When People Let You Down: Biblical Examples of Betrayal

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Review of “Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed”

Darlene Zschech is probably the greatest praise and worship leader of our generation, in my personal humble opinion. Her albums The Platinum Collection Volume 1: Shout to the Lord and The Platinum Collection Vol. 2: Shout to the Lord 2 are simply unsurpassed in their popular reach into the churches of the 90s and early 2000s, and many of them sound pretty good musically, and the lyrics are Biblically sound. I can personally say that I’ve felt the presence of God at church during Pentecostal worship while singing a lot of those songs. In 2011, she co-founded a Pentecostal church in New South Wales called Hope Unlimited Church, which she now pastors alongside her husband Mark. I don’t know much more of their story than that, but I suppose if I were to read her book The Art of Mentoring, which came out that same year, it would shine more light on why they felt they needed to leave the Hillsong network and start their own independent church network.

Leaving the Zschechs to their own ministry endeavors, I can bless them with a clear conscience, and do not see them in any way as causally connected with the abuses that are revealed in Discovery+’s 3-part documentary Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed. This documentary is right to say that it was her songs that catapulted Hillsong Church into the international spotlight; and this is certainly a part of Hillsong’s story. But it would be wrong to say that she was part of the patchwork of abuse that was perpetrated by other male leaders there. Most of the documentary centers around the 10-year ministry of Carl Lentz, from 2010 to 2020, which is incidentally the same time that the Zschechs started their independent church. I think this suggests that the Zschechs saw something was wrong with the Hillsong leadership at this point; and they wanted to keep their eyes on Jesus, and not get tied up with the man worship that Lentz was promoting. Man worship. Idolatry. That’s exactly what it was.

Lentz became the pastor of a church plant in New York City which was called Hillsong NYC. Following seeker-sensitive and church growth principles, the church used a lot of hype and entertainment to attract the young, the beautiful, and the famous into the church, the most notable being Justin Bieber. Once this was achieved, the “celebrity church,” as it came to be called, made sure to exploit Bieber’s attendance as the greatest marketing strategy that Hillsong has ever employed. It made Hillsong NYC to grow like crazy, because people wanted to come to church to see Bieber and other celebs in a non-concert setting…or was it a concert church? But it was a theologically barren one: if anything, it was antinomian. Some described it as having a “nightclub” type of environment, with a VIP section in the front where Bieber and other celebrities could sit. James 2:2-4: “Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” There’s nothing new under the sun, but in the church this should not be. Lentz, in order to fit in with Bieber and others, also bought designer clothes in the thousands of dollars range, sweaters, shoes, and the like, for which he had embezzled the church’s funds. The man had a massive ego. Lentz and Bieber, are seen in one photo, taking shots at the bar! Bieber influenced Lentz more likely than the other way around. I think that Lentz simply became intimidated and enamored, by his newfound status as a celebrity pastor in the media spotlight, and he didn’t know how to emotionally handle it. This stress, and pressure, and his exalted, inflated sense of ego, are probably what led him to commit adultery with the girl mentioned in the documentary. He must’ve saw her as a form of escape from his crazy life at Hillsong NYC. There is a clip that seems to suggest that Lentz used to cuss in his sermons also. Lentz was a reputed womanizer in his ministry and was party to many cover-ups, and emotional abuses, in which lack of acknowledgment and lack of apology became a pattern.

Lentz’s adultery scandal in 2020 was the bomb that went off, that exposed ingrained problems of pastoral abuse and cover-up, which had been going on in Hillsong Church for many years. After covering Lentz’s ministry, the documentary proceeds to show that not only were there other incidents of sexual assault among pastors in this church network, but also that the founding pastor of the entire church, Frank Houston, had a history of pedophilia. It has come to the point that the senior pastors Brian and Bobbie Houston have been fired from Hillsong Church, which they have led for over 30 years. Brian Houston is now facing the possibility of serving a prison term, because he failed to report his father’s sexual abuse to the police. Houston had also authored You Need More Money in 2000, which many Christians have critiqued as promoting the prosperity gospel, materialism, greed, and luxury-loving. Instead of encouraging the Puritan middle-class balance of “neither poverty nor riches” in Proverbs 30:8, he simply urged poor Christians to swing the pendulum to the other extreme; and try to grow as rich as possible. What an incredible tragedy! May God bring healing.

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Biblical Economics 6: Saving Money with a Frugal Budget

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The Hunger and Thirst for God

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Saving Money with a Frugal Budget

Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds.
–Proverbs 27:23 (NIV)

Bookkeeping is that discipline of accountants, which allows business owners, to get an exact view of the state of their finances. It can be an arduous task; and most businessmen are not capable of doing it on their own: or at least in a very exact way. Out of all business activities, perhaps it is bookkeeping that grates against human nature the most, often inciting financial anxieties or depressions in the business owner;[1] and thus, for his own mental health, leads him to neglect it, so that it won’t stress him out so much. How can a man be happy if he is preoccupied with the ups and downs of his finances all the time? But on the other hand, how can a man be truly happy if he is unsure about the state of his finances all the time? Having a state of certainty about your finances going in a positive direction, can be the only way to attain a sense of contentment as a businessman, or just any man.[2]

