Men’s Ministry Meeting #3 ‘How to Deal with Opposition’

6 04 2009
The fight gets dirty. Are you prepared to endure?

The fight gets dirty. Are you prepared to endure?

So here we are at nearly the half way point in the study of one solid character- Nehemiah. I think it’s interesting to note that in the entire book God does not appear once either speaking or acting. I’ve concluded that there is no need for this since if we simply look at the life of Nehemiah we see everything that God wanted us to know about himself in the example of this godly man.

As a recap to the teaching time this last Wens. night here are some notes I took.

In the introduction to the teaching time is was pointed out that men generally tend to get halfway through anything. This is because at the halfway point reality sets in and the obstacles ahead come into sharp focus. Many men get discourage to the point of dropping out of commitment or project. But the old adage applies, ‘the difference between success and failure is often nothing longer than 5 minutes.’ Another wrote ‘success is defined by the obstacles you overcome.’ Remember, getting something started is the easy part, getting it finished is the tough part.

If I can encourage you men- you got it started, you’ve kept up for 4 weeks now but I also know that now participation in this ministry is getting more difficult. The principle of diminishing returns is setting it, what was new and exciting a month ago is now familiar and maybe even contemptible in your mind. All of these things begin to point your attention to the ‘EXIT’ sign. I want to remind you though that sticking this thing out will produce the sort of accomplishment and fruit that you eagerly anticipated on day one. If you cut a green orange off a tree you won’t be able to get the sweet juice you’ve been anticipating!

Therefore resolve yourself in the committment you made to attend this thing all the way through. May Nehemiahs life provide you encouragement to overcome temptations to wander in this purpose

The 4 Obstacles Nehemiah Had to Overcome

  • His critics and their criticism (Chapter 4)
    1. Success breeds critics and criticism (the tall poppy syndrome)
    2. When criticism sets in where will you spend your time..
        1. We see that Nehemiah was a fighter. He didn’t let his critics detract him from the work he as about.
      • As a fighter -or-
      • As as one who flees
    3. Nehemiah exhibited 3 types of self control essential for anyone seeking to stand firm against the critics.
      1. Self Control in Prayer- 4:9
      2. The Self Control not to Retaliate- he could have but he didn’t.
      3. The Self Control to Stay Focused on the Task at Hand.

Remember- success silences your critics

  • His Confrontation with the Opposition- Does Nehemiah have the strength to confront the rich and the powerful?
    1. We learned from Nehemiah that it is typically best to wait for the problem to come to you.
    2. Nehemiah stayed with the facts and kept his personality out of the inevitable conflict.
    3. He walked the talk he was using so he could point to himself as an example to contradict the claims of his opponents.
    4. The goal of Nehemiahs confrontation AND the goal of biblical confrontation is restoration of a broken relationship. The goal is not win/lose but restoration.
  • His Control over Anger
    1. Rather than giving in to violent anger and lashing out at his opponents, Nehemiah checked with himself, performed a ‘gut check’ before responding.
      • We learned that a principle for a person who controls their anger is to learn how to overlook the things you can’t control. This is a natural for men generally speaking and so has to be cultivated as a habit of response.
      • Give the issue to the Lord. Nehemiah turns to God in prayer.
      • Know what righteous anger is, what it’s limits are and what it’s dangers are. We too ofter justify sinful anger as righteous because we fail to understand God’s attribute of anger.

Remember when it comes to anger either you will master it or it will master you.

  • The Test of Success- most men will be corrupted by success not bettered by it.
  1. Nehemiah as a powerful and respected man he could have easily used his position for corrupt purpose like the governors before him but he does not. abuse the rights he has (see Neh 5:13).
  2. Nehemiah stayed on the job. Often with a little success we tend to wander and drift off into time wasting ventures. Nehemiah passed the test of success because he stayed focused on what mattered.
  3. Nehemiah also did not profit from the gain found in his success. He could have cashed the thing in for wealth or spun it for reputation but he did not. In fact he points to his example as the complete opposite example from those who have come before him.

Remember- Most men cannot handle success. So why spent all your time trying to pursue it in this world?

