Reawakening Manners and Morality in Men

Paul Revere’s Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Paul Revere’s Ride

The Friday Poem below is somewhat romanticized, but I challenge you to consider yourself in Paul Revere’s situation.   As the images flow through your mind, look back into history and see yourself there; an army headed your way, a desperate ride to sound the alarm, to rouse and rally before everyone and everything you hold dear is destroyed before your very eyes.  Can you feel the horse beneath you, flanks heaving on your wild ride?  Is your heartbeat the only sound pounding in your ears?  In his place, do you have the mettle to do what you must?  Could this poem be titled John’s Ride, or Larry’s Ride, or Zack’s Ride, or Your Ride?

Paul Revere’s Ride

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, “If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,–
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm.”

Then he said “Good-night!” and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war;
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.

Meanwhile, his friend through alley and street
Wanders and watches, with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.

Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the sombre rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,–
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town
And the moonlight flowing over all.

Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel’s tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, “All is well!”
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay,–
A line of black that bends and floats
On the rising tide like a bridge of boats.

Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse’s side,
Now he gazed at the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry’s height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns.

A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet;
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.
He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

It was twelve by the village clock
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer’s dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.

It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, black and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.

It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadow brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket ball.

You know the rest. In the books you have read
How the British Regulars fired and fled,—
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farmyard wall,
Chasing the redcoats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,—
A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo for evermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

Get Out of Debt Step 4 – Invest 15% Into Retirement

Invest

This is the fourth installment of our Get Out of Debt series based on Dave Ramsey’s bestselling book “The Total Money Makeover Workbook.” If you’ve followed the first three steps, then at this point you are debt free except for your house and you have three to six months of expenses stashed away in an emergency fund. You attacked your debt and built up your emergency fund. The money you budgeted toward those two goals is now yours to invest.

You should now begin investing 15 percent of your before tax gross income into retirement accounts. Why 15% you ask? Because Dave and numerous other financial gurus say so. You want money investing early because of the way retirement accounts work. The longer you leave the money in them, the better they do. $100 per month invested at 12% for 25 years nets you $187,885, which is nice, but that same $100 per month invested at 12% for 40 years nets you $1,176,477. Longer is better, got it?

So why only 15% when 20% or higher would plainly be better? Because you aren’t ready to do that yet. There are other goals still, which will be discussed in the next few articles, that need to be accomplished first. Remember, Dave Ramsey calls these baby steps.

You are becoming financially fit, but your not ready for marathons or iron mans just yet. Over-investing before finishing steps 5 & 6 will actually slow down your wealth building potential. So for now, 15% or as close to it as you can manage. If you can only do 5%, start there and build up to 15% over time. Also, company matching does NOT count toward your percentage, that’s bonus money.

So, what do you invest in? Look at your company’s 401k program and find out if they have a matching program. If they do match, say 4%, then you should definitely invest 4%. This is essentially doubling your investing power instantly and is basically free money, so take advantage of it. Don’t invest your full 15% here though, because there are other financial vehicles that need to be invested in first.

Over time tax laws change, but you need to be on the lookout for programs with tax advantages. Right now the best place to invest is in Roth IRA’s because money invested here grows tax-free. Not everybody can use a Roth IRA due to income and situation restrictions, but if you can, you should. If you invest $3000 a year in an IRA from ages 35 to 65 and it averages 12% growth over the long haul, you will have $873,000 tax-free at age 65. You will have put in $90,000 of that money, the other $783,000 is tax-free growth. Tax-free, as in all yours, do not pay the government, you actually get to keep it all, tax-free.

With Roth IRA’s you put the money where you want, so look for a good growth-stock mutual fund. When deciding, look at the long haul (10 year or more) track records, to see how it has preformed over longer periods of time. Short 1-5 year fluctuations don’t matter much, your looking to invest for 30 years for steady gains. Every financial analyst has their own ideas on how to spread out your investments. Dave Ramsey’s strategy is a 4 part division of equal percentages. Invest 25% in Growth and Income (large-cap, blue chip), 25% in Growth (mid-cap, equity, S&P index), 25% in International (foreign, overseas) and you guessed it, 25% in Aggressive-Growth (small-cap, emerging market).

OK, that’s a lot of numbers and percent signs. Lets go through an example to help this make more sense.

