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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Comfort for those who mourn the animals they loved

Indian Runner Ducks during a sheepdog demonstr...Image via Wikipedia

A month ago our duck pen was visited by a predator. That was terrible. It was the first time we had forgotten to lock them up for the night. One duck was killed. It seemed wonderful later on that a friend of mine wanted to find a new home for his two Indian Runner Ducks. We had lost one but ended up with two more. We had four birds, 3 runners and one Khaki Campbell, our reliable egg layer. The Campbell survived the earlier attack.

She didn't survive last night's attack.

The predator pushed the cinder blocks out of the way and got in the duck house and chewed her and the newcomers up. I never found one carcass, presumably carried off for pups or kits, but I had to pick up two more. It was a brutal sight and made breakfast difficult going down.

An 8 week Khaki Campbell duck (rear) and 13 we...Image via Wikipedia

Norbert, our male who survived the first attack, survived this one as well, but bloodied with a limp leg. He was named after Hagrid's pet dragon. He's a tough duck.

My children were so upset last time. They are, unfortunately, more hardened this time. But they still ask why. I have no answers, just a hope. I hope for heaven, where Jesus brings peace to the animal kingdom and between humans and animals.

When Jesus' kingdom is described in Isaiah 11, part of the good news is this interaction, starting at verse 6.

1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;

from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—

the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,

the Spirit of counsel and of power,

the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord—

3 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,

or decide by what he hears with his ears;

4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy,

with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.

He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;

with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.

5 Righteousness will be his belt

and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

6 The wolf will live with the lamb,

the leopard will lie down with the goat,

the calf and the lion and the yearlinga together;

and a little child will lead them.

7 The cow will feed with the bear,

their young will lie down together,

and the lion will eat straw like the ox.

8 The infant will play near the hole of the cobra,

Child and SerpentImage by Thomas Hawk via Flickr



and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest.

9 They will neither harm nor destroy

on all my holy mountain,

for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord

as the waters cover the sea. (NIV)

Isaiah reaffirms this peace in His kingdom later on in Isaiah 65.


17 “Behold, I will create

new heavens and a new earth.

The former things will not be remembered,

nor will they come to mind.

18 But be glad and rejoice forever

in what I will create,

for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight

and its people a joy.

19 I will rejoice over Jerusalem

and take delight in my people;

the sound of weeping and of crying

will be heard in it no more.

20 “Never again will there be in it

an infant who lives but a few days,

or an old man who does not live out his years;

he who dies at a hundred

will be thought a mere youth;

he who fails to reacha a hundred

will be considered accursed.

21 They will build houses and dwell in them;

they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.

22 No longer will they build houses and others live in them,

or plant and others eat.

For as the days of a tree,

so will be the days of my people;

my chosen ones will long enjoy

the works of their hands.

23 They will not toil in vain

or bear children doomed to misfortune;

for they will be a people blessed by the Lord,

they and their descendants with them.

24 Before they call I will answer;

while they are still speaking I will hear.

25 The wolf and the lamb will feed together,

Lion & LambImage by talekinker via Flickr


and the lion will eat straw like the ox,

but dust will be the serpent’s food.

They will neither harm nor destroy

on all my holy mountain,”

says the Lord. (NIV)

Our best day on earth can never hold a candle to our worst day in heaven. In the new heaven and new earth death, our enemy, will not be present.

Isaiah 25:8 says he will swallow up death forever.

The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears

from all faces;

he will remove the disgrace of his people

from all the earth.

The Lord has spoken. (NIV)

John the Revelator repeats this promise twice.

Revelation 7:17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. (NIV)

and

Revelation 21:4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (NIV)

Our worst day on earth, makes us long for heaven the most. Come quickly Lord Jesus.
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Sunday, June 28, 2009

A letter from a fetus on the way to the abortion clinic

Mom.
In a couple years, you'll hear me say your name. A lot. In fact, I'll be saying it for the rest of my life, if you'll let me. I know this is not the right time for you. I'm sorry. I'm an inconvenience. In fact, you're smart enough to recognize I will be an inconvenience for at least 18 years, which is why you came here.

