Highlights from Financial Peace

We are 5 weeks into a 13-week finances course. Kaylyn and I are helping to lead a small group through the Financial Peace University class taught by Dave Ramsey. We completed this course last year and are enjoying it even more this time. We also have an amazing group who is highly motivated to lose debt and live financially responsible. It’s pretty inspiring. One couple in our group has already sold 1,500 worth of stuff. Another couple cut two credit cards. Another couple created an in-depth cash-flow budget for the first time. These people are on a roll. I’m learning so much from their stories and examples. Anyways, I thought I’d create a quick list of some of the most surprising statistics Dave Ramsey gives as well as my favorite quotes from him so far…

Crazy Stats:

  • Only 32% of Americans would be able to cover a $5,000 emergency with cash without going into debt for it.
  • 49% of people could not cover even one month’s expenses if they were to miss a paycheck.
  • When asked how they make their retirement planning decisions, 44% of working Americans say they “guess.”
  • It takes the average person 600 hours to clear up an identity theft issue.  
  • When you use plastic instead of cash, you spend 12-18% more.

Cool quotes:

  1.  “Building wealth is not evil or wrong. Money is amoral.”
  2.  “If you buy a gourmet coffee everyday for $5 that equals $150/month. If you invested that at 12% (which is possible) from age 16-76, you would have saved $19,371,943.
  3. “Money is active… managed money goes farther” SO TRUE!
  4. “New married couples take 5-7 years to attain what lifestyle their parents had, not realizing it took their parents 35 years to do it.”
  5.  “A new car loses 70% of its value in the first four years. This is the largest purchase most consumers make that goes down in value…many horrible accidents occur on the showroom floor”
  6. “You can’t borrow your way out of debt.”
  7. “If your broke friend makes fun of you, you are probably on the right track.”
  8. “Don’t lose hope. You can wander into debt but you can’t wander out… you gotta run!”
  9. “The FICO score is an ‘I love Debt’ score and is not a measure of winning financially.”
  10. “Look around you. Figure out what most people are doing, don’t do it, and you’ll be alright!”

Amidst all the monthly cash flow worksheets; allocated spending charts; irregular income planning; lump-sum payment methods; consumer equity columns and debt snowball preparations, hope begins to emerge! I highly recommend the class. It’s a kick in the pants, but that’s what I need.

M.P.

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Now I know why I like LOST!

I’ve been a devoted follower, and I havent till now figured out why. Tonight’s episode gave me the answer. I mean, I’ve always enjoyed the producers’ random and subtle allusions to various subplots within major literary works or their quiet religious/philosophical tones. It’s like LOST was taking language from a bunch of different fields, maintaining some of it and at the same time redefining the meaning for their own story. I thought this was clever, and it made me think! I would wonder, are they naming this character or using this term accurately to hint at the real meaning of the plot or is it a subversion to make me think something is happening that isn’t? Should I deplore my knowledge of British literature and Hindu culture or embrace it in order to get a heads up on what is coming next for Benjamin, Desmond, Kate, Charlotte or Locke?

On the other hand, with all the crazy stuff that happens in the show (black smoke being the least of my confusions) I constantly asked myself, why am I still following this show?  [Especially after my favorite character died (Cha’lee). Of course we find later that death is not equal to done.] Finally in tonight’s episode we got some clear answers. Fundamentally, the island is concerned with whether human nature is at the core good or bad. Good to know, thanks Abrams! I realized, as I watched the show, that I’m really interested in that question. The island gave me insight into my own life! It struck me… Bernard Mandeville is my favorite political theorist because he argues for a corrupt human nature in an extremely persuasive way. In his Fable of the Bees Mandeville offers the strongest argument against our “core goodness” I have ever read. Ralph Waldo Emerson thinks we ARE good and his utopian optimism is entertaining to the max. This is one of the reasons Emerson is awesome, he fights courageously for the losing side, and wins as much as possible but is obviously never ultimate victor.  He can’t be, he is simply wrong.  Emerson still gets props for his skills of persuasion amidst and despite his own unpersuasive beliefs. Dude had skills.

Ultimately, I respect both writers because of their willingness to engage with a difficult question. Mandeville wins hands down, but that’s not the point. I always knew I liked these writers, but I never made the connection that both are passionate about this same issue, and both do a wonderful job in defending their respective sides. Now, as long as LOST ends by reminding us how NOT good we are, my loyalty will be defendable.

