Wednesday, December 30, 2009

But What About Those Who Have Never Heard The Gospel?

Paul lays out six principles of God's judgment in Romans 2:2-16
A) Romans 2:2-3 "We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?"

God's judgment is according to truth, according to things as they really are. God is an utter realist. God sees us exactly as we are. He knows all our secrets. He knows all the carefully concealed, hidden areas of our life that we keep away from every other eye.

God’s judgment is based on truth, but our own judgement is not always based on truth. Often it’s based on how the issue affects us. A matter is right or wrong depending on how costly it is to us, or makes us look, or affects our own wants and desires.

Romans 2:4 "Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?"

Yet God patiently waits to help us see through these delusions. God is patient with us; He is forbearing. God doesn't beat us over the head, and demand that we face the truth. He patiently waits and gently leads, and put us in circumstances where we will be able to see these things if we are willing to face the facts.

B) Romans 2:5 "But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed."

People bring God’s judgment on themselves In verse 5, having a hard and impenitent heart does not necessarily translate into leading the lifestyle of a criminal. Most of us are very much blessed. We have access to everything we need, clothes, food, shelter, transportation, comforts, education, and so much more.

People who live the good life often don’t sense the need to be saved from God’s wrath. Their life is fine, they’re happy, they’re doing good things, they don’t “need” salvation, they’re doing great. It’s easy to get lulled into the idea that God isn’t concerned about this little secret thought, or that little secret sin. That attitude is showing contempt for God’s forbearance and patience. God’s kindness is designed to lead one into repentance, not indulgence.

C) Romans 2:6-8 "He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury."

Is Paul really saying that God judges according to works? Almost everyone has the idea, even if they have never actually read the Bible, that God has a giant scale in heaven. He puts all one's good deeds on one side and all one's bad deeds on the other side -- and if the good deeds outweigh the bad, one gets into heaven; if the bad outweigh the good, one goes the other direction.

But this isn’t what Paul is saying. All the rest of Romans makes it clear that salvation is by faith, not by works. Works don’t save a person, but they do come out of being saved. If there is no fruit, then it’s probably not a fruit tree, because a saved person always produces fruit. Paul is pointing out that the deed reveals the heart. God will judge according to the result of obedience to the truth, or lack of obedience.

Putting it another way, what makes a person do good? That person is following some principle of truth! What makes a person do evil? It's right here in verse 8: They are self-seeking; the do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness. This is why they do evil. This is going back behind the deed, into the heart, into the belief. The truth is, people are what they believe.

So how does one explain the good things people do who are not Christians? They are obeying some principle of truth, even though they don’t yet know God. That’s called God’s common grace, when He fills the world of humankind with the knowledge of how to love, how to be kind, how to be patient, how to forgive and so on.

Will God save someone who lives a good life but never hears of Christ? In light of everything Paul writes in this letter to the Romans, the answer would be: "It is impossible to live a truly good life and never hear of Jesus Christ!" If God gives anyone eternal life, it is only by knowing the Lord Jesus Christ, His Son. Truth obeyed leads to the knowledge of greater truth, until it leads at last to knowing Messiah Jesus.

God says if someone is really looking for Him, He’ll make sure that person finds Him. Read about Cornelius in Acts chapter 10, a Roman centurion who was a good man and devout, even though he was also a pagan. But he wanted to know God, so God sent an angel to tell him to go find Peter, who would tell him the gospel. Read about the Ethiopian eunuch, Acts chapter 8, where God miraculously presented Philip at exactly the right moment to help him.

These people were eagerly obeying the truth that they had. The test of whether a person is really obeying the truth and doing good is to offer that person the Lord Jesus in the gospel -- they will eagerly receive Him if they are obeying truth. If that person is simply a respectable sinner, trying to look good, then he or she will reject the offer of grace.

D) Romans 2:9-11 "There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality."

God judges without partiality, whether a Jew or a Greek, a religious person, a moral person, an educated person, or a total pagan who knows nothing of God, it makes no difference whether one's sins are notorious sins or respectable sins, obvious sins or hidden, secret sins, one still falls under God’s judgment, there is no protected class of people who are exempt from God’s judgement

There will come a time when Jesus returns, when all secret thoughts and acts, good or bad, will come out. For Christians this means that all those sinful acts, all the bad thoughts and deeds are already covered in Christ’s righteousness, and all the good thoughts and deeds will be rewarded, at Christ’s judgement seat. You are not judged for the bad, but you are judged and rewarded for the good.

On the other hand, for unbelievers, all disobedience will be revealed, and they will be judged for it.

E) Romans 2:12-15 "For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them."

God judges according to opportunity. This is for those who are wondering how God could judge people who haven’t been taught about Him, who don’t even know about Him. It is a common charge against God that He is being unjust by condemning people to hell who have never heard of Jesus Christ. It's pretty commonplace to hear the idea that "people are basically good."

People accept that nobody's perfect, but the idea of human wickedness, the depravity of sin, is minimized. But if people were born basically good, we could expect at least a small segment of people to remain good and sinless. Instead everybody deals with sin.

What person has lived up to their own ideals? -- because God won't judge a person on the basis of something that one has never heard, but on the basis of what one already knows. Which person has never deliberately done wrong? What person can say that he or she always measures up to his or her own standard of what they ought to be?

God judges according to the light given. And some light is given to all persons in the form of a conscience. God's judgement is based on what you do with what you know. Even those who have never heard of Jehovah or the law have a conscience. If a person hasn’t heard of God, if that person would live even according to her own conscience, she would be justified. But the fact is, no one lives even according to their own conscience. No one of any religion lives up to their own religion or philosophy, or their own principles. God judges us not by some artificial standard, but by our own standard. God is justified in judging all, because all are guilty even according to their own conscience.

F) Romans 2:16 "...on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. God judges according to the secrets of men."

This is not talking about every thought that comes to one's mind, because often those thoughts are temptations you and I are powerless to stop. But it’s the reception you and I give to unworthy thoughts. We sometimes open the door and welcome them. Instead of driving these thoughts away when they come, we usher them into our living room, and set them down, and ask them to be comfortable and stay with us, and we invite them back again and again; we allow them to take their coats off, get comfortable and live there. These are the secret things that we don't want to tell anybody about -- even our dearest friend.

God searches the heart and knows exactly what one's true motivations were, even when one is suppressing one's motivations to oneself.

If this post got you to thinking, please leave a comment and join the conversation

If this post got you to thinking, please leave a comment and join the conversation

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

"Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving."

A while back I read a fascinating article called “How the new science of thank you can change your life.” Apparently science has now been able to prove what God has been teaching people since the days of Cain: practicing gratitude can actually make us healthier – literally!!

Dr. Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at UC Davis, has been able to prove, in his lab, that being thankful can change us for the better. He took three groups of volunteers and assigned them to focus on one thing:

1) The first group concentrated on everything that went wrong, or irritated them
2) The second group homed in on situations they felt made their lives better
3) The third group was asked to think about ordinary life events

After the experiment was over, the people who focused on gratitude discovered they were happier – the difference was so noticeable that others recognized it too.
1) We’ll sleep better
2) We’ll be more enthusiastic, more interested, more determined
3) We’ll be less materialistic, less apt to connect life satisfaction with material things
4) We’ll be more energetic and actually exercise more
5) We’ll feel more optimistic and joyful, better resilience during tough times
6) We’re more likely to share what we have with others
7) We’ll have fewer headaches and colds and a stronger immune system
8) We’ll be less envious, less anxious, less prone to feel the blues and less stressed
9) We’ll be more alert and active
10) We’ll be more likely to help other people
11) We’ll actually live longer
12) We’ll have closer family ties
13) We’ll have a deeper spirituality
14) And if we’re willing to stick to it, being thankful, practicing gratitude, we’ll realize we’re making progress toward our life goals.

As Paul the apostle instructed in Colossians 4:2, "Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving."

If this post got you to thinking, please leave a comment and join the conversation

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ancient Jewish Weddings (Continued)

3) Mohar

Genesis 24:50-51 "Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, 'The thing has come from the LORD; we cannot speak to you bad or good. Behold, Rebekah is before you; take her and go, and let her be the wife of your master’s son, as the LORD has spoken.'"

The family accepted the servant's offer, they could clearly see this was God's will. The servant then presented Rebekah with the mohar, all the gifts Isaac had prepared for her, samples of the wealth he would provide for her as her husband. This is so much like the Holy Spirit in your life today, giving you spiritual gifts according to His grace.

4) Cup of Acceptance

Genesis 24:54a "And he and the men who were with him ate and drank, and they spent the night there."

Once the terms of the ketuvah had been specified and the father of the bride had agreed to them, betrothals were sealed with a traditional "cup of acceptance" from which both parties drank; the covenant was sealed, and the couple was considered to be betrothed. Think about how God gives us His Holy Spirit as a seal for that day when we will be joined to Him forever in heaven.

The betrothal period typically lasted one full year, beginning with the sealing of the covenant and ending with the wedding ceremony. During that time the groom would prepare their new home, which meant adding on to his father's home or building a new home on the family property. He would have stocked the bridal chamber with seven days' worth of provisions so they could spend a week together inside as their honeymoon.

