conflict

Interpersonal conflict happens all the time.  Many times people are afraid of conflict because of their desire to make everyone happy.  As I continue to work in ministry I have become a student of conflict.  How are people approached?  What is said?  What are the motives behind the dispute and what are the resolutions if any?

There are essentially two kinds of religious authority in the Gospels who are polarized in the way that they handle conflict.  The first kind of religious authority we will simply call, “the establishment.” These would be the established religious elite including Pharisees, Sadducees, teachers of the law and possibly other rabbis.  The other side of the coin is Jesus, who preached with such authority that the people were captivated.  Both the established religious elite and Jesus had critiques of each other but both had very different methods of voicing their critique.

Through the gospels we see the religious elite trying to, “trap. plot to kill, or accuse Jesus.”   They demanded signs from Jesus and they consistently asked loaded questions and tried to set Jesus up for failure.  The main theme for the religious elite is one of making accusations.  There is a certain attitude behind accusing someone.  There is a hope that lives in the accuser that they will be lifted up while the person they are accusing is de-legitimized. The attitude that lives in the accuser is one of desiring failure for the one whom they are accusing.  I wonder if there is any correlation to Satan being called the accuser?

By a stark contrast Jesus doesn’t accuse, he rebukes.  The word rebuke in the New Testament means a lot of things.  First it means to correct.  Jesus wanted to correct bad theology.  Why would he want to do that?  I think Jesus understood that the religious elite had an audience and influence in the region.  Maybe Jesus knew he couldn’t get hundreds of thousands to stop listening, but He could get a few to tell a better story.  To rebuke someone is also to honor them.  One of the translations of the Greek word is literally, “to honor.”  So maybe Jesus spoke out against the religious elite because he cared for them.  He wanted to honor them in his correction.  If you saw someone driving toward a cliff, wouldn’t you do whatever you could to get their attention and advert the impending disaster?  Isn’t it loving to help someone take a new path that is life giving rather than life taking?

Think about your approach the next time you need to confront someone.  What do you want the end result to be?  The heart of the accuser is to tear down, while the heart of the one rebuking is to build up.   The path of the accuser is destructive and life taking while the path of the one rebuking is life giving.  I feel compelled to point out that there is a third path and that is doing nothing and allowing frustration to build to the point of self-destruction.  So in your next run-in with conflict, how will you do it?

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jubilee

Way back in the day there was this idealistic and even utopian thought that was mentioned in the Bible.  The thought was given a name and it was supposed to be a celebrationJubilee Birthday Cake every seven years.  But no one celebrated.

It was one of those things that was a novel idea but didn’t seem practical to the ruling elite.  It was called the Jubilee.  During Jubilee all of Israel was supposed to cancel the debt of their fellow Israelites, this was theoretically to happen every seven years.  The idea was to level the playing field and not allow poverty to become systemic.

I think God wanted His people to know what it was like to set others free.  If you think about it canceling debt is one of the most basic forms of forgiveness.  A debt forgiven life would bring an amazing level of freedom.  You would know the slavery of being in debt and the freedom of the forgiveness of it.  I think God wanted to create a society of people who both experienced and practiced the cancellation of debt in order to show off His forgiveness.

I wonder if this was a divine pre-enactment or a rehearsal for what was to come.  This same society that would practice giving and receiving debt cancellation, would ultimately experience the freedom and redemption of Jesus, the real Jubilee. Jubilee is an economic plan that communicates redemption, forgiveness and freedom.  Although the Jubilee was never put into practice Jesus brought it to fulfillment in the ultimate cancellation of debts.

 

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fully present

Today I was sitting at the kitchen table finishing my post on women in ministry while Emma was eating some lunch. I guess I was so into what I was writing I didn’t even notice Emma talking to me. A second later I noticed Emma throwing her food across the table. I started to reprimand her when my wife stopped me and said, “she’s been trying to get your attention for a while now.”

It was one of those moments when it just all clicked. I’ve worked with students for years and give me one minute with someone and I can size up their daddy issues. I’ve worked with so many teenage girls that are desperately seeking their father’s attention. Now my daughter is throwing food, just so I would pay attention to her. The crazy thing is that I shut my laptop and started to pay attention to her and she started eating her lunch again. She probably didn’t realize the significance of what she was doing but it made a huge impact on me.

If you’re a dad to girls, they are desperately seeking your attention. They want your affirmation, they crave your approval, and they want to feel loved. If you are a father to boys your absence in their life will bring anger, resentment and dis-attachment in every area in their life. Your prescience in your kids life is so much larger than you can imagine. Your presence in your kids lives even teaches them what God is like.

Sometimes kids get in trouble, sometimes they get bad grades and sometimes they appear perfectly good on the outside but are screaming internally. They don’t do this for their own good, they do this because they want your recognition. Think about it in terms of a mathematical equation, the more attention and love you give your daughter, the less she will look for it somewhere else.

