Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

What was once a relatively novel idea seems to have caught on this Christmas.

People are giving goats as Christmas presents!

The Samaritan's Purse has a suggested gifts catalogue that includes dairy animals, livestock, chickens and more. World Vision's Internet homepage has Alpacas and Pigs as suggested gifts.

I'm not quite sure when this type of "alternative" Christmas gift giving started, perhaps someone will inform me but I just think it's a grand idea.

For years, many families, extended communities and employers have tried to take the opportunity of gift-giving and Christmas to really bless those in need. I remember years ago at my first job, someone suggested that we change our office Christmas gift exchange to something that would be more beneficial to families in inner-city Detroit. Over the years, I've witnessed many families that very intentionally take their children out shopping for gifts and toys for others in order to encourage a spirit of giving in their children as well as help others.

The work that many organizations (I mentioned only two that are well known and also ECFA members, but there are hundreds that are doing similar work) are doing in places like Africa, the Middle East and around the world, is truly life changing. These nonprofits have found that providing animals to rural people so they have essential products like milk and eggs – not only helps improve nutrition, but the animals become an economic engine as the dairy products are also sold to provide a primary source of the family’s income.

The better charities also know that it takes a larger investment to really provide assistance. For example, it may cost only $30to buy and vaccinate one animal. However more funds are needed to cover the cost of teaching a farmer how to raise healthy and productive animals.

I've seen a few articles and posts that have been against giving animals to families in Africa. One blogger suggested buying stock in any multi-national company as they do much to improve the lifestyles of the people as they provide economic opportunities. Also, there were a number of negative articles coming from Great Britain. Seems like the charities in England are stuck in some eco-catch22 as livestock consume scarce resources including water and animals foraging for edible vegetable material could even be a further cause of global warming.

Seems like some would like to take all of the joy out of giving.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Some Crowns Do Last Forever

The International Olympic Committee probably needs to take a clue from the NFL. When the NFL adapted the "Instant Replay" in 1999 to certain referee calls, they made certain that there were limits to the method and the timing of the reversals.

For example, the referee has only 60 seconds to review the actual play and determine if there is "indisputable visual evidence" to reverse a call. The game by the way is STOPPED while that call is being reviewed so that things don't get all out of whack.

The IOC in stripping Marion Jones of her five Olympic medals has tried to make a stand for integrity and against athletes doping. I'm certainly not a fan of cheating nor steroids so I'm not at all displeased with the ultimate reversal.

At the same time, both Marion Jones and the IOC have caused all kinds of problems for both the Olympic fans and athletes. For example, what about the other members of Jones' relay team? Did they all now lose their medals? What about those that finished 2nd or 3rd? Do they move up? What about the commercial endorsements that Marion Jones made as a result of her notoriety? Does Niki get its money back? How about the people that bought Niki shoes? Do they get a partial refund?

What is really interesting to me is how accurate the Apostle Paul was when he wrote in 2 Timothy 2:5 "If anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules". Human Growth Hormones and anabolic steroids were unknown to Paul at the time but the idea of athletes competing for a crown and the type of effort and commitment that was required was not unknown. That is exactly why he used the analogy of an athlete a number of times in his writings.

Paul also said that "Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; be we do it to get a crown that will last forever" (1 Cor. 9:25)

Paul knew what Marion Jones only recently found out.....that these crowns, gold medals and other rewards don't last. The only things that really last are rewards that we have sent on before us into the heavens. Jesus said that when we see someone hungry and give them something to eat, when we know that someone is thirsty and we give something to drink, when we entertain the stranger, provide clothing to those that are naked and look after the sick and those in prison, we store up true rewards. These heavenly rewards are true crowns that can't be taken away from us by the IOC or anyone.

God is able to judge the intentions of our hearts and His judgment doesn't get reversed.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Integrity: A Primer

Recently, I've been asked a lot about what organizations, particularly churches can do to avoid being the target of a Senate or IRS investigation.

Actually, the chances of any organization being targeted are pretty slim, especially when they really try to be financially accountability and relatively transparent with their donors and the general public . However, the question is a good one and there are many good business and financial practices that come to mind.