Think of Jesus saying, "I go to prepare a place for you; in My Father's house are many mansions." As fast and as hard as he worked, though, it was the groom's father who made the final decision as to when the bridal chamber and new home were ready, and gave permission for his son to go marry his bride. Think of Jesus telling His disciples that He would return for them to bring them back to Him, but only the Father knew the day and the hour.

For the bride this time was for purification and preparation for the wedding feast. She would wear a veil whenever she stepped out of her house to show that she was set apart for marriage to a particular man -- she was "spoken for," no longer available because she had been bought with a price.

In Hebrew, she would be called a "me `kudeshet," meaning one who is "sanctified, dedicated to another, set apart and consecrated to her bridegroom" just as every believer is being sanctified by the Holy Spirit, being transformed by the renewing of your minds, one day to be glorified with Christ (and this is where we are in the marriage process with the Lord Jesus Christ. We are certainly His, but the wedding itself is yet to come).

[C] Nissuin: The wedding (nissuin) was the next stage of the marriage process. It was always a surprise for the bride, she never knew when the groom was going to come. Finally, the groom's father would approve all the preparations his son had made and would release him to go get his bride. A great processional would be made, to the bride's home. Typically, this processional would happen at night. The groomsmen and other attendants would carry large torches through the streets to illuminate their path, with lots of noise, horns blowing and fanfare.

The bride and her attendants would be able to hear the approaching party giving her a few minutes to get ready. (This is where the parable of the ten virgins takes place, in Matthew 25). In the final minutes of readiness, the bride was to put on her veil. The bridal veil was a symbol of authority. By placing the veil on her head she was demonstrating to herself and the whole world that she was coming under her husband's authority.

Genesis 24:64-65 "And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she dismounted from the camel and said to the servant, 'Who is that man, walking in the field to meet us?' The servant said, 'It is my master.' So she took her veil and covered herself."

For Rebekah the surprise was that her betrothal would last only one night, but the processional would last nearly two months across 600 miles of desert.

Ancient wedding ceremonies were actually very simple. Before witnesses the bride accepted gifts from her groom, and the groom spoke a few words of acceptance and consecration to his bride. During the wedding ceremony the bride's veil was placed on her husband's shoulder. This signified the bride yielding to her husband's authority. After this the husband drew his wife into the bridal chamber for seven days of celebration.

[D] Fourth part of marriage: The joyful celebration would last one week. As the happy couple stayed in their marriage chamber, being served by their attendants, the guests would partake of a week-long feast. Isaac loved Rebekah from the beginning, and their marriage comforted and strengthened him.

Think of the wedding feast described in Revelation.....

If this post got you to thinking, please leave a comment and join the conversation

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Ancient Jewish Weddings (And What That Has To Do With Christ)

Talking about eschatology is fun, I like it, it's all conjecture and all that really matters is that we know He's coming back, and He's coming back for us.

You all know the analogy of the onion: it's comprised of many layers, as you peel off the outer layer, here is another underneath. That's what this story is like.

A) There are four main characters: Abraham, his chief servant, Isaac and Rebekah.

B) There is the story of an ancient marriage, which had four main parts: The arrangements, which were made by the fathers; the year-long betrothal, which the bride and groom entered into if they each freely agreed to the marriage; the wedding ceremony, which was very short; and the celebration, which was a week long.

C) Theologians have long associated this story with God's redemption of believers: Abraham standing for God the Father sending his unnamed servant into the far country to take a bride for his son, though she doesn't yet know she has been chosen; the servant is like the Holy Spirit, to invite her to come, to woo and win her, bringing her back to the Father's house; Isaac is like Jesus, the sacrificial lamb Who is resurrected, ready to receive and claim His beloved for Himself; Rebekah is like the believer who chooses to leave her old life and enter, by faith, into communion with the Lord

For Abraham, part of imparting his God-given responsibility was finding a godly wife who would uphold godly principles instead of leading her family into idolatry and godless ways.

Genesis 24:24 "And Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he had, 'Put your hand under my thigh, that I may make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell, but will go to my country and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac.'"

It was the custom at that time for the parents to arrange for the marriage of their children, as is still the custom in some eastern and near-eastern nations today. Most theologians believe the servant in this story was Eliezer, and possibly one of the two servants who had accompanied Abraham and Isaac to Mt. Moriah. He would have had a deep understanding of how important this commission was to Abraham.

Putting the hand under the thigh as an oath was an oriental custom recognizing that the loins were the source of life. Multiplying his seed to be a blessing to the whole earth was one of God's unconditional promises to Abraham. For the servant, it was a representation of being bound in the very deepest part of his life. This was a solemn vow concerning the covenant promises of God.

Abraham had begun the marriage process with what was called
[A] The shiddukin: or "the arrangement," where the father would choose the prospective mate for his child. Most often this process began early in the child's life. Often neither person knew who their father was making arrangements with until the time to agree had arrived. In the same way God the Father loved and foreknew from before the creation of the world those who would be redeemed to eternal life through union with Christ. Think of all the places in scripture where God says He has chosen us since before time.

The Biblical principle in this case is that a believer is not to marry someone who has not committed their life to the Lord Jesus Christ. There can be no fellowship of light with darkness, no harmony, no unity. Abraham refused to even entertain the idea, even though finding a godly wife was going to mean lots of risk, dangers and total reliance on God to bring her safely back to Isaac.

Genesis 24:22 "When the camels had finished drinking, the man took a gold ring weighing a half shekel,[a] and two bracelets for her arms weighing ten gold shekels..."

He was all ready to offer betrothal gifts to this young woman once she answered his critical question

Genesis 24:23-24 "...and said, 'Please tell me whose daughter you are. Is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?' She said to him, 'I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, whom she bore to Nahor.'"

Rebekah invited the servant to their home, assuring him of their warm and capable hospitality for his entire caravan.

Genesis 24:26-27 "The man bowed his head and worshiped the LORD and said, 'Blessed be the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the LORD has led me in the way to the house of my master’s kinsmen.'"

[B] Eyrusin: And here began the second stage of the marriage, the betrothal. From verse 22, rings were used as currency in the Middle East before there were coins, and were a sign of a person's wealth. The giving of a betrothal ring was first practiced in ancient times when the groom purchased his bride. The size of the ring showed the wealth of the family.

The ring itself was a symbol of unending love, since the ring has no beginning and no end. This is reminiscent of the Holy Spirit quickening in a believer's heart the call to belief, presenting the pure gold of the gospel, the unending love of God and of eternal life. Think about how the Bible talks about Jesus purchasing us with something far more valuable than even gold – His own life. Rebekah accepted these gifts as the servant worshiped God for the success of his mission.

1) Kinyan

Genesis 24:28-31a "Then the young woman ran and told her mother’s household about these things. Rebekah had a brother whose name was Laban. Laban ran out toward the man, to the spring. As soon as he saw the ring and the bracelets on his sister’s arms, and heard the words of Rebekah his sister, 'Thus the man spoke to me,' he went to the man. And behold, he was standing by the camels at the spring. He said, 'Come in, O blessed of the LORD.'"

A lawful marriage required an act of kinyan: that the bride be given -- and that she accept -- something of nominal value from the groom. Laban understood that Rebekah had just accepted, however tacitly, a proposal from the servant, so he ran out to invite him into their home to wash his feet, be fed and hopefully describe a little more fully what he proposed, while the camels and the rest of his company were taken care of. In the east you never talk business until after you've eaten.

So it was very unusual for the servant to refuse food until he had delivered the story of his mission. He left nothing out, but was forthright and candid. He began by talking about the glories of Abraham, telling about all his wealth, flocks, herds, silver and gold, servants, camels and donkeys.

Genesis 24:35 "'The LORD has greatly blessed my master, and he has become great. He has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male servants and female servants, camels and donkeys.'"

Why? Verse 36 "To him he has given all he has." Because this would be the inheritance of Isaac, Rebekah's future husband.

2) Ketuvah At the time of betrothal, a ketuvah, a written notice of intentions, would be presented to the bride and her father by the groom and his father. This ketuvah clearly defined the agreed upon conditions of the covenant being entered. Specifically it detailed the bride price and the other conditions of the marriage.

The ketuvah was much more than the marriage license we acquire today to authorize our legal unions. This contract was initiated by the groom obligating him to his bride. The legal document detailed the groom’s responsibilities to his wife including his promise to serve, support and sustain his bride and denying himself for her good. In a culture that predominately viewed women as property, the document accompanied a monetary obligation in the case of a divorce as well. The ketuvah elevated the woman to a valued companion in life emphasizing the protection of the wife and her welfare in the Jewish community.

Today the contracts are still written in Aramaic and elaborately decorated on high quality parchment. The ketuvah is signed by the groom and two witnesses and preserved by the bride. Tradition held that the bride remained in her father’s house for one year until the wedding, but they were considered man and wife at the signing of the contract. The bride had no conditions or obligations in the contract, but received and held her husband’s commitment as a gift. She only need remain pure until the designated marriage feast at which time the groom would arrive to gather his bride to himself.

