Comfortable work

Take 2 young men, this is a list of their most in your face assets.

Young Man 1 (referred to from here on as YM1)

  1. 2009 Nissan GT-R
  2. R1 700 000 apartment in the most affluent suburb in Johannesburg
  3. Hugo boss suits
  4. Tag Heuer watches

 Young Man 2 (referred to from here on as YM2)

  1. 2009 Audi RS-4
  2. R1 200 000 apartment in a trendy up and coming suburb in Johannesburg
  3. Hugo Boss suits
  4. Guess Watches 

On the face of it, YM1 is in the lead and first impressions of YM1 will be greater than of YM2, Fancier cars and apparel. YM2 is nothing to snort at as he seems to be doing well, he’s just not as impressive. Now imagine you find out that YM1 was the son of a rich man, and all that he possesses is as a result of his father’s generosity. While YM2 has worked his way from a standard to lower middle class lifestyle, study loans and all, to get where he is. Immediately the impressions switch. YM2 becomes far more impressive than YM1. YM2 will command more respect from many people because of the hard work that he had to put in to get where he is. Even if YM2 had a VW beetle and lived in a 1 bedroom flat in poorsville, but came up from nothing. Therefore it seems respect is directly proportional to effort. 

As a species we are impressed by work, the one that had to work to get where he is, is regarded far more highly than the one that got there by the generosity of others. This is proven and highlighted rather sharply by the fact that we will avoid asking for financial help from others without the agreement being that we will pay that money back. Picture the kid from the movie ‘the grudge’ or ‘the ring’ now add cold sores… and a wart, we avoid bringing nothing in our hands and asking for a handout as violently as one would avoid that terrifying creation. We tend to avoid it because we have the impression that this is deserving of some contempt. In quite a few conversations I have been in, this principle is evident in the phrases “yes but that was given to him by his daddy” or “yes but he is a giant mommy’s boy, where do you think he got the money for that house?” You might think I am building up to some great climax in which work is what is deserving of contempt and free gifts are where the secret lies. You are right, I am… more shall be revealed later.

Because the above tends to generally be the natural reaction of most people, we strive to earn anything that we have. Which is not a negative thing, I do not mean to imply that, in the material, work is bad, or that working to earn money is a bad thing. That would be a silly position to take. What I am working towards is that man tends to do the same thing with salvation, to a greater or lesser degree depending on personal preference I guess… This is evident in any religion you pick, pretty much every religion indicates that your entry into the afterlife depends on your performance here. Generally if your good outweighs your bad, then the scales tip in your favour and you’re in. “oh no! That’s where Christianity is different” I hear you cry! Well, yes and no. That is where Christianity is supposed to be different, but as it is practiced by a great majority, it isn’t. So many people point to an event in the past where there was a prayer that was repeated. The scriptural proof and evidence that this was sufficient and guaranteed salvation is that if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

If a crisis of belief arises, a question is put forward to the poor individual going through said crises, of the magnitude of the sincerity of the prayer. If you really, really believed what you said, then it’s just doubt creeping in rebuke Satan, and get on with your life. The problem with the prayer of salvation methodology still gives the impression that because you did something that God owes you. You will get to heaven, present your salvation chit and now he owes you entrance. The idea that God did it all, that you could not even choose to follow him without his Grace allowing you to choose to follow him, is pretty uncomfortable to us. We want to have earned it in some way. Even if a person acknowledges that it was all Grace. Grace that called, Grace that allowed a response and Grace that saved, there develops a natural tendency to want to now earn that Grace. I don’t believe that is scriptural at all. We are told that it is Grace that calls us, that Grace allows us to respond positively and Grace that saves us. It also says that Grace calls us not because any redeemable quality is found in the called person, but only because of God’s good pleasure. The magnitude of your sincerity while praying your prayer is irrelevant. Or put another way, because you said a prayer with great sincerity does not give any assurance of salvation.

