Wednesday, January 27, 2010

C'mon...Why is Debt So Bad?

This whole thing we call life is all about God; the man Jesus. Beginning his series, "Cha-Ching", Johnson Bowie picks up on this thought in Isaiah 26:8, "Yea, in the way of (Your) judgments, O Lord, have we waited for You; the desire of our soul is to Your name, and to the remembrance of You."

It's not about us! The stars scream out His name. If we don't glorify Him, the rocks will cry out. The Bible says that the earth, the animals, the sea and the mountains are all about God. Every breath, step and direction of our being has to be about Him. If we can just start falling in line with this and begin thinking about Him, we can transform our lives to reflect His glory.

In I Chronicles 28, the writer talks about God's great power; His shining greatness and strength and how everything in heaven and earth belongs to Him. He rules over all. Power and strength are in His Hands. It is our desire that everything we do would scream out the fame of our God.

So, how can we take this amazing truth and desire and then trim the whole idea down to one thing called money? How can we spend or give our money to glorify God? We are all in this game together as Christians joining together in an effort to do something greater than ourselves. What better time is there to talk about money than when times are getting tough? Gas prices have soared, home prices are plummeting and jobs are being lost.

Jesus talked about money more than anything else. Money defines our lives. We go in to work, log our time and then we get paid for the amount of time we've worked. We trade our life and our time for our money, right? So, when we spend our money, we are spending our life!! So, if we are making poor spending decisions, we are poorly spending our life! "If you buy a cup of Starbucks and you make minimum wage, that's 30 minutes of your life you just bought!" So, if money reflects our lives and our lives are to glorify God, how does that translate to how we spend our money?

II Corinthians 5 says, "And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again." How can we live for Christ in every decision we make?

I Timothy 6:6-10 says, "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."

Contentment with a burger and a t-shirt is tough to accept, but money is NOT the root of all evil. The LOVE of money is the root of all evil. It's what our heart's intention is when we go after money that counts. Money is intoxicating. It is an opiate that addicts as easily and as completely as alcohol or narcotics. It's power to change us is close to that of Jesus Christ. Men trade their lives for it. Women trade their bodies for it. Families will trade their families for it. People will trade their church for it. Nations are ruled by it and destroyed by it. Most crimes are motivated by it. Most people are brought under it's control. A person who can maste the rule of money is the person who is completely mastered by the rule of God.

Money is a great slave, but a terrible master. Money is a great thing to have under you; a horrible thing to have over you. The best way to not have money be a god in your life is to not have it. Just give it away. The other side of this truth is that we can't give money away if we don't have it. We can't bless people with IOU's!! The reason so many of us don't have money is because we are giving it to the man; the credit card man. We do this because of all the bad decisions we've made in the past.

"I was at a leadership conference last year and Dave Ramsey was there...He's the Christian financial guru...with a daily radio show...'Total Money Makeover' is in the book store...He stands up and says...'STOP PREACHING ON TITHING''s like he had stood the golden cow up...but then he said...Stop talking about tithing unless you are willing to talk more about getting out of debt."

How many of us would love to be able to give or contribute to people's lives, but we can't!! Wouldn't you love to pay someone's way on a mission trip or just pay for someone's gas or to pay a single mother's electricity bill for a month? But we are chained by our debt! If we could tame money in our lives, we could live for the glory of God. Maybe if we could get out of debt, we could go when God actually says, "GO".

Malachi 3 says we rob God if we aren't tithing. In not so many words, God actually says we are cursed financially if we don't tythe. Most people WANT to tithe, but simply can't. But let's move beyond tithing and focusing on debt so that we could actually tithe 20%, not 10%, if we wanted to do so.

Why do we think that if we just had more money, we could tithe? There's a reason why people who win the lottery end up broke again. Money cannot change our spending habits. Many mulitmillionairres are more stressed about money that we are. Most of us just need to get out of debt. What would our lives look like if we could? This is our goal. We could worship God so much easier if we didn't have to honor our debts.