The bride at this point had a choice to make. She could accept the ketuvah, or she could walk away. The servant presented his case:

Genesis 24:49 "'Now then, if you are going to show steadfast love and faithfulness to my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, that I may turn to the right hand or to the left.'"

Here again is that swirl of currents, God's sovereign will and humankind's genuine free will: God had chosen Rebekah for Isaac, and yet Rebekah was also presented with a choice to make.

As the servant related his story, Rebekah was given an opportunity to observe him closely: a man of integrity, a man of faith and serious intent, his words could be trusted and God was blessing him with clear guidance and success. In the same way the Bible states that once you and I are presented with the Gospel, we have a choice to make: to accept Jesus' offer of salvation from the penalty of sin, to be joined with Him in eternal life, love and be loved by Him forever in heaven, or to reject Him and remain under God's wrath over sin. The Holy Spirit is at work, enlivening your heart to the winsomeness of Christ, and at the same time you are given the choice to make.

More next week.......

If this post got you to thinking, please leave a comment and join the conversation

Monday, November 30, 2009

Personal experience must be interpreted by the Bible

...and not the Bible interpreted through personal experience.

This is one of the most valuable life lessons I have learned so far as a believer, and I learned it twelve years ago when I moved to Maryland. Until that time I had been interpreting the Bible through the lens of a vivid experience.

On a beautiful spring day, when I was twenty-one years old, I was walking to a friend's house. As I was walking I suddenly "heard" a man's voice speak to me. I even turned to look for the source of the voice. But I couldn't see anyone. I realized that the "voice" had to have been internal, which made sense considering what this voice said to me:

"You have twenty-four hours to make a decision. I have given you as much time as you can have, and now you must decide whether you belong to Me, or to the world. If you decide against Me you will be cut off, and there will be no more chances."

The experience was so vivid, so shocking, that I turned around, in the middle of the side walk, and headed back to my apartment. Once inside I threw myself onto the floor, prostrate, and begged God to take me, to do whatever He had to do to keep me and never let me go. That evening I called my friend and told him about my decision, and that the relationship we were in would have to change or end. Once he heard what "change" meant, he picked "end."

What I interpreted from that event is that our salvation is not sure. I considered myself saved, I had had a "salvation experience" when I was fourteen, warmly receiving the gospel, and had continued, sort of, in a relationship with Jesus that included prayer, Bible study and worship. But my lifestyle, as so many people relate, was not pointed towards Christ. So I thought God was telling me that if I didn't shape up, He would kick me out.

Twelve years ago a person who became (and remains) my closest friend and a wise spiritual mentor, explained to me that my thinking was in error. The Bible reveals the truth, and my personal experiences must be understood in light of that truth.

The Bible, as she showed me, is clear that no one can snatch the Lord's own from His hand; even I cannot snatch myself out of the Lord's hand. So my experience, seen by this light, showed that I had almost but not quite received Christ. I was, as it were, continuing to "taste of the Spirit," without fully receiving Him, though I surely did believe the gospel.

But what about the voice? What was I to make of that? So I went back to the Bible and saw that yes, sometimes God intervenes in vivid ways in people's lives. How could it have been an evil spirit? I was convicted to the core and clung to Christ -- and have done ever since that day, twenty-seven years ago.

I love God's word, and I believe every word of it is living and powerful. Scripture has the same attributes as God Himself, in a very real way, as they are His God-breathed, published communication to us. There is no guesswork with scripture, at least in the fact that it is published and will not change. Knowing that God speaks to me Spirit to spirit in no way diminishes His published word. In fact, I have dedicated my life to teaching the Bible and training others to study the Bible, to lead Bible study discussion groups and to shepherd others by giving them scripture and urging them to pray and ask God for insight (rather than posing themselves as the final authority or answer) and so on.

When I am writing a lecture, I ask God to give me insight, clarity of teaching, to guide me to the right commentaries, to direct my thinking along the paths that He intends for my audience to travel. I ask Him for meaningful principles and applications of His word, for illustrations that will capture the audience's imagination and help them enter into the meaning of the passage. I ask Him to inhabit the words of each lecture when I speak it so that His word and meaning is what is translated into every heart and mind represented in the room. I am completely confident that God answers those prayers with the very things I have asked Him for.

When I am praying for someone I ask God for discernment for what I should ask in prayer, and often I ask Him to give me a scripture to pray for that person. It is uncanny how those scriptures end up being incredibly apt, pointed and personal when I later speak with that person.

I often pray God will show me what I need to know about someone when I am considering inviting them into our leadership circle. Don't you know, every time, if something needs to come out it does, in incredible ways. How often have I heard someone say to me, "I don't know why I just told you that. I've never told anyone that before today." I am the keeper of thousands of secrets by now.

God has never, ever told me anything wrong or steered me in a wrong direction. If I ask Him, for instance, should I invite this person now and I sense "no" I take that as no, and every time I have later discoverd why "no" was the sense I got. Same with "yes."

Some argue that if everyone believes that they can personally hear from God, that would create anarchy -- everyone would be going their own way...right?

This question is posed by the kind of person who does not believe that God can communicate to people individually, nor that God knows how to help people recognize His guidance.

If you believe that the Lord speaks to you, and you believe that He is the God of order and that He desires that His people be unified, then you have to interpret each life example in the light of the truth of scripture.

Will it cause anarchy in the marital relationship for instance? The husband is sure that God is leading him and his wife to do "A" and the wife is sure that God is leading them both to do "B." What's going on?

Either the husband or the wife has not discerned God's leading. They need to continue to pray together, seek wise counsel, ask God to reveal Himself in the scripture passages they are currently studying, and be mindful of what their circumstances are as well. God is trustworthy, and if both the husband and the wife truly want to follow God's will, and are not resisting His guidance, and are not vacillating (James 1) about the insight God has already given them...then they will come to the same decision together.

Bottom line, God's priorities are not the same as ours, so often. His priority for that couple might be to grow them spiritually as they work through their dilemna. They may realize that moving was never God's intention, but that their marriage needed working on, or maybe one of them has become calloused towards God, or maybe they have both gotten into the habit of making decisions independant of prayer and the study of God's word...or whatever.

When I am down I ask God for comfort and He gives it -- through His word, through a song that might come on, through a friend who might call, and sometimes simply by an inward warmth and joy and comfort.

When I have lost something, I pray and put it all into God's hands, asking Him to help me find it or show me how to deal with not having it. God gets all the glory when I find it. He gets all the glory if He otherwise shows me how to move on without it.

I simply cannot imagine what life would be like without this inner communication with God. It is more than precious to me.

If this post got you to thinking, please leave a comment and join the conversation

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Conflict Resolution By Confessing Sin

We’ve been talking about how to encourage each other and build each other up through the humble and loving use of correction. We’ve talked about conflict resolution, about confronting someone with a sin, and now we’re going to talk about confessing our own sin.

It’s hard to admit to sin sometimes, even to myself, let alone to God and especially let alone to other people. I know God loves me, and I know He’s promised to forgive me and take me back. In fact, I know God is committed to transforming me into a beautiful and holy person. Confessing to other people feels a whole lot riskier!

Here are ten pointers that can help you and me through this painful process.
1) It’s better to confess to someone before they come to you with your sin. As soon as you think you might have offended someone, or sinned against them, you need to go to that person and confess with the hope of reconciliation

2) Don’t just wait for this meeting to happen, arrange for a time to get together with this person

3) Confess your sin honestly, specifically and completely

4) Avoid glossing over what happened, offering excuses or generalizing. Saying “Sometimes I tend to be harsh” is not nearly as honest and humble as saying “I was harsh to you when I said that thing that I said”

5) The goal is not to clear your conscience but to gain reconciliation with the other person. When you have godly sorrow over your sin, in your heart, you will find this is a lot easier to do

6) Express your sorrow over what you did, and for what’s happened because of it, the consequences

7) Express your willingness to accept whatever consequences there are

8) Identify what you’ve learned from the whole experience

9) Tell the specific ways in which you are going to change as a result

10) Ask for forgiveness, even by saying “Will you forgive me?”

How can you help someone who has come to you with their own confession?

1) Tell that person you forgive them. Be sensitive to when saying “I forgive you” is better than saying “It’s okay” or “Don’t worry about it” because if an offense is truly involved, it’s not okay and it’s worth being concerned about

2) Thank them for coming to confess and seek your forgiveness. Affirm your love and respect for that person. It takes courage and humility to confess sins – to do so is to serve another and to help build godly relationship

3) Ask if that person has any offense towards you as a result of the incident, and confess any sin you may have contributed to the situation

4) Agree with that person that the whole episode is over, it’s been thrown into the farthest reaches of the sea, never to be seen again. You’re moving forward together, fully reconciled.

If this post got you to thinking, please leave a comment and join the conversation

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Conflict Resolution By Confronting Sin: Continued

We’ve been talking about how to encourage each other through loving and humble correction. This week we’ll talk about confronting someone with what you see as sin. Next week we’ll talk about confessing your own sin.