Ephesians 1: 5Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. (KJV)

This means that the reason God chose any of his children was for his own Glory. Not because you are somehow special. This should always ring in the heads of truly regenerate Christians so that there is no boasting and no arrogance. I have an atheist friend or two, and one of the principle irritants found in many Christians for them is smugness. A communication that somehow there is a superior morality or something in them now that they are Christians, or because they are Christians. The communication extends to “if you become a Christian, you will become special, like me”. This is not always a direct verbal thing, but often tends to be impression given. Where scripture says that God found no inherent worth in you at all, there wasn’t something special in you that warranted or earned his favour. The regenerate Christian is YM1, his salvation is a free, unwarranted gift from the Father. There is nothing he did to earn it in any way at all, and there is nothing he can continue to do to work back any debt he might perceive himself to have.

Romans 12: 1I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (KJV)

In light of everything Christ did for us (for a full run down read the rest of Romans) we are told that offering our bodies as living sacrifices is the only reasonable thing to do. And it is, if you truly believe the real gospel, and have been regenerated by God, then there is no other response that would make sense. It’s senseless for a man that ignores his children, and goes out with his friends every day, to claim to love his children. It is equally senseless for a man to claim to love God, and all that this then implies, and not offer his life as a living sacrifice.

Giant climax hinted at earlier

Works, with respect to earning salvation, are a thing worthy of contempt and the secret lies not in anything you can bring to the table; it is in a free gift that the secret lies. Nothing in our hands we bring, simply to the cross we cling.

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My comfortable money

It’s all about the money.

I don’t necessarily want to go into prosperity doctrine and how I dislike the whole idea, but obviously with a topic like this, there are going to be a few encounters.

So, we have a few words which easily attach themselves to the word ‘crisis’;

  • Oil
  • Energy
  • Water
  • Food
  • Environmental

 There are quite a few alternative sources for fuel and energy, things that are sustainable and won’t throw us completely off balance in another area as we are doing now. For instance, the increase in energy demand can be met by more burning of old dinosaurs thereby lessening the energy worries but increasing the weight applied to the word crisis in ‘environmental crisis’. This is not sustainable, not because it is not financially sustainable, it is really the most sustainable choice if we like thinking short term and as a species we have shown a propensity for very little else. It is not sustainable from an environmental perspective. The patently obvious reason for un-sustainability is the environment. Anthropogenic climate change is not really a disputed topic anymore; it has become an accepted occurrence. Well, it is not disputed in the same way that the moon landings are not a disputed occurrence…

The more we consume, the more energy we use, the more we affect the climate. A phrase that is often used is “save the planet” however, it isn’t really the planet that needs saving. The planet could go on for quite some time, it’s the humans on the planet that will be in for a rather hard time. 

 So, we have these crisii (I can hear the screams of anger over my Latin abuse already) which when you get right down to it, are only there because the methods of solving them are expensive. I believe the detestable term to be “not economically viable at this time”. We are in a financial crisis but not in the way most expect. The mad rush for a monetary return for any service rendered is the real crisis. It’s far more complicated than that, granted. Affluent countries can’t just burst on the scene in the third world and install all kinds of water purification and magic crop growers free of charge because someone will want to take control of it, so they can make money, this usually involves a lot of shooting and dying. Handing freebies around also doesn’t really solve that many problems. You have the genuinely needy, the ones that would work and contribute if they could, but can’t. Freebies for them, to help them out are good. But then you get the others, the bottom feeders that could contribute, but it is easier to look and act helpless and just hold out hands for all the freebies. The problems are numerous, and yet the root cause is money, the passionate love of money. 

Millions will die rather horrible deaths, which are avoidable, because it is not economically viable at this point to do anything about it. Now this is where my christianese comes in, and this is where it conflicts with the financial prosperity doctrine most often preached. I can’t see how God wants me to have all the best stuff, and lots of it, which costs a lot, and takes a lot of energy to produce. I can’t see how he wants me to drive the best car, because firstly the ‘best’ cars are most impactful on the environment because of manufacturing cost and secondly because of their consumption of oil. I would concede that perhaps he does want me to have a fancy car or ridiculously large house, but if this is really the case then I think I would get that, without having to pay it off every month in huge instalments. 