Before we talk about the integrity of financial matters, I want to emphasize the sheer genius (not mine, but many who have preceeded my tenure) of encouraging all organizations to have an independent board of directors that actually takes their role seriously. All too often we hear of strange financial practices and lackluster nonprofit performance and all you really have to do is ask, "Where was the board".

A board should be comprised of not less than five individuals that meet at least twice annually. An overwhelming majority of the board members present at any meeting (a quorum) should not be relatives of the founder/current leader nor employees of the nonprofit.

Regarding, financial matters, rather than reinventing the wheel, one of the nations top CPA firms working with nonprofits. Capin Crouse LLP, happens to be one of ECFA's "Integrity Partners" so I thought I would reference their recent newsletter that speaks to the same subject.

They (and I) suggest churches and organizations should consider the following:

  1. Is your financial data up to par? To evaluate accounting and financial reporting practices, accountable nonprofits undertake an independent audit annually. They also maintain effective processes and strong controls over financial reporting to assure its accuracy, completeness, timeliness, and transparency.
  2. Do you have an audit committee? For many nonprofits, an audit committee is an effective way to carry out board responsibility to oversee financial reporting, internal controls, and auditing processes.
  3. Is your staff diligent about accountability? In transparent organizations, every staff person and board member does what’s necessary to conduct business transparently and ethically. For example, CFOs file tax forms and public documents on time and provide accurate financial reports, and fund-raisers maintain truthfulness and accurate representations in all communications and reports.
  4. Are you a good communicator? Nonprofits should have nothing to hide. Donors and the public will be confident that your organization is trustworthy if you share information openly. So post pertinent financial information, descriptions of programs and their outcomes or accomplishments, and other key information about your organization and its operations on your website.
  5. Organizations promote an open and honest image by regularly providing watchdog groups with information requested. They also respond to inquiries from rating agencies, such as Charity Navigator, GuideStar and the Better Business Bureau, and the media. And they maintain membership in accountability groups such as the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA). see why I like this group!!
With increased attention being given to not-for-profit organizations by the IRS, Congress, and State legislatures and regulators, nonprofits are considering whether they measure up to the expectations, standards, and best practices that are needed to maintain public trust.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Ken Behr on the Grassley Investigation

The Paul Edwards Program,WLQV Detroit AM 1500
Novmber 15, 2007

Paul Edwards, host of “The Paul Edwards Program” on WLQV in Detroit, interviewed the president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, Ken Behr, about the recent Senate Finance Committee investigation led by Senator Charles Grassley into the ministries of six prominent televangelists in America. The six ministries identified as being under investigation by the committee are led by: Paula White, Joyce Meyer, Creflo Dollar, Eddie Long, Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn.

Edwards: What do you make of Senator Grassley and his investigation?

Behr: I am not surprised at all that Senator Grassley continues to pursue, and inquire about, non-profit organizations. Senator Grassley has been having hearings for the last three years on non-profits, and you may remember the hub-bub about the Smithsonian Institute and the compensation that was paid to their president, the American Red Cross has gone through five or six different presidents within the last four or five years and the American University inquiry. So, there have been a number of non-profits that have appeared before the Senate Finance Committee.

What is a little surprising to me is that it is these six ministries that have certain things in common. One of the things that they have in common is that they are all churches. It is a little bit unusual for the government to intentionally focus their attention on churches.

Edwards: Am I correct … that none of these six ministries are members of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA)?

Behr: Yes, that is one of the other things that they have in common. None of them are members of the ECFA.

Edwards: And if they were what would you be doing today?

Behr: We’ve vigorously defended our members against any attacks. But, fortunately, that doesn’t happen too often. Occasionally, in the blogosphere for example, people can say anything they want about any organization, and occasionally one of our members is mentioned and if it comes to our attention we try to correct that. It doesn’t happen very often; in fact, quite frankly most of the comments and complaints that we receive, most of the e-mail we receive, is about non-members.

Edwards: I am hearing reports of $30,000 conference room tables, $12,000 toilets—just all kinds of wild and wacky things where money is going in these particular six ministries. What is the standard that the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability puts on ministries? Would those kinds of things, those kinds of expenses, raise the eyebrows of ECFA?

