Month: April 2017

How to Live When You Die

How to Live When You Die

Mark 10:17-22

 

Vs17 – GOOD – agathos – excellent, distinguished, honorable;  MASTER – didaskalos – teacher

  • If NOT God – why all Drama – Most IMPORTANT question ever – How not to die when I die?
    • Why the question: 1) Has the answer wants APPROVAL  2) He felt something MISSING

 

Vs18 – Response is peculiar. Some think He was drawing a comparison, leading man to equate God/Jesus

  • DISAGREE – doesn’t fit story. Jesus Answering Question w/Question.
  • Jesus had two answers – told the man to get rid of the obstacles that are standing between God
  • Relied on BEING GOOD
  • This was answer #1 – Told him that he was NOT Good
  • PROBLEM – GOODNESS IS RELATIVE
  • Jesus INCLUDED Himself – WHY? – Phil 2:6-10

 

Vs19 – Tough to interpret / discern Jesus’ intentions

  • Jesus was TESTING the man – Gave Him what HE WANTED
  • Saw in him that Being Good was Important – Gave him “GOOD” things to do
  • Social part of 10 Commandments – DEFRAUD not a commandment – Jesus wasn’t buying yet

 

Vs20 – DIFFICULT to Understand the man’s Response

  • Is there EMOTION – If so What emotion?
  • Was he EXCITED?! Because he had been doing EVERYTHING JESUS listed!
  • Was he DISAPPOINTED ☹ Because Jesus (GREAT TEACHER) didn’t give a new SECRET?
  • Probably a little DISAPPOINTED and showed some HUMILITY – based on Jesus response.

 

Vs21 – Jesus SAW CONCERN on his face, HEARD DISAPPOINTMENT in his voice

  • The man was SINCERELY concerned about his RELATIONSHIP with God
  • He was on his Knees

 

  • Jesus responded EMOTIONALLY – SPURNED him towards love for the man
  • Loved EVERYONE so it had to be something MORE
  • THIS FITS US!!!

 

  • After he passed the test – Jesus gave him the KEY to the 2nd obstacle – GET RID of Idols, gods
  • Really starts to FIT US now! This was about gods and idols – which for the man was his $$$.

 

Vs22 – The man was sad and he grieved as a result – VERY STRONG WORDS

  • This describes how we feel when we BURY a loved one.
  • This is TOUGH to understand – HE HAD HIS ANSWER
  • Satan USED him, got what he wanted, then LEFT the man HEART-BROKEN

 

  • Told how the man responded and felt – NOT told how Jesus felt. How do you think HE felt?
  • For all the man’s sorrow – I think Jesus’ sorrow was 10x greater.
  • The ANSWER is right there and MANY people RESPOND the same way

 

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Church’s are like families

Church’s are like families.  Not necessarily a comforting thought.

In “How Your Church Family Works,” Peter L. Steinke describes how all families, be it a congregation or a home, works with the reality of anxiety. As Steinke observes, “Put people together and inevitably anxiety will arise.” A number of variables can trigger anxiety. For example, a new minister, declining membership, financial strategizing, changes in worship styles, long-range visioning, and death in the church family.  However the anxiety arises, it will flow and settle in a relationship system in potentially predictable ways.  Typically, the most responsible and most vulnerable people are affected most. Thus, this book is particularly useful to clergy, like me, who are prone to be the ones taking responsibility for everything that happens.

Steinke explains that congregations have patterns and roles of relating that “handle” anxiety. For example, someone works really hard to make everyone else happy.  Someone else “acts out” to get attention and assert control in the midst of uncertainty. Someone else quietly removes himself to stay out of conflict. Someone else floats along thinking eventually “God will work it all out,” hoping to shield himself from feeling the tensions.

The author also points out that understanding how people and systems are interconnected can make us aware of more helpful ways of responding to the situations we face as a church. Specifically, it is important to recognize that there is more going on in any situation than what is immediately taking place.