The thing is that things like happiness and a prosperous life are definitions rather coloured by our culture. Everyone says that money doesn’t buy happiness, but we chase after it anyway. Indicating that the statement is made with absolutely no confidence and rather that it’s an untrue statement. A prosperous life therefore has to include money. If we are not financially prosperous, and showing it, then there must be something wrong. I mentioned a life of abundance in a previous blog post, I believe that definition is biblically accurate. Our financial and material prosperity by means of exorbitant interest rates and instalment sale agreements means that we are unable to help those around us. I’m not talking the unnamed masses, I am talking about the families in our churches, or social circles that are genuinely struggling. You can’t help them because we need to fit tyres onto our ‘blessings’ and ‘necessities’.

Define Necessity

Define Necessity

We can only pay our domestic workers a minimum wage because our 6 figure cars need paying off. Our cars often cost us monthly what many people earn in half a year! There are all kinds of issues surrounding paying your domestic a liveable wage. What happens if you move, that person must now go from earning R3000 or R4000 from her generous employer back to minimum wage, which causes all kinds of problems. So the solution is not a quick fix, it’s not sufficient to just decide to up the salary, it needs to be a rather large cultural and social change. But don’t let that be an excuse, you can still make a difference in a real way, by just being a little less material focussed.

Perhaps the problem is less money and more selfishness. I want, I need, give it to me now. Money is just a means to fulfil self. 

Anyway, zooming back out from the terrible desire to have all the nice stuff to the bigger and uglier picture. I believe we are at a place technologically where so many of the worlds crisii (there’s the screaming again) could be solved, if not for that little horrible phrase mentioned earlier. So, sorry most of the global population, sorry fellow countrymen, sorry neighbours and family members… We see you are struggling, and we would like to help it’s just that. 

It’s not financially viable at this time

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Christmas Calamity

Calamity is upon us. If we don’t choose just the right one then doom and suffering for weeks, if not years to come. The pressure is tremendous, it is greater for those with significant ‘romantic’ others. From personal observation I would rate the pressure scale of choosing the right gift in order of greatest to least pressure as follows;

  1. Wife
  2. Girlfriend
  3. Boyfriend
  4. Husband
  5. Mother
  6. Sibling
  7. Father
  8. The rest

This is by no means definitive; it just seems, by my observation, the order by which people have the greatest increase of blind panic the closer we come to Christmas. This is not always directly proportional to the cost scale of buying presents, though, the top spots on each list are generally reserved for the romantic interest in any given person’s life. Women can sometimes be assured that the more expensive a gift is betrays the amount of effort it took to think of that gift. I consider jewellery to be a particular cop out. I am given great assurance by my wife however, that any lack of effort will be overlooked if the result is jewellery. This cannot be said for diaries, though, luckily we were not married yet, and I suppose the luck extends for me because we still got married. I hope I don’t get some men in trouble with this as quite a few times I have agonized over what exactly to get my significant other for absolute weeks with no great insight. The result will be jewellery, the safest of havens. So, just because you end up with jewellery or something else expensive doesn’t always mean that there was no effort involved before the collapse and surrender to the boring choice. However, women can remember that insight, to keep your man on his toes.

Christmas then, by observation, is about presents, Santa Clause, self image and as a result, often debt.  Self image, really? I say this because I see so many people stressing about what others will think of their gift. “is it too cheap” “what if they find out it’s too cheap” etc, etc. Never mind suggesting not getting gifts, that is totally out of the question. One of the ways with which to  to tell what is important to someone is to see where that person puts his time and effort. If family is important to someone, then making peace in the family and getting them all together for Christmas will be where the greatest outpouring of effort will be. That example can be extended to any motivation for ‘doing’ Christmas, or more specifically, the method with which we ‘do’ Christmas. Sadly I have not seen many examples out of the church where Jesus truly is the ‘reason for the season’. We share the day that we set aside to celebrate the birth of Jesus the Christ with all manner of imaginary junk. Not just that, it’s about excess and materialism to greater or lesser extremes. I can’t see how spending 1.5 hours in church in the morning and praying a corporate grace over the food makes the day about Jesus. I cannot tell anyone how they will make the day about Jesus, or make it so that he is really the focus of the day, that is for the individual to decide. I can share some of the things that I think have absolutely no place if we are to even claim the day to be about Jesus, and I can challenge you to actually think about why you do the things you do and to think about actually making the day truly about what you profess it to be about.

