Category Archives: Debt Reduction Course

Follow-up #1

Gary North

While you are digging yourself out from under your mountain of debt, you should begin to think about what your lifetime goals are. In the short run, your primary goal is to get out of debt. But, in the long run, staying out of debt is not sufficient. It would be like an alcoholic who stays away from alcohol. It is important that he stay away from alcohol, but that does not solve the problem of what to do with the rest of his life. It is not just staying sober; it is doing something useful while staying sober that is important. It is important for him to stay away from alcohol, and it is important for him to achieve something with the time that he has remaining.

The same attitude should govern your situation. You have to look at your deliverance from debt as a way to throw off shackles that were preventing you from achieving significant lifetime goals. Once you have thrown off this burden, you can begin to consider seriously what it is you want to do with the remainder of your life.

There are goal-setting sites and programs all over the Web. I have no particular one that I believe is an example of one-size-fits-all. Generally, it is a good idea to establish two or three major goals for your life, with the outer limit being age 70. Anything beyond age 70 is gravy. You may be able to live beyond 70, and anything you achieve between 70 and time of your death is what used to be called in grade school “extra credit.” You should assume that your physical productive capacity will decline after age 70.

It is not good enough to have lifetime goals. You have to have a plan which will enable you to achieve your lifetime goals. This mandates budgeting. It is more a matter of budgeting your time than budgeting your money. There are certain things that you have to do in sequence, and if you do not do them in sequence, you will have to scramble very rapidly to catch up with what would have been a systematic lifetime plan. Your debt has sidetracked you significantly. It may take another two or three years for you to get off the detour that debt imposed on you. But you will be able to get off this detour and back on the main highway soon enough.

At that point, and perhaps even now, you should begin to think about what it is that you would like to achieve with the rest of your life, once you become debt-free. That should be part of your goal of becoming debt-free. Becoming debt-free is simply one step in a series of steps on the way to whatever they were goals are for your life. These are really important goals. These achievements will constitute your legacy. It is the thing that you will leave behind that will be most significant. The only way for your memory to be preserved beyond one generation is for you to leave something behind it is still serving other people.

Maybe this would be a book posted on the Web. Maybe this would be a series of articles you wrote for WordPress.com. The reason I switched this site to WordPress.com is simple. I wanted to make certain that this material will be available to people indefinitely. I do not have to pay WordPress.com a monthly fee. It sits online, where Google searches will find it. Of course, the site will be rated very low, because I’m not actively adding new material to it. But, through word- of-mouth, and through word-of-mouse, people will come to this site. I want them to come to it in 100 years, or 200 years. When you post a site on WordPress.com, you have a real possibility of creating a legacy that can last long beyond your death. None of your heirs has to pay to keep the site online.

The same thing is true of YouTube videos. If you create a YouTube video, that YouTube video is probably going to be there in a century. If you create a YouTube channel, which is free of charge, the videos that you post on it will also remain in the century. Here is how to create one free of charge: http://www.garynorth.com/public/department137.cfm.

This has never happened before in history. Always before, a writer was dependent on a publisher to keep his books or materials in print. Most books go out of print after the first edition. But, with free PDF-posting sites such as Scribd, that document will be available in 100 years, or 1000 years.

I therefore recommend that you do whatever you can to identify what your legacy is likely to be, or what you would like it to be. You should begin developing a plan to achieve that legacy. The plan should involve a regular review process, at least annually, and perhaps four times a year . You can always revise a bad plan. It is better to have a bad plan than no plan.

Give a great deal of attention to this, because once you have made the decision, and once you have developed a long-term plan, the longer that you stick with that plan, the less time you will have to revise it, or abandon it, in order to achieve a new set of goals, with a different kind of plan. The earlier you get started on this, the earlier the compound growth effect will take place in your life.

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Conclusion

Gary North

You have now completed 11 lessons on how to reduce your personal debt. This should be regarded as the final lesson.

It is easy to begin a process, but it is difficult to complete it. With respect to debt, a process may take the rest of your life. You can get out of debt, but the difficulty of remaining out of debt for some people is almost overwhelming. It may not be so difficult as losing weight and keeping it off, but it is close. Some people really are addicted to debt, and the temptation of going back into debt remains with them all their lives.