Dad,
I don't want to die. You might think that I can't really express such things so young. I won't be able to express anything close to that for several years, but I will react to pain. Please don't hurt me. This isn't for my good. God gave me to you to take care of my life. He'll take care of my death.

Mom.
If you don't want me, can you take care of me until some other parents will take me off your hands? Can you give me a few more months? There are so many families who can't make their own babies. They would love to have someone like me. They consider the inconvenience of my life pure joy. You could bring so much joy out of this mess you feel you are in. Right now, you are doing something for another human no one else can. Please don't miss this opportunity. I'm a gift to you for a short time, whether it be a few months or 18 years. If only for a few months, then I am a gift for someone else. Please don't destroy me.

Love
Your Baby.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

book report - Hitler, A Biography by Ian Kershaw, 1

Cover of Cover of Hitler

My reading for this summer is Ian Kershaw's condensed-from-two-volumes-to-one-yet-still-massive biography of Hitler. I expect to plod through it in fits and starts. I also expect there will be many noteworthy quotes in it. My first one is from the prelude.
...as the key to understanding how Hitler could obtain, then exercise, his peculiar form of power, I turned to the concept of 'charismatic authority', as devised by the brilliant German sociologist Max Weber, who died before Hitler had been heard of - at least outside Munich beerhalls...'Charismatic authority', as deployed by Weber, did not rest primarily on demonstrable outstanding qualities of an individual. Rather, it derived from the perception of such qualities among a 'following' which, amid crisis conditions, projected on to a chosen leader unique 'heroic' attributes and saw in him personal greatness, the embodiment of a 'mission' of salvation. 'Charismatic authority' is, in Weber's conceptualization, inherently unstable. Continued failure or misfortune will bring its downfall, and it is under threat of becoming 'routinized' into a systematic form of government. pp. xxviii, xxix

My first thought as an American recently out of an election cycle, "Obama." My second thought was "Palin." My third thought was "W." At least Bush and Palin oversaw state governments. Then I think, does the American political system let the cream rise to the top lately? Not in a country that is so focussed on celebrity deaths instead of victims of human rights violations around the world. However, how many countries do focus on more than charisma? It seems we are by nature charisma-attracted and consider ourselves lucky if the charisma comes with experience, wisdom, and sobriety. Hitler doesn't appear often in societies because the degree of megalomania is exceptional.

God save us.
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Friday, June 26, 2009

tragic manicures going on in the world

I just read a great short piece at Time.com about the Iranian media showing The Lord of the

Blood stained victim, Tehran, IranImage by misterarasmus via Flickr

Rings Trilogy to pacify the rightly upset public, HT: Get Religion. But then I followed a link to a slideshow of the violence against the protesters in Iran. But the tragedy is the list of the Top 10 read articles today at Time. Half of them are about Michael Jackson and one is about Farrah Fawcett. Two popular entertainers died while more are dying for more important things in Iran. In light of this, my brother reportedly, though I did not see it myself, wrote as his status on Facebook something like, "I don't care about Jackson dying when there are tragic manicures going on in the world." He had a brain fart. We all do. He meant "tragic massacres." His point is well taken. But I think, based on the media coverage I'm seeing today, most people act as if they don't care about injustice in Iran when there are tragic manicures and other pop vanities to worry about.

Pray peace and justice in Iran. Thank God that the US does not suffer from such tragic election fraud or transitions of power.

Basiji Offices, Tehran, IranImage by misterarasmus via Flickr



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travails of a barefoot runner

Last year was a bust for my barefoot running. I had some annoying pain running up my arch to my ankle bone that only bothered me when I ran barefoot. So I took the summer off. This winter, I ran a bit in my Nike Free shoes. I even ran a 5K with my wife, shod. The pain was gone in my ankle. When the sun was last out, about 2 months ago, I went on my first BF run and did fine. It was a mile and a half out shod and the return trip unshod. Then the sun disappeared, along with my motivation.

