How I Got Out of Credit Card Debt


I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I often felt I would never get out of debt. I considered bankruptcy. After paying for things four times over I considered writing my creditors and telling them I was not paying anymore and they could just send me to jail if they wanted. I considered changing my identity and moving to New Zealand to start a new debt free life, but my credit cards were all maxed out and I couldn’t get a ticket. I literally had no money, as all the money I possessed I owed to other people. Instead of saving or paying anything forward all I was doing was paying things back. I was living a lie as the money I had wasn’t really mine. I was desperate.

Then I read that God creates miracles to help people repay their debts.

But as one was cutting down a tree, the iron ax head fell into the water; and he cried out and said, “Alas, master! For it was borrowed.” So the man of God said, “Where did it fall?” And he showed him the place. So he cut off a stick, and threw it in there; and he made the iron float. Therefore he said, “Pick it up for yourself.” So he reached out his hand and took it. 2 Kings 6:5-7 NKJV

I was praying for a miracle. My parents had instilled in me the importance of returning my tithe, and I continued tithing even though even the money I was tithing was not my own. Or at least it was not returning the first fruits as my entire paycheck had already been spent before I even earned it. I forgave all my debtors hoping some of my debts would be forgiven as well. I greatly curbed my spending and as much as I could stopped using my credit cards. Then after over 20 years of credit card debt the miracle came.

I started 2015 with $10,000.00 in credit card debt. I was working for the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church as I had been for the last eleven years. They had been paying me a very decent salary (More than any of my other Bible Worker friends) and it would have been even better had I not been in debt. After eleven years the church could no longer handle the burden of my salary and benefits. They informed me I would be let go the last of April. Little did I know this was the beginning of the miracle that would get me out of debt!

The church gave me plenty of warning, so before my last day at Tampa First I had plenty of time to set up my own ministry through the Plant City SDA Church, where I would continue doing Bible Work in the Tampa Bay area and beyond, based solely on contributions from people supporting my ministry. I also got a part time job at Florida Hospital. Here God was already performing miracles. I have heard of people losing their jobs and going months without a paycheck. Well I don’t know why God was so good to me, but I actually received paychecks from my new jobs before I received my last paycheck from Tampa First! Also Tampa First gave me a very generous severance check. After tithing I used a portion of the severance check to help a friend pay off their child’s church school bill. The rest I applied to my credit card debt.

A golf buddy called and needed my help on the side with his property management company. I was inspecting property, and as well as making a few extra dollars, I was  given a car which he also let me use to get to my Bible studies. I wasn’t golfing anymore as I was enjoying my new regular Bible Worker ministry with two side jobs. Remember I entered 2015 with $10,000.00 in credit card debt? Well on the day before Thanksgiving that year, I paid off my last credit card, and woke up Thanksgiving morning with a zero balance on all my credit cards. What a Thanksgiving! It was truly a miracle that began with me losing my job, I lost my job and turned around and paid off all my credit cards!

Of course I could not keep up with two side jobs and my regular Bible Worker ministry, but God provided them long enough to get me out of debt.

I must share a miracle that happened the following year. My mother was dying and I needed to make an emergency flight home which was very expensive, plus I would be missing work. I prayed and told God I did not want to go into debt again but needed to be there for my family. I told God I was going to be faithful to my family whatever the consequences. I shared a simple message on Facebook that I was going home because my mother was dying. I wrote and implied nothing more. That evening a Facebook friend from Texas messaged me she was sending me a monetary gift. That gift paid for my emergency plane tickets both ways. It covered my time off work. It helped pay my share of funeral expenses with some left over which I put into savings!

I now only have one credit card which I transfer money from my bank to pay off as soon as the transactions are made. I don’t wait till the end of the month. I love seeing that zero balance on my card all month long! I am careful with my money. I don’t feel inferior to people who have more money than me. I don’t have any problems saying I don’t have the money to do something. It is not embarrassing to me. I am very thankful for the miracle God provided to get me out of credit card debt. Now when I return tithe and offerings it is actually my first fruits. It is actually my money that I earned from that very paycheck.

Remember in my last article how I shared how cool I thought it was that my dad could just spontaneously buy a new softball glove? Well a few months ago my car up and died. I was not expecting that. It turned out to be my battery. A friend jumped my car and I went to an auto parts store where I bought and had a new battery installed. I paid cash. Instead of being upset that I had an unexpected repair bill, I drove away from the parts store, feeling pretty good. A spontaneous bill already paid for! Thank you Jesus!