I think most people who have read and applied the 11 lessons of this course are in a position to avoid returning to a life of debt. What I have presented is not simply a plan to get out of debt and stay out, but rather a lifestyle change that is more fundamental than the addiction to debt. The change that this program will effect in your life is your defense against debt. It is not simply a series of techniques that will enable you to get out of debt on a one-time basis. There are techniques, but far more important is the lifestyle change. You now have a new attitude toward debt, and you have begun to develop habits that will enable you to remain debt-free, assuming that you do not have some kind of unexpected disaster in your life that forces you to take on a great deal of debt.

It is a good idea to continue to budget on a regular basis. I think budgeting is the key to retaining good habits regarding the use of money. Use the use software on this site, or use Quicken or perhaps some other software program. It is imperative that you continue to budget on a regular basis. This should also include budgeting money to be set aside on a permanent thrift program.

I have not emphasized building up a savings program, because the interest rates you are paying on credit cards is so great that no amount of saving is going to save you from consuming your capital. You must get out of debt, because the interest payments are eating into your capital and your future. Only when you are out of debt, or almost out of debt, when the interest rate charges are not eating you up, does a savings program make much sense.

The basic savings program is an emergency bank fund that will help you from going into debt if an emergency strikes you. The other aspect of the thrift plan is to build up capital for expenses that you know are going to come, such as automobile repairs, other kinds of maintenance, and purchasing replacement goods when long-term durable goods finally wear out.

I do not believe that most people can use a thrift program that will build up sufficient equity to enable them to retire in comfort. The only way that I know to do this is through systematic real estate investing, which involves the use of mortgage debt. US never take this approach unless the real estate itself serves as collateral for the mortgage loan. Never sign a real estate contract in which the creditor has recourse to any part of your income or existing capital. A nonrecourse loan is a loan in which the property is 100% of the collateral. This is the only kind of real estate debt that you should ever consider.

I cover these issues in detail on my website, http://www.GaryNorth.com. Until you are well on the way to being debt-free, you should not join that site. The monthly subscription fee is minimal, but when you are deeply in debt, you must be highly dedicated in avoiding all new expenditures. At some point, you probably will be ready to join the site, assuming that you want guidance on what to do with your money. But that time is not yet.

Your goal now should be to stick to the program that you have already begun. If there are any aspects of the program that I have outlined that you have not fully adopted, concentrate on those missing links. Get as much of my program implemented in your life as you possibly can, both financially and psychologically.

You have got to make a monthly review of your debt situation, which is why I recommend that you have a program online that will enable you to see the decline in what you owe, and which will also enable you to see where your money is going. You must become a fanatic in cutting expenses, and then using all of this save the money for debt reduction.

I believe that over the next three years, maximum, you will find yourself debt-free, except for your mortgage. If you have high student loans, this will not be possible. If you have a medical bill that is very high, you should probably try to negotiate with the hospital about what you owe. But, if you are a normal debtor, dealing with credit card debt for consumer items, you should be able to be out of debt within three years. You may even be able to get out of debt earlier. That should you be your primary goal until you are completely out of debt for consumer items.

Set Short-Term Goals

Gary North

Let’s review the five points of the biblical covenant model:

1. God’s sovereignty
2. Man’s delegated authority
3. God’s law
4. God’s sanctions (positive and negative)
5. Inheritance in history

This is understood in terms of five questions.

1. Who’s in charge here?
2. To whom do I report?
3. What are the rules?
4. What do I get if I obey? Disobey?
5. Does this outfit have a future?

These five points are inescapable in economics.

1. God’s original ownership
2. Man’s stewardship
3. God’s kingdom: “seek first”
4. God’s blessings: “all these things”
5. The inheritance: “the meek shall inherit the earth”

Making Other Plans

Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that (James 4:13-15).

Years ago, an American folk singer named Gamble Rogers wrote a lyric: “Life is what happens to you while you’re making other plans.” The Beatle, John Lennon, made the line famous. He once admitted that it was Rogers’ line.

Rogers learned how true this was when he went into the ocean in Florida to rescue a man from drowning. The man survived. Rogers drowned. That was in 1991. The state of Florida named Gamble Rogers State Park for him as a tribute.

Think of Lennon, who autographed a record album for a man, and who was shot dead by that man five hours later. Lennon had twice asked him, as he signed the album, “Is that all you want?” The man wanted far more.

If our plans are easily overturned by events, then why make plans? Because planning allows us to focus our attention on the costs of everything we do. Jesus warned:

For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply [it happen], after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish (Luke 14:28-30).

This is why we need long-term goals, medium-term plans, and short-term plans. They enable us to estimate the costs and benefits of our actions. They let us think more clearly about what we are doing with our lives, and why.

