Tag Archives: Human

Storms: Choices, Consequences, and Contentment

Connecting Choices to Outcome

Do the choices that are made every day have anything to do with how things work out in life?  A few years back while living in another state, I decided to take a walk around the a walk around the neighborhood after a tornado; then later, taking a drive through the city, what I saw from the storm reminded me that consequences always follow every event of life.  I am mindful about the way people, so often, take for granted  peace, happiness, and good times in life and how many times that we forget that everything in life has consequences –good or bad.  Obviously,  some consequences are not because of the choices that we make in life, they are the result of nature, other people’s actions, or something that we do not understand about the seasons of life.  The fact remains that there are consequences for everything that happens in life.

Outcome and Escapist Thinking

A problem with problems is that we do not like the outcome because the consequences make life difficult to experience.  One of the most common responses to negative experiences  is to try  escaping consequences, deny the impact of our behavior and choices on others, and escape the reality of what those choices bring to life experience.  I am reminded from working in the prison system  that quite often we have inmates come to the chapel and  make a choice to become a Christian and to begin to pursue a spiritual life.  Instead of entering into a process of discipline and developing a responsible faith and transformation,  a common response after becoming a believer is for inmates to begin  seeking prayer and guidance about how to appeal their sentence to get out of prison.  A problem with this thinking is because they do not like the results of their choices, present circumstances, and the absence of a gratifying life.  Instead of accepting circumstances of being in prison as a result of bad choices, anti-social behavior, and hurt and pain for others; they believe that a spiritual relationship entitles them to an immediate change of circumstances.  What is not clearly understood is that having a relationship with God does not mean that circumstances will be removed for a lifetime of choices that are made. When people go to prison it is because they are convicted of a crime –a consequence of a bad choice.  Something that stands out here is that many times there is a mystical, magical thinking about what forgiveness brings in a person’s life that needs to be demythologized.  Forgiveness does not mean that we are not responsible for what has happened and it does not mean that consequences will disappear because we have found faith through God.

Memories and Traumatic Experience

In cognitive psychology theory, the importance of memory is correlated to the way experiences are organized and stored in the information management system within the brain.  The impact of experience upon memories and schemas are  realized through understanding memory encoding, which is the way traumatic or painful experience codes a memory and actually change the construction of brain tissueEpisodic memories are the most powerful memories that people have and are connected to responses given through the lived-experience of life.  When painful events, invalidation, hurt, or trauma occurs beliefs, relationships, and memories are forever changed –life changing consequences attached to actions that classify memories with specific triggers.  However, it is not that simple when choices that are very painful are attached to the way the brain organizes information, memories, and painful emotions.  For some people, people they just want to say, I am sorry and hope that it will be forgotten because they wish for immediate release and change the painful circumstances choices have created.  However, it is not that simple when there is deeply ingrained hurt and trauma.  When choices are made, words are said, and actions are taken; we may not realize that when one word, one act occurs, it can be life changing. Indeed, how another person experiences our choices are related to how they experience and processes our chosen behavior.

Choices, Prayer, and Outcome

Memories embedded in the psyche, are connected to an internal perception process,  schema that is a part of the biological and physical makeup of the brain.  It is not just a emotional response; it is how an individuals brain and mind organize events, which and regulates how we think, feel and triggers how we behave when episodic memories are activated. Indeed, choices have consequences upon how life will be experienced, encoded, and remembered.   Unfortunately, outcome is not given enough consideration when people decide on a course of action or use irresponsible words, actions, and behaviors.

What needs to be emphasized  and understood is that when there is a painful experience, painful invalidating words, and abusive behavior that destroys trust and boundaries that the consequences of what has happened cannot simply be wished away, prayed away, or ignored.  The important and neglected truth is that  there are some things that are a part of life –like problems, storms, aging, death, and seasons of life that are very difficult to face.  What needs to be  understood is that we must learn to live with consequences and realize that some things will never change and do not go away no matter how spiritual one becomes.  Our prayers might be better focused upon asking for Grace that provides sufficient strength to live within the circumstances in the place our choices have taken us  to live.

Contentment through Spiritual Growth

The apostle Paul said,  ” I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, [therewith] to be content” (Philippians 4:11).   This is not an attitude of hopelessness and/or  surrender to circumstances, but an affirmation of faith that states that whatever circumstances that are faced, contentment can be found in a Savior who is sufficient in the whatever circumstances life may bring.  The fact is that anyone can trust God when everything is always going right.  The question is can you trust God in your circumstances to be sufficient –to provide efficient grace to live through the storms of life?