Budget Pies: A Popular Attempt at “Bookkeeping”

A popular rule of thumb for the common man is to apply the so-called 50/20/30 Rule to their personal finances: 50% of your paycheck should be transferred to needs like housing payments, car payments, groceries, insurance, healthcare, minimum debt payments, and utility bills. 30% of your paycheck should be transferred to wants like entertainment, household expenses, etc. 20% of your paycheck should be transferred to savings like an emergency fund worth three months of living expenses, silver and gold coins, treasury bonds, mutual funds, a retirement fund, college funds, and larger debt repayment.[3] Of course, translating all of this into something useful or actually controllable is easier said than done, especially if you don’t make a lot of money or can’t afford a financial advisor. The 50/20/30 Rule might be a good start for budgeting or bookkeeping for your household income, but you might soon find that it isn’t good enough, in that it doesn’t separate the spending categories into a financial pie that is quite as narrowed down as it should be.

Personally, I like the way J. J. Montanaro, CFP, breaks down the budget pie for the families of soldiers, who are expected to be living on roughly $60,000 a year as of 2022. It looks like this: 20% goes to housing, 10% goes to transportation, 6% goes to utilities, 12% goes to food,[4] 11% goes to charity and household expenses, 4% goes to an emergency fund,[5] 4% goes to entertainment, 10% goes to retirement, 7% goes to insurance, and 16% goes to taxes.[6] This last item, taxes, should still be part of the budget pie of a person who lives on W-2 employment, with their paychecks withholding their taxes. It’s just that person will not need to set aside anything additional for taxes but can trust that their employer is already covering that 16% tax category for them. But if you are an independent 1099 contractor as I am, and you need to pay estimated taxes, knowing that tax percentage is very helpful. I personally do 20% for my taxes just to be safe.

In my view, taking this approach of a fully sliced up budget pie is a much more reliable way to manage your money than the 50/20/30 Rule. I’ve also found it useful to go to my banker and have several savings accounts opened, so I can make online money transfers to each of these budget pie categories. The bankofamerica.com website allows me to label the savings accounts by custom names, such as Rent, Groceries, Home Expenses, Insurance, Taxes, Restaurant and Fast Food, Savings, etc. and I can make my percentage transfers into them whenever I get paid. I also have debit cards for each of them which I store in a safe. But even after all has been said that can be said about slicing up budget pies, you might still be wondering: how can I keep my monthly spending from meeting or exceeding my monthly income? How can I keep my monthly expenses, say $1,000 or even $2,000, below my monthly income? Tricky, tricky…

Why You Might Need to Get a Bookkeeper

As for myself, who am prone to anxious states on occasion, I’d much rather have a CPA, bookkeeper, or financial advisor to handle all my bookkeeping for me with a fee of something like $300 a month; and have the deep financial analysis taken off my plate. In my view, this is a good thing for several reasons: 1. You are trusting a bookkeeping specialist to handle your financial reporting. By this, you admit the need for it, remaining humble; and give the responsibility to someone far more skilled at this than you are. 2. You are taking legal responsibility for your finances. In the event a business owner was ever taken to court, for any reason at all, having his bookkeeper’s reports will become an essential part of resolving any disputes. Also, by having a bookkeeper, they share the legal responsibility in such a case: and so, the business owner does not shoulder all that responsibility by himself. It is both he and Bob Cratchit, so to speak. 3. Do-it-yourself bookkeeping programs like QuickBooks and Quicken are not fully accurate. I have experimented with them myself; and neither of them sync the income and expenses from the bank website with 100% accuracy. Plus, in this case, the DIY bookkeeping software is often being used by a deficient bookkeeper: yourself. You, who are most likely not a certified public accountant; and have not even taken so much as one online class on bookkeeping. You, the inexperienced bookkeeper that you are, are trying to manage your financial analysis all by yourself, with a deficient accounting program, haphazardly used, and fumbling your way through the fiscal year. You better believe that money is going to fall through the cracks that way. I doubt that such fumbling accounting would lead to a state of financial contentment or success. I personally think it’s much better to trust a bookkeeping professional.

By paying a bookkeeper to handle this for you, you are not only taking responsibility for your financial affairs, so you can always have an accurate view of how things stand, and which financial actions you should take, but you are also being legally responsible for your money and sharing the responsibility with your bookkeeper; and you are letting a competent and skilled professional handle this for you—this thing called bookkeeping, which can be a labyrinth of reports, and complicated for laymen to understand; and so, it can take a load of financial depression and worry off your back, by allowing someone else to look at your money in an emotionally detached manner. Jesus said:

I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?…And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin…But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matt. 6:25, 28, 33-34).