Husband Earns: $47,000/year
Wife Earns: $38,000/year

Sorry ladies, I’m not sexist, those are adjusted national average salaries for each sex. That’s an annual total income of $85,000. Take that $85,000 and multiply it by .15 (15%) to get a total investment goal of $12,750.

The husband’s company matches 3.5% in his 401k, which is $1,645, that gets invested in the 401k. $12,750 – $1,645 leaves $11,105 to invest. The current (2010) Roth IRA limit is $5000 per person, so $10,000 gets invested in a Roth IRA, leaving $1,105 to invest. If the husband then turns his 401k up from 3.5% to 6% he will be investing a total of $2,820 in the 401k. This takes their total investment up to $12,820. That’s just over 15%.

This is your goal. Figure out what your 15% is, and then work towards investing it.

Assuming you’ve completed baby steps 1-3, then when is the right time to start investing? Now. When it comes to investing, time really is money. The longer you have to invest before retiring, the more money you will have when you retire. It really is that simple.

For a more detailed analysis, more examples, and some fantastic retirement worksheets like the retirement investment calculator, the retirement kitty calculator, and the investment breakdown calculator, pick up a copy of Dave Ramsey’s excellent book, “The Total Money Makeover Workbook” from the link below.

Historical Jesus – Not A Wuss

Jesus

Editor’s note: All men must read this guest post from Nick LaPrell.  It will shed some light on why the Jesus of today irritates you.  Admit it, he does.  It is difficult to believe in a God that, in the back of your mind, you think you can beat up.

The Original Godly Gentleman

It does not surprise many to learn that more women go to church than men. According to a 2000 survey by the Barna group, 61% of church attendees are women, leaving 39% men. Some churches have attempted to address the issue by staging more church barbecues, after service football gatherings, sports teams, an other manly activities. Unfortunately, some have gone to the extent of endorsing (or at least allowing) drinking, smoking, and cursing.

Perhaps the root of the problem isn’t that men cannot relate to church, but that they cannot relate to an entirely emasculated Jesus. We hear about how Jesus calls us to “turn the other cheek,” (Matthew 5:39) or how Peter was rebuked for taking a guard’s ear off (John 18:10). We see pictures of a thin pale long blond haired Jesus glowing with his hand stretched out, looking to the heavens. Lets face it, men are getting the message that the Son of God is a small, quiet, passive doormat and they are called to be like Him.

The Appearance of Jesus

Most know that Jesus’ trade was a carpenter (Mark 6:3), but in his time carpentry was not all about building chairs and furniture. In fact, carpentry involved building houses (usually out of heavy stone). Take your frail image of Jesus and add about 80 pounds of muscle. He would have needed that to accomplish this skill. Also add some heavily calloused hands that spent over a decade handling heavy materials.

historical jesusIn Jesus’ time and region, you would not find blond haired blue eyed pale Jews. Take that image and darken it to around what you expect to see in the Middle East today. His eyes were also most likely brown, and His hair would be dark in color. It was also culturally unacceptable to have long hair (1 Corinthians 11:14), so shorten His hair up to something above shoulder length.

Isaiah 53:2 tells us that He has no beauty that we should desire Him. He was average looking, so take that image and rustle up His hair a bit. He probably bathed as often (not very) as anyone else, and contrary to the movies today, it is doubtful that His tunic maintained an almost glowing white color. Lets go with dingy. We might also want to consider the physical aspects of Jesus’ death. He was whipped and beaten beyond recognition, nailed to a cross, and jabbed with a spear. That is going to leave a mark that will put any bragging Hell’s Angel to shame. Revelation 19:11-16 gives us a description of Jesus when He returns to pour His wrath out on a corrupt world:

Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the wine press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:

KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

word horse

He is described as having tattoos! A name that only He knows and the phrase “King of kings and Lord of lord’s” on His leg.

Now we have a more historically accurate depiction of Jesus. He is strong, dark, dirty, rugged, scarred, tattooed, and Jewish/Middle Eastern looking.

A Passive Jesus?

One of the most grossly misrepresented verses has Jesus instructing his disciples that if they are slapped in the face, they are to turn (offer up) the other cheek:

But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.
– Matthew 5:39

This has been perverted into pacifist ideology today where we are to believe that we are not to stand up for ourselves when we are hurt or threatened. The context of the verse is actually quite different. In the culture at the time, slapping someone was to insult their honor. If you were slapped, you could have the courts fine the person. Jesus called us not to retaliate for the sake of our honor. In modern times, the verse might read, “If someone flips you the bird, don’t return the gesture. Just go about your business.”