Forgiveness, Reconciliation, and Responsibility

forgiveness and ReconciliationWhat should you do when personal relationships are fractured by someone’s  behavior who repeatedly  violates your trust and causes deep regret? A person who you have given your heart and confidence to in a meaningful relationship who has now violated that confidence.

Once you begin to pay attention to one of those situations, you begin to understand the way people who you care about who do you wrong, violate your personal boundaries, and have patterns of behavior that consume your life resources emotionally, physically, and financially.

To ask, what should be done next is a reasonable response from the injured party.  The answers are not always easy to resolve everyone equally depending on their circumstances, but something must be done.  Some people just opt to run away putting as much physical or emotional distance between them and the offender as possible to avoid the consequences.  However sane that may seem at the moment, running away is not always a reasonable response when we have been hurt by others and trust has been compromised.

Quite often the best response is to try to manage relationships instead of running away.  However, when efforts are made to manage others behavior, those efforts to help others can be a slippery slope that can backfire if you do not think through the way you feel and how you will manage you own actions.  One thing to realize is that every time there is a hurt or violation, there are two people involved.  It is like the old saying, “it takes two to Tango”.

Obviously, the act of assessing blame and trying to get others to take responsibility for seemingly unjust or unethical behavior  can turn on the accuser because of the distorted emotions, perception, and self-interest other people may have about events.  In fact, most people always will judge their own actions in the best light. So, for most people, it is easier to blame others or make actions appear to be about someone else instead of accepting responsibility for personal actions or participation in a conflict situation that has produced hurtful actions, negative feelings, and a fractured outcome.

Looking at forgiveness from a purely religious or theological perspective sometimes leaves people with distorted ideas about responsibility for actions. When behavior occurs that violate another person’s rights or actions that defrauds another person willfully of benefit.

Many people think that if you are a Christian and you are wronged that you are obligated to get “holy amnesia”  instantly.  Then, if you are really a spiritual saint that you will act as if nothing ever happened.  Unfortunately, when some people look at the idea of forgiveness through a theological construction, often the emphasis is placed upon unconditional forgiveness without balancing actions with personal accountability for actions that wrong others.

In fact, unconditional forgiveness, ideally, removes responsibility for actions, absolves guilt, removes consequences, and automatically restores relationships. Unfortunately, in the real world of human experience that is seldom the reality in experience.  Something important to think about is that within the the subject of forgiveness an important issue to consider is that human beings are cognitive and emotional beings.  They are humans that are subject to human limitations and they are not impeccable altruistic beings as God.

Sadly, many people who have been deeply hurt by others are further damaged by guilt and manipulation of religious idealists who do not comprehend that there is more to forgiveness than holy amnesia.  In view of humanity,  when it comes to forgiveness many people falsely impose the content f redemption and forgiveness provided through Christ God upon human relationships as if it is normal or expected for people to behave just as God has while living with the limitations of a finite human being.

Unfortunately, for many people feeling the hurt and pain of broken relationships the pain doesn’t get any relief when religious notions are used to guilt and bruise the offended further. Think about this: from a Christian perspective, if the central emphasis of forgiveness is placed upon benefit for the sinner, relief for the offender, instead of responsibility for the effects of behavior that have damaged parties in a relationship, then who pays for the offense in the relationship?

The answer is clear –a  distorted understanding about forgiveness and responsibility re-victimizes the offended by placing the Lion’s share of consequences upon the person wronged. Obviously, forgiveness is distorted when cause and effect are not kept in balance.  There is no doubt that there can be little growth in relationships that is possible without a healthy process that addresses the consequences for the act of offense.

If a simplistic view of forgiveness is used,  there is a need for immediate relief from any sense of guilt from actions.  This view requires vindication, i.e., relief from emotional, social, and, personal responsibility for wrongdoing immediately.  In a theological understanding of God’s provision of redemption, penalty is  removed and sinners escape eternal separation from God, as well as, the benefit of relationship in the present because Jesus bore the sin and consequences.  However, the theological definition is not a very practical way to apply to how forgiveness occurs between people who are the product of a fallen nature and experience systemic relational problems.