We all need to be reminded, and Steinke consistently does so, that anxiety is not only inevitable, it is also not necessarily bad. Anxiety is the energy and friction we have when operating with others in the midst of change. As a child, we’ve all gone through, in one form or another, “growing pains.”  Change is painful. Still, the pain of change gives a person the chance to grow stronger.  In a similar way, anxiety can lead to life-giving, relationship-enhancing outcomes when handled purposefully and properly.  In fact, stress on a system can indicate that the system is not working well and needs to be adjusted.

The author notes that we can respond to anxiety in two basic ways:  reactively or purposefully.  For example, shock at the news of a death is a reactive response.  We don’t practice or prepare for shock.  However, when we limited ourselves to our reactions, only ever reacting to stress and anxiety in the same way over time, we can establish life-draining behaviors that hinder a system. It is not healthy to live “shocked” for the rest of one’s life.  Other responses are called for to live well after the tragedy of death.

Two basic reactions are at work in each of us:  we are prone to a) alienate ourselves from others or b) lock-on to others. The healthy person is able to “self-differentiate,” that is, balance these poles by being with others but not so connected that he or she “loses herself.”

It is clear that this “theory” might help us choose intentional ways of structuring our church practices and relationships. For example, gossip is an unhealthy, and often times reactive response to anxious situations. It establishes “triangles” which erects and reinforces barriers; barriers which can dismantle trusting relationships needed for a church to function well. Open, honest, direct communication is important.  So a church, aware of this, might foster “covenants of communication” between staff members and within church committees. Gossip would be named and avoided. Or, to promote self-differentiation, a church might cultivate practices of “staying with ourselves” in which we claim our feelings, emotions, and ideas in conversations; rather than blame or impose ourselves on others.

The book is full of wisdom on leadership, identifying actors and roles in emotional systems, and navigating church-specific practices with systems theory.  I found the book insightful, helpful, and illuminating (albeit a little dry and tedious reading).  While no theory can ever fully explain a situation, it can provide an orientation to human relationships which fosters attention, sensitivity, self-awareness, and commitment to the well-being of all.

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Generating Hope: A Strategy for Reaching the Postmodern Generation

Generating Hope: A Strategy for Reaching the Postmodern Generation

 

The Church is at a major critical juncture in regard to two major cultural changes:

  1. Transition in leadership and authority from Baby-Boom generation to Generation X.
  2. Philosophical shift that is occurring in Western society  the culture moves from the Enlightenment to the postmodern era.

 

How do we respond to the change in culture?

Most churches were built in, for the previous culture. Now the culture is changing and the church is having trouble connecting.

 

Five models of how the Church relates to Culture

  1. Assimilating church – The church tries to make itself relevant to the prevailing culture by adopting some of the culture’s characteristics. The church supposedly does this in order to be welcomed by the culture and to encourage the culture to be open to the gospel. Scriptural reference from 1 Corinthians 9:20. If the church becomes too assimilated you can’t tell the difference between culture and church. If that happens then there isn’t much need for the church. I can get Jesus without the Church.

 

  1. Protecting church – Christians respond to sinfulness and its consequences with a sense of hopelessness and a desire for protection. “All of this is beyond my understanding and control. I can’t make any difference in the world. Sin is awful and powerful. My best strategy is to build a wall around myself and my family to keep out the changes and evil.” This worldview represents a dualistic approach to society that sees the church as good and the culture as bad. The protective church seem to have little faith in God’s sovereignty – Matthew 16:18.

 

  1. Unchanging Church – Pretty much ignores the culture. Views the church as having nothing to do with present culture. The church is above and beyond the culture. Tries to hold on to its own traditions by rising above culture. Christians in the unchanging church try to equate their own traditions, as exemplified in the above story, with Jesus’ blessings. The weakness of this model is that although the culture and the people within the culture do change, the church does not change to meet people where they are. As the culture continues to change, the unchanging church model becomes more and more marginalized and exerts less and less impact on society.

