Month: June 2013
20 Peter said, “To hell with your money! And you along with it. Why, that’s unthinkable – trying to buy God’s gift!
Do I trust in God or in my own skills to supply my needs? In 1923, several of the most powerful money magnets in the world gathered for a meeting at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago, Illinois. The combined resources and assets of these men tallied more than the U.S. Treasury that year. In the group were Charles Schwab, president of a steel company; Richard Whitney, president of the New York Stock Exchange; and Arthur Cutton, a wheat speculator.
Albert Fall was a presidential cabinet member, a personally wealthy man. Jesse Livermore was the greatest Wall Street “bear” in his generation. Leon Fraser was the president of the International Bank of Settlements, and Ivan Kruger headed the largest monopoly in the nation. It was an impressive gathering of financial eagles!
What happened to these men in later years? Schwab died penniless. Whitney served a life sentence in Sing-Sing Prison. Cutton became insolvent. Fall was pardoned from a Federal prison so he could die at home. Fraser, Livermore, and Krueger committed suicide. These extremely rich men ended their lives with nothing.
Money is certainly not the answer to life’s ills! Only God can give us peace, happiness, and joy. When we focus on God and His goodness in our lives, whether we have money or not, we can live in contentment, knowing that God will meet all our needs.
In my vocabulary, there is no such word as “can’t,” because I recognize that my abilities are given to me by God to do what needs to be done.
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The Message (MSG)
The Second Test: Health
2 1-3 One day when the angels came to report to God, Satan also showed up. God singled out Satan, saying, “And what have you been up to?” Satan answered God, “Oh, going here and there, checking things out.” Then God said to Satan, “Have you noticed my friend Job? There’s no one quite like him, is there—honest and true to his word, totally devoted to God and hating evil? He still has a firm grip on his integrity! You tried to trick me into destroying him, but it didn’t work.”
4-5 Satan answered, “A human would do anything to save his life. But what do you think would happen if you reached down and took away his health? He’d curse you to your face, that’s what.”
6 God said, “All right. Go ahead—you can do what you like with him. But mind you, don’t kill him.”
7-8 Satan left God and struck Job with terrible sores. Job was ulcers and scabs from head to foot. They itched and oozed so badly that he took a piece of broken pottery to scrape himself, then went and sat on a trash heap, among the ashes.
9 His wife said, “Still holding on to your precious integrity, are you? Curse God and be done with it!”
10 He told her, “You’re talking like an empty-headed fool. We take the good days from God—why not also the bad days?”
Not once through all this did Job sin. He said nothing against God.
Job’s Three Friends
11-13 Three of Job’s friends heard of all the trouble that had fallen on him. Each traveled from his own country—Eliphaz from Teman, Bildad from Shuhah, Zophar from Naamath—and went together to Job to keep him company and comfort him. When they first caught sight of him, they couldn’t believe what they saw—they hardly recognized him! They cried out in lament, ripped their robes, and dumped dirt on their heads as a sign of their grief. Then they sat with him on the ground. Seven days and nights they sat there without saying a word. They could see how rotten he felt, how deeply he was suffering.
I am so glad that I spent devotional time with Jesus this day. He revealed to me that eternity is for those who confess and believe in their heart that he died and rose in three days for the remission of their sins. My life is a mess in the natural. A violator of life’s contract- “Felon” living in a unforgiving society coupled with a recession designed to purge society due to the governments lack of stewardship. Living under oppression concealed by bills and legislative tactics I find myself perplexed beyond measure today, but the storm is almost gone because I can see the “Son” peaking through the clouds due to time spent in this word that became “The Son” of Man.
One day in my past, my toddler who has taken the great sleep exclaimed, “I love you dad!” I was curious about what makes a three-year-old tick, so I asked him why he loved me. He answered, “Because you play cars with me.” When I asked if there was any other reason, he said, “Nope. That’s it.” My toddler’s response made me smile. But it also made me think about the way I relate to God. Do I love and trust Him just because of what He does for me? What about when the blessings disappear?
Job had to answer these questions when catastrophes claimed his children and demolished his entire estate. His wife advised him: “Curse God and die!(Job2:9). Instead, Job asked, “shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity? (v.10). Yes, Job struggled after his tragedy; he became angry with his friends and questioned the Almighty. Still, he vowed, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him”.
Jobs affection for his heavenly Father didn’t depend on a tidy solution to his problems. Rather, he loved and trusted God because of all that He is. Job said, “God is wise in heart and mighty in strength”. Our love for God must not be based solely on His blessings but because of who He is.
Shall we accept the good from God
But fuss when trials are in sight?
Not if our love is focused on
The One who always does what’s right.
Focusing on the character of God helps us to take our eyes off our circumstances. I am of “Anointed Pedigree” how about you?
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The Canadian dollar has reached parity with the U.S. dollar for the first time since 1976. They are now equal in value. The euro also soared to its highest-ever level against the dollar, trading above $1.40 for the first time since the currency was introduced in 1999.
So why is the dollar plunging, and what impact does that plunge have on U.S. and world markets? Here’s a look at some of the reasons for the dollar’s fall, and the consequences
Why the Weak Dollar?
There are several reasons. First, there’s the difference between the interest rate in the United States — the one the Federal Reserve just dropped by half a percentage point to 4.75 percent — and the interest rates of other central banks around the world.
When the United States dropped its rate, other banks did not follow. Now the spread between the interest rate at the European Central Bank (home of the euro) and the Federal Reserve (home of the dollar) is smaller than it has traditionally been, and that has weakened the value of the dollar against the euro. Put another way, you would get a better interest rate return holding a euro than a dollar.
Second, central banks around the world have been diversifying their holdings away from dollars to euros, British pounds and so on. That means there are more dollars out there in currency markets available to purchase. More dollars floating around means diminished value.
What Effect Does This Have?
Look at the record-high price of oil. Even if the same amount of oil is being pumped out of the ground, since it is traded in dollars and the dollar has weakened, the price of oil has increased to make up for the lost value of the dollar, creating a sort of vicious cycle.
Oil-producing countries don’t want to keep all the dollars they are getting for their oil, since it’s worth less, so they are diversifying and converting their dollars into euros or other currencies. That pushes more dollars back out into currency markets, which in turn pushes down the dollar’s value.
One analyst told ABC News that Russia used to have 90 percent of its financial reserves in dollars. It now has 45 percent in dollars, 45 percent in euros and 10 percent in British pounds.
What Does This Mean in the U.S.?
The news is mixed. It’s good, because it makes what we produce here cheaper to sell in foreign markets, and that in turn spurs exports of our products around the world. That translates into more manufacturing and more jobs. For example, BMW and Mercedes Benz want to build cars in the United States, because they can do it cheaper in nonunion states than in Germany, where they’d pay labor and parts in euros, and then bring the cars to the United States, where they would be too expensive to sell at a profit.
For years now, the collapse of the dollar has been in the cards. Recent developments show mounting pressure on the dollar’s reserve currency status. With a major international deflation going on, the threat of inflation through money printing is unreal. However, should the dollar’s reserve currency status end, the repatriation of trillions of petro- and Eurodollars could lead to a strongly inflationary scenario.