You may study this quarter’s SS lessons on Stewardship here.

How I Fell Into Debt


I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I don’t know why this even sticks out in my mind, but I remember riding with my dad to play with his company softball team. On the way Dad up and decided to swing into Wal-Mart and buy a new softball glove. It sticks out in my mind, because at the time I could not just swing by and buy anything! I was on a budget. Things were tight, but I was not in debt-yet. My salary as meager as it was did not land me in debt. Looking back it was a thought process that led me into debt. Let me break it down for you.

  1. I am just as good as everyone else, so I deserve what everyone else has. 

I got tired of watching friends buy new cars I could not afford, so I finally got my parents to cosign for me to buy a brand new Subaru Justy with no radio or air conditioning. It was the cheapest new car I could afford and for some reason I thought I had to have a new car because all my friends were buying new cars at the time. Later after making several payments I had a dream I had my old car back, which was old and used but paid for when I had it. While I thought I deserved what my friends had, I failed to realize that things don’t determine your self worth. I also forgot the homeless man sleeping in the alley was just as good as I am. Coveting instead of being thankful led me into debt. The richest person is not the one who has the most. Its the one who needs the least.

2. There is no way I can max out this credit card!

I was in my late twenties by the time I got a major credit card. Now I could get whatever I needed whenever I needed it. It came with a credit limit of $5,000.00. My friends told me to be careful and not max it out. The interest rate was high. I told them there is no way I could max this card out! It has a $5,000.00 limit. I will never reach that! Before the year was over it was maxed out. I was drowning in debt because I was living like I was rich. I finally realized rich people are rich because they live like they are poor. Poor people are poor because they live like they are rich. There are exceptions I know. But it applied to me. If only I had realized my self worth did not come from what I could buy.

3. I Didn’t Realize its Okay to say I Don’t Have Money.

During this time I studied the Bible with a couple my age and we quickly became good friends. I would call them and ask them to go out to eat with me, and occasionally they would say something that I did not know was even possible to say. They would say, “We don’t have the money right now.” I was too embarrassed to say such a thing, but when they said it they were not embarrassed at all. How could that be? Instead when they said it they sounded strong, like they had self-control. Remember the whole reason I got my credit card was so that I could get whatever I needed whenever I needed it. No reason to say I don’t have money when you have a credit card right? Wrong! Too late in life I learned if I can’t afford it I don’t need it. When I would fall behind on bills I was afraid my phone would be cut off. Meanwhile I had friends who’s phones did get cut off. To my amazement and astonishment their lives went on. Yup. If you can’t afford it you don’t need it. Its amazing all the things we think we need that we really don’t!

4. When Using a Credit Card you Still Have to pay for it!

Okay after I share how stupid my thinking was here, you are going to wonder how I was ever smart enough to land a job, and you are going to totally understand why I am still single and no one wants to marry me! Believe it or not I would be in a department store getting something I needed, and I would literally ask myself, yes these are the exact words that would go through my numb skull brain, “Do I want to pay for it or just put it on the credit card?” What and idiot! I was going to pay for it either way! And with interest rates, by putting it on the card I paid for things four times over! Now I know you are not that stupid. But if there is just one person out there just as stupid as me then I hope this saves them from making the same mistake I did. If you save for something and pay cash its all interest free. Why not wait a little while and pay for it once, instead of getting it now and paying for it four times over later? Some things were worn out that I was still paying on!

So there I was drowning in debt, unable to afford things I needed today, because I was till paying interest on things I bought long ago. Here is the kicker. When you are in debt your money is not your own. It does not belong to you. You owe it to someone else. So I was not even donating my own money to the church. It was money that belonged to the credit companies. Let that sink in. If I owed $15,000.00 and got paid $2000.00 a month then each month my money belonged to the credit companies. The money I was spending for food and clothes and even giving to the church was not my own money. My $2,000.00 check did not belong to me. I had already spent that check seven times! Did I still owe tithe? Of course! But I was paying it with borrowed money. That is not returning tithe! That is giving God money you borrowed from somewhere else!

I was in a mess and it was my own stupid fault! Thankfully I serve a God who loves and rescues the most stupid of people!