I needed a goal, and I decided on the free 12 miler in the blistering heat and humidity of August, which I did two years ago, unshod, and two years before that, shod. When the sun peaked out yesterday, I took off my shoes and went out for an easy 3. The tendon pain was gone. My technique was rusty but adequate. I thought all was fine. Four hours later, I pushed back from my desk and starting walking to my car with a sharp pain on the top of my foot up from the big toe. It feels to me like a fracture or extreme tightness. It's the next day and it still hurts.

Fiddlesticks.

I might have to train shod.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Abortion, Lila Rose, and Youtube censorship

Lila Rose usually posts videos of Planned Parenthood workers covering up for statutory rapists. This time she posted a video of one denying that pictures of aborted babies are real, sort of like a Holocaust denier. She posted the video on Youtube like all the others and Youtube pulled it. Why? Because it's gross? Abortion is gross. It's a violent murder. Anyway, she had to post it on Metacafe. Here's the video for all to see. Here's her page where one can find out more about her campaign against Planned Parenthood and it's furtherance of American Honor Killing.



Planned Parenthood Falsely Says Abortion Pictures Are "not Real"

Friday, June 19, 2009

book report - Nelson's Illustrated Guide to Religions by Beverly

James Beverly has put together an 800 page reference for Evangelical Christians titled, Nelson's Illustrated Guide to Religions, A Comprehensive Introduction to the Religions of the World. Beverly is Professor of Christian Thought and Ethics at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, Ontario. He's published other titles on other religions previously.

His topics range from Branch Davidians to Islam, Scientology to the Moonies. He also has separate chapters on the Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic churches. Why a group of a few hundred at most is considered alongside a group of one billion is somewhat mystifying. However, the introduction clarifies that he intends the book "as a guide to understanding some of the most controversial religious groups and issues." p.1 The rogue's list of Christian Sectarian Groups in chapter 5 is depressing reading, especially the frequency of sexual perversion in these groups. He does not hold much weight in the concept of brainwashing, but he does think social pressure in high intensity religious groups is a serious concern.

I've done plenty of reading about Mormonism and engage the young missionaries whenever they come to my door, so I was interested in his chapter on them. He did an excellent job on their theology. I have an editing complaint however. He concludes the chapter with a discussion of the contemporary Mormon polygamous groups and places a picture of a temple of another sect of Mormonism that isn't polygamous, p.383, but is closer to orthodoxy than the LDS is, the Community of Christ. They are still unorthodox, but they only accept Joseph Smith's first book, The Book of Mormon, and not the later writings. It seems to commit guilt by association. He never gives an explanation of the significant history of the Community of Christ in the history of Mormonism either.

I found the Sikh chapter interesting. He provided nothing for points of discussion between Christians and Sikhs, which he provides in other chapters. There is also a serious editorial fail on p. 669. "On June 5, 1884, the Indian government ordered a raid on the Sikh Golden Temple...That led to the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi..." This happened in the 20th century, not the 19th.

I like his internet links in the book as well as suggested reading. I also enjoyed, when he included them, talking points for Christians with those who aren't. I think this is a good starter book for a Christian who wants to learn more about their co-workers or neighbors.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

my official facebook address

Feel free to "friend" me at http://www.facebook.com/john.p.umland
If I have never heard of you before, I will ignore your friend request unless you tell me you are a blog reader friend.
I find that lately I've been doing more at FB than at the Umblog. Today's post, in fact, was an expansion of the verse of the day I've been using for my status updates.

Rescued from this world

This morning I read Galatians 1 which opens with 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Some theologians make a strong case for God's purpose is to redeem this world. But verses like this makes me think, he did come to redeem, but not everyone or everything. According to His will, some will be rescued and some won't. So God redeems individuals. The influence of the individuals can, and often do, improve the culture in which they are part. Sometimes, the culture destroys them. But no matter how many are redeemed, this present age will always be evil. But one day this age will end, when Jesus returns.

If you aren't redeemed by Jesus, then he'll treat you like an enemy according to His Word; 2 Thessalonians 1, 7b when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,

We need redemption. It's simple. Get righteousness, not your own, but Jesus'. Romans 9 says 6 But the righteousness based on faith says, ...8b “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, 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. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.

