Wednesday, August 17, 2022

An answer to Social Regression

Yesterday, I looked at some statistics from Roberta Gilbert’s book, The Eight Concepts of Bowen Theory, that show that our society today may be in crisis. That, according to Family Systems Theory, or Bowen Theory, we may be in a time the theory refers to as Social Regression.

What do we do about it? How can change the course of society? In a family system, in order for the system of change, one person in the system, preferably a parent, will need to make a stand for higher and better functioning of self. They will begin to function better in the system, and in time, the system will react differently and change in the system will come about. Can we apply this to Society as a whole?

Roberta Gilbert makes the following suggestions of how we can make a difference:

1. Learn the facts and begin to make a difference. If societal regression is to turn around, people will have to get out of denial and start learning what is really taking place in society. This will mean reading more books and searching outside the usual media sources for facts. There is little time on TV for imparting the big picture – all the facts.

2. Learn to “think systems” in families and in organizations. Under the effects of heightened anxiety, people tend not to see the “big picture” or to think systems.” Rather they tend to think “cause and effect,” laying blame (on others).

3. Get clear on one’s guiding principles and learn to think according to them rather than what society tries to dictate. If one believes the family to be important, for example, one will already be standing contrary to what much if not most of society dictates.

4. Take a stand, after careful consideration address the problems in accordance with principles. With clarity on the facts, and as much information on the process as possible, guided by one’s best principles, a stand must eventually be taken.

Tomorrow, one final thought on the problem of social regression according to family systems theory.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Social Crisis?

I have just finished a class in Family Systems Theory, and have been doing some further reading. Essentially this theory, also called Bowen Theory after its founder, Murray Bowen, indicates that we are part of a system, and we operate as part of a system. As one person in a system changes, we react to that change, and the whole system changes. I find this very interesting in that when we change, we can change the system. I can use this in counseling people to help them realize they can change the family by changing how they react in the family.

One of the concepts in Family Systems Theory is that the theory also works to affect the emotional processes in society as a whole, not just members of a family or work system. To support this concept on a society wide basis, Roberta Gilbert, in her book, “The Eight Concepts of Bowen Theory,” Gilbert suggests that we are in a period of social regression. To support this, she brings out some interesting statistics:

In 1940 the teachers in California were polled to find out what they considered the most troublesome problems they faced. The results were: Talking, Chewing gum, Making noise, Running in the halls, Getting out of line, Wearing improper clothing, and Not putting paper in the wastebasket.

Again, in 1990, fifty years later, they were polled. This time the answers were quite different: Drug Abuse, Alcohol abuse, Pregnancy, Suicide, Rape, Robbery, Assault.

In fifty years our society has changed a great deal if the schools are any indication.

Consider also that between 1963 and 1993 the crime rate went up 360%, youth crime is up 200%, teen pregnancy is up 600% and teen suicide is up 300% (now the second most important cause of death in teens, after accidents). One in five teens attempted suicide, single parents increased by 300%, SAT scores are down 7% and drug use is up over 1,000%.

These statistics show an overall deterioration in our society. If the theory is correct, and we are in a time of social regression, what can do about it? We’ll look at Gilberts ideas in tomorrow’s post…

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

The Lord will fight for you...


“The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.”

Exodus 14:14


The scene here is the end of the Israelite time of slavery in Egypt.  Moses went to Egypt to
ask Pharoah to let the Israelites go.  He said no.  God sent a sign, a plague of blood, all the waters in Egypt turned to blood.  Moses again asked Pharoah, Pharoah again said no.  So God sent more plagues – frogs, gnats, flies, all the livestock in Egypt died, people broke out in boils, hail destroyed crops, locusts ate what was left, the land turned dark for three days, and after each plague, Moses asked Pharoah, Pharoah said no.  Finally the last plague was the death of the firstborn, every firstborn son in Egypt died, and Pharoah finally said go.

But we saw in Exodus 14:5, “When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled [the Israelite people – the Egyptian slaves], Pharoah and his officials changed their minds about them and said, ‘What have we done?  We have let the Israelites go and have lost their service.’”

