Author: Amanda Watson

Abraham’s Land Promise

by David Padfield

Premillennialism is a doctrine taught by many religious groups in our day. This theory teaches Jesus will return to this earth and set up a literal, earthly kingdom for a 1,000 years. Proponents claim that prior to His return there will be a period of tribulation for seven years (some same three and a half years). Then, according to their speculations, the Lord will reign in Jerusalem (like David and Solomon) and the Jews will receive the land God promised to Abraham in Genesis 12:7.

In 1970 Hal Lindsey wrote a best selling book, The Late Great Planet Earth. He said, “For God unconditionally promised Abraham’s descendants a literal world-wide kingdom over which they would rule through their Messiah who would reign upon King David’s throne. The Jews who believe in the Messiah will also possess the land which is bordered on the east by the Euphrates River, and on the west by the Nile.”

Many of Lindsey’s other predictions have already failed. He claimed the Soviet Union was going to invade Israel and start World War III. Well, the Soviet Union is now out of business, but Hal Lindesy is still out on the lecture circuit. If Lindesy had any integrity, he would issue an apology for his book and offer a refund to all who purchased it.

Lindesy’s book, along with many others, denies God has ever made good on His promises to Abraham. Let us to examine the promises and see if He has kept His word.

When God called Abraham to leave the Ur of the Chaldees, He said, “Get out of your country, from your kindred and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3). Notice the three promises:

Abraham would be the father of a great nation (Genesis 12:2; 22:17). This promise was fulfilled in Exodus 1:7-15. A new king ascended to the throne in Egypt and saw the descendants of Abraham outnumbered the Egyptians. In Deuteronomy 1:10, prior to the Israelites entering the promised land, Moses said, “The Lord your God has multiplied you, and here you are today, as the stars of the heaven in multitude.”

Through Abraham’s seed, all nations of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:3; 22:18). This promise was fulfilled by the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross. In Peter’s sermon on Solomon’s porch, he said, “You are the sons of the prophets, and of the Covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth will be blessed.’ To you first God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities” (Acts 3:25,26). The apostle Paul taught the same thing in Galatians 3:9when he said, “those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham”.

The third promise was the land of Canaan itself. God told Abraham, “Unto thy seed will I give this land” (Genesis 12:7). In Genesis 13:12 we find Abraham was dwelling in that land. God commanded Abraham to “Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: for all the land which thou seest to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever” (Genesis 13:14,15).

God made good on this promise when Joshua led the Israelites into the land of Canaan. “And the Lord gave unto Israel all the land which he swore to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it and dwelt therein There failed not ought of any good fling which the Lord had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass” (Joshua 21:43,45).

Retention of the land was conditional. Israel had a choice between being blessed or cursed by God. If they would “harken diligently” unto the Lord, they would dwell in the land and be blessed (Deuteronomy 28:1-14). However, if they turned aside from the law of God, they would be cursed and driven out of the land (Deuteronomy 28:15-68).

Joshua promised them, “When ye have transgressed die covenant of the Lord then shall the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and ye shall perish quickly from off the good land which he has given unto you” (Joshua 23:16).

These people later rejected the Lord were sent into Babylonian captivity. God kept His word, even though they didn’t keep theirs.

Christ kingdom rule premillennialism

  • The Kingdom Of Promise And Prophecy. Sixteen sermon charts showing that the church was established as a result of Divine prophecy. Discusses passages such as Daniel 2, Isaiah 2 and Joel 2 (PDF file size: 114k).
  • Jehovah: An Eternal King. Seven sermon charts showing how God has always had a kingdom, and has always been a sovereign king (PDF file size: 45k).
  • The Throne Of David. Fifteen sermon charts showing how Christ was seated on David’s throne when He ascended into heaven. His being seated at God’s right hand is a fulfillment of 2 Samuel 7:12-13 (PDF file size: 82K).
  • Reigning With Christ. Eight sermon charts showing how Christians reign with Christ right now, as spoken of in 2 Timothy 2:11-13 (PDF file size: 75k).
  • Matthew 24 And The Destruction Of Jerusalem. Nineteen sermon charts explaining how Matthew 24 was fulfilled when Titus destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D. (PDF file size: 136k)
  • A long article in book form on Matthew 24 And The Destruction Of Jerusalem is also available (PDF file size: 248k).

Capital Punishment / The Death Penalty

by David Padfield

Capital punishment is one of the hottest issues of our day. Many sincere people believe the death penalty should be abolished. Christians are often confused about what their attitude should be towards the execution of convicted criminals. Let us look at what God has said about the death penalty in His word.