According to John 18:10-11, when the guards came for Jesus, Peter responded by drawing his sword and cutting of a guard’s ear (we can probably assume Peter was aiming for his head). Jesus rebuked Peter. We might get the idea that Jesus was rebuking Peter for responding in violence, but the reason Peter was rebuked was because Jesus spent the past several days trying to explain to Peter that He was going to be captured, beaten, and killed, and this was all part of God’s plan. Peter was rebuked for going against God’s plan, not for attacking a man he knew was going to harm Jesus.

Jesus certainly does not condone violence as a solution when there are other options, but He does expect us to stand up for ourselves. When Jesus was preparing His disciples for His departure, he instructed them to bring supplies, including a sword. In fact, they were to sell their clothes to purchase a sword if they could not afford one:

Then He said to them, “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.
– Luke 22:36

The Presence of Jesus

Jesus has a presence like no other. He had to speak loud enough for a crowd of thousands to hear Him without a microphone. He spoke with a confidence possible only by someone who knows 100% that they are backed by the Creator of the universe.

When Jesus saw the crooked money changers outside the temple perverting God’s law, He didn’t “turn the other cheek.” He roughed up the merchants with a whip and tossed their tables (John 2:15). When a disciple stepped out of line, Jesus didn’t “agree to disagree,” He lovingly, yet firmly rebuked them. (“Get behind me Satan! – Matthew 16:23)

No, Jesus was not the quiet guy in the back of the room nobody noticed. He stood for the truth and offended most people in the process. He will pour out the wrath of God on a world that will become more corrupt than ever before. Revelation describes Jesus coming on the scene riding on a horse with fire in His eyes. Politicians come to a resolution by compromising their own goals until an agreement is made. Jesus will not compromise the Word of God. He will utterly destroy any who oppose when that day comes.

Like Jesus

Perhaps if us men know more about who Jesus was we would want to be less “like Mike” and more like Him. I will strive to be like Jesus in ways that don’t often end up printed on a t-shirt.

• I will develop a skill at which I can excel. (Jesus was a carpenter)
• I will keep my body strong. (Jesus walked everywhere He went)
• I will refuse to compromise the truth, all the way to death.
• I will be confident that while I am doing the work of God, He will have my back.
• I will lead people around me to the truth.
• I will protect my family by any means necessary.

I think that if more men knew that this is what it is like to strive to be like Jesus, maybe there would be more men in church. Then again, maybe they are too afraid to be the kind of man that Jesus is. After all, Jesus is the first and the last Godly Gentleman.

Lead Me – by Sanctus Real

Lead Me – by Sanctus Real

Sanctus Real’s Lead Me is a song that has earned itself a permanent place in my music rotation.  I think every man should listen to this song every morning as a reminder of why he’s getting out of bed, and what will be expected of him for the next 18 hours or so.  I find that this song’s powerful words really resonate with me.  Matt Hammitt, the lead vocalist and guitar player wrote the song after his wife had the courage to come to him and beg him to be a leader for their family.

Andrew Funderburks from New Release Tuesday interviewed the band shortly after their album Pieces of a Real Heart came out.  The following is an excerpt from that interview.

One song I know that is poignant for the band is “Lead Me.” Would you mind sharing the story behind the song?

It’s a pretty amazing song. Our lead singer, Matt Hammitt, had most of the song written. It was written after Matt and his wife had a pretty gut-wrenching conversation, where she told him that she needed him to be a better spiritual leader to her and their family. It rocked Matt’s world. They’re the ones who have been married the longest in the band. They’ve been married longer than I have. They already have two daughters and they’re expecting their third child right now. Matt said that he found it humbling that his wife would have the courage to say something like that out of love. Secondly, he realized that he had to do something about it. There was no way around it. We don’t believe in divorce. There were some things they had to work on to keep that open dialogue between the two of them, so that they could admit problems and work through them. That’s where the song came from.

