Crisis of Meaning

September 27, 2010 Leave a comment

In the book, Courage and Calling, by Gordon Smith, he discusses how we live in a time of rapid change and that this is "having a profound effect on the way we live, the way we work and the way we think about our lives and our work" (p. 15). He goes on to discuss four types of crises we face today, one of which is a crisis of meaning.

Many people struggle with the meaning of their life. Perhaps the reason so many struggle with it is because they base the meaning of their life on what they do for a living. But as we study God’s Word, we come to understand that it is not so much what we do that is important, but who we are. We should not focus on what it is that we do in order to understand the meaning of our life. Instead, we should focus on who God created us to be, and to live our life in a way that brings honor and glory to Him.

Smith wraps up his book with this. “Our ultimate goal is not so much to accomplish great things, as it is to be women and men who know, love and serve Jesus. Our final concern is not career or ministry or reputation but whether through the course of our lives we grow in the saving grace of Christ, living and working in such a way that others might know him” (p. 196). And that, my friends, is what should give meaning to our life.

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Contemplations about Facebook

August 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Over the past month or so I have been thinking about taking down my Facebook page. I have been contemplating this for a couple of reasons. The first is simply because I rarely logon, so I am not using it much anymore. The second reason is a bit more complicated.

Although I like the idea of being connected and keeping up on what is going on, it has changed the way I interact with other people. Rather than stopping in to visit someone, or making a phone call to a friend, I post something on my Facebook page. Facebook has changed the way I commune with others, and in many ways, it has become very impersonal.

Facebook has some great advantages. For one, it is very convenient to post something and let everyone read it at their convenience. It is also a great way to keep up on what my family and friends are doing. Facebook is also a great way to promote an organization or event such as our churches and other ministries. Facebook has changed the way we share information. But there are a few drawbacks as well.

A critical part of sharing and living out my faith involves spending time with others in a community of family and friends. I would rather talk to someone over the phone or have a conversation over a cup of coffee than sit in front of my computer. I spend enough time in front of my computer. Creating and developing relationships takes time and effort, and the rewards are much greater than the impersonal relationships I have on social networking sites such as Facebook.

I am going to keep my Facebook for the many advantages I mentioned, but I am going to change the way I do things. Perhaps it is something you want to consider. Rather than posting a note about something cool that is going on in my life, I will pick up the phone and call a friend to tell them about it. I will go to a coffee shop to meet with friends and share what is going on in my life, and in turn, listen to what is going on in theirs. Who knows? I might even make a new friend while I am sitting in the coffee shop waiting on a friend.

Blessings,

jim

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Transform Your Life

March 24, 2010 Leave a comment

This past Sunday I preached both sermons at Cornerstone Baptist Church.  The title of the sermon is Transform Your Life, a look at Romans 12:1-2 and our call to be disciples.  View a video of this message here: Transform Your Life.

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Are women to remain silent in church?

January 7, 2010 Leave a comment

This past Sunday a student asked a question in the class I teach at the Hope Intercultural Mission Center. He asked if women are to remain silent in the church as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 14:33-34. In answering, I recalled an article I read by Frank Viola, Reimagining a Woman’s Role in the Church: An Open Letter. In this article, Viola concludes that the apostle Paul was most likely writing to a specific situation, and he did not mean this to apply in every church and situation. In recalling this to my students, I made another statement that I had forgotten Viola made in his article. He wrote, “If our interpretation of the Bible smacks square in the face of what our human spirit is telling us…this should force us to seriously re-examine our interpretation of certain Biblical passages” (Viola, n.d., p. 6). In this case, it does not ring true that all women should remain silent in church.

This evening I decided to consult another source. I found an article dealing with this very question in the book, Hard Sayings of the Bible. The author, Kaiser, makes the case that reading this statement in the context of the entire letter leads one to the conclusion that Paul is addressing a specific problem in the church at Corinth. The author wrote,

If Paul believed that women should be silent in the churches in a comprehensive, universal sense, he would not have spent so much time instructing women what to do with their heads; he would have simply forbidden their practice of praying and prophesying in the assembled congregation.

He goes on to write, “The injunction must be understood within its own context as addressing a problem in Corinth which needed correcting (Kaiser, 1997, p. 615).

I know there may be some out there that do not agree with this. Nevertheless, as I said to my students, we may not all agree with every detail of Christianity, but as long as we agree on the main thing we can still be in fellowship. And that main thing is Jesus is Lord. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” Romans 10:9 (ESV).

References:

Kaiser, W. C. (1997). Hard sayings of the Bible. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity.