As a rule, your monthly income should always be higher than your monthly expenses. The successful businessman is careful to live below his means to keep this pattern going.[7] When income is greater than expenses, there is a buffer zone of money, which is called surplus. It is from this surplus that financial growth could be measured or advanced. There are crude ways of tracking this, such as the “Spending and Budgeting: Cash Flow” feature on bankofamerica.com, but this is a far cry from the kind of financial reports you would get from a seasoned bookkeeper.[8] Using tools like this are valuable, but a bookkeeper puts another human being on the subject, another set of eyes, and a brain that is acquainted with the details of profit and loss, transactions, ledgers, daybooks, receipts, invoices, debits and credits, sales, debts, payments, and purchases. Tracking incomes, business expenses, taxes, and the correlation between certain types of sales activity and higher earnings: all of which might provide the much-needed guidance to highlight certain business activities you’ve already done, which if allowed to repeat again, could possibly lead to financial growth in the future.

Solomon in speaking to a businessman, alludes to him as a livestock trader, and tells him to “know the condition of your flocks” and “give careful attention to your herds,” because it is by giving a careful accounting of the amounts of each kinds of livestock he owns, that he is able to put a price tag on each of his livestock, and know exactly how many animals that he is holding as investments, and how much he can sell at a later date. He admits that “riches do not endure forever,” and so, to curb against disaster, knowing the exact condition of how much money he owns in livestock, he is then able to predict what he can expect to make once he decides to sell them, or benefit from by using their raw materials, to feed his family (Prov. 27:23-27). Commenting on this passage, Matthew Henry said:

We ought to have an eye to it ourselves, and not turn over all the care of it to others. We should, with our own eyes, inspect the state of our flocks…we must be discreet and considerate in the management of our business, know the state of things, and look well to them, that nothing may be lost, no opportunity let slip, but every thing done in proper time and order, and so as to turn to the best advantage.[9]

I don’t see this as being against hiring a bookkeeper, but that if a person hires one, then he should supervise the bookkeeper’s work with another level of evaluation. It could also be a recommendation against allowing an assistant manager to take over your business. But don’t allow the bookkeeper to be the only person who investigates your finances, like Judas Iscariot apparently did, and embezzled the apostles’ money bag (John 12:6). You also investigate it yourself. It might be good to take an online course in bookkeeping so you can be sharper about what to look out for. There were Levites “in charge of the treasuries of the house of God” (1 Chron. 26:20), and so I think this might serve as a Biblical precedent for bookkeeping; but we should still be on guard against an embezzling Judas or any errors in accounting.

After reading through John Wesley’s “The Use of Money” (1760), it should become clear that there is a Christian and non-Christian way to handle cash flow. I will present them like this:

The Worldly Man’s Economic Formula

1. Gains – He makes money by often embracing Machiavellian traits like deception, cruelty, greed, self-interest, and competition; and yes, hard work, even to the point of workaholism. Maybe he supports vice industries such as hard liquors,[10] tobacco, drugs, gambling, and pornography. The Las Vegas Strip lives in his heart in some way.

2. Saves – He is very wise when it comes to investing; and he is often paying attention to this, for how he can aggressively gain more and more by saving and investing. His goal is to live in luxury.

The Christian Man’s Economic Formula

1. Gains – He only makes money by honest hard work, the Golden Rule, moderation, to provide for his family, cooperation with others, but never gets into workaholism, because God and family are his priority, and work comes in second place.

2. Saves – He is wise as he can be when it comes to saving and investing, but he will not buy stocks on margin, not gamble, and not be thinking about investing in an obsessive manner. He has a frugal lifestyle: he avoids designer clothing, expensive foods, luxury homes and cars, and costly entertainments. He is looking forward to his family’s financial welfare and his retirement years; and he strives to remain in the middle class by choice.

3. Gives – Because he understands the spiritual danger of materialism, he gives to the poor and godly ministers, so that he never raises his standard of living above the middle class. He knows that while God calls him to avoid poverty, he is also expected to avoid luxury; and keep his faith in God strong.

This is not to say that worldly-minded or non-Christian people don’t ever give to charity. I admit that there are people like this. There are many examples of famous philanthropists, but that begs the question: what amounts are they giving, and what amounts are they holding back for themselves? Why are they giving? Are they giving in obedience to a Biblical command or are they giving because it will make them look good in the eyes of man? (Matt. 6:1-4). Are they giving out of pure compassion or are there other perks that they can receive that result from their giving, such as, publicity? Is their giving of millions of dollars a publicity stunt to help them garner their support of a certain group of people for a political campaign?

But let’s set aside the philanthropy of millionaires and billionaires, because I question that their high living standards, are spiritually healthy enough to allow for a strong faith in God. They are still living in the upper class by choice. When we come to the middle-class people and the upper middle-class people: I think this is where the real spiritual battle for a person’s soul could be in the balance. This is an economic area where the person could choose to serve God or money, as it would be easier for them to be moderate and shun materialism, if they gave enough money away. And if we are focusing on the middle class alone, then I think it would be fair to say that the worldly-minded middle classer works and saves but gives little to nothing at all; but the Biblically minded middle classer works, saves, and gives on the principle that he shuns luxury from a fear of God. Philanthropy is God’s cure for the sin of luxury.