Behr: Well, certainly they would. One of the things that I try to make a distinction on is that neither the ECFA nor the government have much to say about specific tables that are purchased, or what you drive, or actually how much salary you make. It’s really the process that is followed—making sure that those transactions are accountable, truly tax-exempt transactions. Also, that there is a board of government—maybe a board of elders or board of directors—that has oversight responsibility, and that the people that have started these ministries aren’t just receiving a lot of the private benefits themselves.

The benefits of the church are supposed to be for the community. They are out there supposedly doing the great commission and great commandment. They are out there teaching people to love each other and to love Jesus. That used to be the primary activity. If they get too involved in too many other things, they risk their tax-exempt status.

Edwards: What is Senator Grassley exactly after? Senator Grassley, as you pointed out, for the last three years has been doing this. Does he and the Senate Finance Committee risk crossing a church-state line here?

Behr: That is the one thing you have to be really careful of. I am not a real fan of looking to the government to be able to fix this, especially religious issues. You have articulated very well some of the problems that you may see in these ministries. That is a great role for you. That is a great role for apologists within the Kingdom of God. It is not my role.

In my role I am very closely aligned to the regulations, to the policies, the practices that are followed in Washington on non-profits and what non-profits need to do. So, as a result, what Grassley is doing if you take a look at the letters—and the letters are available on the Senate Web site—the letters are five and six pages long. A lot of them have 30, 40, 50 questions on them that have to do with things like not only board government (when did you meet, how often did you meet, send us copies of the board minutes, when did the executive committee meet to discuss the compensation of the executive officer, what was the basis of the comparison that was used), but also when they get into transactions such as sales, purchase of properties and lands, and things like that. The reason Grassley is asking those things is because he is trying to determine if … a person got rich, for example, by being a part of the non-profit in ways that were not appropriate.

Edwards: Is [Sen. Grassley] really dispassionate about the fact that these ministers may be living lavishly—is he really just concerned about protecting the government?

Behr: I think he uses the tax laws to his advantage. I think he very wisely uses the available laws on the books to uncover the actual facts of the transactions and whether or not there were excess benefits transactions.

Edwards: From where you sit at the top of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, how do you feel this is all going to wash out?

Behr: Well, I think it is going to fall pretty orderly. It most likely is going to result in hearings with the Senate Financial Committee where some of these ministers, or all of them, will be called in to answer specific questions, or actually under oath testify that the responses they gave to some of these inquiries are in fact true.

There is a little bit of grandstanding here—you wouldn’t believe that, right? Nobody believes there is grandstanding in Washington. But the cameras will role, and because the cameras will roll there will be a little bit of grandstanding on behalf of the Senators questioning some of the transactions. And they will bring up things like $35,000 conference tables, or Leer jets and things like that. They will do this knowing full well that there is nothing in and of itself illegal about those transactions, but it is embarrassing to the minister.

Paul Edwards is the host of The Paul Edwards Program, a columnist and pastor. His program is heard daily on WLQV in Detroit and on godandculture.com. Contact him at paul@godandculture.com.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Grassley Six


The headlines are everywhere: "Televangelists Face Intense Federal Probe", "Grassley Probes Televangelists' Finances", "Ministries under Federal Microscope".

On Monday, November 5th, this nation's press and then the general public were made aware of the latest in a number of nonprofit organizations that some large Christian Ministries were the focus of Senator Chuck Grassley's (R-Iowa) inquiries through his position of influence on the Senate Finance Committee.

In the past few years, Senator Grassley has been taking nonprofit organizations to task on what he has characterized the "gold-plated" lifestyles and a lack of accountability and financial transparency. In 2005 and 2006, he held a series of hearings that included testimony from some of the largest and most well known charitable organizations in the country including the Red Cross and the Smithsonian Institute.

Through a number of sessions, public inquiries and testimonies, some very prominent nonprofit organizations were asked some pretty embarrassing questions about the board oversight of the organization (or lack thereof), executive compensation, often in the millions of dollars and unusual perks that were normally considered the type of benefits provided royalty, heads of Fortune 100 companies and professional athletes.

