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Showing posts with the label 40 Days of Focus

Male and Female: Whose Church Is It, Anyway?

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The discussion so far: 1) In the Beginning
2) A Suitable Helper 3) Partners in Sin 4) Women in the Old Testament, part 1
5) Women in the Old Testament, part 2 6) Creation 2.0 7) Rockstar Women of the Early Church 8) Was Paul Sexist? 9) 99 Problems, the church in Corinth 10) Eve vs. Artemis .......
Full disclosure - I am Church of Christ born and bred. I went through the entire program. I was born to faithful, active parents. We were at church every time the doors were open. I went to private Church of Christ schools from 1st grade through college (Jackson Christian School, Columbia Academy, and Harding University). I have worked as a full time youth minster and worship leader in two different Churches of Christ over the past 8 1/2 years.

I can totally relate to Paul in Philippians 3 when he is listing off his resume. Oh you want to talk religious cred? How bout them apples? Paul says he was a “Hebrew of Hebrews.” Well, I guess that would make me… CoC of CoC. Paul’s point in saying all that was…

PERSECUTED | 40 Days of Focus, Day 25

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Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
(Matthew 5:10 | NIV)  You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
(Matthew 5:10 | The Message) Most of us have no idea what it really looks like to be persecuted. We've all experienced bullies and jerks. We've all face insults and passive aggressiveness. But real persecution is deeper than that. Persecution arises out of fear and a lack of understanding. We fear that which we don't understand. We cannot love that which we fear.

One of the most misunderstood types on the Enneagram is Type 5 - the Observer or Investigator. Fives have a deep inner commitment to truth and knowledge. They would rather sit back and people watch than actually engage in social interactions. They read the Encyclopedia for fun as kids. They are typically the type of people who know a little bit about everything and everythin…

PEACEMAKER | 40 Days of Focus, Day 24

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Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
(Matthew 5:9 | NIV)  You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
(Matthew 5:9 | The Message) Everyone who would rather avoid conflict, let me know by making a passive aggressive comment under your breath!

There are very few people who appreciate conflict and arguments. Type Eights aside, most people would rather avoid those hard, painful conversations. But I think we are all aware that absence of conflict does not equal peace. In fact, it can be quite the opposite. Whenever a family never fights or argues, it's probably because nobody is talking to each other, they're all just avoiding the tough topics that need to be addressed. Anger and resentment bubble and simmer just below the surface. From the outside everything might look ok. But unless there is some conflict, there can never be real gr…

PURE | 40 Days of Focus, Day 23

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Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
(Matthew 5:8 | NIV)  You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
(Matthew 5:8 | The Message) Pure in heart. Now that's a phrase we don't use a lot. We don't tend to talk about purity that often. We want our water to be pure. We want essential oils to be a certain degree of purity. We like pure gold and Purity Milk. But our hearts? Is it even possible to be "pure in heart?"

When I think of this phrase I think of innocence. Deep down we all know that we adults are anything but pure and innocent. In fact, if we meet someone in their late teens or early twenties who actually is "pure," we feel uncomfortable around them. We call them sheltered or socially awkward. There's something unsettling about an adult who is "too" innocent or pure hearted. They're just a little too childlike.


But isn't that the point? Jes…

MERCIFUL | 40 Days of Focus, Day 22

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Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
(Matthew 5:7 | NIV)  You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
(Matthew 5:7 | The Message) A word about mercy. The word is closely related to the concepts of justice and grace. Here's an easy way to keep them all straight.
Justice: I get what I deserve (positive or negative)Grace: I get what I don't deserve (positive)Mercy: I don't get what I deserve (negative) We want the world to be fair and just. We want everything to be boiled down to a simple ration where the guilty are punished and the "good guys" get rewarded. But that all breaks down the moment we understand that bad things happen to good people, and the "bad guy"sometimes gets away with it. We begin to believe that the world is chaotic, that it's dog-eat-dog, and that only the strong survive. We can't take anything for granted - even our personal safety and survival.
Some of us…

HUNGER | 40 Days of Focus, Day 21

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Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
(Matthew 5:6 | NIV)  You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
(Matthew 5:6 | The Message) What are you hungry for? What are you thirsty for? What sustains you? What keeps you feeling whole and satisfied?

For certain people among us, the answer is simple: perfection.

We all know those people who want everything to be done right, for everything to be as good as it could possibly be. We know those who chase perfection in all they do - how they raise their family, how they perform academically, how they clean their house, how they organize the files on their computer. There is a right way to do things, and a wrong way to do things. They have a very binary view of the world - right/wrong, black/white, good/evil, straight/crooked.


Good enough is not good enough.

We call these people "Perfectionists." They find their home at th…

MEEK | 40 Days of Focus, Day 20

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Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
(Matthew 5:5 | NIV)  You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
(Matthew 5:5 | The Message) Google defines the word "meek" as quiet, gentle, and easily imposed on; submissive. It's closely related to humility. We have a hard time with those words in our society. It's a shame that meek rhymes with weak - because that's not what it means. It's a shame that humble and humiliation share the same root. We associate humility and meekness with weakness and fragility.

A Clydesdale may be meek and submissive, but that in no way means he's weak or fragile. To be meek is to harness your power, to control your strength, and not to impose your will on others by force.

Again, it's closely tied to humility. To be humble is not to think less of yourself, but to think of yourself less.

I always find…

MOURN | 40 Days of Focus, Day 19

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Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
(Matthew 5:4 | NIV)  You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
(Matthew 5:4 | The Message) Enneagram Type Fours are commonly known as Individualists or Romantics. They tend to be more creative types - painters, musicians, authors, poets, etc. They have a unique way of seeing the world, and they want to be seen by the world as unique. They are driven by a desire to be special, different, authentic, but most of all to be accepted for who they are. You may not know who they are from one week to the next as they try on different personas and styles.

