|Sharing with the Saints (Rom. 12:13) |
The Deacons’ Newsletter Volume III, Number 1
|In this issue, I will provide a service report on several of our diaconal ministries, followed by a lesson from the prophet Isaiah that speaks to the issue of government stimulus.|
First, as a reminder: we have upgraded our systems to Realm! By now, you should have received an invitation to log in and configure your account. Realm replaces the “ChurchLife” app with a new, modern interface. You can log in by clicking here: Realm Sign In
If you did not receive the Realm email or need support, please reply to this email and let me know.
Since this is the first issue following the December 2020 officer elections, there have been some changes in the diaconal committees. I want to take this time to introduce not only the new chairmen of each committee, but also reintroduce you to all of our committees in general. The chairman of each committee is noted in parentheses next to the committee description. Each committee is made up of multiple deacons, and one deacon can serve on multiple committees.
Finance (John Livingston) – The Finance Committee is responsible for developing the annual church budget, which is then approved by the Session in July of each fiscal year (July to June). We also track monthly donations and expenditures and provide regular updates to the Session.
Chris Vincenzi served diligently for two years as committee chairman, and he has now passed that honor and duty on to me. Chris remains on the committee to lend a helping hand and help maintain continuity. With our recent conversion to Realm, we are also still learning about the powerful accounting features it has to offer. It promises to make our budgeting easier and more streamlined.
Facility Use Committee (Jimmy Cooper) – As you probably know, some of Midway’s facilities are available for use by members upon request for fellowship, celebration, weddings, and more.
Additionally, the outdoor pavilion is a great place to host family gatherings. In this age of social distancing, it could be a great option for you this spring and summer as the weather warms. Please email Jimmy Cooper for any facility use inquiries at email@example.com.
Missions Committee (Phil Schrock) – The purpose of the Missions Committee is to oversee the annual missions budget, plan for the annual Missions Conference, meet and correspond with missionaries that are supported by Midway, and seek out new missionaries to support.
Mercy Committee (Evanda Remington) – The Mercy Committee exists to show the compassion of Jesus in the form of physical assistance to those who urgently need it. Their work ranges from helping needy families with groceries and rent, to personally performing home repairs, to funding hurricane relief. It invariably involves prayer with and for people suffering in a world tainted by sin.
Although our first priority is Midway’s membership, then neighboring brothers and sisters after that, our congregation has been deeply blessed. Out of our abundance we are able to help the community who approach the church in desperation. Here is an update from our WIC liaison regarding our efforts to help those outside the church:
The past six months have seen an increase in the number of Mercy prospects who have approached the church for assistance. Quite a number of individuals from the community have benefited from financial help, as well as from a “listening ear” and a bit of counsel on how to move forward in a difficult situation. While other local churches have cut back or cut out their community aid, Midway has been able to continue meeting monetary and practical needs of local families, while sharing the love and knowledge of Christ, thanks to the faithfulness of the Midway congregation during these challenging times. Among the many benevolent acts that God granted us the means and abilities to perform, we have: helped pay rent, utility, insurance, and other bills; helped buy groceries; donated, collected, delivered, and set up furniture for families getting back into stable housing; collected and distributed clothes and household items; fixed things that were broken; installed washers and dryers; hung curtains; provided transportation; offered leads on job openings, housing, and local assistance agencies; and prayed with and for struggling families.
We have also enjoyed many blessings and much joy (as well as some heartaches) as we have had opportunities to minister to several church members and regular attendees in need. We have provided financial assistance, cleaned yards and cleared debris, cleaned siding and gutters, provided and moved furniture and appliances, provided transportation to medical appointments, offered companionship and supervision, prepared meals, helped with housework and laundry, assisted in round-the-clock care, and the list goes on. REST ASSURED that the body of Christ at Midway cares for her own, lovingly and sacrificially, and without reservation.
What a privilege it is to be part of such a Christ-centered and servant-hearted body of believers!
WIC Mercy Ministry Liaison
If you would like to volunteer to help, then you can contact Evanda (firstname.lastname@example.org) to be put on a special mailing list that will notify you when opportunities arise.
