Laying On More Hands or Laying Off More Staff

My bride recently agreed to her company’s separation package.  Her future layoff along with my tenuous employment is causing some contemplation about our family’s economic situation.  There’s general agreement that this nation, along with much of the world, is in a recession.  One question in my mind: are Christians protected from depressed economic conditions?  In our own little sphere, giving is down at our church and my sense is that this is partly due to a number of unemployed members.  Last August I wrote in my post, “Laying on Hands or Laying off Staff”, that our church’s board of elders had to make a decision to lay off a staff member.  This, to me, wasn’t a “God’s will” issue.  Rather, through analysis, collective wisdom, reflection, (as exhibited by Paul – see below), the board determined a best course of action given the circumstances.  Now, several months later, worsening economic circumstances requires additional cuts in staff in addition to implementing a salary freeze.

I read a 12/23/08 article in the WSJ in which Mark Holbrook, president of the Evangelical Christian Credit Union in Brea, CA stated, “We are seeing more (financial) stress in churches than we have in modern history.”  He goes on to discuss how churches everywhere are experiencing financial difficulties and that church foreclosures are increasing.  What’s the lesson here?  Perhaps things such as faulty data, poor planning, declining attendance, higher utility expenses, etc, can alter a church’s financial situation – just as it would for an individual, business, or a corporation.  To that end, our church’s current economic health is certainly affected by higher mortgage payments that came about from a decision a couple of years ago to expand the size of the church building.  Right or wrong, good, bad, or indifferent, the intent for the building addition was to better meet the requirements of existing ministries and incorporate space for additional youth and adult ministry opportunities.  At the time, giving and other financial indicators seemed to support the expansion.  A congregational vote approved the additional debt.

I’m not trying to argue whether debt is a good or bad thing.  Rather, I’m trying to understand what, if anything is God’s role when financial decisions are made within a body of believers.  Looking back, some decisions made were probably better than other decisions.  Nevertheless, we often we make decisions with the best of intentions but with incomplete information and/or an inability to realize the impact current decisions can have on future events.

Paul had to make decisions – lots of them.  I wonder if he got every decision “right”?  From my reading of scripture, it’s the rare occurrence when Paul received direct guidance from God.  Below is a brief overview of some criteria Paul used when he made decisions:

Phil 2:25 (I think it’s a good idea)

1 Cor 16:3-4 (If it seems the right thing to do)

Acts 6:1-7 (We need to do something about this)

Acts 15:24-29 (People got together, debated, decided, and acted)

The conclusion I draw is that God allows us to make decisions and to experience what I consider the natural occurring consequence (be it good or bad) of those decisions.  In my opinion, then, Christians aren’t immune from the negative aspects of changing circumstances, poor decision making or a worsening economy.  Put another way, I don’t think it’s God who brings about difficulties that naturally arise from the negative aspects of changing circumstances.


The Will of God in 28 Easy Steps

I often sense Christians want God’s will regarding some decision they need to make. The Bible is replete with passages on how we are to live. Yet, there are no passages on how to:

· Interpret circumstances

· Determine if something is a closed door or a test

· Choose among equal options

Romans chapter 12, which is entitled “Christian Living” in my NIV Study Bible, is one passage where God tells us His will for how we should live our lives. It seems to me that if we concentrate on that which God has told us, because of His grace, we need not worry about “missing the center” of His will.

1) Rom 12:1 Offer your body as a living sacrifice to God

2) Rom 12:2 Be transformed by the renewing of your mind

3) Rom 12:3 Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought

4) Rom 12:6 Use your gift(s)