Remember that before you confront someone
• you need to find a time when you can be face to face
• You’ve prayed deeply and humbly
• You know without a doubt that God is calling you to speak to this person
• You are ready to come along side this person and help in the work the Holy Spirit is doing in their life
• You have defined the problem using scripture
• You have examined your own heart, your motives, your attitude and the possibility of sin on your part

Ultimately God’s grace will determine the effectiveness of any confrontation. Still, there are ways that you can help this part be effective:
1. Speak privately with this person, as Jesus instructed

2. Plan ahead so there will be few distractions

3. Affirm your genuine love and warm affection for this person before you say anything more. You are there to speak the truth in love

4. Share your perceptions as honestly and clearly as possible. Use biblical language, but don’t be like a prosecutor

5. Keep a spirit of discovery. You don’t know the whole story. Ask them to help you see this from their point of view, then really be teachable

6. Offer Biblical counsel and solutions, including going to a pastor or other trusted helper

7. Give enough time to the process, don’t demand an immediate response

8. Pray with and for the person

9. After a certain amount of time, as the Lord leads, follow up with your love and affection, your concern and your assurance of help

If the person chose not to receive your correction, don’t give up. Jesus told us how to handle that in Matthew 18

If someone confronts you with a sin or an offense, you can help in several ways
1) listen humbly and prayerfully

2) Confess and ask forgiveness wherever possible

3) If you need some time to process and pray over what the person told you, ask for it. – Note: if you have to do this every time you are corrected, you might need to carefully examine your heart for pride and unteachableness

4) Thank and affirm the person for coming to you, and for having the courage to confront you

They served you in the spirit of Galatians 6:1-5, by pointing out a sin, or seeking to reconcile their relationship with you.

If this post got you to thinking, please leave a comment and join the conversation

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Conflict Resolution By Confronting Sin

Last week you and I looked at how resolving conflict is one way to bring godly correction. The second way you and I can correct each other in godliness is through confronting sin.

Whether you were sinned against, or you become aware of a fellow believer caught up in a pattern of sin, confrontation might be the right next step.

To “confront” just means “to bring face to face.” I’m not talking about those scary scenes where one person clearly has the floor and is making a speech full of criticism and judgement and the other person is trying not cry or be completely humiliated. I’m talking about getting face to face with someone because you love them deeply, from the heart, and you want to help them see a particular sin in their life, or to work through a conflict, or offense, to bring about forgiveness and reconciliation.

Scripture lays out several principles to follow when confronting someone about sin.
Proverbs 19:11A person’s wisdom gives them patience; it is their glory to overlook an offense.” If you are able to genuinely forgive someone, completely resolving the offense in your heart and mind, then no confrontation is necessary

However you must confront someone if
• you are unable to get the incident out of your mind
• you are unable to have a normal relationship with the person who has offended you or sinned against you
• you believe someone has something against you but is not coming to you

1) First, when a friend has sinned and you believe you need to speak to them ask yourself
• Is this sin a pattern
• Is it serious enough to need immediate attention?
• Am I the one to confront in this case?

When you are called to confront someone you are really being called to come alongside the work the Holy Spirit is already doing in that person’s life, not be the Holy Spirit.

2) Second, define the problem.
• What are you confronting this person about?
• What did this person do or say?
• Was sin involved, or was it a mistake, or a misunderstanding?
• What is the impact?
• How does this person need to change?

2 Timothy 3:16-17 Make sure you define things Biblically, since it is only Scripture, and not our own thoughts and feelings, that is "God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man or woman of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

3) Third, make sure the log is out of your own eye, Matthew 7:1-5 in connection with Galatians 6:1. Confront in humility and fear of the Lord. If you are confronting someone who has sinned against you, you will often discover that your own sin has contributed to the situation.

Examine your heart. Is it possible that you might have become offended without there ever having been an offense? Maybe someone just did something that exposed your own selfishness, or pride. Sometimes being overly sensitive is really about that.

4) Prepare your heart
• Make sure your motives are right, to glorify God, turn your brother or sister away from sin, and be reconciled. In other words, not to win your case, or straighten them out, put them in their place, or relieve your own irritation.
• Make sure your attitude is right – gentleness, patience, humility and genuine concern for the well-being of the other person.
• Pray for effectiveness in communicating your concerns, that the other person’s heart would be prepared to receive, for your own teachableness, for God’s grace for repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation

If this post got you to thinking, please leave a comment and join the conversation

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Conflict Resolution in Marriage

One thing all marriages share in common, even the very best ones, is conflict.

One of the vital ways you and I minister to each other, helping each other to mature in Christ, and to spur each other on, is through this main skill in the art of correction: conflict resolution.

Conflict is inevitable because we disagree with each other from time to time, because and because we’re sinners. But the Bible teaches that we’re to see conflict as an opportunity to demonstrate God’s presence and His power, and opportunity to glorify God and to grow to be like the Lord Jesus.

A. Often the way to deal with conflict is to avoid it with the idea that it is better, as one author put it, to build guard rails at the top of the cliff than an ambulance service at the bottom.” I don’t mean in unhealthy ways, like
1. Making certain subjects taboo
2. Hoping a problem will disappear if you ignore it
3. Just avoiding that person altogether
4. Being extra nice so that person will be nice too
5. If they say something, pretending that no offence was taken, that it was no problem, no big deal
6. Getting a whole bunch of people on your side first, so that person wouldn’t dare to attack you
7. Acting like it never happened

Healthy Ways
1. Keep communication open and honest
2. Invite others to be open and honest too by the way you respond to what they say
3. Have realistic expectations based on the other person’s spiritual and emotional maturity, circumstances and limitations
4. Be clear about your hopes and expectations
5. Deal with the little things before they turn into big things

B. Work through the conflict with a three-fold goal in mind to (1) solve the problem (2) grow closer during the process (3) become more godly through the process
1. Evaluate the conflict: is there sin involved, is it just a misunderstanding or disagreement, or a personal preference? Be quick to listen and slow to speak so you can get a grasp of what actually happened and how it made everyone feel
2. Stay on the subject. Deal with one thing at a time.
3. Don’t try to assign motives
4. Don’t bring up the past
5. This is not a time to vent, accuse, complain, or indulge self-pity

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

How To Be Miserable

How you interpret what happens in your life, is going to have a profound affect on what you what you think and how you feel about God, and your life.

In my daily devotions, I came across this remarkable list that reveals a certain mindset.

Title: Several Ways to Make Yourself Miserable

* Count your troubles, name them one by one -- at the breakfast table, if anybody will listen, or as soon as possible thereafter.

* Worry every day about something. Don't let yourself get out of practice. It won't add a cubit to your stature but it might burn a few calories.

* Pity yourself. If you do enough of this, nobody else will have to do it for you.

* Devise clever but decent ways to serve God and mammon. After all, a man's gotta live.

* Make it your business to find out what the Joneses are buying this year and where they're going. Try to do them at least one better even if you have to take out another loan to do it.

* Stay away from absolutes. It's what's right for you that matters. Be your own person and don't allow yourself to get hung up on what others expect of you.

* Make sure you get your rights. Never mind other people's. You have your life to live, they have theirs.

* Don't fall into any compassion traps -- the sort of situation where people can walk all over you. If you get too involved in other people's troubles, you may neglect your own.

* Don't let Bible reading and prayer get in the way of what's really relevant -- things like TV and newspapers. Invisible things are eternal. You want to stick with the visible ones -- they're where it's at now.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I keep thinking what a sweet gift Jesus gave Peter when He sent him fishing. Peter loved fishing! He was a fisherman. All twelve of the disciples were regular guys from every walk of life who had given up career and family to follow Jesus. With Jesus they constantly faced situations that took them out of their comfort zones, that required them to do the impossible.

Were they all really suited to become apostles, evangelists, preachers and teachers? Were they really suited to establish a world movement, write scripture, oversee a whole new way of life, face torture and death? Is this anything they would have chosen for themselves if Jesus hadn’t called them?

The apostle Paul was suited to be a rabbi, preaching in the vaulted colonnades of Solomon’s porch. As the protege of the famous Rabbi Gamaliel, he was on his way to stardom. Instead, Paul became something he wasn’t in the least suited for. A Pharisee, with extensive knowledge of the oral law and scripture, he became the evangelist to the Gentiles. He finally admitted that to do the job he had to basically forget about everything he had learned and just preach the gospel in simple terms.

He had been born to wealth and privilege, and ended up with very little to call his own, working as a tentmaker and itinerant preacher. He was regularly beat up, and a couple times left for dead, shipwrecked, exposed to the elements and worse.

But Paul had this to say about the work God had given him to do, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.” (Phil 4:11-12). Later, he told Timothy “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” (I Tim 6:6-10)

Philip Doddridge, a pastor 250 years ago prayed this prayer about contentment, “O Thou wise and merciful Governor of the world! I have often said, ‘Thy will be done;’ and now Thy will is painful to me. But shall I upon that account unsay what I have so often said? ‘God forbid!’ I come rather to lay myself down at Thy feet, and to declare my full and free submission to all Thy sacred pleasure.”

What would you like God to ask you to do? Now, what if you were to empty your thoughts and feelings of all your own desires, and were to say to God, as pastor Doddridge did, “Do with me as You will.” What do you think God would ask you to do? God will certainly call you to join the harvest.

