These are the slides from my recent talks at Chicago’s .NET Architecture Group as well as Rockford .NET User Group.
Keep up the great work!
It had been a difficult year. He had a good full-time job with a top employer, but the fact was since losing his business the year before, he had lost nearly $30,000 in annual income. Add to this situation many health problems, and it is easy to see how it was a challenge just to begin 2009 for him, his wife and four children.
Just three months into 2009 he wound up in the hospital again – four more days without pay, where it was determined he had had a seizure of some sort and was put on new meds to prevent further occurrences and sent home. Not even a month later his wife spent 5 days in the hospital due to pneumonia. Even with their health insurance, the bills were a blow to already strained finances. Early in the summer their oldest began her long journey with the orthodontist – resulting in more bills for the family.
To their credit, and very much due to their faith in God, they soldered on, making payment arrangements and managing to stay afloat – somehow.
They cut back in their spending as much as they could – but still were barely keeping up with expenses – and were falling behind more often than not.
Through the entrepreneurial spirit of his wife, they began to make ends meet, as she and their children began selling candy door-to-door throughout the summer and fall. As Thanksgiving approached, they were thankful for their health and the many blessings God had shown them – from healing a broken bone to keeping everyone healthy.
The Saturday after Thanksgiving they came home to an awful smell in the house – a mixture of dog poop and dead mouse permeated the place. They all immediately went to work looking for signs of either and found nothing, that is, until he opened the door to the basement and in the light reflecting from the floor he knew there was water down there. Standing on the bottom step, overwhelmed by the smell, he could see about an inch of water covering the floor, with patches of foamy scum floating on top. He soon discovered the source – the drain line from the kitchen sink had broken, thereby letting the dish washer and sink drain into the basement – which was a relief since that meant it wasn’t raw sewage, so he figured it could of been worse. A quick trip to Menards, then 90 minutes and $30 later the drain was fixed, which meant there wouldn’t be any more water draining into the basement.
Wearing gloves and a mask, he worked until after midnight with the wet vac getting water off the floor. After a shower he collapsed into bed, sickened from the fumes and exhausted from the work, wondering how long it would take to clean this mess up. The next day he didn’t go to church, instead working to clean the basement. He started hauling soaked and damaged items out, and the enormity of the damage began to be apparent. They had had water in the basement several years before, so most of what was stored down there was in plastic bins, or on top of plywood on blocks, or two old pallets left down there for that purpose. However, with the passing of time and children exploring, things that should have been off the floor weren’t, and were now soaked through and ruined. This included old plastic toys, that when he picked them up he heard the water sloshing inside – these had to be thrown out, there were also many plastic bags of clothes that were now soaked and in his and his wife’s opinion, ruined. The list grew to include stuffed animals, wooden baskets, luggage, an old typewriter, a file cabinet and even a set of books. The hardest for his wife to deal with, however, was the loss of many clothes she had saved from when her mother was alive that were now lost.
During the cleanup process, he had to purchase heavy duty trash bags to haul everything outside – using precious money they really didn’t have (not to mention the money spent to fix the leak in the first place), thereby making a tight budget even tighter, and further complicating matters was the weather – it was simply too cold for her to sell candy – neither of them would think of putting their kids through that when it was 0 to 10 degrees outside.
Part way into the clean up they decided to call their home owner’s insurance to see if any of the items might be covered and to their surprise the answer was yes, they would be. They were assigned a claims person to work with and were told to make a detailed list with pictures and submit it to the company. The final list they submitted totaled several thousand dollars, which surprised everyone. Their insurance company honored the list and began to explain how the reimbursement process would work. At first they would be issued approximately 20% of the losses claimed and would have 24 months to replace items lost and submit receipts in order to recover the remainder. They received their first check about two weeks before Christmas, with instructions from the insurance company on how to use it. But I’m getting ahead of myself in telling the story.
On Thursday, the 10th of December, upon getting to work, he was immediately called into his bosses office. Fearing the worst, he went, only to be told the company had determined to issue bonus checks to all employees since earlier in the year salaries had been frozen due to the economic situation. He was handed an envelope with his bonus check inside. He thanked his boss and returned to his office to call his wife to come pick up the surprise check! (Actually he called his wife and said “Um, I need you to come get me right now – I just got called into the office – I’ll explain when you get here.” Of course his wife thought he had just been fired and was fighting back tears when she arrived a few minutes later, only to have them turn to tears of joy when he handed her the check.)
You see, just the night before they were sitting in the bank drive through lane, making a $10.00 deposit and afterword the account balance was $12.00 and payday was a week away. This was the tightest they had been all year financially – there had been tough times up to then, but never like this. They didn’t know what to do except what they had been doing all year – pray. This time they prayed harder than before.
That Sunday, he told his pastor what had happened as a praise report and his pastor asked him to share the account with the congregation. Reluctantly he agreed and offered to do so. When he relayed the events to the congregation, he pointed out that God is never early, but always just in time. After the service the pastor’s wife approached him and said “I was asked to give this to you.” It was a $20 bill. At first he refused, but she insisted someone had asked her to give it. He accepted it with a lump in his throat – nothing like that had ever happened to him before and he really didn’t know how to react to it except to say “thank you” to her.
Later in the car he gave the money to his wife and together they fought back tears – wondering who had just blessed them and thanking God for taking care of them.