Obviously, iIndividuals with a human limitations often lack a God-like ability to negotiate healthy balance between forgiveness and responsibility.  Therefore, when many people think of forgiveness they are equating it with to the doctrine of absolution from Roman Catholic Theology, where the priest mystically removed the penalty for wrong acts. As a result, movement away from a simplistic view of forgiveness by people who live by shoulds and should nots will be enhanced when they realize that forgiveness is both an act of the will and a process toward reconciliation that is not just a  instant “holy amnesia”.

One way to think about this subject is that there remains a fundamental difference between forgiveness and removal of cumulative consequences. In view of that, it is true that Jesus died on the Cross-as a substitution for the sins of those who place faith in Him.  However, does that mean that all of the consequence for every sin and sins are removed at the Cross in every area of life?  Some people believe the answer is yes, but the answer is an emphatic no.

To illustrate this point, the thief on the cross still died for his crimes, while at the same time he was forgiven of his sins. Indeed, there is a principle that needs to be understood about consequences in the human life that remain, even when there is full forgiveness.  Something to consider is that many people see forgiveness as a relief from responsibility for irresponsible behavior. Obviously, escapist thinking under girds many beliefs people have about forgiveness from bad behavior.

One place this is evident is in the majority of prayers prayed by people that focus upon God relieving or delivering them from consequences in life instead of focusing upon personal change in the person.  It seems rational to believe that the focus should be upon God providing ability to bear up under consequences while remaining faithful through circumstances.  Somehow people have come to believe that when they are forgiven of wrongdoing they will no longer have to live under the conditions that bring consequences from choices made or to face responsibility for consequences.

Unfortunately, the fact remains that unethical and unjust behavior influence levels of trust, communication, and relationship dynamics that, in turn, affect everything in life.

There is no doubt that common sense tells us that when something horrendous occurs to a person emotionally, psychologically, or personally devastates life, it will not be relieved with a simple “I’m sorry”. In fact, something is seriously out of balance with thinking about forgiveness that equates words of contrition or acting like something did not happen with relief from consequences and responsibility. Obviously, it is like believing the words, “I am sorry” will remap the cells of brain, change thought patterns, modify behaviors in way that minimizes, erases responsibility and eradicates consequences.

Consider the error of this point of view that is so prevalent among  the religious through an attitude that places greater emphasis upon acceptance of wrongdoers than it does upon the spiritual, social, and eternal consequences of evil acts.  Obviously, all actions have consequences and no matter how much individuals may want to ignore them, pretend they don’t exist, or mystically wish them away, there is always an ongoing impact on life. Consequently, what can be learned from church history is the point of view that minimizes responsibility from wrongdoing is nothing new, it is called, Antinomianism.

This perspective presented a problem recorded in the book of Roman where Paul asked a question directed at responsibility for actions, “What shall we say then, shall we continue in sin that grace may abound”.  Consequently, rational people know that when there are evil acts, there is not a freedom from responsibility, but a challenge to accept responsibility mandating a change in behavior in a responsible manner.

Apparently, some people in that time believed that the more they sinned, the more grace was magnified as a principle of forgiveness and acceptance —more grace is evident and available.  Unfortunately, this is how many people view responsibility for their wrongdoing: the more they are forgiven, the less sensitivity that is felt about the grave nature of injustice to others.  For example, among incarcerated inmates this is particularly evident in the way felons passionately rationalize crimes against others when they find Jesus. The point that is relative is that there is a felt need for relief through redemption and absolution from penalty in forgiveness.

However,  something that is characteristic among anti-social types is a visible absence of remorse, acts of willing restitution, or change of attitude about crimes committed against victims.  Those who are most passionate about forgiveness and who advocate acceptance, restoration, and vindication are those who have the greatest guilt and sin and want relief from consequences.

What needs to be understood is that Jesus died on the Cross for Sin to give a remedy for sins.  Sin is a legal term expressed in John 3:17 as condemned and in Romans 8:1, as condemnation, which has reference to  eternal punishment and separation from God as a legal consequence of sin.  The forgiveness that Jesus offers in His work on the Cross is declared to provide a way to experience a changed life that is a process in contrast to an escape from the consequences of sinful actions.  In the theological concept, forgiveness is about changing behavior and redeeming the consequences through building a life of trust and faith through fidelity. On the other hand, naive acceptance without accountability reinforces the potential for evil to continue thrive and prosper.