Risk Management (Jimmy Cooper) – The purpose of this committee is to ensure the health and safety of our congregation, while also making sure visitors feel welcome. This includes having policies in place to make sure the church and our missionaries are properly insured, especially when traveling out of the country. Because of work undertaken in cooperation with the Session, we are also better prepared to respond to an emergency event.
Deacon Ryan Zumbrum has done great work advancing our church’s policies in the last several years through unprecedented times. He has turned the chair over to Jimmy Cooper. Ryan remains on the committee to share his valuable knowledge and ensure continuity is maintained and knowledge is properly transferred.
Building and Grounds (Joe Hash) – The B&G committee cares for and maintains the church property. They work closely with our facilities manager (George Taylor) to repair air-conditioning units, repair water leaks, replace lights, and schedule routine maintenance. Some notable activities this past year include:Roof repairGutters cleanedPreventative maintenance performed on the pump stationsPassed fire pump and sprinkler inspectionsOutdoor systems winterizedNew landscaping plantedConcrete poured to support expansion of schoolIf you notice any leaks or see something that needs repairing, please contact Joe at email@example.com
Worship Service Committee (Brady Pritchett) – Led for several years now by Brady Pritchett, the worship service committee keeps our Sunday mornings running smoothly. It is responsible for scheduling and rotating the deacons who serve each Sunday and for special events throughout the year. We rely on the regular duty rosters that are distributed to remind us who is serving, and when. The responsibilities of each serving deacon and usher are defined by the worship service committee to ensure all necessary items are covered.
Recently, the committee took the initiative to bring back the diaconal prayer during the Sunday morning worship service. Since the covid pandemic began, that element of worship fell by the wayside when we changed how we handled tithing to accommodate the CDC recommendations to prevent spreading the virus. Now, however, the deacons have reinstituted this simple but important action to thank God for His many blessings each Sunday morning.
Technology Committee (Patrick Rockholz) – The diaconate created the technology committee several years ago as more technology-related issues arose. Now, this committee handles any items related to Internet, network connectivity, and, maybe most importantly, our weekly streaming service.
Recent improvements implemented by the committee include installing a second camera in the sanctuary to get better angles and closer focus. The streaming-only services during the pandemic received positive feedback for their close-up camera angles on the pastors as they read and preached God’s word because they felt more intimate and personal. The new camera was installed to help more closely achieve this feeling for the regular weekly services.
Midway Christian Covenant School (MCCS) Committee (Phil Schrock) – Next to the church, MCCS is probably the largest and most influential Reformed ministry in Cobb county. The school has been providing a rigorous, Christ-centered education for over 20 years, educating hundreds of children in the fundamentals of the Reformed faith.
It recently completed the expansion of the middle school which added upgraded classrooms and technology to provide a high-quality upgrade for the students. Besides providing such a rich Reformed outreach to many families each year, it also gives back generously to the church. The school helps maintain many of the church facilities since it regularly uses them, and it funds these activities itself.
DOES THE BIBLE SPEAK TO MODERN ISSUES?
A long, long time ago, the prophet Isaiah came before the people of Israel and spake thusly: “Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water” (Is. 1:22).
Some people may wonder if the Bible, as old as it is, speaks to the issues we face in our modern world. This one verse is proof positive that it does. That’s because there’s nothing new under the sun (Ecc. 1:9). And, more importantly, God made all things, and more than anything else Christianity is an ethical religion which draws a boundary between right and wrong. It starts with the one true God. The Children’s Catechism that our kids learn in Sunday school asks, “Are there more gods than one?”
The answer we speak back is simple: “There is only one true God.” To paraphrase Jesus, “You are either with me, or you are against me.” Of course, he put it much more eloquently than that: “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Mat. 6:24).
Another phrase I am fond of that describes this situation well is this one: there is no neutrality. “Neutrality” as we are taught to think of it in most areas of life is a myth. That’s because most of our actions are either honoring to God through obedience to His commandments, or else they are dishonoring to Him through our disobedience to His commandments.