Santa clause, why do we even allow that figure into the day. It’s not just about having him there as an afterthought, often he is used to get kids frothing at the mouth in excitement about Christmas. “Be good, santa knows what you are doing, if you want nice stuff be a good little child… oh and Christmas is also about Jesus”. No, Christmas is only about Jesus. I think Christmas should be only about Jesus, or not about Jesus at all. There should be no also about it. Goodwill, family, friends that all results from a relationship with Christ, therefore it will tend to be a part of the day we claim to celebrate him. Materialism, excess and imaginary figures should have no part in a day which we claim to celebrate him. If you are going to include anything else in the day, then you should abandon any pretence that the day is about Jesus. How you truly celebrate the birth of Christ and honour him is not for me to say, as I said earlier, however celebrating it in the way we do traditionally (magical gift man, materialism and excessive overeating) is as ludicrous as celebrating the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. with a white supremacist march.

So I challenge you if you claim Christmas is about Jesus, to think about how best to actually celebrate his birth in a way that brings him Glory, rather than mirror the worlds Xmas celebration.

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Comfortably Christian

“We turn to God for help when our foundations are shaking only to learn that it is God shaking them.”
– Charles West (brought to my attention by Jonathan Barton)

To be comfortable and happy is nice. Though, not only is it nice, it is necessary. Our cars, TV’s couches and houses are there out of necessity, and it is necessary to upgrade them the moment we can afford to. This is necessary, and I can prove it because the majority of our lives are spent acquiring these things with passion and zeal. It is not an option to downgrade, to go backwards. If we can afford it, or more commonly, if we can afford the debt then the answer is to buy it. Our comfort and happiness is the most important thing. It is more important than family, it must be, because we spend more time getting and using items of comfort and happiness than we spend with family. I do not count watching TV as time spent with family, this is not quality time in any way shape or form. Our colossal drive and focus on comfort permeates everything. The easiest way to get people to give money to something is to show some disturbing pictures, plead and preach on the suffering of children and generally make people uncomfortable. What we do then is reach into our wallets, give money and use this to plaster over the feelings of discomfort. Or, if we are lucky we get an email about it, which we can then just forward to everyone in our address books, believing, or trying to believe, the bottom of the mails admonishment not to deny Jesus lest he deny us, and if we forward this mail to EVERYONE we know that somehow it will make a difference. At least it will raise awareness. So we click forward, make a mental note to find out how to give some cash to this plight and promptly forget about it. 

This drive for comfort has even permeated our religion. Christians, you need to be comfortable and happy the bible seems to be telling us. God wants you to have all the best that the world can offer. After all, Jesus came to give life, and life in abundance (to the full) did he not? Are the streets of heaven not paved with Gold? Jesus was our example, but only in a super spiritual sense, the fact that he was a materialistically poor man is not for us. It is not for us that the first example of a church was so ridiculously generous and selfless with their possessions that they went so far as to sell their property for their belief. We hear a lot of preaching on how we can be better people, more moral people, better fathers, husbands, mothers and wives. We have an incredibly popular and world renowned Pastor/preacher/minister who claims the bible can teach everyone, no matter what religion they are from, to have better lives, to live better lives and that this is the POINT of it all. The underlying idea seems to be that we must be comfortable and we must not disturb anyone else’s comfort. We must live this moral life, through this we will be blessed and happy (with stuff probably) and “holy” and as a RESULT, lost people will come to us to ask about how it is we are so happy and blessed and “holy”. I don’t see that example anywhere in scripture, with exception of some of the people coming to Jesus, the prostitute and the rich man as examples. But this is not taught with the purpose of making it a style of life. The people coming to Jesus were a result of the actions that lead Jesus to be crucified, not a result of living as inoffensively as possible. Jesus wasn’t walking around trying to make everyone comfortable. He trod on toes, gave the really hard and, oft times, offensive answers. Even to the broken and contrite heart, like the prostitute, “go and sin no more” there was only forgiveness and grace, but I still think “sin no more” is quite the heavy challenge. Please don’t think that I am implying we must charge about trying to offend everyone we can. What I am saying is that Jesus told the truth, and the truth is offensive to many people. It has to be, if it was not the case, then the Son of God telling the truth would not have been so hated, and many of the people that sat at his feet would not have been martyred horribly. If it was a comfortable, inoffensive truth then I don’t think Jesus would have warned his disciples that they would be despised and hated because of his name. 