That's good news which in Greek is the word Gospel.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

book report: Guns, germs, and steel by Jared Diamond

Cover of Cover via Amazon

I've been meaning to read Guns, Germs, and Steel: The fates of human societies by Jared Diamond since it came out over 10 years ago. I finally finished it. I don't know if his argument still holds water 10 years later, but it did win a Pulitzer Prize, and I found his ideas persuasive.

The book is written in reponse to a question posed by a friend of Diamond's in New Guinea. He asks, "Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but we black people had little cargo of our own?" p. 14

The ignorant answer is that whites are better than non-whites. The answer Diamond gives is geographical determinism. Whites benefited from their origins in the fertile crescent with its abundant grains and domesticate animals. The sedentary life allowed class stratification, where people could trade abilities and craftwork for food. The animals in close proximity introduced diseases that eventually led to genetic resistance. That enabled population expansion. That enabled geographical expansion. That enabled larger kingdoms. That enabled expansion, which is easier east-west than north-south because one can bring their seed crops with them and plant them successfully in familiar rain cycles and day length patterns.

For example, the Americas never had large animals to domesticate. Nor did they have crops as successful as the ones introduced by the invading Europeans. But they quickly adopted them when introduced, think horses and sheep.
In those parts of the Americas that did support Native American agriculture, it was constrained by five major disadvantages vis-a-vis Eurasian agriculture: widespread dependence on protein-poor corn, instead of Eurasia's diverse and protein-rich cereals; hand planting of individual seeds, instead of broadcast sowing; tilling by hand instead of plowing by animals, which enables one person to cultivate a much larger area, and which also permits cultivation of some fertile but tough soils and sods that are difficult to till by hand (such as those of the North American Great Plains); lack of animal manuring to increase soil fertility; and just human muscle power, instead of animal power, for agricultural tasks such as threshing, grinding, and irrigation. These differences suggest that Eurasian agriculture as of 1492 may have yielded on the average more calories and protein per person-hour of labor than Native American agriculture did. pp. 356-7
Without close association with many livestock breeds, the native Americans also lacked diseases to pass back to the Europeans. Hence, the European diseases wiped out up to 90% of the American population. Then lack of any restraint by the professed belief in Christ of the invaders also resulted in more destruction.

He notes of cultures that reverted to hunting and gathering after settling a new area. It makes me think that when the protein is so easily attainable, the incentive to settle down and farm goes away. But the inability to work together on behalf of others you barely know or care about beyond your family group also makes a hunting-gathering culture very vulnerable to invaders who want their land. As long as there seems to be more land, why bother resisting and why not let them have the land? But it never is enough for the agriculturists.

It's a very thought provoking book. I enjoyed it. I recommend it.
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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

character defined

A few months ago I tried to wrestle with the definition of character, especially in the context of the Jesus follower and church discipline. What I came up with over two posts (one and two) Dustin Hoffman said in one sentence to me last night through his character, Louis Dega, in the lame 1973 movie, Papillon. He said, "Temptation resisted is the true test of character."

The movie says it's based on a true story, but the publisher of Papillon admitted it was originally submitted as a novel. Another "autobiographical" best seller which suffered from truthiness. Only in a false autobiography does the hero get to live on a tropical beach in a primitive village with topless, pearl diving maidens for a few months while on the lam. That was the big tip off, the part of the story that could never be veriified, but had salacious entertainment.

Papillon (film)Image via Wikipedia

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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

recovering

Southeast Light is a Block Island landmark.Image via Wikipedia

Busy. Busy. We escaped for a night to Block Island for our 15th anniversary. Then I crammed for the sermon. Now my brain is still decompressing. I should have a book report soon. I also hope to have a Block Island vacation review. It's good. In the meantime, I finally have time to catch up with the blogs. See the links I'm liking at the top of the page or directly here.

:en:Block Island is shown off the coast of :en...Image via Wikipedia

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Sunday, June 07, 2009

sermon on 1 Thess 5:12-28

Let's read the end of 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

12 Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14 And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.

16 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Do not put out the Spirit's fire; 20 do not treat prophecies with contempt. 21 Test everything. Hold on to the good. 22 Avoid every kind of evil.