 

  1. Battling Church – Fears the annihilation of the church and is fighting back with all the weapons it can muster. James Dobson states, “The heated dispute over values in Western nations is simply a continuation of the age old struggle between the principles of righteousness and the kingdom of darkness and someday soon I believe a winner will emerge and the loser will fade from memory. Sees the church essentially as the new Israel.

 

  1. Influencing Church – Instead of seeing the culture as a battlefield and Christians as warriors, the influencing church sees the world as a mission field and Christians as missionaries. Sees itself as intimately involved in the culture. Redemption does not change their involvement in the culture, but it changes them as the character of their involvement. They see the neighborhood and the local school as mission fields, not battlegrounds. Far from being military bunkers, their homes are “havens of hospitality” with the Welcome sign displayed out front. For them evangelism comes first and cultural change comes second. The gospel message will be powerful only through showing love to neighbors and living lives of integrity. Those in the influencing church see others as people created by God and in need of God, not as the enemies of God. So their strategy in one of influence, dialogue and a prophetic voice.

STICKY FAITH

Statistics to get our attention

  • Barna Group report – 61% of young adults (early to mid twenties) had been churched at one point during their teen years but they are now spiritually disengaged.
  • Gallup Polls report – 40% of 18-29 year-olds who attended church when they were sixteen or seventeen years old are no longer attending.
  • Fuller Seminary (College Transition Project) – 389 high school seniors were tracked beginning during Spring of senior year through four years of college. Students were all “active” in their church youth ministry. The survey results concluded that 40-50% of “churched” students will leave their faith during college.
    • 30-60% of these students will return to their faith during their late twenties.

 

Creating Sticky Faith in our Kids

  • The researches made a few conclusions based on their interviews concerning the factors that seemed to be consistent among the students that did not leave their faith. In other words, what help to create a Sticky Faith with these particular students?

 

    • It’s never too late.
    • It’s never too early.

 

  • The Sticky Gospel

 

      • Focus on trusting God versus obeying God.
      • Frame discussion and activities as opportunities to Know and Trust Christ.
      • Respond with Grace when your child misbehaves.

 

  • Sticky Indentity

 

        • Remember that your child is God’s beloved creation.
        • Treat each child as an individual
        • Use your community to develop personal indentity
        • Use rituals to reinforce identity.
        • Help your child grow through hardship.

 

  • Sticky Faith Conversations

 

        • Provide space and time for quality conversations – be intentional
        • Learn to listen and ask questions, not lecture.
        • Tackle the tough topics.
        • Be creative if/when your children don’t want to talk with you.
        • Share your own faith.
        • Talk about your doubts.
        • Develop conversation rituals.

 

  • A Sticky Web of Relationships

 

        • Be intentional and encourage mentoring.
        • Develop diverse friendships
        • Add intergenerational activities to church calendar

 

  • A Sticky Bridge out of Home

 

      • Trust God with your child.
      • Let your child know your unconditional love.
      • Don’t do for your child what they can do for themselves.

“Life Experiences and Personality Traits That Enhance My Effectiveness in Facilitating Conflict Resolution”

 

The DiSC profile assessment was at once incredibly fascinating and quite disarming. My initial expectations for the assessment were limited. However, the results were alarmingly accurate; so much so that I felt like someone went into my closet and pulled out all the skeletons that I have tried to diligently to keep hidden. However, I would not go so far as to say that the results were enlightening. But where it came up short in this regard, it did provide a great deal of reassurance and comfort relative to my self-perception.

The profile assessment rated my highest dimension as Dominance. Also, I was assessed to have the Result-Oriented Classical Profile Pattern. The adjectives used to describe my score on the ‘D’ Dimension are as follows: domineering, demanding, forceful, risk-taker, adventuresome, decisive and inquisitive. The adjectives used to describe my score on the ‘I’ Dimension are as follows: generous, poised, charming, confident, convincing, observing and discriminating. The adjectives used to describe my score on the ‘S’ Dimension are as follows: eager, critical, discontented, fidgety, impetuous, restless and change-oriented. Finally, the adjectives used to describe my score on the ‘C’ Dimension are as follows: “own person,” self-righteous, opinionated, persistent, independent, rigid and firm.