Richard Baxter on the Budget Pie

The idea of slicing up a “budget pie” is nothing new. Don’t think that it’s only the invention of modern CPAs, bookkeepers, and financial advisors. The terminology may have changed over time, but the practice has been around for quite a while. The percentages of each slice have also changed over time; and even today they are very subjective: or subject to change based on the individual’s conscience and preferences. Baxter said:

It seemeth the prudentest way to divide my expenses according to the proportion of others of my quality; some to the poor, and some to necessary charges, and some to actions of due civility…Where God hath made many duties constantly necessary (as to maintain your own bodies, your children, to pay tribute to the king, to help the poor, to maintain the charges of the church) there all must be wisely proportioned. But entertainments, recreations, and other such after to be mentioned, which are not constant duties, may be sometimes good and sometimes sinful.[11]

In the mind of this Puritan minister and theologian, it was prudent, good judgment to use a budget pie of sorts: to “divide your expenses” into the following slices (although he suggested no percentages as CPAs do nowadays): philanthropy to the poor, rent, utility bills, groceries, clothing, taxes, tithes, and recreations. Most of these things today would fall under what he called “necessary charges.” He said nothing about saving and investing in that place though, but it seems to be assumed, because it would be impossible to pay for recreations without a little bit of saving. He also said that the budget pie you make should be “according to the proportion of others of your quality,” or according to your economic class. A lower-class man would be foolish to create a budget pie for a middle-class man: and a middle-class man would be foolish to operate on a budget for an upper-class man. Reading personal finance books or conversing with others in the same income bracket that you are, would be necessary for figuring out what the proportionate budgeting percentages should be, for someone in the same economic class as you.

Baxter would have probably supported the idea of people reading books on accounting, or bookkeeping, to get a handle on what their budget pies should look like. I can’t prove this with any degree of accuracy at this point, but it seems to me that the visual image of dividing up your budget into something like a pizza pie, might have originated with a silver Spanish coin called Pieces of Eight, which had line indentations in it, so you could break pieces off of it, sort of like a Hershey’s bar. Ecclesiastes 11:2: “Give a portion to seven, and also to eight.” Although this is referring to seven or eight investments in a diversified portfolio, the same could apply to a budget pie.

Personally, I use bankofamerica.com and have about eight different checking accounts. I have them named for recreation (2%), groceries (19%), home expenses (8%), insurance (7%), estimated self-employment taxes (20%), savings (20%), and rent (24%). The percentages for my bank account transfers are subject to minor adjustments occasionally, but they generally stay fixed: especially taxes, rent, and savings. My main checking account stands alone by itself and absorbs most of my “necessary charges.” The transfer percentages that I make, amount to no more than 100% at a time. Whenever I get paid, I will get out a calculator and multiply the paycheck amount by the percentage of the spending category, and then I will make my transfers from the main checking account to the necessary accounts: for example, if I got a direct deposit of $615 one week, then I would whip out my calculator, and do a multiplication equation that would look like this: .20 x $615 = $123. I would then transfer that $123 into my 20% estimated tax account; and then do the same thing with all of my other accounts, with their different percentage amounts. I try to keep my main checking account at a bare minimum of $300 during the week, while all my other checking and savings accounts are funded with bank transfers and left untouched from any random, impulsive spending.

The key is to park my money into all these different spending account categories, so I don’t dip into them for stupid impulsive things like McDonald’s or Starbucks all the time. There is nothing so financially impulsive as food cravings. Baxter was constantly warning against gluttony and expensive meats for this reason. To him, gluttony seemed to be the chief enemy of frugality and saving. If you can control your food spending, then congratulations! Currently, I only allow about $210 a week to my wife for grocery money, for our family of four. I get that from the USDA Thrifty Food Plan. I figure the U.S. government can’t be wrong about that one, especially since they are constantly determining who is qualified for food stamps or EBT cards. I also leave our various debit cards in my safe; and only let them out upon request, as needed. Holding money is the key to frugality and budgeting: once you have learned how to hold your money for its different uses, without spending it away thoughtlessly and impulsively, that’s when you have taken the first step towards financial security.

“Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks; and look well to thy herds” (Prov. 27:23). I can’t think of a better Bible verse for budgeting or dividing up expenses. In Biblical times, flocks of sheep and herds of cattle, were a main form of income, currency, and financial holdings, alongside silver and gold coins. Here Solomon is telling men to know the amounts of money that they have; and not only how many sheep they have, but also how many cattle they have: which again highlights his diversified financial thinking. The sheep are of one money category, the cattle of another. When I look at bankofamerica.com—I do this daily now—I tell myself that I am looking after my flocks and herds. If a man does not look at the condition of his various bank accounts daily, then the effect would be the same as if he were a livestock farmer that stayed inside of his house all the time; and barely ever went outside to take care of his animals.