23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. 25 Brothers, pray for us. 26 Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. 27 I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers. 28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

I think that's all so now we can go have donuts....

No.....

Let's pray.

If this is your first time with us, ever, or in a while, we are reading probably the first of Paul's letters in the Bible. It was written from Corinth, about 200 miles south of Thessalonica. He had been chased out of Thess. as well as Philippi, and Berea. This was a very successful church plant but Paul was worried about how such a young church was doing, so he sent Timothy to check in on them. Timothy had come back with a positive report. In 3:6 Paul writes,

But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you.

The Church of Saint George (Rotunda) in centra...Image via Wikipedia

However, there were a few things Timothy observed that Paul felt needed addressing. Some of the believers already had fallen asleep, died. They figured, Jesus would return before that happened. So they grew insecure. They wanted to know when Jesus would return. Every chapter in this letter ends with the affirmation that Jesus will return., but without a date. Some figured since his return was so soon, why bother working? These slackers were mooching off the ones who kept their jobs. And some of them figured they needed to not bother with marriage before climbing into bed with each other.

Are any of these issues unfamiliar in our modern times? Of course not. That's why we are still reading this stuff 2000 years later.

So Paul has addressed their concerns,
Jesus will return, we just don't know when, but when it happens, we won't be able to miss it because the believers who died will be rising from their graves up to heaven to join him.
Get a job, keep your job, and mind your own business.
Control our bodies in a holy and honorable way, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God.

At the end of the letter, Paul wraps up with a list for the church to work on.

As a parent with younger children, I first thought of this as the sort of list we'd leave for a babysitter.

We'd write stuff like, only one ice cream sandwich per kid, make them wash their dishes, make them floss, only one video, lights out by 9...

But there was a big flaw in that analogy. My kids aren't allowed to tell the baby sitter, "forget you," and stomp out of the house. No this is more like something we'll be able to do when the kids are 17 or so, leave the oldest one, and presumable the responsible one, in charge. And that is a big presumption. So when Paul writes to the brothers, it's really like a big family, and the responsibility has fallen to some, those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.

So I see Jesus writing, through Paul, "respect your brothers who I've put in charge". As any family with more than one child knows, sibling rivalry happens. And Jesus is saying there are a few who are over you, who will admonish you, they are recognizable by their hard work.

Paul reminded them of his own hard work among them in 2:9 Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.

He reminded the Corinthians of how he works harder than the other apostles in 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them--yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.

He also commended the hard work of four sisters to the church in Rome. 16:6 Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you. 16:12 Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord.

But it is still a little weird to talk about siblings who are over us in the Lord. It's pretty clear in Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.

That's pretty strong. In fact, it is so strong that some leaders have taken advantage of that verse and have really hurt people. The leaders in the church who have abused this privilege need to revisit the qualifications for the job. In Thessalonians, Paul mentions hard work, but in his letters to Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:6-9, he puts a point on it. According to Paul, anyone who desires to lead in the church desires a noble task. They have 16 other things to work on.

Above reproach. One wife. Sober-minded. Self-controlled. Respectable. Hospitable. Able to teach. Not a drunk. Gentle not violent. Not a quarreler. Not greedy. Manage the home well. Children respect him. Not new to the faith. Respected by non-believers. Lovers of good.

Jesus also had a couple things to say to the disciples about leadership whenever they got into arguments about who was the most important.

Mark 9:35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all."

Mark 10:42-45 Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

So the sibling put in charge can be tempted to let it go to their heads. Jesus had strong words for these bad leaders, the Pharisees, in Matthew 23. Jesus says don't do what they do because they don't practice what they preach. They make religious burdens for people. They seek attention. They seek honor. They love titles. They exalt themselves. They don't serve. Make it hard to enter the kingdom of God. Point to themselves instead of God. They refuse to let anyone go directly to Jesus. Insist on being a mediator to God. They raise up new hypocrites. They look for loopholes in God's word. They miss the forest for the trees. They focus on the minors and ignore the majors. They have no introspection and no acknowledgement of their own sinfulness. Their private world is wicked. They are snakes.

That's the hyper-spiritual bad leader. But there's also the bad leader who is sensual. Peter talks about them in 2 Peter 2.

