Thursday, October 19, 2017

Giving and Receiving: Reparations

Have you seen those TV commercials for that insta-pay app that allows folks to immediately send money to someone else?  My favorite is the one with the 2 brothers and a sister, where they have "agreed" on a Christmas gift for mom or dad.  The gift is purchased by one sibling; a second sibling pays his share.  But, the other brother sends a personalized poem instead of paying his 1/3.  The other two want him to contribute his financial portion, to settle his gift-debt.  Amazingly, the situation is resolved in less than 15 seconds, with the push of a button!  Would that all our interpersonal conflicts could be resolved so easily!

Meditating on Proverbs 14 last evening I ran across verse 9, which says:

Fools mock at making restitution, but there is goodwill among the upright. 
(HCSB)

When you Google the word "reparations" often the first links that arise have to do with compensating the descendants of American slaves.  Slavery in my country in the 17-1800's was sanctioned by some because slavery is found in the Bible.  However, it is plain from the teaching of Jesus that, while the Christian is to submit to social constructs he/she is unable to change (Romans 13:1-7), it was a grave error, a gross misinterpretation, to re-create slavery in America.  Slavery was established here out of the greed of wealthy men.  And, we continue to pay the price in our collective American psyche for the resentment those decisions brought.

However, I am pondering this verse in the broader sense.  It is easy to focus on some major construct, such as the American slave movement, and ignore the implications of this verse for each of us.  The real power in this verse comes when we apply it in our own lives, in the many (even unintentional) ways we hurt each other, just by moving through our day-to-day lives.

If you are a Christian, the Holy Spirit who lives within you is not going to let you get by with hurting someone else.  He is going to poke you, prod you, propel you toward making things right. Furthermore, in most cases, He will also prescribe to you the method He wants you to use to do just that.  (Believe me, I have experienced this!)  That is what making reparations is, basically - - - an attempt to make things right, to undo damage done.

Now, sometimes, total reparation is not completely, fully possible. Words can't be recalled, nor can some physical/emotional injuries be made whole.  Let's say the wronged party is dead.  Pretty hard to reach out to them, isn't it?  (In fact scripture forbids attempting to contact the spirits of the dead; so, lest I become hopelessly Halloween-y, let's move on....)  However, reparations can, in those cases, be made to relatives of the wronged person.  Or, a symbolic act of reparation goes a long way.

What are ways reparations can be made?
Here are some ways the "goodwill" mentioned in the verse can possibly be restored:

  • sincere apology
  • make an explanation (often wronged parties need to understand "how this happened") but not excuses; be honest, and admit guilt where applicable
  • when possible restore the object or repair the situation; be as generous as you can afford to be

Sometimes, the most powerful idea is to contact the wronged party (when possible), confess the wrong and ask how things can be healed.  Whoa....that's major!

I think of the various "love languages" here1.  The poor in-the-doghouse husband wants to apologize to his wife, and so he brings her a big bouquet of flowers.  But, "gifts" is not her receiving love language.  So, the apology does not resonate with her.  If he had washed her car for her without being asked and sincerely apologized, then she might have been touched to her core.  So, as the party who committed an offense, we could choose a "making whole" strategy from the list above, and have it accomplish little.  No bueno, as the Spanish speakers say.... that's "no good".

So, ask ... and you'll probably receive an answer!  Recall the story of the rich, young ruler in the New Testament.  He seemed to sincerely ask Jesus what he needed to do to become a disciple of the Master's, but the young fellow was unprepared for Jesus' answer.  Consequently, rather than embracing the answer and following through, "he went away sorrowful" (Matthew 19:16-24).  Within all reason, if you ask the offended party what would help to heal the breach, be prepared for his/her answer.

Stay focused on the current offense.  Don't allow the conversation to expand beyond the offense in question.  It would be easy to claw open other wounds, the conversation becoming so distracted and the negative emotions so deep that no resolution to the current situation is possible. And, your relationship is then worse than before.

The two of you may or may not agree on every aspect of the situation; in fact, you probably won't.  However, as the offender, you can at least own your personal part in the mucky mire.  It is up to the other person to deal with his or hers.

What if you are the wronged party?

