There are some fundamentals in life that should not be ignored.

Documentation.
If another or others are involved in any venture or project involving money and time, write it out first – have a Memorandum of Understanding - even if it is a family member doing the work or being a partner. It may be written in simple language but it should describe what is to be done, who is to do what, specify materials, timing, what is included and what is excluded, payments, etc. When it is written, it is easier to arrive at a common understanding. How much distress could be avoided by having an agreed, clear understanding. An example - a person offers to build a shed for an uncle. The uncle has in his mind a certain shape, style and building materials. The nephew has something quite different in his mind when he makes the offer. The nephew has in mind wages that he will be entitled to, but the uncle thinks that the labour is offered free. The nephew mentioned that painting would be performed by the uncle, but the uncle forgot that bit of the conversation. You can see the potential for disaster.

A lady, young in the Christian faith, recently entered a business partnership without any written agreement. The other person was a non- Christian solicitor, who, she said, had promised to pay her for her teaching efforts as they went along. The verbal promises made by the solicitor were so good that she felt she could not lose financially by entering the partnership. When things went wrong after three months, the solicitor then sent her a formal termination agreement that caused her sleepless nights. Others are now helping to extricate herf from the situation. This leads to the next point, the unequal link.

Unequal Links.
The apostle Paul warns against being allied with an unbeliever. It is described as an unequal or a diverse yoke, an expression which comes from the Levitical law, where it was not permitted to yoke different animals together. See 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, Be not diversely yoked with unbelievers… He points out that the believer and unbeliever are incompatible, as is light and darkness, etc. We are not speaking about working for an employer, but about situations where persons are jointly responsible for decisions made.

The marriage bond is another important link that has to be entered with care. The above passage would apply. See also 1 Corinthians 7:39 - She is free to marry whom she will, only in the Lord. Another relevant principle is found in Amos 3:3 - Shall two walk together unless they be agreed? To go against God’s word is to court severe discipline. I have seen what happens. The unbeliever drags down the believer. It must be so, because the natural person cannot take in what is spiritual – see 1 Corinthians 2:14. Do you think that the believer will be the means of converting the other? It is envisaged in cases where one is converted after marriage – see 1 Peter 3:1-4. But that is different to going against the word of scripture.
I have seen decades pass before a husband acknowledged Christ as Lord. Who can measure the loss to the children, when both are not in the same path? God knows best and has warned us. Let us obey - for our blessing and his glory.
MM April 2007

Talking About Self.
There is a time to speak and a time to be silent, as we are told in Ecclesiastes. Our listening skills seem to drop off as we grow older. God gave us two ears and one tongue. How much more acceptable to those around us to listen twice as much as we speak? You would think that when you meet a person who lives alone, or is for one reason or another confined to their own dwelling, that such would be interested in what is happening elsewhere. It often happens that such persons talk about themselves constantly. To be interesting, be interested [in the other person]. To be a good conversationalist it is necessary to firstly be a good listener. You can tell when a person is just waiting for you to stop so that they can have their say.

Another annoying habit is that of always going "one better" than the other person. One member of a group tells of an incident and a certain someone has always had a more alarming experience, or a worse bout of that sickness. It is "I", "I" all the time. Another once said that true humility is not speaking badly of self, but not thinking of self at all.
Here is a motto for living: Say little....serve all....pass on!

Scams
With access to mailing lists and using computer functionality, it is easy for people to create fraudulent schemes. They abound. A person may receive an official looking letter claiming that they have won money in some form of overseas lottery and offering to help them get access to the the funds. Again, the appeal is to human greed. If acted on, the next step is to reveal your bank details, or send some money to get the professed process started. An elderly person came to me, distressed, with such a document. I reasoned with her that as she had never bought into such a lottery, why should anyone want to advise her that she had won anything? However, to put her at ease I told her that the elaborate, formally printed material had some spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Fraudulent documents can often be detected this way.
These schemes are more likely to come via email. If the origin is unknown, be very wary. Nigeria has been the source of many blatant scams, yet many people are caught. As the Lord said in Luke 12:15, Take heed and keep yourselves from all covetousness.

The offer of earning money by working from home is another area of fraud. Again, using electronic communications, no face-to-face contact is made, nor is any physical office or warehouse sited. The unwitting person is required to receive goods - cameras, jewellery, computer equipment - and has the task of unpacking them, creating individual parcels and mailing these using labels supplied by the principals. They may even receive payment for this work, but very soon they will have the police on the doorstep. The goods are purchased using stolen credit card details and the delivery address is the unfortunate person "working from home".
MM June 2007

Friends
Be careful when choosing companions, both for ourselves and for our children. Solomon advises in Proverbs 13:20, He that walks with wise men becomes wise; but a companion of the foolish will be depraved [or "shall smart for it"]. My father used to have a saying: "You can tell a man who boozes by the company he chooses". Friends can be a good influence or a bad one - can lift us up, or drag us down. A newspaper article stated that children can be influenced more by their friends than their parents!
Let us quote a positive example. A young farmer, newly converted, prayed that he might be put in touch with an old brother. Not long afterwards, he was looking for advice on the storing and drying of his onion crop. Someone referred him to an air-conditioning engineer consulting at the local city hospital. That engineer was a Christian of long standing who helped not only with the airflow through the racks of onions, but has been a great help in the younger man's spiritual growth.