They introduce destructive heresies, deny Jesus, are sensual, blaspheme the truth, greedy, exploit people, lie, indulge in lust, despise authority, are irrational, instinctual like an animal, ignorant, partiers, deceived, adulterers, entice others, seek wrongful gain, boast loudly of their folly, entice others by the flesh, enslaved to corruption, and are entangled in the world.

So what's the difference between good and bad leaders?

Bad leaders use you as a means to his own ends.
Good leaders join you in the journey that ends at Jesus.

These are the leaders, the older, hard working, responsible, siblings Paul calls on the Thessalonians as well as us here to respect and to regard in love.

How do we do that? Let them admonish us and be at peace with one another.

Admonish according to Merriam-Webster means 1 a: to indicate duties or obligations to b: to express warning or disapproval to especially in a gentle, earnest, or solicitous manner 2: to give friendly earnest advice or encouragement to

Phil once spoke up here and said a servant leader is one who tells you, "Don't step in that, it's nasty...Watch out over there...This water is no good, try it over there." That's what Paul was doing earlier in this letter. He told them to get to work and only sleep with your spouse.

We also should seek to be at peace with one another, so our leaders can focus on the next few things in the letter. Perhaps your families are different, but sometimes, there is so much bickering in my house that nothing gets done and no thoughts can be processed. We just have to declare, "enough!" And then they keep doing it. And we say, "didn't we just say no more?" and the answer is, "I was talking to myself." When they are at peace with each other, life is much nicer.

I feel so bad for my mom. My brother and I, who are best friends now, fought every day when we were young. Every day. But I had a realization one day when I had come home from college and watched him at a wrestling match....

Jesus valued it and spoke on it over and over, but that might have been because those future church leaders seemed to bicker a bit. In fact, in his prayer at the last supper in John 17 he prays 4 times that we may be one or be in complete unity.

Paul tells the Romans 12:18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Rom. 14:19
Peter writes, Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. 1 Peter 3:8
He later says Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Pet 4:8

How do we do this? Forgiveness. We need to pray daily, forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sinned against us. We need to forgive 70 times 7 times a day. We need to return good for evil and blessings for slander.

Doing this enables our leaders to focus on a few things.
14 And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.

The idle blokes become such a problem that Paul writes a 2nd letter to the Thessalonians a few months later telling them to keep away from them, and follow the example of the hard workers, and to not feed the freeloaders. Even though they are busybodies and cause trouble, Paul tells them in the 2nd letter to not regard them as enemies but to warn them as brothers. 2 Thess. 3:15

We are all on this journey with Jesus to heaven. And some of our siblings are taking piggy back rides which weigh down and wear out the others, for no good reason. They need to get back on their feet. However, some are scared or weak. The freeloaders need a warning. The others need encouragement and help.

I used to help coach T-ball. On my team, I had the pro, the nature lover, the fearful and the ones unable to hit or catch. Each one required a different approach to get in the game....

Leaders are called to be patient with everyone. Leaders are in the front and they see the goal. But there are many behind who can't keep the leaders pace. A demanding leader loses his patience and yells at the people in the back. But he needs to stop assuming everyone is just like him and find out why the people at the back are having difficulty. He needs patience.

We were walking around UConn yesterday for Alumni weekend and I was excited and wanted to hustle to each activity. I didn't want them to miss a thing. But my wife kept trailing off behind us. She is fully capable to walking as fast as me, but something was wrong. She didn't feel so good after the long ride. She felt much better after our trip to the dairy bar though. Sometimes a leader just needs to buy someone an ice cream cone.

Leaders are also called to stop a revenge cycle. Remember? Forgive and do good.

Jesus says,

"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Luke 6:27-30

But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matt 6:15

Paul tells the Romans
19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Rom. 12

Peter writes
Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 1 Pet 3:9

Paul tells the Ephesians
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Eph 4:32
and the Galatians
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Gal 6:10

When the leaders achieve that in their churches they can rejoice. But that doesn't happen much, because in a healthy church new Christians are coming in all the time. But we need to always rejoice.