The unpredictability of life can overwhelm us at any time. We are less likely to be permanently sidetracked when we have a plan. We can get back to it after the interruption. We can modify it because our costs are either lower or higher in our new circumstances.

A bad plan is better than no plan, because we can modify a bad plan when we get new information, opportunities, or capital.

In the Book of Acts, there is the story of a man with a lifetime goal: living as a cripple until he died. It was not much of a goal. His plan to achieve this goal was the same every day: to sit and beg at the entrance to the temple. Then, one day, his plans changed.

And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple; Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms. And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us. And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them. Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ancle bones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God (Acts 3:2-8).

Because of his daily plan, he was in the right place at the right time. This completely changed his lifetime goal. He had hoped to survive as a cripple. God delivered him from his affliction. This story is not a case against planning. It is a case for plan modification.

Short-Run Plans Should Fit into Medium-Term Plans

This is the hard part. To make your short-term plans effective, you must take care to fit them into your medium-term plans.

In 1973, I began to write a monthly column. It was part of a lifetime project: An Economic Commentary on the Bible. In 1977, I increased my commitment two ten hours a week, 50 weeks a year. I have stuck with that schedule ever since. I am close to completing the first draft of the project. It is now in the range of 25 volumes, with over 400 pages per volume. Tools of Dominion, a commentary on Exodus 21-23, is over 1,300 pages.

If God wills it, I will finish the first draft, re-write it to make it agree internally — Genesis to Revelation — pay to have it re-typeset,, re-index it (I hate to index), and publish it on-line and in print-on-demand. This could easily take two years. At age 70 — my 1977 target date to complete the project — I should be finished. Maybe this project will turn out to be an example of C. Northcote Parkinson’s most famous law: “Work expands in order to fill the time allotted for its completion.”

This will enable me to complete my life’s work, which I identified at age 18 in 1960, of writing a book on Christian economics. This will be the first such book that is based on verse-by-verse exegesis of the entire Bible: every verse that deals with economics.

I did not know how to achieve my life’s goal in 1960. My wife suggested that I write an economic commentary in 1973. It has taken me over 35 years to get close to the end of the first draft of the commentary. But if I had not begun the commentary in 1973, I know my book on Christian economics would have been inaccurate.

I set a long-term goal at age 18. I adopted a month-by-month plan in 1973. I adopted a week-by-week plan in 1977. Sticking to that plan has enabled me to be in a position to complete my long-term goal. Without the 1973 plan, I could not have done a really good job on my life’s goal. Had I not accelerated the plan in 1977, I would be nowhere near completion.

I had a good goal in 1960. I did attempt to adopt a medium-term plan educationally, but I was sidetracked many times. So was my career: how I would earn a living. My calling has never changed: to write the book on Christian economics.

My long-term goal required medium-term goals: writing individual economic commentaries. These required short-term goals: ten hours per week, 50 weeks a year. They fit together. They were part of a systematic plan.

I can measure progress weekly by inputs: hours worked. The output of this work is problematical. I pay no attention. I can assess the progress of my work by completed books.

I combine input (hours worked) with output: books completed. I assess the quality of my work as I write the chapters. There is feedback at each stage: hours invested, identifying a biblical book’s main economic theme, writing exegetical chapters, editing these chapters for consistency and readability, fitting them into a consistent book, proofreading the book, and indexing the book. Some books have taken me less than three months to write. Two books took me five years each to write: Tools of Dominion and Boundaries and Dominion, a four-volume commentary on Leviticus. Genesis took from 1973 to 1982. Appendix A took a year.

You can see the results — typeset volumes — here: Capitalism and the Bible.

I wrote one book in two weeks in 1987: Inherit the Earth: Biblical Blueprints for Economics. That book provides an overall outline of what I have discovered about Christian economics. If I die before I complete my main book, that preliminary book can guide other Christian economists. They will also have my economic commentary on the Bible.

Do not presume that you will be given all the time you need to finish. Complete medium-term steps in order to serve as your legacy in case you die before you reach your goal.

My one-week plan is numerical: hours spent. I have no quality component. There is visible progress, chapter by chapter.

I do not have to review my goals quarterly or annually. The goals are finished products, so I do not require a quality assessment. My work as a writer, editor, and proofreader serves that function. It’s easier for a writer or an artist to assess his work, project by project, than it is for someone whose output is not a completed project.

I have never set financial goals. I always have assumed that money would take care of itself. It always has. That was because I always tithed and because I have pursued a lifetime goal systematically.

