Friday, May 29, 2009

Unscrupulous Banks – Part 2

Just to let you know how unscrupulous banks are, let me give you an example of how they reach through corporate protections for business owners and officers so they can grab personal assets.

When a small business wants a loan from a bank, the collateral is usually all the company’s assets, such as inventory, receivables, and fixed assets (equipment, furniture, and fixtures). In addition, banks and leasing companies often require personal guarantees from the owner and maybe even from certain corporate officers. Companies incorporate to protect the owners from incurring the company’s liabilities, but unscrupulous banks get around this protection by demanding a personal guarantee.

As a result, many small business owners are being reduced to poverty because these greedy and unethical banks are grabbing their personal assets when the small business owners can’t make their loan payments. I believe personal guarantees should be made illegal. A corporation’s collateral should be enough.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Unscrupulous Banks – Part 1

Why is it that banks, which were a major contributor to the current economic crisis because of their reckless lending practices and other abuses, will foreclose on mortgages that are in default because of the very mess the banks themselves created? This makes no sense.

Why would a bank want to take possession of a house it can’t resell for quite some time, and will cost the bank money in terms of utilities, upkeep and property taxes? The house will most likely be vacant for some time, may be vandalized, and could fall into disrepair. It makes no sense.

Wouldn’t it be smarter for a bank to let the occupant stay in the house so it remains occupied, cared for (at least to some level), and people aren’t made homeless. That would make sense, wouldn’t it?

Of course it would, but bankers aren’t that smart. Otherwise we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in. They would rather make someone homeless than do the right thing for all concerned. Banks are unscrupulous, uncaring, and reckless. This is certainly a moral and ethical issue that should be dealt with by government. For at least the short-term, some provision should be made for occupants to be allowed to stay in their houses, and banks should be forced to renegotiate terms of mortgages.

While I’m usually not in favor of such heavy-handed governmental interference in the free market system, I believe the banks have acted so badly that such measures are necessary. If you agree, write your senators and congressman.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

We’re Not Alone

My wife and I have just returned from 10 days in Ireland. It was our first time in that country, and it is a wonderful place. The people are friendly, the scenery is beautiful and varied, and the old castle and abbey ruins are historic and interesting.

I was interested to learn that they are facing many of the same problems we are. We know the recession is world-wide, but when you are in another country and hear about the foreclosures, lay-offs, and other problems caused by this economic mess, it really brings it home that we aren’t alone in our economic hardships.

They also have immigration issues. When times were good, they welcomed the immigrants, many of whom are from Eastern Europe (especially Poland). They did many of the jobs the Irish would rather not do. Sound familiar? Now that things are tough, the Irish want these foreigners to leave. Yet many of the eastern Europeans have nothing to go home to, so they prefer to stay in Ireland.

Recently a report was issued documenting the extent of child abuse by the Roman Catholic Church. In Ireland it seemed to be systemic and perhaps even more widespread than here in the US. In 2002 the RC Church cut a deal with the government to limit its liability, which has caused quite a controversy now that the extent of the abuse is known. Why the Irish government would agree to such a thing is beyond me.

While we were there, North Korea tested a nuclear device. That made the news and raised concerns about stability of the world.

Let’s pray for these other countries which are facing some many problems. It helps to remember that many have it worse off than we do, and we are all part of God’s creation. Let’s pray that this recession will end soon, and also that the people, companies, the financial industry, and governments have learned some valuable lessons.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Guidelines for Families – Part 4

This is the fourth and last in a series of posts on marriage and the family.

4. Parents

Paul addresses the paterfamilias in his letter to the Ephesians (Ephesians 6:4):

And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. NRSV

The cultural context of this instruction is that the paterfamilias was the main disciplinarian, and that discipline could be harsh. For us today, I believe these instructions mean we must find the balance between appropriate discipline, and too much or too little discipline. In addition, parents must be the main source of teaching their children proper values, and they shouldn’t be afraid to set boundaries. Children need boundaries (as do adults), and they must be enforced. Children should be appropriately disciplined when disobeying or disrespecting their parents or other authority figures. When these kids grow up and are out in the real world, they must be prepared for the authority, boundaries, and discipline they’ll find out there.