Baxter observed that Puritan men in the seventeenth century, mainly saved their money in the form of silver and gold coins, in a safe or strongbox. It was the age of bullionism, the proto-mercantilist age, which declared that a man’s wealth could be measured by how much gold and silver he owned.[12] This was such a popular and assumed practice, that he referred to it at least twice, while trying to illustrate spiritual points about things in his sermons:

Keep up a high esteem of time; and be every day more careful that you lose none of your time, than you are that you lose none of your gold or silver.[13]

The devil will give hypocritical worldlings leave to play them with the most excellent ordinances, if he can but keep God out of sight, even as you will let your children play them with a box of gold, as long as it is shut, and they see not what is within.[14]

I personally think that saving for an emergency fund,[15] which most financial advisors suggest should amount to about three months of living expenses: and should only be turned to in the event of job loss or car repairs—is most easily saved in the form of silver and gold coins. This goes against conventional wisdom, I know. Most people save their emergency fund into an online savings account; and only tap into it by going to the bank and asking the cashier for the money.[16] But if the goal is to create barriers to spending, then it seems to me that it would be better to store silver and gold in a safe deposit box at the bank, along with perhaps $1,000 of petty cash for easy access, wrapped up in a currency band. But to only keep it at the bank, and not at home in your safe: if the idea is to protect your money from yourself, or thieves: to protect you from the temptation of human nature to dip into your savings for non-emergency reasons.

I personally use moneymetals.com and their Monthly Accumulation Plan. Every month, it will automatically draft by ACH a specified amount from my checking account which I have named for Savings on bankofamerica.com. I personally like the 1 Oz Canadian Silver Maple Leaf coins, and the gold ones,[17] because their designs are harmless: one side features Queen Elizabeth II and the other side a maple leaf. If you accumulate 25 of these silver coins, then you can fill up one coin tube. If you can accumulate a total of 20 filled out tubes, then they will fill up a yellow “monster box.” 20 tubes x 25 silver coins = 500 silver coins: which amounts to about $16,000. That’s about three months of living expenses for a lower middle-class person. 20% or 10% of your paycheck might not sound like very much money to accumulate for savings, but this is the general recommendation of financial advisors. Solomon would agree: “he that gathereth by labour shall increase” and “whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow” (Prov. 13:11, KJV, NIV). It takes determination and patience, but if you continue to do it for years, then you’d be surprised at what you can accumulate.

The reason why I choose the Canadian Silver Maple Leaf coin for saving rather than others is simple: it is a highly traded coin or easy to buy and sell on moneymetals.com: and secondly, it has no idolatrous pagan designs on it, which are warned against in the Bible. A lot of the bullion coins that are minted today have pagan goddesses on them. While most people view such deities as nonexistent, the Bible says that God takes offense at this: “Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold” (Exod. 20:23). It doesn’t have to be actual statues of gold and silver, in a pagan temple with occult ceremonies, for it to offend God. If you take any gold or silver, which has for all human history been considered the main way to consolidate wealth,[18] and you mint that metal into the form of a pagan deity, you are in that moment saying to yourself, “God has played no role in my accumulation of this wealth. I either did it by myself or with the help of a pagan deity.” This is related to the warning in Deuteronomy 8:13, where multiplying silver and gold can lead to us forgetting about God, if we’re not careful.

John Wesley is often credited with originating the phrase, “Gain all you can, save all you can, give all you can,” which is from his sermon “The Use of Money” (1760); but seeing that he was a huge fan of Richard Baxter’s theology, it might be possible that he borrowed the concept from Baxter’s Christian Directory (1673), which uses almost the exact same expressions that Wesley often used:

Even Christ when he had fed thousands by a miracle, yet commanded his disciples to gather up the broken bread or fragments, that nothing be lost, John 6:12, which plainly sheweth that it is a duty which the richest man that is, is not exempted from, to be frugal…but this must not be in sordid covetousness, but in obedience to God, and to do good to others…he is much more commendable, who is a good husband for the poor, as worldlings are for themselves; and frugally getteth and saveth as much as he can, and denieth all superfluities to himself…it is no sin, but a duty, to labour not only for labours sake, formally resting in the act done, but for that honest increase and provision, which is the end of our labour; and therefore to choose a gainful calling rather than another, that we may be able to do good, and relieve the poor (Eph. 4:28)…every man should spare as much for the relief of others as he can.[19]

The Love of Money: The Root of All Evil

It is difficult to fall in love with a moving target, such as the online money in a checking account, because it is always moving, changing, in a state of fluidity, and is being used up, and spent away every day. But when you save silver and gold bullion, for example, you are at that point creating capital accumulation: real, static, measurable wealth that is left untouched and unspent. And it is our silver and gold especially that can become a snare to our hearts. 1 Timothy 6:10: “The love of money is the root of all evil.” William Beveridge, assuming that silver and gold were the plainest meaning of money in this text, said, “I need not insist long upon it, all men knowing well enough what money is. But we must remember, that by money is here understood not only silver and gold, but all earthly comforts, possessions and enjoyments whatsoever, whether goods, lands, houses, wares, wealth, or riches of any sort or kind whatsoever.”[20]