To be continued……

Adventism and Narcissism


I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

A while back I wrote an article called Bible Cures for NarcissismThis morning a friend on Facebook was sharing the signs of narcissism, which I was already familiar with. However, as our Sabbath school lesson today is on the three angels message, something occurred to me just now.

One of the signs of being narcissistic is the need to feel special and superior. We feel as Adventists we have a special message and we do. But if we are not careful could that lead to narcissism? Do we think our beliefs put us in a “special” category of believers?  I heard an Adventist pastor years ago lamenting to his congregation that he was pretty much the last pastor preaching the three angels message and Bible truth. His church was scared to lose him and he had them convinced he was the last true preacher, and whoever came in after him would be a heretic! In talking to members of his congregation they felt very special to have him as their pastor, and felt superior to other Adventist congregations who were not privy to this special pastor. Were such attitudes leading to the gospel or to narcissism?

Its been a while, but I remember a few families in a church I was familiar with who formed their own study group. They were studying the Adventist message more deeply than those in the church, or so they thought. They started referring to themselves as the “remnant of the remnant.” They started isolating themselves, as they felt pretty special. Were they really becoming better Christians or just better narcissists?

Marco Torres wrote an excellent article on conspiracy theories. He writes, “Conspiracy theories have a way of making us feel like we are more spiritual than others because of the information we have.” I think he nailed it! I have talked to so many in the church who feel superior and more spiritual because they are “in the know.” I have met people who feel like they have a special understanding of our beliefs which puts them in a special class. When others don’t understand them that just makes them all the more special. Are such feelings the fruit of the gospel or narcissism?

Jesus is the Gospel. He is the opposite of narcissism. Instead of putting Himself in a special class He joined all of humanity. While James and John wanted to be in a special class in His kingdom (remnant of the remnant?) Jesus said He was the servant of all! In the story of the good Samaritan, Jesus mentions a Levi, who was a special class of Jews, (remnant of the remnant?). He mentioned a priest who was “in the know” and probably had special information. Jesus did not identify the gospel with the priest or Levi. He chose a Samaritan to represent the Gospel. A Samaritan who had no concept of caste or special creed. A Samaritan who saw everyone as his neighbor and equal.

Let’s remember the three angels message is for every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people. Its not for a select privileged group. Its for everyone! Its easy to fall for Satan’s counterfeit “spirituality” which leads to feelings of being special and superior, and to narcissism. John the beloved fell for it when he asked to have a special place in the kingdom. There is a cure for narcissism and it is the gospel! John fell in love with Jesus and later wrote,

That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us. 1 John 1:3

While John once felt he needed to be in a special class, once he fell more deeply in love with Jesus and the gospel he no longer felt the need to be “special” or “exclusive.” He saw all humanity as his neighbor and equal, and invited everyone into the same fellowship he had with Jesus. Narcissism sets us apart. The Gospel sends us into the world!

Why In Light of the Cross Bible Study Guides?


I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Tuesday’s lesson this week is about Christ centered doctrinral beliefs. This reminds me of a passage that has become the theme of my ministry.

The sacrifice of Christ as an atonement for sin is the great truth around which all other truths cluster. In order to be rightly understood and appreciated, every truth in the word of God, from Genesis to Revelation, must be studied in the light that streams from the cross of Calvary. I present before you the great, grand monument of mercy and regeneration, salvation and redemption,—the Son of God uplifted on the cross. This is to be the foundation of every discourse given by our ministers. -Ellen White, Gospel Workers, Page 315. 

We are not saved by doctrine. We are saved by God’s love and grace. So why does Satan work to skew our understanding of doctrine when he knows we are not saved by doctrine? Because doctrines help us understand God’s love. Our understanding of His love determines whether we accept Him or reject Him. Satan wants to skew our understanding of doctrine in order to warp our understanding of God’s love and make us reject Him.

For example I have read a few testimonies from former atheists saying the reason they originally rejected God was because they could not imagine a God who would torture people throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity. Once they realized God isn’t going to torture people for all eternity they believed in God and accepted Him into their lives.

