deeper into any area of your life that feels out of control, you will always discover a lack of discipline in that area. Lack of discipline always precedes chaos.

Financial discipline is a prerequisite for financial freedom. Getting into debt was incredibly easy for us – shockingly easy – and it took a tremendous amount of discipline and focus to get free. There will be times when you want to quit, when it feels not only difficult but impossible. How you respond in those times will determine your success.

Getting out of debt is like a boxing match. It’s okay to take a short break between rounds, but the second you throw in the towel it’s over. God is in your corner, and we’re in the stands cheering you on. Just keep fighting and you will get your victory.

Comments?

We’d love to hear your “one word reason” for getting into debt! We respond to 100% of our comments!

Committed to your success,

-Wesley

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Why Financial Tips and Tricks Fail

Let’s be honest. Lack of knowledge isn’t the problem. I read Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover before accumulating six figures of debt. The issue wasn’t that I didn’t know paying for our honeymoon on a credit card was a bad idea. The issue was that I didn’t care. I really really wanted an incredible honeymoon with Beth, and Visa was very willing to make that happen for me.

Everyone knows they can pay off debt faster by cutting out cable, entertainment, new clothes, Starbucks, eating out, etc. Financial tips and tricks fail to work because debt is not the root problem, it’s merely the fruit.

The Real Issue: Emotions Gone Wild

We like to joke about “retail therapy,” but pretty much everything we spend money on is either to meet a need or experience an emotion. It could be as simple as food and shelter or as complex as the desire for love or a release from anger or stress. We’re within walking distance from Starbucks, and I can guarantee that in my house the ratio of Cake Pops to Crying Babies is proportionate.

What’s Your Spending Trigger?

Everyone has spending triggers…specific emotions that drive them in search of comfort or escape. Research has shown that people spend 300% more when they are sad, happy people are less likely to gamble, and angry people take higher financial risks as a sort of self-defeating behavior.  The challenge is identifying your spending triggers and developing habits to deal with that emotion apart from spending money.

Personal Example

I drive a 10 year old Toyota 4Runner. When I see a nice Audi drive by it pushes my envy buttons. I know I could “qualify” to buy a new car, and to be perfectly honest we’re getting close to needing one. But deep down I know that’s not why I want one. Despite all the freedom that Jesus has worked in me, there’s still part of me that wants to impress people. Somewhere in there is the seed of insecurity, the same source of wanting to be popular in high school, to be part of the “in” crowd.

So on a surface level, I remind myself how great it is to be debt free, how the guy driving that nice Audi probably hates making the $450 payment every month, and how Paul wrote that “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” But on a deeper soul level, I’m asking Jesus to redeem that part of me that feels like it “needs” things that aren’t really needs. And to help me be confident in who I am in Him, not who I am in comparison to others.

Committed to your success,

-Wesley

Let’s dialogue – what are some of your spending triggers, and how do you deal with them without spending money? We respond to 100% of our comments!

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