One of the problems with beliefs about forgiveness is that it is philosophically bound to utilitarian reasoning about forgiveness grounded  in hedonism. Hedonism is the the pleasure principle, which advocates that the greatest good outcome in life is achieved on the least path of resistance resulting in relief or pleasure.  In other words, the way that brings the greatest pleasure in life is the easiest way. Utilitarian’s advocate the principle of greatest good and is the best outcome for everyone concerned.

However, the question remains unanswered about how is the greatest good or best is determined?  Usually the good is in human terms arrives socially, from group input, or from sociocultural norms and mores’, not from a universal or rational truth.  Unfortunately, Utilitarian forgiveness is not very effective at helping people change behaviors or protecting people from harm, and restoring trust.

In this case, forgiveness magnifies the principle of toleration and means that there is no universal understanding of consequences or for morally wrong behaviors.  Therefore, illegal activities and damaging behaviors deconstructs  normal boundaries for behavioral expectations and normal expectations about responsibility.

Therefore, the impact upon the human experience is that when people become so desensitized to consequences of evil that the effect is no longer felt, the result manifests an inadequate view of forgiveness and responsibility.  Therefore, when people hold a fundamental belief that there is forgiveness for sin and with no consequences, spiritual change or personal growth does not occur in relation to forgiveness.  The opposite occurs: behavior adapts to wrongdoing creating no accountability and the system dynamic turns the abnormal into the normal.  Consequently, forgiveness should demonstrate change in the forgiven not reinforce a potential to act in evil ways without accountability. Consequently, forgiveness should mean that, offenders are changing how they feel and how they believe, so life can move forward in a healthy productive way.

A cultural challenge to forgiveness in the 21st century is within the proliferation of Utilitarian thought.  At its core there is never really any possibility of right or wrong so there can be no offense.  Obviously, this belief is connected to a relativistic view of culture that removes all moral implications of sin or wrongdoing and removes absolutes.  As a result, a conclusion might be made that since nothing is really ever wrong, forgiveness is just a psychological transaction where feelings are purged creating emotional catharsis and acceptance.  However novel that may seem to modern people, this thinking does little for the person who has been violated and who has memories encoded with trauma after an experience creating Post-Traumatic Stress.

Forgiveness is an internal process that sets the forgiving person free from bitterness and internalizing of pain in self-destructive ways. However, contrary to popular thought, forgiveness does not mean the offender is free from the consequences of their actions.  When the news reported that Usama bin Laden was killed, there was a sober reminder that evil actions have consequences that will stalk a person and exact a penalty sooner or later through consequence in life and after death.  Obviously, we live in a time when universal truth has been rejected and been replaced with a view that makes all actions relative to the person. Consequently, the reality of 21st century sophistry is no moral right and wrong, but only what is relative to a person or a group.

Another way to consider responsibility for actions is presented in Psalm 37 that says, ”Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.  For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb”.  Indeed, the certainty of the future is that  every person will fall into the hands of a just God, who has reminded us that there are consequence for evil acts and violence.  With that in mind, the message that resounds for victims is that the pain felt through unjust acts in this life is only a token of the eternal reward for injustice from evil acts in this life.  Something to think about is that God will have the last word on every act and consequence of evil behavior.

Spirituality: Striving and Developing on the Path

When Jesus said, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able” (Luke 13:24), there is the reminder of discipline involved in continuing to walk day after day in a committed Christian life.  It is a formidable challenge to consider to not to allow the shadows and underbrush overshadowing the walk to hinder  progressing toward the goal that is just ahead on the jagged road called strait.

The grim reality presented in what Jesus said,  “Strive”, indicates a life of resistance against elements that are always present, which constantly oppose success toward a direction called the “strait gate”.  The truth is that, unless there is a tenacious commitment to embrace the calling of the “strait” direction with total dependence on God, it is not likely that striving in human effort alone will keep you on the path. Nevertheless, what is apparent indicates that there is a ongoing struggle to live in a “strait” way, but the question remains about what the struggle is with?

Is it the struggle with the road of life chosen or a struggle with the way the road leads life?

A calming reminder from the psalmist says, “the ways (steps) of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord (Psalms 37). Comfort and assurance are given to us living on the path of righteousness indicating that it is a ordered way – God is involved in every step taken.  The confidence given from the psalmist affirms that there is not a step taken or resistance faced that He has not already prepared for in our steps.  On the path, a discovery comes that there is a way that seems right, which may feel right, looks right –the path of least resistance.  At this place of understanding, a decision has to be made to have trust during the struggle or to give way to the temptation to the impulse to run away from the “set path”, the ordered way, which is “strait” and characterized by “striving”.

