Church Leadership

The 68Mission: Part 3 - What Does It Look Like?

This is the 3rd article in a series called "The 68Mission." The series examines the potential impact of Micah 6:8 on the church today. In "Part 1 - God's Case Against His People," I described how Micah 6 is presented as a covenant lawsuit that God is bringing against Israel in Micah's day. In "Part 2 - The Nature of God's Requirements," I examined the three timeless commands God gives to all people: do justice, love steadfastly, and walk humbly with God.

How does Micah 6:8 relate to churches today?

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An application of Micah 6:8 would have us live in three directions at once: toward God (though humility), toward one another (with steadfast love), and toward the world (with justice). We must always be mindful that God created us for relationships. In Genesis 1:26-27, we relate to God as our Creator, to each other as male and female, and to the world by dominion/management of it.

Micah 6:8 is fundamental to being spiritual. A parallel New Testament verse that describes our spiritual obligation is James 1:27: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained by the world." Echoing Micah, James compels believers to let their faith in God permeate their lives and, by extension, the church.

Much has been written about the role of doing social good in the name of Christ without the gospel. And much has been written about sharing the gospel without showing Christ's love through our deeds. We must do both! Peter described Jesus as going about "doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him" (Acts 10:38). And Jesus did not become a human only to be an example of someone who did good deeds; he died and rose from the grave to make us right with God (cf. 1 Peter 3:18).

Could a life—or a church for that matter—be centered on the three principles of Micah 6:8? Could our very reason for existing to be on mission with God to do justice, love steadfastly, and walk humbly? This is The 68Mission.

The 68Mission practices justice by caring for orphans and widows, standing up for those who cannot defend themselves, and rescuing those who are trapped in destructive lifestyles (such as those captured in human trafficking). The message of the gospel must be intrinsically tied to these kinds of actions.

The 68Mission loves steadfastly by becoming a part of a holistic, missional Christian community. A 68Mission church would not be a church with small groups, but a church of small groups—where each member is encouraged to use his or her giftedness to impact people with the love and gospel of Christ. The groups would not focus simply on understanding Bible content, but on the transforming power of God's Word on our relationships with God, one another, and the world.

The 68Mission walks humbly with God by truly submitting to his Word and his Spirit. Like the Jews in Berea, it receives "the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things are so" (Acts 17:11).

A 68Mission church does not have a number of disparate tasks, programs, or functions, but the mission of God is its function. At its heart, it doesn't exist for the sake of programs, nor does it use programs to try to make disciples of the nations. Instead, it creates disciple-makers through relationships—disciple-makers who come to understand that every day they live is another day to do justice, love steadfastly, and walk humbly.

The 68Mission: Part 2 - The Nature of God's Requirements

This is the 2nd article in a series called "The 68Mission." The series examines the potential impact of Micah 6:8 on the church today. In "Part 1 - God's Case Against His People," I described how Micah 6 is presented as a covenant lawsuit that God brought against Israel in Micah's day.

Micah 6:8 establishes God's most fundamental and universal demands on humans. The requirements placed upon ancient Israel here are essentially the same requirements placed on us. These are not requests, and God has not changed his standards.In an exposition of this verse, Elmo Scoggin writes, "Three very clear, simple, straight-forward principles are delineated.... Each of the principles is to be incorporated into the routine of daily living. They are not to be 'tacked on' to conduct. They are to be as characteristic of the godly person's conduct as they are of God's own conduct."

Principle #1: Do justice. To do justice means to right wrongs. It is looking out for the welfare of our neighbors. In short, it is to treat people like God treats people.One of the best examples from Christian history of someone doing justice was William Carey. He is most widely known as the father of the modern missions movement, but in India he is famous for helping to end the practice of Sati, in which a recently widowed Hindu woman was burned alive on her husband's funeral pyre.