With the attention now on some large Christian groups (the media calls them all televangelists but they are actually organized as churches), this has been a furious news cycle for me personally. The organization that I'm associated with, the ECFA, is an organization that typically has a lot to say about the integrity of Christian ministries and churches and provides accreditation for over 2,000 nonprofit organizations including some of the largest and most well-known evangelical ministries. While I'm not sure if I qualify as a true "expert" under everyone's definition, I'm the closest thing available often for the media.

I try my best to answer the questions about this development and give the seemingly starved media some food for thought but as most can tell you, I don't get much time to adequately answer some questions.

So, I thought I'd try to answer some often asked questions here on my blog where I get to use a backspace key, can delete and rewrite my answers and even use a spellchecker.

Question: Am I surprised at the inquiry?

Yes and no. Yes, it's certainly unusual that six large media ministries would get lengthy letters from one of the ranking members of the Senate Finance committee. No, it's not unusual for Senator Grassley to continue to focus on an area that he believes needs to have more financial transparency and accountability.

Question: What is Grassley after?

I'm glad you asked that (it's typically not one of the questions I get). Senator Grassley is primarily asking the question, "Is the nonprofit acting like a nonprofit?" By their nature, nonprofit organizations are supposed to be operating for the public good. The government prohibits the nonprofit from allowing any of its income to be paid to or property sold (below fair market price) to insiders such as officers, directors, or employees. Setting up a related for-profit organization to funnel income to insiders is also not allowed and may have serious consequences including the loss of tax-exempt status.

Question: What is likely to happen?

This is more difficult to say but if the inquiry follows the path that others have blazed, some or all of the ministries are likely to be called in to provide testimony about specific transactions and occurrences under oath. There will be inquires to determine if any of these three specific types of transactions occurred: 1) Excess Benefit Transaction. Were perks and benefits provided to the heads of the ministries and their families that should have been taxable events? Most likely to be looked at will be trips, travel, personal vehicles, etc. 2) Private Inurement. Private Inurement (private personal benefit) happens when when an insider — an individual who has significant influence over the organization — enters into an arrangement with the nonprofit and receives benefits greater than she or he provides in return. 3) Excessive Compensation. The IRS has a three-point test to determine if the board is not doing its job of approving the compensation of the chief executive in a manner that is reasonable and documented. The key part is surveying or looking at a survey of other organizations and their compensation plans.

Documentation will be key in the proceedings. Typically, if an organization cannot provide the proper documentation of the "tax-exempt" purpose of some financial transactions, they will be determined to be "taxable" and fines and penalties will likely result.

We'll be watching closely. By the way...none of these organizations are members of the ECFA but in many ways, I wish we would have been asked to get involved years ago.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Evangelicals Under Fire

Evangelicals are under fire.

Religious organizations have come under even more scrutiny during recent times. Last year’s elections and the resulting change in House and Senate leadership were seen by many as an indication that evangelicals have lost their clout.

As a result, politicians, the media, and the general public have begun to question faith-based organizations and some may even want you to believe that everything wrong in the world is likely attributed to religion.

While it is unclear the true nature of the motivation (it could be strictly political posturing or perhaps more enmity than we would normally believe), politically, evangelical organizations are likely to have increased criticism and the media practically encouraged to be more pointed in their criticism of churches and Christian ministries.

We have seen coordinated attacks on high profile ministries which have focused on things like executive compensation, housing allowances for ministers, and the proper use of donated funds.

Most troubling is the redefinition of the word “evangelical” to mean anything but its true meaning. More often the word evangelical in the media is associated with political leanings, a conspiracy of ideals, or outmoded and obsolete thinking.

The organization I'm associated with, the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability typically uses just the acronym, ECFA in most communications. While we may have been wise to brand ECFA as four vs. seventeen syllables, I’m not ready to abandon the word and it's time for us to aggressively re-establish an alternative and preferred meaning to the ideals of evangelicalism and integrity.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Bill Clinton on Giving


I picked up a copy of Bill Clinton's book this last week at the San Jose airport. I also made a note to myself to stick to Amazon than airports when buying books. I don't like overpaying for books but needed something light to read and I had read the latest from Michael Crichton in paperback.

I don't usually do book reviews and this isn't one really either. I can say that the sub-title "how each of us can change the world" is a good summary of the book and one of those things to which I'll say "amen"! The former President did a good job of painting stories that told how individuals, both the great and small, made huge contributions by giving of their time, talent and treasure. It was to be inspiring and I believe the reader will be inspired which is a good thing.