The idea is actually at least a year and a half old. We had a rough idea of the song because he had a demo, but it got put in the pile. The president of our record label somehow found the song before we completely finished the record and said, “Something is going on with that song. I think it could really be turned into something special if you guys finish it.” Until he said that, we hadn’t even entertained the thought of putting the song on the record. When we went in the studio to finish the song with this writer from Nashville, the story came together perfectly. The song is kind of a father’s prayer for his family and wife. It’s an honest cry out to God saying, “If I’m going to lead my family, I need You to lead me.” I can say this because I didn’t have a lot to do with it. [Laughs.] I hope that hearing the story behind the song, and what went into writing it, will touch a lot of lives. It’s a powerful song!

You can catch the entire interview on New Release Tuesday’s Website.  While I wasn’t able to find an official music video for this song, I did find a pretty neat production by My Bridge Radio.  I think they did a fantastic job on this, and hope they continue to produce videos of this caliber.

 

Here are the lyrics, in case they didn’t instantly burn themselves into your soul.

I look around and see my wonderful life
Almost perfect from the outside
In picture frames I see my beautiful wife
Always smiling
But on the inside, I can hear her saying…

“Lead me with strong hands
Stand up when I can’t
Don’t leave me hungry for love
Chasing dreams, what about us?

Show me you’re willing to fight
That I’m still the love of your life
I know we call this our home
But I still feel alone”

I see their faces, look in their innocent eyes
They’re just children from the outside
I’m working hard, I tell myself they’ll be fine
They’re in independent
But on the inside, I can hear them saying…

“Lead me with strong hands
Stand up when I can’t
Don’t leave me hungry for love
Chasing dreams, but what about us?

Show me you’re willing to fight
That I’m still the love of your life
I know we call this our home
But I still feel alone”

So Father, give me the strength
To be everything I’m called to be
Oh, Father, show me the way
To lead them
Won’t You lead me?

To lead them with strong hands
To stand up when they can’t
Don’t want to leave them hungry for love,
Chasing things that I could give up

I’ll show them I’m willing to fight
And give them the best of my life
So we can call this our home
Lead me, ’cause I can’t do this alone

Father, lead me, ’cause I can’t do this alone

Matt put out a podcast with his wife giving more of the back story behind the song.  They knew they were having problems, but they took divorce right off the table.  If there is no escape route, you have no choice but to fight.  They fought for their marriage and came out stronger for it.  I hope more men can learn from his example.  It sickens me that the divorce rate in the church is no different than in the world.  As a geek, it annoys me when people leave their electronics set to forever blink 12:00 when they have a users manual that tells them how to fix the problem if they would only read it.  Well you know what?  Life comes with an instruction manual too.  If you want to salvage a marriage, or simply improve one, go READ THE MANUAL!  Looking at the smoldering remains of my keyboard, I do believe I’m going to have to write some more on this topic.  Anyway, go check out the video on youtube.

Get Out of Debt Step 2 – Payoff Your Debts

1 dollar

This is the second installment in our Get Out Of Debt series.
In step one of Dave Ramsey’s debt removal plan, he had you save up $1000 for unexpected emergencies. Now we come to the heart of the 7 step process, paying off the debts. No investing, no building up your saving accounts. That comes later. Before you can successfully begin to build wealth, you must first stop hemorrhaging money with huge debts. If a man walks up to you with a gaping chest wound, do you first stop the bleeding or patch up his clothes so that he looks nice? Stop the bleeding! Building wealth on top of debt is like building a mansion on top of a leaking dam. If you want your house to survive, you must first fix the dam. So, 3 metaphors later, have I convinced you to stop building wealth and investing prior to paying off your debt? Listen to what Dave has to say about this.

“The most powerful wealth-building tool is your INCOME. Ideas, strategies, goals, vision, focus, and creative thinking all have their place, but it is when you get full control and use of your income that you build wealth – and not only build it, but keep it. A very small percentage of people may inherit money or win a jackpot, but these two avenues to wealth are the result of dumb luck. They are not a proven plan to financial fitness. To build wealth, you have to CONTROL your income.
The bottom line for becoming wealthy is this: Don’t have any payments. Debt is the enemy of your income. It keeps you from becoming wealthy. It keeps you from enjoying the feelings of security and flexibility associated with wealth. One of the reasons I am so passionate about a person’s getting rid of debt is because I’ve seen thousands of individuals make HUGE strides toward becoming millionaires in a relatively short time AFTER they get rid of their ‘payments.’ Just think how much you could do with your income if you did NOT have a car payment, student load, credit-card balance, medical debt, or even a mortgage.” ~Dave Ramsey – The Total Money Makeover Workbook pg.145

So, how does one go about paying off debt? Dave recommends the snowball technique.

