Thursday, February 25, 2010

How we got here - Part 4

Results of buying our home

It is always a good idea to share what God has done in answering prayer, so in this story of getting to Parkville, I would be remiss if I did not give Him glory (see Acts 12:23). God is answering our prayer to get out of debt. When we sold our house in Spring Hill, we were anticipating a subsidy recapture of about $8,000 to be taken out of whatever our proceeds of the sell would be. On the day of our closing we were surprised to see this number was NOT subtracted from our proceeds. After much anxiety (about a possible delay on closing) and a number of phone calls, it was decided that this was no mistake! Hallelujah!

During our house search, we learned the first time home buyers credit (something we would not have qualified for) was extended to those who had lived in their previous home for five years. So here comes another $6,500!

After we closed on the house we bought in Parkville (after the discouragement of not being in our new house by Christmas … or New Year’s) we now qualified for a new HOPE tax credit on our real estate tax, of $1,200!

God came through on a number of fronts in answering our plea to Him for giving us freedom from our debt. All this was coming in during our time in Smithville when rent was only $300 a month plus utilities!

All this allowed us to move and buy some ‘necessities’ and some non-essentials, while still paying off both credit cards and putting us in position to completely pay off our minivan when our large tax return arrives in the next month or two.

Amazingly, if you add up what our debt was (two credit cards and the minivan) it comes to roughly $23,500. The unexpected windfall above adds to almost exactly that same amount! Praise the Lord! If anyone thinks that our God is not faithful, please consider our story. God brought conviction to our hearts, took us to our knees. We then did what anyone would do in that situation. We looked up, to Christ. We trusted He could do it. And He acted! Psalm 37:5.

We’re in a home we love. We are excited about ministry where we’re at. And our debt is well on the way out, with my school loans (and the mortgage of course) the last remaining obstacle.

Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. (Psalm 37:5)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

How we got here - Part 3

The House search

With such uncertainty in selling our house, we had not spent too much time house-hunting. We had driven through the neighborhood but had no idea when our house would sell, so we didn’t get inside hardly any. So after our contract was signed, we began touring the NorthEast and spent many afternoons driving down every street from Independence to St Gladstone Avenue, from Bellfontaine to Belmont. We were so blessed to get to know the families from the NE and they served us with such Christ-like love during our search.

But God closed doors. We spent a week or two pursuing a grand old house that was in very good shape in many respects, despite needing work. It was without a kitchen, furnace, A/C, and a lot of cosmetic issues. It had some structural issues as well, but our plan was to hire some renovator friends and an HVAC guy from our church to fix it up as part of a construction loan. But times had changed and the requirements for such a loan eventually ruled us out.

We began to see that our small amount of cash on hand was going to require we get an FHA loan, which drastically limited the number of ‘fixer-upper’ type houses that would work for our situation.

So we were thrilled to find a house that was practically ‘move-in’ ready. It was on Van Brunt, one of the nicest in the neighborhood, and it was well cared for. Inspections went well, but ended up disappointing many of our plans for the house (to finish off the upstairs attic-structural concerns, and to provide a ‘fourth bedroom’ in the basement-water in the stone basement, etc.) In the end, we felt the price we agreed to was too high given what we discovered during the inspection. Not only that, but the bullet-hole we found in the front window shattered Aimee’s comfort level that we were on a ‘good street’.

So we prayed and trusted God would find our house. The Lord in the meantime, had provided a wonderful temporary house in Smithville, MO and we were once again overwhelmed by His providence. A friend told me that his church sometimes uses a big four bedroom place for missionaries on furlough and for believers who are in need of a place to stay for a month or two. We were able to stay there for very cheap rent. We were moved-in by our family and our church family at Countryside along with our new friends from the NorthEast. The Smithville place was such a nice transitional house. Nothing fancy, but we were situated on a lot of acres including a fishing pond that the kids loved! Before it turned cold we had a number of days exploring this property. This winter offered lots of snow for sledding and snowmen as well.

After the Van Brunt house fell through, we began to broaden our house search to go beyond the NorthEast. We ended up looking in several parts of KC in relation to how close they were to downtown KC where I work. We looked at Gladstone, KCK, Raytown, KCMO, and even Olathe. All this time, we kept wondering what God was doing?