First of all, forgive, whether the other party attempts reparations or not.  This is for your own physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health.  Bitterness can set into your soul and slowly poison you.  Depending on the situation, you might privately approach the offending party and initiate the conversation.  Truly, some of us are so clueless we have no idea we have been offensive!

Second, once the conversation has begun, it is up to you to be both gracious and reasonable if asked by the person who is sincere in his or her offer to make reparations.  Come on now.  Don't be ridiculous.  Allowing hurt to make obnoxious or unrealistic demands does not bring healing.  You may need some time to think about the offer extended by the offending party.  Take the time and search your own soul before answering hastily.  We often grasp at material things to heal our wounds, but later find that they do not do the trick.

I hope these thoughts been helpful.  Honestly, haven't we all "been there", either as the offended or the offender?  The most important thing to remember is that "goodwill", repaired relationships, are to be sought and cherished.  So, if the Holy Spirit is speaking to you about a breach in need of healing, listen, pray for wisdom.  And then, act.

Source:

1     http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

A Perfect Day

{Sunday night entry}

Have you ever thought about what, for you, makes "a perfect day"?  One of those days when you think your guts are just going to spill out of your belly for joy?  (Well, that's how it feels for me, at least.  Joy just radiates right out of my bellybutton!) . This happens when joy and happiness coincide.

What do I mean by that?

Happiness is a feeling produced when external circumstances are benevolent, when things are "going our way".  Joy, a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22), is the sibling of peace.  They are interrelated!  We can dig deep into the Spirit and praise God even in adverse circumstances to tap into holy joy, because joy is ours as co-heirs with Jesus Christ.  Both a gift and a fruit, joy transcends circumstances.

But, wow....when joy and happiness crash right into each other...that's some good stuff right there!
Today was one of those days for me.  A "Soli Deo Gloria" Day.  Today's story is just too good not to share.

The Latin phrase Soli Deo Gloria is one of my favorites.  It means "glory only to God".  I am the most joyful when God is getting all the glory for something He has done.

About 16 months ago God dragged me and several of my friends away from a group of people we dearly love; and, over a series of 4 months, called us to start a new church, one with a heart for evangelism.  During those four months, we prayed and sought God for answers which, frankly, were not very forthcoming at the time.  We thought we were looking at an unmitigated, hopeless disaster, at first.

It was hard, Y'all.
But, in our seeking God He made His will known, calling us to step out in faith to start a church in a community which required several of our group to drive more than 20 miles to the church's temporary home.  Not "ideal" but ... #godscalling.  So, off we went.  "Uncharted Territory".

Yet, from the very beginning God's hand has been plain in these circumstances.  He has opened door after door for this little fellowship of believers.

Yesterday, we celebrated our one-year anniversary as a church.  After a wonderful sermon we celebrated the Lord's Supper together, then enjoyed a delicious BBQ meal, and finally listened intently as a "next steps" plan was presented.

God has kindled the heart of these people to spread the gospel and to also serve one another.  Giving is strong, a hallmark of our group.  Furthermore, because God is growing our church, a few months ago, we found ourselves in a position to need to look for larger and more permanent venues in which to meet.  Our pastor formed a committee called the "Next Steps Team" (henceforth referred to as NST) to investigate options.  A large (imaginary) box was drawn around our general vicinity, with the pastor's charge to find options within that geographical area.  Those wonderful committee members walked all over various property options, with their work taking 4 months.  Accordingly, God opened two doors of possibility.  Both were incredibly wonderful options, so that it was very hard to hear God's voice as to which one should be presented to the congregation as THE one.  As time went on, with fervent prayer and fasting, though, it became clearer and clearer where God was leading.
Now ... behold what God has done.  Soli Deo Gloria!

One of the two options was a good-sized piece of property in a prime location (right in the middle of the "box"), with topography showing all the property being usable.  Asking price was $1.275 million...obviously beyond our meager means.  The committee deliberated and deliberated, prayed and prayed, and finally determined that it was worth at least throwing out a (ridiculously low) offer.  So, they did . . . an offer just over half of the asking price.  Shortly, we got a call from the realtor saying the owner wanted to visit our church and meet with us.  The owner lives in California.  Imagine our amazement!  This man, whom we later learned is a fervent Christian man of wealth, flew all the way from Cali to attend one of our services.  He met with the NST and the pastor for hours.  We found out later that God had placed in this man's heart and in his family's heart to sell this property to a Bible-preaching church!