There is hard work to be done, and often it is work that may not suit you, may not draw out the gifts you would like to have developed, may require you to get out of your comfort zone and do the impossible. This is when the lesson of contentment is so important.

Jeremiah Burroughs, a pastor 350 years ago, said “Contentment is that sweet, inward, gracious frame of spirit which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal at every condition.” You look for the things that can be enjoyed, because you delight in God’s wisdom of calling of you.

And sometimes the God who knows you, and knows what blesses you ,will surprise you, as Jesus did with Peter, with something you are perfectly suited for, and which you will enjoy to the hilt. Peter was going to give up fishing entirely so he could do what God had called him to do. But what God called him to do was fish!

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Time Management

Successfully managing your time implies that you are accomplishing what is the most important for you.

When you don't accomplish what you truly want, you feel overwhelmed, compromised, frustrated, stressed out. A lot of times people try to use time management techniques that work for other people, only to be disappointed. Often this is because they haven’t figured out what goals are the most important to them and gear the techniques toward those goals.

So the first step in effective time management has to include techniques for good prioritizing.

Myths About Time Management
(1) MYTH: My life is completely controlled by external events.

FACT: You can have some control over a lot of what happens in your life, but you are the only one who can initiate that control. Ask God to help you recognize what you can control, and what you can't control before you start figuring out what you’re going to do with your day. Be realistic about how long things take to do, and how much time you need between things. Put in margin for travel time, for rest and meals, for unexpected interruptions.

(2) MYTH: I should be able to meet everyone's expectations.

FACT: Other people’s expectations of you are not always going to be realistic. Some- times other people’s expectations are based on a different set of priorities than yours. Ask God to show you what He expects of you, and how you can please Him first.

(3) MYTH: I should have no limits.

FACT: We all have limits. Sometimes we can trip ourselves up by expecting perfection, and only God is perfect. Instead ask God to show you how to be efficient and responsible with the resources He has given you. Ask God to show you how to strive for excellence, without getting hung up on perfection.

Try some specific techniques
(1) Organize your day around your energy levels. Figure out when your energy is high and do your most important things, like praying and studying God’s word, then. Save your less important work for those times when you have less energy.

(2) Optimize your work environment. Keep the things you need, like your Bible, your lesson and something to write with, in your work area. Make sure the environment is good for concentrating as well as for comfort. You know what works best for you.

(3) Safeguard blocks of time. Instead of looking at the deadline, look at when you should start doing something. Protect your time by saying "no" to the kinds of interruptions you can avoid – you don’t have to answer the phone or e-mail right now.

(4) Prioritize the things you want to do. You know you’re going to prepare and serve three meals today, you’re going to shower and clean up, and you’re going to go to bed. Those are nonnegotiable, so you plan around them. What else is nonnegotiable? Make spending time in God’s word as high a priority as eating a meal.

(5) Plan ahead according to your priorities. If you neglect certain activities they will catch up with you eventually, throw your life out of balance and undermine your high priority efforts. If you have a tendency to procrastinate, then include them in your planning and reward yourself for doing them. You are, in essence, parenting yourself as you teach yourself better habits.

(6) Avoid over-planning. Don’t make yourself crazy. Ask God to continually show you where you are being responsible and where you can do better. Thank Him for His wisdom, and then act on it.

The truly disciplined person is the person who can do what needs to be done when it needs to be done.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Battle For Your Mind

The greatest battle that goes on in the world today is for the mind.

During the early, formative years of our lives, you and I learned to live independently from God – we were born with this tendency, as has every human being since Adam and Eve, even when you are born to parents who know and love Jesus.

When you became a Christian nobody pushed the delete button in your head to make you forget how to live independently of God. All those thoughts and feelings are still in there, and this is what Scripture calls the flesh, it’s all permanently recorded in your memory.

You and I learned how to cope with life using thought patterns and behavior patterns that are not compatible with God’s way
• Lots of people learned to lie to protect or promote themselves
• We refuse to face the truth so we pretend it doesn’t exist – some people call this denial
• We indulge in a fantasy life because real life is unpleasant
• We withdraw from people so people won’t reject us
• We regress, revert to behavior from our childhoods
• We take our frustrations out on other people,
• We blame others for our troubles
• We make excuses for ourselves

All these ways of coping are similar to what Paul called strongholds in 2 Corinthians. The word “stronghold” could also be translated “fortress”, it’s your world view that was shaped by the environment you grew up in, and in which you now live, it makes you feel strong to face life. Since you can’t wipe that slate clean, you and I have to unlearn what we learned during those years without Jesus.

That’s why Paul said, in
Romans 12:2 “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
Even as believers you and I can still be conformed to this world by listening to the wrong music, watching the wrong shows, reading the wrong material, or even just being barraged with all of the advertizement that’s aimed at us.

You and I have to retrain our minds, we have to renounce the lies, reprogram the way we think by renewing our minds daily with God’s word, and we have to commit to believing the truth, speaking the truth and applying the truth every chance we get -- no white lies, no manipulation, no social niceties that are intended to deceive.

Satan knows that if he can control your thoughts, he can control your life because what you think will determine what you do and say.

in 2 Corinthians 2:10-11 Paul instructed the Corinthians to forgive the person they had been disciplining so that they would not be ignorant of Satan’s schemes – in other words, Satan takes advantage of the thought lives of people who refuse to forgive others. Unforgiveness is a major reason why people remain in bondage to their past instead of being free in Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:3-4, Satan has blinded the minds of unbelievers
2 Corinthians 11:3 The serpent is crafty enough to lead even Christians astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Jesus.
Scripture clearly teaches that Satan is capable of putting thoughts into people’s minds. These deceptive thoughts sound just like your own voice, so you think you’re thinking your own thoughts. (1 Chronicles 21:1 and John 13:2)

The antidote to Satan’s deceptions and schemes is found in 2 Corinthians 10:5, disciplining yourself to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Does that sound like work? It is. Hard work! You must take every thought because the problem with deception is that you don’t know if you are being fooled, since you might already be deceived. So you ask Jesus: is this thought worthy of You? Does this thought pass muster with Your word in the Bible?

God has given you and me an excellent sifter for thoughts: it’s found in

Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Most of the time our little captive thought won’t even pass the first test “whatever is true.” More often than not, our thoughts are based on what we imagine must be the truth, what we project must be the truth, but there is no proof of veracity. Take each of those words in that verse and meditate on them. Is it honorable.... really? Is your thought just, does it give fair judgement? Is it a pure thought? Is it beautiful or is it ugly? Would you commend this thought to someone else? To God? Is it an excellent or a shabby thought? And is what you’re thinking worth praising? Are you proud of that thought?

God cares deeply about your thought life: Jesus said love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind...” Matthew 22:37)

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Does t.v. really rot your brain?

If you’ve been reading the news, and news journals, you know that recently there’s been a lot of research coming out about the brain. One current article says, “The most interesting and complicated frontier in science is the human brain. This three pound universe has seemingly unlimited capabilities, yet in spite of advancements in neuroscience, the brain remains the most mysterious force in existence.”

Research has discovered that
• Men and women think differently because our brains are formed significantly differently
• Near-death experiences have been replicated in the lab simply with the use of well-placed electrodes on the head
• The old saying is completely not true: 90% of our brain does not lie dormant – we use 100% of our brain.

But ironically, with all this excitement over the brain, a trend has been happening in our society that one author calls the cultural pattern of mindlessness: the inability, or at least the unwillingness, to look at what is happening around us in an analytical and critical way. The chief culprit seems to be television. Chances are that, at some point in your life, someone — probably a parent — has told you to "stop watching television, it rots your brain." Guess what?! There is strong evidence it really does. Only 30 seconds of watching television causes the human brain to produce alpha waves, which are associated with an inert, almost comatose state.

Research shows that watching television "numbs" the left brain and shifts activity to the right, sometimes permanently. That’s not so good, since it’s the left brain that handles the organization, analysis and judgment of incoming information.

When you are watching television, your higher brain regions shut down, and activity shifts to the lower brain. The function of the lower brain is reactive — it only responds to stimuli, like the "fight or flight" response.

And your lower brain can’t tell the difference between real and pretend images, like all those murders, scenes of adultery, criminal activity, suspenseful situations, weird spooky images, sassy naughtiness and so on. Telling the difference between real and pretend is the job of the higher brain region -- which has, remember, been shut down by you watching t.v. So your lower brain, the only part of you that is actually on while you’re watching your show, reacts to television events and images as though they were really happening, causing the release, into your brain and your body, of a whole cocktail of stress hormones and adrenalin.

Watching t.v. also causes your brain to release endorphins – the feel-good chemicals that can get you addicted. Several studies have proven that your body actually suffers withdrawal symptoms if you cut down on your regular t.v. time. One study paid 182 people to agree to stop watching television for a year. Not one of them made it longer than six months and they all showed the symptoms of opiate withdrawal: increased anxiety, frustration and depression.

The consequences of this can be pretty bad; long-term television watchers could find their judgment severely impaired; and children who watch hours of t.v. every day might actually have their brains' development altered.