What can you do this week to put into practice these few points? How can you be successful when dealing with opposition? How will these truths impact you?

If I can encourage you, I would tell you that God commands obedience before understanding. That is to say if you don’t understand how to apply these things in your life, start smal and simple, be faithful and the strength you desire will come in the doing. Though you may feel weak now if you will commit to practicing the things you are learning from Nehemiah you will witness true and real spiritual growth. Press on men!

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Men of the Word Meeting #2- Prayer Challenge

22 03 2009
Valley of Vision

Valley of Vision

O.K. so you left Wens night full of passion about prayer. You figured what the heck, 5 minutes a day is nothing! But now it’s halfway through the week and I’d bet dollars to donuts half of you have run out of things to pray about or for. With brotherly compassion on my mind, I thought I’d jot down a few subjects, themes, ect, that you can use as spring boards in your prayer time. Remember 5 minutes a day, NO slacking!

People

  • Work
    • Boss
    • Coworkers
    • Vendors
  • Family
    • Parents
    • Siblings
    • Grandparents
    • Cousins
    • Aunts and Uncles
    • Spouses
    • Children
  • People
    • Neighbors
    • President
    • Governor
    • Mayor
  • Social Issues
    • Crime in your city
    • Homelessness
    • Children issues
  • Church
    • Your pastors
    • Elders
    • Lay leaders
    • Seminary students
    • Seminary professors
    • GCC staff
    • Missionaries

These have all been themes below are some prayer concepts that simply focus on God

  • Thanksgiving
    • For his righteousness
    • For his grace
    • For his mercy
    • For his glory
    • For Jesus Christ
    • For the Holy Spirit
    • For God the Father
    • For the fellowship of the saints
    • For the opportunity to worship
    • For the opportunity to study

Obviously there are many more ideas, concepts, topics or themes you can add to this list. Hopefully this helps some of you when your own tanks run out of gas.

If you don’t own a copy of “Valley of Vision” I highly recommend it.





Men of the Word Meeting #2-Intro to Nehemiah

21 03 2009

Intentions We started to take a look at the book of Nehemiah this week and I think most everyone was challenged to learn that he was a devout man in the midst of a completely hostile pagan environment. He didn’t use this circumstance as an excuse for sinful behavior, in fact he maintained his righteous walk while attaining to the highest office in the land, that as the the personal adviser, confidant and body guard to the greatest king the world had ever seen to that point in history. Rob Iverson outlined for us how Nehemiah was able to do this. In one word the man had “integrity”.

Three ways in which a godly man like Nehemiah and consequently ourselves, ought to be concerned about integrity were listed for us.

1) Nehemiah was intentional in looking for how God was at work in the affairs of his life. This is how we are to live as well. This is how we are to “get in the game” moving from mere spectators to God’s work in the world to become intimately and personally involved.

2) Nehemiah was intentional in his prayer life. In 50 verse, 11 prayers are recorded in Nehemiah. He modeled persistence in prayer ( at one point praying for 4 months), he was humble in his prayers, he identified with the sins of his people and his prayers were tied with actions he himself took.

3) Nehemiah was intentional about cultivating personal integrity. Integrity means to be above the reproach of any man. Another way to put it is “the accusations never stick” to a man of integrity.

The main threat facing each man in cultivating these attributes in his own life can be summed up in the difference between the idea of living an intentional life or simply living a life of good intentions. The first is characterized by a man who can make plans, set goals and achieve them because he is purposeful with his time and resources. The second is characterized by the man who is always talking about things that may be good, but he can never seem to bring them into reality or complete goal that he has expressed. He is full of good intentions.

So one challenging question we were faced with was “Are we living our lives intentionally or simply lives full of good intentions?”  Are you intentional about cultivating three godly attributes that Nehemiah exhibited? The test to this question came in the form of another challenge- “Are you full of good intentions about prayer?”

I hope this synopsis is helpful to you men.





The Green Bible

22 02 2009

green-bibleI’ve been engaged for sometime in an protracted discussion with a number of people with varying perspectives about the ‘Green Bible‘. What is the “Green Bible?” is it is a published bible that focuses on the theme of God’s love and care for the creation. It contains a number of articles and notes that support the ‘green theme’ of the bible. I am typically a protagonist in these conversations since I have taken a decidedly negative stance to this bible. So to collate the recent conversations into a short article here I will attempt clarity and proposing what is wrong with this publication and more widely what is wrong in our world to permit and accept such a publication.

