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Category Archives: Practical Living and Ethics

New Manning’s Musings and Meditations…

This post is specifically for the benefit of those who graciously chose to be notified each time I post something new to my blog. I’ve officially set up a new blog, one that allows me to do more “stuff” in the future. I’d like to humbly encourage you go to http://www.jeffmanning.org/blog/ and, if you’d like, sign-up to receive future notifications. My latest post on the new site is “Worship or Perish” and you can read it here: http://www.jeffmanning.org/blog/2011/12/06/worship-or-perish/

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2011 in Practical Living and Ethics

 

Fetus or Child?

Darren Carlson writes about his experience with an abnormal fetus and a normal baby

My wife is five months pregnant. Last month we went for an ultrasound to see the baby and have the doctors check to make sure everything was progressing nicely. We had done this three times before and were excited. As we met with the doctor and ultrasound technician they referred to what they saw as “your child.” They must have said it 50x during the ultrasound as they referred to “your child’s hand,” “your child’s heart,” etc.

But then something changed.

Another doctor was brought into the room and for 5 minutes he stared at the baby’s heart. The room was completely silent. He then began to tell us that there was a tumor on our child’s heart and started to run down all the scenarios we were now faced with. Then the doctor said to us: “If the fetus is abnormal and that is management problem for you, you have the option to terminate your fetus.” The slight change in wording tells the story. I was in too much shock to respond. But later it dawned on me what he had done. The child my wife was carrying was only a child if we wanted to keep it, as if it was our choice! However, if we did not want the baby, it was only a fetus.

Three weeks later we came back for another ultrasound. The growth on the heart was not a tumor, but a normal variant. In the doctor’s eyes, our child was a baby again. In our eyes, nothing had changed.

I’ve always had an aversion for the word “fetus.” It may be a medical term. It may be the term of preference in a secular society. But I don’t like it! Never have. Never will.

In “my book” and, more importantly, in God’s Book (Jer. 1.5; Ps. 139.13-14; compare Luke 1:41, 44 with Acts 7:19 where all three references use the same Greek word for “baby/infant”), the person who is brought into existence by Almighty God becomes a person at conception and remains a person throughout eternity!

 
 

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Being wealthy can have a short shelf life

I’ve been a subscriber to Sound Mind Investing for several years. It’s a Christian-based financial newsletter that makes recommendations on investing in mutual funds. You can read all about their services here.

I read an interesting article on their website entitled, “Being wealthy can have a short shelf life.” After sharing a brief illustration of a friend whose real estate wealth went bye-bye, Austin Pryor makes the following conclusion: It’s not true that once a millionaire, always a millionaire. He then writes the following:

This is a relevant observation in this day of class warfare and demanding the “rich” pay more in taxes. Aside from the fact that the top 5% (those with adjusted gross income of about $155,000 and above) pay almost 60% of all federal income taxes, membership in this group is constantly changing. Yes, there are some who are “rich” for life, but there are far many more who, like my friend, are “rich” for a few years out of a lifetime of work. It’s easy to demonize the unseen “rich” who, in our imaginations, live extravagant and self-important lifestyles; it’s not as easy when you’re talking about “the millionaire next door.”

This is pointed out in this recent post from The Corner:

In the context of current popular sentiments about the rich getting richer and poor getting poorer, it is interesting to look at how long millionaires actually stay in that category. Will you be a millionaire for life if you start making over a million dollars a year? Is the super-rich club an exclusive zone with very little turnover? A look at the data suggests that it isn’t — that, in fact, most millionaires are not millionaires for long…

After the first year, roughly half of those who were millionaires (reporting over a million dollars in adjusted gross income) at some point between 1999 and 2007 were still millionaires. After two years, 15 percent — roughly 102,000 millionaires — retained that status. This decreasing rate of remaining millionaires persists, and only about 6 percent — roughly 38,000 millionaires — were millionaires for all nine years.

Interestingly, things look rosier at the bottom of the income distribution. That same Tax Foundation study also shows that about 60 percent of households that were in the lowest income quintile in 1999 were in a higher quintile in 2007, and about a third of those in the lowest quintile moved to the middle quintile or higher. In other words, while it is difficult for one to rise from rags to riches, and while it may be harder now than it was in the past, there is still real upward economic mobility in the United States.

