Money and Morals

Safe Piggy Shows Restricted Permission Money BoxDo money and morals and ethics and economics have to be mismatched pairs? Recent scandals involving prominent businesses and the less than ethical behavior among the ranks of famous athletes makes me wonder.

The “swiping” policy of Visa is a money and morals issue that caught the eye of the Wall Street Journal. According to the WSJ, “Walmart has sued Visa for more than $5 billion, claiming the card network charged unreasonably high fees when the retailer’s customers paid with plastic . . . Wal-Mart alleges that Visa violated antitrust regulations and generated more than $350 billion for card issuers over nine years, in part at the expense of the retailer and its customers.”

Apparently, corporations and individuals need to examine the morals clause of the Bible.

• Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight or quantity. Use honest scales and honest weights ~Leviticus 19:36
• The LORD abhors dishonest scales, but an accurate weight is his delight ~Proverbs 11:1
• Those who long to be rich, however, stumble into temptation and a trap and many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils. Some people in reaching for it have strayed from the faith and stabbed themselves with many pains. But you, as a person dedicated to God, keep away from all that. Instead pursue righteousness, godliness, faithfulness, love, endurance, and gentleness ~I Timothy 6:9-11

Money is not the problem, but the love of money is. The love of money warped the wisdom of Judas Iscariot, and he betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.

When I think of money and morals, I think of Bernard Madoff. His ethical backbone had the substance of a sponge. His love for money sowed the seeds of mistrust, ruined friendships, and robbed his investors of their retirements.

The word “moral” has a root meaning associated with the idea of “character, custom or habit.” This begs the question: If the character is tainted, can the habit be sainted?

The words of Horace Greeley offer an appropriate conclusion: “Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident, riches take wing, and only character endures.”

Opening Soon: Lifetree Cafe’

ltcInstead of writing my typical blog, I’ve chosen to use my space this morning to speak about an interesting program we are starting. It is called Lifetree Café.

The creators of Lifetree Café describe it as, “a time and place where people gather in a coffee-house setting to hear inspiring stories and engage in conversation on a different topic every week. It’s the proven ministry that reaches the unreached with the love of Christ in a fresh, new way. Lifetree Café is an hour-long, interactive experience that features real people’s real stories on film, guided conversation, biblical insights, and time to build relationships. Lifetree Café tackles the topics people struggle with in everyday life.”

The start date is May 7th at 7 PM. We will meet in the Faith Café (the old chapel) which is in the Southeast end of First Christian Church (300 W. Central). I’ve included links to two video clips (length of less than 1 minute each). These are topics that will be discussed during the month.

When you attend, you can bring a friend with you, and please pray for this new ministry.

To Heaven and Back Click HERE to watch.
Living a Rich Life Click HERE to watch.

For more information you may call: 316-321-4220.

Stomped-on and Slapped-down

FEAR Over the last couple of weeks international news has focused on the missing Malaysian plane. Whenever the camera captured the faces of the family members, they were wrinkled with lines of agony. The fear of death had left them terrified and frightened.

Fear, terror, grief, and anxiety are emotions that are herculean in nature–strong emotions that wrestle us to the floor of our soul. Emotions like these are generally associated with loss that is either real or threatened.

David must have been in a situation like this when he wrote Psalm 56:1-2: “Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me; all day long an attacker oppresses me; my enemies trample on me all day long, for many attack me proudly.”

You may have had times in your life when you could identify with David. You know what it is like to have a week of Mondays: It seems like you can’t get ahead because you’ve been stomped-on and slapped-down every time you try to do something.

When you feel like you’re down to the last straw and you want to avoid and withdraw from your problems and problem-makers, do what David did. He re-evaluated his resources: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me (Ps. 56:3-4)?

I know there are at least 63 different places in the Bible where the words “Fear not” are found. In Isaiah 41:10, God said: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

At some point in life, fears must be faced. The more you allow your fear to define you, the more it will confine you. According to Paul, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (I Tim. 1:7).”