Loyal for good reasons(?),

M.P.

Why I like Emerson and dislike religion

 

This morning I was reading one of my favorite writers of all time, Ralph Waldo Emerson. I probably agree with less than ¼ of all he said, but that doesn’t matter. This dude can write falsity better than I can write truth, and for that reason I think he’s pretty cool. Anyways, I find his following description of church to be hauntingly realistic. He says,

“I once heard a preacher who sorely tempted me to say I would go to church no more… A snow-storm was falling around us. The snow-storm was real; the preacher merely spectral, and the eye felt the sad contrast in looking at him, and then out of the window behind him, into the beautiful meteor of the snow. He had lived in vain. He had not one word intimating that he had laughed or wept, was married or in love, had been commended, or cheated, or chagrined. If he had ever lived and acted, we were none the wiser for it. The capital secret of his profession, namely to convert life into truth, he had not learned…” Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his 1838 Divinity School Address at Harvard Divinity School.

This is a travesty, a shame, a shambles. But it happens all the time. Many people are forced to deal with it week after week. Most have had, at the least, one similar experience. I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word, “religion,” I think of church. Ironically, even as I’ve grown up in the church my entire life, I describe myself as anti-religious. “Religion” defined is man’s way to get to God. I quickly realized we are falling short of the task. It only took a few history courses to find out we aren’t doing a good job. That’s why I’ve always been glad to follow the ever-anti-religious Jesus Christ. Christ isn’t all about me coming to Him. Rather, Christ is all about Him coming to me… before and now and then afterwards Him giving me the constant strength to live selflessly when without Him I never could. So why is church such a dirty word? Emerson reminds us. Too often we come hoping to meet and grapple with God and instead we leave only remembering the flurries as they fall and melt outside the stained glass windows.

God loves to make a world of words. God always has. God creates, raises, and restores through words. Shouldn’t leaders in the church follow suit? Debby Applegate, the Pulitzer Prize winning author writes, “If you have the audacity to ask people to stop what they are doing and pay attention to your words, then the goal must now be to retain the interest of your audience and to reward them for their attention in some way.”

Schleiermacher said that “The whole of religion is nothing but the sum of all relations of man to God.” Exactly! A sermon shouldn’t just spout dry (“heavenly”) information. Where is the feeling, where is the connection to life, why should the average person care about what God has said/done/will do? Preachers make it their duty to help others see the connections, and when these answers are left blank, the people leave in broken frustration. Frankly, I don’t blame them. Too often the gap between the podium and the people is grossly expansive and I pray that I will never succumb to such behavior. May I never be caught spewing out concepts which are not entirely meaningful to my audience. The genius of the Gospel is that it is life-giving, the least I can [should] do is use it accurately in my communication. The Gospel always connects to life now. If people don’t get that from my discourse, my discourse isn’t worth hearing. Isn‘t truth useless if it can‘t be practiced?

Infant Baptism?

Today I went to a conversation about Infant Baptism. Dr. Davis (who is a theology prof at GCTS) has rocked my world every time I’ve heard him and so I had to go to this. As of this morning, I was not a supporter of infant baptism and so it was cool to hear such a thoughtful response concerning this debatable subject.

Dr. Davis is all about infant baptism yet he said he thinks the other side makes a strong case. In defending the position, Dr. Davis argued that:

  1. God commanded that circumcision, the sign and seal of righteousness by faith (Rom 4:11) be applied to Abraham and his male descendants (Gen 17:10). Circumcision was spiritual in its intent, pre-Mosaic in institution, and international in its scope (Gen 17:12,13). Abraham was declared righteous before being circumcised and circumcision was a profession of faith. Dr. Davis also mentioned here that Abraham is the prototype to ALL people as opposed to Moses.
  2. In Christ, the Abrahamic covenant is confirmed, NOT abolished (Gal. 3:14; Matt 5:17-19). Basically Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant, and this covenant is the backbone of the salvation plan. This was the “Old Testament form of the Great Commission” and thus Jesus Christ is the 2nd Adam, and Abraham.
  3. Baptism replaces circumcision in the New Covenant (Col. 2:9,11-12; Eph 3:19).
  4. NT does not indicate reduction in status for children of believers (Mk. 10:13-16; Acts 2:39; cf. I Cor. 7:14): The Apostle Paul was thinking about the family union in this context.
  5. Consequently, infant children of believers may be baptized, as sign of membership in the covenant of grace. Promise of salvation signified by baptism to be personally ratified by child through exercise of personal faith (“a valid check… must be endorsed to cash it”).