Eventually it became clear that He did not want us to move to the NorthEast. The timing was such that next to nothing new was coming onto the market in the NE. Yet there was a lot of activity north of the river in Kansas City, MO and in Gladstone. We were often disappointed when houses we loved went to other buyers before we could blink. We lost one house because the seller was laid off and decided against selling.

Then came the dream house! It was huge house in Gladstone, a nicely renovated place with three fireplaces. It was close to the highway and in a great neighborhood. During the inspection, I followed our inspector to the roof to check it out with him. He took a call while ‘up top’, so I took the opportunity to tweet this message: “I'm on the roof w inspector. Plz pray it goes well... And I don’t fall off! I didn’t fall physically, but my heart did. Later, the inspector found major problems with the foundation of the house and at one point asked if I wanted him to continue. In denial after so many disappointments, I wasn’t grasping what he was saying. I didn’t want to make that call. He couldn’t tell us not to buy the house, but he was hinting that the problems would be big ones to fix. We eventually walked away from that house, and our inspector was able to give us a deep discount on this inspection since we didn’t complete it. In the process, we learned what a thorough and honest inspector John Clason (Crown Home Inspections) is. We whole-heartily recommend him as well!

In the end, we tied John’s record for most inspections by one family, and we broke Shelley’s record for number of contracts drawn up which did not result in a sale. These are not records we are proud of.

Since we broadened our search from the NorthEast, the price we were willing to pay for a house increased with each showing. We were learning that if we pay a smaller price for a house we could expect to need more money to fix it up. This was money we just didn’t have, so I eventually saw (our agent Shelley was so patient) that we would not be able to buy a 100-yr-old house for dirt-cheap and fix it up and yet still get an FHA loan.

Christmas came and went. New Year’s came and went. We were still in the rental in Smithville and anxious to be in our own home. We had no intention of staying as long as we did there, and we seemed to always be sick. It was a trying time. We kept clinging to our verse. ‘Trust in God, commit your way to Him, and He will act.’ But when?

Looking back it is clear that God used this time to teach me about how to look at missions. I was excited to go to the NorthEast to share the Gospel with those who need it so badly, the culturally diverse and the poor, a neighborhood with few fathers and many hurting. In the meantime, though, I began to see that I had neglected to share the Gospel boldly where I lived right there in Spring Hill.

My brother-in-law sent a link to this post, at a time when I had been reading in 2 Cor 5:14-6:2, about the ministry of reconciliation given to those who no longer live for themselves, and how it is to be 'regifted' to others regardless of how others see them. What I began to see was that I was not looking at people the way God requires us to look at people. Paul’s words were cutting to my heart: “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. (2 Corinthians 5:16)” I was failing to see people the way God does, as eternal souls that will be resurrected; either to spend forever worshiping Christ in Heaven, or to suffer for their sins in Hell. And this applies not only to the poor and needy in the hood, but to middle-class families who ‘have it all’ in the sub-urbs. Death is the great equalizer; we have all fallen short of God’s glory and are in need of a Savior.

Our plan all along was to meet neighbors, do Bible studies, have children's programs and share the Gospel in the NorthEast. Why couldn't we do the same in Parkville? Are they any less lost? Nope, in fact Jesus words indicate their state is hopeless. Every American is rich, compared to the world as a whole. So the middle-class is even wealthier. Jesus said that it is more difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. Impossible. This requires the Spirit of God to perform the heart transformation that He did in me.

Could God have been preventing us from moving to the NE (using a growing uneasiness in my wife, economic conditions that would seem to make buying a house there a bad idea, and lack of available homes that fit our needs for being 'move-in-ready), all because He wanted us in the burbs? It appears so.

One night in early January, a house in Parkville popped onto the online search my wife was doing. It had everything we were looking for in a house and had a very reasonable price. We arranged to see the house, among a few others. After walking through, we decided to make an offer that very night. Shelley met us in her office hours later, after we grabbed a quick bite. Sophia, by the way, became ill with the stomach flu and threw up in the lobby at Burger King! Aimee and I took turns staying with her and the other kids while the papers were signed. So on the first day on the market we had an accepted offer!