When you look through the pages of the Bible, fear is usually the result of disobeying a command or disregarding a promise. In the first situation, a person disobeys because he thinks his reasoning is better than God’s, and in the second, he thinks the resources of God are insufficient.

Here is a tip to help you face your fear: “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to God! Run from evil!” (Proverbs 3:5-7, The Message)

Duh-Ploma: The School of Hard Knocks

Student With Diploma Shows GraduationA mentor once said, “To be old and wise, you must first be young and stupid.” I think I’ve solved the “young” part of his regimen; however, I find that I’m still prone to fits and spasms of stupidity.

Even though I’m a high school graduate (EHS class of ’71), have both my B.A. and M.S., I think it’s my S.H.C degree that has been the most beneficial. The latter degree was awarded from the highly esteemed School of Hard Knocks.

Let me share a few of the lessons that I have learned along the way.

1. Be careful who you challenge to a fight: When you pick a fight with a trained boxer, you get your ears boxed.

2. Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should: With the skill of Spiderman I climbed up the outside of the old Junior High and fell as I was crawling in a second story window. Yes, all the way to the ground.

3. Even though Mr. Blackmore goes inside his office, you should respect his rope rules. Another fall—this time it was from the top of the ropes to the floor of the old gym.

4. Big feet do not fit through small holes, and basement walls break hands. The fashion fad at the time (8th grade) was Super Slim Levis, and anyone who has ever known me knows a couple of things: First, super slim has never been an adjective used to provide an accurate description of my physical dimensions. Second, I’ve never been accused of having small feet. I’ll leave it to you to discern what I did because my big foot got stuck in the small leg hole of the pants.

5. When the hand-writing on the wall is read, you better not be the author–you just might become a ghost writer!

6. Never light fireworks in the house or you will burn a hole in the carpet and Mom will smolder.

7. With thanks to Jim Croce, I also learned that you don’t tug on Superman’s cape, spit in the wind, or pull the mask off the Lone Ranger.

When my children were just kids, they asked me one day: “Dad if you could go back and start your life all over, would you want to?” I replied: “Not if I had to have the experience of living through all of my stupid mistakes again.”

I’ve received an education from my experiences; however there is a difference between the two: Education is what you receive when you read the fine print; experience is the result of not reading it; and, as Rita Mae Brown said: “Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.”

8. Here’s one more. Life can be incredibly short, so take the time to make memories. I’m so grateful for the memories I have of my dad: baseball, fishing, hunting, the sound of his whistle and his voice as he sang in the shower.

You’re A Piece of Art!

51-pack3-021514-tm“Blind as a bat” is an old cliché that most of us have heard, but that is not the vision problem that restricts most Christians—tunnel vision is the more common affliction. Like blinders on a horse, our view of what we can become is narrowed by a focus on what we have been.

We need to forget what I like to call LBC or Life Before Christ, and focus on the potential of what we can become in Jesus.

Any woodworker, silversmith, or potter will know what I mean when I say “potential.” These craftsmen can see an ordinary piece of wood, rock, or clay and see its potential to become something new. They have the same gift as Michael Angelo who said: “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”

Paul tried to explain this concept to the Ephesians when he said: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).” Wow! His “workmanship!” His piece of art!

Instead of limiting yourself with an LBC mindset, begin to believe that God sees the potential within you and He has gifted you in a special way. At the instant you became one of His children, you were blessed with eyes of faith to claim His promises, strength for the journey, and the mind of Christ.

A favorite verse of mine is 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

Paul did not allow an LBC focus to mold his life: “This one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14).”

If you’re like me, you may not be much of an artist, but I still know that I’m a piece of art, and like Paul, “I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).”

The Thunder of Pain

Shape of the heartGod was in the business of dealing with hurting hearts long before Billy Ray Cyrus became a one hit wonder singing about an “achy breaky heart.” Psalm 34:18 supports my statement: “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart.”

When our hearts ache, we feel less like Jesus who walked on water and more like Peter who sank. When Peter began to focus on the howling winds of adversity, he was deaf to the quiet voice that promised: I will never leave you or forsake you.