THE PARALLELISM IN THE COMMANDMENTS
If you were to divide the 10 Commandments into two sets of five and set them side-by-side, you would notice some striking parallels. This is the arrangement I’m trying to describe:
6. 7. 8. 9. 10.
Consider commandments two (no idol worship) and seven (no adultery). Many times in the Bible God condemns idolatry as spiritual adultery: “You also took your beautiful jewels of my gold and of my silver, which I had given you, and made for yourself images of men, and with them played the whore” (Ez. 16:17). Making and worshipping idols is like cheating on God.
Consider the 8th commandment: thou shalt not steal. At the center of each set of five commandments, the third commandment and the eighth, you’ll see both involve theft: do not “steal” God’s name (third commandment), and do not steal man’s property (eighth). God places a boundary around His name, and the “property” inside that boundary is off limits except in certain legitimate circumstances. Similarly, He has placed a boundary around our personal property, and the civil government is supposed to defend that boundary by prosecuting thieves who try to take it from us.
In the garden of Eden, God placed a boundary around the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil: no stealing. Stealing God’s personal property is known as the crime of sacrilege. Adam and Eve committed sacrilege, and for it, they and all creation were cursed. (This is why it is exceptionally bad to steal from the offering plate. You do not want to steal God’s personal property!)
Christianity is a religion of boundaries. Many things are simply common, meaning they are not inherently good or evil, only what we make of them. Like money. Money is not inherently bad—it is not the root of all evil (1 Tim. 6:10)—because it can be put to good uses or evil uses. But some things are inherently bad: boundary violations.
One of the most memorable moments to me in the TV movie Lonesome Dove, a Western about retired Texas Rangers who want to launch a cattle drive to Montana, is when Gus tells his old friend Jake, “Sorry, Jake, but you crossed the line.” Jake had participated in a heinous murder. He did not try to stop it, even though, as an old Texas Ranger himself, he knew better. As a result, he met judgment at the hands of his old friend Gus and was hanged.
Jake committed the ultimate boundary violation in this life: a capital crime. It cost him his life.
When we Presbyterians say the Lord’s prayer, we ask “Forgive us our debts.” When Methodists say the same prayer, however, they say “Forgive us our trespasses.” (I know, because I was raised as a Methodist.) But these really are equivalent phrases because “crossing the (boundary) line” incurs a moral debt that we become responsible for. As the Apostle John wrote, sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4), and only God can forgive our sins, something that is possible because our debt was paid by the Lord Jesus Christ on our behalf.
When we violate God’s commandments, we cross the line, trespass onto restricted property, and become slapped with a debt that must be paid.
When Isaiah talked about silver becoming dross and wine that was mixed with water, he was talking about a boundary violation: theft. These are violations of the 8th Commandment. And what Isaiah was describing by these two illustrations is known today as “inflation.”
ISAIAH’S MESSAGE ON INFLATION
Isaiah’s message was simple: inflation is theft, and therefore it is immoral. People think of “inflation” as rising prices, but the reality is that rising prices are the effect of inflation. Inflation occurs when someone tampers with (increases) the money supply.
It is easy to understand when we think back to the old days when gold coins were used as money. You are familiar with a traditional gold bar. A standard 400-ounce gold bar is worth about $700,000 at today’s prices. But what if you could sell something that looked just like a gold bar, but which really only cost you a few thousand dollars to make?
For example, the metal tungsten weighs the same as gold, but it is 400 times cheaper or more. A tungsten brick, coated with 1/16-inch of gold, could be passed off as the real deal and net the counterfeiter quite a profit. It would weigh the same as a solid gold brick, pass the chemical test, would sound the same when you tapped it, and might even pass an x-ray scan.
By selling this convincing counterfeit, the seller would be giving you a lot more money than it’s worth because he thinks he’s buying more gold than he really is.
We inherently understand the crime in this act. You know that counterfeiting is wrong; if you counterfeit a few hundred-dollar bills and use them to successfully buy goods or services, then you are stealing. The government treats counterfeiting seriously.