Austin concludes the article with an exhortation toward those who are currently enjoying high income levels to not be presumptuous in thinking those same levels will continue into the future. He then emphasizes…

Four financial strategies:

(1) Get (and stay) debt free

(2) Build a healthy contingency fund for future unknowns

(3) Invest for the long haul from a personalized plan

(4) Diversify broadly and according to life-long priorities

And I would add a fifth…

(5) Honor God with all your wealth, giving generously to advance His kingdom (Prov. 3.9; 2 Cor. 9.6-7; Mt. 6.19-21)

 

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Whoopie-Do Love?

Any believer reading Luke 6.27-36 would probably agree with my personal assessment: Are you serious, Lord? This is incredibly hard! Lord, You will have to help me, cause I sure can’t love like this without you!

In the middle of Jesus’ declaration about loving others He gives what is commonly referred to as The Golden Rule – “as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them” (Luke 6.31).

The Golden Rule’s Requirement

It does not promote “back-scratching behavior” – You scratch my back; I’ll scratch yours.

It does not promote “pre-emptive behavior” – Do unto others before they do unto you.

It does not promote “wait-and-see behavior” – If and when you treat me right, then I’ll do likewise.

It does not promote “hidden-agenda behavior” – I’ll do good to you so that I can get from you what I want later.

No, the Golden Rule has two fundamental requirements:

It requires us to be proactive

One commentator writes, “In its negative form, the Golden Rule could be satisfied by doing nothing. The positive form moves us to action on behalf of others.”

A person living in a coma does not steal, lie or lust and neither does he curse, get angry or start a fight. But, the same person never lends a helping hand, never gives a compliment, never encourages, and never offers a shoulder to cry on.

Therefore, the Golden Rule is not simply a command to avoid unfair treatment that you would not want to receive. Rather, it is a command to give the same sensitive consideration to others that you would want others to give to you.

It requires us to be sensitive

This doesn’t mean that, if you’re quirky and want to be treated quirkily, that you should treat others with you quirks. The rule assumes the note of concern and describes a love that is sensitive to others and aware of their preferences. It could be paraphrased like this: “As you wish to be treated with sensitivity to your preferences, so treat others with sensitivity to their preferences.”

How we treat others is not to be determined by how we expect them to treat us or by how we think they should treat us, but by how we want them to treat us.

You want to be forgiven? Forgive!

You need affirmation? Affirm!

You feel hurt, wounded, broken and could stand a gentle touch? Be gentle with others!

You appreciate tact? Be tactful!

You enjoy a nice compliment? Compliment others!

If you suddenly found yourself in the minority for whatever reason (race, religion, educational status), how would you want the majority to treat you? Then treat the minority the same way when you are in the majority.

Do you want people to think and speak well of you? Do the same.

Do you want people to be critical and faultfinding toward you? Then don’t be that way toward them.

Do you want people to give you the benefit of the doubt? Then give them the same benefit.

Do you want to be loved and respected? Give others the same.

Do you want people praying for you? Pray for them.

Do you want people to tell you the truth? Tell them likewise.

The Golden Rule’s Restrictions

Guess what? There aren’t any! It’s not limited to family, but it certainly includes them. It’s not limited to your church family, but it certainly includes them. It’s not limited to God’s people, but it certainly includes them. It even includes your enemies (6.27-30)!

Paying taxes enables you to fulfill your public debt. Paying your bills allows you to pay off your private debt. However, your primary debt, loving others, is a debt you never finish making payments! That’s what Romans 13.8 teaches: Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.

The Golden Rule’s Replication

A “replica” is a copy or model of something, especially one on a smaller scale. The Eiffel Tower stands 1063 feet in Paris, France. I’ve never seen it. However, I have been to the King’s Dominion theme park in Richmond, VA, which has a 1/3-scale replica. And, I bought a 1000th scale model from the souvenir shop back when I was a kid!

When the Golden Rule is merely “replicated” is produces what I’m calling Whoopi-do Love. So, you love those who love you? Whoopi-do! Sinners do that! So, you do good to those who do good to you? Whoopi-do! Sinners do that! So you lend money when there are no risks involved? Whoopi-do! Sinners do that!

Bottom line: Golden Rule love (kingdom love) is not everyday, mundane, run-of-the-mill, sinners-do-that-too love!

The Golden Rule’s Reward

Note: Unselfish, kingdom, Golden Rule love does NOT make you a child of God; it proves you are one (35a,b).