I read a book last fall, To Sleep with the Angels, by David Cowan and John Kuenster. It was about a Chicago Catholic school fire in 1958. The book explains several reasons that were avoidable that led to the deaths of 92 students and 3 teachers. The authors also address how the church tried to comfort the parents, but yet their “comfort” did not make any sense. Parents were told that God needed their children. But we needed them the parents countered. Also does that imply God doesn’t need the children who survived? Parents were told that God took their children to heaven because they were so good. Does that mean the rest of us are bad and God rejected us? Parents asked.

The punishment of the wicked and state of the dead are just a couple of examples of how false doctrines warp our understanding of God’s love. This is why a few years ago I put together a set of Bible study guides called, In Light of the Cross Study Guides. They are available on my personal website. The lessons can be read online or downloaded and printed out in PDF format. Over the years people have written and told me they have been used in church Bible study groups as well as New Believers Sabbath School classes. Recently a family from Tennessee wrote that they were enjoying the lessons during family worship. They have also been used as guides and supplements in baptism classes. I have provided both a King James Version edition, as well as a New Living Translation edition. You can also get the app for your androidphone, and always have a Bible study ready to share anytime, anywhere.

I pray these lessons may be a blessing to your and your friends as we study all Bible doctrine in the light of the cross. 

Giving out of Gratitude Instead of Hoping for a Reward


I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

This quarter we have been sharing encouraging testimonies, how God has blessed us when we returned our tithe. We encourage others to tithe so they too can receive miraculous blessings. However, this reminds me of a conversation I had with my senior pastor several years ago. I was studying with a family who owned a sandwich and malt shop. They started visiting my church after we studied about the Sabbath, but they still kept their malt shop opened on Sabbath and closed it Sundays.

This baffled me, so finally one evening I asked them, “Don’t you think God would bless you if you closed your shop on Sabbath and opened it on Sundays?” They both smiled widely, and replied, “God is already blessing us!” I had no comeback. I was stumped. I shared my conversation with the senior pastor and asked him how I was supposed to have a comeback to “God is already blessing us!” He told me the obvious. They should close their shop on Sabbath because God said to, not because God would bless them. Somehow I was making things so complicated I forgot how simple it is. Jesus says,

If you love me keep my commandments.” John 14:15

Now as we are studying stewardship and talking about tithe, I think it is great that we can share such miracles of God blessing us as we return tithe. However let’s not miss the point of why we return tithe. My fear is that we present God’s blessings as though they are His reaction to our faithfulness, when in reality our obedience, tithing included, is our response to God’s grace.

When I put my offering in the plate last Sabbath I was thinking about how glad I am that Jesus loves me and died for me! He has already blessed me. I owe Him. He does not owe me anything! I owe Him everything. If He never gave me another blessing, I would still owe Him all that I have because He already died for me. I don’t give to God so I can receive blessings, but because I have already been blessed. I want us to be careful. Testifying about how God has blessed us by tithing is a great thing to do, but let’s not short-change what Jesus did on the cross by insinuating that recent blessings made our obedience “worth it.” Like the three Hebrews told King Nebuchadnezzar,

Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” Daniel 3:17-18

Let’s remember we are faithful to God with our tithes, not because He will bless us, but because He already died for us. When we truly give out of gratitude, we will not be giving in order to get new blessings.

Tithing on Your Increase


Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year. Deuteronomy 14:22 KJV

Tithing on your “increase” is different than tithing on your “gross” or “net” as an employee. This affects people who are self-employed and/or invest in their business. An illustration I use when giving a Bible study on tithing is, that if you get paid $50.00 for mowing your neighbors lawn, and you paid $5.00 for the gas, then you actually made $45.00. $45.00 is your increase or profit. You would tithe on the $45.00 since that is what you actually made. By the way the $45.00 is what you would also pay taxes on, so both God and “Caesar” realize you made $45.00, and not $50.00.

Of course there could be other expenses too, like the cost of the lawn mower, but I think you get the gist of the illustration. Of course the cost of the lemonade you bought from the stand across the street would not count as a business expense because even though it quenched your thirst, it was not a direct business expense. Tithing on your “increase” is different than tithing on your “gross” or “net” as an employee.

I’ll give several other examples, as I see them, and I encourage our readers to contribute their examples.

