Monday, December 01, 2008

broken hallelujah

Today my wife showed me this song via a you-tube link. And it appears to be included in a sound track song for a Shrek movie. And to have been out for years, already, but this was my first time to hear it.

I am old, and out of things, but I don't understand how "Praise the Lord-Jehovah" can be so accepted in the secular world, unless the world doesn't know what the Hebrew phrase means. With allusions to King David the psalmist and the adulterer, as well as to Samson's fall to Delilah, it appears the song's author was familiar with the Biblical record . . . , and well-acquainted with the passions of this life.

It sums up the Christian experience very well: Love is . . . a broken hallelujah. When we have done our very best, it has been so tainted with our sinfulness that it is, at best, a broken attempt to bring praise to God.

I am overcome by how true to life this song is, how much emotion is in both the lyrics and the melody. It haunts me. It makes me weep over my sin.

And it is a theme song for a cartoon ogre!?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Genesis 3 and Death

God had told Adam and Eve, ". . . in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." Genesis 2:17.

In chapter three, they ate. Did they die, or not?

If they died, it was between verse 6 and verse 7.

There appears to be a major issue: The Veracity of God.

If they didn't die, then God lied. If they did die, then why are they alive in verse 7?

I told Dr. van Groningen my theory twenty years ago, but he told me that nobody has ever written that, so it must not be correct. I still think there is a way to understand this death sentence that allows God to be truthful.

The clue is in the beginning of verse 7. "Their eyes were opened . . . ." There is mention of their eating the fruit, then, there is a full stop, and then, their eyes are opened.

In the gap between the period at the end of verse 6 and the capital letter at the beginning of verse 7, something happened.

I believe that Adam and Eve surely died. I believe it, because it confirms God's threat in chapter 2 verse 17. I believe it, because verse 7 starts by saying their eyes were opened. Why would they need their eyes to be opened (note passive voice) if they had not been closed (in death)?

God remains truthful and just. Adam and Eve died. But God was also gracious and gave them new life. Right there, between verse 6 and verse 7!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

moving a house note to a credit card

Sometimes you can get enough mailings of the credit card check offers to move a legitimate loan (i.e., for an appreciating asset, e.g., a house) to a place normally not legitimate, i.e., a credit card.

This one from Capital One is a good example.

To thank you for your loyalty as our customer, we’re offering you a special transfer rate. When you transfer balances to your Capital One® account, you’ll enjoy this great 6.99% APR to start with until July 29, 2009. And then your rate actually falls to an even lower fixed 4.99%.

More good news is that you won’t pay a penny of transaction fees with this offer. That’s right—no transaction fee with this offer.

Note that there is no transaction fee with most offers from Capital One. This makes an incredible deal, a refinancing without a refinancing fee.

As long as you make the minimum payment each month (and you should put this kind of payment on AUTOPAY, so you never miss it when you happen to be traveling, etc.), this loan is great. If your current car note or house note is at 7% or higher, you may want to consider this deal. You have to earn a good credit rating to get this kind of offer, and get your credit limit on the card up pretty high to make it worthwhile, but dropping 2% after one year (without refinance charges) is way cool!

transaction fees

Getting best deals from credit card checks. One of the important things that you can get with a credit card is a loan, by using the checks they send you from time to time. One way you test whether it's a good loan or not is by its initial cost, the transaction fee. Then you have to compare whether the initial cost and the APR together are less than other ways that you could get money.

Assume you are going to get a zero percent APR loan and your transaction fee is 3%. That 0% APR looks enticing, doesn't it? Did you know this is the same as getting a 6% APR loan with no transaction fee? Your zero percent APR just went to 6%. How?

Assume you borrow $1200.00 and you pay twelve payments of $100 each to pay off the zero percent loan. Your total finance charge is your 3% transaction fee times $1200, or $36.00.

Now, assume you pay 0% transaction fee and 3% APR. Each month you pay 0.03/12 times the current balance (dividing by 12 changes an APR to a monthly interest amount). You can put it into a spreadsheet and figure it to the penny, but let's assume your monthly payment is $100 plus the current interest. Your average balance for the year is one half the original amount, or $600. Multiplying the average balance by the APR gives the approximate interest for the entire year, $600 * 0.03 = $18.00.

When you paid a fee plus 0%, your total finance charge was $36. When you paid 3% APR, you paid $18. Which was the better deal?

Paying a percentage fee at the front of a loan effectively doubles the finance charge, assuming a one year payout.


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Friday, August 15, 2008

Saving Bank Charges and Fees

I learned something the hard way a long way back and paid the price of bank fees and embarrassment. Recently, it happened to a friend who is old enough to know better, so I thought I should share it, since some of you are old enough to know better, too.

It is just a little feature called linking. You link your checking account with another funds source, and the bank automatically takes the money from that source, rather than bouncing a check or adding fees to your account when you use your cash card or checking account and get into an overdraft situation.