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Principle #2: Love mercy. English translations use different phrases to capture this idea: "to love kindness" (ESV), "to love faithfulness" (CSB), and "to love mercy" (KJV). The Hebrew word used here is the word hesed (pronounced ke-sed), which includes the idea of faithful love in action. It is an incredibly rich word that usually refers to God's lovingkindness expressed to Israel: covenantal, unending, and unconditional. This kind of relationship begins as God seeks after humanity with love and mercy.

When we practice hesed love, we reach out with God's love to everyone: even the most unlovable and most difficult people.

Principle #3: Walk humbly. This command is directed toward our relationship with God. We walk humbly as we recognize God as the Lord of all things. Just as we would be humbled to enter into the palace of a great king, God is the King of all kings. Not only does he allow us to be his humble slaves, but he has even adopted us into his family (Romans 8:15; John 1:12).

Scoggin understands our humility before God to be the bond that ties the first two principles together. He summarizes Micah 6:8 this way: "Walking with God, by his rules, in his paths, after his manner, in proper modesty and humility, with all hindrances removed, so that one is prepared or well-pleasing to God, is possible only when and if one is right with his fellow human beings and with God."

Next in The 68Mission: Part 3 - What Does It Look Like?

The 68Mission: Part 1 - God's Case Against His People

In a recent study of Micah 6:8, I came across a 27-year-old journal article ("An Expository Exegesis: Micah 6:6-8," Faith and Mission Vol. 2, No. 2) written by Elmo Scoggin on the passage. This important verse is part of a larger context—a "covenant lawsuit." God has brought a lawsuit against his people, and he plays four different roles as the case progresses: prosecuting attorney, bailiff, judge, and plaintiff. The list below is a very brief summary of the verses leading up to Micah 6:8.

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  • Micah 6:1 - The defendant, Israel, is called to the stand and challenged to speak up in self-defense.

  • Micah 6:2 - The court issues various witnesses—the mountains and the foundations of the earth—to hear the Lord's complaint.

  • Micah 6:3 - With Israel on the stand, the Lord asks, "How have I made you too weary to serve me?"

  • Micah 6:4-5 - Each year, Israel recited God's deliverance of their lives at Passover. Now, the Lord uses the very same tactic and turns the tables on Israel. He recites their history himself. Scoggin writes, "Why, then, not return, repent, and serve God with joy? Surprise! Israel has become so insensitive to the deeper spiritual values that she now misses the point entirely... The glamor of formal, ritualistic religion has acted as a narcotic that has desensitized God's people to the essence of true religion."

Then we get to the heart of the matter.

In Micah 6:6-7, Israel offers a flimsy defense. "With what shall I come before the Lord?" is more literally translated "With what shall I confront the Lord?" Israel was basically complaining, "How much will you demand of me, God? Do you want me to be crushed by religious burdens so that I bow down before you, God? Shall I sacrifice thousands of year-old calves? Would you be satisfied with ten thousand rivers of oil? Maybe I should offer child sacrifices! How demanding can you be, God?"

Scoggin continues, "What had actually happened was that the Israelites had become very religious in a formal, institutionalized way. They had impressed themselves at least with their religiosity.... Israel knew beyond any doubt that offerings that have no basis in ethics and morality, that have no deep roots in character are themselves an insult, an abomination to God. Israel knew that true religion...must issue from a character base built upon and confirmed by ethical behavior."

Then, in Micah 6:8, the prophet answers Israel: "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"

God cannot be pleased through the sacrifice of thousands of rams, tens of thousands of rivers of oil, or child sacrifices. And every human heart already knows this instinctively. Moreover, God has made it clear in his Word.

Next in The 68Mission: Part 2 - The Nature of God's Requirements

Should Christians Drink Alcohol?

What does the Bible say about drinking alcohol? More importantly, if you were shown that the Bible's consistent witness with regard to alcohol was different than your viewpoint, would you change your mind?In this article you will find an honest summary of alcohol in the Bible and some reasonable conclusions drawn from it. What you won't find is a justification of your own views through proof-texts. So leave your preconceived notions behind and let Scripture speak for itself.