The roles of a reserve currency are to finance international trade and to function as a store of value for Governments. Until the second world war it used to be the British pound, but with the demise of the British Empire, the pound lost its international relevance and was overtaken by the dollar. This was formalized in the 1944 Bretton Woods system. All other currencies were fiat currencies, but pegged to the dollar, which in turn was pegged to Gold at 40 dollars an ounce and redeemable for international trading partners.
We are seeing the advent of the new currency order. There will be a number of more or less equal blocks: a dollar zone, a Yuan/BRICS zone and the euro, with the Yen and the Pound as lesser entities. These will later be able to converge to even more ‘cooperation’, in the Money Power’s relentless march towards World Currency.
These units will be at least partially Gold backed, implying long term deflationary pressures. Central Banks are buying Gold in major quantities, creating the interesting question why Gold prices have not risen in the last 18 months.
Well it looks like we’re heading into some really tough economic times. You’ve already heard much about these high profile banks that have failed and a few others have merged just to survive. Perhaps you haven’t heard just how many other business mergers have been proposed in these tough times. For example:
1.) Hale Business Systems, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Fuller Brush, and W. R. Grace Co. are set to merge. The new name will be: Hale, Mary, Fuller, Grace.
2.) PolyGram Records, Warner Bros., and Zest Crackers will join forces and become: Poly, Warner Cracker.
3.) 3M will merge with Goodyear and become: MMM Good.
4.) Zippo Manufacturing, Audi Motors, Doofasco, and Dakota Mining will merge and become: ZipAudiDoDa
5.) FedEx is expected to join its competitor, UPS, and become: FedUP.
6.) Fairchild Electronics and Honeywell Computers will become: Fairwell Honeychild.
7.) Knotts Berry Farm and the National Organization of Women will become: Knott NOW!
8.) Grey Poupon and Docker Pants are expected to become: PouponPants.
Well OK, that’s not happening. But I thought it might be good medicine to laugh a bit because these days, when it comes to the economy, we’re all a little panicked and afraid. And I don’t blame you. One friend of mine last month was trying to enjoy a wonderful vacation in Europe with her grown children when the news came of the stock market tumble. She said to me, “I just couldn’t enjoy the moment Aaron, because I was thinking about what percentage of my nest egg was blowing away like smoke.”
She’s not the only one in that situation. Small business owners in my church are concerned about laying people off. Some of you have been laid off. Milgard, laid everyone off. Bayliner is done in 60 days kicking over 600 unemployed workers into the job market. A person I spoke with this week, losing their dream home because they’re upside down on their mortgage.
WE FORGOT GOD’S PRINCIPLES
So now we have Republicans and Democrats jockeying for political position to look better than the other in the aftermath of this mess. I’m a bit weary of them all, frankly. Tons of fears and angry thots run through our minds in the context of a hot presidential race.
– Who allowed this to happen?
– What will the candidates do to fix it?
– What’s going to happen next?
– And in a pessimistic moment, we might even ask:
o Are we the generation that will be able to say that we were there when America ended?
So now, I want to weigh in on this, not as an economist but as a student of the Bible and a follower of Jesus Christ. You’ve had an anxious few weeks. You’re mad at the pride of our leaders. You’re mad at the short sighted selfishness in all of us that lead to this subprime mortgage mess. So there’s two parts to God’s wisdom to heed in our fear and anger. The first relates to the world of your finances and the second relates to the world of your heart.
A. BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES
I want to read some bible verses to you and I want you to imagine these were hung on the offices of every bank, every mortgage office and every home in the country.
– Prov 22:7: the rich rule over the poor and the borrower is the slave of the lender.
– Prov 17:18: It is poor judgment to co-sign a friend’s note, to become responsible for a neighbor’s
– Prov 30:25 Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer
– Ps 37:21: The wicked borrow and never repay, but the godly are generous givers.
– 1 Tim 6:10: For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.
Have we lived by these principles? No. Not personally and not nationally. And now the piper must be paid. We cannot escape these principles, friends. God is not mocked, a man reaps what he sows. With God’s laws, you don’t break them. If you disobey them, they break you. And now, they may break our economy. If we keep going down the path we’re on, one Christian financial consulting firm put it like this:
Failure to heed the principles God has plainly established for our own good will destroy the good faith and credit of the United States government. Should that day come, the consequences will be dire. Our entire economy will collapse with sudden speed, bringing mind-numbing consequences to world order. To avoid the pain, we can print more money, bringing on devastating hyperinflation.
That’s the doomsday scenario, friends.
B. GET OUT OF DEBT
So what can you do? One, save.
Two, the time is now to get out of debt. The Bible does not forbid debt, as it gives rules for how to repay it. But if ever there was a good time to be in debt, now is not that time. And the Bible gives us so many good reasons to want to avoid it:
First, the simple truth, Crown of Life, Kansas Ave and communities abroad is that whenever you sign up for a debt of any kind, you’ve just surrendered a slice of your freedom. The Bible says, Proverbs 22:7: The borrower becomes the lenders slave.
A friend of mine was complaining about how they attempted to garnish his wages for a debt he owed that he had fallen behind on. So he closed his bank account to stop them. He didn’t like them just taking it. He wanted to be back in control.
Well this guy just didn’t get it. Debt takes control over you. It puts you OUT of control. The lender is not obligated to be nice to you. It’s a voluntary legal contract you enter into. And it’s a type of slavery. You don’t get free, until the debt is gone. So if you choose debt, don’t get mad when your freedoms are diminished.
Second, debt enslaves you to excessive earning pressures. Hag 1:6 says, “You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” Debt is simply more holes in your money purse. The more holes, the faster and more frantically you have to pour in.
Third, debt enslaves us to Joylessness. PROVERBS 12:25 says, an anxious heart weighs a man down. There’s nothing like debt pressure to rob you of sleep.
Fourth, debt ties your hands when opportunities to do good come along.
So what I’m driving at is that there are many things about the gov’t’s spending habits that might make you mad, but today is a good day to look in the mirror. Many things you can’t control, but this you can. You can seek to get out of debt as fast as possible and start to save.
Whatever the economy is going to do, this is what YOU can do.
So, friends this is a good time to take some radical steps:
– One, make a RADICAL DECISION TO END YOUR SLAVERY. No one “drifts upstream.”
– Second, analyze your current situation to see where the holes are in your purse:
o House is too big, car is too new?
o Hobbies, vacations? clothes?
o Credit cards?
– Third, get on a repayment plan. Good Sense is available. Sign up.
– Fourth, be generous with God. God invites you to invite him into your financial picture. The Bible says this over and over. Prov 3:9-10: “Honor the LORD with your wealth…; then your barns will be filled to overflowing.” Now, with the economy bad? Especially now! Tithing is an act of faith that invites God to bring supernatural power to reverse your situation.
– Fifth, please consider God’s financial laws as you decide who to vote for in this upcoming election. Anyone, at any level, running for office who isn’t talking about REAL and considerable cuts in government programs – and by that I mean, from the welfare state to the warfare state – is either a fool or lying about what’s coming.
So that’s very practical. But some of you are mired in this thing spiritually and emotionally and I have some even MORE practical news from you, from the Christian gospel. It’s good news! It will cheer you up and give you tremendous hope, if you receive it.
A. ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE
First, this time of financial insecurity is a chance to get focused on forever things, and not temporal things. The American dream isn’t ultimate goal the Christian is shooting for. Neither is seeing America survive as a national, financial and military power. In fact, when some of those temporal things are taken away, we may get closer to our REAL goals.
“what will it prosper a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul? What would a man give in exchange for his soul? …For where your treasure is, there will heart be also.”
It’s not an all-together bad thing to get a hard reminder that if we gained all that this world tells us we should gain, wealth, security, comfort… that that still isn’t what REALLY matters. I’m not saying you shouldn’t save money for retirement. You should. No one wants to be a drain on their kids or the system.
But what is the true point of life? The writer of Ecclesiastes says,
Eccl 12:13-14 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole [duty] of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.
What is the bible saying, friend? It’s saying, this life is not the end. This life is not all there is to live for. The purpose of this life, is to live and prepare for the next life. And ironically that makes for an even richer life here and now.
My parents are volunteers at a college that trains foreign nationals for Christian ministry – in Hawaii. And these people come from the down and out places on planet earth. Malawi, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Pakistan, Peru. And my parents wondered how these people from destitute countries would react to the extravagant lifestyles that we live here, the meals, the cars, the homes.
They were worried that they would be so jealous and envious. They were worried that our wealth would be a stumbling block to them spiritually. They would surely say,
‘why o God did you put me in my horrible country where there’s no MTV? Where I can’t get a Twinkie when I want to, like my American friends? Where I can’t see news of the Brittany Spears saga. Ah, the injustice!”
Well, guess what? They didn’t say that. Friend, this will come a shock to some of you, but those church leaders from around the world look at us and they are overwhelmed with one emotion and it’s not envy. You want to know what it is? It’s Pity.
The pity us. Because they see so clearly that our preoccupation with this life is killing our chance at dying well. They think about dying all the time. In Malawi, the average person dies at my age. They find truth that totally escapes us in what Jesus said,
– Blessed [happy, lucky, favored by God!] are you who mourn
– Blessed are you who are poor
– Blessed are you who are persecuted.
Look, I understand that it’s a rotten thing that some of you might have had your net worth cut in half last month. I feel for you and I wouldn’t be happy about that either. But you and I can have a hope in Jesus Christ that draws us into the Life of God. It’s a forgiven life, a life full of joy and peace and hope for resurrection.
Can I just remind you of how many rich people have gone into depression, dove into drugs or self destruction or even committed suicide because they don’t have what the simplest, poorest Christian has in spades? Peace of mind. Peace with God. A heart full of joy and a family who loves them; Hope for tomorrow and no fear of death. Curt Cobain, Howard Hughes to name two.
Some people would give their fortune for the simple gifts that Christians take for granted.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
B. NO HOPE IN MONEY
I believe Christ might also use the market downturn as an opportunity to remind us that putting our hope in money is a bad idea. Today, I want to challenge you directly. If we are depressed or mad or fearful, then we have likely put too much trust in money and not enough in God. Perhaps this is a chance to ask yourself how you can move beyond.
IN the Bible it says:
1 Tim 6:17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain.
Maybe you never heard that before, but do you think God knows what’s talking about now? Does your money seem uncertain to you now? Money isn’t bad, but the Bible treats it like sex and power. Nice gifts that make terrible gods. And God would spare you the trauma of putty all your security into something that could vanish with one decision by the Fed.
So if your heart has been too wrapped up in your financial security, if your computer is following the Markets a little too closely and your heart is going up and down the roller coaster ride, friend, here’s a simple message: get off! You can try and control what cannot be controlled and go insane trying. Or you can trust God more than you trust money.
The Bible asks for us to store for a rainy day. And we should. But when did God ask us to bend our lives and our hearts out of shape to gain perfect security for tomorrow? It’s impossible. You don’t even know if you’ll be here tomorrow. So beyond reasonable measures to save, you will have to trust God for daily bread. And guess, what? That’s just the way God wants it.
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The Message (MSG)
11-12 One day the angel of God came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, whose son Gideon was threshing wheat in the winepress, out of sight of the Midianites. The angel of God appeared to him and said, “God is with you, O mighty warrior!”
13 Gideon replied, “With me, my master? If God is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all the miracle-wonders our parents and grandparents told us about, telling us, ‘Didn’t God deliver us from Egypt?’ The fact is, God has nothing to do with us—he has turned us over to Midian.”
14 But God faced him directly: “Go in this strength that is yours. Save Israel from Midian. Haven’t I just sent you?”
15 Gideon said to him, “Me, my master? How and with what could I ever save Israel? Look at me. My clan’s the weakest in Manasseh and I’m the runt of the litter.”
16 God said to him, “I’ll be with you. Believe me, you’ll defeat Midian as one man.”
17-18 Gideon said, “If you’re serious about this, do me a favor: Give me a sign to back up what you’re telling me. Don’t leave until I come back and bring you my gift.”
He said, “I’ll wait till you get back.”
19 Gideon went and prepared a young goat and a huge amount of unraised bread (he used over half a bushel of flour!). He put the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot and took them back under the shade of the oak tree for a sacred meal.
20 The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and unraised bread, place them on that rock, and pour the broth on them.” Gideon did it.
21-22 The angel of God stretched out the tip of the stick he was holding and touched the meat and the bread. Fire broke out of the rock and burned up the meat and bread while the angel of God slipped away out of sight. And Gideon knew it was the angel of God!
Gideon said, “Oh no! Master, God! I have seen the angel of God face-to-face!”
23 But God reassured him, “Easy now. Don’t panic. You won’t die.”
A mother asked her five-year-old son to go to the pantry to get her a can of tomato soup. But he refused and protested, “Its dark in there.” Mom assured Johnny, “It’s okay. Don’t be afraid. Jesus is in there.” So Johnny opened the door slowly and seeing that it was dark, shouted, “Jesus, can you hand me a can of tomato soup?”
This humorous story of Johnny’s fear reminds me of Gideon. The Lord appeared to Gideon, calling him a “mighty man of valor” and then telling him to deliver Israel out of Midian’s hand. But Gideon’s fearful reply was, “My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house”. Even after the Lord told Gideon that with His help he would defeat the Midianites, he still afraid.
Then Gideon asked the Lord for signs to confirm God’s will and empowerment. So, why did the Lord address fearful Gideon as a “mighty man of valor”? Because of who Gideon would one day become with the Lord’s help. We too may doubt our own abilities and potential. But let us never doubt what God can do with us when we trust and obey Him. Gideon’s God is the same God who will help us accomplish all that He asks us to do.
The Lord provides the strength we need to Follow and obey His will; So we don’t need to be afraid that what He asks we can’t fulfill. We can face any fear when we know the Lord is with us…
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There once was a man who very adamantly believed in living by faith. He believed that, so long as he prayed in Jesus’ name, believing in faith that God would provide his need, he would receive whatever he asked for. One day he stood up in church and declared that from that day forward, he was trusting God to supply all his needs. He quit his job as a high-ranking official in a fairly large company and moved into a dingy little house on the rougher side of town. The first night he prayed very fervently for God to send him some food, because he was beginning to get hungry. The next morning he walked outside, expecting to find food, but nothing was there.
