Why Leadings?

Not to lead, but to be led            -- by the Holy Spirit.

See Leader, Servant, or Slave? in the section below, "Walking the Walk".

Jack in Denali National Park, 2012.

God's Wrath

Why was Sodom destroyed? Ezekiel tells us in chapter 16, verse 49: "This was the sin of your sister, Sodom: Pride, full-ness of bread, and abundance of idleness. Neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy."

That's also why Jerusalem was destroyed.

And now, with greed as our national virtue, what hope is there for the United States of America? We are afflicted by imperialistic pride, obesity, and entertainment addiction, and we are all called to do our part to "strengthen the hand of the poor and needy".

"Strengthen the hand" is the King James wording. Modern translations say "help the poor and needy." And there's a world of difference between the two. Helping the poor = as little as throwing some cash in the Salvation Army bucket at Christmas time. That's charity. It's doing for, not doing with.

My Grandmother was right about charity. On a below-zero day, she went out on the back porch with a skillet to throw hot grease on the back-yard snow. She shivered as she re-entered the kitchen and said, "Wooooh, colder than charity."

Strengthening the hand is much different. We get personally involved with another person who needs help, and we work with her or him to get the needed help. That's risky. You're vulnerable. It takes prayer, time and patience. You need knowledge and wisdom from the LORD. There are great rewards, however. You get a brother or sister.

Strengthening the hand is great work for our churches -- which we ignore far more often than we perform. Why? Because we're afflicted with the Ameri-can curse of individualism. Christians are to be a tribe -- a tribe that takes care of each other. In Galatians 6:16, Paul calls us "the Israel of God" -- the new 13th tribe.

Jesus said, "The poor you shall always have with you." He didn't mean that as a curse -- the notion that the poor are an inevi-table nuisance and expense, to be hidden in the slums. Rather, He was saying, "You shall always be among the poor."

When you strengthen hands, you fulfill Deuteronomy 15:4-5: "However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God . . ." It's a glorious responsibility and promise.

And how do prosperous Americans fulfill that promise? Generally, by making sure they have no contact with people who are poor -- and we have been that way from our beginnings in the 17th century. Early villages in Massachusetts solved the problem by out-lawing poor people. Today, we deal with the same problem by confining the poor in urban reservations, our slums.

As the Supreme Court Bailiff says at the beginning of each session, "God save the United States of America..." 

Wednesday
Jun222011

SCRIPTURE-DIRECTED DECISION MAKING

Most congregation have members with heavy career responsibilities -- business executives, entrepreneurs, industrial managers, physicians, nurses, attorneys, professors, teachers, military officers and NCO's, as well as administrators in government, universities and hospitals.  Each of them makes dozens of decisions daily.

How well do our churches serve them in preparing them to make gut-wrenching decisions?  The ones that keep them awake nights when they need the sleep?

In my experience, our churches do little to help them.

For the past 48 years, I've been a Lutheran.  It's Lutheran doctrine that the Bible is "the rule and norm of life."  How often in those 48 years have I experienced the Bible utilized as the rule and norm of life?  Perhaps half a dozen, but never effectively and seldom with conviction.  But, it's a good rule.

How can we train people in Holy Spirit-directed decision-making?  The author of Hebrews tells us:

Hebrews Trains Us

5:12  "In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You [still] need milk, not solid food!  13  Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.  14  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil."

Assumption:   We're usually fed milk.  We need a different learning model.

In our churches, the Bible learning model is usually at 2nd or 3rd grade level -- the teacher talks and we discuss, with no preparation required.  In contrast, there are senior level programs, such as Bible Study Fellowship, with study and participation built in.  That's good.  Anytime we intently study God's Word, the Holy Spirit speaks to us and shapes us.  However, even BSF operates at the college freshman level.

But, with doctors, lawyers, executives and the like, why don't we give them Bible training with professional graduate school methods?  In each graduate school, future practitioners are given complex factual situations and challenged to apply their knowledge, skills and tools to the situation.  In law, that's called the case method or Socratic method, and it's rigorous training.  Teaching physicians are known to be even tougher with med students and interns.