A challenging concept in the statement comes as Jesus says, “Strive to enter” A question that arises is what exactly are we striving with, while entering the “strait gate?”  Many people see this as a struggle in becoming a Christian, or the struggle in surrendering to Christ. However, what must be noted is that striving is a continual struggle on the “ordered path”.  If it is believed that God gives salvation freely, it is hard to accept that this is struggling for salvation.  It seems that the struggle is pointing to an important understanding about what we struggle with the most in life,  surrender of control to live under control to God alone.  Our striving is not with God, salvation, or receiving grace – it is a struggle with a thing called depravity that haunts the soul of man with unbelief, selfishness, and a propensity toward a disobedient and unfruitful lifestyle.  It is a struggle with self to a life of surrender.

Ministry in the Family Chapel Church Part 2

4 Elements of Holistic Ministry

What is standing in the way of effective ministry?

Be Realistic not Egoistic

The method of ministry that Jesus taught His disciples, while He was in their midst models the principle of servanthood as the central motive for ministry.  Somehow, ministry in churches becomes charged with emotional energy about rights, self, and personal matters when ministry does not include personal reflection or maturity.  The result can be that ministry takes on the attitude of a corporate marketing strategy instead of a spiritual process of investing in the Kingdom of heaven.  Instead of the work of the church engaging in a spiritual endeavor, centered upon God and His work done through the life of a church, the work is a work of human effort.  Unfortunately, the pastor who has not taken the time to fully understand why God placed him strategically in a pastoral position in a Family Chapel  will ultimately face a head on collision with his idealism sooner or later.  The unseen reality that may not be obvious in the moment of despair is that God places pastor in the church as a gift, to the church to bless the church.  Something not understood in the moment is that God’s greatest blessing to the church is when the pastor learns how to live as a servant, not as a celebrity.  The focus of church ministry is not what the pastor wants or people demand, it has always been what God is doing and not what we think He should do.  A question that is relevant to small churches is, “what is God doing in our midst?”  A place to begin is to remember the words of Jesus who said, “He that would be greatest among you must first learn to be the servant of all”.  Ministry is born out of the model of servanthood to God.

It is a revolutionary idea to believe that God cares more about the pastor serving in the way Jesus served than He does about the ideals people have, or what the pastor may want.  Quite often, churches and pastors lose sight of God’s desires in the congregation because they are so consumed with a set of expectations coming from the culture of the church, the expectations of the pastor, and misplaced goals that focus on controlling what happens instead of surrendering to God’s unique activity in the life of the congregation.  A place to begin is spend some time in the throne room to begin to understand what God is doing instead of telling everyone our thoughts about what God is doing.

A Sense of Agency –Calling

A place that every pastor must begin is to understand whether this church is the place that God has called him to be at this time.  If so, the pastor must understand the role and capacity that God wants him to operate in within the body is the place where God has has called him to serve.  A common mistake that pastors often make is to believe that calling means doing the same thing at every church.  Cookie cutter service results in tunnel vision, unfocused leadership, feelings of defeat, depression, and ministry burnout among other problems.

Narrowing Activity Focus to Gifts Driven Ministry

A good place to begin gaining focus is to spend some time reflecting about who you are as a person and the strengths that you possess.  Another part to consider is the identity of the church is that you are serving, and how your unique abilities and gifts can be used to engage God’s purpose in the moment.  An unfortunate mistake that many pastors make is to base their work from the expectations of the faithful few who have not stopped to consider the work and mission that God has called it to fulfill.  In contrast, churches that have not had experienced spiritual leaders look for cookie cutter pastors who fit in, who confirm the past  Quite often the result is systemic failure repeating the failures of past patterns in church ministry.  A church that does not understand the gift of the pastor will never develop an appreciation for the work he does and will fail to recognize the spiritual endeavor that they have been called to fulfill through obedience, servanthood, and humility before God.

“Ministry in the church embraces two fundamental ideas, the pastor is a spiritual gift to the church, and the church is a spiritual gift to the pastor to develop his faith and release the gifts of God within the body to reach the community for Christ.