Given my nature of being results-oriented it would seem that my giftedness ought to lead me away from having conflict-resolution skills. My own personal observations would agree with this. I tend to be impatient and even intolerant with people whom I determine to not conduct themselves appropriately (particularly in my previous secular employment). I was either the absolute favorite or absolute least favorite boss. There seemed to be little in-between.

However, in a touch of irony, my specific experiences say differently. Prior to entering ministry full-time, I worked as a leader of a large team. I had eight direct-report managers and approximately 125 employees under my general supervision. To say that I have experience resolving conflict is an understatement. There were days that it seemed like that was all I did.

This assignment is interesting and helpful in that it forces me to pause and reflect on what factors contributed to my success. Was it my “personality,” life experience, some combination of the two or some additional factor? I will say that in a round-a-bout way my childhood does claim some responsibility for whatever skills I may have acquired. Briefly, I could summarize my childhood home as oppressive and abusive. Negative conflict was a constant and it was routinely handled in an unhealthy manner. While this could have skewed me in the wrong direction, I feel that I am much more sensitive to people than I might otherwise be. Also, I am much more empathetic to people and their concerns.

This ties in interestingly to the negative or potentially negative “side-effects” of being high in Dominance and Results-Oriented. According to the assessment, I am at a risk of being insensitive to people, their needs and feelings. However, while I do tend to be impatient and intolerant with people under certain circumstances, I do not fit that profile assessment. In this regard, I can say that my experiences “win out” and help me to have a better shot at being a productive conflict negotiator. Simply put, all things being equal, I care deeply about people and don’t want anyone to be faced with any undue hardship.

In terms of serving specifically as a conflict negotiator in a ministry setting where I often have no vested interest (i.e. relationship counseling, etc.), my experiences mentioned above prevail and help me to remain patient, calm, discerning and empathetic—traits that lend themselves to successfully leading people through conflicts.

However, it terms of serving specifically as a conflict negotiator in a ministry setting where I have a vested interest, my DiSC profile assessment seems to kick in. In this regard I am quite comfortable exerting influence through emotional intelligence or pure force of personality in order to ensure that the best negotiation settlement is reached. In short, if I am convinced that there is a specific “best” result, then I am usually able to bring that about.

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Conflict Final Paper

 

I appreciated the opportunity to review several articles related to conflict and conflict resolution, particularly as it relates to “in the trenches” ministry. It was because of this fact that I was able to derive the greatest value. And it is also because of this that I am able to relate these articles back to Scriptures. To that extent the articles were full of biblical principles.

First of all, there is a widely perpetuated myth that conflict is immoral, or even sinful. It seems likely that this myth is spread by the reality of our consistent failures when it comes to how people respond to various conflicts. In other words, because we are so accustomed to the negative outcomes that come from handling conflict poorly, we naturally assume or that conflict in sinful. This is not true and is supported neither by the inspired Scriptures nor practical experience. Reading the articles help to reinforce my thinking on this.

The truth is that our behaviors and choices before and after the conflict is what is actually sinful or glorifying to God. Conflict by itself is amoral. Jesus’ life serves as a clear representation of this challenging reality. The Gospels record one conflict after another between Jesus and His contemporaries. For example, the Gospel of John records Jesus’ creation of conflict and details his response.

13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me” (John 2:13-17).

 

In this example, the fact that Jesus was involved in a fairly serious conflict demonstrates that it is not inherently sinful. However, in this instance (and in Jesus’ opinion) these conflicts were initiated because of the sinful attitudes and actions of those that he was in conflict with.

