Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Apologetics in Light of the Resurrection

"[Like Thomas], those who live in the world of the enlightenment will naturally ask, ‘but did it happen … and how do you know?’ And they must be encouraged to come with their questions.  The prim and proper Bartian would no doubt prefer it if Jesus had said to Thomas, ‘Go away and come back when you’ve got a better epistemology!’  But interestingly the story works the other way round.  Good historical answers are available just as Jesus could in fact be touched…

This is because the resurrection, if it means what the NT says it means, is not a creatio ex nihilo but a creatio ex vetere.  As in Romans 8 – just as the old ontology is swallowed up in the new: what is mortal being swallowed up,  not replaced with life but swallowed up in it -  so the old epistemology, quite properly, is transcended and therefore included in the new.  There is no complete disjunction.

The resurrection itself is not the abandoning of the old body and the emergence of a new one, but the raising to new life of the old one itself.

Think about this: the mark of the nails on the body of the risen Jesus are thus the sign that validates historical inquiry into the resurrection. The nail thrusts themselves, like the skepticism of the enlightenment, were meant to wound but now remain as evidence.  Go figure…

-Tom Wright

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Managing Oneself

Managing Oneself
by Peter R Drucker ,  HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW, JAN 2005 [abridged]

Most of us will have to learn to manage ourselves and develop ourselves. We will have to place ourselves where we can make the greatest contribution staying mentally alert and engaged during a 50-year working life, which means knowing how and when to change the work we do.

What Are My Strengths?
Most people think they know what they are good at. They are usually wrong. More often, people know what they are not good at – though more are wrong than right. Yet, a person can perform only from strength. One cannot build performance on weaknesses, let alone on something one cannot do at all.

Whenever you make a key decision or take a key action, write down what you expect will happen. 9 or 12 months later, compare the actual results with your expectations. I have been practicing this method for 15 - 20 years now, and every time I’m surprised.

Practiced consistently, this will show you within 2 - 3 years, where your strengths lie - and this is the most important thing to know. It will show you what you are doing or failing to do that deprives you of the full benefits of your strengths, where you are not particularly competent, and where you have no strengths or ability to perform.

#1:  Most importantly, concentrate on your strengths. Put yourself where your strengths can produce results.

#2: Improve your strengths. Analysis will rapidly show where you need to improve skills or acquire new ones. It will also show gaps in your knowledge.

#3: Discover where your intellectual arrogance is causing disabling ignorance and overcome it. Far too many people - especially people with great expertise in one area - are contemptuous of knowledge in other areas or believe that being bright is a substitute for knowledge.  Go to work on acquiring the skills and knowledge you need to fully realize your strengths.

Your bad habits - what you do or fail to do that inhibits your effectiveness and performance - will quickly show up in the feedback - problems like a lack of manners. Manners are the lubricating oil of an organization – simply saying "please" and "thank you", knowing people’s names, or keeping up with family news - enables two people to work together whether they like each other or not. Bright people, especially bright young people, often do not understand this.

Comparing your expectations with your results also indicates what not to do. We all have a vast number of areas in which we have no talent or skill and little chance of becoming even mediocre.
One should waste as little effort as possible on improving areas of low competence.

It takes far more energy and work to improve from incompetence to mediocrity than it takes to improve from 1st-rate performance to excellence.
Yet most people, teachers, and organizations concentrate on making incompetent performers into mediocre ones. Energy, resources, and time should go instead to making a competent person into a star performer.

Friday, April 20, 2012

How to Become the Local Pastor [when you're not]

1.  Root for the local teams.  Rooting for the Steelers is borderline immoral wherever you live, but especially if you have accepted a call to move from Pennsylvania to some other area of the country.  You have a new hometown now.  With Ruth, you must be willing to say "your people will be my people; your team, my team."  Interestingly here in my [new] home, professional sports are secondary to college and even high school.  Be sensitive to pick up on things like that and adapt.

2.  Get a local phone number.  Nothing reinforces the impression of your being an outsider like an out-of-state area code preceding every call you make in an attempt to overcome your outsider status and build local relationships.  Besides, it's an excuse to upgrade to a smarter phone [more on that in a future post] and switch networks if necessary to get optimal coverage in your new territory [I got no reception in several spots of our church property with my original carrier - BIG PROBLEM!].

3.  Never refer to your old location as home.  It is not.  You are home where you are now.  So stop calling the old place home - especially publicly and especially from the pulpit!  My former location was "my old house"; the "place where I used to live"; the "town where my parents live" or "raised me"; "where we came from"; anything but home.  When you return there for family visits and vacations, you are going on a trip to see family.  You are not going home.  You are home now.  Adjust your heart and adjust your vocabulary accordingly.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

"Here I Stand" Day

Today, 491 years ago, one of our Fathers, Martin Luther, quietly gave his reply to Emperor Charles at the Diet of Worms with these words:

“Since your sere Majesty and your Lordships seek a simple answer, I will give one. Unless I am convinced by the Scriptures or clear reason (rather than pope or councils who contradicted themselves), my am bound to the Scriptures and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. Here I stand.  I cannot do otherwise.  May God help me. Amen."

Our Parish meditation yesterday for the children centered around a remembrance of our elder brother, Martin, and his example of conscience and conviction.  We took some time to define conscience and conviction and then to remember many other Biblical examples of men and women who have taken similar "stands".  Martin was not "standing" there alone.  In fact, he was standing with a great cloud of witnesses who had gone before him - men and women of conscience and conviction, of whom the world was not worthy.  How many of our Fathers and Mothers can you name from this cloud? We recalled many with joy - Shiphrah and Puah, [the Hebrew midwives]; Daniel; Esther; the Apostles who obeyed God rather than men. The two stories we know Martin was thinking about during that time [from his letters] were Moses before Pharoah and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego [Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah].

Monday, April 16, 2012

Calvin on communion, change management, fragmentation, pastoring, and so much more ...

"We are very pleased that the Lord´s Supper is being celebrated every month, provided that this more frequent observance does not produce carelessness. When a considerable part of the congregation stays away from Communion, the church somehow becomes fragmented. Nonetheless, we think it is better for a congregation [to take Communion] every month than only four times a years, as usually happens here.
When I first came here, the Lord´s Supper was observed only three times a year, and seven whole months intervened between the observance at Pentecost and at the Birthday of Christ. A monthly observance pleased me, but I could not persuade the people, and it seemed better to bear with their weakness than to continue arguing stubbornly. I took care to have it recorded in the public records, however, that our way was wrong, so that correcting it might be easier for future generations."

- John Calvin 
in a letter from Geneva on August 12, 1561 [less than 3 yrs before his death]