I think to some extent we start to feel nervous about our comfort, and so we seek a church service that will challenge us in some way. We seek this difficult knowledge so that we feel fed and challenged, too feel comfortable about our comfort, but that is where it stops. That knowledge never bears fruit in obedience. Even in the simple area of finance, your own PERSONAL money… not talking about giving it away, talking about how you spend it on yourself. Trust the lord we say, “Jehovah my provider” is the wondrous cry… yet the fruit of obedience in most lives seems to imply we are saying, Jehovah Jireh, my provider of banks and credit cards and debt.

Relying on God in times of trouble is uncomfortable and difficult, relying on the wonderful system of loans and interest is comfortable, not only that, it allows us to buy what we want, when we want it. And surely it is ok, because God has blessed us with the means with which to afford all this crushing debt? 

Seeking to be comfortable is quite possibly opposed to seeking a deeper relationship with God. I can only see a pattern of greater and greater “discomfort” for the examples no one can argue with as to whether they were truly Christian or not. The weird and utterly bizarre thing, by the worlds measure, is that these examples not only started being exposed to this “discomfort” because of their passionate seeking of relationship with Jesus they seemed to embrace it and be completely joyful about it. They drew encouragement because of the “discomfort”.

Acting in obedience to the promptings of God in the true believers life often results in some discomfort and persecution.

Perhaps the streets of heaven are paved with gold because gold has so little worth in heaven. So why seek gold, and the things that gold can buy here on earth? If you do not desire to seek and spend time with God and his children here on earth, worshipping him and speaking about him and learning more about him, Why would you want to go to heaven? Learning more about the living God, I think, will be the primary activity in heaven and it excites to a greater and greater extent the truly regenerate Christian. So why keep silent about your belief, which will very likely offend many people. The comfort that the world offers of stuff and inoffensiveness brings, demonstrably, a greater sense of discontent. The discomfort that God offers, through relationship with him, brings a greater sense of joy and encouragement. I believe that this is the life of abundance, that this is what life to the full is.

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Welcome!

So

this is pretty much it. I am among the first pioneers to use this “interblogs” technology. Yes, only about 60 million other people have done this before me! Truly, this is a rare and unique thing.

Here be sarcastic dragons” I hear you say? Nonsense, I know not of what you speak.

Long have I considered “getting” a blog, usually when my literary gymnastics is not quite sufficient to compress my opinion into the sardine like confines of a twitter post. I say to myself “self, this opinion is so terribly important that I feel the whole world should be exposed to it. Let us break the shackles of 140 character posts and venture into the world of TRUE opinion giving“. I generally tend to win that argument by replying to myself “yes, indeed self. However you have failed to consider the following things. Firstly, 140 characters allow all manner of excuses for the grammatic failure of any post. This then cascades into the second consideration, being all the crushing judgement of the internet warriors with regard to the manner in which you wield your grammatical sword.” Fantastic arguments both! Either of which I am inclined to agree with, which is a handy thing, considering they are mine. What kind of madman would I be if I did not agree with me?

The fact that you are reading this shows which argument I have chosen to align myself. Therefore I shall tell you the purpose I had in mind for this tiny soap box. In here you shall mostly find opinions on Social responsibility, environmental matters and moral arguments. Most of these opinions will be rather purposefully coloured by my experience and relationship with God. In other words, I hope to broadcast my own experience and relationship with God in whichever areas of my life he is currently busy. I hope through all this that in some way I might glorify God in whatever way is possible by me in this medium.

So, welcome, I hope and pray that those who are blessed challenged or possibly both, are done so not by my own words, but by God’s. I have the same hope and prayer that whoever might be offended is offended for the very same reason. I mean to say that I hope that any opinion expressed might only cause offense because of the name of Jesus Christ and biblical truth, and not because I am being an arrogant idiot.