There’s the reward of knowing you are being obedient to Scripture and the Lord. There may be the reward of a greater capacity to enjoy Heaven. There’s the reward of being recognized as the sons and daughters of God!

The Golden Rule’s Reflection

When you and I flesh out the Golden Rule we give a “reflection” of our God who wants us to model His treatments of “others” (35c-36).

Notice the parallel between verses 35-36 and Ephesians 4.35-5.2… “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us….”

When you look in the mirror do you see a reflection of the Lord and how He loves?

 

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5 Ways to Love Your Enemies

A truck driver is sitting in a crowded roadside diner ready to eat his lunch. It’s not just any diner and any lunch. It’s his favorite diner on the road and his favorite lunch. Just as the waitress brings the truck driver’s meat loaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, and green beans to his table, a motorcycle gang swaggers in the door.

Most of them seat themselves at the table next to the truck driver but there’s not room at that table for all of them. The gang members left standing turn to the truck driver and bark, “Move! We want that table!”

The truck driver calmly says, “I haven’t finished my meal.” One of the motorcycle toughs takes his dirty finger, swipes it through the mashed potatoes and gravy, sticks his finger in his mouth and says, “Hey, not bad grub.” Another gang member takes the trucker’s cup of coffee and slowly pours it over the remaining food on the plate and snarls, “You’re finished now!”

The trucker stands, takes his napkin, wipes his mouth, walks to the cash register, pays for his meal, and silently walks out the door. All the bikers are laughing now.

One of them says, “Ain’t much of a man, is he?” The waitress says, “And he’s not much of a truck driver, either. He just backed his rig over your motorcycles.”

So, how do you react to people who make life difficult for you? How do you treat the “jerks” in your life? You know, that naughty neighbor, or that cantankerous co-worker, or that fat-mouthed family member, or that crusty church member.

Luke 6.27-30 has a few things to say about this. And frankly, I do not know of any biblical teaching that is more challenging than what we find in this text. Would you believe the Lord commands us to love our enemies?! That’s exactly what He says in verse 27. I honestly wish the Lord had not said these words. I wish they weren’t part of His expectations for my behavior.

The love we are called to flesh out here is extremely difficult. But it is the appropriate kind of love for a disciple who has experienced God’s forgiveness, someone who is the recipient of the supernatural grace of God.

Five ways to love your enemies…

(1) Do good to them (“do good to those who hate you,” 27b)

A woman wrote to Pulpit Helps to explain an awesome lesson her family experienced…

During one of our family Bible readings as new Christians, we came across the verse in Romans 12.20 which states, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Ours sons, 7 and 10 at the time, were especially puzzled. “Why should you feed your enemy?” they wondered. My husband and I wondered too, but the only answer John could think of to give the boys was, “We’re supposed to because God says so.” It never occurred to us that we would soon learn why.

Day after day John Jr. came home from school complaining about a classmate who sat behind him in 5th grade. “Bob keeps jabbing me when Miss Smith isn’t looking. One of these days, when we’re out on the playground, I’m going to jab him back.”

I was ready to go down to the school and jab Bob myself. Obviously the boy was a brat. Besides, why wasn’t Miss Smith doing a better job with her kids? I’d better give her a verbal jab, too, at the same time!
I was till fuming over this injustice to John Jr. when his 7-year-old brother spoke up: “Maybe he should feed his enemy.” The three of us were startled. None of us were sure about this “enemy” business. It didn’t seem that an enemy would be in the 5th grade.

We all looked at John. Since he was the head of the family, he should come up with the solution. But the only answer he could offer was the same one he had given before: “I guess we should because God said so.”

“Well,” I asked John Jr., “do you know what Bob likes to eat? If you’re going to feed him, you may as well get something he likes.” “Jelly beans,” he almost shouted, “Bob just loves jelly beans.”

So we bought a bag of jellybeans for him to take to school the next day, and decided that the next time Bob jabbed John Jr., John was simply to turn around and deposit the bag on his “enemy’s” desk. We would see whether or not this enemy feeding worked.

The next afternoon, the boys rushed home from the school bus and John Jr. called ahead, “It worked, Mom! It worked.” I wanted the details: “What did Bob do? What did he say?”