Figuring that he didn’t pray fervently enough, he dedicated the whole day to praying for God to provide food for the next day. The next morning came, and still no food. That day he prayed even more fervently for God to provide nourishment, for by now he was growing ravenously hungry. “God, you must provide me with food, or I will die out here,” he prayed over and over again. The next morning he walked outside, and still no food. By this time he was beginning to get angry with God for not providing He promised in His Word. That afternoon and evening he redoubled his efforts, wailing and rocking back and forth and beating his breast as he prayed. “Dear God, I’m going to starve to death unless you feed me. I haven’t eaten or had anything to drink in 4 days!” When he had prayed all he could pray, and was exhausted he fell back on the bed and stared at the wall. In the silence, he heard a small voice calling out his name. “Bill! Bill!”
“I’m here Lord,” he cried. “Are you finally answering my prayer?”
“I’ve been answering your prayers,” the voice replied. “You’ve just been looking in the wrong direction.”
“What do you mean Lord? I don’t understand,” he exclaimed, exasperated.
“Walk outside,” said the voice.
Bill walked outside, looked all around on the dirty porch, but still found no food. “There’s nothing here, Lord. I don’t see any food.”
“You’re looking in the wrong direction. Look up.”
Bill looked up, and there right above his head, pasted onto the building next to him, was a huge billboard with big black print that said, “DAY LABORERS WANTED! LUNCH WILL BE PROVIDED.”…
Phil. 4:19 ….according to His riches.
God’s Provision For our Needs Is Not Dependent Upon A Prosperous Economy!
This principle is illustrated throughout Scripture:
For example, God doesn’t need a healthy, normal womb for a woman to conceive and bear a child.
Judges 13:2-3 (conception and birth of Samson) “2 And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren, and bare not.
3 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son.”
Psalm 113.9 “ He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the LORD.”
Luke 1:5-37 Elizabeth, old age & barren ; Mary, young and know not a man God can bring a child out of a barren womb.
So God doesn’t need a healthy economy, to be able to supply our needs!
God can multiply the resources that we have. John 6:1-13
Many of you know by experience how
God can do more with 90% of our income than we can do with 100% !
God can sustain us through extended periods of need in our lives. I Kings 17:1-16
God frequently provides just enough at just the right time. Exodus 16:1-35
*Stop expecting God to supply ahead of time
God can make bitter water sweet. Exodus 15:22-27
God can bring water out of a rock. Numbers 20:1-13
God wants daily trust in Him, not trust in our reserve funds.
* The Model prayer…”Give us this day our daily bread” (not weekly, monthly, or yearly)
* Yes, plan for the future,…but trust God with the future!
* In fact, it’s unwise not to invest for the future,….not to save for the unexpected.
Prov. 21:20 “20 There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up.”
God can supply our needs in a bad economy just as easily as He can in a prosperous economy!
*Since the days of the “great depression” we Americans have lived in a relatively prosperous country. It is possible, those days could return again. If they do, perhaps our lives will be a little less comfortable than they presently are, but our needs will be provided for.
* In the future, Social Security may be there and it may not be….But God will always have enough for our needs.
*God’s resources are inexhaustible and limitless!
* Stop worrying about your future needs,…let God take care of it!
* God can still do the miraculous. He specializes in miracles.
* God’s provisions are not governed by American economics!
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How do you deal with conflict? People handle it all sorts of different ways. Some seek to just avoid it by either running away from it or by appeasing their enemies. Some go to the opposite extreme and almost seem to welcome it if not instigate it themselves. Then there are those who will not back down from their core issues of belief, yet will also seek to find common ground in which compromise can be made and the issues resolved. While that introduction could be a good introduction to a political speech since the major political parties and candidates differ so much on the issues related to dealing with those that hate America and seek our harm, our interest this morning is dealing with conflict in the church.
I wish conflict among Christians were a relatively insignificant problem. I wish we who believe in Jesus could experience the unity he commended to us (John 17:20-24). I wish there wasn’t animosity within churches and denominations. But all of this is, I admit, wishful thinking. The fact is that Christians often have a hard time getting along with each other. This has been true from the earliest days of the church. The Apostle Paul, who planted the church in Corinth, wrote what we call 1 Corinthians to the believers there principally because of internal conflict in the church. By the time Paul wrote 2 Corinthians, the tension was largely between Paul and his church. Even in a healthy church, such as the one in Philippi, conflict was a problem. Thus Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians: “I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life” (Phil 4:2-3). Two prominent women in the Philippian congregation, people who had been Paul’s co-workers in ministry, were stuck in some sort of conflict such that they needed help from Paul and others to try and get along. When I was a young Christian, I used to think that the solution to the ills of the contemporary church was to “get back to the early church.” If we could only believe and do as the first believers believed and did, we’d be on the right track. But the more I have studied the early church, the more I have come to recognize the manifold problems that plagued the first Christians. Among these, conflict played a central role. Perhaps one of the most discouraging things about studying church history, from the first century onward, is to see just how often Christians have been mired in disputes and strife. Sometimes, in our worst moments, we have actually put to death fellow Christians whose theological convictions didn’t measure up to our personal standards. Not a happy story, not at all. This was not what Jesus intended, to be sure. In his so-called “High Priestly Prayer” recorded in John 17, Jesus prayed: “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23)
Do you enjoy conflict? I can’t say that I do. When disagreement surfaces, especially in the church, my instinctive response is usually “uh-oh.”
“Relational conflict is what the Bible calls sin,” reads a discipling manual I came across recently. That says it pretty straight, doesn’t it? But there’s a basic problem with this take on things: It’s not true. While, of course, sin does breed some conflicts, others grow out of nothing more sinister than differences in experience or personality or even spiritual gifts.
Not all conflict is bad. Much tension is life-giving–inviting us to grow, learn, or develop intimacy. Churches that habitually run from conflict (and there are lots of them) don’t just miss out on these growth opportunities; they end up sick.
Chances are, in your church you’ve witnessed some of the crippling consequences of conflict avoidance firsthand.
Making lowest-common-denominator decisions
As one church launched a comprehensive planning process, a member rose and addressed the planning consultant: “One thing you need to know about this church is that we are very careful to not offend anyone.” Translation: “Don’t you dare rock the boat! We don’t want to make any decision that anyone doesn’t like.”
Down this path lies paralysis. Doing nothing until everyone likes it gives the most negative members of the congregation veto power. It insures that new and exciting changes will be rare, and it practically guarantees that many of the most passionate, outreach-oriented members of your congregation will leave. Why? Because by empowering those slowest to embrace change, you are disempowering your most creative leaders. Many of them will find another church that supports them in pursuing the vision for ministry God has given them.
No church can keep everybody happy. Some people are going to leave. But you can choose which group you will lose–your most entrepreneurial, visionary leaders, or those most fearful of change.
One Detroit pastor got this right. During a time of vision work that released great energy in the congregation, one member–a major giver–announced that if the church installed theater lighting in the sanctuary for a proposed ministry, he would leave. The pastor’s answer: “We’ll hate to see you go, but we can’t hold up the rest of the congregation for one person.” That church is well on its way to getting unstuck.
