Wednesday, February 1, 2012
The Puritan Catechism which underlines the core fundamentals of protestant faith states that the chief end of man is, “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever” (2011). Consequently the defining of what ‘glorifying God’ is becomes crucial. The prophet Micah answers this inquiry by stating that, “[God] 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” (Micah 6:8, ESV). These elements of glorifying God through practicing justice and kindness are echoed in the New Testament by Jesus’ summarizing of the entire law through the two actions of loving God with all your might and loving your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:36-40, ESV).
Modern psychology is beginning to echo this same sentiment – in essence discovering that altruistic behavior is one of the surest means to a life of purpose, joy, and fulfillment – i.e. self-actualization. This has especially been underlined by the research and work of Dr. Martin Seligman (2011) of the University of Pennsylvania. He states that, “… other people are the best antidote to the downs of life and the single most reliable up” (p. 20). He goes further to propose that looking through a psychological lens of altruism can bolster the heaviest hearts and bring an undeniable sense of fulfillment and peace with oneself.
Interestingly enough the four supporting ‘needs’ (i.e. physiological, safety, affiliation, and esteem) leading up to Maslow’s self-actualization pinnacle can be paralleled with what Christianity offers individuals. The biblical parallel is uncanny:
1. Matthew 6:31-33 “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’…your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Maslow’s ‘Physiological Needs.’
2. Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” – Maslow’s ‘Safety Needs.’
3. John 6:37 “…and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” Maslow’s ‘Social Needs.’
4. Proverbs 22:4 “The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life.” Maslow’s ‘Esteem Needs.’
5. Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” Maslow’s ‘Self-actualization Needs.’
Here we see Judeo-Christian principles dealing with the five necessities that Maslow underlines as being the basic needs for human beings. Maslow goes further to state that, “self-actualized people tend to accept themselves for what they are. They admit their weaknesses, and they work to improve themselves… they aren’t perfect, but they respect and feel good about themselves for what they are” (Burger, 2011, p. 289). Self-actualization depends solely on the four preceding needs being met securely. Christianity and/or Christ-actualization by its inherent nature provides for these needs securely - subsequently providing individuals with the opportunity to reach their ‘full-potential’ while also being Christ-like (Christ-actualized), since their ultimate end is the glorification of God.
Burger, J.M. (2011). Personality. 8th Ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Seligman, M. (2011). Flourish. New York, NY: Free Press.
Spurgeon, C. H. (2011). The Puritan Catechism. Retrieved February 1, 2012 from: http://www.spurgeon.org/catechis.htm
Saturday, January 7, 2012
But first off, at the core of this anxiety laden question is a crucial misunderstanding of what being in the ministry actually is. Let’s clarify the definition: Webster’s defines a ‘minister’ as, “a person acting as the agent or instrument of another.”
We have all been called to be ministers and in the ministry. 2 Cor. 3:6 states that, “[God] has made us competent to be ministers…”
So here is where the communication breakdown is: We refer to ‘ministry’ as a vocation rather than a personal responsibility that we each bear. But because ministry is mostly associated with working in traditional ‘ministry’ organizations (i.e. non-profits) the disconnect between practicing ministry within your current vocation and ministry being a completely separate vocation is exacerbated.
You can minister as effectively (sometimes more so) outside of traditional non-profit ministries as you can in. The secret is to realize that God has gifted everyone with gifts and talents (business, accounting, mechanics, artists, farming, nursing, etc.) which are to be harnessed to enrich those whom you come into contact with. Ministering is simply being God’s hand extended to whatever location and vocation you are presently in.
What does God’s hand look like? What does his ministry look like? Simply this: Loving your neighbor, co-worker(s), spouse, family, friends and customers as much as you love yourself. This was exactly what made the Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren so popular – it was a book that began with telling you – it’s not about you. Consequently people started to see the joy and meaning that comes from living a life for something bigger then yourself.
Dr. Martin Seligman a professor of psychology from the University of Pennsylvania states that, “[helping] other people [is] the best antidote to the downs of life and the single most reliable up” (p. 20). Numerous studies (to many to mention here) in science and psychology are discovering the prevailing disenchantment of many North Americans is due mostly to a self-focused mindset – whereas altruistic behavior (i.e. kind/loving behavior and/or acts towards others) provides an incredible release of meaning, purpose, and joy to the one ‘giving!’
Maybe God has called you into full-time employment with a non-profit organization – but in the mean time, realize that God has called you and given you the ability to be in full-time ministry within your current vocation and location. As ministers we are called to be God’s hand outstretched to society. What does that look like? Read Galatians 5:14 – it’s really simple.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Furthermore, at the root of this proactive or ‘positive psychology’ is the necessity of putting other people ahead of yourself. Seligman (2011) states, “When asked what, in two words or fewer, positive psychology is about, Christopher Peterson, one of its founders, replied, ‘other people’… other people are the best antidote to the downs of life and the single most reliable up” (p. 20). Consequently, teaching and/or learning servant-leadership is maintain the cutting-edge on what modern psychology is telling us about our psychological make-up – we were wired to altruistic… to have a higher purpose than ourselves alone.