So Pharoah pursued them, we heard the numbers of chariots, all of Pharoah’s army was in pursuit of the Israelites.  And the Israelites were camped out along the Red Sea, seemingly trapped when the army was approaching.  If we kept reading we would have seen the miraculous deliverance, the parting of the sea, the Israelites crossing on dry ground, the Egyptian pursuit, the sea closing in again, destroying the Egyptian army.

But I want us to see tonight, is the last verse that I shared.  This was part of the reading for last night’s Prayer for Healing service, and it really stuck with me.  The last verse read, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.”

We saw how anxious the Israelites were.  They were arguing with Moses, if you just left us alone in Egypt it would have been better.  We would much rather be slaves then die in the desert.  They were fearful, scared, sure they were going to die.  And Moses said, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.”  And the Lord did.  And the Israelites were saved.

I want to point that out because in our own lives we have plenty to be anxious about.  There are things that don’t look so good, we don’t know how they might play out.  Health scares.  Finances, the stock market drops lower every day.  Inflation – the government says it’s 7 ½ %, but our chicken for our chicken BBQ is up 25%, gas, while coming down now, has doubled, up 100%.  Groceries are more expensive every week.  A whole lot more than 7 ½ % overall.

It can seem like we’re fighting just to hold our own.  But remember what Moses said, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.”  Trust in God, turn everything over to Him, and be still.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Maundy Thursday relflections

I wanted to pass along my reflections from the Maundy Thursday service we held at Waverly First Baptist Church.  Maundy Thursday was the night that Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples.  It was the night that he washed their feet.  It was the night, later, that he was arrested.  So we celebrate it every year, sometimes by a Seder Service, looking at what was done during the Passover Seder Service, and sometimes, like we did this year, with a service remembering that evening in the upper room.  

Here is the devotion that I gave in this service...

Our gospel reading from John 13:1-17; 31b-35 stresses the washing of the feet.  And a lot of churches, on this night, have a service that features, no pun intended, the washing of feet.  Here’s my take on that, I don’t wash feet, not because I think that I’m at all above washing feet, but because I don’t see that, in this passage, as a lasting ordinance that Jesus wants us washing each other’s feet.

I think to understand what Jesus is doing here, we need to understand the context in which it happens.  In the first century, there were no sidewalks.  People walked on dirt roads that were often little more than footpaths or trails.  And they were dusty.  And they wore sandals when they walked, open sandals.  They were designed to protect the soul of your feet, with little more than leather straps to hold them on.  Open sandals.  We still have similar things today.

But when you enter a home, you took your sandals off, because you don’t want to track all that dust into people homes.  So you usually went barefoot inside.  But the sandals didn’t keep your feet clean, the tops would get as dusty as the bottoms of your feet.  So they often had servants to wash your feet as you entered someone’s home.

So we come to night of Jesus celebrating the Passover feast with his disciples.  There were just the twelve disciples present, there weren’t any servants there.  I understand that some of the disciples went on ahead to prepare the meal, that my interpretation.  This wasn’t a restaurant, this was the upper room of someone’s house that Jesus was allowed to use.  Nowhere does it say that the meal was prepared for them, in fact in Matthew 26:19, it says, “So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.” 

My point in that is that it was just the disciples.  Some of them went ahead and prepared the Passover meal, but no one thought about cleaning their feet.  But this is a borrowed upper room, you want to keep it as clean as possible, So Jesus took advantage of the opportunity to teach them a lesson about serving one another.  It’s interesting that while many churches think that Maundy Thursday is all about Jesus washing each others feet, John is the only one of the four gospels that tells about the feet washing.

And, interesting enough, John doesn’t mention communion, the Lord’s Supper isn’t mentioned at all in John’s gospel, while all three of the other gospels mention it, and don’t mention feet washing.  To me, as I look at the things that happened at that Passover meal, I see communion as a lasting ordinance, and the washing of feet as just another lesson on how we should be serving one another.

