MY FAIR SHARE!

#Myfairshare #Biblelessons #Leadershiplessons

Sometimes the Lord does not give us our “fair share.” At least in the same way as He may give to others. Or that we expect or want. 

Sometimes He gives His gifts to us with seemingly impossible challenges that we must overcome (with the Spirit’s strength / enabling) if we really want them. This should not surprise us, and yet it still does. Listen to what I call ‘Joseph’s test’ from the Book of Joshua from the Bible.

At this point in the story, Joshua is an old man. Israel spent years fighting to get the Promised Land the Lord had been promising them for over 400 years! Now they were distributing their ‘inheritance’. Each tribe got the number of shares and location somewhat corresponding to their size and nature. The Tribe of Manasseh had just been given 11 shares. And then Joseph was given one!

What!? Why!?  

The tribe came back to Joshua: “But we are a large tribe, why only one?” So, Joshua replied, OK, you want it, you got it. “You are a great people and have great power; you shall not have only one lot, but the mountain country shall be yours as well.  Although it is wooded, you shall cut it down, and its farthest extent shall be yours. You [will have to] drive out the Canaanites, though they have iron chariots and are strong.” (Joshua 17:14-18) 

There it is. Sometimes our sisters or friends are given talents or possessions or positions seemingly without exertion. And, here we are struggling to make do on much less. Whatever our circumstances, we all have the tendency to easily spot others who have more than we and who don’t have to work as hard as we do. And we seldom see those with less. 

We know the Bible promises that God gives all of us abundant life. What we often forget is that He distributes to each in different ways according to His unending wisdom and love. This was reiterated by Jesus in several ‘parables’, for example of the workers (Matthew 20:1-16). Each of us also has been given ‘wooded mountains with fierce resistance’ for which we must trust His Spirit’s enablement if we really want to grab all that God has promised us.

Posted in Bible, Diagnose, Love, Rights, Social Justice, Starting Points | Leave a comment

Leadership Wisdom from Genesis

Posted on January 21, 2021

#Leadership #AncientWisdom

Is your leadership (work, home, neighborhood, other) known for ‘straight shooting’? Do your words match your actions? Or, are you known to cut corners, do whatever it takes?

Today we read the (true) Bible story of Jacob and Laban (Genesis 29, particularly :25). It is said that Laban “deceived” his nephew Jacob by promising one daughter to be Jacob’s wife and switching at the last moment. The word used reminded me of another word. Bear with me as I explain.

The earliest Hebrew speakers like Abraham and Jacob carried in their language two words from hunting: (1) yarah, to shoot (straight), and (2) ramah, to shoot or hurl (wildly / astray). 

Yarah came to form the basis for one of their most important words, torah, to instruct (rightly, or ‘shoot straight’). Torah is the Hebrew word ‘commandment’ in English, as in the Ten Commandments / Instructions. In the Hebrew-covenantal understanding, torah is God’s instructions on right living within the context of the covenant-love relationship, for example, parents instructing their children. 

Ramah on the other hand was shooting wildly. It later acquired the connotation of ‘shooting off at the mouth’, wild accusations and deceiving. In the ancient Hebrew understanding, one either shot straight (normal), or shot wildly (abnormal, since their survival depended on hitting something). 

The connoted use of ramah, to shoot wildly or carelessly here in the story of Jacob and Laban was something like we might say today, “just throw it out there and see if anything sticks.” It was deception by design and/or in practice. Laban said one thing, but did another. We all do it. 

Over a thousand years later Jesus points out that it is easier to see the splinter in someone else’s eye than the stick in our own. “Lord, enable me to ‘shoot straight’ and not cast wild aspersions or deceive.” The Lord’s 9th ‘Instruction’ / Commandment: “You shall not bear false witness [hurl wild accusations or otherwise practice deception] against your neighbor (Exodus 20:16).

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JEREMIAH’S ADVENTURES IN FREEDOM

Reading through the Bible Story #239 Jeremiah 40

Reading through the Bible is almost always an adventure. On almost every page there are true stories of real people in actual life situations. And God is always the most important presence, though distinct. 

The chronology is taking me through Jeremiah during these times of pandemic, police brutality, rioting in the streets, and dueling political party conventions. There are many parallels.

Today, the story is about the prophet Jeremiah taken against his will from Jerusalem to Egypt. Jerusalem had just fallen to the invading Babylonian army. Most of the leaders as well as all who had obeyed were taken captive to Babylon. Jeremiah was in prison by king Zedekiah for preaching that their only salvation was to give in to the Babylonians. The Babylonian General of the Guards (MPs?) pardoned Jeremiah and gave him complete freedom of movement and action.