So, a deal was proposed, the deal put before the church today, the deal the church will vote on in a couple of weeks.  The price is within just a few dollars of what we initially offered.  The owner is going to finance the sale for us (because churches > 3 years old can usually not get bank funding); AND, the interest paid will not be paid to the owner but will rather be paid to a missions organization that has been steadily evangelizing India for the past 40 years!  If our church members approve the deal, our little church plant will become a church planter, in the country with the largest number of people groups who've never heard the gospel message.

Are you saying, Soli Deo Gloria! yet?

1Praise the LORD, all nations!
Extol him, all peoples!
2For great is his steadfast love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.
Praise the LORD!
Psalm 117 (ESV)

Thursday, October 12, 2017

A Twisted Mind



Perusing Proverbs 12 this morning a verse reminded me of the current kerfuffle with Harvey Weinstein.

Honestly, I did not know who he was until the dust started kicking up.  Maybe you don't know who he is either.  If that is the case, in a nutshell, he was a Hollywood power mogul.  Apparently, he had a lot of money and wielded a lot of power.  If you were on his good side, your movies got made or you got plum roles in potential blockbusters.

This was particularly true if you are a woman.

Apparently, Mr. Weinstein applied tremendous pressure to aspiring A-list actresses to trade him their sexual favors for prominent roles or other advancement in the film industry.

Proverbs 12:8 (NET) - - -

A person is praised in accordance with his wisdom, but the one who has a twisted mind is despised. 


The collective response to Mr. Weinstein's behavior was, at first, muted.  Those "in the know" overlooked it because of his power over them, or because of his contributions to their political campaigns or, ... etc.

Then, as more and more victims came forward to speak out, it became more expedient to condemn his behavior.  And, so, more prominent "former allies" began to speak out against what he had done.

Don't miss this point:  he was not castigated for what he had done.  He became despised because he had become more of a liability than an asset.

That is sad.  And, it is a perfect illustration of what people do who have a "sliding scale" of morality, a view of morality that shifts and turns, based on circumstances.

Before you start tsk-tsking and cluck-clucking, let me ask you this: are we ever guilty of the same?

As Christians, we ought to always, without equivocation, stand against sexual perversion in all of its forms.  One of the reasons Weinstein was thrown down from his pinnacle of success is that his behavior was heterosexual, albeit predatory.  Hollywood is rife with pedophiles, as is Washington, according to some.  Yet, do we hear that behavior called out?  And, what about homosexuality?  Few dare to speak out against the current "pet" perversion of this age.

Yet, the Bible is clear that God established sexuality, and that He intended sexual behavior to be solely between one man and one woman, within the confines of marriage.  (I won't delve into a dissertation here to defend that statement because most of you know it is true, and defense of that is not the point of this post.)

The bigger question, and the point of this post, is whether we will have the faith and the courage to stand up and speak out against "twisted minds".  To do so is not unloving.  To do so is extremely loving, because speaking the truth in love is what Jesus did.  He did not speak specifically to deviant sexual behavior beyond adultery because, in his day, deviant sexual behavior in the Jewish community was in no way allowed.  He did, however, tell both the woman at the well (John 4:1-42) and the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:3-11) that their sin separated them from God and that they should turn their backs on their sinful pasts (repent).  He also made it abundantly clear to the men standing with stones in their hands that their own sins needed confronting as much as did the woman's.

Erick Erickson did a podcast on this topic yesterday1, and his point is the same as mine here.  If we are indeed possessing both faith and God's wisdom, we will not let evil run unchecked.  Instead, we will call it out, in all its various forms, no matter the cost.  Some will say that this is "judging", which Christ spoke against.  But, again, this is a twisting of scripture, a taking out of context to serve nefarious purposes.  When we, as believers, stand strong for the truth of God, even at the risk of disunity in the Body, we are doing what Jesus himself would do.  And, in the context of Matthew 7, Jesus is speaking to a closely-defined group of people, the Jews.  In other words, it was a "family of God" sermon.  The intent was not to avoid judging sin when sin is encountered, but rather to not falsely or sanctimoniously judge the motives of a fellow believer.