Viola, F. (n.d.) Reimagining a Woman’s Role in the Church: An Open Letter. Present Testimony Ministry. Retrieved January 7, 2010, from http://www.ptmin.org/role.pdf

Categories: Bible Tags:

Question of the day:

January 4, 2010 Leave a comment

“Why should God reveal new truth to you when you don’t embrace the truth he gives you?” (Dr. Johnny Hunt in his sermon dated January 3rd, 2010 http://www.fbcw.org/).

Staying at our Post

December 30, 2009 2 comments

In preparation to teach a class on Spiritual Leadership, I am reviewing J. Oswald Sanders’ book, Spiritual Leadership.  This morning I reread the chapter, Insights on Leadership from Paul and his look at characteristics of a leader as described in 1 Timothy 3:2-7.  He includes a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer that says,

It is the mark of a grown-up man, as compared with a callow youth, that he finds his center of gravity wherever he happens to be at the moment, and however much he longs for the object of his desire, it cannot prevent him from staying at his post and doing his duty. (p. 45)

This quote struck me because I have been guilty of the very thing Bonhoeffer advises against.  How many of you have been in a position but did not give it your best because you felt you should be in a different position.  Perhaps you thought you were qualified for the next position up the chain.  I know I have been there, and done that. 

I remember a specific instance while serving in the U.S. Army.  I was stationed in Europe and assigned to Howitzer Battery of the First Squadron, 2d Armored Cavalry Regiment as the unit supply sergeant.  I was the junior supply sergeant in the Squadron, but nonetheless, about two years into my three-year tour, I was given the opportunity to assume a position with Squadron Headquarters.  The S-4 Noncommissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) had rotated back to the states, and the Army had not assigned a replacement.  I was asked to assume his position until the replacement arrived.  My First Sergeant advised against it because as soon as I left, a replacement would take my job with Howitzer Battery, and then if the replacement for the S-4 NCOIC showed up, I would be left without a job.  Well, in my eagerness to move up to the chain, I went against my First Sergeant’s advice and accepted the offer to assume the S-4 NCOIC position.  Sure enough, about two months into the job, a replacement showed up who outranked me and bumped me out of the position.  I ended up with another unit within the Squadron.  It was a good move, but I ended up working for someone that made my life miserable (as opposed to my former First Sergeant who was a great leader). 

Years later, looking back on this, I know my eagerness to move into a job prior to my being ready resulted in my working in a situation that held up my next promotion at least a year (but that’s a story for another time).  If I had heeded my First Sergeant’s advice, and stayed in the position I was in, chances are I would have received my next promotion a year sooner.  I wish I could say I learned my lesson and did not fall into the same temptation again, but I could name at least two other instances that occurred in my civilian career as well.

Paul’s advice to Timothy as expressed by Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one that we should all heed.  God places us in situations and leadership positions for a reason, and it is up to us to live a life of faith and obedience in serving Him to the best of our ability.  May we all strive to follow Paul’s guidance when he wrote, “[An overseer] must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:6, ESV).

Categories: leadership Tags:

Disciple-making in the local church

December 29, 2009 Leave a comment

Thom Rainer writes about disciple-making in the local church in a recent article in Facts & Trends (you can read it online at http://www.lifeway.com/article/?id=169885).  Many pastors, including me, are frustrated at the lack of participation in Sunday school and small groups.  He writes, “There was a day for most churches when the solution to this dilemma was to turn to some organizational entity, such as a denomination, and get the needed programs to meet the needs of the church… Not so today” (Rainer, 2009, p. 4).  In the past, a new denominational program was all it took to generate interest, but somewhere along the line, many churches have lost sight of the purpose of these programs – making disciples.  Rainer continues to show what effective disciple-making churches are doing to reverse this trend.

What Rainer has found is those churches that have high expectations of its members are more effective in making disciples.  These expectations are established in “an entry point class that all new members attend.”  Some of these expectations are:

1)      Members are expected to attend an open group Bible study

2)      Members are expected to be involved in one or more deeper studies throughout the year

3)      Members are expected to attend a corporate worship service each week

4)      Members are expected to be involved in at least one ministry or mission activity a year

5)      Members are expected to read and study the Bible daily (Rainer, 2009, p. 5)

As Rainer expresses, many leaders’ immediate response is that people will not expect such high expectations and flee from the church.  I have heard this from the leadership in my church, too.  But I agree with Rainer.  Setting high expectations adds value to being a member of the church.  It also adds significance to each member of the body.  Rick Warren wrote of similar expectations in his book, The Purpose Driven Church

We should not be afraid of setting such high expectations.  Jesus commissioned all of us to make disciples and to equip the saints (Matthew 29:20 and Ephesians 4:12).  How can we accomplish such a great task if we are unwilling to place expectations on our congregations?  We need to be bold and courageous in our work for our Lord and Savior.  After all, we are in the business of building disciples, not entertaining churchgoers.