But the thing that really sets Fours apart from most other types is their comfort with melancholy. Fours tend to be drawn to sad movies, heartfelt TV dramas, and emotional indie music. They embrace sorrow like it's a close friend. It's been said that Fours don't have emotions, they are emotio…

POOR | 40 Days of Focus, Day 18

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Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
(Matthew 5:3 | New International Version)  You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
(Matthew 5:3 | The Message) When we focus in on aspects of Scripture like the 10 Commandments, it can be easy to think religion is all about following a set of rule and regulation. For the Jews, it wasn't just the 10 Commandments. All together the Rabbis tallied 613 commands in the Torah. Beyond that they developed their own traditions and practices to act as a sort of "hedge" around the commands so they wouldn't even come close to breaking them.

For instance, the command to keep the Sabbath Day holy evolved into an elaborate system of regulations concerning how far one could walk, what tasks could be done if absolutely necessary, and trying to define "work" as tightly as possible. Religion became more about rights, rituals, rules, and regulat…

CONTENTMENT | 40 Days of Focus, Day 17

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“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
(Exodus 20:17) I've always thought this command was somewhat out of place. All the other previous commands having to do with our treatment of others were very action-oriented. Murder, adultery, theft, lying - these are all things we can actively do to a person to cause harm. But who does it harm to covet?

What does it even mean to covet?

If you ask Google to define the word, here's what you get: yearn to possess or have (something). Some synonyms include "desire," "be consumed with desire for," "crave," "have one's heart set on."

So this final of the 10 Commandments is more about an inward attitude than an outward action. In fact, this could be the one thing that leads to all the others. Look at what James says about this.
What causes fights and quarrels amo…

TRUTH | 40 Days of Focus, Day 16

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“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor."
(Exodus 20:16) You know what phrase I'm tired of hearing? "Fake news." It seems like we are watching from the sidelines as the talking heads on TV try to tell us what is true and how we know. Everyone has a different truth, or "alternative facts" as some might say. Something either happened or it didn't. It doesn't seem that complicated.

But on the other hand, it makes sense that we do this, and it's not a new phenomenon. All of us operate under various cognitive biases, or preconceived ways of interacting with the world. These biases alter our perception of reality. They "help" us determine what is true or not.

For example, confirmation bias is our tendency to search out and pay attention to only evidence that backs up our already held beliefs. The bandwagon effect is our tendency to believe whatever everyone else is believing or thinking. The continued influence effect is …

GIVE | 40 Days of Focus, Day 15

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“You shall not steal."
(Exodus 20:15) I doubt many of us are guilty of violating the letter of the law for many of the 10 Commandments. I would say most of us aren't murderers or adulterers. And most of us are probably not thieves, either. I'm sure most of us, if we realized the cashier at Walmart forgot to scan an item in our cart, would then turn around and go pay for it as soon as we realized the mistake.

But like the others, if we get to the positive intention behind the prohibition, it might reveal a different story. Let's think of the command like this:
“So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
(Matthew 22:21) When we cheat on our taxes we are stealing from the community. When we withhold our collection from the offering plate we are stealing from the church. When we hold back part of our lives as "off limits" to God we are stealing from God. James reminds us:
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Fat…

FAITHFUL | 40 Days of Focus, Day 14

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“You shall not commit adultery."
(Exodus 20:14) We've all heard the statistic that 50% of marriages end in divorce. Actually, that's a myth. First, in no way does that mean your particular marriage only has a 50% chance of lasting a lifetime. It simply means that at one point in our nation's history (a couple decades ago now) for every 2 marriages in a given year, there was 1 divorce. The divorce rate was half that of the marriage rate.

This phenomenon occurred on the heels of court rulings that gave women more authority and control in filing for divorce proceedings. When women were given the chance, they were finally able to end a bad marriage. Imagine being stuck in an abusive marriage, or knowing your spouse is sleeping around, and not being able to do anything about it.
In reality, however, the divorce rate has been on the decline - dropping around 18% over the past decade? Why? Because newly married young people are staying together longer. True, fewer young adul…

LIFE | 40 Days of Focus, Day 13

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“You shall not murder."
(Exodus 20:13) I think it's safe to assume that the majority of us could read this command and think, "Done. Next!"

All in all, it seems pretty easy not to kill people. I personally don't know any murderers. The overall rate of murder and violent crimes is on the decline throughout most of the country. So...odds are that you will see command number six and think, "I'm good."

But you know it's not that easy. If it were that easy, Jesus wouldn't have had to bring it up in the Sermon on the Mount:
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell."
(Matthew 5:21-22) I find it helpful to refr…

HONOR | 40 Days of Focus, Day 12

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“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you."
(Exodus 20:12) The first four of the 10 Commandments deal with our relationship to God. We have no God but YHWH. We will not craft an image or idol depicting God in order to worship it. We will keep God's name holy. We will consecrate a time of Sabbath rest to disconnect from the world and reconnect with God and each other.

The fifth commandment turns the focus toward our relationship with others. What is the very first relationship we ever experience? Our parents. Like it or not, you do not get to choose your parents. They are with you for life. Our nuclear family is the primary metaphor for how we understand and relate to God. If we are to think of God as our Father or Mother, like biblical imagery often does, we better take those relationships seriously.

Side note: I find it fascinating that both Father and Mother are mentioned as worthy of honor. Most patriarchal soc…