I have been in debt only for my first car (1971-73) and my subscription-fulfillment costs, now cut to one year, maximum, and mostly monthly. I can pay off my one-year subscribers for under $3,500.

If you are in debt, if you have not tithed, and if you have not systematically pursued a lifetime goal, you will have to pay close attention to identifying your calling (lifetime legacy) and your financial goals (the means to achieve your legacy). In your case, money will not take care of itself. You have lots of obligations and few reserves.

The process of selecting short-term goals and medium-term goals is like selecting a path to a final destination. The road map is incomplete. The time available is uncertain. The destination may have to be altered at some point because of circumstances, especially a terminal disease. But you must begin somewhere. You are being pushed from behind: the ticking clock. You only have so many ticks. You must move forward. You might as well move forward according to a plan. This plan is made up of a series of goals.

Homework Assignment

Look over your medium-term goals. Use these as guidelines for your short-term goals. Try to break down these goals into these:

Annual
Quarterly
Weekly

Daily goals should be set the night before. Select three or four things that you must accomplish before the end of the next day. If you miss one, put it at the top of the list for the day after tomorrow.

Expect to be interrupted. Try to have an open hour each day for finishing your daily goals, despite the interruptions.

With respect to each time frame’s goals, use numerical indicators and descriptive or quality indicators. Write them down on a 5×8 card or in a place where you can review your progress. Then be sure to review it.

Make modifications in your plan when you see that your schedule is not working out as planned. You may make more rapid progress than you imagined. Or you may move ahead slower than you planned. Find out what you must do, faster or slower, to move forward toward your lifetime goal.

You may safely modify your short-term goals. It is less safe to modify your five-year plan. It is dangerous to modify your lifetime plan. It defines you more than anything else. If you do not have one, then your lack of a lifetime goal defines you. If you modify it, this re-defines you.

You want to hear these words some day:

Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord (Matt. 25:21)

Well done at what? On what? For how long? Decide now.

For guidelines, go here:

https://deliverancefromdebt.wordpress.com/2012/08/17/short-termgoals/

Set Medium-Term Goals

Gary North

Let’s review the five points of the biblical covenant model:

1. God’s sovereignty
2. Man’s delegated authority
3. God’s law
4. God’s sanctions (positive and negative)
5. Inheritance in history

This is understood in terms of five questions.

1. Who’s in charge here?
2. To whom do I report?
3. What are the rules?
4. What do I get if I obey? Disobey?
5. Does this outfit have a future?

These five points are inescapable in economics.

1. God’s original ownership
2. Man’s stewardship
3. God’s kingdom: “seek first”
4. God’s blessings: “all these things”
5. The inheritance: “the meek shall inherit the earth”

Getting from Now to Then

Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a sabbath unto the LORD. Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof; But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the LORD: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard. That which groweth of its own accord of thy harvest thou shalt not reap, neither gather the grapes of thy vine undressed: for it is a year of rest unto the land (Leviticus 25:2-5).

The Israelites had to plan for a sabbatical national year every seven years. They had to save enough money or food to get them through that seventh year, when they were not allowed to plant a crop. They could eat from trees, but not from the ground. This law was designed to force them to make medium-term plans. The time limit was six years.

This sabbatical year, in turn, was preparation for the 50th year — seven sabbatical years — when all debts except debts to repay crime victims were canceled (Leviticus 25:8-13).

This was a land law. The land laws of the Mosaic law no longer apply, because Israel is no longer a holy land owned by the families that conquered Canaan under Joshua. Still, a six-year time frame is about right. You could also select a five-year time frame. If you select a more distant end date, you will find that you have to revise it so significantly that it is not a reliable guide to get you to your long-run goals.

Because five years work well in breaking up a decade into two equal parts, I recommend that you adopt a five-year plan. The five-year limit lets you establish specific goals that are attainable.

These goals are supposed to lead to the goals for age 70. They let you see if you are making steady progress toward your long- term goals. Your success every five years tells you that you are on track. Your failures remind you that you must adjust either your goals or your timetable. Either reduce your long-term expectations (not advisable) or else increase your output per year.

Few people set lifetime goals. Fewer still produce a long-term plan to attain them. Fewer still follow these plans, reviewing them on schedule.

The most common medium-term goals are financial and occupational goals. These are easy to quantify. These goals should relate to a person’s transition from job to calling.

Most people have retirement as the long-term goal: age 65. This is unwise. That leaves you only five years, age 65 to 70, to attain your goal related to your calling.