Warm fuzzy platitudes, and comfortless clichés do little to alleviate the pain that overwhelms us as the waves do the sand on the sea shore—one wave followed by another. The anguish of pain is a stark reminder that we are mere mortals. Henri Nouwen once said that “Christ becomes most present when we are most human.”

The family of Lazarus had some very “human” expectations of Jesus. After all, they were some of Jesus’ closest friends—and they expected more. They expected Jesus to arrive earlier and they expected Him to heal their dying brother.

When expectations meet reality, disappointment can be the result. This reminds me of something Kay Arthur said, and I’ve quoted it before: “The disappointment has come—not because God desires to hurt you or make you miserable or to demoralize you or ruin your life or keep you from knowing happiness. He wants you to be perfect and complete in every aspect, lacking nothing. It’s not the easy times that make you more like Jesus, but the hard times.”

Philip Yancey has made a similar statement: “We tend to think, ‘Life should be fair because God is fair.’ But God is not life. And if I confuse God with the physical reality of life- by expecting constant good health for example- then I set myself up for crashing disappointment.”

C.S. Lewis reminds us that, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

During the difficult and painful times of life, we should remember that, “Hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us (Romans 5:5).” Perhaps Lewis had this verse in mind when he wrote: “When pain is to be born, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all.”

When disappointment comes and the aching of your heart is so intense you think it might not beat again, you may be closer to God than you think. This is because, “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart.”

If you can tune out the thundering pain for just a moment, you might hear His quiet voice: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-20).”

Wanting More

20366022-changing-word-unsatisfied-into-satisfied-by-crossing-off-letters-unWhen I was 12, I was eager for the arrival of my 13th birthday because I wanted to be a teenager. When birthday number 15 arrived, I began the countdown to February 16, 1969. I wanted to be 16 so I could drive.

At some point along the path of my life, I quit rounding up. I was no longer worried about being 12 1/2 or 15 1/2. Even though the want and desire to be a year older lessens with age, it seems that much of a person’s life is spent wanting more of one thing and less of another.

Life can be frustrating. I’ve always wanted fewer calories, another dip of ice cream, and more hot fudge to top it all off.

If you spend your life longing for riches galore, you may have less and end up poor. Jesus focused on this issue, when He asked: “What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?”

The focus of our energy shouldn’t be just worldly goods. Paul said our focus should be in another direction: “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” Since the key to contentment is the content of your life, what are you full of?

The pages of the Bible are littered with the names of discontented people who allowed their desires and longings to rule them:
• God gave Adam and Eve everything with the exception of fruit from one tree. Because they weren’t satisfied, humanity died.
• Jacob wanted more and through an act of deception he ran off with the birthright that belonged to his brother.
• Joseph’s brothers wanted more attention from their father and less interference from their little brother, so they sold Joseph as a slave.
• Samson was the strongman of his day and could whip anyone or anything, except his desires. He was a puny 90 pound weakling when it came to controlling them.
• The list wouldn’t be complete without mention of David. He was king and had everything he desired. Things were going great until he desired another man’s wife—Bathsheba.

The discontentment of the soul is the hollowness of humanity. It is a hunger pang that can only be satisfied by tasting the Bread of Life. It is the thirst of dry throats and parched lips that can only be quenched by the Water of Life.

Saul was driven by the awful power of discontent. He was searching for that elusive something to satisfy his deepest longings. What Saul did not realize is that while he was searching, Jesus was seeking, and when the two of them met on the Damascus Road, Saul had a truly life-changing experience.

Later Paul (Saul) would write: “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:11-13).”

You can search the world over, but you will never find anything that will fulfill you and complete you. The only hope for true contentment is a relationship with Jesus Christ. The Psalmist expressed this in Psalm 62 where he spoke of God as being his rock, fortress, and salvation.

If you’re unsatisfied and searching, there is hope, and His name is Jesus.