It is easy to write a bad check without intending to. I wrote one to the sheriff of Carnesville, GA when I happened to be the driver of a speeding car that was returning three college students from a Christmas break road trip. The check was good, at the time, but when I got back to Emory and wrote a check for my books the next week, I made a subtraction error. The check for the books hit the bank before the check to the sheriff, so that one bounced. The Georgia State Patrol was notified to pick me up. It seems the sheriff had been killed in a car wreck with my check in his pocket, so this was a sensitive matter to the law enforcement officials. Fortunately for me, my Mama was home when the State Patrol arrived, and she wrote them one of her good-as-gold checks, and they didn't wait to take me to jail.

I did get a talking-to by both Mama and Larry, about applied mathmatics. :)

The result was I added $200 to my checking account, but didn't put it in my check register. So I had that buffer for the errors I might make. And when I balanced my checkbook, I would always balance to $200, instead of zero. It worked and saved me from many bad checks, but not from all, since checks have gotten bigger over time.

If you do get into a bounce situation, rush to the bank and ask to speak to an officer. He or she can remove those charges if you convince them it was a mistake and you will never let it happen, again. Or, you can bargain with them. If several checks bounced, for example, it may be that most of them wouldn't have bounced if the bank had processed them before the big one. Since they processed the big one, first, there were not enough funds for four little checks. Why should you be charged five times $39 when their processing order could have been reversed and they would have only bounced the big one? (Because they make more money!)

But, you can avoid the whole scenario by account linking.

If you open a savings account at the bank (and I don't generally do this because they pay such low interest), they can link to that account. If an overdraft situation occurs, they automatically take the money from savings.

If you are buying your home, you can get the bank to give you a home equity line of credit. It is like a loan, but you don't take the money or pay interest, until you actually use it. It can be used for short-term cash needs, like replacing an air conditioner or buying tires, or some other unexpected expense. When you overdraft your checking account, the bank automatically increases the loan amount, and the check doesn't bounce.

If you get a credit card from the bank, they can link the checking account to the credit card, and use it to keep from bouncing a check. Just make sure of two things: 1. pay the entire balance due, plus about 5%, when you get a bill, because a cash transaction on a credit card gives them the highest interest and starts compounding the day the cash is taken and keeps compounding until it is paid off. 2. Be careful that the check to pay the credit card will not create an overdraft. That can get you into late fees, higher interest rates and perhaps, charges of kiting.

Ask about fees related to account linking. Bancorp South does not charge for this service. Our credit union charges $1 per instance. Shop around, if necessary, because it is worth changing banks to get this protection.

A stitch in time saves nine.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


This is a wonderful thing using You can talk directly into your telephone and as long as you keep you thoughts coherent and in order so that your words keep flowing, you can dictate a blog right from your telephone into your blog page. Isn't technology wonderful?

The above message was dictated via Jott. Unfortunately, Jott has discontinued its free services and is not priced competitively for me. I prefer to use

Purpose in Life.

Today I was thinking about those things that make me into a better person, helpful of other people. I think if a person helps other people enough, he will either forget about being self-centered (e.g., asking who he is and what his life purpose is) because he's been doing something for others, or else he'll see how much better off he is than everybody he's trying to help, and his stated task (life purpose) is starting to take care of itself.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Communication is key to healthy relationships.

Communication is key to healthy relationships.

However, one of the hardest things for me to do is to tell somebody
something when I feel like they are not going to like it, or it is
going to hurt them.

So, when I have had these times when something was important, but I
was afraid it would hurt somebody or they wouldn't like it, then I
wouldn't say it.

I need to learn how to do that, because it's important to communicate.
And not saying it is (by definition) not communicating. Or, more
likely, it is communicating something to them, but you are clueless to
know what you said.

This is probably another right-brain thing. You are communicating
some emotional content without a corresponding logical content to
reinforce the value, or minimize the damage, the wordless
communication causes.

Suppose you accidentally ran over the cat and reverently buried the
remains in an out of the way place.

You don't want to tell someone who loved the cat, "Not only is Kitty
dead, but I was the perpetrator of the demise!" It is bad news that
the cat is dead. It is terrible news that you killed the cat!

You can bury the truth like you buried the cat, and just not mention
the issue. You don't hurt the person, and you don't receive the wrath
for doing the evil deed.

In a few days, you can help make signs to post in the neighborhood, or
you can 'fess up. Confessing not only gets a magnified form of the
first confrontation you were trying to avoid, it also gets the
additional wrath related to why you would do such a thing and hide it!

You can keep putting "lost kitty" signs up, raising the reward,
calling all the neighbors, etc., and you still avoid the anger, hurt,
and resentment. But you build a wall, making it ever harder to get
that communication channel opened in the future. And you bear the
emotional damage that comes with the supression of your own feelings,
i.e., the guilt.

And the spiral continues to go on, and on, and on.

At some point, the relationship may suffer so much that it gets
sacrificed, along with the cat and the truth.