An excellent resource to help us engage our culture with both love and truth is Citizen magazine2, published by Focus on the Family.  The lead article in the most recent issue addresses treating with love those plagued by gender-dysphoria.  Celebrating 30 years of ministry next month, Citizen has long been an outstanding partner in assisting the everyday Christian in navigating through cultural minefields with integrity, perseverance, truth and love. I highly recommend a subscription!

It all boils down to the gospel, really.  How much are we willing to sacrifice to proclaim to an unbelieving world that our holiness and our love are genuine, and that they are authentic by-products of a faith-powered relationship with the One and Only?  Will we sacrifice to affirm that hope and freedom from sin's curse are only found in Jesus?


Sources:

1    https://www.spreaker.com/user/ewerickson/dragon-slayers

2    https://www.focusonthefamily.com/socialissues

Monday, October 9, 2017

Movieguide


Witnessing how God uses His everyday people's gifts and talents for His glory just cheers my heart!  This past Friday evening I had the opportunity to attend an Atlanta fundraiser for a non-profit called Movieguide, which is headquartered in Los Angeles.  Prior to this I was vaguely familiar; I had seen their film reviews from time to time.  But, they do so much more.

The organization was founded in 1985 by Ted Baehr.  When I met him he was wearing a tie with teddy bears on it.  Figure it out.  It took me a minute.... :)
Dr. Baehr grew up in a Hollywood family.  Both parents were stars.  He was raised with no religious affiliation.  Accordingly, it was not until he was in his 20s that he began to read the Bible and met Jesus, realizing the fake Jesus he thought he'd heard about was nothing like The Faithful and True (Rev. 19:11).  Converting to following Jesus Christ changed his life.  Although already an extremely well-educated man and an attorney, the Lord led him to the mission field.

I'm not talking about the foreign mission field.  I'm referring to the mission field of Hollywood.   Dr. Baehr's two-fold mission is to redeem the values of visual media while educating the public from a Christian perspective about the movies available for their consumption.

The latter was familiar to me, but the former?  What was that all about ... "redeeming the values of the media"?  In his presentation Dr. Baehr shared how, prior to 1965, there were three major lobbying groups which influenced which movies got made and governed the content.  One was Jewish, another Catholic and the third Protestant (mostly Southern Baptist).  But, in 1965, these three hugely influential groups pulled out of Hollywood, having decided their presence was "unnecessary".  Within 3 years, movies such as "Rosemary's Baby", a blatantly Satanic film most of my generation will remember for the shock waves it sent through the nation, began to be made.  The 1970's were largely an endless procession of violent, horror-filled, profanity-laced, nudity-sprinkled films.  Most were rated "R", and the "X" rating began to appear.

However, in recent years, due in large part to how Movieguide is influencing and educating Hollywood about movies that actually make money, that trend has turned around.  In 2016, of the top ten $$-grossing films, 8 of the 10 were wholesome, "family" films.  When I thought about it, I was aware of this reversal in recent years, but did not realize that Movieguide had played such a key role!

I also learned that the majority consumers of theater films are youth, ages 18-24.  The key fact here is that what they view shapes their worldview.  If all they have to choose from is Satan-sponsored trash, their views will be shaped accordingly.  As Dr. Baehr says, "He who controls the media controls the culture."  Surely, all my readers will concede that point.

Proverbs 23:7 loosely translated says, Where the mind and heart go, the man will follow.

We have a long way to go.  American TV remains largely a cesspool.  All types of filth can be viewed at the touch of a button on a personal, electronic device.  Some purists might say that all Movieguide's efforts could be better used to directly spread the gospel.  Not me.  God created each of us with specific gifts to play our own key role in the battle for Christ's kingdom, and I appreciate what the Christian Film and Television Commission (CFTVC) ministry, under Dr. Baehr's leadership, is doing.