“He was so surprised he didn’t say anything – he just took the jellybeans. But he didn’t jab me the rest of the day!” In time, John Jr. and Bob became the best of friends – all because of a little bag of jelly beans.

Both of our sons subsequently because missionaries on foreign fields. Their way of showing friendship with any “enemies” of the faith was to invite them into their own homes to share food with them around their own tables.

(2) Speak well of them (“bless those who curse you,” 28a)

“Bless” here is the same word from which we get our English word “eulogize.” When we eulogize someone we speak well of them.

This doesn’t mean that we can never confront someone with their sin and with their misbehavior. But Jesus doesn’t want us fighting verbal fire with fire. He doesn’t want us launching verbal grenades at others, even those who curse us and wished we were damned.

(3) Intercede for them (“pray for those who abuse you,” 28b)

One of the best ways to have a genuine loving attitude toward those who persecute us is to bring them before the Lord in prayer. We can pray for their salvation. We can pray for them to be responsive to God’s Spirit. We can pray that the Lord would perform a life-change in them like we want Him to do in our own lives.

It is impossible to pray for someone without loving him, and impossible to go on praying for him without discovering that our love for him grows and matures.

(4) Retaliate not against them (“to one who strikes you…offer the other cheek,” 29)

Revenge is such a natural response. It’s the default setting of our flesh. Our depraved nature cannot stand being mistreated.

Over 10 years ago, my Sunday newspaper kept being stolen out of its box. One Sunday, while enjoying an after-church-lunch with my family, I looked out the window and noticed a car slowing down. I quickly jumped up, ran to the window, and caught the paper thief in the very act! I spun around, grabbed my car keys, and took off after him…I was determined to get my paper back!

After three right turns, one left turn, and traveling less than a mile, I pulled in right behind the villain. Upon exiting our cars, I asked the guy, “Why have you been stealing my paper?” As he started to deny any wrongdoing, I firmly told him, “I saw you take the paper out of my box!” and then I jerked it out of his little grubby hand, and told him to stop stealing. That’s right…I put him in his place! Nobody’s going to steal my Sunday paper and get away with it!

Well, in retrospect, that was foolish. No, it was plain dumb. Acting the way I did left me with NO opportunity to share the Gospel with him. I miserably failed to demonstrate the kind of love Jesus calls for here in Luke 6.

Imagine how differently things might have gone if, upon arriving at his trailer, I got out and said something like, “Sir, please don’t try to deny it cause I just saw you steal my paper. But I tell you what, since you and I both like to read the Sunday paper, why don’t you let me and my wife read it first, cut out the coupons we want, and then I’ll bring it to you so you can read it? Oh, and by the way, I pastor Unity Church on 14th Street. I’d love for you and your family to be my personal guests one Sunday. You can join us for lunch, and then take the paper with you after the meal.”

Now, for clarification, turning the other cheek is not to turn a blind eye to justice. This command does not prohibit me from calling the authorities and report a robbery or damage to my property. But, the execution of that justice is to be left in the hands of human government (cf. Romans 13.1-5; 12.17-19).

(5) Be generous with them (“give to everyone who begs of you,” 30a)

Christ was not talking about giving handouts to every stranger or beggar around. If every believer did that, then as one write put it, “there would soon be a class of saintly paupers, owning nothing, and another of prosperous idlers and thieves.”

We are not required to respond to every foolish, selfish request made of us. Plus, we are instructed in 2 Thessalonians 3.10 not to feed a person who can work but refuses to do so.

The implication in this verse is that the person who asks for the money has a genuine need. They may ask for a loan (cf. vv. 34-35) or simply for a sum of money with no intention of paying it back. Jesus says, “Let them have it.”

Help me, Lord!

God, please help me to love like Jesus did! Please help me to love like this passage of Scripture tells me to. Father, help me to die to self, and exhibit the spirit of Jesus on the cross, the spirit of Stephen when being stoned to death, and the spirit of Joseph who, when he could have easily taken revenge upon his hateful brothers, chose to love them instead.

 

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What Not to Say to Single Women in Your Church

I read an interesting blog a few days ago with very helpful suggestions on what NOT to say to the single women in your church. They were written by a woman in an email and shared with permission by Kevin DeYoung. I’ve posted the highlights below. For the whole blog entry, you can read it here.

“I keep praying for someone to come along for you.” Instead of praying for that, why don’t you pray that I would be growing in Christlikeness so that if Mr. Wonderful walks into my life, I would be better suited to be a helpmate for him.