Americans see retirement as a lifetime goal for leisure: life’s vacation. This is a huge mistake. Leisure is not a legitimate goal lifetime goal. Why not? Because of this:

Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it (Exodus 20:9-11).

Got this? Six days of work, every week. Not five. Not four. Clearly, not none. The Israelites had three annual festivals — leisure — that required a long walk to the tabernacle/temple. But they worked until they were no longer capable of working. Search your Bible concordance for Barzillai. He is the biblical model. So is Caleb, who was a warrior at age 85.

Leisure is for restoration and recuperation. It helps us work better. It is not a legitimate lifetime goal. There is too much kingdom work that needs doing. Retirement should mean the end of your job. It should mean a full-time calling.

Fortunately, few people will be able to afford to retire with 100% passive income. So, a better course of action is to plan for a transition. Can you make your calling pay enough to support you comfortably? If not, you must keep working at your job. This has been my approach. I still earn most of my income from one Website: www.GaryNorth.com. It is not passive income. I must write four articles a day and answer questions on the forums. I have other sites, such as this one, that relate to my calling.

It is almost impossible to save your way to a comfortable retirement based on passive income. I knew that dream was unattainable by age 17. I always planned to keep working. Since 2008, millions of Americans have figured this out. They will not be able to retire. They must stay in the work force, serving others.

Your Transition into Your Calling

Some men think of their prime as age 50. That is because they are thinking of their occupations. This is the period of maximum productivity for most careers.

I don’t know what age women think of as their prime. It depends on their concept of service. They probably do not think of age 50 as their prime.

You should have two prime periods in life. The first relates to occupation (men) or children (women). Then you pass through it. Women go through the empty-nest syndrome. This usually comes before men go through mid-life crisis. Both crises relate to people’s realization that their lives have peaked with respect to the first half of their adult years: occupation. They have not planned for the second half: calling.

If you plan early for the second half, the transition is far less traumatic. I never experienced a mid-life crisis because I had no time for one. I was pursuing both my calling and my occupation at age 50, and both were accelerating.

I suggest that you make your personal five-year plan on the assumption that somewhere between age 50 and 55, you will make the transition to your calling. I don’t mean with 100% of your time. That is too expensive, unless you can get a salary from it.

Find a way to work on your calling from the day you get out of debt (except for your mortgage). I have worked a minimum of two hours a day, 50 weeks a year, since 1977. I have usually invested twice this figure. It can be done. Increase this time commitment to age 50.

Then move more heavily toward the calling in terms of your allocation of time after age 50. Ideally, your expenses will start to decline after age 55. You will not have to work so many hours at your occupation.

My strongly held view is that you should not spend more than 40 hours a week on the salaried portion of your job. (If you are in senior management, and you are building equity, that is different — risky, but different.) The other hours should go to starting a side business to retire into, working on your calling to retire into, and time with your family. Ideally, these are the same project: a family business related to your calling.

It is unwise to devote overtime to anything salaried. You lose your most precious resource: time. Your employer will gain the lion’s share of your time’s value. If your job requires more than 40 hours a week, look for a new job. Otherwise, you will find at age 50 that you are not ready for the transition.

Your side business should be something related to your calling. If it isn’t, then it should generate lots of passive income, or close to passive income, within a decade. It should support you by age 60. Earlier is better. The sooner you can quit your salaried job, the better.

Your calling is more important than your job. You need the job to feed your family and fund your calling. Your legacy will be your calling, not your job, unless your job is your calling. If it is, rejoice. You are unique.

Milestones on Your Path to Your Prime-Time Calling

What will it take so that you can devote your last 20 years mostly to your calling? Return to the three questions.

What do I want to achieve?
When do I want to achieve it?
What am I willing to pay?

These should guide you in identifying the required milestones. The main thing you need is capital. Capital includes the following:

1. Money
2. Education
3. Certification
4. Personal contacts (networking)
5. Reputation

When you have these, you can make the transition.

Homework Assignment

Sit down with paper and pencil and divide up your life into equal sections from now to age 50. At age 50, you must be spending at least 35% of your non-family time on your calling. This percentage should grow, year by year. A good target is 1% per year.

By age 65, you should be devoting 50% of your time to your calling. If you can accelerate this transition, all the better.

What milestones can you identify that are specific, meaning measurable? Work on these:

1. Money
2. Education
3. Certification
4. Personal contacts (networking)
5. Reputation

Get these goals on paper. Get them into a filing system. You should be able to review these medium-term goals every five years.

For guidelines, go here:

https://deliverancefromdebt.wordpress.com/2012/08/17/mid-termgoals/

You must be able to break them down into one-year milestones. You will review them annually.