So, he extended the meaning of money beyond that most basic understanding of Biblical bullionism, which measured a man’s wealth by how much silver and gold he owned. Wealth was also measured by worldly goods, lands, houses, and wares: all of which could be sold and converted into spendable money. A degree of detachment from material possessions is required here. You can have them stored up somewhere far away in the bank or something, but you need to detach your heart from them. It’s about priorities: “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33). God comes first, money comes second. But materialism switches these around; and makes money come first, and God come in second, or not even in the picture. Materialism puts money and possessions into your face all the time, like when Scrooge McDuck shoveled barrels of silver coins into his closet; or jumped into his gold coin vault for a swim in DuckTales. Atheistic economics would have you to do away with God as you explore things related to financial accumulation: the CPA and especially the CFP sorts of things. Dave Chilton rightly said, “The only hope for the real elevation of the poor is capital accumulation and productivity.”[21] And it is a Christian’s responsibility to show them how to do this, but it needs to be based on faith in God, and it needs to continue to be mindful of giving to the poor and the likes of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Because the moment an upwardly mobile middle-class man decides not to budget off a slice for a charitable fund, knowing full well that it is within his prosperous income and accumulation, that may be the moment be turns into a backslider.[22]

The hunger for gold can get out of control: and this is called “gold fever.” It can make you forget your faith and principles. Look at what the pirates did in Treasure Island to pursue their gold, only to have it confiscated from them by English authorities:

In a far corner, only duskily flickered over by the blaze, I beheld great heaps of coin and quadrilaterals built of bars of gold. That was Flint’s treasure that we had come so far to seek, and that had cost already the lives of seventeen men from the Hispaniola. How many it had cost in the amassing, what blood and sorrow, what good ships scuttled on the deep, what brave men walking the plank blindfold, what shot of cannon, what shame and lies and cruelty, perhaps no man alive could tell.[23]

I understand that Stevenson’s pirates were fictional characters, but they were based on real-life pirates, such as those mentioned in Charles Johnson’s A General History of the Pyrates (1724), which some scholars believe was written by Daniel Defoe under a pen name. Edward Teach (or Blackbeard), Calico Jack, Black Bart, and Captain Kidd were all infamous pirate captains. All of them were real-life gangsters involved with organized crime on the high seas, all of them bullionists, seeking to raid ships for strongboxes filled with gold and silver coins, diamonds, jewelry, gems,[24] and the like. All of them, no doubt, probably raised by either Anglican or Puritan parents, but who had lost their way, and backslidden from God in their pursuit of gold and silver.[25] These pirates were also mainly responsible for kidnapping Africans and shipping them to the American colonies as slaves: something which Baxter,[26] Wesley, and genuine Christian leaders vehemently opposed.

[1] Daniel Defoe, op. cit., p. 148.

[2] Daniel Defoe, op. cit., p. 197.

[3] https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/022916/what-502030-budget-rule.asp

[4] The USDA Thrifty Food Plan (2022) sets about $210 a week for a family of four, for grocery money. Montanaro’s budget depicts a $60,000 annual income in 2022. If we go by the USDA, the grocery budget should be more like 19% of the weekly income; and that’s not including money for restaurants and fast food.

[5] Michele Cagan, Budgeting 101 (Avon, MA: Adams Media, 2018), p. 73. “Savings: 10 percent. If this seems low for covering retirement, emergency funds, and goals saving, remember that it comes from take-home pay, so any employer-based retirement contributions have already been made.” If you’re a W-2 employee with a company-paid 401(k) plan, then great, you can afford to only save 10% of your paycheck. But because many people today jump from one company to another; or are independent contractors, if you have no 401(k) plan consistently working for you, then it’s safe to save 20% of your paycheck for general saving purposes, whether the money will be used for an emergency fund, college fund, retirement, silver, gold, bonds, stocks, land, charity, etc. That takes us back to the 20 from the 50/20/30 Rule. Budget spending categories and the percentages related to them should be subject to change, because no such percentages are prescribed in the Word of God. Giving 10% of your take-home pay to the Church, or the tithe, after taxes, is believed by many Christians to still be in effect, but it seems that this should be based on conscience; and on whether you believe the ministry is godly enough, and it should never be given by compulsion (Mal. 3:10; 1 Cor. 16:2; 2 Cor. 9:7). Some people believe that all tithes for pastor’s salaries have been abolished, because so many churches are corrupt (see Frank Viola’s Pagan Christianity?, ch. 8).

[6] https://www.military.com/money/personal-finance/what-does-your-budget-pie-look-like.html

[7] Richard Steele, op. cit., pp. 54-55. In order to spend less than your income, it’s wise to avoid expensive living: not keeping up with the Joneses or being involved in any materialistic competitions, not living above your economic class, regulating grocery spending, avoiding expensive homes and furniture, avoiding expensive clothes, not spending a lot of money on entertainments, and continuing to pay off debts.

[8] https://secure.bankofamerica.com/finance/spending/cash-flow

[9] Matthew Henry, op. cit., 782.

[10] Wine is allowed in the Bible and usually does not go over 13% ABV (John 2:1-11), but that class of alcohols known as the hard liquors are anything above 50% ABV and can be very dangerous to the mind and body: such as Everclear, Absinthe, Moonshine, Whiskey, and certain kinds of Vodka, and Rum. I’d say that any of these drinks are definitely in the “vice” category when they are found in the 80% to 90% ABV range. These drinks can quickly make a man drunk, alcoholic, and even violent. They produce hallucinations, are flammable, and can lead to the mental hospital.

[11] Richard Baxter, Chapters from a Christian Directory, pp. 162-163.