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This article is not my original work, but merely a summary of a great article on alcohol: "A Christian Perspective on Wine Drinking" by Norman Geisler (in Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. 139). If you want to examine the subject in greater detail, make sure you include Geisler's article in your studies.

What the Bible Says About Alcohol

  • Drunkenness is a sin (cf. Deut. 21:20-21; 1 Cor. 5:11; 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:18).

  • "Strong drink" is deceptive and sinful (cf. Lev. 10:8-9; Prov. 20:1; 31:4-5; Isa. 5:11; 24:9). The Hebrew word for "strong drink" is a different word than the word used for "wine."

  • Drinking in excess is wrong (cf. Amos 6:1-6; Hab. 2:15).

  • Church leaders are to be moderate in their use of wine (cf. 1 Tim. 3:3, 8).

  • Wine was used as a medicine (cf. Prov. 31:6; 1 Tim. 5:23).

What the Bible Does Not Say About Alcohol

  • The Bible does not teach that New Testament communion wine was unfermented. All wine was fermented wine. Some Corinthians were drunk at the Lord's Table (cf. 1 Cor. 11:21), which would be very difficult to accomplish if the wine was unfermented.

  • The Bible does not teach that "new wine" was unfermented. Hosea 4:11 says that both "old wine" and "new wine" take away understanding. And Acts 2:13 tells of how Spirit-filled believers were accused of drunkenness, being filled with new wine.

  • It is false to say that Jesus made unfermented wine (compare John 2:9-10 with Mark 2:22 and Eph. 5:18).

  • It is incorrect to say that the New Testament teaches that first-century Christians were not to use wine at any time.

  • It is a myth to say that total abstinence was a New Testament condition for church membership.

Is Wine Today Like New Testament Wine?

New Testament scholar Robert Stein (“Wine-Drinking in New Testament Times,” Christianity Today, June 20, 1975, pp. 9–11.) points out that wine in the New Testament was essentially purified water. “In ancient days, wine undiluted with water was considered 'strong drink,' which the Bible forbids except to relieve a dying man's excruciating pain.” Water was usually mixed with wine, and many ancient writers tell us how much water they mixed with wine:

  • Wine in Homer's day was twenty parts water to one part wine.

  • Pliny referred to wine as eight parts water to one part wine.

  • Aristophanes: three parts water to two parts wine.

  • Euenos: three parts water to one part wine.

  • Hesiod: three parts water to one part wine.

  • Alexis: four parts water to one part wine.

  • Diocles and Anacreon: two parts water to one part wine.

  • Ion: three parts water to one part wine.

  • Strong wine was typically considered to be one part water to one part wine.

  • Anyone who drank wine unmixed was called a Scythian or a barbarian. Ancient Greeks would say to us today, "You Americans are barbarians–drinking straight wine!" The pagan Mnesitheus of Athens was quoted as saying about wine, "Mix it half and half and you get madness; unmixed–bodily collapse."

  • According to the Talmud, wine used in the Passover was three parts water and one part wine.

In ancient times, water was sometimes unsafe to drink, just as it is in many undeveloped areas of the world today. Water could have been made safe in many ways: boiling (costly and tedious), filtering (not always safe), or adding wine (kills the germs). Today, wine has a much higher alcohol content than in the days of the New Testament. If you lived back in those days, you would have to drink twenty-two glasses of wine in order to consume the same amount of alcohol in two martinis today. Today's wine, beer, and other alcoholic beverages fall within the category of what Scripture calls "strong drink," which are forbidden.