Settling for shallow relationships
Conflict is essential to developing intimacy. Until people have gone through conflict together and come out on the other side, the relationship is untested. Working through differences constructively forges deep bonds of trust.
In the life cycle of a small group, for example, the first stage of group life is the honeymoon. This is followed by a conflict stage through which the group must pass to reach the third stage–community. If a group spends too long at the honeymoon stage–staying at the level of pleasant, superficial acquaintance–a wise group leader will intentionally surface conflict so the group can move ahead on the path toward mature community.
In the same way, the strongest marriages are those where the partners have fought their way through many tough issues to achieve a hard-won mutual trust. These husbands and wives know that more challenges will come, but that doesn’t scare them. They know they can work through them together and be the stronger for it because they’ve done it before.
Sinking into irrelevance
The pace of change in our culture is faster than ever and getting faster. This means that although the gospel never changes, our ministry forms must constantly change to connect with a rapidly changing society. The only alternative is cultural irrelevance.
When a congregation’s leaders commit to cultural relevance, this pushes many of us beyond our comfort zones. Christians passionate about reaching the unchurched will often clash with those more concerned with their own comfort. Between “what I feel most comfortable with” and “the most effective way to fulfill our mission” often stretches a wide chasm.
Pat Kiefert, president of Church Innovations Institute, describes a congregational study done at Emory University by Nancy Ammerman:
It concluded that every congregation that successfully adapted and flourished in a changing community had a substantial church fight. Those that chose to avoid conflict at all costs failed to flourish. No exceptions. (Net Results, January 1996).
Pretending differences don’t exist
A committee member complained to her pastor about a long-standing committee policy that was causing problems. But when the committee discussed the policy at its next meeting, she kept quiet, insecure about expressing disagreement. So, the other committee members still don’t know about the problem and ministry suffers.
Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, as one person sharpens the wits of another” (NRSV). When people sidestep working through differences, the iron never gets very sharp, working relationships remain strained, and the group tends to make poor decisions. In a healthy church, people know how to disagree without being disagreeable.
Being complacent about complacency
I was having breakfast with several members of a church council who were considering launching a strategic planning initiative in their church. At the end of the meal, one man asked, “How can we convince our people we need this when they are so content with the way things are?” I knew this was a church that prized keeping the peace above almost everything else, so I suspect my answer shocked them. “One of the most important responsibilities of church leadership,” I said, “is to create tension. And you do that by making your people highly conscious of the gap between the way the church is and how God wants it to be. Make your people so aware of the something more that God is calling them to be that they can no longer be content with the way things are.”
In a complacent church, it is the job of the leaders to increase frustration, to introduce conflict.
Avoiding the hard work of correcting sin
Conflict-avoiding churches often empower the most divisive members to wreak havoc. Other members may quietly complain about the bullies, but rarely do they acknowledge that such people are committing a grievous sin and that the church is morally responsible to discipline them.
Why are we so slow to confront people who are damaging the church? Well, we know it’s going to hurt, and most of us don’t enjoy inflicting pain. And we may not relish the prospect of arousing the offender’s anger. But perhaps a deeper reason is that the New Testament instructions for correcting one another are designed to be lived out in the context of intimate community, and most of our churches today have much more the flavor of institution than of community. Spiritual correction doesn’t work all that well outside of intimate relationship, no matter how well-intended.
But, in spite of the challenges, for the church to be healthy, we must find ways to give and receive accountability.
To be healthy, your church needs conflict.
* Every church has defining moments when it must choose between being true to its mission and pleasing people. Obeying God must always trump trying to keep everybody happy.
* The church cannot fulfill its destiny apart from becoming an intimate community, and successfully working through conflict, again and again, is essential to community-building.
* All progress requires change, and all change brings some level of conflict. Working through the conflicts that come with constantly updating ministry will always be part of the ongoing cost of making your church’s ministries culturally relevant.
* No ministry team can thrive while sweeping important differences under the rug. To draw out the best in people, the church must offer safe places where all know that differing perspectives are not only tolerated, but truly valued.
* When a church is complacent, the leaders are responsible to “disturb the peace” by spotlighting the gap between what is and what needs to be until the members become so uncomfortable that they feel compelled to change.
* Finally, when conflict is fueled by sin, the church must respond graciously and firmly, speaking the truth in love, to restore the one who is sinning and to protect and heal the church from the sin’s destructive impact.
One translation of Acts 4:32 says that all the believers in the Jerusalem church “all felt the same way about everything” (CEV). Really? I wonder if that translation team bothered to read the next chapter of Acts, or the one after that. The New Testament church consisted not of a bunch of ditto-heads, but of diverse people who cared–and disagreed–passionately. No, what Acts 4:32 really says is that the believers were “of one heart and soul” (NRSV). Their love for each other and their shared purpose inspired them to work through potentially explosive disagreements while respecting each others’ differences, coming up with creative win-win solutions that embodied kingdom values. (See, for example, Acts 6 and 15.)
Such conflict is not the enemy. In fact, it is an absolutely essential element in the day-to-day rhythm of life in every healthy church.
May your church be blessed with many life-giving conflicts–and the grace to grow through every one of them.
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Paul in chapter 12 laid the foundation – that we are all part of a system and that to do God’s work we need to let the Holy Spirit work through us collectively in whatever way or with whatever gifts He chooses. There are no Lone Ranger and there are no Superstars. Each part of the body and each gift is just as important – even if it is not as “flashy” as others.
Paul ends chapter 12 by saying: And now I will show you the most excellent way.
No matter how gifted you are – no matter how successful in ministry – no matter how close to God – there is one overarching principal that should guide everything we do. Otherwise anything you do for the Lord is a waste of time.
That, of course is love. 1st Corinthians 13 is one of the most famous passages of Scripture. It’s quoted as weddings routinely. So much so that it begins to sound like the trite phrases of a Hallmark card. “What the world needs now is love sweet love” as if just saying the word “love” is all that’s needed.
This chapter is far more than that – it is far more challenging than you may have imagined.
The Need for Love
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
No matter how much I know – or how much great wisdom I speak, no matter if I utter incredible mysteries that wow the masses – I might as well be just honking my horn in bumper to bumper traffic unless I do it with love.
No matter what I can do – healing, miracles – without love it is meaningless.
This one really kills me – no matter how much I give of myself – I can be the humblest most giving person on earth – even give up my life for my faith – but if I am not flowing in God’s love I might as well not do it.
What kind of love is this? Every time the word “love” appears in this chapter it is the word “agape.” This is different from the other forms of the word “love” in Greek. Phileo is the idea of brotherly love or friendship. The city of Philadelphia gets its name from this word. Eros is the idea of sexual love – we get the word erotic from this word. Agape as a word didn’t really appear until the New Testament. It is selfless love – the love of God towards Jesus and towards us. It’s not a love of word but a love of action without regard to self interest.
It is the character of God. 1 John 4:8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
Everything you strive for, who you want to be, what you want to do, how you want people to think of you, what you want to accomplish – everything should go through this filter – “am I doing this with agape love?”
And before we go on – remember that it is from the Holy Spirit that we get the power to live this kind of life. Don’t think you can find it in worldly philosophy or philanthropy or religious piety. Only a person who says “Jesus is Lord” can exhibit this kind of love.