With this understanding, Poon’s (2006) work on the dynamics and importance of mentor/mentoree relationships is underlined, since both depend upon the other creating an environment which ultimately reciprocates personal growth – i.e. an action of service to the other. Frankl underlines this himself by stating that, “personal meaning always points, and is directed, to something, someone, other than itself – be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter” (Poon, 2006, p. 6).
Furthermore, it isn’t any wonder that this type of behavior is rooted in love – a perfect love in its purest form. A love which does not insist on its own way but rather concerns itself for the wellbeing and fairness of the others involved. Turner states, “I have found that servant leadership organizations attract…. people who are motivated by the enduring power of love. In decision making, the first question any servant leader should make is, ‘what is the loving thing to do?’” (Poon, 2006, p. 6).
Quinn (2004) discusses this ‘love’ dynamic as well. He states, “Authentic engagement [a precursor to authentic leadership] means being engaged in the world of action with love for what we are doing. That love usually comes from increased integrity. To increase integrity is to live a more principled life, to be more virtuous, to be a more authentic or real person” (p. 113). Even though the love he first mentions is directed towards the ‘work’ – it is no coincidence that this ‘love’ is ultimately found in the very characteristics which represent love towards others (i.e. being virtuous & authenticity). This research rings with the sentiments of the golden rule and furthermore is quickly recognized as representing the Judeo-Christian philosophy of ‘loving your neighbor as yourself.’
For the practicing Christian or Jew, it is clearly seen that the core biblical principles of individual’s being representative of God’s love towards man is uncanny. This is exactly the effect that this reading has had on me –it has solidified my understanding and responsibility to serve my fellow man from a heart of love – a love which pushes all of us on to a greater excellence.
Poon, Randy. (2006). A Model for Servant-Leadership, Self-Efficacy, and Mentorship. Retrieved November 25, 2011 from: http://www.regent.edu/acad/global/publications/sl_proceedings/2006/poon.pdf
Quinn, Robert E. (2004). Building the Bridge as You Walk on It. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Seligman, Martin E.P. (2011). Flourish. New York, NY: Free Press.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
The Famous Playwriter, George Bernard Shaw, once said, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him…the unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself…All progress therefore depends on the unreasonable man” (Mrs Warren’s Profession, 1893).
It’s about time that some of us rejected ‘reasonable’ mediocrity in our lives and pushed towards something new, innovative, exciting, and transforming – in other words, decide to start changing the world. Before this idea sounds to grandiose – let me clarify what it takes to ‘change the world’: Diligence/Faithfulness. Great things are accomplished by individuals who are diligent/faithful in little things.
One such ‘little thing’ that I would like to touch on: diligence/faithfulness to love. We have a tendency to overcomplicate things and consequently the gospel is no different. There are thousands of books dealing with a plethora of theological, philosophical, metaphysical, psychological, and physiological sides of spirituality – they’re important, but many times miss the entire gospel message: love. Plain and simple: love. The greatest influence and power is love. We have all been changed or transformed at one time or another by love. By the way, God IS love. Every commandment in the entire bible is fulfilled by love - love God and love your neighbor as yourself.
A good friend of mine once told me his personal responsibility as a practicing Jew: To make his life and world a place that God would want to visit. What or where does God want to visit? A place inundated by whole, perfect, complete love, since He IS love.
Back to George Bernard Shaw – let’s be unreasonable: Many would have you adapt to the current conditions (i.e. uncertainty, fear, powerlessness) worldwide and domestically… but wouldn’t you rather be the one who leads the way? This article may have seemed to be built on a stereotypical superficial theme (i.e. you can change the world) but if you are diligent/faithful in showing and practicing love in every aspect of your life – you will be amazed at the long-term positive changes.
No man, women, or child is an island – our actions do affect others. So the choices are plain: Either let conditions continue to dictate your life… you’d be in the majority if you stick with this choice, or; choose to influence and change your conditions and subsequently change a life, society, and world. Be diligent and faithful in love. Be unreasonable.
Executive Pastor – Prairie Community Church
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
I love this story – 1 Kings 20:1-30 – Benhadad the king of Syria sent a message to the king of Israel and said this, “Deliver to me your silver and your gold, your wives and your children.” In other words, “Hand it all over – game over – I’m calling the shots.” Ahab the king of Israel calls in the elders and asks their advice. Finally King Ahab makes this retort to Benhadad, “Let not him who straps on his armor boast himself as he who takes it off.” There are a lot of dynamics going on in this chapter but I want to just focus on King Ahab’s reply to Benhadad: “Let not him who straps on his armor boast himself as he who takes it off.” What is he actually saying? King Ahab is saying “just because someone makes threats (i.e. straps on his armor) – this isn’t synonymous with winning the victory (i.e. taking his armor off).” Wow!