Deciding About Drinking Alcohol Today

If you are considering drinking alcohol, you should first answer four questions:

  1. What are the facts about alcohol? Thirty-six percent of adults who drink alcohol can be classified as problem drinkers. There are over 3 million 14-17 year-olds who are problem drinkers. Fetal alcohol syndrome is the third greatest cause of birth defects. Drinking impairs your social and intellectual capacities. Half of all traffic fatalities and one-third of all traffic injuries are alcohol-related. A high percentage of child-abusing parents have drinking problems. A relatively high correlation exists between alcohol consumption and robbery, rape, assault, homicide, and suicide.

  2. Will wine-drinking lead to sin? First Corinthians 6:12 says, "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything." You may think that you are master of your drinking, but if alcohol is something you must have, then it masters you.

  3. Will wine-drinking lead anyone else to sin? Philippians 2:4 says, "Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others." Romans 14:21 says, "It is good not to eat meat or drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles."

  4. Can wine-drinking be done to the glory of God? First Corinthians 10:31 says, "Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." If you cannot praise and glorify God when you are drinking, then you don't need to do it.

Why Christians Need Not Drink Wine

  • People today have plenty of wholesome, nonaddictive beverages to consume. This is different than in biblical times.

  • America is an alcoholic culture, but the New Testament culture was not. In the New Testament, there were relatively few drunks.

  • Total abstinence is the safer policy. How many people would fly if they knew there was a one in ten chance that their plane would crash? That is the same chance of an occasional or moderate drinker becoming an alcoholic.

  • Total abstinence is the more consistent policy. The biggest drug problem in the U.S. is not marijuana or heroin, but alcohol. Alcohol is the "establishment" drug, the adults' drug, the legal drug. We cannot expect our children or grandchildren to stay away from drugs if we refuse.

  • Alcohol cannot deliver on the expectation people place upon it. The main reason people drink alcohol is because they believe it will provide relaxation and enjoyment. But God says that real peace and joy comes through experiencing Him. "Do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit" (Eph. 5:18). "You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever" (Ps. 16:11). "The peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:7).

Geisler concludes his article with these words: "And it is an insult to the Holy Spirit for Christians to seek the superficial pleasure of stimulants when they can have the permanent joy of the Holy Spirit. God wants people to eat and drink with joy, but without jeopardy. He desires that man's pleasures be Spirit-directed, not self-centered; that they be helpful, but not harmful."

Finally, a Theology of Food!

What does the Bible teach about eating food? (Strange question, right?) Is eating meat allowed for a Christian? The following is an email I received and my reply to it:

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Can you help me? I would like to be saved and know that I will receive the gift of eternal life. But I find it very difficult to believe in a God that created man to be vegetarian, and then later told man that it is okay to eat meat (the Flood seems like a very weak excuse when you think about it logically). According to the Bible, not only did God tell man it was okay to eat meat, but He too ate meat. Jesus did also. It seems like He/They would want to at least set good examples for mankind to follow.

Doesn’t eating meat cause a large amount of damage to the human body (the 'temple of the Holy Spirit') even if you factor out the numerous diseases like Mad Cow and many others? Isn’t it clearly linked to heart disease, cancer (especially colon and breast), diabetes, and other ailments too numerous to list? When people eat meat don’t they support animal abuse (castration, de-horning, de-beaking, etc., etc. without anesthetics)? Animals are stuck into tiny cages in giant, stinky warehouses for the entirety of their miserable lives. Hearing about the outrages on factory farms and in slaughterhouses seems like it would make most compassionate people cry. Also, when people eat meat don’t they endorse environmental damage and excessive consumption of limited resources (gas, water, soil)? Aren't they directly contributing to malnutrition and starvation around the world?

Do Christians just not know about the problems that they are causing? Or do they just not care because God says that it is okay to eat meat (and ergo it is okay to inflict this harm on animals, man, and the environment)? I like to hope it is the former, but from what I have observed it sure appears to be more of the latter.

Anyway, it is very difficult for me to believe in this supposedly 'loving', 'caring', 'compassionate' God when I see so much pain and suffering going on and the justifications I generally hear are, 'if it is good enough for Him...', and 'it is no sin...', and 'the Bible says...'