Appreciating the Power of Words

Words Written In Plastic Kids LettersI remember an incident with my son that involved an exchange of words. At the time he was a young boy and I was a father who was more concerned with being macho than manly. I had said something like: “Boy, come here, and I mean NOW!”

My son responded: “Dad, when you speak to me like that it makes me feel like I’m one of your dogs.” In that instant, I was reminded of the power of the spoken word.

Solomon was a gifted-writer, and he addressed this power in the Proverbs:

• Life and death are in the power of the tongue (18:21).
• Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad (12:25).

Sometimes we fail to appreciate the power of showing appreciation. Leo Buscaglia captured this concept when he said: “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”

When he wrote to the Thessalonians, Paul gave clear instructions to, “encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing (I Thess. 5:11).” Paul knew the value of invigorating friendships. He had been:

• Encouraged by Titus (2 Corinthians 7:6)
• Refreshed by Onesiphorus (2 Timothy 1:16-18)
• Strengthened by the reception at Rome: “When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage (Acts 28:15).”

When Paul was blessed by acts of kindness, he was careful to express his appreciation. It is important that we follow his example, because to appreciate is to add value to something.

Are you an appreciating or depreciating factor in the life of your friends? Remember what Solomon said: Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad (12:25).

Show your appreciation to someone today with words of goodness and gladness.

What Are The Odds?

Win Lose Dice Showing Gambling After a quick search of the internet concerning the odds of rolling the dice and getting a 7, I found there are 30 ways to lose and 6 ways to win. I know something else about the roll of the dice, I’ve seen many men lose their paychecks trying to beat the odds.

The odds when rolling dice are good compared to the odds associated with random chance and the human DNA or the creation of the universe. The odds of 3 billion randomly arranged base-pairs matching human DNA is about the same as drawing the ace of spades one billion times in a row from randomly shuffled decks of cards (Dr. Robert L. Piccioni, Ph.D., Physics from Stanford).

In the Origin of Cellular Life (Dr. Harold Morowitz, a physicist from Yale), declared that the odds for any kind of spontaneous generation of life from a combination of the standard life building blocks are one chance in 10E100000000000 (1 followed by 100,000,000,000 zeros).

I believe the intricate design of humans and the universe dictates a need for something more than a roll of the dice or random chance; furthermore, I’m in the good company of people like Antony Flew.

Before he died, Flew, an English philosopher, had rejected atheism and embraced the concept of intelligent design. This doesn’t mean that Flew embraced traditional Christianity; however, he did believe in God as First Cause of the universe. Flew’s position was a form of Deism (the belief in a God who creates but then removed himself from creation), rather than theism.

When I look at nature, I see more than what Flew saw: I see the fingerprints of God everywhere. The seemingly sudden appearance of birds and butterflies is a good example. With the flutter of their wings they migrate thousands of miles to unknown territories and then return to my feeders in the Spring.

If according to evolution, the human species is more highly evolved, why do we need a map, a compass, or a GPS to get to where we are going, but the much less evolved species can just do it?

For many people, evolution is THE answer when they consider the creation of the world and the origin of the species. I disagree. The evolutionary argument is much more theory than it is fact.

Having said this, I know that my position is much more faith than it is fact. Then again, a fact is something that is “observable.” And, since no one was there when it all began, isn’t faith an essential?

If you want to take a fresh look at an old debate, click here to examine 15 questions.

Producing Produce

pecan-tree-river-ovalAre you producing produce? According to John 15:16-17, this is exactly what Jesus has chosen us to do: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”

When we engage in the practice of producing produce, we will be living a relationship of love. This Christ-like kinship is an expression of the first and greatest commandment. Jesus spoke of this in Matthew 22: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”

To be effective produce producers, we need to have the right look:

• We need to LOOK UP to God in expressions of love and worship.
• We need to LOOK IN to see if we are living the disciplined life of a “chosen” child of God.
• We need to LOOK OUT to share the fruit of the Spirit with the people we encounter each day of our lives.

One more LOOK is needed, and it is a fresh peek at a principle in John 15: “ Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

What produce are you producing?