Set Long-Term Goals

Gary North

Let’s review the five points of the biblical covenant model:

1. God’s sovereignty
2. Man’s delegated authority
3. God’s law
4. God’s sanctions (positive and negative)
5. Inheritance in history

This is understood in terms of five questions.

1. Who’s in charge here?
2. To whom do I report?
3. What are the rules?
4. What do I get if I obey? Disobey?
5. Does this outfit have a future?

These five points are inescapable in economics.

1. God’s original ownership
2. Man’s stewardship
3. God’s kingdom: “seek first”
4. God’s blessings: “all these things”
5. The inheritance: “the meek shall inherit the earth”

Long-Term Goals

And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch (Genesis 6:12-14).

God was fed up with mankind. But he was not so fed up that he was willing to destroy all mankind. He would preserve one man’s family.

He told Noah what Noah had to do. He expected Noah to readjust his life to complete this assignment. No one had ever built anything like this before. It would take many years. It would take the division of labor within his household.

Perhaps he hired workers. They must have had a good laugh at Noah’s expense.

Noah had to pay all costs. He had to raise the money out of his net income. He therefore had to save. This was a lifetime savings project — not his lifetime: humanity’s. While humanity continued as before, Noah had to sacrifice for the future. Jesus said:

For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be (Matthew 24:38-39).

Noah’s task was crucial in human history. Until the day that Christ went to the cross, this was the most important task in man’s history. There could be no half-measures. The work had to be done according to God’s specifications.

And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it (Genesis 6:15-16).

God gave Noah two reasons to complete this task. One was negative. The other was positive.

And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die. But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee (Genesis 6:17-18).

This was a long-term project. It would have a positive outcome. Noah would become the father of a new creation. He would serve as a new Adam. Although Noah did not know this until after the flood receded, God would reconfirm His covenant with mankind through Noah. The original covenant said this:

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. (Genesis 1:28)

The new covenant with Noah and his family said this:

And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered. Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things (Genesis 9:1-3).

This was the culmination of God’s plan and Noah’s precise execution of it. It has come down through the ages to us.

Here is a summary of this plan.

1. A totally sovereign God came up with the plan.
2. He revealed part of this plan to Noah and called Noah to obey his delegated assignment: building the ark.

3. Noah began to work on this task, not knowing how long it would take to complete it or how much it would cost.

4. Noah was given a positive sanction at the end of the process: the reconfirmed dominion covenant.

5. His family inherited the whole earth.

God spoke directly to Noah. He gave Noah a blueprint. God does not speak to us directly. He does give us a blueprint: the Bible.

God expects us to figure out what our lifetime assignment is. He also expects us to implement it. Like Noah, we do not know how much time we have. Like Noah, we do not know what it will cost. It is a lot like getting married. Yet people get married on these terms. Why shouldn’t they select lifetime goals on these terms?

From Short-Term Goals to Long-Term Goals

An individual or a family deep in debt has an immediate goal: to stop the pain. This is a short-term goal. It is a valid goal.

My debt-reduction program asks you to defer the implementation of a plan to achieve this goal until after you are tithing to your local church. Depending on the debt-to-income ratio, it may take a year for an individual or a family to get to a full tithe. Then, and only then, does the debt-reduction program begin.

This is a difficult strategy to adopt and stick to. The pain of debt does not go away immediately. People who are present- oriented may quit. If they do not get immediate gratification, they surrender. Tithing is a good test of your commitment to a medium-term plan rather than a short-term plan.

There should be an offsetting sense of satisfaction as a result of seeing your giving to the local church increase. That should provide a sense of victory. The victory over debt is delayed, but the victory over bad spending habits is immediate.

Once you replace your bad spending habits with good ones, your victory over debt is assured. It is just a matter of time. There is a theological phrase for this: the perseverance of the saints. The phrase refers to eternal life, but it applies to daily living.

You need a short-term goal: to tithe. You need a medium-term goal: to get out of debt after you are tithing. But what of your long-term goals? What are they?

I have already covered this in the lesson on the calling. Did you do the homework? If not, do it now.

Think of how you would give a brief speech to your children and grandchildren at age 70. What would you tell them about the things that you achieved that you are most proud of? What advice would you give them on how they can do the same?

Do you know? If not, your retroactive assessment of your career at age 70 may be disappointing. You will have achieved some positive things, but will they be the best things that you could have achieved, if you were to start today to achieve specific long-term goals?