One other consideration related to the amoral nature of conflict is its inherent inevitability. Fundamentally, conflict is simply the absence of agreement. Or more specifically, according to Dictionary.com it is defined as: coming into collision or disagreement; being contradictory, at variance, or in opposition. It seems rather obvious that disagreements and variances are going to happen between people—even those with especially close and loving relationships (i.e. parent/child or spouses). Man was created to be a unique individual. That one fact alone is bound to create conflicts.

This leads naturally to the question, “what causes conflict”? In his article, “Seven Reasons for Staff Conflict,” Jacobsen lists several factors that create conflict: majoring in minors, miscommunication, environment, diversity in perspective, generational differences, theological disagreements and a lack of relationships.

Certainly, as has been referred to, conflict can be created innocently; and it may simply be a matter of two people respectfully disagreeing about an issue that is entirely innocuous or benign. However, that is not necessarily the case; and the Bible speaks loudly and clearly about defining those behaviors and attitudes that instigate conflict that may not be entirely above reproach; or that which may actually be sinful. Paul’s comments in his letter to the Ephesians serve to frame this conversation. He writes:

And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

 

Through these comments, Paul appears to be making the case that these particular behaviors contradict the will and nature of the Holy Spirit: bitterness, rage, anger, harsh and slanderous words and all other types of evil behaviors. He then gives three directions that, not coincidently, align themselves with his more famous list found in Galatians 5:22-23 (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control). It’s clear that (according to v.32) Paul is providing direction that, if followed, will limit unnecessary conflict. For example, Paul is saying that we ought to live without rage, anger, harsh words and slander—the perfect ingredients for a feud. So what causes conflict? At least according to Paul, conflict is created when people live contrary to the will and leading of the Holy Spirit.

Many of the Proverbs mirrors Paul’s thinking. Or perhaps, it’s more accurate to say that Paul’s direction may actually be reflecting teachings found in the Proverbs. Specifically, 15:1 states that “a gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.” This clearly teaches that angry and harsh words incite tempers; which in turn produces or exacerbates conflict. Anger and harshness is in direct opposition to gentleness and kindness, two “Fruits of the Spirit.”

Proverbs 18:13 shares another direction that aligns itself with Paul’s teachings in Galatians. It states that, “spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.” This is a clear indictment against a lack of patience, another “fruit of the Spirit”. Proverbs 26:20-21 provides one additional example. “Fire goes out without wood, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops. A quarrelsome person starts fights easily as hot embers light charcoal or fire lights wood.” The first of these two proverbs indicate that gossip is a common source of conflict. It’s reasonable to conclude that a lack of self-control is a common source of gossip. In the second proverb, the writer indicates that a quarrelsome person does not live at peace. These are two more “fruits of the Spirit. One last time . . . based upon this evidence, it seems that at least some conflict is generated when people live contrary to the will and leading of the Holy Spirit.

As was discussed previously, this truly lays at the crux of the matter because it is often at this point that sin enters into the picture. Again, conflict alone is not sinful. However, manner in which it is created and resolved may certainly be. So what does the Bible say with regard to resolving conflict? What direction exists that would lead a God-fearing and Spirit-following person to successfully navigate conflict? The answer . . . plenty.

Keeping in mind that giving in to the opposite party is not necessarily the right choice, Proverbs 19:11 provides a compelling argument. It states that “sensible people control their temper; they earn respect by overlooking wrongs.” In short, it may well be the case that the best way to resolve a conflict is to ignore the transgression that instigated it.

Paul provides several strong teachings on handling conflict. For example, in Colossians 3:13-15 Paul says that we ought to:

make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

 

He also shares in 1 Peter 3:8-9 that

 

all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it.

 

Perhaps the greatest teaching on handling conflict comes from Paul in his letter to the Philippians 2:3-5. In this letter it seems that Paul was attempting to reconcile damaged relationships. He writes in this text, “don’t be selfish; don’t try impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.”