I have been asking this question repeatedly, but I generally receive no answer. When I get an attempt at an 'answer', it usually doesn't make a lot of sense. But I will keep trying.

Thanks, Chuck

Here's my reply:

Dear Chuck,

Thank you for writing. I apologize for taking so long in replying, but you asked some good questions that I wanted to research. I hope that I can begin to answer some of your questions.

As I read your email, it seems that your concerns are focused in two areas, both of which deal with the issue of being a vegetarian. You summarize the problems with eating meat in the following categories: diseases, cruelty to animals, environmental damage and malnutrition/starvation.

First, you have a concern that God seems to be inconsistent on the issue. He originally makes man a vegetarian, and later tells Noah that it is okay to eat animals. Likewise, Jesus—whom Christians and the Bible claim to be God in the flesh—eats meat. You also mentioned that God Himself (as in God the Father, I presume) eats meat. I’m not sure if I know what you are referring to in regard to this last example. Nevertheless, the first two examples stand on their own.

Your second concern is that Christians are either ignorant or apathetic on the issue of vegetarianism.

I will deal with the second concern first by making the following points: (1) Many Christians are ignorant on the issue. They have never given the issue much thought. (2) Many others are apathetic. Their apathy stems from unbiblical beliefs (e.g., “God gave man dominion over the animals, so we can abuse them if we want to”), uncaring attitudes (e.g., “Who cares? It’s just a dumb animal!”), or weaknesses in overcoming their desires (e.g., “I hope God doesn’t want me to be a vegetarian. I just love steak too much!”). None of these responses take the issue seriously.

There is a third option that you did not mention: Some Christians simply disagree with the idea that God intends people to be vegetarians. Most of these Christians would also disagree with the idea that eating meat is damaging (or at least as damaging as you claim).

Christians are to be a witness to those who are searching for God. Sometimes, however, they get in the way. This may be difficult, but let me encourage you to not confuse the way Christians behave with the way God intends for them to behave. God still gives Christians the freedom to disobey Him. The better Christians obey God, the easier it is for those who are searching to find Him. So I apologize on behalf of my fellow Christians if they have made it more difficult for you to find your faith in God.

This brings us to the first concern: Is God inconsistent on the issue of eating meat? Does God allow for the human consumption of meat? If so, how should this impact our lives and world?

I do not believe the Bible ever portrays God as inconsistent. (The primary issue, in my opinion, is your belief about God, not your belief about vegetarianism—Is God consistent or not? But since the linkage of the two seems to be a stumbling block for your belief in God, we need to address both.) The issue of vegetarianism may appear to be an inconsistency on God's part, but I do not believe it is.

Peter Leithart summarizes my own theological position in his article, “The Way Things Really Ought to Be: Eucharist, Eschatology, and Culture" (Westminster Theological Journal, 59 [Fall 1997], 168-9):

Eating also signifies humanity’s dominion over the creation. When I eat, I incorporate a part of the world into myself, and therefore to eat a once-living thing is to say that its life is rightly subordinate to my needs, that it exists (at least in part) to serve and sustain me, that I have a right to make it mine in the most literal and intimate sense. Throughout the food chain, to eat something is to claim superiority over it: Herbivorous animals eat what is lower on the chain, while more complicated and advanced animals eat lower animals. The exceptions to this rule—man-eating lions, cannibals, Polyphemus—are horrific not only for their goriness but because they disturb our sense of right order. At the top of the food chain is man, anatomically equipped, as Leon Kass has pointed out, to eat nearly everything. Kass writes that humanity’s place in the food chain is a sign both of proper dominion and of the potential for irresponsible domination:

The expansion and indeterminacy of human appetites—reflected in human omnivorousness—are greatly problematic, as is man himself…. Human omnivorousness is the bodily mark of man…as deformer and transformer. It is the unpremeditated, strictly natural sign of our dominant and mastering posture in the world, a posture of great danger as well as great promise, not only for the world but also for man himself (Kass, The Hungry Soul, 92).