We hope to use our home for God any way we can. It is a huge blessing and we are so excited to use it for His glory! This is how we got to Parkville. Tomorrow I will focus on some ways God is answering our prayer to get out of debt.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How we got here - Part 2

The Northeast KC

Since it looked doubtful that we would be sent overseas given our debt situation, I began to look at other ministries. At the same time, I applied for expatriate assignments at work as they came up, to go to Poland and India for 6-month or one year assignments. Neither of these opportunities worked out.

We learned about a group of people from a church up north of the river (Faith), who live in the historic NorthEast neighborhood of downtown. I found Jason Dawson’s website (www.urbanreformation) and he was kind enough to meet several times. The Lord was so kind to give us friends like the Dawsons, the Petschs, and the Hallams. We began to learn of Christians who were selling their homes and buying 100-yr-old homes in this notorious (drugs/prostitution) area to bring the light of the Gospel where it is so dark spiritually, and where the needs are great.

Amazingly, my wife ‘came around’ despite her fears, and agreed that we should sell our house and look to buy or rent a house in the NE. Our hope was to buy cheap and fix up, cut our mortgage bill in half and make rapid progress toward debt elimination. At the same time, we were excited about starting Bible studies and doing outreaches to share the Gospel in that neighborhood. It was about that time when God began to raise up a pipeline of young godly men at Countryside, and Pastor Mike announced plans for starting a number of church plants in Ottawa, and other places, perhaps the inner city. So our hope was that we could partner with the existing families and get a church going there.

How we sold our half duplex

So we put our house on the market. We interviewed three agents before choosing the one who gave us the lowest figure on what she thought our list price should be, citing the ‘buyer’s market’ and ‘days on market’ concepts. We went with Shelley Shatzer because we knew she would tell us the truth, not what we wanted to hear. What a blessing she has been! A believer herself whose son is a missionary, we became good friends. She took us to countless houses in the NorthEast, on Cypress and Jackson and Van Brunt and Chelsea. I learned not to judge a book by its cover, because while Shelley looks to me like a typical ‘Johnson County’ realtor, she is as genuine as they come. She cares more about her clients than her commission. We can’t recommend her enough.

So we put our house on the market during the big first-time-home-buyer tax credit time. It was wonderfully staged by Shelley’s associate, Vickie. It was in great shape and looked brand new. We somehow kept it that way too, getting in the habit of keeping it spotless. We lived like this for six months. We had very few showings and only one offer … a lowball one at that. We were discouraged and wondering what God was doing. We kept praying and obeying Psalm 37:5, though often getting discouraged. He was in control and perhaps He just didn’t want us to move. In the meantime, we had become known as a family that was ‘moving to the inner city for ministry’. Even if unaware of it, there was a certain level of pride that had found its way into my heart. I was anxious to ‘get out of the burbs’ and take up my cross and follow Christ. I was excited to be part of this movement I was seeing in several families from church to join those already there in the Northeast. Deep down I had a certain feeling of superiority, looking down on those who live comfortably in the burbs.

We constantly worried that we would clear enough money to be able to move to our next place. With our financial situation, we had not been able to offer the house for as low as we would have parted with it, because of what we would clear. Given what we owed, coupled with a large subsidy recapture we would have to repay because of the type of government loan we had. So at the end of our six-month contract, Shelley suggested we unlist our house and put up a For Sale By Owner sign. She understood that if God wanted the house to sell, He would make it happen. But our concern was that we would not have enough proceeds to move to our new place.

This is how God works. Within a few days of ‘unlisting’ and a FSBO sign in our yard, we had an offer! God gets the glory! Shelley helped us a great deal with our counter-offer which we will never forget. So after six months of being listed, we ‘unlisted’ and it was sold in a week!

Monday, February 22, 2010

How we got here - Part 1

“What brings you to Parkville, MO?” someone might ask the Bonhams. Or if you knew us a year ago, that question might be followed by, “What happened?” Or as one friend asked, “So, what is the plan?” To answer those very fair questions I first need to answer what brought us out of Spring Hill, KS, where we had lived for six years? The short answer to both is: GOD. But if you know me, I never give the short answer, so instead I will offer a series of four posts this week.