Yes, Bill uses those words, "Time, Talent and Treasure" when he talks about giving. He has a good understanding of giving in that it is a matter of the soul, a matter of personal involvement, and not just wealth.

Unfortunately, The book was also classic Clinton (my guess is that he wrote the intro, first chapter and dictated some of the stories about Al Gore and Hillary). The former president is campaigning to be first husband and he refuses to be transparent or anything remotely humble. It's too bad as he is a brilliant man who has made many positive contributions to society.

Typically when I hear personal testimonies about giving, there is usually personal struggle that is overcome, some realization that life is more than just self absorption and self indulgence. Not the case in this book.

The President starts off telling us of his heritage and how he was taught to tithe at an early age. He mentions that he has always been motivated to give back as he has been given much. In comparison however, Hillary, he says, is the real giver, always active, always caring and compassionate.

Since this was a "general audience" book, I knew that it wasn't likely to include any reference to giving to the work of the kingdom "first" but I'll try to be charitable as well and give him the benefit of the doubt when he talks about his giving. We know that for a while when he was President, his tax returns didn't indicate that Mr. and Mrs. Clinton were known for their charity. I do seem to remember something about gifts of underwear, which are now prohibited from being a charitable gift by the IRS.

While I smiled while reading the stories (there were many, many stories) It was mainly the political undercurrent that made the book less enjoyable. I personally think there is a big difference between giving to causes that directly benefit hurting people and those causes that are primarily political and government solutions. I didn't count the number of references to Greenpeace, global warming, Al Gore or Hillary but just a few were enough to make the read a little less appealing.

Americans are generally givers and it's good to hear some positive stories. People make a real difference when the reach out and help people that are desperate - people that are hungry, naked, thirsty and in the hospital or even in prison (Matt 25). Our churches and nonprofit ministries are great venues for people to get involved, give and volunteer to make a difference.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Quiver Full Conservatives Rule


There was interesting reading in today's WSJ. Arthur C. Brooks, Professor of Public Administration and Director of the Nonprofit Studies Program at Syracuse University 's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and also the author of the book, "Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservatism" makes an interesting case about the future of religious conservatives in the United States.

While many political pundants bemoan the proliferation of religious comments by our politicians, especially surprisingly as of late from left-leaning Barack Obama (who claims a personal relationship with Jesus Christ) and Hillary Clinton (who describes herself as a "praying person"), Arthur Brooks has the statistics that show religious conservatism is likely to be even more pronounced in the United States in the near future.

Brooks states that in all likelihood, "religion will grow as a social force in American culture and politics over the coming decades." The reason? The religious conservatives have a quiver full.

His statistics are pretty amazing. While it could be argued that maybe the dividing line between conservative and liberal, religious and not-so, Republican and Democrat is 50/50, religious conservatives seem to have more children and their children are even more likely to vote like their parents than to worship like them.

According to Brooks, 100 religious adults, defined by their weekly attendance in a house of worship, will have on average 223 children. According to similar surveys, 100 people who attend church less than once per year or never would have just 158 resulting in a 41% fertility gap.

Religious people self described politically as "conservative" and "very conservative" were also found to have an amazing 78% more children than secular liberals.

While a quiver full may not ensure long-term political rule, it is certainly something to be concerned about if you are a social liberal, likely to be unmarried or estranged from both family and children and likely to be wondering why elections continue to be so close when it seems like everyone at the university and everyone in the media is of the same ilk.

So having babies, or having a quiver full, is not only a likely result of socially conservative thinking: traditional families are good, parents are the best instructors for our youth, family values are religious by nature; but also may result in superior political numbers.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Discernment Needed

I received an inquiry today about a recent appeal made via email SPAM (wouldn't you hate to have been the marketing manager at Hormel Foods when your famous brand was being used for unwanted and irritating email!)

This email was regarding the urgent need for some persecuted Christians in a Muslim country. What was interesting is that while the need was likely true, the email requested that funds be sent to a P.O. Box, the return email was from a hotmail account and the phone number had about seventeen numbers in it with about seven dashes.