List all of your debts excluding the house payment. We’ll take care of that later.

Seriously, go get a sheet of paper and do it now. I’ll wait. Write down the name of the debt, the balance, and the minimum payment. List them all, everything from your student loan to your clothing store credit cards. Now, sort them from smallest balance to largest balance. This is the order that we you will pay them off. Interest rates don’t matter unless you have two debts that have similar payoffs. In this case, pay the higher interest one first.

Now to get started, payoff the smallest one. Pay the minimum to your other debts, and focus all your attention on the smallest one until it’s done and gone. Now take the minimum from that smallest one, and apply that and the minimum from your second highest until it’s gone. Repeat this process until you are out of debt. It’ll make more sense in a chart.

Debt Balance Minimum New Payment
Penny’s $150 $15 $0
Sears $250 $10 $25
Visa $500 $75 $100
M.C. $1500 $90 $190
Car $4000 $210 $400
Student Loan $4000 $65 $465

Once you paid off your Penny’s card, you took the minimum payment of $15 and added it to your Sears minimum of $10 to get a new payment of $25. Upon paying off your sears debt, you add that $25 to the minimum of $75 from your visa debt and begin paying $100. Doing this, along with applying any extra money toward this debt creates a snowball effect. With each debt you pay off, you have more income with which to pay off the next one. Using this method, the debt above could be paid off in 26 months.

In my own experience we had a larger debt than the example, and we paid it off faster because in addition to the snowball, we applied everything we had into paying it off. No new clothes, no Starbucks, no eating out, no movies. We lived cheaply for a year and reduced our debt to only a house in less than two years. I highly recommend this method because it works both mathematically and emotionally. If you look at the debt snowball only in terms of mathematics, there are other ways that claim higher efficiency, but they miss the psychological component of the debt snowball. This method allows you to make early ‘wins’ in the debt payoff race and it feels good. Every debt that falls by the wayside releases a burden and really causes you to refocus and stay the course.

So, step two the getting out of debt is to pay off your debt. It really is that simple. No magic, no get rich quick scheme. Just use your income and your head. Stop hemorrhaging money and start paying off your debt. For more details on the debt snowball method, check out Dave’s book. I think every man who isn’t already independently wealthy should read his book and apply its principles to his life. You can be a gentleman regardless of your means, but it’s more fun to be a gentleman of means.

Get Out of Debt Step 1 – Save $1000

dollar

I’ve been a fan of Dave Ramsey ever since he helped me dig myself out of a debt and set me on the path to financial independence.  He has a 7 step process he calls the “Baby Steps” required for getting out of debt.  This series of articles is to highlight his 7 step process.  I recommend them highly because I have personally experienced their effectiveness.

The first baby step is to save $1000.  Sounds simple right?  If you are deeply in debt, you are mostly likely living paycheck to paycheck and don’t have an extra $1000 lying around.  If you did you would be using that to pay down your debts. Right?  Saving $1000 can be tricky, but it is doable, regardless of your current financial situation.  Anyone can scrounge up $1000 in relatively short order.

Before you begin to pay down your debt you MUST have $1000 stashed away in a bank as an emergency fund.  Money locked up in investments, CD’s, precious metals, or anything that is not instantly available to you is not a good emergency fund.  Having $5000 in gold coins in a safe deposit box does very little to help fix your refrigerator before all the food spoils, or fix your car in time to get to work in the morning.  Emergency money must be easily accessible.  It does not have to be in your sock drawer.  Most banks will let you start a savings account with $1000 and you can gain access to that money from any atm.  As an added bonus; it’s earning a little interest every month that you don’t have an emergency.

So, how do you make $1000.  My favorite way to easily make some quick money is to have a garage sale.  The average American has several thousand dollars worth of stuff stashed away in garages, crawl spaces, and otherwise hidden in their homes.  If you haven’t seen something in the last two years, you don’t need to keep it in your house.  De-clutter your life a little bit, and make some extra money.  Everybody is guilty of holding on to things they don’t need.  Right now there are skis living in my garage.  I use this as an example because 1) I live in the desert, 2) my wife hates skiing, and 3) I bought them after we moved to the desert and have never worn them.  I got them at a garage sale because they were a great deal.  The next time I have a yard sale, I’m going to pass them on to some other ‘great deal’ shopper that hopes he will get to ski someday.