How deeply do you believe that your mind can be transformed just by reading, thinking about and applying scripture? The fact is even television has the power to change you. Some researchers contend that t.v. is making us dumber. The more you watch it, the more time you spend with your brain effectively "turned off," in effect consciously reducing the amount of time you spend alive, conscious and a part of the world. Wow! No wonder God says to us today -- don’t be conformed to the world anymore, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind!

[Washington Week]

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Friday, August 14, 2009

What Would Jesus Do?

One trap that you and I can fall into in thinking about life with God is the formula mindset. Formulas are like recipes. If you follow the formula carefully you will get the same result every time. Here are some formulas you and I might get tripped up by:

1) If we keep God’s law we will prosper
This is always true...spiritually. But it isn’t always true materially. People often go through some very rough experiences, not because they've sinned, but because they were completely obedient to God -- the Lord Jesus is a case in point.

What you and I need to guard against is feeling put out with God when we think He has unfairly allowed us to suffer when we were being so good. And we need to guard against jumping to the conclusion that our brother or sister in Christ is being punished by God when they are going through a rough time. Punishment and pruning hurt the same, but they are very different spiritual activities.

2) If we raise our children right they will come out right
Statistically this statement is true. But the whole truth is that you and I live in a broken world full of sin and full of sinners. Every one of us must come to God individually, and confess our own sins. Your child, and my child, must come before God themselves. Being brought up in the Lord, with lots of love and lots of good scriptural training gives your child, and mine, a wonderful advantage. But ultimately you and I can’t give them a relationship with Jesus. That is between them and God.

3) If we pray the right way God will give us what we’ve asked for
And it’s true that God says to pray in all things, what you ask in Jesus’ name He will give, persevere in asking, sometimes you and I must consider fasting and praying. But the whole truth is that sometimes God’s answer to prayer is the word “No,” because God knows your life, and He knows you. Sometimes “No” is the best possible answer, and will bring the greatest good in your life. No matter how fervently, how persevering and how sacrificial the prayer, sometimes God will not give what is being asked of Him.

4) If our heart motivation is right, then what we do is right
Wrong. This is no better than being a rule follower. If all you and I do is check to see if we think our heart is in the right place, then we are using a formula that leaves out God. The Lord Jesus often said He did only what the Father gave HIm to do and He said only what the Father gave Him to say. Sometimes we even get to see this worked out before our very eyes. Remember when Mary, Jesus' mother, asked Him to do something about the wine crisis at the wedding in Cana? Jesus told her His time hadn't come yet. But the Father intervened, as we know, because right after that Jesus did something about the wine.

Remember when Jesus' brothers asked Him to go with them to Jerusalem for the Feast? Jesus told them He wasn't going. But the Father intervened, and later, quietly, Jesus did go. The Bible doesn't say "the Father intervened," but we can know He did because the Son changed course. Jesus' heart was always in the right place, being without sin. But that alone did not determine what He did. He was intimately, organically connected with the Father at all times through the Spirit and that is how He ended up doing and saying what He did.

How do you and I know how to answer the question "What Would Jesus Do?" By NOT following a formula mindset. Instead, Colossians 2, "hold fast to the Head" and receive directly from Christ, in Whom is the full Deity, what to say and do.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

How many of you have had to be a boss – I don’t mean being the boss of your children, or being the oldest in your family growing up, how many of you heard that special phrase “You’re not the boss of me!” growing up? Often businesses will reward people who work hard and get a lot done by making them managers. Getting work done is task-oriented. But managing is people-oriented. That’s a big stretch!

One way managers and leaders try to corral human behavior is with rules, and I’ve come across a few crazy laws this past week:
• You’re not allowed to keep an ice cream cone in your back pocket in Alabama
• It’s forbidden to walk around in Lawrence, Kansas, carrying bees in your hat
• It is unlawful to lend your vacuum cleaner to your next-door neighbor in Denver
• Nobody is allowed sing in your bathtub in Pennsylvania

Every state has crazy laws because people are creative, and sin abounds!

Lots of bosses find themselves at a loss in how to get the work done, meet the deadlines, produce what’s asked of them and at the same time manage others well, bring out the best in the individuals that work for them, keep the work atmosphere healthy, and, yes, “bear the sword,” commend, but also punish, promote but also fire.

Have any of you had to fire someone? Think of what that must feel like for the boss – how many of us actually enjoy confrontation, or telling someone they’re performing so poorly they have to go?

You know how hard it is to keep law and order at home, just think of you were a police officer! You know how hard it is to adjudicate between two angry friends, or two angry children. What would it be like to be a judge? What would it be like having to make decisions that will affect a whole nation?

As soon as you are a boss you become the focus of all the people who work for you. You’re out there, public access, you can’t hide now. People will feel free to form opinions about you, not just how you are as a boss, but who you are as a person, everything will come under scrutiny. And people will feel free to share their opinions of you with each other. We’ve actually made it a national pastime to scrutinize every tiny detail of our public figures, really highlighting all the flaws and weak spots, all the indiscretions and transgressions, have you noticed that? What a price to pay for agreeing to lead.

As you read your newspaper, drink your coffee, and debrief the air on what a lousy job our government is doing, pray with compassion for our leaders and governing authorities, God has appointed them to a high calling and a hard job!

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Devil

The spirits were out in the world that year. Sun Myung Moon had been releasing them as he spread his Divine Principle throughout Italy, Germany, Belgium and Holland.

By 1969, two years after my father and I had returned to America, the spirits were spread across the Atlantic, gathered wherever people gathered, like undulating waves of fervor, frothing up ecstatic joy among five hundred thousand worshipers of love, hallucinations and the throb of music in Woodstock, New York. Moving west to California, the spirits churned up ecstatic violence among Charles Manson and his worshipers; offering up the blood of humans to the spirits.

That same year Sun Myung Moon performed the sacred rite of marriage for the first non-Korean followers of his unification movement. Forty-three couples were joined together in unholy matrimony, to worship and serve the “True Father;” but also to serve the spirits he had brought with him. To serve evil. Among those special chosen was my erstwhile mother, who was already one of the Inner Circle, those who would lead and organize the “Unificationizing” of the United States.

The spirits frightened the teachers at my school, where I had successfully completed the second grade, and was beginning to feel some confidence as a third grader. The teachers spoke often of hell, of what horrors it held, the screaming, the gnashing of teeth, and I imagined teeth bursting in an explosion of tiny pebbles from the heat and the flames of hell. But the terrors of hell were nothing compared to the Devil. Here was evil at its most concentrated, the distillation of perfidy, of wickedness at its worst. We must resist the devil, for he drags the unsuspecting to hell, he fills them with his terrible spirit and causes them to do evil, even to become evil.

I had grown quite fed up with all of this frightened talk. The hand wringing and rounded eyes, the finger wagging and trembling voices. “Where is this devil?” I asked. I was no stranger to evil and its horrors. I was almost certain I had seen a picture of the devil himself in our living room in Italy. “Does he have black hair? Does he have a big shiny forehead? Does he smile like this?” I squinted my eyes and put on my most malignant, evil smile, frightening in its insincerity, the angel of darkness concealed in light.

The teacher could not answer me at first. Then she explained that the devil was a spirit, he was invisible, we could not see him, which is why he was so dangerous. “Well, is he visible in hell?” I was wondering to myself where that picture of him had been taken. Yes, the teacher slowly nodded; yes, very likely he was visible in hell.

I decided to put an end to all this terror. After I confirmed that heaven was “up there” and hell was “down there,” I began to dig a hole in the playground at every recess. Soon the other children began to help me. “We are going to dig to hell, and we are going to kill the devil.” It was a simple, yet powerful plan, for nearly all the children became as passionate and committed as I was, without reservation, to remove evil from our world.

Only the teachers were troubled. They questioned me in tremulous voices. Was I not growing tired of this project? Would I not like to play with the other children? My scorn for the ineffectiveness of grownups only increased. It was no wonder the devil and his evil were loose everywhere. Like my mother, they were weak, impressionable, held under his dark power even from so far away. But I would protect them before the devil arrived in Mount Vernon, New York. I would do the simple, practical thing and kill him myself.

Unfortunately, my father grew concerned that my school was not a good place for me, and had me transferred to another school where all the playgrounds were pavement.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

First Day Of School

I'm going to be offline for a couple of weeks, away to a wedding among our extended family in Minnesota. So I thought I would tell some stories from my childhood. This is the first of a two part story concerning the first school I went to in America.


My father and I had agreed to leave Italy behind us. We would start fresh, no looking back. The past was no more.

There was much to forget. We talked about that on the way home in the airplane. No more speaking in Italian to each other, English was our language, we would be full Americans. As I gazed out the window I thought about weeping willows for some reason. Each leaf was a tear, many tears, softly suspended, gently falling, always falling and the wind fluttering the tears through the sky. There are clouds in the sky when you look out the window of an airplane, but no angels.

My father prepared me early in the morning. As he put mayonnaise on the bread ( Wonderbread), and pulled one slice of bologna from the package (Oscar Myer), he said, “Today we will look at a school for you.” I watched as he reached for the apple (Red Delicious) and put the sandwich and the apple into my lunch box. “You can decide if you would like to be in first grade, or second grade, or third grade.” I could decide. I wanted to be in third grade. I could read and write, and do arithmetic, but all in Italian. My English might not be strong enough. Perhaps I would be in first grade.

