Mike Cope's blog

Friday, June 03, 2005

I just read that since 1990, income in the United States is up 11%. But spending is up 30%, and debt has risen by 80%! It's frightening how easy it is to live above your means through credit cards. And more and more people are doing just that. It brings a shower of blessings to get the latest flat-screen television or the newest computer or a new wardrobe . . . but the shower very quickly turns into a drought when the credit card bills come due. As people pay the minimum amount, they grow further and further behind. It takes discipline to say, "We'll buy only what we can afford." And it takes even more to decide to live beneath your means (see yesterday's post) -- opening up resources for tithing, for sharing, and for savings. You don't have to have the health club membership or the new shoes or the roomful of new furniture or the larger house or the MP3 player. You don't have to take the exotic vacation. No purchase or vacation can ease the mind quite like living without debt. - - - - The newest Christianity Today has an excellent article on the future of Christian education by Michael Hamilton. Here is a taste: "Today, schools connected to certain orthodox denominations--notably Southern Baptists, Missouri Synod Lutherans, and Churches of Christ--do face a real possibility of secularization. This is because these schools have always thought of their religious identity mainly in denominational terms, rather than thinking of themselves more broadly as Christian colleges. The hard truth is that the old denominational identity that has kept their schools Christian is dying." It's deceptive, of course. The externals may remain healthy for a bit longer, with colleges pointing to attendance as proof that they're on the right path. But a day of reckoning for sectarianism is coming. - - - - Wonderful words from my morning devotional reading: We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you. (Psalm 33:20-22)


  • Thanks Mike,

    So much good stuff today! I dream of the day when my family is debt free. We've been doing and teaching Financial Peace University for a year or so, as poster children for years of financial stupidity. This weekend we will pay off another bill, take the money we paid on it, and add it to our next smallest bill by payoff. It took us 20 years to dig this hole, and it will take us a couple more to dig out. My wife and daughter are getting ready to dig into June's clothing budget - they're heading out to yard sales this morning. When you're over 60k in debt, putting your hope in the Lord means something!

    By Blogger Mr. Incredible, at 6/03/2005 04:56:00 AM  

  • Mr. Incredible -

    Incredible testimony! I'd love to pass that out to every young (and otherwise) family I know. You're a great example to us of slow and determined resolve to change your situation. Congratulations on that movement in the right direction!

    By Blogger Mike, at 6/03/2005 06:15:00 AM  

  • God bless Dave Ramsey and Financial Peace. Anyone not familiar with this and needing help with debt should look online for info on this man and his mission. My wife and I began listening to his radio show when we lived in Nashville. Now, we're in Searcy and, every other year, we incorporate a semester of Financial Peace into our home Bible study with college students.

    By Blogger Rick, at 6/03/2005 06:19:00 AM  

  • Mike, I appreciate you for challenging us to resist the culture and our carnal nature by avoiding debt.

    Last night I read another powerful chapter in Randy Alcorn's excellent book, The Treasure Principle. He reminds us of Paul's words in 2 Cor 9 -- God richly blesses us SO THAT WE CAN SHARE WITH OTHERS. Susan and I are prayerfully striving to pay off debt and taking steps to give more. And we're witnessing the Lord bless us in this effort. Having a Wednesday night class on debt reduction really helps us keep his commitment!

    By Blogger Jim Clark, at 6/03/2005 06:48:00 AM  

  • In my private journal this morning I wrote that I was frightened about money, not the lack of it, but that I am using what I have been blessed with in a pleasing way. This is when I get nervous about churches going in debt for bigger and better buildings and my role in supporting that by pledging.

    I am afraid that our money will be the issue that keeps us from truly following Jesus. It doesn't really matter if we have more than we need or spend more than we have it cannot be the main thing that we spend our time thinking about!

    By Blogger DJG, at 6/03/2005 07:39:00 AM  

  • Certainly an interesting contrast to yesterdays piece on young heroes living well below their means to be Jesus in less than desirable locations.

    I do find it interesting that, while incomes have risen a fairly meager 11% since 1990, real estate continues it's ascent into unreality. MSN's home page this morning talks about RE still being scorching hot. It boggles my mind that a young couple will sign off on a $200K "starter" home. I can't imagine having a $2,000 mortgage. Throw in a couple of car payments totalling $800 or so and you've definitely got a major mountain to climb every month - ugghh.

    By Blogger KentF, at 6/03/2005 07:56:00 AM  

  • Ironically, your morning devotional reading began with two words that are one of the keys to avoiding the kind of debt you're talking about:

    "We wait."

    We're not very good at waiting anymore, are we?

    By Blogger Matt Elliott, at 6/03/2005 08:08:00 AM  

  • I did not learn to tithe growing up. I married a Pentecostal man, and he set me down and talked to me about First Fruits.

    I can say, once you cheerfully give God his due and more, well, you cannot outgive God.

    I have seen checks come in the mail at just the right time, and had no idea I was due. I have been unemployed for a few months and God has blessed us abundantly.

    We are on the road to paying off all debt, and I view credit cards as agents of Satan. LOL Well for us I do. Greenbacks and my debit card are the only way to go!

    Blessings to Mr. Incredible for being transparent and sharing your story. I appreciate your honesty dear brother.

    By Blogger Hoots Musings, at 6/03/2005 08:40:00 AM  

  • please - let's not overstate the importance of being out of debt, even while we rightfully point out the pitfalls of financial mismanagement. being out of debt is not a strictly Christian domain. it's a practical consideration. being out of debt blesses anyone, Christian or no. so let's not get too high and mighty about our "blessedness" just because we're being fiscally responsible.
    i've been out of debt for seven years now, and while i MUCH prefer this state to the former, it hasn't made me a super-Christian.

    i would encourage everyone to work toward being debt-free, but don't wear it like some badge of exceptional spirituality.