Commitment to Pathways Thinking

When ideas collide with reality, many pastors have one of two responses.  Opposition results in resume’s circulating because resistance leads to the conclusion that difficulty means God is finished when you are done.  As a result, one response is to flee as quickly as possible to another place when you are tired of trying, so the same things can be tried all over again.  Another response is to accept the terms and calling of God’s Divine placement where you are as an opportunity to develop and learn to find a pathway to effective ministry.  It is a thinking process built on hope and a sense of calling that can build a bridge to effective ministry.  Consequently, if a pastor understands that God has called him for a time such as this; then, a pathway of hope certainly must be found to create direction in a Family-Chapel ministry.  When a minister defines himself by calling with an understanding that God is charting the direction, ministry can take on a spiritual goal of providing incarnational ministry in a context that is different from what we expected and has a purpose greater than the circumstances of that create ministry myopia.  

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The Postmodern Age and the Decline of Western Spiritual Meaning

Adam and Eve Driven out of Eden, by Gustave Do...Postmodernism:  A general and wide-ranging term which is applied to literature, art, philosophy, architecture, fiction, and cultural and literary criticism, among others. Postmodernism is largely a reaction to the assumed certainty of scientific, or objective, efforts to explain reality. In essence, it stems from a recognition that reality is not simply mirrored in human understanding of it, but rather, is constructed as the mind tries to understand its own particular and personal reality. For this reason, postmodernism is highly skeptical of explanations which claim to be valid for all groups, cultures, traditions, or races, and instead focuses on the relative truths of each person. In the postmodern understanding, interpretation is everything; reality only comes into being through our interpretations of what the world means to us individually. Postmodernism relies on concrete experience over abstract principles, knowing always that the outcome of one’s own experience will necessarily be fallible and relative, rather than certain and universal.

Postmodernism is “post” because it is denies the existence of any ultimate principles, and it lacks the optimism of their being a scientific, philosophical, or religious truth which will explain everything for everybody – a characteristic of the so-called “modern” mind. The paradox of the postmodern position is that, in placing all principles under the scrutiny of its skepticism, it must realize that even its own principles are not beyond questioning. As the philosopher Richard Tarnas states, postmodernism “cannot on its own principles ultimately prove itself any more than can the various metaphysical overviews against which the postmodern mind has defined itself.” (Postmodernism)

Postmodernism: — a state of mind or way of thinking in the post-modern world affecting every area of western culture

A general understanding reveals that postmodernism is a term that has gained popularity in scholarly writing as well as casual conversations. In fact, Thomas Guarino (1996) says, “It’s a “movement” that has inspired raging debates about ‘the cult theory’ [in the 1930’s] across the arts and sciences” (p. 654). One of the core issues of postmodern philosophy is the denial of absolutes across groups and lends itself to logical positivism and relativity as a maxim of truth.  As a result, the intention of this article about postmodernism is not to solve the debate, but to understand the influence that state of mind held has upon contemporary beliefs about spirituality.

What Does  Postmodernism Describe?

A description given by Daniel J. Adams (1997) says, “The postmodern era can best be understood in terms of four major characteristics: the decline of the West, the legitimation crisis, the intellectual marketplace, and the process of deconstruction” (Toward a theological understanding of postmodernism).

The perspective of Adams demonstrates is a fundamental shift in thinking in this period that began in a specific era of  time and is associated with significant phenomenon occurring simultaneously in Western Culture that is characterized with the period of decline of spirituality. His analysis of Western Decline draws attention to a point of view that is fundamental to an evolution of spiritual meaning that has correlates to historical-cultural development.  To illustrate, Adams (1997) says, “the legitimation crisis, identified with metanarrative shows [what] is now being seriously called into question” (2). Unlimited development and capitalistic movement in American ideology versus environmental pollution, limited resources, concerns about nuclear proliferation—use of energy, environmental threats, third world poverty, and the goals of the NAFTA have deligitimated descriptions that had characterized capitalism and the past success of the West. Postmodern thinking is characterized by a shift in state of mind about core beliefs that are delegitimized in an essential devaluation of past matters of importance.

Adams, draws attention to another significant development correlated to Western Decline the, “metanarrative of Judeo-Christian sexual ethic” (p. 2)  characterizing American culture.  His perspective identifies the shift of views about sexuality chastity, homosexuality, marriage, divorce, and traditional view of marriage as another deconstructed normative value in culture. With Judeo-Christian ethics disempowered from authoritative acceptance, norms from the past are replaced with a plurality of views with no central source of knowledge or universally held value to describe a way of life experience in America. Deligitimation in postmodern life of the Judeo Christian ethic demonstrates changing beliefs about marriage, sexual behavior, and accepted norms indicate a shifting emphasis from the views of the past.