We arrived at the school, and my heart pounded. There would be strange people here, people I did not know. There would be much I had to forget to fit into this new school. I would be starting all over again. How big would the children be in third grade? I held onto my father’s hand as we walked from the bright sunlight into the darkness of the entry hall.

Inside the classroom an American flag stood in the front left corner, on a tall golden pole. A white flag with a golden cord stood in the right corner (I discovered later it was to represent the church). In between was a large black board, powdery with chalk, with the teacher’s desk in front of it. The children sat at their desks, facing the teacher, and as we looked at the backs of their heads my father bent down to whisper to me that the first grade was on the left side of the room, and the second grade was on the right. Third grade was in a room all by itself.

I held onto his hand as he explained to the teacher about me. “I would like for her to decide for herself,” he said, as the teacher looked down at me. Grownups did that when my father would explain about us. They would look down at me and nod their heads, and make small sounds like “oh” and “I see.”

I listened to the children talk to each other. I studied the books the teacher showed me. “Does she know how to do math?” she said to my father. Only in Italian. “Can she read?” Not very well in English. I thought about my beautiful books, filled with writing I had done myself. I thought about how the nuns had praised my addition and subtraction, and my new skill of multiplication. I thought about the taxi drive to the airport, with only my father, and my sisters.

I decided on second grade. My father smiled, and the teacher nodded, but I listened, in my heart, to the wind rustling the weeping willow.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Complementarian or Egalitarian?

It's hard to talk about this subject without everyone agreeing on the definition of each word. For example, the words "head," "authority" and "submission." These three words can get bandied about and change definition from person to person.

So for "head," I see the man as the "head of the line" in his family, not like the head on top of the neck (reference "My Big, Fat Greek Wedding"). He leads the way, but not because he is better, or smarter, or anything-er. He and his wife are in fact both foot soldiers of equal rank and the general is the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ has put one of His foot soldiers at the front of the line. In fact, the smart man has his wife right next to him, not stuck behind him, as they go along the way. In a healthy marriage, in my opinion, there is no need for the man to pull rank (since he has none), or to demand that he get the heavier vote when there is a dispute (as submission is so often described to me). In a healthy marriage, both foot soldiers inquire of the general when there is a dispute and wait until both agree they've heard Him "rightly."

For "authority," I see Jesus carefully pointing out that arguing about who gets to be at the top of the pyramid really doesn't "get" what being in Him is all about. We all of us would actually be already "eldering" each other and not really concerning ourselves at all with who is eldering more, who has been noticed as an elder, or anything like that. As to making decisions for a group...whatever way we believers do this, it really is not to look like the way the pagans do it; that's what the Lord Jesus told His disciples. But we've adopted the way of the pagans anyway, some lording it over others, creating these man-made authority structures.

People gravitate towards those who have a natural authority in them. We've all met people like this, who are good at leading, building up the group, drawing out the best in everyone, making being a group together something bigger than the sum of its parts; someone who people enjoy following. A leader of leaders is the same way, though that kind of leading is different than a leading a group of followers. Getting a diploma, having hands laid on, neither of these things make a person a leader. People naturally follow real leaders, and the love it. That's organic "authority," as to mechanical authority which is contained in a role that can be filled by anyone (whether well, or poorly)

In the microcosm of a family, the natural leader may very well be the woman. If she is worth her weight, she will bring out the best in her husband, and build him up in faith, and help in every way she can to reach his full potential. And if he is a wise man, he wil recognize her strengths and celebrate them. I think that's what David saw in Abigail. I think that's what the writer of Proverbs 31 saw in his wife (I know, I know, Solomon. But perhaps he collected these sayings, and remembered many of them from his own father). Perhaps that's what Lappidoth saw in Deborah, and Aquilla saw in Priscilla, and Andronicus saw in Junia. I think it takes a powerful man who is settled in who he is to be able to do that.

As to submission, this word has often been used as a club (as in heavy item with spikes on one end to pound down the impertinent) in my hearing. Sometimes heavy handedly, and sometimes ever so gently. But still.

All the effervescence, joy and sheer thrill of living by faith and love is gutted from this word when it becomes a legal transaction. I don't think this word means the wife has to "give in" to the husband's decisions. The way it's taught, even if the wife is the one who is educated in an area, has experience there, has connections, or ability or domain in a particular are, it's her husband who lands the decisions, and she must "submit" to what he wants. But he's the man, you see. he's the head. He has authority. So she, with all her experience and education, is shut down. She has to "submit."

This kind of "submit" is bereft of all the beauty I see elsewhere in the description of living by faith, abiding in Christ, Philippians 1 and 2 and so on. The church has done a real disservice to this otherwise intelligent and God-fearing woman and her husband. How much better for them to explore this idea one step at a time, asking God to show them each next thing to do, and wait for His response.

Submission is mutual in a marriage. One to another, Philippians style. If a husband and wife are in every way seeking to build each other up in the Lord, helping each other, and together looking to Christ as their mutual Head...this is what I think best illustrates the living parable that marriage is. What Jesus did for His church was set aside all the privileges and dignity of His glory, became a servant and lay down His life, for He loves the church so much. Husband lays down his life. What the church does in response is to become vulnerable to Christ, setting aside all ego to belong entirely to Him because she can trust Him. Wife does that. Neither one "stands on their rights," but rather sets all that aside to be one with each other, serving each other. If this dynamic were always in play, there would never need to be an argument about who gets to make the decisions, pull rank, be the boss, "submit" to the club and so on.

So in the whole complementarian / egalitarian thing, the questions of authority and submission, and who can hold office and so on revolves around this man-made structure of roles in the church. The reason why Phoebe is an outlier is right there in many translations of the Bible, notably the NIV, where she is not acknowledged as a deacon, but as a servant. Stephen is a deacon because men can hold the man-made role of "deacon" in today's church structure; but since women can't in several denominations, Phoebe can not be a "deacon."

Junia can't be a woman if Paul is talking about apostles because women "can't" be apostles. Therefore Paul (or somebody) made a typo and it's "Junias," or "Junia" was simply highly regarded among the apostles.

Lydia is an outlier if she was one of the leaders of the church who met in her home.

I've had my emotional upheavals, trying to come to grips with the teaching (today teaching) on these passages. It's a relief to know that there are strengths and weaknesses in both the complementarian and egalitarian approaches, and probably, as with many things, the truth is somehwere in the middle!

If this post got you to thinking, please leave a comment and join the conversation

Monday, June 8, 2009

"The Rabbit and the Elephant"

..."Why Small Is the New Big for Today's Church"

Tony and Felicity Dale start their book with this signature story from its title -- the difference between rabbits and elephants. I don't want to spoil the story for you, so suffice it to say, in their words, "Something that is large and complex is hard to reproduce. Something that is small and simple multiplies easily."

The whole rest of their book is filled with the same kind of refreshingly simple and sound wisdom, astute observation and sensitivity to what God is doing among the church today.

The real movement of simple church didn't actually begin with us in the west. Many of us know it started in the east, in China, spread to Korea and is also growing south of us in Southern America. Simple churches are springing up in Greece, in Africa, in eastern Europe (where newly built churches buildings are being torn down under all kinds of pretexts), and even in some Muslim countries. How can God multiply the church in countries that are actively, and increasingly, hostile to Christianity?

And just as importantly, in our own country, where sentiment towards traditional Christianity is changing from warm acceptance to open and active dislike, how can God revive His church here?

By bringing the center of attention onto His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who has managed to keep a good reputation among nonbelievers.

By bypassing the institution of church, which has lost its reputation with the general public.

By putting the gospel, worship, fellowship, and mission back into the hands of the people

There are many excellent themes running through this book, including:
* The vital importance of Ephesians 4 unity among all believers,
* The beauty of simplicity,
* The importance of following God's lead,
* The critical necessity of prayer first and last,
* The supremacy of God's word, living and active,
* And trusting in what God is doing

Here's what's going to happen, though.

For one thing, non-charismatics may curl up into defense position because the Dales are clearly charismatic. I can tell you as someone who has never operated in any of the "sign gifts," and who could not be properly termed a charismatic, I found the Dales' approach to be completely scriptural, solid and seasoned with salt. In fact, they several times, throughout the book, reassured the reader that you do not have to be charismatic to be involved with what God is doing in the "micro-church movement."

In fact, I had to agree with them when they said, on page 82, "In our experience, God seems to be blurring the distinctions more and more between charismatic and non charismatic believers." That would describe me and all the believers I know - and I know hundreds and hundreds of believers.

For another, those who have made orthodoxy (read "my church's catechism") of supreme importance may not like the Dales' methods. In fact, the authors have made a conscious decision to allow people to discover what the scriptures mean by applying God's word first to their lives, rather than to be taught what a particular catechism would say.

Personally I see this as an endorsement! But watch out for cranky naysayers who will shrill "heresy!"

The Dales also clearly support women's involvement in every aspect of church life, which may greatly bother those who feel women have been given only a limited role in Scripture.