Several passages in the Bible show this connection between eating and authority. In Gen 2:16–17 the Lord grants Adam the world to eat, while in Gen 1:26–28 he presents the world to man and woman as the domain they are to fill, subdue, and rule. To be made in God’s image means not only to be given every herb for food but also to be given dominion over the earth and other living creatures. After the flood, the Lord’s promises to the new Adam, Noah, bring dominion even more directly into connection with diet:

And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth. And the fear of you and the terror of you shall be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given. Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant” (Gen 9:1–3).

God promises effective rule over animals at the same time he gives permission to eat flesh.*

As a preview of the shalom of the new creation, the Eucharist manifests man’s proper place in the creation and his relation to what we must insist on calling the lower creation. Much more than Christian theology has recognized, man is part of and inseparable from the created order, inserted into his environment, shaped by it, dependent upon what it offers, and responsible for its care. God also created man as the omnivorous ruler of the world, to whom every tree, as well as every beast and creeping thing, is edible. Man’s position as ruler is part of the created order that God pronounced “very good,” not a part of the curse on sin, and the new creation brings fulfillment, not a cancellation of his position.

While it seems to be a fact that Adam and Eve were vegetarians prior to their sin, God nevertheless gave them dominion His creation at that time. (To have dominion over something means to manage it or be a steward of it.) Implied in the management of creation is the freedom to eat of it. God made man to rule over creation. God’s word to Noah in Genesis 9 complements (and not contradicts) this. This is also consistent with Jesus’ actions, the actions of the apostles, and the explicit teaching of the New Testament: “Some will depart from the faith… They forbid marriage and demand abstinence from foods that God created to be received with gratitude by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing should be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, since it is sanctified by the word of God and by prayer” (1 Tim. 4:1, 3-5; HCSB).

Should the consumption of meat occur with as little suffering, environmental damage, and other harmful effects as possible? Yes. Ultimately we will answer to God for how well we managed His creation. But is the consumption of meat intrinsically wrong? Basing my opinion on my understanding of the Bible, I do not believe it is.

I hope this will help you in your search for answers. Feel free to contact me again if I can be of help to you.

Sincerely, David Rhoades

* By way of contrast, it is significant that the feast of the new creation involves only vegetable fare. I would not wish to use this to make a case for vegetarianism, but the food of the Eucharist seems to reflect biblical prophecies that the new creation will bring not merely peace from animals but peace between man and the animals.

Does Submission in Marriage Equate to Slavery?

One of the occasional criticisms of complementarians (those who believe that God created men to be the servant-leaders of their homes) is that it is akin to slavery.I think it's time to put this idea to the test.

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This is what the Encyclopedia Britannica says about slavery (numerical listing is mine):

...Most of the following characteristics should be present in order to term a person a slave. (1) The slave was a species of property; thus, he belonged to someone else. In some societies slaves were considered movable property, in others immovable property, like real estate. (2) They were objects of the law, not its subjects. Thus, like an ox or an ax, the slave was not ordinarily held responsible for what he did. He was not personally liable for torts or contracts. (3) The slave usually had few rights and always fewer than his owner, but there were not many societies in which he had absolutely none. As there are limits in most societies on the extent to which animals may be abused, so there were limits in most societies on how much a slave could be abused. (4) The slave was removed from lines of natal descent. Legally, and often socially, he had no kin. No relatives could stand up for his rights or get vengeance for him. (5) As an “outsider,” “marginal individual,” or “socially dead person” in the society where he was enslaved, his rights to participate in political decision making and other social activities were fewer than those enjoyed by his owner. (6) The product of a slave’s labour could be claimed by someone else, who also frequently had the right to control his physical reproduction.