First- Presuppositions

This bible is a presupposition in search of a text, though the contributors will never tip their hand to this fact. Here is how it works, most Christians throughout the ages have presupposed- that is have approached the bible with the understanding that it is God’s inspired, error free, self revelation about himself to mankind. In it he discloses everything he wanted us to know about him. To what purpose? That man could properly asses himself, turn to God and by God’s plan of reconciliation and follow his plan for our lives. Again for what purpose? That ultimately God may receive glory and honor forever and that we may be participants in that glory, honor and love. This presupposition is an organic sprout out from the Scriptures not read back into them.

The Environmentalist presupposition goes something like this: A-The world is facing a serious and detrimental crisis brought on by the wanton use and destruction of natural resources by man kind. Accelerating rates of extinction and global warming are two bell weathers popularly referred to as evidence for this problem. B- Mankind is simply one branch in the tree of life and has no unique claim to the world that justifies our use of it’s resources at the expense of other species.  C-Until such a time as the Homo Sapien population is brought back into natural equilibrium with the surrounding natural world, it is expected that mankind’s presence on earth will be deleterious and harmful. D- Mankind is ultimately a parasitic presence in this world whose current forms of habitation and exploitation need eradication.

How did the bible get mixed up in this? Let me admit and even agree with proponents of the green bible who say that Scripture has a lot to say about the environment! John MacArthur, Pastor of Grace Community Church noted in his sermon series on Genesis that the entire hydrological cycle is represented in the oldest history contained in the bible. There are reference sprinkled throughout the Scripture that attribute all of creation to the work of God’s hand. If God created it does he care for it? Absolutely! But equating the presuppositions of environmentalism with the care that God has for his universe is intrinsically deceptive! God is not an environmentalist!

Here is the logic that I use to make that last statement. Whereas environmentalism sees humanity as an  plague needing to be checked (Footnote 1), God sees humanity as a blessing to the creation and gives mankind command to increase and multiply (Genesis 1:22). In other words God so loved the world (humanity) that John 3:16 happened. Frankly environmentalism is a slap in the face of God by calling those creatures whom God loves, a curse! Because of incompatible presuppositions Environmentalism and Christianity can only be combined through some unholy copulation that should is not to take place.

Many will counter that the bible does speak of mankind taking care of the earth, ect. This is true! In Genesis man is given the mandate to subdue the earth, pull from its resources nourishment and to seek from it provisions for the needs of life. This is the idea of Biblical Stewardship and is again totally in contradiction to Environmentalist thinking. As stewards of the natural resources given to us in creation, we are to manage this world as the property of another- that is the essence of stewardship. The owner, God- has told mankind to use it. We therefore are to derive a philosophy on environmental management that honors 1) God as ultimate owner and creator of the universe and 2) honors the intention of that creation and His subsequent choice of mankind as its managers. Here is what I believe is a Christian worldview on the environment…

“Mankind is to responsibly use the resources of this world for the provision of resources to meet the needs of the greatest number of people for the longest possible time.”

Let me state the implications clearly

  1. Natural resources were created WITH the intent that mankind would use them.
  2. Natural resources were created to meet the NEED that mankind had.
  3. Natural resources are to be consumed by the greatest number of people for the greatest benefit to mankind.
  4. Stewardship implies ownership of another who may return to exercise his ownership and remove the stewardship of mankind. A good steward returns the property of the owner in good condition. Therefore mankind has the moral responsibility to manage the earth so as to return it to it’s owner in like new or better than new condition. This is what ought to be in mind when we as Christians speak of ‘sustainability.’