While this was an obvious scam, it is a good example of how a little bit of the gift of "discernment" goes a long way. Christians, by nature (not their human nature but by the spiritual), are compassionate and caring people and may be an easy mark for a giving scam.

There are a few very simple principles about giving and this appeal is actually a good example of some elements in any appeal to be wary of from the start:


  • Give only to ministries that you know, regardless of how urgent the appeal sounds.


  • Pay particular attention when the request is coming from a foreign source. We at ECFA have had a number of questions and inquiries regarding the so-called "Nigerian Scam” as well. Also one that a little discernment would go a long way!


  • Make use of easy Internet search tools such as http://www.ecfa.org/ that contains a listing of over 2,000 Evangelical churches and nonprofits, proven to be organizations that you can trust, and http://www.guidestar.org/ which has a complete listing of all 501(c)(3) organizations that file 990's. Note that the GuideStar listings do not include church organizations which are exempt from filing annual IRS 990's. One other Internet search engine that I use often is http://www.snopes.com/ which is great to check out rumors that are spread around the Internet. On it you can check out if “Proctor & Gamble directs their profits to the Church of Satan – FALSE”, “ACLU seeking to have cross-shaped headstones removed from federal cemeteries - FALSE” or “Lightning struck a church after the preacher identified thunder as the voice of God – TRUE”


  • Finally, when appeals include the use of free email services such as Hotmail and Yahoo, have no Internet website and use P.O. Boxes as a place to send contributions, immediately throw away the appeal.


A little discernment goes a long way with most of these email scams. With practice, you'll find the delete button on your email easy to hit with many fingers.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Donor 101: What every donor should know about giving to charities


1. Know your charity. Many supporters only want to receive minimal information to keep them apprised of ministry efforts and prayer needs. Others like to know the doors are open to participate in a more personal way, visiting outreach centers, volunteering in soup kitchens, or joining short-term mission teams. Identify your own level of desired relationship and participation with the ministries that interest you.

2. Understand what your gift will accomplish. If you are giving for the general purposes of a charity, the overall ministry outcomes are aided by your gift. Are you giving to a project? If so, is the project sufficiently defined so you understand the project goals?

3. Give to accountable charities. While all organizations likely believe in accountability, some make themselves truly accountable. For example, ECFA members demonstrate their accountability by submitting to a set of accountability standards. Use the ECFA member directory at www.ECFA.org to determine which charities have taken a stand for integrity by joining ECFA. ECFA members have financial statements audited, reviewed or compiled by an independent CPA, provide copies of these financial statements to anyone who request them, have an independent board, and avoid conflicts of interest.

4. Focus on the mission of the organization instead of overhead percentages. Some people assume that the best organizations to support are those with the highest program expenses and the lowest overhead. It’s an easy calculation, and often used as a quick formula to determine “efficiency.” ECFA cautions against making judgments about ministry efficiency solely upon the calculation of expense percentages. Because of variables between organizations and the many factors that affect the reporting of expenses, a true “apples-to-apples” comparison is not possible, plus these calculations do not measure effectiveness.

5. Remember your role. Often, donors use the same language as investors and in many ways it’s good to think of the gift as an investment in the kingdom. However, that is where the similarity ends. All too often, donors forget they are to be “storing up treasurers in heaven” and expect more of a reciprocal relationship with the charity. All gifts are important and those that can give larger gifts have more responsibility, not necessarily more perks, privileges or access. The reward given to a donor is to be eternal, not temporal.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The "I" in Integrity


I'm very fond of being a member of a team. For years, I enjoyed good success primarily because the Lord allowed me to have great people around me....people on a team with a common goal, a common purpose.

I continue to have a great team that works well together and supports each other.

One of the clichés that is often told is...there is no "I" in "team".

I'm OK with that cliché as there is a lot of truth in that statement, even beyond the obvious.

What is interesting to note (but I'm not ready to create another cliché) is that while there may be no "I" in team, there is an "I" in Integrity.

I guess is it likely just human nature the way we all seem to be drawn to reports of various failures of integrity. Like some irresistible urge, like a moth we are drawn to buildings on fire and slow down to see what the ambulance is doing by the side of the highway. We pause as we are flipping through various news stories to read about embezzlement, fraud, illicit affairs, illegal drug use, and all other sordid human failures..... and all because of the "I" in the integrity failure.