Does a Wife's Submission to Her Husband Make Her a Slave?

Corresponding to the six points delineated above, let's test whether slavery is an honest and valid analogy/criticism for complementarian marriage:

  1. Complementarian husbands do not consider their wives to be property. They are equals, created in the image of God.

  2. As persons made in the image of God, complementarian wives are responsible for their actions.

  3. Complementarian wives have many rights, not few. No man should abuse his wife.

  4. Complementarian wives have kin. Their families of origin should be respected and honored.

  5. Complementarian wives are not "outsiders," "marginal," or "socially dead." They have the right to engage in political and social activities.

  6. Complementarian wives have control of the works of their hands (cf. Prov. 31:16). They have the right to reproduce physically.

I would add that slavery is usually involuntary. Submission in marriage is always voluntary because that is the nature of submission. There is no such thing as involuntary submission. Why? Because submission involves a willing attitude.

Submission is something that is hard to do. It becomes much easier, though, when the authority in our lives seeks our best and loves us. 

How To Deal with Conflict

No area of our lives is immune from conflict. We can encounter conflict in our marriages, with our children, at church, in school, and at work.

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Some people are “conflict magnets.” They seem to attract friction and disputes wherever they go.

Others are immune to conflict. No matter what is going on around them, they are unaffected. They’re like the guy with high metabolism who can eat as much as he wants and never gain weight. (I hate that guy!).

It’s not necessarily a good thing to be unaffected by conflict. That might be a sign of severe narcissism. Hopefully you care enough about people to want peace.

And it’s certainly detrimental to be paralyzed by conflict. Your goal needs to be to deal with it and move forward.

If we’re going to deal with conflict the right way, we need to identify and avoid the pitfalls.

Wrong Ways We Deal With Conflict:

Gossip is discussing anything negative with someone who can’t help solve the problem.
— Dave Ramsey
  1. Ignore it. This is the most popular way to deal with conflict. But sticking your head in the sand doesn’t make the problem go away. Pouring your troubles into your favorite escape mechanism just leaves the issues for another day.Conflict is like cancer in one respect: if left alone, it will likely grow worse.Some people refuse to deal with conflict because they didn’t start it. But why would you rather live in a state of disharmony with others than go through the brief pain of dealing with the problem? Healing comes through the application of the proper medicine, and the medicine for conflict is healthy communication.

  2. Gossip. If there is a problem between you and Johnny, griping about your frustrations to Suzie doesn’t solve the problem, especially if Suzie has a big mouth. It won’t take long for word to get back to Johnny that you’ve been griping about him, and then you have conflict about the conflict. That’s not to say you can’t get advice from a third party. Seeking counsel from a wise person is not gossip, but the person you turn to for help needs to be trustworthy, discreet, and willing to love you enough tell you the truth (even if you’re wrong.)

  3. Blame others. You might be thinking, “But it’s their fault!” And you may be right! But before you run off and accuse someone of being in the wrong, you need to be willing to listen.Remember: You probably don’t know all the circumstances the other person is dealing with, and you don’t know their heart. Only God has all knowledge.

The Right Way To Resolve Conflict

  1. Examine yourself. Jesus said, “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3).Sometimes we have blind spots which hinder us from seeing our own problems. But if we take a little time to examine our own motivations, words, and actions, we may find that we contributed to the conflict.

  2. Deal with facts. Not everything you’ve heard from the rumor mill is true. Jesus said, “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault…” (Matthew 18:15). He might as well have said, “If you know for a fact that your brother sins…” This means that you are certain of the offending party’s words or actions. Rumor and innuendo are not facts.

  3. Take the first step. If you have hurt someone else, you need to make it right. Own it. Tell him you messed up and that you’re sorry he was hurt. As Jesus put it, “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering” (Matthew 5:23-24).But you need to say more than, “I’m sorry.” Ask the offended person if he will forgive you. Saying “I’m sorry” simply expresses your emotions. But asking, “Will you forgive me?” requests a response and provides an opportunity for the relationship to heal.”But what if I’m the one harmed? Shouldn’t the other person come to me?” It would be nice if everyone who harmed us tried to make it right. But that doesn’t alleviate your responsibility. You still must go to them. “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault.”