How would you handle the situation?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

sanctification is hard

The bottom line is that my own marriage is not strong enough to withstand the schemes of the devil that would surely come our way if we followed that path. You know what a great spiritual challenge being a pastor who wants to follow God is in today's world. Even as an Associate Minister, I face the very real battle of trying to act like a Christian in front of my own wife.

It is not only that she knows what a Christian husband is supposed to do. She wants to test the limits of my love and patience. Satan is reinforcing her and trying to make us think that she is the problem, not him. The same temptations that happened in the Garden of Eden and in the wilderness, when Adam and Jesus were tempted, are happening, now.

We (speaking for myself) don't have the strength to say "Get behind me!" to Satan. Jesus did. We are told to "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you," and we only have the knowledge and strength to say, "It is written!" and "Help mine unbelief!" May the Lord give us the wisdom to know which of his words have the power for this situation.

Joshua said, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." The problem is that "my house" gives me doubts every day. And that means that I am not living in front of her in such a way that she will be led and compelled by that spark of the spirit I know is there. It would be so much easier if I could just say, "As for me, I will serve the Lord," but, just as the promise was made to the Philippian Jailer, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, and thy house" so I do things that result in benefit for my house.

"For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy." We sanctify each other when one of us is not acting consistent with what we say we believe. For her sake, and the children's, I must be faithful. Or, if you think it is bad, now, wait until you remove your sanctifying influence.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Predestination and Preaching

So what is the big deal about Predestination and Preaching? If people are predestined, why should we preach? Why should evangelism be needed, at all?

I revisited something similar with my baby this week. I am so excited that she is going to become an intern with the Reformed University Ministries.

She is doing what is called itineration, going from place to place, teaching people about what she is expecting the spirit to do with her in the coming year. I and several other family members have been lining up opportunities for her and barraging her with names of individuals and churches she should contact.

One of the results of itineration is that some people's hearts will have been prepared by God to hear her message and they will be moved to offer financial and prayer support for her.

The situation promotes an existential crisis, because she knows that God can gather her support without any means, whatever. He can move a person with $10,000 to walk up to her and say that the spirit moved him to give this money for her support without her ever saying anything. And she is hesitant to manipulate people or play the "numbers game," i.e., talking to as many people as possible until the magic number of support has been reached. She wants to trust the Lord, but her family keeps calling with more names for her to contact.

Go back to the original title. If predestination is true, a preacher can be in this same quandary. Why should he preach, if the Lord has predestined who will come to himself and has the power to miraculously move hearts? Why should he preach an evangelistic message at all? Why not be content just to equip the saints?

The answer is that God uses the foolishness of preaching to bring the elect to himself. Preaching the good news is the means God uses to save his elect. See the sequence in Roman 10. Preachers and preaching are listed as links in the chain that leads to salvation. God has in his infinite wisdom chosen to use people sharing the gospel to be the means of bringing the elect to himself.

It is a matter of obedience. If God says, "preach the gospel," we must preach the gospel. Some of the elect might well be in today's audience. That is God's business. Ours is to preach the gospel to all.

If RUF has chosen the means of itineration to raise support for its staff members, they should, in like manner, tell everyone their story. God has been preparing some of them to hear the message and their hearts will be touched by that sharing.

One of the Chinese students who heard her message told her, "You are so brave." That was interesting to me. My heart was not prepared to see this step in her life as bravery. But I understood what he was saying. His heart was prepared for that.

We may never know which conversation the Lord used to touch someone. But the Lord knows, and he uses every word for his own predestined purposes.

Keep sharing the good news!

Monday, April 07, 2008

buying a first home

Some advice written almost ten years ago.

Suggestions for house-buying.

Two things to decide at the start.

1. Is this house a beginning house, from which we can step up to the dream house, or is this the dream house? --If you start with a modest house, you get all the learning experience of loan-getting, plumbing and airconditioning things I should have learned, neighbors I can do without, etc., while at the same time, growing equity in the first home, which makes for a better down payment on the dream home.

2. Should the payment be totally from the husband's income, or should the wife's income also be part of the monthly payment? --If the wife becomes pregnant, can you still afford the home? On the other hand, if you get a payment based solely on the husband's income, AND the wife's income is applied monthly while she is employed and not having children, her part of the payment goes all towards principal, reducing the term of the loan significantly. (Be sure no pre-payment penalty and that additional payments go directly against principal when dealing with the lending agency.)

Another thing I find important is Location. You want to have good neighbors. You want to be near your church and your job. When you go to work, you don't want to travel east in the morning and west in the evening--you will be looking into the sun and have greater opportunity for wrecks. This means don't live West of the job. Live North, South, or East. East is my first choice.) You want to be convenient to your friends, and not too remote.

Remember that you will be buying a house, but it will own you. It will make you keep the grass cut, the wooden surfaces painted, the roof shingled, etc. Get a yard that both gives you garden space, yet also is not too large to subdue.