Now for the practical application – how is your enemy threatening you? Is it a person, institution, thought, emotional issue, physiological issue, or spiritual issue? What are these things/people telling you? Is a co-worker or employer telling you that you’ll never succeed at climbing the corporate ladder? Have teachers, aunts, uncles, parents, cousins, or other authority figures expressed doubt in your personal abilities? Have emotional and/or physical scars from past or present abuse hindered you from feeling like a “normal human being?” Have these scars lied to you and told you that you’ll never be the person that you wanted or dreamed of because of these ghosts of your past? This list can continue on indefinitely – hopefully by this time you can connect the dots yourself to the people or things that are threatening you – and furthermore, declaring a victory against you that doesn’t have to be guaranteed.
It’s not a surprise that the “devil” is referred to biblically as the “accuser of the brethren.” Constantly trying to devalue us within our own minds and lives – this is the psychological warfare the devil revels in – and how many times do we listen attentively! A person once expressed their frustration with how every time they tried getting their life “straightened out” all hell would break loose. I told them I was extremely encouraged by this! Since when, does an enemy fight against something (or someone) who is not a threat! Only dead fish go with the flow – but for those trying to get somewhere, the adversity of the current will bombard them every step of the way.
To summarize, don’t allow these “threats” from various people, thoughts, experiences, traumas, etc. tell you that you’ve been conquered – when the fact is that victory is still in your hands. King Ahab went on to be victorious against the onslaught of Benhadad. Why? Because Ahab refused to listen to the intimidation and threats of an enemy and rather trusted in God’s word. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). Fight on!
Friday, December 25, 2009
But how many of us would take our pet dog, cat, budgie, or other animal to work in order to solicit advice from them? Or how many would ask advice from their parrot on relational difficulties? Or how about asking your horse for agriculture advice? This series of questions may bring a chuckle to us but how many times do we treat God the same way?
How often do we compartmentalize God into the areas of our lives where we think He is applicable? How many times do we treat God as the “pet?” We’ll only run to Him when we need comforting or an ego-boost. We throw Him a few treats (prayers, church attendance, etc.) and figure all is well and He’ll be there again when we need Him.
When it comes to real situations in business, relationships, politics, and health –we fail to ask for His advice or wisdom. We’ve relegated God to being our pet. That something or someone we come to for comforting – and then go back to our “real lives.”
Galations 6:7-8 says that, “God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” Many times we isolate the spiritual from the physical instead of realizing that sowing to the spiritual (i.e. pursuing God in all areas of our life) causes the physical to benefit as well.
Let’s be careful to not compartmentalize God to an area of our life which we run to only in times of trouble –but let us seek His wisdom and grace in every aspect of our lives and consequently bring glory to Him in all of our “business.” God is not anyone’s pet – but we unfortunately have a tendency to treat Him exactly that way. It’s time for us to realize who God really is and focus our entire life around Him.
Rev. Kevin Mills – Prairie Community Church
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Waiting passively without any seemingly productive output is frowned upon in our society. Even the drive to and from work has become inundated with blackberry’s, PDAs, laptops, and cell phones - all in an attempt to be more “productive” and thus more meaningful. The increasing number of fast-food joints also tells us something about our developing culture. When it comes down to it, we as North Americans can’t stand the idea of passively waiting and not being able to do anything about it.
But here is where we run into problems – all things worth-while take … are you ready for this? ….Time. Well-known poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, “Let us, then, be up and doing, with a heart for any fate; Still achieving, still pursuing, Learn to labor and to wait.” Here’s the balance. And even though it’s a lot easier said then done it’s what we must strive for. We must be willing to work for that which we desire but to also learn the patience of waiting for its completion and/or fruition.
This principle is extremely far-reaching and a lot of times applied to business start-ups whereas an eager owner/operator is urged to lay a solid business foundation (mission statement, customer policies, reasonable cash-flow, etc.) instead of expanding too quickly and stifling available capital.
Now let’s apply the verse that inspired this article –Ps. 27:14, “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” There are numerous illustrations in the bible of men and women asked to “wait on God.” Many did, many didn’t. But for those who did wait – they obtained the promise.
Is God asking us to wait and do nothing? Not at all. God may ask us to wait on Him during certain times in our lives – but while we wait we do our due diligence in being a blessing to those around us and preparing our talents, skills, and abilities for the time when God says, “stop waiting, move forward.”
Abraham is a prime example of a person who waited on God but continued to prepare for the fulfillment of God’s promise. (Gen. 17, Heb. 6) This is what God asks us. God has asked you to wait on Him – but prepare yourself for the day of fulfillment. God hasn’t forgotten about your dreams, your goals –but first you must learn to wait on Him.