Another tried and true method for making money is to reduce your spending.  Reducing spending isn’t as hard as it sounds.  Find one or two things that you don’t ‘need’ like cable television or Starbucks coffee and stop spending money on them.  Let’s say your cable bill is $65 a month and you buy two bags of Starbucks a month at $12 each.  If the ONLY lifestyle change you made was giving them up, you would save $1068 in a year.  Realistically you can save $1000 in a few months if you reduce your spending, save hard, and have a yard sale.

Yet another way to save up $1000 is to do a little side work.  Are you good at arts and crafts?  Sell stuff at local craft fairs.  Good at house cleaning?  You can do some weekend work.  There are numerous odd jobs that need done in every community.  Most places have employment offices that can find ‘days work for days pay’ type jobs.  Working weekends at a minimum wage of $7.25/hour  will get you an extra $1000 in as little as 2 months.

OK, so you saved up $1000 and it’s resting comfortably in a bank somewhere.  What next?  Leave it alone.  You may not dip into this money for anything that doesn’t qualify as an emergency.  But what if…NO, just leave it be.  Emergencies are things that will cause extreme hardship in your life.  This money is a small financial safety net for situations like the loss of a job, an unexpected illness, a faulty car transmission, and other real emergencies.  You worked hard to save that money, don’t blow it on a late night pizza run for your buddies.

This little bit of padding with keep you from having to make more debt while you’re paying off the old debt.  You need to break the borrowing cycle, and this is the first little step to doing so.

Stay tuned here for Dave Ramsey’s “baby step” number 2, the debt snowball.  If you want more information on getting out of debt, I highly recommend you check out Dave’s book and website.  He has several books, but my favorite is “The Total Money Makeover Workbook” because it is very hands on, forcing you to fill in your own data into the charts and forms.  I found it to be very effective in forcing me to face my financial reality and changing it.

Testing Spiritual Maturity – James 3:1-12

Testing Spiritual Maturity by the Taming of the Tongue
-A Bible Study of James 3:1-12

James begins chapter three by providing us an excellent tool for measuring spiritual maturity. Think back to your high school chemistry class.  A common tool for testing compounds is acid.  You pour acid on something and observe the results.  In our case we want to test spiritual maturity so we need to go right past the sulfuric acid, skip the hydrochloric acid, and pull off the shelf a bottle labeled “Tongue – Warning: TOXIC”.  James examines the relationship between a man and his tongue and how it reveals his spiritual maturity.

1 My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.

Jesus warned in Luke 12:48 “to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much have been committed, of him they will ask the more.”  This is a reminder, from both James and Jesus that being a teacher in God’s church requires both natural and spiritual gifts, appropriate character, and right living.  In James day teaching was becoming popular, but for the wrong reasons, so he included this warning: God will judge us on the last day, with special strictness on account of our influence over others.  When you seek to become a teacher, know that you will be held accountable for you influence over the others, and if your words or actions cause another to stumble or fall that will be held against you.

I particularly like what McGee has to say on the subject. “The Christian teacher entered into a perilous heritage. In the Church he took the place of the Rabbi in Judaism. There were many great and saintly Rabbis, but the Rabbi was treated in a way that was liable to ruin the character of any man. His very name means, ‘My great one.’ Everywhere he went he was treated with the utmost respect. It was actually held that a man’s duty to his Rabbi exceeded his duty to his parents, because his parents only brought into the life of this world but his teacher brought him into the life of the world to come.  It was desperately easy for a Rabbi to become the kind of person who Jesus despised; a spiritual tyrant, an ostentatious ornament of piety, a lover of the highest place at any function, a person who gloried in the almost subservient respect showed to him in public.”

2 For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.

The word stumble here can be translated ‘hinders spiritual progress.’  James included himself in this, noting that all men stumble.  Even knowing this, we should strive to stumble less.  I have two small children and it was fun watching them learn to walk.  They kept stumbling, but they kept getting back up.  As they have grown, they fall much less often now, but it still happens.  As we grow up we learn to walk, we learn discernment for the surface we’re walking on, we learn how to navigate difficult terrain, but even into adulthood, we still fall down sometimes.  That doesn’t mean we give up walking.