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women in ministry

No matter where you go to church or for how long, there is one issue that will continually come up.  Everyone has a strong opinion one-way or the other.  Before I flush this idea out, I’d encourage you to read and pray on this verse.

Psalm 121:1-2, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains- where does my help come from?”

The word help here can be best defined as, “the assistance that one of strength offers.”  In this passage, God is our help.  When you think about God this way it is incredibly comforting to know that God will help us in times of need and that he offers tremendous strength.  This is not the only the only place where this same word, helper is used in scripture.  In Genesis 2:18 The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”  The same word that is used to describe God’s help to us is the same way that it is used in the relationship that women have to men.  This offers tremendous dignity to women in scripture.

There are really well meaning people in the church who think of women as subordinate to men.  To be fair there is a lot of precedence for this position.  John Calvin wrote, “The woman deserves her origin from the man, she is therefore inferior in rank.”  St. Augustine concluded that women do not possess the image of God because of their inferiorranking.  The early church fathers position has become the predominant position through out history.  Although, I am bold enough to disagree with Calvin and Augustine on these points.   Many people say women are subordinate because of the passage in Genesis, but if that were true then wouldn’t God be subordinate because of the passage in Psalms?  I believe that the picture painted in scripture is one of dignity and equality to men

I would argue that the Bible is actually one of the most feminists and liberating of the sacred texts pertaining to the issues of women.  In Romans 16, Paul says to greet Junias among others, “who are outstanding among the apostles’.”  In the same chapter Paul calls Phoebe a deacon of the church.  This is giving tremendous leadership to women!

One of the most damning verses to my argument says this: “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.”  (1 Timothy  2:11-12) We take this verse to be a rule in scripture, however if this were a rule in scripture then there would be a contradiction in scripture because Priscilla and Aquila, were responsible for instructing Apollos in the way of Jesus more fully. (Acts 18: 18,26)  So then we need to look at this Timothy passage in a way that does the most justice to this passage.  We must examine the cultural context surrounding women who taught verses women who Paul instructed not to teach.  Some of it was simply cultural.  All authority to make decisions presided in a man; therefore women had no cultural authority.  Some times it was to stop the spread of bad doctrine

Where Timothy was a pastor there were many people spreading false doctrine to the easiest targets they could find. Usually uneducated women stayed at home in the daytime and were most vulnerable to bad doctrine. This is very well documented and it cannot go without notice that in a society where women were denied an education, Paul said something amazing here.  He said, “let them learn,” as opposed to the society in which they lived.  Paul calling women to learn was huge!

I think Paul knew that the church is over 50% female and that half of the church needs to be released for ministry.  So here is my question for the men reading this blog?  Would you allow yourself to learn the word of God from women?  Would you encourage, train and release women for ministry in your setting?

For the ladies reading this entry, will you support the sisters who genuinely feel called by God into ministry?  Would you go to a church where the senior pastor was female?  Would you step out and lead if you feel called?

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rooting hard

When I look at nations in respect to their economies I get the real sense that some nations win economically while others lose.  If you look through the world economic map, it graphically depicts what I am talking about.  If you look at the map through the lenses of the exploitations of colonialism, it may help you under stand why some nations are rich and others are poor.  To be clear there are many other reasons and this is just one way of looking at the map.  But when you look at the map you will begin to get a real sense that there is a predominant mentality behind the map.

I think that somewhere down the line we got to thinking that If we win then someone has to lose, and if someone loses, that gives us a better chance at winning.  That is true in sports and board games, but it isn’t necessary true in every day life.  In America especially our economy is based on competition.  While competition is a great thing there is still an element win lose in the business world.  I guess my point is that we are conditioned in our world, in our country and our society to desire for others to lose, so that we can win more.  Again I can understand this mentality in sports, but what happens when this mentality begins to infiltrate our every day lives?  If everyone wanted everyone else to lose, then no one would really win

I was listening to NPR the other day and the novelist Brad Meltzer was on talking about the letters that the Presidents of the United States leave to their successors.  The last line of a letter written to Bill Clinton from George Bush was, “Your success is now our countries success, I am rooting hard for you.” He knew that putting his efforts toward rooting for his successor would be best for the country.  The last thing the country needed was a bitter president causing trouble on his way out.  So he started rooting for the man who was previously his political enemy.

Who are you not rooting for now, that if you did would make a tremendous impact in your life?  What nations should our county begin rooting for rather than against?  What if your attitude changed and you made it your mission to cheer on the success for others; do you see the triumphs of others as a personal victory?  Do you have people who you actively root against?  Why?  Is it really working for you?

Changing the world starts with a change in mentality.  May you cheer on the success of others every day.  May you see the success of others as your own personal victory.

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