In the old days, when they wanted more money than their taxes were bringing in, kings could shave off a little bit of gold from every coin that flowed through the treasury. A one-ounce gold coin might enter the castle weighing one ounce, and it would leave weighing a little less but valued on its face exactly the same. If the king shaved off a lot, he may fill the hole with some cheap base metal—which Isaiah called “dross.”
This way, the king could raise extra money to spend on his projects without visibly raising taxes. The king could melt down the shavings into new gold coins and spend that money into circulation. Eventually, however, the merchants become wise to the drop in actual value of the gold coins. Using their scales, they discover that the new money contains less gold than the old.
So, to compensate, they raise prices.
The source of the inflation was the king who first debased the gold coins. He was stealing from his subjects by dishonestly passing off the shaved coins as equal in value to unshaved coins. Such a king is committing fraud in order to get more for less through a deception.
Last year saw a record-breaking $3 trillion in stimulus that the Federal government launched after the coronavirus pandemic caused governors all over the country to shut down the economies in their states. Now, news reports are circulating about “rising inflation expectations.”
The central bank of the United States was given control over the money supply by Congress in 1913. Question: Is the money supply like a rubber band that stretches and contracts?
Banking advocates thought so, arguing that banking panics were the result of “inelastic” money which was too heavily concentrated in a small number of banks. As a result, we needed to create an “elastic” currency that could be expanded or contracted in response to market conditions. (You can read all about it in a paper published by the St. Louis branch of the Federal Reserve here.)
The way the control of the money supply and managing its elastic properties is described makes the whole ordeal sound rather scientific and boring. You get the impression the central bankers are simply pushing and pulling on levers in order to keep the economy moving safely between the lines, ideally at a rate of moderate growth that is somewhere between the calamity of depression on the left and inflationary boom on the right.
They might describe this kind of intervention as an act of neutral management intended for our protection and well-being—kind of like how the law of gravity in a neutral and unbiased way, always pulls objects towards the center of the planet.
But as a Christian who understands the 8th Commandment—do not steal—you realize that this is not true. Inflating the money supply is not simply a boring, neutral act of economic management. Modern inflation mechanics are sophisticated, for sure. It’s all mostly digital and takes place with the stroke of some keys or at the click of a mouse. But at its heart, it’s just like the king who shaves off a little gold from every coin.
Inflation is an invisible tax. John Maynard Keynes gained his prominent place in economic history because he came before governments during the Great Depression and told them that the solution to the depression was that they needed to spend more money—music to their ears!
But he was also eloquent when he wanted to be. He understood the truth of inflation. In 1919, when he was a younger man, he very clearly wrote: “Lenin is said to have declared that the best way to destroy the capitalist system was to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens…The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.”
The prophet Isaiah was able to diagnose it.
But more importantly, Isaiah explained something else: the inflation being carried out by the leaders of ancient Israel was not the main problem. Rather, it was a symptom of the real problem: a rejection of God’s word in the hearts of the people. Enough people came to believe that it was okay to steal a little bit from your neighbor. As a result, it became a national economic policy.
Theft is not neutral because it violates the ethical boundaries God has drawn within His creation. Therefore, when the central banks create digital money out of nothing to buy anything, they are not acting out a neutral policy of economic management. Instead, they are stealing, silently siphoning wealth from one group of people to the benefit of a different group of people.
In 2020, the central bank of the United States (the Federal Reserve) created enough digital money to buy over $2 trillion in government Treasury bonds in response to the pandemic. This was an act of inflation.
By now, you should also recognize that it was an act of theft. This is why Christians should think differently than the rest of the world. We have God’s laws and commandments. We can truly see the difference between right and wrong. This is a blessing. To quote the Psalmist:
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” (Psalm 1:1-3, ESV)
If you would like to help or volunteer in some way, then please also feel free to contact any of us. We welcome the God-given talents and a desire to serve that our members are blessed with, and we want to be able to help you fulfill your calling where possible.
Deacon John Livingston, Editor