Five Case Problems

Five case problems are attached.  They’re appropriate for half a dozen dedicated people to study and struggle through together.  It's great to have a theologian in the group – because theology then becomes a tool rather than a subject.  The four questions at the end of the cases are usually the same.

Case problems are not difficult to write, but they require group members to put in a lot of time on Bible study, prayer and thought.  Case problems are most effective when a member is wrestling with a problem and needs help.  Then, we write up the specific fact situation (with names omitted) and get wisdom from the LORD and each other on how to deal with it.  In such a situation, the Bible illuminates and invariably shows us our responsibilities in a new light and by challenging us to self-sacrificing love.

If a group does a case problem every week for a year, what are the expected results?

+ Members should learn to love, respect and support each other, especially when they disagree.

+ They learn to use Bible study tools – concordance, lexicon – as well as experiencing prayer together in making decisions.

+ The Bible is now arranged topically in their minds and hearts.

+ As they encounter problems, they discover they're equipped with relevant Bible passages and have thought through similar situations.  They have also explored the consequences of such decisions.

+ They have learned righteousness and have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

Conference Rooms Are Appropriate

Where should such Bible study groups meet?  Initially perhaps at churches or universities, but their proper sites are conference rooms in hospitals, schools, government, and office buildings.

Five sample case problems are included below, and each would have four questions at the bottom of the page:

What Bible passages are relevant?

What would you pray?

What would you do?

What would you say?

 

FIRST CASE PROBLEM:   I  CAN'T  STOP

You're having coffee with a friend who surprises you by saying, "I need to tell you about my problem.  Like, make a confession."

You almost choke on your coffee, but you take courage and say, " . . . OK."

"Now, what I tell you here has to stay here.  You can't repeat this to anyone – even if you don't mention my name."

You agree.  Your friend then tells you of a controlling addition that is life destructive.  The addiction has been deep-seated for years.  "And the problem is, I can't stop.  It's a recurring craving.  And what's worse, I don't want to stop.  It's become my joy in living."

You wait.  The confession continues --

"Sure, I know it's wrong.  I know God doesn't like it.  I know it's wrecking my life.  When I'm in my right mind, I'm miserable and ashamed and appalled.  Dozens of times, I've tried to stop – and failed every time.  Is there any help?  What can I do?"

 

Comment:  In order to prepare adequately for a session of Bible case study, a participant has to do four things. (1) Identify both the issues in the case and the key words in Scripture.  (2)  Look up the key words in a Concordance, hard copy or on-line. (3) Identify, copy and organize the relevant Scripture passages, as well as one's own reactions, comments, speculations, and wild ideas.  (4)  Spend at least two hours of prep time per case.

 

SECOND CASE PROBLEM:  GETTING  GUIDANCE

"The LORD is telling you to quit your job!  That's crazy!"

Your brother is angry.  He continues.  "You've been there for four years.  You've got a good paycheck and benefits – health insurance and pension.  Do you know how many jobs today have no benefits?  And how many people have no jobs?"

"Of course."

"And what about your wife and kids?  If you go get this religious training, it'll be years--if ever--that they have health coverage again."

"We'll trust in the LORD."

"Great.  You just write 'I trust in the LORD' across the bottom of some $18,000 doctor's bill.  And you're throwing away all your accumulated pension."

"Yes."

"How can you be sure that this leading you have is from God?  Maybe it's just your crazy whim.  Or, maybe it's from somewhere else."

"Like from the devil?"

"Whatever.  I get sick of people saying that the LORD told them to do this or that.  He doesn't tell me anything."

"Well, actually, in Scripture, the LORD tells us –"

"It's so phony.  Particularly when I hear it from some clergyman.  I always think it's self-serving.  He's telling us what God wants.  Why?  To fatten his wallet.  Divine guidance doesn't work for me.  I don't think it works for anyone."

"I differ."  But, you're puzzled about what to say that will convince him.

 

THIRD CASE PROBLEM:  LAYOFFS ARE KILLERS

[Note:  The print shop described below existed 40 years ago in Grafton, Connecticut.  The owner was a former attorney.  I don't know whether the shop is still in operation.]  