In today’s story the few Jewish leaders who had fled, returned with a plan. In direct disobedience to the Babylonian general’s order and God’s will as prophesied by Jeremiah, they mandated that everyone including Jeremiah escape with them to Egypt.

Now, here is the rub in case you missed it. Jeremiah who was given complete freedom by a foreign General is now forced against his will and his understanding of God’s will to go to Egypt by those supposed to be “God’s people” (that is what the Bible calls Jews).  

It would be going further than the Bible itself allows to draw firm conclusions about who are “God’s people” in truth and who are not in our day. I do think, though, that the Bible is our starting point for sharp discernment between freedom and coercion. Free people need to beware using force or being forced by others, especially against the known will of God. 

Furthermore, the Bible elsewhere instructs us that while God provides human government to protect our God-given freedom, it is only God’s Spirit who can enable free people to be ‘self-controlled’. In other words, responsible to use and maintain our freedom for good and not for evil.

Posted in Assumptions, Authoritarianism, Bible, Coercion / Mandate, Diagnose, Freedom, God, Starting Points | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

I PREFER A LITTLE CHAOS

Personally, I prefer some chaos and inefficiency. It is rare to have both unified action and freedom. This does not show a failure of leadership. Instead it shows the context and limits of leadership.

What do I mean? Let me explain somewhat simplistically to keep misunderstanding to a minimum. Most people know this. But sometimes we forget.

It just so happens that a characteristic of humans is for each to think for themselves. Consequently, actions vary sometimes wildly. It is the way we are ‘wired’.

Only a few societies really protect this right. We usually find a one-to-one correlation between freedom and variety in human behavior.

If you want everyone to wear masks, socially distance at a prescribed distance and wash themselves in the same way, it almost always requires strong authority to accomplish. Otherwise, you get sometimes maddening variety. It is rare to find it otherwise.

Particularly in our country, when the President and Governors suggest this or that, instead of mandating, and different local governments take differing courses of action, and when we see businesses invent solutions for testing or producing vaccines, for example, instead of waiting for ‘government’ orders, it does not show a failure of leadership. Instead, we see America functioning as our founding fathers designed.

Which do you choose: efficient results or freedom? It is extremely difficult to get one with the other. Why we don’t act unless ordered to do so is another matter. That also has to do with how and why we are wired.

Posted in Assumptions, Authoritarianism, Coronavirus, Credible Alternative, Diagnose, Freedom, Pandemic, Politics, Rights | Leave a comment

TRUE PROGRESS

We live in bewildering times. In 2020 alone we have experienced two examples sufficient to leave our heads swimming. First we have months-long sequestered standstill. Dozens of conspiracy theories and recommendations swirl, changing almost every day. Which to believe? 

Then we are whiplashed to erupting protests, violence, and partying! Whatever we say or do will be perceived by some group as ‘triggering’, ‘canceling’ or something wrong.

When faced with bewildering choices about the future, how do we move forward, make progress? For example, when we go to the polls in November. We feel we must do something. Basically, we have two alternatives to move forward: ‘man can’ or ‘the third’ way.

First, there is what I like to call ‘man can’, what we naturally tend to do:

  • Make plans (without consulting God) 
  • Enter into agreements (not led by his Spirit)
  • Set out to do something or go somewhere (without asking for God’s direction)
  • Refuse to follow God’s counsel; reject his word
  • Instead, follow the most charismatic speakers
  • Rely on protection from someone other than God
  • Trust in force, and
  • Rely on crookedness

This way was first described by Isaiah 2,700 years ago (Isaiah 30:1-2, 9-12)

There is another, what I like to call the ‘third’ or (God’s) way:

  • Read & heed God’s Word (Psalm 119:12)
  • Trust in the Lord (Proverbs 3:5) and
  • Have faith (2 Corinthians 5:7)
  • Pray (Philippians 4:6)
  • Think of / and do for others (Philippians 2:4)
  • Wait patiently (Psalm 27:14)
  • Give thanks (Psalm 136; 1 Thessalonians 5:18)
  • Plus, use any lawful means to work within our basically good system: voting, recalling, petitioning

Let us join together to follow God’s way. What we end up doing, what it will look like for each of us, may differ, but our joint starting point will be allowing God’s Spirit through his Word to guide us.

http://rebuilding-the-pillars.the-porters.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/TrueProgress.pdf

Posted in 'Cancel' culture, 'Triggering', Assumptions, Bible, Conventional Wisdom, Coronavirus, Credible Alternative, Diagnose, God, Pandemic, Politics, Social Justice | Leave a comment

LOVE OTHERS OR CLAIM RIGHTS? Emerging from Pandemic

Starting points to consider for emergence from the ‘Pandemic’

As our society begins to emerge from Pandemic shutdown, Christians are asking the same question as everyone else: what ‘stance’ will I take moving forward? This covers all of life—‘church’ activities, work, play, shopping, neighborliness, and so on.