The Patriarchal Age

In view of the disrespect that some people have for the death penalty, one might be led to believe the practice originated among the pagans. The Bible teaches God is the originator of capital punishment. In Genesis 9:6 we find out why the penalty of death was enacted, “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man.” When a murderer’s life is taken, it is not because his life is worthless, but because his victim’s life was precious — he had been created in the image of the living God.

The Mosaic Age

Some have contended that the sixth commandment prohibits the government from taking the life of felons. Exodus 20:13 says, “You shall not murder.” This does not prohibit civil authorities from carrying out the death penalty. The man guilty of murder under the Mosaic law had forfeited his right to live. In Exodus 21:12 we read, “He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death.” Under the Mosaic Law, many crimes resulted in the death penalty. Here are a few:

  • Striking a parent (Ex. 21:15)
  • Blasphemy (Lev. 24:14)
  • Sabbath breaking (Ex. 31:14)
  • Witchcraft (Ex. 22:18)
  • Adultery (Lev. 20:10)
  • Unchastity (Deut. 22:21)
  • Rape (Deut. 22:25)
  • Kidnapping (Ex. 21:16)
  • Incest (Lev. 20:11)
  • Homosexuality (Lev. 20:13)
  • Bestiality (Lev. 20:15)
  • Idolatry (Lev. 20:2)

The New Testament

We are no longer under the law of Moses (Col. 2:14; Heb. 10:9). The passages used above were to demonstrate that it is not contrary to the nature of God to execute criminals.

Paul was very plain when he explained the purpose of civil governments and our relationship to them. “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil” (Romans 13:14).

How is the government to “bear the sword”? The sword of Romans 13:4 was not the dagger which Roman emperors and governors often wore as a symbol of their office. This was the executioners sword. Marvin Vincent said it was “Borne as the symbol of the magistrate’s right to inflict capital punishment” (Word Studies in the New Testament, Vol. III, p. 164). Thayer discusses the word for “sword” in detail, then adds, it “is used of him to whom the sword has been committed, viz. to use when a malefactor is to be punished; hence i.q. to have the power of life and death, Ro. xiii.4” (Greek-English Lexicon, p. 393).

Albert Barnes wrote, “When a magistrate inflicts punishment on the guilty, it is to be regarded as the act of God taking vengeance on him; and on this principle only is it right for a judge to condemn a man to death. It is not because one man has by nature the right over the life of another, or because society has any right collectively which it does not as individuals; but because God gave life, and because he has chosen to take it away when a crime is committed, by the appointment of magistrates, and not by coming forth himself visibly to execute the laws” (Barnes Notes, Vol. IV, p. 294)

Our Responsibility

What is my responsibility to the civil government today? Let me suggest four things:

1. We must realize that God ordained civil government (Romans 13:1). The civil state would have no right to exist if it were not for God. As Pilate questioned Christ during His trial, Jesus said, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above” (John 19:11).

2. We must pay our taxes and tariffs (Romans 13:6-7).

3. We must pray for our leaders. “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

4. We must obey our rulers unless the laws of man violate the laws of God (Acts 5:29).

Conclusion

Man is still made in the image of God and when one man takes the life of another, he has forfeited his right to live. “Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil” (Ecclesiastes 8:11).

  • A related article, Is It Sinful To Be A Soldier?, is available.
  • Also see God And Government, by David Padfield. Is it sinful for a Christian to serve in the military? This two-part sermon discusses the role of government and proves that it is lawful to service as a police officer or a member of the military. Two full-length sermons in 12 pages (PDF file size: 240k).

Thanks to D&M Towing for sponsoring my blog.

Abortion: Without Natural Affection

by David Padfield

In the first chapter of Romans the apostle Paul listed the sins of the Gentiles. In this heinous list of crimes we find the phrase “without natural affection” (Rom. 1:31, KJV). This refers to those who do not possess the love and attachment which nature teaches all mothers to have for their young.

“This expression denotes the want of affectionate regard towards their children. The attachment of parents to children is one of the strongest in nature, and nothing can overcome it but the most confirmed and established wickedness. And yet the apostle charges on the heathen generally the want of this affection. He doubtless refers here to the practice so common among heathens of exposing their children, or putting them to death. This crime, so abhorrent to all the feelings of humanity, was common among the heathen, and is still. The Canaanites, we are told, (Psa. cvi. 37, 38) ‘sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils, and shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan.’ Manasseh, among the Jews, imitated their example, and introduced the horrid custom of sacrificing children to Moloch, and set the example by offering his own, 2 Chron. xxxiii. 6. Among the ancient Persians it was a common custom to bury children alive. In most of the Grecian states, infanticide was not merely permitted, but actually enforced by law” (Barnes’ Notes On The New Testament).