Second- Purpose

The purpose of the green bible is to remove the wall between environmentalism and the bible. It attempts to demonstrate that the supposed differences between current ‘green’ thinking and biblical teaching are not as numerous nor as insurmountable as people like myself would argue. It accomplishes this with a tool of trickery. By highlighting supposedly environmentally themed passages in green it draws the readers attention specifically to those passages without regard for the surrounding literary construction within which those green passages are found. In other words it leads readers to take green passages out of context so that the bible reads as an environmentalist friendly handbook. The message produced by this effect is further legitimized by applying the validating seals of academia and faith via environmentally themed articles penned by such notable figures as Desmon TuTu, Brian McClaren, and others. Thus it has the power to reshape a persons understanding of Scripture using an dubious approach that is further legitimized by noted scholars.

Now that I think about it, the green bible is probably more dangerous that I previously thought because it does more to muddy the clarity of Scripture by denigrating the original intent of biblical authors for the purpose of marrying Holy Writ with secular Environmentalism.

Third- Results

This is the most painful element of this discussion for me because the Green Bible adds confusion and misinformation to an already bewildering world of false Christianities. I have responded to people who are excited about the ability of the GB to reach out to disenfranchised, disillusioned, offended people and to draw them back into the church again. I wrote to one. “I beg all of you who are thinking about returning to church because of the influence of the green bible NOT TO!!! For if you find a biblical church you will find little in common between your green bible and pulpit exposition. If you find a church that is accommodating to your environmentalist ideals, then I fear you have not found a church at all, despite the name on the sign out front.

Conclusion

The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells Christians that we are the ones who are to take every thought captive, that includes the thoughts presented to us by the Environmentalist. Biblical Christians have for too long failed to work at a holistic Christian Worldview that carries with it the weight of divine authority. This is what Carl Henery first laments in “The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism” and more recently Nancy Pearcy chronicles in her massively important “Total Truth“. The green bible is not the result of some advancement of Christian thought. It is the flotsam tossed up by the ceaseless wave tossing of this world sucked into our presence by the vacuum that Henery and Pearcy lament. It was inevitable that there be a green bible because the hole in Christian thinking demanded to be filled. It is lamentable that there was a hole to begin with.

In short the Green bible represents an unholy copulation of unbiblical Environmentalism with the Scriptures. It is a dishonest endeavor that muddles the clarity of Scripture, has the power to deceive its readers and stands as a rebuke to modern Christianity. Like the shatted wall of Jerusalem stood as a rebuke to the Jews in exile so too this bible represents a rebuke to bible minded Christians. My hope is that others, when considering what this bible represents, will be moved  to take upon themsleves the burden of building and defending a Christian Worldview and therein repair the walls of Christian thinking which have for so long been laid in ruin while pagan thinking has carried off our values and perspective into a cultural captivity which few of us recognize.

Footnote

1. I know scientists who remind me that people are part of nature, but it isn’t true. Somewhere along the line … we quit the contract and became a cancer. We have become a plague upon ourselves and upon the Earth…. Until such time as Homo sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along. (source: “Mother Nature as a hothouse flower,” Los Angeles Times Book Review, October 22, 1989, p. 10.)

-David Graber, biologist, National Park Service





How Are Christians to Respond to This?

19 02 2009

In traditional societies when it comes to age you can picture a pyramid with the base composed of more youthful populations that age as you ascend the pyramid upward. The peak is small and represents the oldest age group and also the smallest in our population. Then came the babyboom.

Because of the babyboom and how this generation is aging, the natural pyramid is slowly but inevitably changing shape with profound implications. If you are younger than 30 this short TEDtalk video is worth your 3 minutes to at least orient you with one more doomsday prophecy to add to the list of possible forms of future annihilation.

As Christians there is something more sobering to ponder. Thematically the bible pressents a picture of the younger generation revearing and honoring and providing for the older generation. This makes sense because there are more kids than parents so the burden of responsibiltiy is porportantely smaller in the traditional model. But what happens when the ratio drops from 3:1 to 2:1 or 1:1? Add the entitlement mentailty we have created and it is easy for even an economic novice to forecast a potential fiscal storm.

A friend suggest I look to Europe as an example and an example it surely is. The Economist and CNN have done an excellent job in recording the slow motion moral, social and economic breakdown that I would suggest are precussor effects to this radical shift in the way societies are structured according to age. Will the same hold true for America?