The national debt for the U.S. is now (at the time of this message) $9,357,639,867,792!!! The national debt grows by $4.7 billion a day. If you add these numbers up, our share is $31,000 apiece. So, a family of 5 would have to pay $150,000 to pay their share of the debt! But if you gave the government more money, they would just spend more money.

We pay taxes to the government and the pays $406 billion every year in interest. The total debt of our nation, including every person and every business is $53 trillion dollars. That's $175,000 per person. The average person will make $1.4 million dollars in their lifetime. But we spend 1/2 to 2/3's of every dollar we make in our life time paying for debt. The average American family has $9,300 in debt.  The average college graduate already has $19,000 in debt. Most of them will still be paying on this debt when their kids go to college.

Every year, more people declare bankruptcy than graduate from college.

We are so messed up! Did you know they even put VISA cards on the new barbie dolls? Johnson went to UGA (University of Georgia) and the first thing most people would go to would be to the free UGA t-shirt table once you register for a VISA card. We don't think we'll use it at first or that we'll only use it for emergencies, but then, before we realize it, we've run up our debt. Johnson did some math to illustrate the really good experience of a $1,000 cruise to Cancun. Minimum payment is on $15 a month! But it takes you 15 years to pay the card off with minimum payments. That's an expensive t-shirt (to get the card in the first place)! Then, when you start dating, it really gets bad. The debt monkey starts to turn into King Kong. "I'm sick of seeing the richest generation of all time being debt ridden...Can we possibly break free from this to make the name and fame of Jesus Christ spread?"

Proverbs 22:7 says, "The rich rule over the poor and the borrower is servant to the lender." If we are truly servants to Jesus Christ, how can we stay in debt?  What typically happens is, we get married as DINKs (double income, no kids), we buy our cars, we buy the house, we buy the furniture and then....she gets pregnant. "How are we going to do this?" The knife in back of this generation the fact that other people raise our children because wive's have to work to pay off debt. How can we possibly be a nation that glorifies God?  We've traded off raising the next generation because we made stupid decisions in our youth.  This robs God of His glory.  Don't trade your kids and your future for the present.

Johnson read an article online called "Moms' New Battle: The Food Price Bulge."  In there is a quote from a mother who says, "We are a typical middle income family.  If we did not carry foolish debt, we would be okay.  But with our debt burden combined with paying for two children in daycare, there's nothing left over at the end of the month."  This sums up the life of so many people!  Another 20 something girl says, "It is a life which is insult to injury.  I want to get married and I want to have a family.  But what if I want to have a child and take time off while he's an infant.  Will I be able to do that with all this debt that I have to make payments on?"  Do we really want to be the guy driving a fancy car with thousands of dollars we owe on it and have to work instead of raising our kids?   Eventually, we even have to pay someone to take care of them!  Where do we draw the line?  If this whole world is about glorifying God, where do we stop?!?

Deuteronomy 28 talks about the curses listed out in the Bible if you don't do what God tells us to do.  It talks about the curse of the "foreigner" who lends to us.  The foreigner becomes the dog and we become the tail.  "If you're wise, fine.  But if you're not you will be the place where poop comes out."   How many of us feel like our life is in the tail?  Some of us are living this "tail life" because we haven't chosen to stay out of debt and to emphatically glorify the name of God.  Why is the whole debt thing bad?  It keeps you chained up to money.  Most of us have desire to give.  We want to bless people but we can't.  Be free from debt so you can live for God.  What if God called you tonight and wanted you to go to Germany for missions?  Could you go?  What about next month?  Next year?  Next ten years?  Could you? 

We have to get out of debt to go, to live and to give.  The government, right now, is outgiving the church.  This is wrong.  We are called to be the light in the darkness, not the government!  We want to be a people who can show the world that God loves them. 

Johnson is 28.  If by some miracle, he makes it to be 80 or 90, that means he has 60 or so years left.  What happens after that?  He's dead!!  "But what if I want a big TV?"  What if we started spending our lives today on things that glorify God?  How can we start making money a "God thing"?  Get out of debt to give to a kid, to take someone out to lunch to tell them about Christ, to give to the struggling mom or to bless someone.  It is not about you.  It's about God. Let's be these people.  How do we do this?  Next week, Johnson talks about this.

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