    According to Jesus, conflict resolution always begins with you.

  4. Address conflict in private, if possible. Unless the conflict has escalated to the point that it involves other people, the conflict resolution needs to be attempted privately. Occasionally conflict resolution is embarrassing or it doesn’t go well, and it’s better to have those difficult discussions away from other people.

  5. Involve other people, if necessary. It’s been my experience that most conflicts can be resolved one-on-one. But sometimes a mediator or a larger circle of people are needed. They can give a third-person perspective that both of the people in conflict need to hear.

  6. If no resolution can be found, go your way in peace. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18). Sometimes, however, there will be a lasting disagreement. But that doesn’t mean you have to be disagreeable. Remember: Be kind to people!

Be kind to people. Everyone is having a hard time with something.
— David Rhoades

Conflict is inevitable in this life, but the path to peace just takes some wisdom and a little effort on your part. If you are willing to deal with conflict the right way, not only will your life be better, but you can improve someone else’s life. And there’s nothing better than being a blessing!

What are some other wrong and right ways we deal with conflict? Leave your comment below!

Greed in the Pulpit

Greed in the Pulpit

Late night musings... I've grown increasingly saddened with the greed of so many prominent pastors. They cast a stain upon the gospel with their profits from their unbiblical teachings. Most pastors that I know have chosen to make sacrifices to serve the Lord in ministry. Yet there remain some whose influence and marketing machinery shines so bright that people miss the falsehood in what they say.

Some might say that I'm envious of their wealth. Really, I'm not. The Lord has more than blessed me with the provisions needed for life, and with that I am content. What concerns me is not other people's status, but whether I might displease my Lord. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," and I do not see enough fear of God in pastors today.

God, Weather, and the Church

Icy driving conditions prompted the church I serve, Cotton Ridge, to cancel worship services today. The plans for my family was just to stay in the house where it was nice and warm. But I was wrong, as we needed a few critical items from the store.

The young lady who took my groceries to my car (yes, we still have that kind of service in Levelland, Texas) mentioned that her family moved here from another state just over a year ago. I asked her if they had found a church home, and she said no. I gave her a business card and invited her to come check us out.

This little bit of impromptu outreach reminded me of some important truths: Church is not some event we go to, but something we are. Church is not in a particular location or building, but is wherever we go.

By the way, here's a brief summary of some things the Bible says the weather:

  • All weather -- sunshine, rain, wind, and thunder/lightning -- is controlled by God (Job 37:9; Ps. 74:15-17; Eccles. 1:18).
  • Weather is a sign of God's power (Ex. 19:16; 1 Sam. 12:15-19; Ps. 107:23-25).
  • Sunshine is a blessing for life (Deut. 33:13-14; Job 8:16), can be falsely worshiped (2 Kin. 23:5; Jer. 8:2; Eze. 8:16), and will be absent in the new heavens and new earth (Rev. 21:23). Figuratively, sunshine can point to the glory of God (Ps. 84:11), the glory of Jesus Christ (Rev. 1:16), and the glory of believers (Matt. 13:43; Rev. 12:1).
  • Rain can be sent as a blessing (Matt. 5:45; Acts 14:17) or as judgment (1 Sam. 12:17). It can also be withheld as judgment (Lev. 26:19; 2 Chron. 7:13). Rain can come or cease through prayer (1 Sam. 12:16-18; Jas. 5:17-18).
  • Wind is something that Christ calms by His command (Mark 4:39; Mark 6:51).
  • Lightning and thunder is sent by God (Ex. 9:23-24; Ps. 104:7) and can be used for judgment (Isa. 29:6).