They need our help.  As a 501c3, they depend on the support of like-minded Christians in order to be able to continue their excellent work.  The minds and hearts of our young people are at stake.  Will you help them?  You can learn more about the Movieguide history, mission, leadership and events at movieguide.org .  You can also donate there.  I hope you will.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Case Study of 2 "Rich" Men

Got up this morning and turned on the TV.  Guess what the talking heads on the TV news show were discussing:  yep, if you are reading this in current time you can probably guess the answer....the psyche of the shooter in the Las Vegas massacre of Oct. 1, 2017.  Over the past 5 days a portrait (of sorts) has begun to emerge.

According to various reports he was quiet, reclusive, twice-married and divorced (yet had a long-time girlfriend), traveled a lot, loved to gamble, had no known political or religious affiliation was very intelligent and....had lots of money.  I would say he was rich, but that depends on your definition of the word.

Last month, just 4 days before Paddock went on his murderous rampage, an American icon died:  Hugh Hefner.  Hefner, the creator of Playboy magazine and builder of arguably the largest, most influential sex empire in the world has been quoted as saying, "The major civilizing force in the world is not religion; it is sex."1  Pornography has wrecked millions and millions of lives....very "civilizing", yes?  Mr. Hefner was a major contributor.

Again, a man with more money than he could ever spend, but ... rich?

It is pretty safe to say that neither of these men knew and followed Jesus Christ which, according to Proverbs 16:16 and other scriptures made them neither wise nor rich.  Both were sin-sick souls.

How much better to get wisdom than gold, and good judgment than silver.
Proverbs 16:16

Better to have little, with fear of the Lord, than to have great treasure and inner turmoil.
Proverbs 15:16

But the wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt.
Isaiah 57:20 

Oh people....the most valuable things in this world cannot be bought (Acts 8:20).  They must be given freely.

  • Eternal Salvation
  • True Love
  • Peace
  • Joy

And, all of these are rooted in Jesus Christ!  They can be found in no other person, place or thing.  Once a person has embraced Jesus and begun to follow Him, that person possesses riches that no earthly currency can obtain or provide.  And, following Him, walking by faith ... oh my!  It only gets better, richer, deeper.  That relationship forms the foundation for all other earthly riches.

Listening to the "analyzers" and the "hindsight quarterbacks" on TV, no one pegs the Vegas shooter.  No one "gets it", because they refuse to acknowledge the Bible, which describes him to a tee.  That poor-in-spirit man lived a worthless life, as we read in 1 Samuel 2:12 that all people do, who do not know the Lord.  As a result, his soul will continue on forever, separated from God in utter agony (Luke 16:24).

As Christians, should we be glad for this?  No, we should be sorrowful, that both these men rejected the gospel of life, of Jesus, or perhaps that they somehow never heard it.  Our hearts should be broken that, out of their soul's poverty, they was used by Satan the destroyer to wreak sin's destruction on themselves and on so many others.  Finally, we should be praying earnestly over our country, for those touched by such evil and especially that God would send a mighty Holy Spirit-led revival in our land.

Source:

1     https://www.google.com/search?q=hugh+hefner&oq=Hugh+&aqs=chrome.0.0j69i57j0l4.2692j0j1&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8


Monday, October 2, 2017

A High Wall of Safety

On Monday mornings my hubster goes to a men's breakfast very early, and because I usually can't go back to sleep I roll over and turn on the TV for a few minutes, to catch the morning news.  This morning, the headline took a few seconds to register on my sleepy brain.  50+ dead, over 200 wounded in Las Vegas?  What?  As the events have unfolded this morning, I am profoundly sad.  In fact, I'm brushing away tears as I type. 

Here in the blog, we've been looking at the topic of wealth and work.  Below are the verses I had planned to blog about this morning.  (I had actually started a draft of this post yesterday.)

The rich think of their wealth as a strong defense;
they imagine it to be a high wall of safety.
Proverbs 18:11 (NLT)

How precious is your unfailing love, O God!
All humanity finds shelter
    in the shadow of your wings.

Psalm 36:7 (NLT)

My college friend, who formerly lived in a remote part of British Columbia, last month moved to Edmonton, Alberta.  Almost as soon as she arrived there, two separate terror attacks occurred.  She must wonder what she has gotten herself into.