    By Blogger ed, at 6/03/2005 08:45:00 AM  

  • Oh, the dreaded Credit Card. Brandon and I are seriously considering cutting ours up and putting in our lockbox for REAL emergencies. (You know...people always say it's good to have a credit card in case of an emergency...and then you end up using it for "wardrobe" emergencies or "household electronic" emergencies...)

    By Blogger Jana, at 6/03/2005 09:22:00 AM  

  • Mike,

    Thanks for mentioning the cover story in Christianity Today. While I like the quote you mentioned, I was especially moved by the very next paragraph in the story:

    "The hard truth is that the old denominational identity that has kept their schools Christian is dying. In the case of the Southern Baptists, their version of Christianity was intertwined with the distinctive cultural features of the South. For many, being Southern Baptist was as much about being Southern as it was about being Baptist. But no more. The integration of the South into national American culture is nearly complete, and American culture will not sustain Christianity in the way Southern culture did."

    That statement should make those of us in our tribe wake up and take note, for the implications of that statement impact more than just colleges and universities - they impact our individual congregations, our missions efforts, and most other areas of parachurch activity.

    By Blogger Malibu Librarian, at 6/03/2005 09:59:00 AM  

  • Nobody has commented on the other part of your post. It's just a matter of time before the secular attack you have witnessed against public education will aim it's ugly head at private Christian education...Universities included.
    I am sure Christian schools are on the priority list of the ACLU.

    And yes, we do not need any mindset that would make us weaker in confronting against that assault.

    By Blogger David U, at 6/03/2005 10:07:00 AM  

  • ooops, sorry James! You must have been writing the same time I was. Glad to see somebody else noticed that part of his post.


    By Blogger David U, at 6/03/2005 10:10:00 AM  

  • Hey Ed,
    I think being out of debt allows you to give abundantly to the Lord.
    That is the point I was trying to make. I don't think I am a superhero because I finally figured out being a slave to things and how to get them at any cost; is just wrong.

    Growing up in a CofC home I was never taught to give off the top nor was I taught how to manage money. I feel we have ignored money in our fellowship because we don't want to step on anyone's toes. The best series on money I have ever been taught was by Ronnie White at Golf Course in Midland. Here is the link to the teaching: http://www.gcrcc.org/audioarchive.htm

    Be blessed!

    By Blogger Hoots Musings, at 6/03/2005 10:18:00 AM  

  • thanks, Hoots. i've known people who practically worshipped the notion of being out of debt - that's what i was reacting to.

    my dad was an amazing manager of money, and he gave freely of it to the church and directly to people in need. trouble is, he didn't pass on one iota of his prowess to this child. when i became an adult i was a fiscal ignoramous. it took years of suffering and a personal bankruptcy to get me even halfway on track with how to manage money.

    i just don't want us to ever gloat under the misconception that we deserve riches/abundance just because we follow what we believe to be God's fiscal policies. the ultimate truth is - God gives, and God takes away. we are at His mercy, financially and in every other way.

    By Blogger ed, at 6/03/2005 12:04:00 PM  

  • I've been following today's comments with great interest.

    Ed, the perspective and voice that you are lending to this discussion is so important, and it is resonating with me.

    I'm not going to risk ruining things by adding to what you've said. I just want to say that I hope everyone will have a close look at your posts.

    By Blogger Matt, at 6/03/2005 12:58:00 PM  

  • i just don't want us to ever gloat under the misconception that we deserve riches/abundance just because we follow what we believe to be God's fiscal policies.

    My Pentecostal hubby refers to that philosophy as "Blab and Grab."
    Even Pentecostal's make fun of themselves! LOL
    Thanks for some good dialogue.

    Your sister Hoot

    By Blogger Hoots Musings, at 6/03/2005 01:36:00 PM  

  • great word, pastor. we've begun praying with the girls at night to have more compassion for others and to stop wnating more and more "stuff". Sometimes the girls change it up and pray for people without beds or houses or toys. Whatever it takes. It just makes me cringe when , like last night, Maddie was whacking a toy she'd recently gotten and when I told her she needed tot ake care of it she replied, "But, Daddy, if I break it, we can just go buy a new one." We came to Jesus at that point. :)

    By Blogger Brandon Scott, at 6/03/2005 08:33:00 PM  

  • I have been coming to grips with myself lately. I am examining my selfishness. It seems that everything I do is for me and only me. That's what this all boils down to. I do things to satisfy myself, all the while chastizing those who are in the news for being just as greedy and self serving as myself. It's like an addiction. When credit cards serve me then I use them. While most of my debt is incured throught my wonderful, yet expensive ACU education, I have more credit card debt than I would like to admit, and it is burdensome. I would really like to get out before it gets too deep, but then I end up using my credit card when the checking account runs low. to me this is a faith issue, despite what you may think. Even for non-Christians, debt weighing over your shoulders can be spiritually draining, as I'm sure you all know. Mainly I think that it is about whom you're serving. Yourself or others?

    By Blogger Kyle, at 6/03/2005 10:11:00 PM  

  • Debt is definitely a spiritual issue. Tim Woodroof has had some excellence lessons on this point that really impacted me.

    All our resources are gifts from God and therefore to be used wisely. I knew this from Bible school--knew it intellectually--but only recently started living it.

    Thick skull, only took me 42 years to have this stuff sink in.

    Tony's Blog

    By Blogger Tony Arnold, at 6/04/2005 05:39:00 AM  

  • Wonderful article!
    Teaching is such a great blessing to me because I am able to be apart of these precious 5 year olds lives and give them the care, nuturing, and much needed prayers that sadly many of them never receive elsewhere.

    By Blogger Leah, at 6/04/2005 05:29:00 PM  

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