A perspective about the impact of postmodernism upon Christian thought is offered by David Couchman (2002) who describes how mind-set has been altered, he states: “if you drop a frog into boiling water, it will jump out immediately, but if you put it in cold water and heat it slowly, you can boil it alive because it does not realize what is happening. … We think we know what is going on, while the culture in which we are immersed is slowly killing us without our realizing it” (Couchman, 2002, p. p. 74). Thus the effect of postmodernism is not readily recognize because culture has been inoculated in a gradual process of change that has brought dramatic change in the decline of western thought about many important cultural issues that have placed a profound effect upon spiritual values and beliefs in the 21st century.

References Adams, D. L. (1997). Toward a theological understanding of postmodernism. Retrieved March 30, 2011, from Crosscurrents: http://crosscurrents.orh/adams.html

Couchman, D. (2002). Facing the challenge of our times equipping christians to respond biblically and effectively to postmodernism. Evangel , 20 (3), pp. 74-78 retrieved from EBSCOhost March 09, 2011.

Guarino, T. (1996). Postmodernity and five fundamental theological issues [electronic version]. Theological Studies , 57 (4), Retrieved from EBSCOhost March 30,2011.

Postmodernism. http://www.pbs.org/faithandreason/gengloss/postm-body.html

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To Pray or Not To Pray – The Spiritual Connection to God

Prayer is the languageAre you preparing for God to send spiritual awakening or accepting spiritual apathy? It seems that we are living in a time when moral decay and spiritual apathy have overtaken many and destroyed any hope of things getting better. I want to remind you that two thousand years ago, when Jesus was crucified, the world had just experienced its darkest moment. The world had just rejected Jesus and nailed Him to a cross. For the disciples, it seemed as if the world had come to an end and all of their hopes were dashed into pieces.

It was in the midst of that darkness that Jesus appeared to His disciples and reassured their hopes and dreams. Before Jesus ascended to heaven, He told His disciples, “… tarry in Jerusalem until you are endued with power.” Jesus was telling His disciples that they needed to prepare for a time of spiritual awakening. These people spent forty day in an upper room praying. When the Holy Spirit began to move Peter stood up and said that this was predicted by the prophet Joel.

Why is it that we need to pray?

We need to pray because prayer is a reminder that God is in control of what we cannot control. When we pray it is an open confession that we believe that God is greater than the problems of our world.

We need to pray because there are things that we cannot do without God’s assistance. Think of the challenges that you are facing in your life. When we pray about these issues God empowers us to face these issues with an inner confidence. Prayer reminds me of my insufficiency and God’s sufficiency. We need to pray because we are going to face opposition in life. The scripture constantly reminds us of the adversarial work of Satan and the opposition of evil men to the work of the gospel. We need to pray because God is the only one who change the outcomes of life. Many times we do not know what the future will hold or what the outcomes of life will bring.

When we pray, we are asking God to take charge of the future and saying that we trust Him with whatever it brings.

Jesus told his disciples to pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. It is God’s will for spiritual awakening to come. One of the great hindrances to God moving is the absence of corporate and private prayer among God’s people. In the church we sing for an hour until we can get to spiritual enough to listen to an hour of preaching that produces nothing lasting.

In the early church they prayed 50 days preached for a few minutes and the result was 5000 being saved, the church was inaugurated, and the world was changed.

It seems that that our theology should include some knee-ology. It is apparent that modern churches and thinking is engulfed with a sense of pride and arrogance that says we are helping God with method-ology that is infused with a powerless anthropocentric view of the God achieves His purposes through the church.

The fact is that God does not need our help in accomplishing His will. He demands our devotion, worship, and obedience. Not to the commands and tradition of men, but to, “the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus.”

Individuals by choice choose to be a part of powerless, problem apathy that enables a crippled system of delivery that is political, sociological, psychological …. Or submitting to the sovereignty of God and the Lordship of Christ and making a commitment to be an active part of solution to the need for spiritual awakening in the church. The real question is: what are you willing to do to see change happen for the best in the life of the body of Christ?