Finally, those who are deeply invested in traditional church -- referred to as "legacy churches" in "The Rabbit," with gracious respect -- may find this book threatening, even though the authors repeatedly express their thanks and honor for what God has done through the institution of church. Those who prefer to remain in their traditional church can still start a simple church that meets at another time than their church service (as my husband and I are now doing).

In fact, the Dales' particular ministry, House2House is being actively supported by two mega churches, which they mention on page 194, and several more churches are described in "The Rabbit" which either support and encourage house churches among their members, or have transitioned into a network of house churches.

One aspect of "The Rabbit" which I particularly appreciated was the realistic approach. What God is doing right now is breath-taking. Thousands of churches worldwide are being started every year. Hundreds of thousands of people are becoming born again, and entering into an active living by faith. This is not merely lip service to the idea of salvation. This is the real thing! Still, in real life, there is also hard work, troubles, sometimes even death.

The Dales' do not hold back on cautionary tales and words of gentle warning. There will be those who go back to traditional church because simple church won't feel "right" after a while. There will be churches that blossom, grow, then die away ("We would rather have a church without the presence of the Holy Spirit be decently buried than maintained on life support indefinitely." I wish all of us had such practical and humble wisdom concerning dead churches). There will be churches that change from simple to traditional as a charismatic leader takes the glory and the control.

But, in balance, you will find in this book everything you need to start a simple church -- as the Lord leads!!!

The methods "The Rabbit" explains come straight out of Luke 10, four simple steps. The format for the Bible study is so simple it's mind-blowing!! I will be starting an in depth look of "The Rabbit," chapter by chapter. Yet, along with warm encouragement, engaging illustrations, and statistics provided by the Barna Group, "The Rabbit" offers an exciting tale that really, you would do yourself a favor by reading.

If this post got you to thinking, please leave a comment and join the conversation

Monday, June 1, 2009

"Is Your Church Asking 'How'?"

The ninth and final organizational tool that can be used in a mechanical or organic order way is resources.

This is a continuing series by Michael Fleming, working from the book "Organic Community" by Joseph R. Myers.

Previous posts in this series are:
1) Is Your Church an Object?
2) Is Your Church a Clone?
3) Is Your Church a Body?
4) Is Your Church a Scoreboard?
5) Is Your Church a Factory?
6) Is Your Church a Hierarchy?
7) Is Your Church a Collaboration?
8) Is Your Church Old Covenant?
9) Is Your Church A Noun

Mechanical plans begin with the question “Where are we headed?” followed immediately by “How are we going to get there?” They are intended to secure safety, but really they result in a plan that prescribes the “how” prematurely. They believe that all questions will be resolved by going through the process of asking and answering “How?” But many times the question “How?” isn’t a question at all. Rather, it is a comment rooted in a spirit of scarcity. It is a belief that we lack the right tools and the right methodology to know enough and be enough.

But with organic order, the question “How?” is skipped and people jump straight to the possible solutions. They don’t ask “How are we going to do this?” They say, “This is what we can do.” There are many possibilities and we can operate in whichever one is appropriate for right now. They realize that what they are to do is be who and what they are right now. With organic order, you don’t pre-determine how problems will be solved and resources will be allocated. You decide in the present how you should solve problems and allocate resources amidst the many possibilities in whatever way is appropriate at that time.

One way the church has promoted a spirit of scarcity is in its efforts to assimilate people into the mechanical plan of the church. This is a scarcity view of how the church is to be a part of people’s lives. A better way is to think about what the church should be doing to be the One New Humanity that it is meant to be, not a copy of the Old Man we see operating in the world.

Myers, Joseph R. "Organic Community"

If this post got you to thinking, please leave a comment and join the conversation

"Is Your Church Under God's Control?"

How can an organic environment where community and belonging can emerge be developed? By using an organic order approach rather than a mechanical order approach. Mechanical order is appropriate when it comes to manufacturing inanimate objects. But developing something with life requires organic order.

This is a continuing series by Michael Fleming, working from the book "Organic Community" by Joseph R. Myers.

Previous posts in this series are:
1) Is Your Church an Object?
2) Is Your Church a Clone?
3) Is Your Church a Body?
4) Is Your Church a Scoreboard?
5) Is Your Church a Factory?
6) Is Your Church a Hierarchy?
7) Is Your Church a Collaboration?
8) Is Your Church Old Covenant?
9) Is Your Church A Noun
10) Is Your Church Asking "How"?

Nine organizational tools that you can use in a mechanical or organic order way are:

  1. Patterns
    – attempt to force the realization of a plan that worked somewhere else by controlling people and processes to get there. You try and make people into parts that will fit together to look like what you envision creating.
    Organic – allows individuals and groups to grow and become uniquely themselves in each situation. The group looks like the body of Christ when the parts connect and do their special works for each other. This will be a literal spiritual expression of Jesus Christ on the earth in His second body. (Ephesians 4:15-16)

  2. Participation
    – trying to get people to participate in created positions that serve a plan. Participation is usually forced and people feel uncomfortable and out of place.
    Organic – individuals feel free and responsible to act uniquely as themselves for the good of the group as a whole. They find out what special graces they’ve been given by God and they use them to accomplish the works that God prepared in advance for them to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

  3. Measurement
    – value is found in numbers related to an end point to be reached. People are assessed based upon the health of the organization.
    Organic – value is found in the story of the life of the group. Success is found in the health of the organism from its individual parts.

  4. Growth
    – measured in outward evidences of numbers, resources, activities and other inanimate measuring sticks.
    Organic – takes small steps forward at the community’s own pace. Growth is based upon individual’s maturity to completion in Christ. (Colossians 1:28)

  5. Power
    – delivered through permanent positions. Man is trusted with control of the body of Christ through the assignment of permanent power, no matter where the wind (Spirit) blows.
    Organic – revolves through the parts of the whole depending on what is being demanded by the life of the organism. The Spirit gives power to the parts that need it to accomplish His will in a progressive fashion as time goes on. (John 3:8)

  6. Coordination
    Mechanical –
    asks people to cooperate by falling in line with a plan to make it work. People become commodities to be maneuvered toward a person’s vision.
    Organic – self-organization through collaboration of parts based upon their connection. The vision is from the Head through all of the parts together. (Ephesians 4:15-16).

  7. Partners
    – accountability to hold people responsible for their actions. The focus is on performance in relation to sin.
    Organic – edit-ability to help on the journey to wholeness. The focus is encouragement toward allowing God to live in and through the person ever-increasingly. (Ephesians 5:17-18)

  8. Language
    – words are noun-centric. They turn dynamic words into static words.
    Organic – words are verb-centric.

  9. Resources
    – pre-determined allocation based upon the question, “How are we going to do this?” People assume future events can and should take place and make pre-mature decisions based upon those assumptions.
    Organic – moment-by-moment allocation based upon the thought, “This is how we can do this.” People do what they are able with the graces they’ve been given.

    Humans can’t build living things. When they build something, whatever it is; it is dead. It may serve a good purpose and show tremendous creative abilities, but only God can create and sustain something that is living. This is where we’re breaking down in the Church.
    At the root of who is doing the building of the Church is the issue of control. The sinful nature seems to want to take it from God and other people in an effort to deal with the fear that comes with unpredictability. The fear that if we let God have control, He won’t live up to His promises and take care of us. The fear that if we let Christ be the Head, He won’t know how to animate the Body and it will find itself in chaos and utterly destroy itself.

    God’s eternal purpose was to create One New Man that would be alive by the life of God with Christ as the Head (Ephesians 2:14-22). Because this One New Man is a living organism, it grows and develops organically, just like all living things. But, because of man’s fear rooted in the sinful nature, they tend to take control away from God and try to build the One New Man themselves, in their own power. This is like trying to engineer an animal in a laboratory. It just can’t be done. You can’t engineer the genetic code of God, the DNA of the Church. The best one can do is create something inanimate that looks and acts like the living thing they are trying to engineer.

    I’ve found that many times a conversation about giving up control gets translated into a conversation about giving up leadership. But, an important distinction must be made here. True biblical leaders don’t control.You don’t lead by pointing a finger and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making a case.” (Ken Kesey) Then, watch and see if people do it. Many leaders today are pointing to a place of organic community and telling people to go there, and waiting for people to go there, while at the same time doing the same things over and over again in a mechanical way. They won’t admit it and they may not realize it, but they are afraid to give up control. The true leaders are the ones that are not afraid to go to a place of organic community and make a case for people to come along, even if it means going there alone.

    Is there order in God? Yes.
    Is there structure in God? Yes.
    Is there government in God? Yes.

    But God’s order, structure and government are diametrically opposed to the worlds (John 15:18-19).
    It’s alive and always evolving. Sadly, many of those that are considered “leaders” today are attempting to engineer the Christian life according to the world’s system, which is what we need to identify and move away from.

    Creating an organic environment for community to grow is just like creating the environment for any other living thing to grow. The right conditions must be met. The more you use the nine organizational tools in a mechanical way, the worse the conditions become for life to grow. When used organically, the nine organizational tools create the environment for the organism to grow, thrive and its life (Christ) to be shared with all.

    Myers, Joseph R. "Organic Community"

    If this post got you to thinking, please leave a comment and join the conversation