A recovering alcoholic has a short-term goal: to avoid drinking alcohol today. “One day at a time” is an AA slogan. If temptation comes, the goal shifts: to avoid drinking for an hour.

An alcoholic with no mid-term goals or long-term goals will find it difficult to stick with his short-term goal every day for decades. The long-term goal motivates him to stick with his short-term goal.

This is why you need to decide what your #1 lifetime goal is. This is the issue of legacy or inheritance. I have dealt with this is the previous lesson.

Homework Assignment

Spend some time thinking about this. What are you capable of achieving of significance to the kingdom of God if you work on a plan, day by day, a little each day, until you are age 70?

Have you ever thought about this before?

Write down as many lifetime projects as you can imagine. Then think through which one or two projects are your calling. I define calling as follows: the most important thing you can do in which you would be most difficult to replace. For more information, go here:

https://deliverancefromdebt.wordpress.com/2012/08/27/debtreduction-callingvsjob/

What are your skills? What needs to be done for the kingdom? Can you match these?

Narrow this down to at least one project. Then consider if you can take on two.

Discuss this with your spouse. See if you can work out a mutually acceptable plan for each of you to achieve a lifetime goal. Can this be a joint goal?

Planning comes later. First, you must have the goal in mind. Then you must write it down.

That is your assignment for the week: a written lifetime goal to be completed by age 70. Why age 70? This:

The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away (Psalm 90:10).

For guidelines for setting long-term goals, go here:

https://deliverancefromdebt.wordpress.com/2012/08/27/longtermgoals-debtfreedom/

The Blessings of God

Gary North

Let’s review the five points of the biblical covenant model:

1. God’s sovereignty
2. Man’s delegated authority
3. God’s law
4. God’s sanctions (positive and negative)
5. Inheritance in history

This is understood in terms of five questions.

1. Who’s in charge here?
2. To whom do I report?
3. What are the rules?
4. What do I get if I obey? Disobey?
5. Does this outfit have a future?

These five points are inescapable in economics.

1. God’s original ownership
2. Man’s stewardship
3. God’s kingdom: “seek first”
4. God’s blessings: “all these things”
5. The inheritance: “the meek shall inherit the earth”

All These Things

Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him (Matt. 4:8-11).

“All these things”: This was the third and final temptation of Christ in Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus later announced this to His followers:

Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Matt. 6:31-33).

“All these things”: This is a promise of capitalization. Christians as a fellowship community will receive all the things that they need in their efforts to extend the kingdom of God in history. God does not short-change His people.

This promise re-confirmed what Moses had told the generation of the conquest, just before they invaded Canaan.

The LORD shall establish thee an holy people unto himself, as he hath sworn unto thee, if thou shalt keep the commandments of the LORD thy God, and walk in his ways. And all people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the LORD; and they shall be afraid of thee. And the LORD shall make thee plenteous in goods, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy ground, in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers to give thee. The LORD shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow. And the LORD shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken unto the commandments of the LORD thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them: And thou shalt not go aside from any of the words which I command thee this day, to the right hand, or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them (Deut. 28:9-14).

These positive sanctions are what fund covenant-keepers in the first half of this verse: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness.” Without this as the guide, “all these things” become a snare and a delusion. Jesus was clear about this.

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? (Matt. 6:24-27).

What was mammon? It was not a local god with a temple. The Jews who listened to Jesus would not have been tempted by such a god. Mammon was and is a way of life: man-centered. Its creed is simple: More for me in history. Mammon is the most widely worshipped god in history. It attracts many followers. It does not take active evangelism to recruit dedicated followers.

Personal Responsibility

The biblical goal for greater wealth is to increase your level of responsibility. All increases in wealth produce greater responsibility.

And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more (Luke 12:47-48).

People who want greater wealth with less responsibility are pursuing a mirage.

By increasing your level of responsibility, you extend the kingdom of God. This is why Jesus said to seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added. The things referred to in this passage are mainly tools of production — kingdom extension.

There are other benefits besides tools of production: a safe neighborhood, better health, longer life, a peaceful marriage, a more serviceable house, more reliable transportation. Some of these things can be purchased with money, but not all. Solomon wrote: “It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house” (Prov. 21:9). Then he wrote it again, word for word (Prov. 25:24).

Examine your budget. Where do your interest payments go? To mammon or to God?

Homework Assignment

Go through your budget categories. Mark them by hand: mammon and God. Then decide: “How can I convert the mammon expenditures to kingdom-extending expenditures?”