[12] Bullionism is found all over the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. If you go by the KJV, then the Bible mentions gold 419 times and silver 283 times.

[13] Richard Baxter, A Christian Directory, vol. 3 (London, England: Richard Edwards, 1825) p. 236.

[14] Richard Baxter, op. cit., vol. 4, pp. 16-17.

[15] Having savings or an emergency fund is not only common sense but is supported by the Bible (see Prov. 6:6-8; 10:4-5; 13:11, 22; 21:10, 20; 30:24-25; Matt. 25:14-30; Eph. 4:28; Eccl. 11:1-2): also look at Matthew Henry’s commentaries.

[16] Michele Cagan, op. cit., pp. 79-82.

[17] David Wiedemer, Robert Wiedemer, and Cindy Spitzer, eds., The Aftershock Investor: A Crash Course in Staying Afloat in a Sinking Economy (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2012), p. 201.

[18] Banks are essentially based on gold vaults. In the seventeenth century “goldsmith bankers” are what bankers were called. Their whole financial strength is based on the foundation of gold ownership. The dollar bill was created as a convenient I.O.U. bank note by the Federal Reserve Bank that people could carry around with them, which represents an extremely small fraction of the gold that exists in Fort Knox. The history of currency is a lot more complicated than that: but to simplify things, if banks had no gold in their possession, then all paper money would be worthless. The U.S. paper dollar is only a note that represents a small fraction of government gold value. This shouldn’t be confused with the so-called “gold standard,” which is when all money used to be measured by gold down to the smallest penny: at one point in history, things were that way. Paper money might not grow on trees, but silver and gold do grow in mines; and they are the originators of all money and wealth. It leads one to the conclusion that these precious metals are perfect for saving and investing, since they are the time-tested sources from which all other forms of money only seek to imitate. As a recent example of how important gold is to the world of banking, look at what President Franklin Roosevelt did in 1933: Executive Order 6102. The Great Depression began in 1929 due to banks issuing out massive amounts of margin calls to stockholders. Banks were falling apart: and so were mortgages and jobs. FDR sought to strengthen the economy this way: he ordered all U.S. citizens to hand over their gold coins and bullion to the U.S. government, which then stored it in Fort Knox. Only ancient coin collections were spared from this gold confiscation. By strengthening the Federal Reserve Bank in this way, FDR was able to implement all kinds of government aid programs called the New Deal, to help with recouping the losses the American people had suffered from the Great Depression; and from the stockbrokers that caused it (see David Ganz, The Essential Guide to Investing in Precious Metals, pp. 54, 57-61).

[19] Richard Baxter, Chapters from a Christian Directory, pp. 168-170.

[20] William Beveridge, Private Thoughts Upon Religion (New York, NY: Robert Carter, 1839), p. 218.

[21] David Chilton, Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt-Manipulators (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1981), p. 228.

[22] Giving to the poor permeates the whole Bible (see Deut. 15:7-11; Prov. 14:31; 19:17; 22:9; Heb. 13:16; Acts 20:35; 2 Cor. 9:7; 1 John 3:17; Matt. 6:1-4; 5:42; Luke 12:33-34).

[23] Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island (Boston, MA: Roberts Brothers, 1884), p. 283.

[24] It does not agree with the New Testament to buy and sell jewelry as investments, although this was done in Old Testament times. The moral on this was modified to cultivate modesty in Christian women (see 1 Tim. 2:9; 1 Pet. 3:3; Gen. 24:22, 53; Exod. 3:22; Song 1:10); Greg Bahnsen, By This Standard (Nacogdoches, TX: Covenant Media Press, 2008, 2020), p. 242. “We should presume that Old Testament standing laws continue to be morally binding in the New Testament, unless they are rescinded or modified by further revelation.”

[25] Even Long John Silver was grieved when his fellow pirates marked him for death by cutting a page out of the Bible (Robert Louis Stevenson, op. cit., pp. 239-240).

[26] Richard Baxter, op. cit., p. 33.


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Ancestor Worship and Worldly Philosophies

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. –Colossians 2:8

I fear that many nominal Christians–that is, Christians in name only–are this way due to the error of ancestor worship. Normally, in the study of world religions, if a person were to use this expression, then they would be referring to what you can see in Chinese folk religion, like in the Disney movie Mulan. There are several scenes in that movie that depict Mulan’s family shrine. Ghosts of family members’ past are prayed to and sometimes appear to bring help and guidance. This also exists in some forms of folk Catholicism in Mexico with the Day of the Dead. In this rationalistic, post-Enlightenment age of science, like we have in Europe and America now, the literal forms of ancestor worship such as seance-like ghost contact are mostly absent. But the outward forms of it still persist, in the stubborn intellectual continuity of those still living, out of honor and respect for their dead loved ones. But how much of this is really just “the tradition of men”? Republican and Democratic political philosophies, a secular work ethic, Americanism, profanity, deceit, hypermasculinity, competition, feminism, racial opinions, denominational memberships, materialism, and lots of other things like this are often inherited from parents and grandparents.