Why we sold our house in Spring Hill

Allow me to back up and provide some background on what led us to sell our house. I grew up in church for the most part, thanks to my upbringing. I always considered myself a Christian, so I didn’t party or drink or smoke or do drugs. But on the inside I was wicked. I had never come face to face with the holiness of God and the utter sinfulness of my own life, … until the summer of 2006. It was years before that though, around 2001, when my secret sin had begun to bubble up to the surface as I became recklessly bent on pursuing one thing: my own sinful lifestyle. I would have destroyed my own family and my very life by suicide, if God had not miraculously supported my wife during this time and controlled my circumstances.

In a powerful way, the tragedy of 9/11 impacted me so profoundly that I returned to my self-righteous ways and rejoined my family in church at Countryside. Ultimately God would use the preaching there to bring about true repentance and conversion. In the summer of 2006, after living an outwardly clean ‘Christian’ life for thirty years, the Lord brought about that new life (2 Cor 5:17) spoken of in Scripture. As I listened to Pastor Mike preach about what Christ demands of His disciples and how true believers will get off the sidelines and follow Him; the Lord gave me a new heart (replacing the heart of stone, Ezek 36:26), genuine repentance, and faith to trust in Christ for my salvation and for new life. He had already absorbed the wrath of God that I deserved for my sin, and imputed to me the righteousness that I desperately need to be right with God. For more on my testimony, read my profile.

In gratitude and zeal, I instantly sought to do whatever I could to die to self and give my new life to Christ. I instantly wanted to be a missionary (still do in fact), perhaps in Poland or India or wherever. I was so excited to hear and read John Piper talk about missions especially his biographical sermon about Adoniram Judson that I wrote about here. So I began to pursue that and to talk to godly men who could help us get there, our pastors at Countryside and others.

Enter Jim Elliff. I first heard about Jim through a friend at work, who attends Christ Fellowship and has Jim as pastor. My friend and I had the opportunity for Jim to come and speak to our Bible Study Group at work, and Jim was gracious to meet with me and even came to the Bonhams for dinner. I was not making fast enough progress with my plan to become a missionary and thought perhaps Jim would be able to help. So I shared my heart for missions expecting to hear some great counsel on what I should do next.

I was not prepared for what followed. As usual, Jim got right to the point. He began asking very personal questions about finances and debt in particular. I remember being asked to find a piece of paper, and totaled up the debt that we owed to various parties, credit cards, vehicle debt, school debt, etc. This was very uncomfortable and humbling. Then he said this, “The most godly thing you can do at this point is to get out of debt.” I will never forget that. Ironically, my own pastor had given similar counsel, but since I’m so dense I needed to hear this twice.

Days later, my wife and I were on our face in broken repentance over our irresponsible stewardship of the money God has entrusted us with. We cried out to God because while we desired to be out of debt, and had even taken steps to reduce it, we knew there was no way we could do this without some miraculous intervention on God’s part. Without stealing my own thunder, it is a delight to be able to see God’s mighty hand act on our behalf during these last few years. Our family verse has become Psalm 37:5 “Trust in the Lord. Commit your way to Him. And He will act.” He strengthened our faith in Him and gave us repentance so that we were re-energized to tackle our problem with a seriousness we had not known before. We would trust in Him and commit our finances to Him, and let God act on our behalf. And He did just that. Again and again!

More to come tomorrow.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Friday, February 19, 2010

Fab Friday sale - Vine's Bible study tool only $10!

This tool is on sale today at To get this book for $10 bucks is a steal! Here is what you're getting (from the website) ...
This convenient one volume combines Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words and Unger and White's Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament. This book allows you to easily access the alphabetized English equivalents of the Greek or Hebrew words from which they are translated. Throughout the text the most significant biblical words are illustrated by Scripture passages, comments, cross-references, ancient and modern meanings, precise etymologies, historical notes, and clearly defined technical information. Each original language is indexed, and the addition of a topical index allows you to access all the dictionary entries pertinent to specific New Testament ideas and teachings.Keyed to Strong's.
To whom much is given, much will be required! I've just heaped a good dose of condemnation on myself if this thing sits on my shelf!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Is Baptism Necessary for Salvation?

MacArthur says, 'No' and stands on the Scriptures in this article. Jim Elliff has a very helpful book on the subject as well called Going Under: Discussions on Baptism.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Free Book Offer: Ashamed of the Gospel

Receive John MacArthur's Ashamed of the Gospel for free if you get on GTY's mailing list!
Here are the details. Offer expires Feb 17th!

About Me

Here is my testimony: mike