So now let’s look at the character of this love.
The Character of Love
Paul defines for us what agape means. He does it in terms of what it is and what it is not. There are 8 things it does, 8 things it does not do.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.
The 8 things love is: Patient, Kind, Rejoices in truth, Protects, Trusts, Hopes, Perseveres, Never fails.
The 8 things love is not: Envy, Boasting, Pride, Rudeness, Self seeking, Anger, holding grudges, delighting in evil.
You could form these around four basic concepts:
How you deal with others (patient, kind, protects, vs. rude, angry, grudges)
How you deal with life (patient, hopes, trusts, perseveres, never fails)
Your relationship to yourself (never fails, patient, kind, vs. envy, pride, self seeking, boasting)
Your relationship to God (hopes, perseveres, rejoices in truth, vs. pride, self seeking, delight in evil)
Let’s look at these one at a time:
This comes from two Greek words: “long” and “tempered”. Vine’s expository dictionary says patience is “self restraint in the face of provocation … the opposite of anger.”
Do you have a short fuse? Do you get easily frustrated when things don’t go your way or don’t happen fast enough? Do you retaliate easily and quickly against those that hurt you? That’s the opposite of patient.
Patience means you wait out trouble and you don’t strike out against adversity. I like how Peter describes it in his letter:
1 Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
You wait under God’s hand – you don’t from trouble or run from God. Certainly God is patient with us, isn’t He? That’s love.
The Greek word for “kind” means “to show oneself useful.” Taking patience one step further – not only are you long tempered against trouble, but you actually reach out with a benefit to someone else. It comes from a root word that means “employed.”
It reminds me of something Paul emphasizes over and over in this letter:
1 Corinthians 10:33 For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.
Most of the time we think “what’s in it for me.” But kindness thinks, what can I do to benefit you? That’s love.
Paul next strings 8 negatives together. Often we learn by contrast – we see what love is by carving away what it is not – and when we find ourselves acting in these ways we know we are not acting in love.
It comes from the word “to boil.” It’s kind of the bolstered idea of “what’s in it for me,” in the sense of “it’s all about me.” When we become so self focused that anything anyone else has that we don’t have makes our blood boil and is the opposite of wanting to benefit another. Envy is when we only want to benefit ourselves at the expense of others.
Boasting is really a corollary of envy – “if you’ve got it flaunt it – even if you don’t have it, pretend like you do.” The Greek word has the connotation of “play the braggart.” Often times boasting is playing a part – something we are not but want to be or think we are.
This is the same word Paul uses in chapter 8 – “knowledge puffs up.” It means to inflate – like a bag of hot air – no substance but a lot of fluff. It’s increasing your sense of self importance well beyond your hat size.
The word here is “unshapely.” You could say “not pretty to look at.” Do people have a hard time being around you because you do things that are unpredictable or embarrassing or unbecoming? That’s rudeness.
This could be rendered “worship yourself.”
Not Easily Angered
It means to “exasperate.” The Greek word can translate “to sharpen alongside.” This is really the opposite of patience.
Keeps no record of wrongs
The suggestion from the original here is thinking poorly of someone else – or really pondering and dwelling on someone else as evil. The old story goes that Santa Claus keeps a list of whose naughty and whose nice. Sometimes we keep those lists too. How quick are you to forgive?
Does not delight in evil
It means to be happy when an injustice or wrong occurs. In a sense this is the ultimate form of “anti-love.” We want, we get, we hurt others to get it – and we’re happy that we stomped over them to get what we really deserve in the first place.
The thing that all these negatives have in common is that they all focus on us – what we want, who we are, who bad everyone is in comparison to us, what bad things people are always trying to do us – me me me! This is the opposite of love.
Rejoices in the truth
This is interesting because the word “rejoice” is a compound word – part of it is the same word used in “delight in evil.” When put together with the other word it means “to sympathize with gladness.” When you delight in evil you are holding yourself apart from the other person – glad they are suffering and you aren’t. Rejoicing in the truth means you are drawing close to someone as they come to know the truth of God and about sin, come to know the love of God, or have something good happen to them.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres
This is really neat – these four words form a related pattern. “protects” means to “roof over,” “trusts” means to “put your faith in” something, “hopes” means “to confide in” and “preserves” means “to stay under.” These are all things God does for us – and things we should do for others – throwing a protective blanket, physically, emotionally – over someone else; being willing to put our faith in someone else – be real, confide in them – know that God will work good in their lives – then stick it out with them to see the love of God change their lives.
You see all this business of love isn’t some magical, rose-colored-glasses kind of “feeling.” It’s actually very specific: love and trust God no matter what, seek the best for and the best in those around you – then help benefit their lives as they draw closer to God. That’s love!
So this begs the question – why does Paul put this in here – smack dab in the middle of a section on spiritual gifts? It has application far beyond a discussion of spiritual gifts but it speaks directly to an attitude that believers can have, especially when they start talking about how God has gifted them – that they speak God’s words and bring about miracles.
Hey, if you reached out your hand and someone was healed it might happen to you too – you start to feel pretty special about yourself. Instantly the focus moves off of the real purpose of the gifts – to see others benefited and drawn close to God, even if it means you get hurt or get less in the process.
We as humans are basically selfish. Paul is telling us that God is basically unselfish and will bring about good in others lives even if it hurts Him in the process – and we should be like Him!
So to further illustrate this – Paul says “look – all this neat stuff you are experiencing is going to go away, but the need to love unselfishly will never go away.
The Supremacy of Love
But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
We seek to know the deep mysteries of God and think by our knowledge we are better. We seek to do mighty miracles, thinking that we must be more favored. But in reality – when you really being to mature as a Christian, what you find is that love is the ultimate expression of who God is – selfless, other-focused, always giving, love.
Paul says – when you start to see who God really is, what maturity really is about, you see that it isn’t about you after all – its about what God does through for others.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
These three ideas were favorites of Paul – the “essentials” to life. Faith in Jesus as God and Savior, hope of the good things He is doing in our lives and is going to do – but love is the greatest – it is the driving force for everything.
Remember? God so “loved” the world that …
• Love doesn’t happen overnight
After reading this you might be thinking – “man, how can I ever live up to this stuff – I might as well give up.”
Remember what Paul says – “when I became a man I put away childish things.” Growing up in love is a process as we mature. It takes time and experience – don’t beat yourself up, just know that this is the direction your should be heading if you have a vibrant relationship with the Lord.
• Love is an action – but it’s not fireworks display
Let’s not make the mistake that the Corinthians and, for that matter, the Pharisees, made. Showing love means an attitude and actions – but love is more often a very quiet, unobtrusive affair. We don’t need to broadcast the depth of our love and the amount of our selflessness to the whole world.
Don’t expect fireworks to go off as you show and grow in love. But do expect lives to begin to grow and heal and change – that’s the pay off.
• Needing & Asking for things isn’t bad
Acting in love doesn’t mean you take a vow of poverty. James said “you have not because you ask not.” Jesus said (Matthew 7:7)
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
The problem isn’t with the asking – it’s with the motivation.
James goes on to say: (James 4:3) When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
We err when we seek to fulfill our desires from the wrong source – or we ask God for things for the wrong reasons.