You're the owner of a print shop in a Connecticut village on Long Island Sound.  While the town is small, the print shop is not.  It's located in an old school building, and you hire only retired people who have not previously worked in the printing trades.  Thus, you have two former architects who work in the composing room.  

The man who receives, bundles and dispatches publications at the end of the press line is a former stone mason.  The New York Times employs eight people to handle its similar work load.  He doesn't work as hard as the eight Timesmen, because he has invented more than a dozen labor saving methods.

Your firm prints four weekly newspapers in the area, as well as eleven magazines which have their editorial offices in New York or Boston.  A year ago, you printed six newspapers and fourteen magazines. Five of your long-time customers went out of business.

You have a non-union shop.  You sign an individual contract with each employee.  All employees participate in a profit-sharing program.  You have group health-insurance and pension plans, which are voluntary and 100% employee paid.  (Most employees already have pensions and health insurance.)  You don't have to focus on getting the employees to work hard and work smart.  They're motivated, and there is a vibrant, friendly atmosphere in the shop.  

While there are people with supervisory positions, it's an egalitarian work place.  There are only two pay grades--highly skilled and extraordinarily skilled.  Every person in a pay grade receives the same salary. This includes you, the boss. You're rated as highly skilled.

Here's your problem:  Revenues are down 14%.  Your accountant's figures for the second quarter just arrived, and you operated in the red for the first time ever. You can't afford your present work crew of 17. In order to break even, you'll have to let three people go. What are your options?

Retire the three most senior?  (One is your layout man--an extraordinarily skilled genius at his job. Another has said, "This job is keeping me alive. It gives me something to look forward to every morning. If I weren't working, I'd probably die within a year.)

Lay off the three most junior? (They range from 66 to 68. They won't have a prayer of getting another job.)

Recognize the inevitable and close down the business? (You're 74 and don't need all this stress. You have no children, and your wife wants you to quit.)

Or something else?

 

FOURTH CASE PROBLEM:  "WHAT  WOULD  YOUR  JESUS  DO  FOR  ME?"

You've known Joe Rosenthal for over two years – a good friend, a Conservative Jew – mostly non-practicing – but he and his wife keep a Kosher table.

You're discussing yesterday's game when he catches you off guard by saying:

"You know, I've heard about Jesus all my life.  We were trained to think of him as a Christian fiction.  We learned to fear and hate Jesus because so many fellow Jews have been slaughtered in his name.  So, I have two questions for you:

"Can you give me a one-paragraph summary of what this Christianity is all about, and what would your Jesus do for me?"

You gulp.  "Why are you asking me?"

"Well, you seem to regard Jesus as real and as a God/person with whom you relate and converse.  That interests me – if only as a matter of cultural anthropology."

"That is, you think of me as a primitive tribesman?"

"Perhaps.  But, what's important is that this Jesus seems real to you.  How would you answer my questions?"

 

FIFTH CASE PROBLEM:  "HEY FRIEND, YOU GOT BUS FARE?"

You're walking downtown and are approached by a man whose clothes and hair are dirty.  His left sleeve is torn.  His left cheek is badly bruised.

He asks, "Hey, friend, you got bus fare?  I need to get home.  I was beat up and robbed.  I need help bad."

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What would your answer be?

Would your answer be different if:

1.  He reeked of alcohol?

2.  He added, "Look, I ain't gonna lie to you.  I been drinkin, and I need another drink to help with the pain, but I do need bus fare to get home."

3.  Or, he said instead, "I been drinkin, but I hate it, and I want to cut it out.  Right now, I need some food cause I've had nothin to eat for 16 hours.  Now I know you got no reason to trust me, but if you're willin to spend five bucks, let's go into that mom and pop there and get me a little food so I don't pass out from hunger.  OK?"

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Note:   This article is a preface to "Why We Need Spiritual Support -- As a Nation", which is also listed in the Section, Walking the Walk.

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Purpose of this blog is to compile a book for my grandchildren to read in 25 years.

Copyright © 2011 by Jack Towe

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