The practice of murdering small children was also common among the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Chinese and Hindus. The murder of children and the infirm is not isolated to antiquity. The Nazi Holocaust began with the elimination of almost 300,000 Aryan German citizens who were “defective.” Before Hitler was finished, his Nazi machine had murdered six million Jews, plus another 6 million Gypsies, Poles and prisoners of war.

Any woman who could destroy the child within her womb would have to be judged as one “without natural affection.” During the decade of fighting in Vietnam there were 58,655 American war casualties. Our country now kills more unborn babies than that every fifteen days. During the six major wars our country has fought (Revolutionary War, Civil War, WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam) we have sustained 1,160,591 casualties. Since abortion was legalized in this country in 1973, over 23 million unborn babies have been murdered by their mothers. The remains of these precious lives are destroyed in hospital incinerators or thrown into dumpsters behind the abortion mills. There is no national cemetery for the unborn, no flag draped coffins.

Abortion is sinful because it is the willful taking of human life. Under the Mosaic Law, God said, “If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no lasting harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman’s husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if any lasting harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe” (Exodus 21:22-25). If the accidental interruption of a pregnancy was to be punished, what about the one who deliberately murders the unborn?

The Psalmist David thought of himself as being alive while in his mothers womb. “For You have formed my inward parts; You have covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth” (Psalms 139:13-16). Though his body was not totally developed, David affirmed that the Lord knew him! The only real difference between an unborn child and a newborn baby is the way they feed and obtain oxygen.

People often ask what the mother should do if she knows the child will have birth defects. I remind them that no test is 100% accurate, and no child is 100% perfect! I get upset when abortionists tell me that life is not worth living if you have a handicap. As the father of a child born with multiple birth defects, I believe I have the right to exhibit a little righteous indignation.

Our oldest son, Daniel, was born about three months premature and weighed a little over three pounds. He was born a “blue baby” (i.e., not breathing). The doctor who delivered Daniel decided not to resuscitate him, but to let him die. The anesthetist in the delivery room, one of the deacons from church, insisted that the doctor revive our son. For this we will be eternally grateful. Though Daniel is deaf and partially blind, he is a wonderful son who enjoys life, and he made his parents very proud when he achieved the honor roll at school.

Some parents have told me they wished their children would have never been born. I have never heard this from the parent of a handicapped child, and I know a lot of them. In fact, these parents are the most militant anti-abortionists I have ever met. They believe life is worth living, even with physical impairments.

Though the Bible does not give an example of someone who aborted their child, it does tell us about an “unwanted” pregnancy: the case of David and Bathsheba (1 Sam. 11 and 12). David, the king of Israel, coveted his neighbor’s wife, stole her from her husband and committed adultery with her. To avoid the embarrassment of an illegitimate child, David murdered Uriah the Hittite. David’s solution to his problem was the same as many fornicators today: kill the innocent to protect the guilty!

According to Editorial Research Reports (1987, Vol. II, p. 537), 81.3% of all abortions are performed on unmarried women. This means that four out of five times the baby is murdered to hide the sin of its parents!

The Bible says the “way of the transgressor is hard” (Prov. 13:5, KJV). Picture a young woman in her final year of college finding out that she is pregnant. Her plans for the future will be ruined if she has the child, so she decides to have it killed. Then later in life, she often cries herself to sleep while thinking of the child that might have been. Yes, the way of the transgressor is hard.

Abortion is no worse than the other sins listed in Romans 1:26-32. All sin is terrible. But, thanks be to God, there is a remedy: repentance. David spoke of it so eloquently in the 51st Psalm when he prayed, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which You have broken may rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me with Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You.”

Wedding sermons, ceremonies and vows

  • Wedding And Funeral Sermons, a collection of wedding and funeral sermons by David Padfield, Wayne Greeson, Harry Lewis, Brian Sullivan, Wayne Walker, Gene Taylor, and Robert Welch (PDF file size: 149k).
  • This article is also available as a free Bible tract you can reprint

Read Your Policy

by David Padfield

People often accuse insurance companies of not honoring their polices. Having spent a few years in that business I know the charge is seldom true. State and federal regulations force insurance companies to honor their policies. Insurers do exactly what they say in their policies; the problem is that most people have never read their copy. What keeps people from reading their policy?

Sometimes people trust their agent so they figure there is no reason to question his word. This is sad for there are a few “bad apples” in every business.

Sometimes people claim the policies are too difficult to understand. I believe most people who say this have never attempted to read their policy anyway.