5. Servants

Lastly Paul addresses servants or slaves, telling them in “The Message” version of Colossians:

Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance.

You may be wondering why this section on slaves is included in the household instructions for husbands, wives, children, and parents. It’s because most slaves were part of a Roman household. Today, I believe we can apply these principles to employees, and also to mothers working inside the home. Here is the lengthier Ephesians version of these instructions, and I’m substituting modern terms to make it relevant to you and me:

[Employees], obey your earthly [supervisors] with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ; not only while being watched, and in order to please them, but as [workers for] Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.
Render service with enthusiasm, as to the Lord and not to men and women, knowing that whatever good we do, we will receive the same again from the Lord, whether we are [well-paid or not].
And, [bosses], do the same to [your employees]. Stop threatening them, for you know that both of you have the same Master in heaven, and with him there is no partiality
. (Ephesians 6:5-9, NRSV)

So being a diligent employee is one way we can bring glory to God.

IV. Conclusion

In conclusion, God is relational and wants us to have good relationships. Good relationships are based on mutual love and respect, and they are not co-dependent or exploitive. Our most important relationship is with God through Jesus, and out of that will flow good and loving relationships with others. We should strive to have loving and appropriate relationships:
With our spouse or significant other, if we have one;
With our children and grandchildren, if we have any;
With our extended family, which can often be difficult;
With our friends, acquaintances, and neighbors; and
With our supervisors, peers, and those we oversee at work.

The family is the basic unit of society, so it is critical for us to make our marriages as strong and as bulletproof as possible. So let us look to these and other biblical guidelines to strengthen our family ties so they won’t be easily broken. As King Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 4:12: A threefold cord is not quickly broken. NRSV Let us build up our relationship with God, so that we have that strong threefold cord of husband, wife, and God in the marriage.

I’ll be back with more postings toward the end of May.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Guidelines for Families – Part 3

This is the third in a series of posts on marriage and the family.

2. Husbands

Now it’s the husband’s turn, and what Paul instructed for them was pretty radical for that culture. Paul goes into more detail about the role of the paterfamilias in a Christian family than he does the wife’s role:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind — yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish.
In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, because we are members of his body…
Each of you, however, should love his wife as himself, and a wife should respect her husband.
(Ephesians 5:25-30, 33, NRSV)

Telling the Paterfamilias to love his wife as himself and in a self-sacrificing way was completely revolutionary for that day. Also radical was what Paul wrote in the introduction to this section of Ephesians on family ties. He wrote this to husbands and wives: “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21, NRSV)

He’s telling the paterfamilias to be subject to his wife! I’ll bet that raised some Roman eyebrows! Paul also refers to the husband’s role as spiritual head of the household in that he is to look out for the spiritual welfare of his wife. Paul compared Jesus preparing his bride, the church, to the role of the paterfamilias to care for his wife spiritually. I think the message for us today is one of harmonious relations based on mutual love and respect, and knowing each has important roles to play. Moreover, the husband is to look out for the wife’s welfare, especially in the spiritual area (which unfortunately I don’t think happens in too many families today).

3. Children

Paul gives this instruction to children in his epistle to the Ephesians:

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” — this is the first commandment with a promise: “so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” (Ephesians 6:1-3, NRSV)

You never stop being the child of parents. For example, in Matthew 15:1-9, Jesus criticized the religious leaders for being hypocrites by not honoring their older parents. These religious leaders were giving the money to the temple that could have been used to support their elderly parents. This outraged Jesus, because they were using a religious practice to dishonor their parents and break one of the Ten Commandments. If course it is up to the parents to bring children up with the proper teaching and discipline, and train their kids to show respect to them and any adults.

More on this topic of marriage and the family in a future post.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Guidelines for Families – Part 2

This is the second in a series of posts on marriage and the family.

III. Paul’s Guidelines

After that introduction in the first post in this series, I want to take a look at the instructions God gives thru Paul to wives, husbands, children, parents, and servants. Even if you aren’t a wife, husband, child, parent or servant, many of the principles can be applied to your other relationships. I’ll put these instructions in the context of the culture of that day, will identify the underlying principles, and apply them to life today. In general, the principles behind this and similar passages about family ties are harmony, mutual love, mutual respect, and mutual submission.