James says, “The fervent, effectual prayer of a righteous man availed much…”

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God Knows about the Depth of Emotional Pain we Feel

Stress Reduction KitWhat is it that get’s on your very last nerve?  It is not your sweet spot, it is your hot spot.  In fact, there is something that all of us are facing that is wearing us thin today. Those are the things  that raise the temperature, creates stress, and causes things that would not normally to bother us to become larger than life. There times we get frustrated about the events of life and feel that no one cares or knows how we really feel. Yes, we even question if God really cares about what we experience in the times of disappointment and frustration. It is at times like this that we are overly concerned with the activity – what is happening or not happening – and not the process. In the process of frustration, disappointment, and discouragement; our response can be to give up.  However,  if during these times, we can understand that God knows about what we are going through and that nothing is escaping His watchful eye or concern– then frustration can turn into faith.  What does the Bible say about frustration in the life of the believer?

Psalm 31:7 says, that God knows the depth and emotional impact of problems upon our lives, “you God have listened to all my troubles and have seen the crisis in my soul.”  Now, some of you may think, “Nobody knows what I’m going through, nobody feels the pain I’m going through.”  But listen, God knows for sure.  Indeed, He knows our feelings and frustrations …  He has seen the crisis in the soul. Also, in Psalm 56:6,  we are told that He is fully aware of the emotional intensity caused by continued frustration, “You know how troubled I am; you have kept a record of my tears.”  So, what does this mean to us today?   It means that  there is no hurt that goes unnoticed by God.  He has seen it all, He sees it all, and will continue to see it all — He knows exactly what we are feeling.

Have you experienced times that you have you felt that those around you in the church who are spiritual leaders have abandoned you at the hour of need?   In Galatians 6, there is instruction about the matter of hurting people and the spiritual responsibility to them, “Brethren, if you over take your brother in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such a one in the spirit of meekness, considering your own self, lest you also be tempted.  Bear ye one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. ”  While people may,  at times, fall idly through the fault lines of ministry in the church,  one thing we can be certain of is that,  God knows exactly what you are going through,  where you are at, and is concerned about what is happening in your frustration.

Often when people are hurting it is common to feel isolated,  very lonely,  even when there are people all around.  Maybe there’s been a death in the family,  a divorce, maybe a lost job and you feel the sting of the crisis deeply.  What an ideal time it could be for some spiritual person to come alongside and encourage, restore, and minister a sense of Godly concern.  However,  because no one calls, no one comes by to check on the person,  they feel all alone, isolated, and think, “Nobody understands the way I feel, nobody can tell the way I feel, nobody feels the pain.”  You may feel like that even right now, but let me assure you of one thing: no matter what you are going through, God knows.  He understands our hurts,  the feeling of isolation, and the frustration that is being experienced.

In Psalm 103:13-14,  instruction is provided for readers to realize that God’s loving concern is always faithful, “He is like a father to us, tender and sympathetic for he knows what we are made of — dust.” He’s our creator.  The fact is:  God is sympathetic to my hurts and your hurts. Not only does He see, He cares.  God understands why it happened.

He knows the causes, the reasons, the things that brought you to this point.  He sees how it all fits together.  The Bible says He understands because He made us.  He knows my thoughts, my failures, my feelings, my frustrations.  He sees the hurt in your heart.  While no one else may care enough to … , God is always present in the hour of need – He is omniscient.  Placing your trust in religious people,  preachers,  prophets,  and churches is often the route that leads to disappointment — God is always faithful to you because He knows and continues to love — no matter what.

What should I do?  In Psalm 142:3 it tells us that,  “When I am ready to give up,  He knows what I should do.”  It is God that has the answer and holds the future in His hand.  Others may tell you that your just over-reacting or make you feel like what is happening to you is not important, but listen; it is important to understand that God is not only omniscient,  He is sovereign and is uniquely interested in all that is happening in your life.  You may be ready to give up, but God is not.  He knows what is happening and what you ought to do– He has a plan for your life.

If He sees and understand the pain that you feel, what should you do right now?  A place to begin is in 1 Peter 5:7, where a solution is provided, “Cast all your cares on the Lord, for He cares for you.”  Cast them all permanently,  once and for all and don’t take them back.  Give Him your hurts just like you give Him your faults,  every area of your life.   Then, let God resolve the frustration that you feel about your life, what has happened, and what the future will hold.  He is omniscient and He is sovereign.

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