If you cannot find an answer, ask this: “How can I reduce these payments?” One way is to sell the asset and use the money for debt-reduction. Another is to start speeding up the principal payments.

What to Seek First

Gary North

Let’s review the five points of the biblical covenant model:

1. God’s sovereignty
2. Man’s delegated authority
3. God’s law
4. God’s sanctions (positive and negative)
5. Inheritance in history

This is understood in terms of five questions.

1. Who’s in charge here?
2. To whom do I report?
3. What are the rules?
4. What do I get if I obey? Disobey?
5. Does this outfit have a future?

These five points are inescapable in economics.

1. God’s original ownership
2. Man’s stewardship
3. God’s kingdom: “seek first”
4. God’s blessings: “all these things”
5. The inheritance: “the meek shall inherit the earth”

The Kingdom of God

Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Matt. 6:31-33).

Jesus made it plain: His people are required to seek His kingdom. Jesus also said: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Matt. 7:7-8).

What is this kingdom? Jesus said it is like leaven, which expands.

Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened (Matt. 13:33).And again he said, Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened (Luke 13:20-21).

He also used the metaphor of a man who distributes coins to servants as capital for investment. “For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods” (Matt. 25:14). I covered this in Lesson 2: on budgeting.

The kingdom of God is the whole world. It is wherever covenant- keepers can lawfully exercise authority. They have responsibility to do this.

The kingdom belongs to God. He is sovereign. This means that He cares more about His kingdom than you care about your autonomous goals. Therefore, so should you.

He cares about your goals insofar as they are consistent with His plans for you in relation to building His kingdom. This should give you hope.

How do your plans fit with God’s? That is what “seeking the kingdom” is all about. You are part of a hierarchy: God>you>the world around you.

God’s kingdom is associated with God’s righteousness. This means that ethics is more important than money. Jesus said this in what has been called the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).

Yet God wants to see His kingdom in history expand. He wants to see your influence on His behalf expand. He therefore has structured cause and effect so that righteousness produces capital, which should be used to expand God’s kingdom. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

Obeying God’s laws produces economic success. The text lists food, drink, and clothing. You already have these. You probably could lose a few pounds. You can drink safe water from a tap. You don’t wear all the clothes you own.

Think of yourself as rich. Kings in 1900 possessed less of the following than you do: electricity, automobiles, entertainment medical care, communications technology. What did kings possess in 1900 that you don’t. (1) Large estates invisible to the public; (2) large staffs to care for these estates; (3) jewelry that they rarely wore; (4) yachts for lavish entertaining.

Would you trade lifestyles with a king or queen in 1900? Probably not, unless you like leisure. With leisure comes great responsibility: not wasting your time, which is God’s time. How much responsibility are you willing to accept?

This raises a crucial question: Why do you need more goods than you possess now? With more goods always comes added responsibility. Could you do with fewer possessions than you have now? Probably.

You are to seek God’s kingdom first. God’s kingdom is deep and wide: a civilization. Everyone has a role to play: specialization. What is your role?

Productivity

God delegates tasks to individuals and associations. If anyone slacks off, the work does not get done. Cooperation increases productivity.

Good work requires the right tools. Good tools are expensive They cost money. They cost time to master them. Good tools are worth saving for.

Which tools? The ones you can use in your specialization in God’s kingdom.

You must discover your dual roles: (1) occupation: your job (serving paying customers); (2) calling: your most important lifetime task.

There are three questions that you must get answered.

“What do I want to achieve?”
“How soon do I want to achieve it?”
“How much am I willing to pay?”

When you have these three questions answered in a preliminary way, you have your lifetime goal. This is why goal-setting is crucial for your program of debt reduction. It gives you focus. It also gives you motivation. Budgeting requires both.

Why do you need to get out of consumer debt?

To decrease your dependence on lenders
To increase your mobility: geographical and occupational
To gain control over your life
To have money to buy capital, including education
To have more money to give away

These are primary goals. They have to do with production. You must shift your perspective from money for consumption to money for production.

Homework Assignment

Make a list of the tools you could use to serve God’s kingdom better. Maybe this is education. Maybe this is time to educate others.

Don’t think: “How much money do I need to do this?” Think instead: “What is it that I need to accomplish?” Your time is more valuable than your money. You can get more money. You cannot get more time.

You may need more money. Ask for it. Tell God why you want it. Write down what it is that you want to use the money to accomplish.

Would you hand out money to this fellow?

No? Why not? Because he will waste the money you give him? At least he is honest about what he will do with the money. Are you equally honest?