1. Wives

Regarding wives, Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians:

Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Savior. Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands. (Ephesians 5:22-24, NRSV)

These instructions seem outdated and even harsh to modern-day Americans. So let’s look at the cultural context of these controversial passages about wives submitting to husbands. In Greek and Roman households of that day, the husband was the head of the household with absolute authority, and he was also a priest. Every house had a shrine to one or more of the gods, and the husband led various kinds of prayers and worship in the home. You can see those shrines or altars in the ruins of houses in Pompey.

In these roles, the man of the house was called the paterfamilias. I believe that Paul wrote what he did to wives to keep order in the family, and to not disrupt family life as it was in that culture. He may have also written these instructions to protect women who had converted to Christianity. If a woman rebelled against the absolute authority of the paterfamilias, it could be very difficult for her.

Placing this passage in an American context where there is no paterfamilias, I believe the principle is for wives to honor and respect their husbands. Again, the aims are for harmony, mutual love, mutual respect, and mutual submission within the Christian household.

More on this topic in a future post.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Guidelines for Families – Part 1

I. Introduction

We just celebrated Mother’s Day in the United States. It got me thinking about families in general, and how difficult it is to sustain a marriage and be a parent. About half of all marriages end up in divorce in the U.S., and the culture isn’t helping any. In this series of posts I’d like to examine the biblical guidelines for marriage and the family found the the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus.

II. Families Under Attack

In my opinion, families are under attack in western society. For example, men are portrayed unfavorably in some TV sitcoms: Homer Simpson, Two and a Half Men, and others. Admittedly some men fit these stereotypes, but TV shouldn’t reinforce them. Back in the day we had positive role models to emulate, such as Jim Anderson on “Father Knows Best”, Ward Cleaver on “Leave It to Beaver”, Danny Thomas on “Make Room for Daddy”, and Ozzie Nelson (not Ozzie Osborne) on “Ozzie and Harriett”. In addition, the media mocks traditional values, encourages instant gratification, and negatively influences children. The voices of parents – even if they do spend time with their kids – are drowned out by TV, movies, magazines, peer pressure, and other influences.

So marriage and families are under pressure, but we have to remember that God instituted marriage and gave us guidelines for it. Like us, God is relational. God wants to have a relationship with us, and wants us to have good and appropriate relationships with others. That’s why there’s so much about loving one another in the Bible. If the relationship with God isn’t there, our other relationships will not be optimal because we will find it much more difficult to love.

More on this topic in future posts.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Being a Caring Church – Part 4

This is the last in a series of posts having to do with being a caring church.


In conclusion, being a loving and caring church isn’t about sentiment or feelings, but about giving real help to real people. When we love God and commit our lives to Jesus, we don’t have the option of deciding whether or not to care for others. Caring for others should be an integral part of a believer’s life, and therefore should be an integral part of a caring church’s life. That’s because we as individuals have committed to follow the God’s way, making Jesus our Lord. Since we as individuals collectively make up the church, then that becomes the church’s mission.

Missionary Hudson Taylor was once asked how he viewed the great sacrifices he had made in doing God’s work in foreign lands. His reply was, “Sacrifice? I never made a sacrifice.” He may have given up a great deal, but to him, it was not a big sacrifice. We may be asked to care for people sacrificially, but doing so shouldn’t be an ordeal. Instead, it is a joy, because that’s what we’re called to do by God himself. And there’s no more comfortable place to be than in God’s will.

Based on articles from Every Day with Jesus (Jan-Feb 2009), by Selwyn Hughes, CWR Ministries, Waverly Abbey House, Waverly Lane, Farnham, Surry GU9 8EP UK. © 2009 All rights reserved.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Being a Caring Church – Part 3

This is the next in a series of posts having to do with being a caring church.

4. Support System

Fourth, a caring church is a church with a system of loving support. Everybody needs a support system, but many people today don’t have one. Years ago, most women lived in the town where they were born. They had their mother, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, and close friends to support them when they needed some help. Today, grandma is in Florida, mom is in Ohio, sis is in Texas, and the rest of the family is in California and Oregon– and you’re in Fishkill! You have a job, but aren’t close to anyone there – and you certainly have to be careful what you share at work, you know. You don’t know your neighbors very well, and you’ve got no close friends in the area.