Witnesses
Always remember - before believing a story about any person, make sure that there are two or three witnesses. 2 Corinthians 13:1, "In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every matter be established". There are at least four other such references in scripture ( Deut. 17:6, Matthew 18:16, 1 Timothy 5:19, Hebrews 10:28), plus others less direct. It is so easy to believe the first account. Even if that one witness is trustworthy, it may be only part of the story.
MM 14 August 2007

Investing.
- Be wary of grand promises. It has been said: If a thing looks too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.

If a financial organization offers 10% interest on your money when the prevailing rate is 6%, be warned, it will be a risky deal. They are lending to clients at 12% because those clients are operating high risk projects. This prevents them getting bank finance at 8%. Many people in this state have recently lost life savings in such circumstances. Paul reminds us - 1 Timothy 6:10 - that those who desire to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare, etc. There is nothing wrong with investing, but let us beware of greed.
- Spread the risk. Another wise saying: Do not put all your eggs in one basket.

Chinese Piggy-Bank
The following technique was reported in a local newspaper in a suburb where the population is predominantly Asian; it is made up of Chinese immigrants from Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, etc. I have created an example to give an idea of its effectiveness. It is a way for people to reduce their interest payments on home loans.
If a man borrows $50,000 from the bank at 8% p.a., and he can only afford repayments of $400 per month, it will take him 22.5 years to repay the loan and interest, and the total cost will be $108,000. The interest paid is $58,000 on a loan of $50,000!
If five friends each contribute $400 per month - in addition to the borrower's $400 - then the loan will be repaid in 23 months, and the total cost will be $54,000. The interest paid is only $4,000. The man then repays each of his friends in equal monthly installments. This is a saving of $54,000 on the interest!
The calculations are based on the assumption that the friends are prepared to contribute and lend without receiving interest on their money.
This takes commitment and trust among people. Proper records would need to be kept. Life is never quite as smooth as the above assumes. One of the friends might need to visit his sick parent overseas, and opt out halfway through. However it does show what is possible.
.....Christians can learn a few things from others; "For the sons of this world [age] are, for their own generation, more prudent than the sons of light", Luke 16:8.
September 17, 2007

Discipline in the Family
Discipline is an essential part of life. Ever since the fall of Adam and Eve, it has been necessary. I think disobedience was the first sin. Learning to obey is one of the reasons for discipline. Why do soldiers spend time marching and drilling on the parade ground? It is a way of learning obedience. The words “discipline”, “chastening” and “nurture” all come from the Greek word meaning training or educating through “disciplinary correction”.

All those who have their faith in Christ are sons of God. Sonship, or adoption, introduces us to chastening. See the section in Hebrews 12:5-11. “For whom the Lord loves he chastens”. The Father chastens us that we might become partakers of his holiness. Christ he has paid the penalty for the believer’s sins, he has borne the judgment due to us, but the wrongdoer has to be corrected or trained by discipline.

In Ephesians 6:4, fathers are told not to vex their children but to “bring them up in the discipline and admonition of the Lord”. The Rechabites had obeyed their father and obtained a blessing for ever. They were held up as models to Judah, which tribe had disobeyed their God. See Jeremiah 35:18-19.

Levi (the high priest in Israel when Samuel was a boy) failed to discipline his sons. 1 Samuel 3:13, “For I have declared to him that I will judge his house for ever, for the iniquity which he hath known; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not”. People that have not been disciplined find it hard to discipline their own children. Samuel was brought up by Levi, and made his sons judges, but they were corrupt. “They turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted justice”, 1 Samuel 8:3.

Training through discipline should start at a very young age. Some parents say: “Oh, he is too young to understand”. The ability to understand comes well before the ability to speak. An animal cannot speak but many an animal can understand. A little one cannot be reasoned with, but a little slap on the hand and a stern voice is understood very well. An old brother said to me: “If a child has not learnt the meaning of “no” by the time he has left the cot, you have lost him”. Solomon observed that “Folly is bound in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction will drive it far from him”, Proverbs 22:15. Of course there is a need to follow through and to be consistent. “No” has to mean “no”. A child will try to wear the parent down. It is a sad fact that having gained that end, the parent is then despised in the mind of the child, rather than respected. Love and discipline go together - indeed the latter flows out of love. Empty threats are worse than useless; if a parent cannot, or does not intend to follow through, then they should not be made. Such pointless threats only discredit the parent in the eyes of the child.
14 November, 2007