So search your heart – then ask – then wait for God to respond to what you really need.
Today we are invited by the Church to witness the climactic scene of human history–the moment on Calvary when Jesus, center of a triple trinity, gives over His Spirit and dies for us. The Holy Father recognizes that this is the central event of the cosmos: “God’s word is . . . spoken throughout the history of salvation, and most fully in the mystery of the incarnation, death and resurrection of the Son of God.” Further, “Christ’s victory over death took place through the creative power of the word of God. This divine power brings hope and joy: this, in a word, is the liberating content of the paschal revelation. At Easter, God reveals himself and the power of the trinitarian love which shatters the baneful powers of evil and death.”
There is a triple trinity on Calvary: Standing by the cross were three women, three Mary’s. On the three crosses were three condemned men, Jesus, the repentant bandit we know as Dismas, and the unrepentant bandit whose name is lost to history. And, of course, Jesus, the God-man, was the second person of the divine trinity always present to us, but especially at this moment, when our redemption was being accomplished out of divine love.
To this scene Jesus summons John out of the crowd of onlookers. We think of John taking Mary to Calvary, but it appears that he was near, but not next to her. Mary’s support were the other two women, Mary of Clopas and Mary Magdalene, from whom Jesus had driven several demons. That was the harbinger of the victory he was about to snatch from the jaws of defeat. But first, Jesus was to create a Church, a new body for Himself on earth, and, like the Creator in Eden, breathe new life into her.
As if to make this even clearer, He addresses His mother as the new Eve: “Woman, behold your son.” Mary probably looked first to Jesus, her natural son. But she saw Jesus nodding to the young man who was coming near to her, and knew that Jesus had a double meaning. The natural son was being taken from her by the will of the Father; in His place there was to be this younger one, and a host of others, men and women, boys and girls, whom she was to mother. As Eve was ironically called “mother of the living,” when what she had bequeathed to them was death, so Mary, the new Eve, was the true mother of the living, because through this great sacrifice her Son was to earn for us true life, and everlasting union with God. Eve had torn us away from the Father; Mary’s “fiat” would bring us back to the Father.
So Jesus then told John, and all of us, “Son, here is your mother.” From that hour, John, and we, have taken her into our home. But, rather, she has taken us into her home, the Church.
Having done everything the Father willed, Jesus fulfilled a last prophecy. He had said at the Last Supper that He would no more take the fruit of the vine until all was fulfilled in the kingdom of God. The irony is that the fruit of the vine–our vine–had soured. So He took vinegar to slake His thirst for the fruit of our work. What we do without Him is corrupt. Even our best intentions, without the will of God, turn to ashes and vinegar. But He takes even that to redeem. He says “it is consummated–fulfilled and sends forth His Spirit. It is this Spirit that brings us together and makes us part of His Body. What was born in anguish will be raised in glory.
New International Version (NIV)
The Vine and the Branches
15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
During an international publishing conference, a young Frenchman described his experience at a book-signing event. A woman picked up one of his books, browsed through it, and exclaimed, “At last, a story that’s clean!” He replied gently, “I write clean because I think clean. It’s not an effort.” What he expressed in print came from within, where Christ had altered the very core of his life.
John 15 records Jesus’ lesson to His disciples about abiding in Him as The only means to a fruitful life. In the midst of His imagery of the vine and branches, Jesus said: “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you”. Bible scholar W.E. Vines says that the Greek word for clean means ” free from impure admixture, without blemish, spotless.”
A pure heart is the work of Christ, and only in His power can we remain clean. We often fail, but “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to…cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. Renewal is an inside job. Jesus has made us clean through his sacrifice and Word. Our speech and actions that strike others as being fresh and pure flow from inside out as we abide in Christ.
Admitting that we’re guilty,
Acknowledging our sin,
Then trusting in Christ’s sacrifice
Will make us clean within..
Confession to God brings cleansing from God…
Over the weekend, President Obama took time out of addressing graduates at the celebrated, historically-black, all-male, private college, Morehouse, to remind about black men who make bad choices, chalking up failures to The Man and myriad other excuses.
“We know that too many young men in our community continue to make bad choices. Growing up, I made a few myself. And I have to confess, sometimes I wrote off my own failings as just another example of the world trying to keep a black man down. But one of the things you’ve learned over the last four years is that there’s no longer any room for excuses. I understand that there’s a common fraternity creed here at Morehouse: ‘excuses are tools of the incompetent, used to build bridges to nowhere and monuments of nothingness.’ We’ve got no time for excuses – not because the bitter legacies of slavery and segregation have vanished entirely; they haven’t. Not because racism and discrimination no longer exist; that’s still out there. It’s just that in today’s hyperconnected, hypercompetitive world, with a billion young people from China and India and Brazil entering the global workforce alongside you, nobody is going to give you anything you haven’t earned. And whatever hardships you may experience because of your race, they pale in comparison to the hardships previous generations endured – and overcame.”
But why do a roomful of young, black male college graduates, in particular, need this admonishment against excuse-making and expecting goodies they have not earned? Surely our Commander-In-chief would argue against conservative charges that real racism is dead and that his America is rife with lazy, irresponsible and demanding (black and brown) “takers” Why, then, do his speeches to black Americans so often warn against creeping pathology? (For instance, the 2008 Father’s Day speech that centered on shiftless and absent black sperm donors, instead of men who take the role of fatherhood seriously and are present and active in their children’s lives, whether or not they are part of a married couple.)
Of course, our President isn’t the only person seemingly subconsciously invested in the idea of inherent black dysfunction. In Michelle Obama’s speech to graduates at historically-black Bowie State University, the First Lady complained about young, black students with dreams of hip hop celebrity and urged parents not to accept failing schools. Ta-Nehisi Coates brilliantly addressed hand-wringing over hip hop aspirations in his piece, “How the Obama Administration Talks to Black America.” But it is also worth noting how offensive it is to suggest that the average black parent needs to be told to seek the best education for their children. And why lecture black college graduates, who have clearly demonstrated a belief in the power of education?
Hyperfocus on alleged black faults and how “we need to do better” is an outgrowth of the way black people have absorbed the race biases and stereotypes of the majority culture over centuries, combined with our desire to prove our own decency.
This isn’t just about the President and First Lady. I’ve sat in many a pew and auditorium seat, wedged between other black folk, wondering why a speech meant to inspire me instead sounds like an unspoken accusation or a caution against some sin I never dreamed of committing. There is something about a chance to speak to a room full of fellow African Americans that seems to make the siren song of respectability politics nigh irresistible. And amidst the “show ‘em you’re one of the good ones” boot-strapping oratory is always a clutch of disturbing implied messages: Mainly that WE are the ultimate problem; not centuries of systemic racism or classism or educational and prison systems rife with inequality. And that, deep down, we are who they say we are. That even the best and brightest of us are one good, finger-wagging speech away from every affront to mainstream Judeo-Christian, middle-class, patriarchal American values. (Of course, the only values that matter.)