I've been contemplating a major trip next summer, to commemorate a big anniversary.  Another friend has warned me that part of the world is not safe.  I texted her a bit ago to say it is looking a whole lot safer than Vegas at the moment.

The hard truth is that we live in a broken, sin-sick world that needs a whole lot of Jesus.
And, no physical place on earth is truly "safe" from all harm, accident, illness.

The first verse above describes the false safety that wealth provides.  But, wealthy people still die in accidents.  They still get serious illnesses.  They may even lose their wealth and become impoverished.  Wealth is not a "high wall of safety".

As Christians, what should be our attitude toward "safety"?  

1.  Our eternal future is secure.
No matter what we stumble into, or crash into, or sorrow that enters our lives, we know that after this earthly life, we will be in Heaven with our Savior.  So, no matter the hideous, horrific events along the earthly path, the heavenly destination is gloriously beautiful.  What a precious gift and promise!

2.  Nothing in this life can touch us unless the Lord Himself allows it.
The story of Job is so helpful here.  Job was a man who was well-known to Satan, the archenemy of God's people and, indeed, of all mankind.  He was well-known because of his righteous devotion to God.  We might say that he was "the best man on earth" in his day.
Still.....
God allowed Satan to physically, emotionally, and financially devastate him.  It appears the only thing left to Job were some people/relationships, and Satan used those to bedevil him too!
Job, through his unspeakable losses, grew in his faith.  He came to realize these four truths we are embracing this morning.

3.  His ways are not our ways.
God uses all things to bring glory to Himself, and this is a manifestation of both His perfect goodness and His perfect holiness.  
Because of this, we often cannot understand why He allows what He does.  Often, when we cry out an anguished "WHY?!", we get no definitive answer.  He is not required to explain Himself to us and, it is entirely possible we would not be able to understand/comprehend an explanation, were He to provide one.
Keep in mind that, when Job questioned the Lord, He did not give a specific answer.  Instead, the Lord God asked Job a series of questions designed to remind Job of the huge chasm between us humans and our infinite, incomprehensible God.

4.  His love is unwavering, and we can trust in that.
There, then, is our "safety net", our "high wall of safety".
It helps me to realize in horrible times that the love of my Savior, who cloaked His very position in the Godhead for my sake, who died a most horrific death in His earthly body for my sake - - that His love never leaves me.  That His Spirit, Who lives inside me, never forsakes me.  Ever.  His Spirit is "the shadow of His wings".

Of course, the unredeemed world-at-large thinks we are kooks for believing such "nonsense", as they continue to put their trust in different things, different idols.  But, as for me, I am content to trust in the Lord my God, and to believe with all my soul the truth of His Word.
For me, He, in all His majesty, is more than enough.

Let's meditate on His love this morning.  Here are some verses to help us do that.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:6-7 (NIV)

But you, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in mercy and truth.
Psalm 86:15 (KJ2000)

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
1 John 3:1 (ESV)

2Through him we have also obtained access by faithb into this grace in which we stand, and wec rejoiced in hope of the glory of God. 3Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Romans 5:2-5 (ESV)

For sure.  

Holy God, we humbly ask that You pour Your love out abundantly on those shattered by the Las Vegas terror attack.  Please lavish healing and comfort and eventually bring peace to wounded bodies and spirits.  The only answer to such horror is You.  Please give us more of You, dear Jesus.  In the Name that is above every other Name we pray, amen.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Fuel in the Engine


It is impossible to get up in the morning, turn on the news in this country, and avoid the conflicts which rage through our nation.  This country was formed 241 years ago.  I have been a citizen of it for over half a century and can fervently say that I've never seen it more divided than it is today.  Surely, the American Civil War revealed Americans at their most divided, with the Vietnam war running a close second.  But, I'm talking about national division in my adult lifetime.

From my perspective it began to reach a boiling-over point about 9 years ago.  Even though the majority of Americans supported President Obama's election, as time went on liberal, "progressive" actions and policies began to be more extreme and divisive.  It became plain that sinister forces were at work behind the scenes to foster division in our country.  This trend has only ramped up with President Trump's election.