Integrity for an organization or system or bridge is great. Actually pretty expected these days.

Integrity for the person...that is another matter.

And yet, it needs to start with the "I". I need to have integrity. I need to take seriously what the Bible says about treating people fairly and honestly. That verse in Proverbs about honest scales and balances (like the picture I used at the beginning of the blog) has been updated in the modern-language Message Bible and says, "God cares about honesty in the workplace; your business is His business." (Prov. 16:11)

We are also told that Integrity is more valuable than riches (Proverbs 28:6) and unfortunately, I can introduce you to a few men that didn't understand the "I" in this instruction. They lost their business, their families, their children because they didn't understand their personal roll in maintaining integrity.

You can either have integrity or you can lack integrity. It becomes apparent to most of us that it's difficult to have just a "little" integrity. People rarely only cheat on their taxes (it started with tests in school), only cheat on one wife (that's why one divorce is often followed by another), only lie a little (just ask their customers) and rarely were only speeding the one time they were stopped by the police.

Integrity really starts with the "I" and that's no cliché.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Freedom and Religion

Freedom and Religion are two of those words that are probably overused, perhaps even abused by people who are too quick to employ the words but have thought very little about what they actually mean.

Back in what seems like a previous life, I was the Manager of Business Systems Development at Ford Credit. This meant that for a two-year period, I was a management-generalist in what had been typically a management-specialists' job. Talk about a round peg in s square hole! I tried to do a good job, learned the systems lingo and could repeat many words often in a conversation but often didn't know what they really meant. Words like "seamless integration" and "graphical interface" were good words to use but I had little appreciation for their true meanings.

Yesterday was the 4th of July and on TV, I was fortunate to happen across seeing our President, George W. Bush speak to the men and women of the 167th Airlift Wing of the West Virginia National Guard. I liked what I heard and took especially note when he started talking about our Freedom of Religion:


"This enemy of ours -- they have got an ideology. They believe in something. In other words, the attacks are just a tactic to enable them to spread their dark vision of the world. Perhaps one way to differentiate between our thoughts is just think about religion. In the great country of the United States, we believe that you should be able to worship any way you see fit; that you're equally American, regardless of your religious beliefs.

They believe that if you don't worship the way they see it, then they're going to bring you harm. We believe in an Almighty, we believe in the freedom for people to worship that Almighty. They don't. They don't believe you should worship the way you choose. They believe the only way you should worship is the way they choose. And, therefore -- and, therefore, they will do anything they can to spread that ideology. And it's our charge, it's our calling to keep the pressure on these people, to defend America and to spread an ideology of hope and an ideology of peace so that the kids who came up here to give the Pledge of Allegiance will be able to live in peace and security." George W. Bush, July 4, 2007


I think the Prez gets it. That's why despite his lack of popularity due to an unpopular war, there are many Americans like me that still admire his understanding of what America is all about.


It's unfortunate that today, unlike George W. Bush, many have not considered the meanings of the words, "Freedom" and "Religion". These words had very specific meanings to our ancestors for those that can trace back their lineage to the very foundlings of this country. It likely has also very specific meanings today to many people in the world, many who are in the Middle East, Africa and in Asia, who are persecuted, abused, badly treated, harmed, physically abused and even tortured or killed because of their religion.

In many way's the greatest freedom that we presently enjoy here in these United States, is the one that is so often taken for granted. I'm not an alarmist but I continue to be very concerned with the wholesale castigation of Christianity in the United States and the trend towards anti-christian humor.

Of course, not all forms of Christianity are in the cross hairs. The social-progressives and Marxist ideologues in this country don't mind if you call yourself a Christian but have no particular belief system. You are no threat to them and voice little opposition to their encroachment on your personal liberty. If on the other hand, you are one that actually believes the the Word of God to be exactly that and embraces the traditional role of marriage and the family, you become a target of intolerance.

Intolerance today can easily lead to persecution and all kinds of abuse.

May we all learn the true meanings of the words "Freedom" and "Religion" that so many have fought and died for in this country.

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Our small Christian non-profit ministry recently requested and received approval from the IRS to be re-classified as a ‘church’.      ...