Walking Billboards

19 02 2009

air-nzA couple of weeks ago I received an email from AirNewZealand.com inviting me to participate in a radical advertising campaign. For shaving my head and having a henna stained tattoo plastered on my cranium, I would be awared the choice of a round trip ticket to NZ or $777 cash. I seriously pondered the opportunity for a moment before fanciful visions of gawking hoards staring at my head, were dashed away by the wailing of a baby who had a stench emanating  from it that made the plaintiff cries all the more understandable.

Air New Zealand is not the only company to have courted bodies to act as walking billboards. The idea is simple- the image of an actual person being branded with an corporate moniker is so shocking that people are forced by their innate desire to stare at the strange, too look and this be unwitting recipients of advertising that has has the added boost of creating a visual image memory that’s hard to get rid of. People would become ambassadors of the companies whom they received payment from. It’s the ultimate quid-pro-quo relationship.18adco-inline1-650

Besides being both funny and concerning at the same time, the idea of using the body for advertising purposes is not at all new nor is it alien to Christianity. In the worldly sense body advertising is a mockingly cleaver adaptation of what all Christians are called to be in this world, Ambassadors, namely of Jesus Christ. This Pauline expression is found in 2 Corinthians 5:20 where we are told that as believers, God is making his appeal to the world through us. This makes sense right? In the preceding verse believers are defined as people participate in a new creation, are reconciled to God and given a purpose to life. The idea is that believers are brand new people living life with new biblical purpose! We are like shinny new cars- who hides a brand new Corvette in the garage? No one would! If a beloved seminary professor is any example you make a public spectacle letting everyone know you own a brand new machine!

I would argue that so too are we to act as Christians! Christianity is not a private affair, conduct in the confines of closet. Biblical Christianity by its very nature is a very public affair for it is through us that God is making His appeal to be reconciled to Him. How are we to be the walking billboards for God that we ought to be? Live as those who are new creations- put away sin! Live joyfully knowing the God has made peace with you by reconciling Himself to you through the cross. Live as those with noble purpose- you are ambassadors of the King!

As Air New Zealand undoubtedly got a lot of interest from their cranial billboards, think of how much interest would be generated in our God if we live up to the noble calling we have in Him! What attraction the pagan might grant God if we lived in the fullness of love that we ought to have for one another (John 13:35)! And yet it is sobering to look across the landscape of Evangelicalism and view not bonds of love in the pursuit of our noble calling but rather theological bomb craters, doctrinal concertina wire fences and hermenutical fortresses designed to keep ‘them’ out and ‘us’ safe. Is it any wonder that the world is painfully unaware of Gods message of reconciliation if His ambassadors aren’t representing him well?

As on ambassador to another I beg you to consider your purpose in life. Do you have one? Does it include the idea that primarily in every circumstance of everyday that you are showing people our God by your thoughts, deeds and words? That you are yourself the means of communicating the message of reconcilliation? That God has chosen you to be the witness in this world of his great compassion for sinners? Don’t miss the call, or you’ll drop the ball.





I’ll take mine with Blue Eyes and a Large Fry.

18 02 2009
Want a boy with blue eyes? Yes we can!

If you’ve never seen the sci-fi flick “Gattaca” I highly recommend it to you. Besides being visually stimulating the meta narrative featured in the film was envelope pushing in 1997 when the movie came out. The overaching reality that this movie presents is one in which parents can genetically order the child of their desires and thus avoid the roulette wheel that is represented in natural conception. “Valids” are those whose genetic make up has been selected to provide the best possible genetic combination of traints like gender, eye color, ect. “God Children” alternatively are those who were conceived in the same old fashioned manner as you and I along with all the genetic predispositions like eczema (a condition I am familiar with :).

In the modern era this narrative had roots in the1991 announcement of the Human Genome Project led by the national Institues of Health. This project provides the reality and tools to accomplish the picking and choosing of genes. Though the process are not fully in place or created yet the opportunity to provide “choose your trait” services will be to lucrative and necessary (sans, all those fighting genetic illness today), to pass up. In one sign that this day is approaching a clinic in Los Angeles will begin offering its services soon, allowing patrons to select the features of their children. The reputable WSJ reports….