One of the nexus points of division today has to do with money and work, which continue to be our blog topic today.  Beliefs about money flow from beliefs about God, and there is next-to-no consensus about God in America today, regardless of what is printed on our currency ("In God We Trust"). .... Some still do, but the majority certainly do not.  More often people trust in the currency itself.  It's not an exaggeration to say that many worship it.

We have been exploring the topic of work and money in Proverbs because that book has a lot to say on this topic.  In fact, the entire Bible has a lot to say on this topic.  That is a blessing and a curse.  Why a curse?  Because of the many references to money and work, it is easy to develop a skewed theology concerning them.  At each extreme are "austerity gospel" and "prosperity gospel".  I guess I'd better define those terms.  I will, but am not going to delve deeply into ether extreme this morning.

"Austerity gospel"1 , to borrow from Kevin DeYoung, is the belief that God loves us more if we are poor as church mice.  When you focus exclusively on verses or stories such as Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31), the truth that Jesus appeared to have no permanent earthly home, and then remember the story of the rich, young ruler, you can make a plausible case for poverty as an avenue to please God.

"Prosperity gospel" on the other hand is justified by verses or stories of Job, Solomon, David, Abraham, the promise from Malachi 3, and "ask and ye shall receive".  If God is pleased with you, you will have "the Midas touch" - - everything you do will prosper you financially.

Both of these extremes are wrong.

One thing to remember about the book of Proverbs, and this is very important to remember, is that it is a guidebook of general principles or maxims, if you will.  A maxim2  is "a short, pithy statement expressing a general truth or rule of conduct."  Neither maxims, nor proverbs, are iron-clad promises.  This holds true for all Proverbs.  Yes, they are true because they are part of the inspired Word of God.  But, they are not promises.  It is critically important to remember that difference.

Let's, then, go on to explore more themes of work and money from Proverbs.
That ridiculously long introduction leads us to today's text: Proverbs 21:5 (NLT)

Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity.

This is just one of many proverbs to address the value of work.  Unfortunately, neither of these components are "fun", lol!  In our current world, working hard, which often results in achievement, is downplayed.  Those who are successful through planning and hard work are often accused of getting their achievement unfairly - - by virtue of their family background, of their race, by luck ... The next accusation is that the achiever does not deserve what he or she has earned through shrewdness and hard work.  This type of thinking separates people into "haves" and "have nots", with "unfairness" being at the root of why people ended up in each camp.

Excuses, such as the excuse of "unfairness", simply give people a justification for not changing their position or behavior.  If you believe it is "unfair" that someone has something you do not, well, then, it follows that you didn't cause this situation, nor can you change it.  The Bible calls this "bunk" (well, not literally, but figuratively.)  In fact, the Bible points out some other excuses for not working, such as:

- - - following worthless pursuits . (Prov. 28:19)
- - - lying around all day (Prov. 6:10-11 and 20:13 and 24:33-34)
- - - all talk and no action (Prov. 14:23)
- - - chasing ridiculous short-cuts instead of working (Prov. 13:11)
- - - getting drunk instead of working (Prov. 21:17)
- - - stealing, which can cause you to hate yourself and others as well (Prov. 29:24)

Notice that the component of strategic planning is vital to success.  Success is not born of hard work alone.  This is where the expression, "Work smarter, not harder" originates.

Years ago, while studying the practices of a very successful middle school teacher, I read about how excited she was when her nationally-acclaimed mentor came to visit her classroom.  The thing he complemented her on most was how organized her classroom was.  Organization alone does not make a great teacher, but it is hard to be great in that profession (or any other) without it.

I don't know about you, but I keep lists, which (usually) keep me on track.  If I don't, I tend to bounce around from thing to thing, not getting many things done.  So, "working hard" without a focus is not productive.  Deep thinking and strategic planning are the fuel in the engine of hard work.

Today, I plan to work on strategic planning for my home-based business.  I'd better get to it!  After all, as The Message translation puts Proverbs 21:5 - - -

Careful planning puts you ahead in the long run;
    hurry and scurry puts you further behind.

Sources:

1     https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/kevindeyoung/2011/04/29/money-and-possessions-in-proverbs/

2    https://www.google.com/search?q=What+is+a+maxim%3F&oq=What+is+a+maxim%3F&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l5.4172j0j1&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8