When Paul wrote to the Philippians from jail he told them to rejoice with him 3 times. He was full of joy while chained up. He told the Romans the kingdom of God is a matter of righteousness, peace, and joy. (Rom. 14:17) and that we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God which we'll see some day and we need to enjoy our sufferings because they sharpen our hope (Rom. 5:2-5). Joy comes from freedom from fear, from judgement, from death. It's joyous to have such freedoms. If you find you've lost your joy in the hope of the glory of God, get around some new Christians. James 1:2-4 tells us to

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

My son was mad that he had to do his sister's dishes since she was not home. I told him to consider it pure joy. He told me James was not talking about the same kind of trial.

Meanwhile, pray continually. Stay in conversation with God all day.

Jesus told us a parable in Luke 18 to always pray and not give up.
Paul tells the Ephesians And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Eph. 6:18
Hebrews reminds us that Jesus ... is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Heb. 7:25

We also should give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

This is no joke. He tells the same thing to the Ephesians, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Eph. 5:20 In fact, when something bad happens, some of us might use inappropriate language. Paul tells the Ephesians, Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. Eph. 5:4

When we thank the Lord, we acknowledge his control. We also keep the better perspective. Psalm 118:29 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. We don't thank God for the mess, we thank Him because he is good and he is faithful and he is love. It's God's will for us to thank him.

It is not God's will for us to quench his Spirit. How is his Spirit quenched? By despising prophecies.

They were probably sick of people saying, "Jesus showed me that he's coming back tomorrow, so I quit my job." We should let people try out their spiritual gifts and evaluate what they come out with. Test everything and hold onto the good. These early NT churches usually met in homes. So we encourage people to practice their spiritual gifts at a small group where they can take risks and get feedback without the high stakes of doing in front of our larger churches and being told, "nothing good in that one Bub." If you are affirmed in your small group then it'll be less risky in our larger group. We have had people prophesy from the stage in the past.

Hold onto the good, avoid every kind of evil.

Not evil people, but the stuff that causes you to sin. This is what we mean when we say love the sinner, hate the sin. It's what Jesus does. He loves us too much to leave us to wallow in our filth. In the same way we reach out to the world and share the good news. Peter lays it out clearly for our personal lives, 10 For, "Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. 11 He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil." 1 Peter 3

This seems pretty overwhelming. Paul let's us in on the secret to this lifestyle, let God do it in you.

23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.

How does God do this? In Jesus' prayer for us in John 17:17 he asks God, Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. His method of making us holy involves his Word. Let's read it. It will change us. Why? Because God is faithful. Who will do it? God, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

Pray for us. Greet each other with side hug of brotherhood, or the hand clasp back slap. Read this letter to everyone. Rest in God's grace.

All verse quotes from the NIV



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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Vigilantism

Dietrich BonhoefferImage via Wikipedia

Was Dietrich Bonhoeffer just in conspiring to assassinate Adolf Hitler? Despite all his evil, I think an assassination attempt exposes the blind spot in Bonhoeffer's theology. Who am I to extinguish a fellow image bearer of God? Execution is the result of the belief that God is unable to redeem one of his broken images. Hence, previously, I have written against the death penalty. This is also why I do not rejoice in the murder of George Tiller, Kansas abortionist.

He was executed at his church, someplace he might have heard the good news and repented. Perhaps he did consider himself a believer and a spiritual brother to someone like me. I don't know and it doesn't matter. If he did, he suffered like Bonhoeffer and myself and every other follower of Christ, a lacuna in our theology. Like Bonhoeffer, he thought executions would make the world a better place. Ironically, that was the same thinking of the Sanhedrin, Pilate and Herod towards Jesus Christ. Perhaps Tiller's accused killer also thought this way. Perhaps he was mentally ill.

I believe in protecting society, but not by execution. I believe in political persuasion. I believe that there is good news for everyone. I'd like everyone to have the opportunity to hear the good news of eternal life by the forgiveness of sins through the sacrifice of Christ. This is why I'm against the deliberate taking of human lives by execution, assassination, or abortion. May God have mercy on George Tiller's soul.
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A 6th century mosaic of :en:Jesus at Church Sa...Image via Wikipedia