5) Rom 12:9 Love with sincerity

6) Rom 12:9 Hate what is evil

7) Rom 12:9 Cling to what is good

8) Rom 12:10 Be devoted to one another

9) Rom 12:11 Never be lacking in zeal

10) Rom 12:11 Keep your spiritual fervor

11) Rom 12:12 Be joyful in hope

12) Rom 12:12 Be patient in affliction

13) Rom 12:12 Be faithful in prayer

14) Rom 12:13 Share with God’s people who are in need

15) Rom 12:13 Practice hospitality

16) Rom 12:14 Bless those who persecute you

17) Rom 12:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice

18) Rom 12:15 Mourn with those who mourn

19) Rom 12:16 Live in harmony with one another

20) Rom 12:16 Do not be proud

21) Rom 12:16 Be willing to associate with people of low position

22) Rom 12:16 Do not be conceited

23) Rom 12:17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil

24) Rom 12:17 Be careful to do what is right

25) Rom 12:18 Live at peace with everyone

26) Rom 12:19 Do not take revenge

27) Rom 12:20 Do good to your enemies

28) Rom 12:21 Overcome evil with good

Yes, I’ve been delinquent. It’s time to get going again!

It’s been over four months since I’ve posted anything on this blog. Most of the reason for not writing, I believe, has to do with being somewhat “burned out”. Readers of this blog know that my dear friend Colleen and I were going back and forth on a whole host of issues (over several posts and many comments) more or less centered around the sovereignty of God and what some of that entails within the life of the believer. Even though I haven’t written anything, I have collected bits of information, statements, in addition to my own thoughts with the intent of writing. Perhaps I’ll get around to posting on some of those things. Still, I feel like I’m coming out of a “faith depression”. Through all of the studying and writing over the past many months, it was my hope that I would better understand (1) who God is and (2) the nature of a relationship I have to my heavenly father through faith. To date I don’t think I’ve succeeded in that endeavor and for some time now I think I’ve been feeling bad about that. I appreciate the freedom I have in this blog to explore aspects of my faith that indeed trouble me. I especially appreciate those who respond with a kind word or even a pointed challenge. I look forward to getting this blog started up again and, with a bit of excitement, fear and trepidation (okay, maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement); we’ll see where things end up.

Biblical Translation Castigation

Granted, this post isn’t addressing the main emphasis of this blog. Still, a good title or phrase certainly catches my attention. As such, when Jose commented in my “Sovereign Election – More Than Salvation?” post about “NIV perversion”, I was immediately interested. Before going further, let me state that my preference for the NIV isn’t based upon any eschatological analysis. On the contrary, it’s probably more of a “herd mentality” given that many pastors and knowledgeable believers I know like and use the NIV. If the NIV translation is good enough for them, then it’s good enough for me.

Jose prefers the King James Version and offers the following sites as to why:

On a personal note, I find these sites to be devoid of the love and compassion that I see exhibited in Jesus (as I read in the NIV). Rather these sites remind me of people who walk around carrying signs saying repent or you will spend eternity in Hell. I don’t doubt the truth of their message. However, I think there are better ways to communicate that truth.

In response, Jose, the preface of the NIV Bible I use (copyright 1989) states, “The New International Version is a completely new translation of the Holy Bible made by over a hundred scholars working directly from the best available Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts.” Perhaps I’m being naïve and foolish, but I’m trusting that the hundred-plus scholars who put the NIV translation together did so with a sharp understanding of the original manuscripts and a keen awareness regarding the nuance of language. Simply put, I believe the NIV team put forth a credible effort to make the NIV translation of the original manuscripts and texts into English as accurate as possible.

In my own “linguistic” experience – working with janitors to PhDs where I’m employed, being married for thirty years and having survived three teenagers, I know that English words sometimes have different meanings for different people. It seems to me, therefore, that we’ll always end up with translation problems because of variances in translators understanding of the structure of the original languages (i.e. Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic) the historical context and implied meaning of the words used, in addition to the nuance of English word definitions.

To that end, the author of one site I found – indicates that his preferred translation is the NKJV. However, he also states that, “We need to understand that all translations have problems and that no translation is 100% perfect” (emphasis mine). As such, Jose, some of the concerns raised regarding the NIV in the two listed web sites appear to have some validity. However, I findeth not necessary to leaveth mine NIV and clingeth to thou’st KJV.