Now I can retire early

I got an unexpected check in the mail just before Christmas.  It was for rounding and calculation errors that occurred in my 401k account over a three year period.  It came with a letter that had a lengthy explanation and a handy Q&A on the back.

So how much was the check worth?  $0.01.  Yes, one cent.  The stamp to mail the check to me was $0.39.  The labor to process the check and send it was at least a few dollars.  There is no way I would write out a deposit slip, make a deposit and reconcile it in my Quicken software for one cent.

I got an IRS refund of $1 once.   I was going to frame it, but didn’t want them to have an outstanding check that could have drawn any attention to myself (Hey, I pay all my taxes, but who wants an audit?).

A check for one cent.  I think I’ll frame it.  After I tithe on it, of course.

Proverbs 6

Greetings!  We’ll cover Proverbs for a couple days, then start Genesis.

The first section reminds me of what I often tell my kids: “The first thing to do when you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging.”  The Proverbs are actually after something more in depth, though – to make restitution once you have committed to something or erred. 

Proverbs 6

Warnings Against Folly

 1 My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor,
       if you have struck hands in pledge for another,

 2 if you have been trapped by what you said,
       ensnared by the words of your mouth,

 3 then do this, my son, to free yourself,
       since you have fallen into your neighbor’s hands:
       Go and humble yourself;
       press your plea with your neighbor!

 4 Allow no sleep to your eyes,
       no slumber to your eyelids.

 5 Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter,
       like a bird from the snare of the fowler.

While we were relaxing on the coach one morning while visiting in-laws, my wife was looking over my shoulder as I read this next section.  I assured her that it didn’t apply to vacations. 

 6 Go to the ant, you sluggard;
       consider its ways and be wise!

 7 It has no commander,
       no overseer or ruler,

 8 yet it stores its provisions in summer
       and gathers its food at harvest.

 9 How long will you lie there, you sluggard?
       When will you get up from your sleep?

 10 A little sleep, a little slumber,
       a little folding of the hands to rest-

 11 and poverty will come on you like a bandit
       and scarcity like an armed man.

 12 A scoundrel and villain,
       who goes about with a corrupt mouth,

 13 who winks with his eye,
       signals with his feet
       and motions with his fingers,

 14 who plots evil with deceit in his heart—
       he always stirs up dissension.

 15 Therefore disaster will overtake him in an instant;
       he will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.

The six things / seven language is a figure of speech.  The author wasn’t really saying, “Oops, I meant seven.”  Read them closely.  It is easier to fall into these behaviors than you might think. 

 16 There are six things the LORD hates,
       seven that are detestable to him:

 17 haughty eyes,
       a lying tongue,
       hands that shed innocent blood,

 18 a heart that devises wicked schemes,
       feet that are quick to rush into evil,

 19 a false witness who pours out lies
       and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.

If more people obeyed the following commands against adultery the world would be a phenomenally better place and human misery would be drastically reduced.  Think of the tens of millions of people harmed by sexual sins, including the adulterers themselves, and especially the children involved.   These are written to a son but obviously apply to women as well. 

Note the imagery: Sexual sins reduce you to a loaf of bread – something to be sliced up and consumed.  It is like setting your lap on fire or walking on hot coals.  It carries a huge cost.  It can destroy you.  Why would we want to do that?  There is forgiveness in Jesus Christ, of course, but why not educate people better on the costs of these sins?

I’m not in favor of vigilantism, but I’m surprised that there aren’t more murder and assaults related to adultery. 

There is a better way.  God’s Word has the best plan for sexual behaviors.  The world has the worst plan. 

Warning Against Adultery

 20 My son, keep your father’s commands
       and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.

 21 Bind them upon your heart forever;
       fasten them around your neck.

 22 When you walk, they will guide you;
       when you sleep, they will watch over you;
       when you awake, they will speak to you.

 23 For these commands are a lamp,
       this teaching is a light,
       and the corrections of discipline
       are the way to life,

 24 keeping you from the immoral woman,
       from the smooth tongue of the wayward wife.

 25 Do not lust in your heart after her beauty
       or let her captivate you with her eyes,

 26 for the prostitute reduces you to a loaf of bread,
       and the adulteress preys upon your very life.

 27 Can a man scoop fire into his lap
       without his clothes being burned?

 28 Can a man walk on hot coals
       without his feet being scorched?

 29 So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife;
       no one who touches her will go unpunished.

 30 Men do not despise a thief if he steals
       to satisfy his hunger when he is starving.

 31 Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold,
       though it costs him all the wealth of his house.

 32 But a man who commits adultery lacks judgment;
       whoever does so destroys himself.

 33 Blows and disgrace are his lot,
       and his shame will never be wiped away;

 34 for jealousy arouses a husband’s fury,
       and he will show no mercy when he takes revenge.

 35 He will not accept any compensation;
       he will refuse the bribe, however great it is.

Share your reflections and questions if you like.

Fair and balanced reporting on Methodism

I critiqued the United Methodist position on abortion recently, so in fairness I thought I should point out something that I think they got right.  An equally controversial issue is homosexual behavior, and on this topic Methodist doctrine fairs much better.   I realize that many apostates, false teachers and others are trying to get this changed, but I thank God that to date the denomination has held firm.

From the Book of Discipline:

Homosexual persons no less than heterosexual persons are individuals of sacred worth. All persons need the ministry and guidance of the church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self.

The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching. We affirm that God’s grace is available to all, and we will seek to live together in Christian community. We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.

Biblical.  Clear.  Firm.  Caring.  A balance of grace and truth. 

Nicely done. 

Conforming

In an episode of The Simpsons where Bart gets an earring, Lisa’s reaction was, “How rebellious,” after which she mumbled, “in a conformist sort of way.”  Even non-conformists typically conform to a new (albeit minority) role. 

The Book of Romans addresses conformity.  In Romans 8:28-30 we see that we are to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus:

 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

Then in Romans 12:1-2 we are told not to conform to the world:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. 

How are we transformed?  How are our minds renewed?  By God’s Word: John 17:17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 

We all conform to something.  Will it be the to the patterns of this world or to Christ? 

Psalm 15

Greetings!  This is a very brief Psalm.  My understanding is that this isn’t what God requires to be fully reconciled to him – i.e., to enter Heaven – because none of us are truly blameless.  It is what God wants of those who come to worship him. 

Lending money “without usery” doesn’t mean one can never charge interest.  It means we shouldn’t take advantage of the poor.   God loves justice, so He hates it when people take offer bribes to pervert justice.   

Psalm 15

A psalm of David.

 1 LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary?
       Who may live on your holy hill?

 2 He whose walk is blameless
       and who does what is righteous,
       who speaks the truth from his heart

 3 and has no slander on his tongue,
       who does his neighbor no wrong
       and casts no slur on his fellowman,

 4 who despises a vile man
       but honors those who fear the LORD,
       who keeps his oath
       even when it hurts,

 5 who lends his money without usury
       and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
       He who does these things
       will never be shaken.

Share your reflections and questions if you like.

Next up: Proverbs 6 & 7, then Genesis.

Great quote on multiculturalism

Sir Charles Napier, a British general in India, said the following when Hindus complained about the prohibition on suttee (widow burning):

You say that it is your custom to burn widows.  Very well.  We also have a custom: When men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them.  Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows.  You may follow your custom.  And then we will follow ours. 

Most cultures contribute some good things to the world, but some cultures are better than others.  Despite what the truth-is-relative postmodern crowd says, some things are always wrong.