Finances

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We bought a new van last night! It’s not brand new – it’s a 2000 Chevy Venture in excellent shape. I absolutely love it. But what I love even more about it is that we paid for it outright. I really wanted to pay cash for it, but Stephen got off work late last night and couldn’t make it to the bank before it closed. Either way, the van is completely paid for. But I really need to give God the credit for it – because He is the One who worked it all out.

First of all, I am NOT bragging. At all. I wanted to share that to show where we were, and what God has shown us while He has helped us get to where we are now.

This post is going to be a long one because there’s a lot of history to explain. It’s about finances. The way we view money has really changed over the years. God has used a lot of things and circumstances to change our views too. I want to share our story, because I’ve learned SO much along the way.

Shortly after we were married, we found a “work from home” plan and bought into it. We thought that in a few months’ time, I could stay home and I would be able to supplement Stephen’s income from home. Unfortunately, it was more of a scam than it was for real. Sure, they pushed you to sell product, but they pushed you to build your downline more. The more people you could sucker into working for you, the more you would make. We are NOT good at that type of thing, and while we liked the product well enough, it just didn’t work out for us. Unfortunately, the end result was debt that we thought would be paid off quickly. It wasn’t.

Fast forward a few years – Stephen was laid off from a job he loved, and we moved across the country and back. I found a copy of Dave Ramsey’s book The Total Money Makeover at a garage sale, read it, discussed it with Stephen, and we decided to do what we could to get serious about our finances. Our hard times weren’t over, but we were at least learning about how to handle our finances better than we had been.

What God was teaching us was about faith, trusting Him, and using credit cards. While some people can use them wisely, I believe there are many more out there who can’t. And when Christians have them – it is entirely too easy to use plastic instead of trusting God. We cut up our credit cards completely almost two years ago. It was really hard at first, but then we started noticing something. God did indeed provide. Right when we needed it. Always. It wasn’t always how I imagined He would, but our needs were met and He showed Himself mighty time after time after time.

How can I say I’m trusting God to meet my needs if I pray He’ll provide and then charge it to a credit card? How is that God’s provision?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not faulting someone who has a credit card, uses it, and pays the balance responsibly. But the temptation can be so great. “We’re a little tight this month – I’ll just charge it and pay it next month.” But then next month comes, and it’s tight then too, and the card balance never goes down. I know. I’ve been there.

By the way – tithing IS part of that faith. I’ve looked at bills that total more than our monthly income, and wondered how in the world we’d have enough money to pay bills if we tithed. But that first 10% is God’s. We have had MANY months where things just don’t add up on paper, but we gave God His portion of the money, and our bills always got paid. Those were some HARD months. That was when Stephen was bringing home $200 a week and our mortgage payment was over $700 a month. You do the math. God did a lot of miracles during that summer. But while it was unbelievably hard, that was when my faith grew the most too.

Fast forward to now. I’d love to say that we’re completely debt free and have 3-5 months of living expenses in the bank. But you know what? We’re not there yet. We’re still working on it. God has allowed us to see progress, and to be able to finally see what looks like it might be the end. :O) It’s been difficult at times, but it has been worth it.

Another reason we’re working so hard to become debt free is because Stephen answered God’s call to preach two summers ago. We want to reduce as many of our expenses as possible so that if God ever does place him in the position of a senior pastor, we won’t have extra bills hanging over our heads.

While we were looking for a new vehicle, we started looking and prayed that God would provide what we needed. We were ultimately able to buy this van by combining our tax refund with money we already had in savings.

To be honest, we did consider financing it. I know, there’s a lot of debate out there about whether or not vehicle debt is “smart debt” or not. We really didn’t want to finance the van to start with, but wanted to consider all our options. Interestingly enough, the bank wouldn’t lend us the money because the price the seller was asking was too low for their vehicle loan requirements. I’m thankful that God didn’t allow us to get the lending because it would have meant more debt for us to pay off, even if we did plan on paying it quickly. While paying for the van outright makes the next couple months tighter, in the long run I believe it’s worth it.

God has done some really amazing things while teaching us (ok, me) to trust Him. It’s been an interesting process, but I wouldn’t change it.

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5 thoughts on “Finances”

  1. Lori – thank you. You have put it so well. Small churches can’t afford a pastor’s debt. But I wonder how many are paying for it anyway? It is a VERY powerful motivator for me!

  2. Melody,

    You sound like us! Both of us brought debt to our marriage. I worked for 5 years after our son was born and still could not get out of it.

    After my husband being called to preach and me staying home, started the ball rolling with us being debt free. It was not until we were called to go to Montana, that it went really fast. As of January 23, 2009, we can finally scream,”We’re debt free!”

    I really don’t think we would be were we are today, if my husband did not come across Dave Ramsey on the radio.

    Of all the financial talk shows you listen to, he is the only one that says, Get out of debt! Pay it all off! Buy with Cash! He backs up what he says with the Bible – Owe No Man Anything.

    I agree with what you said about not having bills hanging over your heads. There are so many small churches out there, that really can’t pay a lot to support a Pastor. They REALLY can’t afford all his debt.

    I’m happy to hear that you were able to buy your buy straight out. It makes you feel good.

  3. I think I need to borrow that book….or get it from the library. We have at least 1 card paid off now. NOw it’s just a matter of working on the rest. Isn’t it such a good feeling to get them paid off?

  4. It’s funny how it works out, isn’t it? I haven’t totalled how much we’ve paid off because up until two years ago (like when we lived in IN) we were still using the cards. But since then – the progress has been huge. I cannot WAIT until it’s GONE!

  5. In a year and half, Justin and I have paid off over $20,000.00 in debt with the Lord’s help and Dave Ramsey’s program. We still have student loans and a mortgage… but we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel! The funny thing is that we have more money now than we did when we were both working and making double our current income. God is good.

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