Tag Archives: Church

Listening in action

8 Mar

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.  James 1:19

My mind has been pondering several blog posts I’ve recently read lamenting the state of public discourse and what each of us should do to ameliorate the atmosphere.

Usually when the Holy Spirit wants to drive home a necessary change, He causes me to NOTICE and READ/HEAR the same message 3 times.

True to His practice, the art and gift of healthy communications was ‘front and center’ in my mind last week.  I had even articulated to my husband:

  • We should not even jump into a discussion with someone until we have taken the time and made the effort to understand and sufficiently verbalize back to the speaker his/her point of view.  And that summary, in a way, that satisfies the owner of the viewpoint.

That wise strategy bore fruit at church last Sunday.  A small conflict ruffling certain members’ feathers arose.  Communicating the complaint to others bordered on ‘talking behind the back’ of the brother in Christ whose decision about an upcoming church activity had miffed several.  The ‘miffed’ ones belonged to a certain church committee.  The ‘miff-er’ did not.

Thankful for the Holy Spirit’s recent focus on my heart, I volunteered to go to the ‘miff-er’ and ask directly why he had made the decision he did.

Here’s what I noticed:

  • I experienced NO pressure
  • my goal was simply to understand his reasoning
  • it was easy
  • he seemed pleased to be given the time to explain his thinking
  • I was able to go back and report to others what he said and recommend we allow his decision to stand
  • a leadership weakness in the church committee was revealed through this ‘conflict’
  • a procedure to avert future conflict was set in place to handle any abrupt suggestions from church members that startle us into acquiescing and making a decision without thinking and consulting the entire committee

Satan seems to enjoy stirring up dissension, especially in families, whether biological or in the Church.

A deep breath, a pause and some clear thinking combined with courtesy go a long way.  For the effort, the payoffs are out of proportion!

 

Can you be a Christian and not believe the Bible?

22 Feb

Did that question get your attention?  I hope so, because it is one I ponder often.

Why?  Run your eyes over some of these responses I’ve encountered when talking about God with friends and family:

  • I worship the God of the New Testament
  • The Bible was written by men
  • How can we trust what the Bible says?  It got corrupted through all the oral retellings passed down from one generation to another
  • The Bible represents primitive man’s best explanation at the time
  • Because of science, the Bible is obsolete
  • What applied then doesn’t fit society today
  • I don’t think Jesus really said that
  • That’s just Paul’s opinion
  • I attended divinity school and my professors taught us how the Bible actually came to be.  We are to take it metaphorically

Do you see why I am drawn to sort out what one must accept/adhere to in order to be a Christian?

How do we even begin to answer the question?

All adept Logical Joes and Janes start with clarifying terms.  So which terms need parsing and comparing to reality?

  • Christian
  • Believe
  • (the Bible is concrete and unequivocal)

The terms ‘Christian’ and ‘believe’ could potentially require a long time to arrive at a truth-reflecting definition.  (It’s not consensus we aim for, but accuracy and clarity of terms.)

For does it matter what the world calls a Christian?  Would any one disagree that many who self-identify as Christians are not in the least?  I don’t know if Hitler considered himself to be a follower of Christ, but atheists often trot him out as poster-boy of a supposed Christian who perpetrated untold evil.

More difficult to discern are those people who attend church, who do kind things, who serve humanity and choose to self-identify as Christian.  Here is the rub.  Can we tell from one’s outward behavior whether one is a Christian or not?

Turning to what it means ‘to believe‘, how is this concept often taken?

It can mean to agree, to follow, to espouse.  But isn’t our church replete with people who say they ‘believe’ the Bible?  Yet upon a fair assessment of their actions, temperaments and words, one wonders.  I do acknowledge that true Christians are always growing, with fits and starts, so we should be careful about judging.

Why am I even bothering with this analysis?  Because many people dear to me are on this spectrum of:

  • a sort of Christian
  • a sort of belief in the Bible

My husband and I were once members of that ‘sort of category’.  Although had you asked us to explain ourselves, we would have avowed without reservation that we were Christian. I do think we would have equivocated with the second question – Do you believe the Bible? For we had not READ the Bible.  We had read/heard bits and pieces of the Bible, for sure. But read it?  No, not in our Episcopal Church experiences growing up.

Now, having been given light to SEE and having acquired Biblical truth through Bible studies, evangelical pastors’ sermons, books, podcasts, church community, small groups and friendships with Christians, we can easily ‘catch’ the aroma of a true Christian.  They can be as distinct from me as you could imagine, yet we recognize each other as blood -bought brothers and sisters in Christ.  We talk the same language, cherish the same Jesus, marvel over God’s goodness, and enjoy boasting about His magnificence.

I’m curious to know what and how you define these two terms.  Please post a comment. And in a few weeks, I’ll summarize your responses as well as clarify and delimit those terms.  In the meantime, let us not stop praying for ‘heart-transplants’ in those whom we love, about whom we are not sure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Explore what the question even means and how we would go about setting up a discussion and then at the end invite readers to respond to the question I don’t have to answer it myself

Watch out for sound byte – type thinking

2 Dec

Combat/combat……..Life/life………the Dead/the dead…….ISRAEL/Israel…..the Church/the church

Distinctions

We often fail to make distinctions and conflate multiple senses of a word into one.  This is called the Fallacy of Equivocation.  We commit these either out of ignorance or deliberately to confuse.

Kids are masters at the ‘art’ of equivocation or their other favorite technique, the fallacy aptly name, ‘Distinction without a Difference.’ You remember doing that yourself, right?  When you’d be called out by a parent for violating a house law.

“I wasn’t jumping up and down upstairs, I was only alternating my feet rapidly and firmly on the floor!”

But today, let’s focus on words that are analogous, but can mask intentions.  I thought about this listening to Mr. Obama defend his decision to send in some special forces soldiers who have ‘engaged in combat’.  He was being accused of contradicting his policy of NO MORE COMBAT TROOPS in Afghanistan.

That’s when it occurred to me that there is an explicit, all-out policy of ‘Combat’ as well as the kind of ‘combat’ that takes place when soldiers come under fire and defend themselves.  Given the difference between the two, we have the responsibility to pause to consider the surrounding circumstances and the speaker’s intentions.

What about the term, ‘Israel’?  Does this name refer to only one group of people, Jews from the Middle Eastern country?   Again, we have to consider different contexts.  At the simplest level, Israel IS a country. But that appellation also refers to the group of people who have been given a saving faith in Jesus. Paul, divinely inspired, writes in Romans 11:26, “….all Israel will be saved.”   One must take the time and…..

think before one parses out which concept Israel refers to – the literal or the metaphorical.

What about Life and life?  Again, one is literal (are you breathing?) and one could refer to a state of enthusiasm and ‘joie de vivre’ or even ‘eternal life’ in a Christian context.

And what about Jesus who challenges his hearers with this command, “Let the dead bury the dead!”  What are the two senses in which He employs this term?  The spiritually dead and the physically dead.

And finally the Church – well, we have the church building proper, the collective of worshippers, whether actual Christian or not and then all those who are referred to as the ‘true’ church, who belong to Jesus and will be with Him forever.

These examples might seem too obvious to even write about, but in today’s climate, I find myself often exasperated at how often people tear into others with a, “But he SAID…..” without having the courtesy to give someone the intellectual benefit of the doubt and actually ASK for clarification.

May we who claim to be logical practice courteous and respectful discourse!