The perfect man James is talking about here is not the “Jesus Perfect” that is unattainable in this life.  A better translation would perhaps be ‘he is a spiritually mature man.’  This is a test of maturity.  As we draw closer to God, we get further and further from the world.  Evidence of this will become evident in our abilities to control our words.  Some men wear their hearts on their sleeves, but all men openly display the contents of their hearts in their words.  If eyes are the window to the soul, then the tongue is the loudspeaker of the soul.  What is written on your heart will eventually come out of your mouth.

3Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. 4 Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. 5 Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.

James is giving examples of where little pieces of the whole can control the course of a much larger thing.  The normal size for a ships rudder is between 1/60th and 1/70th of the ship’s hull center-line.  Likewise, a 5 inch metallic bit can control the path of a 2000 pound horse.  These comparisons really bring light to the fact that something as small as a tongue can control the course of our lives to the point of even having an impact on our final destination.

See how great a forest a little fire kindles! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.

James continues to compare the tongue to other things to make his point.  Here the tongue is likened to a fire.  Fire in a barbecue pit is a good thing.  Fire in your living room is a bad thing.  Controlled fire can accomplish a lot of wonderful things.  You’re probably reading this on a device that is powered by fire. (69% of USA power comes from coal or gas). Runaway fire is a tragedy of epic proportions, capable of destroying everything in it’s path for hundreds of acres.  James goes so far to call the tongue a world of iniquity, which is the absence of moral and spiritual values and synonymous with evil.

The part I find most evocative is the last phrase, “it is set on fire by hell.”  Just imagine yourself in an argument with a sibling,  spouse, or friend when all of a sudden a great one liner or zinger pops into your head.  You aim and let it fire, watching the damage register on their faces.  This probably isn’t too hard to imagine since we’ve all done this, probably more often that we’d care to admit.  Now ask yourself, where did that zinger come from?  You know you’re not that clever.  James seems to be invoking an image of demons whispering in our ears, setting our tongues on fire.  I find it particularly disturbing and will often conjure this image in my mind prior to letting those one liners loose. It helps me to examine my words before I say them, before I say something in the heat of battle that I will live to regret.

Consider you words like your credit score.  It takes very little to cause lasting damage, and it can take a very long time to repair.  The old sticks and stones line is wrong, very wrong.  Every man should carefully weigh his words before he speaks.  Proverbs 26 puts it this way: 18 Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows and death, 19 is the man who deceives his neighbor, and says, “I was only Joking!”

Having fully explained why the tongue is evil, James now begins to broach the subject of subjugating the tiny beast trapped between our teeth.

7For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. 8 But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.

The human spirit has incredible capacity for sacrifice and self-control. Sometimes we hear a desperate survival story of someone who cuts off their own leg to get free from a tree that has fallen on them, and then they drive to a hospital for medical treatment. Yet that same man can’t tame the tongue perfectly. No man can tame the tongue.  So after many verses of telling us how we need to control our tongue, James hits us with the fact that we can’t.  That hardly seems fair.  Tame your tongue, tame your tongue, tame your tongue, Oh, by the way, you can’t tame your tongue.  Is this a contradiction?  No.  Give it to God.  Man cannot tame the tongue with his own power, but only through Jesus Christ living IN you will you gain control.  This takes us back to spiritual maturity.  As you draw closer to God, you will draw further from the world.  The more Christ there is in your heart, the more you can wield your tongue’s power from love instead of hate, from wisdom instead of foolishness.

9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.

James finishes this section with another set of comparisons, highlighting the way things are versus the way they should be.  There is no such thing as a half salty spring, it’s either fresh water or it’s not.  James believes the same should hold true for our tongues.  Either we have Christ in our hearts, controlling our tongues, or we don’t.  You cannot be half a Christian.  If Christ is in us, it should be evident in our words.  Continuing to draw closer to Christ and further from the world will produce good fruit in your life, including a greater control over your tongue.  Think of how to talk to your friends at church.  Now compare that to how you talk with your co-workers.  And again with how you talk to your wife.  And finally contrast that with how you speak to your children.  If you notice a large disparity between them, then your tongue test of spiritual maturity has indicated a need for improvement.  Continue studying the Word, and drawing closer to Christ until there is no discernible difference in the way you speak to all of the people in your life.  With Love.

Take the time to watch the video below.  It says more powerfully with no words at all, what I’ve tried to say in many words.