“I don’t know why no young man hasn’t scooped you up and carried you off yet.” I know this is supposed to be a compliment and that the intention of the kind woman is to tell me that she thinks I’m worth marrying. I appreciate that you think so highly of me. Unfortunately when you say this I immediately try to answer the question of why no one has carried me off…. What do I need to change about myself since obviously something is wrong with me if I haven’t been taken off the market?

“You should move somewhere where there are more young men, or maybe go to a church with more single people.” There is some merit to having a community that you can feel comfortable with, but comments like this aren’t helpful for several reasons. First, it makes it seem like the goal of going to church or moving somewhere is to find a spouse. That’s not why you go to church. Second, it feeds the controlling nature of most women to want to put their matrimonial future into their own hands instead of trusting God. Third, some women don’t have the option of moving, so pointing out to them that there might be “greener pastures” on the other side of the fence doesn’t help them be content in their current situation.

“Have you ever thought about online dating?” Many, many wonderful Christian people have met and married through online dating. But it can sometimes feel like the question is really saying “I see that you’ve completely failed at attracting anyone in your physical world so have you tried to do it in an online world?”

“Don’t you want to get married and have children?” Yes, I do want to get married and have children, but there’s not a whole lot that I can do about it. I don’t have a lot of control over who I come across and whether they would like to ask me out. And although I would like these things, my life is not somehow a failure if I do not achieve them. I would love to be able to have the blessings that come with marriage and children, but it should not be more than my desire to have the blessings of a relationship with Christ.

Proverbs 25.11 says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” And Proverbs 15.23 reminds us, “To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is!” May the suggestions above help us speak appropriate, “seasonal words” to those single women in our churches.

 

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The Princess Bride and the Bible

If you could get away with it…

  • Would you rob a bank?

  • Would you steal from your favorite department store?

  • Would you commit adultery?

  • Would you steal your friend’s boyfriend/girlfriend?

  • Would you punch your enemy in the face?

  • Would you at least do bodily harm to that person who hurt you recently or back when you were in college?

  • Would you kill someone?

If you answered “No” to any or all of these scenarios, then why do you mistreat those you love the most? Your spouse, your children, your parents, your friends, your church family members… Because you’ve sinfully assumed you can get away with it.

Familiarity breeds contempt…

“Familiarity breeds contempt.” What exactly does that mean? One online dictionary says, “People do not respect someone they know well enough to know his or her faults.”

Obviously, familiarity does not breed contempt in the early stages of a budding relationship. In my relationship with my wife the more I got to know her — faults, weaknesses and all (which weren’t very many; I had FAR more!) — the more I grew to love her. My familiarity with her did not breed contempt; it bred a desire to spend the rest of my life with her!

How tragic that familiarity, which can initially breed passion and deep love, later becomes the presumed basis upon which we think we can mistreat someone and get away with it.

How sad when we subconsciously (or worse, consciously) think, I can treat my spouse however I want to cause at the end of the day, they’ve not going anywhere. Or, I can treat my parents with contempt and they’ll still be my parents when the sun comes up tomorrow. Or, I can mistreat my best friend and they’ll get over it simply cause that’s what best friends do.

Jesus’ invitation to play by a different rule…

For believers, we must operate by a different standard! I’m afraid we too often take biblical truth and fail to apply closest to home or even in our home. We let it stay in some sterile, generic form. Take, for example, the “Golden Rule” as found in Matthew 7.12: Jesus said, “Whatever you wish that others would to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” For a moment, let the “others” and the “them” represent your family members, your spouse and/or children. Apply it to those closest to you.

As you wish…

I’m a big fan of “The Princess Bride,” the story of a beautiful young woman named Buttercup who lives on a farm in the fictional country of Florin. Whenever she gives her farmhand Westley an order, he always answers, “As you wish”. Eventually they fall in love and…well, you’ll have to watch the movie for yourself. Now, let’s escape reality. Let’s do what? That’s right “escape reality” and think like Buttercup’s Westley. Jesus did not say to treat others according to how they treat you. He said to treat others as you wish they would treat you! So ask yourself, “How do I want my spouse to treat me? How do I want my parents to treat me?” Then…treat them that way! You’ll put a smile on the Lord’s face, guaranteed.

 

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