The same thing happens with men – relatives and old buddies are scattered all over the place, and no close friends. There used to be Elks, VFW, American Legion, Masons, bowling, and poker night. But guys don’t do those things too much any more – those are all from a bygone era.

So the church can and should be the support system, one that is loving, caring, and non-judgmental. In addition, a church should anticipate needs, and plan strategies to deal with them when they arise. Needs can be spiritual, emotional, or material. A church’s support system is modeled on a God who cares for his people.

5. Lay Down Life

Fifth, a caring church is a church whose members are willing to lay down their lives for others. That one got my attention! It seems a little extreme, but as I read on, it really means to place others’ interests above your own. This can be summed up by what the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 2:1-5:

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus… NIV

Another way of putting it is that we as a body of believers are to practice self-sacrificing love. That doesn’t mean we become doormats or slaves, or that we become people-pleasers or enter into a co-dependent relationship. What it means is that we obey the command of Jesus to love your neighbor as yourself, depending on the Holy Spirit to guide us. The Apostle John tells us in 1 John 4:10-12:

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. NRSV

Based on articles from Every Day with Jesus (Jan-Feb 2009), by Selwyn Hughes, CWR Ministries, Waverly Abbey House, Waverly Lane, Farnham, Surry GU9 8EP UK. © 2009 All rights reserved.

More on this topic of caring in a future post.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Being a Caring Church – Part 2

This is the next in a series of posts having to do with being a caring church.

2. Leaders Show Care

Second, a caring church is a church whose leaders demonstrate care and concern for each other, thus setting a good example. This is explained by Peter in 1 Peter 5:1-4:

And now, a word to you who are elders in the churches. I, too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ. And I, too, will share in his glory when he is revealed to the whole world. As a fellow elder, I appeal to you: Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example. And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor. NLT

If the leadership of a church is uncaring, at odds with one another, following their own agendas, or otherwise in disunity, the church will be in disarray. The leadership sets the example for the rest of the Body. So the leadership must maintain a high standard of holiness and caring. The quality of the relationships among the leaders and the members determines the quality of the whole fellowship.

3. No Fear of Rejection

Third, in a caring church, people can share their deep feelings and hurts without fear of being rejected. This can be summarized in today’s epistle, especially in the last verse (Romans 15:7), which says:

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. NIV

A person should be able to express doubts, fears, or worries without the risk of somebody saying, “What kind of Christian are you?” We all have to remember that everybody is different, and everybody is in a different place in their spiritual journey. While being able to make yourself vulnerable without fear of being judged is important, there is a time and a place for everything, of course. Most often, such sharing is more appropriate in a small group setting, or one-on-one with a trusted Christian friend or pastor.

So a church must be a place where people aren’t judged, but helped; aren’t put down but lifted up; and aren’t ignored, but paid attention to. This leads me into the next attribute of a caring church.

Based on articles from Every Day with Jesus (Jan-Feb 2009), by Selwyn Hughes, CWR Ministries, Waverly Abbey House, Waverly Lane, Farnham, Surry GU9 8EP UK. © 2009 All rights reserved.

More on this topic of caring in a future post.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The MTA Mess

Our illustrious state government has come up once again with a plan nobody likes. I believe it would take the wisdom of Solomon to equitably resolve the financial mess of the MTA. Nevertheless, I suspect that we have the usual suspects to blame for all this: unions driving up costs to ridiculous levels, and incompetent management caring more about their own bonuses than in running an efficient operation. The problem is, how do we get the MTA costs under control given union contracts and years of mismanagement? I wish I had the answer.

What I don’t like about the plan is that certain counties must help pay for the shortfall because of their geographic proximity to New York City. Even though most people in Duchess, Orange and Putnam counties don’t use the MTA, they must pay. That seems unfair and places more burden on areas that are already very expensive to live in.

The article in the Poughkeepsie Journal said there would be more state oversight of the MTA, and that is a good thing (assuming the state actually does its job). The MTA must be made accountable, and cost savings must be found.

Will the last one out of New York State please turn off the lights? What this state must realize is that it is in competition with 49 other states and about 140 countries to attract or retain businesses. Who in their right mind would start or expand a business in this state? The state isn’t particularly friendly to businesses, and is very expensive when it comes to occupancy (utilities, rent), taxes, and labor costs. No wonder so many businesses are moving their operations overseas!