Unless the Bible comes into the picture; and the Holy Spirit is free to authoritatively use it to reevaluate everything a person believes, then it is likely that people will simply roll along in the traditions of their fathers (Galatians 1:14). Ask yourself: do you believe all the things you believe simply because your mom or dad believed them? If that’s the case, you might be wrong about some of your opinions. Take yourself to the Word of God. Take that conviction you hold, that opinion, that notion, or sentiment, and see if you can find any support for it in the Bible. If there is no support for it, then discard it. Congratulations if you get into the habit of doing this, because Jesus said that we become sanctified when we allow Scripture to do that for us. John 17:17: “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” Are your religious convictions weak because your dad’s religion was weak? Are you a United Methodist just because your dad was a United Methodist? Do you love your dead parent so much that you’re also willing to copy him in his errors? Why! You are committing the idolatry of ancestor worship if you’re doing that. You’ve got the Bible right there. Stop comparing yourself with your dead ancestors! It’s about God, it’s about you, and it’s about the Bible. Deal with it like that. Your life and your soul’s eternal state are nothing to be trifled with: nothing to be cast into the hands of mere nostalgia for the past. Faith alone in the revealed principles of the Word of God is the only thing that will land you safely on Heaven’s shore. John the Baptist addressed this once. Matthew 3:7-10: “When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” Are you following your dead parent into eternity? If so, then why? Follow Jesus!

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Notes on Crowds from John Wesley’s Journal

In review, there is not a whole lot of information that you can gather if you simply search the word “crowd” through an online search of John Wesley’s Journal. A further study would have to be done on the causes of this crowding phenomenon. One thing is for sure: Wesley’s crowd phenomenon was not due to using money, trivia, magic tricks, perverted shock and awe preaching, or any such gimmicks. The crowding seemed to be the result of what you might call a “personality cult,” in sociology. People came to see the man John Wesley. Much like things were with Billy Graham’s crusades. Many people came to see the man, not hear the message. The message could be heard in any local church. Ray Comfort had The Way of the Master program on TBN. If any kind of crowding is to be intended, then an evangelist would have to succumb to the things that would make a name for himself, whatever that means. With the modern SOAPA movement, it has been YouTube; and it seems that the same could be said for any other street preacher. I’d also say that content is absolutely important. Here you can see Wesley preaching to crowds on the subjects of salvation, returning backsliders, the forgiveness of sins, the narrow gate, materialism, the day of judgment, the four last things, repentance, the Atonement, and contemplation of Christ.

The church was much crowded, though a thousand or upwards stayed in the churchyard.  In the afternoon I explained further the same words, “What must I do to be saved?” I believe some thousands were then present, more than had been in the morning.

The church was so excessively hot (being crowded in every corner), that I could not, without difficulty, read the evening service. Being afterward informed that abundance of people were still without who could not possibly get into the church, I went out to them and explained that great promise of our Lord, “I will heal their backslidings, I will love them freely” [Hos. 14:4].

I preached at eight on Chowden Fell on “Why will ye die, O house of Israel?” [Ezek. 33:11]. [mobs, riots, poor people throwing things]

In the evening we reached St. Ives.  At seven I invited all guilty, helpless sinners who were conscious they “had nothing to pay” to accept of free forgiveness. The room was crowded both within and without; but all were quiet and attentive.

“Lord, are there few that be saved?” [Luke 13:23]

A huge multitude, rich and poor, horse and foot, with several coaches, were soon gathered together; to whom I cried with a loud voice and a composed spirit, “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Some thousands of the people seriously attended; but many behaved as if possessed by Moloch. Clods and stones flew about on every side; but they neither touched nor disturbed me.

At two it was filled with a rude, wild multitude (a few of a better spirit excepted). Yet all but two or three gentlemen were attentive, while I enforced our Lord’s words, “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”

The house, notwithstanding the new galleries, was extremely crowded in the evening. I strongly exhorted the backsliders to return to God.

At eight I preached in the High School yard, and I believe not a few of the hearers were cut to the heart. Between twelve and one a far larger congregation assembled on the Castle Hill. I believe my voice commanded them all while I opened and enforced those awful words, “I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God” [Rev. 20:12].

The house was crowded greatly; and I suppose all the gentry of the town were part of the congregation. Resolving not to shoot over their heads, as I had done the day before, I spoke strongly of death and judgment, heaven and hell. This they seemed to comprehend; and there was no more laughing among them, or talking with each other; but all were quietly and deeply attentive.

No sound was heard, either from them or the crowded audience, after the text was named: “There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, that need not repentance” [see Luke 15:7]. The power of the Lord was eminently present, and most of the prisoners were in tears.

We were extremely crowded; but the power of God was so manifested while I declared, “We preach Jesus Christ, and him crucified” [I Cor. 1:23; 2:2].

St. Paul’s, Shadwell, was still more crowded in the afternoon, while I enforced that important truth, “One thing is needful”; and I hope many, even then, resolved to choose the better part.

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Jesus of Nazareth (1977)

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Evangelism and the Gay Community

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Biblical Street Preaching vs Confrontational Evangelism

According to some scholars, I guess I would believe in what some people would call “proclamational evangelism,” and I would not believe in “confrontational evangelism” like Jed Smock and SOAPA preachers do.

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