I have also noticed that many people look at religion the same way they would a life insurance policy. They put blind trust in a smooth talking salesman (some preacher) and hope that he knows what he is doing. They never read their policy (the Bible) for they imagine that they couldn’t understand it anyway. It is much easier to trust a priest or preacher than to read and study for themselves.

The Holy Spirit guided the apostles in the writing of the New Testament (John 16:13). Paul told the Ephesians that “when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ” (Eph. 3:4). The Bible was written so a person with a limited education can read it without difficulty.

Yes, there are some things that require a good deal of study. Peter spoke of the epistles of Paul “in which are some things hard to understand, which those who are untaught and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16). Peter simply said some people will “twist” not only the difficult things, but also the “rest of the Scriptures.”

When a man claims the Bible is too difficult to understand, he is impugning the character of God. Jesus told us we will be judged by His words (John 12:48). It is against every law of humanity to hold a person accountable for something they can’t understand. But, there is a big difference between the words “can’t” and “won’t.”

Jesus spoke of some in His day by quoting Isaiah 6:9, 10. “Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive; for the heart of this people has grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their heart and turn, so that I should heal them.” (Matthew 13:14, 15).

Proverbs 23:23 tells us to “Buy the truth, and do not sell it.” To those who do not have a “love of the truth,” “God will send them a strong delusion, that they should believe a lie, that they all might be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thes. 2:11, 12).

I have heard people speak of the Bible and say “it’s a mystery to me.” The word “mystery” can be used in two different ways. Sometimes it means something that is hidden and cannot be understood. Other times it refers to something we are ignorant of. For example, the workings of a diesel engine are a “mystery” to me. I believe I could understand that engine if I applied myself, but right now I am ignorant of it. If the Bible is a “mystery” to you, it is because you have not applied yourself.

The Bible can be understood. It is given to us in this life and will be opened before us at the judgement (Rev. 20:12). What you know about God’s word, and what you do about it, will determine what He says to you in the final day.

Let us imitate the noble Bereans who “searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).

Would A Grammar Checker Help?

by David Padfield

For the past ten years nearly every letter, article or booklet I have written was prepared on some sort of computer. The spelling checkers that come with most word processors are both a blessing and a curse. They guarantee every word will be spelled correctly, but they can’t tell if you used the right word. That’s why I bought a grammar checker; it catches incorrect articles, tenses, and misused verbs and pronouns.

Sometimes I get in too big of a hurry to use the grammar checker, and I usually end up regretting it. Some time ago I sent a note to a man and mentioned the recent “lettering” I received from him (I meant “letter”). After I mailed my letter, I looked at a copy of it and the mistake jumped off the page! A few seconds of electronic proofreading would have saved the day, but I was too busy.

Have you ever considered the profound changes that would happen if preachers would run their sermon outlines through a grammar checker before they got into the pulpit?

It would definitely help Baptist preachers. They teach that all believers are the children of God. Here is a simple case of using the wrong tense of a word. The Bible teaches that believers have the “right to become” (future tense) the children of God (John 1:12). It might also help them with the mess they make of Acts 2:38. It would show them the phrase “for the remission of sins” expresses the force of both verbs, “repent and let every one of you be baptized.”

Do you think it could help our Catholic friends? Their adoration of Mary borders on idolatry. They reflect the attitude of the woman in Luke 11:27 who said to Jesus, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed you.” The reply of the Son of God destroys Mariolatry. Jesus said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it” (Luke 11:28). Yes, Mary was blessed in being chosen to bear Jesus, but He insists that “more” blessings rest upon “those who hear the word of God and keep it.”

A study of the language used in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 would have prevented the Newark Episcopal Diocese (Hoboken, NJ) from ordaining an avowed homosexual as a priest. Paul spoke of homosexuals and sodomites in this passage and said “such were some of you.” I know what they used to be, but now they are washed, sanctified and justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. These men repented of their sin before becoming the children of God.

Have premillennialists noticed that Jesus is now reigning? 1 Corinthians 15:25 says He is reigning now (present tense); premillennialists claim His reign will begin at His return (future tense).

Those who teach that you can get a divorce for “just any cause” would have trouble with Matthew 19:9. Jesus said the only reason for one to put away a spouse is “for sexual immorality.” Only the innocent spouse has the right to Scripturally remarry.

It would be interesting to see the changes that would take place if all preachers would “speak where the Scriptures speak and remain silent where the Bible is silent” and “call Bible things by Bible names.” But, speaking in Bible terms would be difficult for some — they would have to learn a whole new language.

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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