Now “Caesar” realizes if you work in an office or campus, that driving to work and back is not a direct investment to your business. You do not write off travel expenses to work and back. However you do write off travel expenses while working. For example if I’m a courier doing deliveries, I would deduct travel expenses from what I am paid to find my actual profit, and then tithe and pay taxes on the actual profit. By the way your gross income would be considered your actual profit. Let’s say I pick up a kayak in Sydney and drive 170 kilometers to deliver the kayak in Newcastle, for $525. To find my profit I would subtract 66 cents a km, which would be $112, leaving me with a profit of $413. I would tithe on the $413, which would be $42 (rounded up). Of course I can round that up to $45.00 or even $50.00!

Now if I drove 10 kilometers to make the pickup in Sydney I would not count that against my profit because that was just getting to work. It was not an expense of the actual work itself. The way I see it, only things that you invested directly to making your profit would be deducted from your profit. Now if I traveled from my home to a courier training workshop in Melbourne, that would be a travel expense relating directly to my business and profit. Everyone needs to decide between themselves and God if something is a direct business expense.

Again, your profit is counted as your gross income which you would be taxed on and would tithe on. Sometimes when I am giving this study, people will ask me if they can deduct their home electric bill from their gross income and then tithe after that. The answer is “no.” Your home electric bill is not a part of your business or an investment in your profit. “Caesar” does not let you write off your home electric bill as it has nothing to do with your profit if you are not working at home.

You need to follow your own conscience and Bible principles on determining what your increase is, but as a general rule, if “Caesar’ sees an item as a business expense then it is reasonable to count it as a business expense regarding your increase (profit) and tithe.

I hope this conversation has been helpful, and we can discuss it further in the comment section.

Trusting God Instead of Knucklehead Ideas


I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

The question is asked on Tuesday’s section of this week’s lesson, “In what ways have you discovered for yourself the true spiritual blessings that come from paying tithe? How has paying tithe helped increase your faith?”

After returning home to Tulsa from Southern Adventist University, I got a job at Taco Bell, and at 19 years old moved into my own apartment. It was a nice junior one bedroom. My rent was only $200.00 a month. What I would give to take my current salary and go back to those days! My parents both served as treasurers for the Tulsa First SDA Church for decades. They had instilled in me the importance of tithe. My dad always says, “Church’s don’t have financial problems. They have spiritual problems.” If everyone sacrificed and gave systematically as the Bible says, the church will always have enough.  While paying an honest tithe, even while barely making above minimum wage I had no problems paying my bills. I remember getting bills in the mail and going inside and writing a check to pay them right away. I did not need to wait until the due date. God was blessing.

Funny thing is, as I started making more money I started running into financial issues. I had a budget, but did not carefully watch myself during the month, thinking I had plenty of money. Still in my early twenties, I got a job working in the warehouse of a business forms company, making almost twice as much as I was at Taco Bell. Not keeping close track of what I was spending, I ran into financial problems, and for the first time started falling behind on my bills. I had recently transferred to a smaller church outside Tulsa, where I was serving as an elder.

I was the youngest elder in the Oklahoma conference and the most immature too, as I came up with a knucklehead idea for my new financial problems. Had I still been in the church where my parents were treasures I probably never would have done this. I had recently been promised a reasonable raise at work, but every week it failed to show on my pay check. So I decided to use all my money to pay my bills, and stop returning tithe until I got my raise. Each week I recorded what my tithe was so I could pay it once my raise came, but week after week there was no raise on my check. I recorded what I owed in tithe to pay once my raise came. The tithe was adding up. Finally one night after a group Bible study I told an older lady in my church that I felt bad not being able to tithe, but that I would tithe once my raise showed up on my check. She said firmly, “William you are not going to get your raise until you return your tithe.” Now I knew good and well that people get raises all the time who never tithe. However I knew too, that God is a personal God, and He was speaking to me through my older friend.

We received our paychecks every Friday, but the following Friday I did not go into work as I had too much overtime. Yes, God was blessing me with overtime while I was waiting on my raise and even withholding my tithe. Even though I did not get my paycheck on Friday, I returned my full tithe that Sabbath. I did not know what I was going to do, but I knew I had to do what was right.

Monday morning I went into work and picked up the paycheck that had been lying in my box since Friday. I opened it up and there was my raise! Was the raise a blessing? Yes! But the greatest blessing was knowing a God of love was watching over me, and even speaking to me through my older friend in my Bible study group. He loves me and takes care of me. All I have to do is trust in Him instead of my knucklehead ideas!