This is not the first time in history that a difference of opinion regarding one’s conduct and behavior has the potential to be highly charged. And it will certainly not be the last. Every day we experience or read about conflict between beliefs and behaviors of the cautious on one hand and the “we can do this” on the other.  Just yesterday I read a ‘rant’ on FB by a Christian believer against others who did not ‘respect’ or ‘tolerate’ her choice to enter stores without a mask. 

Parallel to a biblical story?  That situation prompted a memory of a controversy regarding behavior and attitudes that broke out almost 2000 years ago in Greece. We read about it in the Bible in First Corinthians chapter eight.  

Drawing a comparison between how to emerge from a ‘lockdown’ and how to treat food sacrificed to idols seems pretty far-fetched.  However, is there not an almost exact correspondence between differences in peoples’ attitudes towards ‘opening up’ after the pandemic and differences in peoples’ attitudes towards ‘eating food sacrificed to idols’?

Consider this Starting Point for emerging. Where do each of these two response-types start forming its personal approach? It seems that one starts with love /care for others, while the other starts with personal rights. I suggest for our consideration that the Bible encourages us to let love for others override our personal rights. Let’s explore this passage together. 

The biblical situation & ours. In the first century some Christians in the city of Corinth were ‘horrified’ at other Christians for their participation in the Roman habit of treating food and beverages sacrificed to idols as little more than ‘take out’ (Chapter 8, particularly verses 4, 7, 11). In 2020 some Christians are ‘horrified’ at other Christians for flaunting Pandemic guidelines with regard to taking health precautions such as ‘social distancing’, ‘wearing masks’, and no ‘group singing’ (possibly creating aerosolized droplets with virus).

What’s the science?  To those early Christians Paul wrote that idols were not real, so therefore there was no real danger (8:4-6). Is the Covid-virus Pandemic analagous? Is it also ‘not real’ and therefore no real danger? The science is still inconclusive. Until there is certainty, I suggest we need to be asking ourselves: will our personal strategy start with personal rights or with care / love for others?

What’s it worth? Then Paul wrote, “food will not commend us to God.” That is, since there are no ‘rewards’ with God, eating special food or eating and drinking in a special way does not gain us anything before God, nor does not doing it lose us anything (8:7-8). Does congregating without limits, going maskless and singing together gain us anything with God? Does not doing so deprive us of anything with God (others may counter with Hebrews 10:25)?

What’s my right?  Now Paul pivots to rights. “Take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.” Did believers in Corinth have the right to treat idol sacrifices as ‘take out’? From Paul’s comments it seems he thought they did (8:9-11).  Do believers today have the right to congregate freely, go maskless and sing together? There are ongoing legal arguments for and against, depending on how strictly governments follow their mandate (such as legally spelled out emergency powers). We are still waiting for a conclusive Supreme Court ruling. In the meantime, is our primary concern ourself and our rights or our love for others?

What’s a loving response?  Paul appears to conclude his advice by differentiating between rights and freedom. This is key. Paul had previously written to the Galatian church that “Christ set us free for freedom” (Galatians 5:1). John recalls Christ telling the Jews that “If you know the truth the truth will set you free . . . and if Christ set us free we are free indeed” (8:36). For people living in slavery to our own desires and sin, much less to an oppressive government, news of freedom is always welcome. We in this country are the envy of the whole world for our liberty and freedom.  And we Christian believers even more so. We will not surrender those easily.

What is the difference between freedom and rights? Love (agape). The main difference in the kind of freedom promised by Jesus is that it includes loving and caring for others. Love is not necessary to individual rights. Rights seem to become more important to us, be brandished, when our freedom is attacked.

So, it all hinges on how our response is viewed by God (8:3). We must recognize that Paul told the Corinthian believers that it was really sin not to love others more than ourself and our ‘rights’ (8:12). Why?

Because, as John spelled out in his first Epistle, God in Christ first loved us, freedom must embrace love for others. In fact, we would not know freedom, we would not be free, if He had not first loved us (1 John 3:7-21).

Think about it. Even our American civil rights as conceived by our Founding Fathers seem to imply care for others as well. Remember being taught in elementary school that our rights, to swing our fists for example, end at the point they might reach another’s nose?

Conclusion.  Love others or claim my rights? I end this consideration as Paul did: “Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble” (8:13). And we could add: “therefore, I will only congregate and sing insofar as I am loving my brothers and sisters.”

This is not a command, but we implore you to consider it in light of Scripture.


Posted in Assumptions, Bible, Love, Pandemic, Rights | Leave a comment