The following week at church he was approached by a lady who had a card for him. Since she was one of the Awana leaders he thought it was a Christmas card and tucked it into his Bible until after service. After service as they were driving out of the parking lot, he remembered the card and gave it to his wife. She opened it and out of the card dropped a $50 bill! They were shocked, amazed and humbled by the gift and the blessing it was to them.
The next day, his wife got a call from the church – the message was there was a gift for them that the pastor wished to drop by their house. When he arrived at the house he handed the man’s wife a card that contained a $100 shopping card at Woodman’s grocery store! Another blessing! Again the giver was anonymous, and heartfelt thanks flooded both his wife and him when he arrived home from work.
That same day the first check from the insurance company arrived. What was going to be a barren Christmas was changed to something very different!
On Christmas morning, their children were greeted with new clothes – right from the store – not purchased from garage sales earlier in the year. There were also toys and other presents, from mom and dad and from Santa.
What they had thought would be their worst Christmas ever turned out to be one of their very best.
What they thought was a disaster in their basement turned out to be the source of another blessing. Their basement had been a storage place for years, with trips into the basement only to fetch clothes from bins during change of seasons, to change the furnace filter or (when they could afford it) add salt to the water softener. But since the basement had to be meticulously cleaned, they discovered many things about it in the process, like the fact there were many bins only 1/2 full (sometimes less than that), so that when everything was consolidated, there were 12 empty plastic bins found. After the bins and items that were not damaged by the water were properly organized, there was actually enough room for the kids to play, so a good portion of that first check from the insurance company went to buying floor mats to make part of the floor into a play surface (with the added benefit of being completely removable and washable if another water problem occurs in the future) and canvas sheeting (painter’s canvas) to make “walls” for the play room. Add a couple 4 foot shop lights and a play room was born.
In the end, they received three separate blessings from their church, as well as countless prayers – the money received from their church family helped provide food and also gas for their van.
What they first thought was a disaster in their basement resulted in the kids having a play room of their own for the first time ever (their oldest is 16, the youngest 5), as well as new clothes they would have never had prior to that – they each have two pieces from Hollister and Aeropostale – those names mean nothing to the man, but the children claim differently. They were able to bless others by giving gifts which they wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise – all from a wet, very smelly mess in their basement.
By working through his employer, his basement and a loving church family, the man and his wife have seen God work in some amazing ways this Christmas season and to those in their church family they extend a heart-felt “Thank You”, “Thank You”, “Thank You”.
As 2009 closes and 2010 approaches, both the man and his family look forward to whatever God has in store for them – they have seen Him work many miracles this year, what may He have in store for them next?
Recently a friend asked if I thought it was right for a Christian to speak out against the government, or against people in the government. He was wondering if perhaps the admonishment in the Bible to pray for and respect those in authority somehow means Christians should not speak out.
Romans 13, verses 1-5 seem to be clear and at first blush supports this idea, so lets examine this, shall we?
1Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. (NIV)
Does this mean that President Obama or any other political leader can do whatever they want? Do they have unlimited authority without opposition? What if the President decided that women would not be allowed out of the house unless they were wearing a dress and a hat? Would we simply agree and go along, saying “Romans 13!” “Romans 13” “I must obey!” Hmmm, I think not.
So there must be limits to authority.
Looking at this another way, I am married and I have children. Do I have the right to abuse my wife or children? Of course not. If I tell my teenage daughter she must run around nude, should she obey? Of course not! An employer has authority over his/her employees but does that give him/her the right to control those employee’s private lives? No!
No man or woman has unlimited authority over the lives of other men or women.
By the same token a government official has authority in civil matters, but this authority is clearly limited and defined in Romans 13 where the authority of government (and those that serve in it): “For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong…For he (the government official) is God’s servant to do you good” and “He is God’s servant to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”
Notice that government as a whole or any government official must not be a “terror for those who do right”. In other words, government is NOT given the authority to terrorize good people or good works and any government official that oversteps the authority given to him/her has no authority or divine protection.
Government is to be “God’s servant to do you good.” It is not to be a servant of God for evil, in fact Romans 13 clearly states that government should punish those that would do evil.
There is no authority given to government or any government official to punish those that are doing good.
So yes, Romans 13 clearly tells Christians to submit to government authority, and at the same time clearly limits the power and reach of government authority.
Still not convinced? Consider the following examples from the Bible:
Did Elijah violate God’s principle of submission to authority when he confronted Ahab and Jezebel? (1 Kings 18) Did Daniel when he refused to obey the king’s law to pray only to the king and not to God? (Daniel 6) Did John the Baptist when he accused the Pharisees and Sadducees of being a “generation of vipers” and publicly scolded them? (Matthew 3). What about when John the Baptist called Herod out for being an adulterer? (Matthew 14) Did Peter and the other Apostles, by refusing to stop preaching on the streets of Jerusalem violate God’s principle of submission to authority? (Acts 6)
Remember that with the exception of John, every apostle of Jesus Christ (including Paul who wrote Romans 13) was killed by government authorities who opposed their work and beliefs. Christians throughout history have been imprisoned, tortured or killed by government authorities for refusing to submit to their various laws. Did all these Christian people violate God’s principle of submission to authority? I think not.
Note the last words of Romans 13, verse 5: “but also because of conscience”. This tells us that we must not simply obey because some government official says we should. It is a matter of conscience – we must think and reason for ourselves, determining the justness and rightness of our government’s laws. We are not supposed to be robots, but are to obey as a result of both rational deliberation and moral approval.
There are times, therefore, when government authority must be resisted. How to resist is another topic for another day.