Other considerations are that there are no examples of later child baptisms from Christian homes within the NT. That is, although there would most likely have been child baptisms before conversions, no adults were later baptised again. Also, the earliest dissent does not claim that it is NOT apostolic (Tertullian, in his De Baptismo, merely disagreed with the doctrine on pastoral terms). As Dr. Davis says, infant baptism “fittingly symbolizes priority of God’s grace in salvation.” Baptism is basically an object lesson of the gospel because it points to Jesus and His resurrection. Dr. Davis also pointed to Historical/sociological considerations and also  patristic testimonies in support of infant baptism.

Dr. Davis stressed he doesn’t believe infant baptism is salvific. Rather, it is a “means of grace” which can then be fully received later pending a genuine decision of submission to Christ. For me, the most interesting part of his talk was that he reminded us that Abraham and Isaac (his son) had different experiences of circumcision. Abraham was circumcised as an adult, but then Isaac was circumcised as a child with no apparent knowledge of what was going on. Are we then to follow in this example with regards to baptism? I’m still not convinced. This whole “means of grace” terminology is too weird for me and I still hold to the fact that since baptism is the gender inclusive version of declaring your faith, it should be done when someone has actually made that decision for themselves. Comments?

M.P.

Why does blogging make me cringe? A bit of throat-clearing is necessary.

What my blog is not:

  • A “resource”:  Ha, cmon. If you are coming to my blog as a resource, we need to talk about your resourcing skills. You’ve obviously fallen far off the path my friend.
  • An “authority”: If I say something, it probably needs to be challenged. Please don’t quote me if you want to prove a point to your friends. You’ll likely lose the argument, and maybe even the friends.
  • A “requirement”: This is something I’ll do every once in a while when I want to do it. No more, no less! :)

I may as well be honest. I’m not a huge fan of blogging. Its why I haven’t started till now. I’ve actually always made fun of people who blog. From what I can tell, bloggers have too much time on their hands. They think too highly of themselves. They feel like the world needs to know all their specialties, opinions and problems. Too many blogs can be brushed off as ignorant egocasts. What’s worse, is when you come across a student (highschool/college/grad) who thinks that because they’ve taken a class in contemporary law that they now know how law works. Or maybe a student learns a few greek glosses and can tell you the greek alphabet without looking at their textbook!  This Greek newbie takes this to mean that s/he is now a Greek scholar whose sole purpose in the world is to tell all those who don’t know Greek (and don’t care) how they feel about it.  Check this, just because you’ve read a little of Kant doesnt mean you fully comprehend what he is saying and should blog about him. Actually, go ahead and blog, just don’t pretend to be the expert you are not. Here’s a thought… the people who actually know a legit amount and know how to communicate that said amount are usually too busy to blog and so the world is stuck with beginning students of [fill-in-the-blank] (like myself, and the like) wishing to show others new knowledge they don’t themselves even actually understand. Hopefully my overstatements are obvious and provocative. Yes, I realize there are exceptions, and I’m thankful when I find that ever-disappearing pearl in the sand. I’m simply stating what goes through my head when I hear the word, “blog.” So here’s the deal. I’m gonna blog, but I’ll only do it according to these rules and hopefully through them I’ll become an exception myself:

  1. I won’t let the blog own me. This will not be a substitute for my own personal journal and I will keep the details of my underwear color to myself.
  2. I won’t let the blog become another me. I’ll resist using big words unless absolutely necessary (I don’t use them in real life and neither do most people, so why would I here?) and will be honest with who I am. This will not be an avatar outlet for the Mike I’d always wanted to be. Although Mike-on-blog looks better than in person, it isn’t the real me. I’ll try to be as real as possible.
  3. I’ll remind myself every time I blog that most likely I know less about [any] subject then I think, and therefore will not take offense to disagreement. In fact, I’m hoping that’s what I’ll find because I’m realizing I need lots of sharpening.
  4. I’ll be as controversial as possible. Thats always much more fun!

In love, adoration, kindness, and sarcasm. Of course in Christ’s blessings as well,

M.P.