This sort of thinking reveals itself in many ways. For example, the entire let’s-teach-black-women-how-to-be-marriageable industrial complex hinges on the idea of inherent black, female dysfunction. But this scolding of black America is even more problematic and damaging when conducted by our country’s leader–the person ultimately in charge of education, healthcare, housing and countless other systems. Black people don’t need Barack Obama to lecture us about why education is important for our children; we need to know what steps his administration is taking to ensure that our children have an equal shot at good, accessible education. And we don’t need a black president tacitly confirming the worst ideas of the African American community by using nearly every engagement with us to urge us to fix ourselves.
The inability to cope with life in a white supremacist society, the shock of witnessing extreme acts of violence, or the loss a loved one to a preventable illness (causes) can all lead to anger, depression, suicide, violence, and substance, physical, and mental abuse.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, a Black man or woman in America commits suicide every 4 hours (suicide is now the third leading cause of death among black men between the ages of 15 and 24.)
Psychiatrist Alvin Poussaint, M.D. of the Harvard Medical School and author of the book, Lay My Burden Down, writes ”You can’t prevent illness or suicide if you don’t talk about it and gain some knowledge about it.”
◾Changes in appetite
◾Changes in sleep habits
◾Headaches, stomach aches, pain all over
◾Chronic fatigue – not wanting to get up in the morning
◾Sadness that continues for up to a month – spontaneous crying
◾Social withdrawal – a loss of interest in activities and things once considered enjoyable
Another example of physical self-destruction: According to a study conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, between 1976 and 2011 there were 279,384 black murder victims, which means that 262,621 were murdered by other blacks, resulting in the 94 percent figure. Even though blacks make-up only 13 percent of the nation’s population, they account for more than 50 percent of homicide victims.
Cancer, lung disease, AIDS, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease are all very preventable illnesses. And yet, Black men and women continue to destroy themselves with poisoned foods and lack of exercise. While access to nutrition indeed plays a factor, ones eating habits are particularly influenced by ones mental condition. Indeed, many Black men and women eat because they are unhappy, and they are unhappy because they eat.
We smoke, we get high, we get drunk, we fight, and we kill ourselves and each other. This behavior is just a symptom of the root illness: being Black and vulnerable in a society that devalues Black life, denies Blacks justice, and pollutes Black communities with cancer causing foods, poisonous air and water – all while feeding them mental images of the good life that lies just across the racial divide.
Post Traumatic Slavery Disorder is both complicated, pervasive, and prominent in the African American community. Books have been written on the subject that I suggest you read. Understanding the subconscious psychological effects of this disorder is the key to the mental (and ultimately the physical, cultural, and political) liberation of Black people the world over.
Experiencing the shame and frustration of being locked in poverty (cause) can lead to an unhealthy material obsession (money, clothes, shoes, cars) . Typically, these victims are not equipped with the knowledge to successfully manage what little money they have, and so they quickly find themselves trapped in a perpetual cycle of spend-broke-hustle-spend. Due to the psychological effects of poverty on the victim, the result is financial self-destruction.
Source: The percentage of people in deep poverty was 13.5 percent of all Blacks and 10.9 percent of all Hispanics, compared to 5.8 percent of Asians and 4.3 percent of Whites. While non-Hispanic Whites still constitute the largest single group of Americans living in poverty, ethnic minority groups are overrepresented (27.4 percent African American; 28.4 percent American Indian and Alaskan Native; 26.6 percent Hispanic, and 12.1 percent Asian and Pacific Islander compared with 9.9 percent non-Hispanic White).
These disparities are associated with the historical marginalization of ethnic minority groups and entrenched barriers to good education and jobs. – American Psychological Association and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2012 Study
Post Traumatic Slavery Disorder is the sum total of the emotional and psychological impact of our abduction and separation from Africa, slavery, Jim Crow, the crushing of the Black American Revolution (starting with the deportation of Marcus Garvey and ending with the destruction of the Black Panther Party), the Black indoctrination in a system of white values, beliefs and supremacy, and the establishment of an economic caste system.
These experiences have all created deep, intense feelings of fear, anger, and self-hatred amongst African-Americans, resulting in self destructive psychosis.
The suicidal, self-destructive nature that many Africans and African-Americans suffer from can be impossible to diagnose. Resistance and denial create within us powerful psychological barriers that block our ability to honestly assess our thinking errors. As you read this, ask yourself if you indeed are resisting truths that lay at your core. It is perfectly normal to resist looking within the dark shadows of your subconscious, but this must be done if we are to heal our collective self esteem and break the psychological chains that have been forged for us, and that keel us in bondage today.
Until we do so, all the gun programs, AIDS walks, Black conscious lectures, mass movements, and Stop The Violence concerts in the world will have a minimal effect.
Until we truly examine the causes and effects of PTSD, we as a community – and you as an individual – may be subconsciously programmed for racial, financial, physical, cultural, and psycho-sexual forms of self destruction.
The blessings of redeeming love our Savior compared to a precious pearl. He illustrated His lesson by the parable of the merchantman seeking goodly pearls “who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” Christ Himself is the pearl of great price. In Him is gathered all the glory of the Father, the fullness of the Godhead. He is the brightness of the Father’s glory and the express image of His person. The glory of the attributes of God is expressed in His character. Every page of the Holy Scriptures shines with His light. The righteousness of Christ, as a pure, white pearl, has no defect, no stain. No work of man can improve the great and precious gift of God. It is without a flaw. In Christ are “hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Col. 2:3. He is “made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” 1 Cor. 1:30. All that can satisfy the needs and longings of the human soul, for this world and for the world to come, is found in Christ. Our Redeemer is the pearl so precious that in comparison all things else may be accounted loss.
Christ “came unto His own, and His own received Him not.” John 1:11. The light of God shone into the darkness of the world, and “the darkness comprehended it not.” John 1:5. But not all were found indifferent to the gift of heaven. The merchantman in the parable represents a class who were sincerely desiring truth. In different nations there were earnest and thoughtful men who had sought in literature and science and the religions of the heathen world for that which they could receive as the soul’s treasure. Among the Jews there were those who were seeking for that which they had not. Dissatisfied with a formal religion, they longed for that which was spiritual and uplifting. Christ’s chosen disciples belonged to the latter class, Cornelius and the Ethiopian eunuch to the former. They had been longing and praying for light from heaven; and when Christ was revealed to them, they received Him with gladness.
In the parable the pearl is not represented as a gift. The merchantman bought it at the price of all that he had. Many question the meaning of this, since Christ is represented in the Scriptures as a gift. He is a gift, but only to those who give themselves, soul, body, and spirit, to Him without reserve. We are to give ourselves to Christ, to live a life of willing obedience to all His requirements. All that we are, all the talents and capabilities we possess, are the Lord’s, to be consecrated to His service. When we thus give ourselves wholly to Him, Christ, with all the treasures of heaven, gives Himself to us. We obtain the pearl of great price.
Salvation is a free gift, and yet it is to be bought and sold. In the market of which divine mercy has the management, the precious pearl is represented as being bought without money and without price. In this market all may
obtain the goods of heaven. The treasury of the jewels of truth is open to all. “Behold, I have set before thee an open door,” the Lord declares, “and no man can shut it.” No sword guards the way through this door. Voices from within and at the door say, Come. The Saviour’s voice earnestly and lovingly invites us: “I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich.” Rev. 3:8, 18.