While the state can’t control certain costs – they are determined by the marketplace – it can and should reduce the heavy tax burden and other costs such as the MTA. In addition, it must upgrade the infrastructure so as to be competitive with the other states and countries. I believe our elected officials have the obligation to make the right decisions for the overall welfare of the citizens who elected them and placed their trust in them. This is a moral and ethical issue in my opinion, because the welfare and livelihood of the citizens of this state are in jeopardy. We need to pray for them to have wisdom.

Those in Albany seem not to have this vision, and so I recommend we change the name from The Empire State to The Declining State. Don’t forget to turn off the lights when you leave.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Being a Caring Church – Part 1


I recently read something that has to do with caring for people. A church should be a caring community, loving one another and caring for one another. This reminds me of John Wesley’s general rules: “do no harm, do all the good you can, and stay in love with God.”

Christian care begins within the church community, but flows out from there to the world. The Apostle Paul tells us in Galatians 6:9-10:

So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith. NRSV

I believe that if a church isn’t doing a good job within itself, it will certainly fail when it tries to look outward. What the church of Jesus Christ should be doing is what Jesus himself did: overcome evil with good; overcome hate with love; and overcome sin with forgiveness and restoration (the cross).

To reinforce what we are doing and demonstrate why it is so important, I want to summarize the key points in the article about being a caring church. The writer of the article lists five elements that make up a caring church.

1. Bringing Members to Maturity

First, a caring church is excited about bringing its members to spiritual maturity. We talked a little about this last week, how Christian hospitality is concerned with finding a spiritual home for people. The ultimate object of Christian hospitality is that people will spiritually grow and mature in their relationship with Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul explains how important it is to learn about Jesus and grow in spiritual maturity (Colossians 1:25-29):

I became a servant of the church because God gave me a special work to do that helps you, and that work is to tell fully the message of God. This message is the secret that was hidden from everyone since the beginning of time, but now it is made known to God’s holy people. God decided to let his people know this rich and glorious secret which he has for all people. This secret is Christ himself, who is in you.
He is our only hope for glory. So we continue to preach Christ to each person, using all wisdom to warn and to teach everyone, in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature person in Christ. To do this, I work and struggle, using Christ’s great strength that works so powerfully in me

So part of being a caring church is helping others in their spiritual walk, and being patient with them, as we read in today’s epistle (Romans 15:1-2):

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. NIV

In addition, a caring church looks at problems as opportunities for spiritual growth, to become more Christ-like. Part of problem-solving is searching out root causes and with the Spirit’s help finding lasting solutions. When a church’s emphasis is spiritual maturity, practices radical hospitality, and has a spirit of love and unity, then it will have effective ministry to all.

Based on articles from Every Day with Jesus (Jan-Feb 2009), by Selwyn Hughes, CWR Ministries, Waverly Abbey House, Waverly Lane, Farnham, Surry GU9 8EP UK. © 2009 All rights reserved.

More on this topic of caring in a future post.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Bigger Isn’t Better

Some are looking back at the “Good Old Days” when big American cars ruled the road. More recently, behemoth SUVs dominated our roads, until high gas prices forced people to reconsider their transportation needs. Some people stretched themselves financially (with the help of unscrupulous lending institutions) and bought 4,000 and 5,000 square foot houses they couldn’t afford and didn’t need. Who needs that kind of space? When it became apparent that many of these people couldn’t pay those enormous mortgages, the banking industry collapsed.

Why do Americans think that bigger is better? I’m hoping we are learning that bigger is more wasteful, more expensive, and more selfish. What do I mean by selfish? Think of those SUVs. Have you ever driven behind one or tried to pull out of a parking space beside one? Then you know what I mean.

I’m not a tree-hugger, but I do believe in living within your means, not polluting, not using natural resources wastefully, and being considerate of your neighbor. I believe those are the moral and ethical things to do. I believe we must change our ways now so that when the time comes that we are forced to do so, it won’t be so traumatic or sudden. Those gas prices will go back up. Home heating will become more expensive. Let’s be smart and live responsibly.