So tonight, we’re emphasizing communion, or the Last Supper.  We know from our Seder services in other years that communion wasn’t just given during any old meal.  This was the Passover seder, where they remembered the exodus from Egypt, one of the greatest things to happen the Jewish people in the history of the Jewish people.  

And during the meal, Jesus took symbols from the Passover, and applied them to himself.  So that God’s people would remember Jesus.  And monthly we come together at the table, and we eat bread, though it’s not unleavened bread, we break bread, or at least we did before Covid, and the bread, in the Passover was called the Afikomen, that term literally means “the one to come.”

It comes up in the seder early, when the host takes three pieces of unleavened bread, breaks the middle one in half, and tells the children to hide their eyes while he hides that piece of bread.  Then he says these words, “The Afikomen will return to end our Passover Seder.”  For thousands of years, the Jewish people have been uttering those words as they began their Passover celebrations.  Jesus was the one who came, the Afikomen, who came to end their Passover Seders.  They don’t do them anymore.  Now, we remember Jesus, and his death on the cross for our sins, and we remember him through the Lord’s Supper, “in remembrance of me.”

Our first reading was from Exodus, and reminds us the requirements for the Passover.  What they had to do on that first Passover.  But it wasn’t just that.  It was given as a lasting ordinance.  They were to do it each year, to remember what God had done for them.  That’s why we do communion, to remember what Jesus did for us.

In 1 Corinthians, we saw a familiar passage about the Lord’s Supper.  Paul passed on that ordinance to the Gentile people in Corinth.  They didn’t have the law, they didn’t have to observe the Passover, but Paul is telling them that they should be doing the Lord’s Supper, to remember what Jesus had done for them. 

And we talked about the Afikomen already, represented by the bread, I want to talk about the cup next.  Paul said, in verse 25, “In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘this cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’”  Back to the Passover Seder, if you remember that, after the supper, they had the third cup, there were four cups in the Seder. 

The third cup was the cup of redemption, the reminder that God was going to redeem His people.  Jesus said, this cup is the new covenant in my blood.  It was the cup of redemption for the Jewish people.  In Jesus’ blood, the people of God find redemption.  That’s the symbolism here.  Jesus is the redemption of the people of God.  In His shed blood, we find redemption.

Which brings us back to the feet washing, and the last reading from John.  But at the end of chapter, they are still in the upper room, Judas had just left, and Jesus gives them a new command, “Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” 

The foot washing was a way to show our love for others.  He served as a servant, by washing their feet, now they’re told to go and serve one another.  And love one another.  And it’s through our service, and it’s through our love, that we show our faith to others. 

Thursday, August 5, 2021

 “Come my children, listen to me and I will teach you the fear of the Lord…  Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.  Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”
Psalm 34:11

I’ve titled this devotion, “Fear the Lord.”  There are a number of passages that talk about fearing the Lord, and how it’s important to fear the Lord.  In fact, I think those concepts that are repeated are the more important concepts.  If something is repeated a lot, we should make sure we’re doing that, right.

The expression, Fear the Lord’ is one of those concepts that’s repeated.  In Deuteronomy 6:1-2, right after God gave the Law in chapter 5, he gives the reason he gave the law in chapter 6, “these are my commands, decrees, and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live…”  We don’t follow the Law any more, Jesus freed us from the bondage of the law and all that represented, but the idea of fearing the Lord is still important.

In 1 Peter 2:17, Peter is giving some instructions on how to live, and he says, “Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.  Show proper respect to everyone:  Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.” 

In Romans, in chapter 3:10-11, we’re familiar with 10, it says, “There is no one righteous, to even one; there is no one who understand, no one who seeks God…”  He finishes his rant in verse 18, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”  And that sums up the problem, there is no fear of God. 

The expression “Fear the Lord,” shows up 24 times.  If something is repeated 24 times, that must be really important, right?  And if that’s not enough, “Fear God” and “Fear of God” shows up an additional 21 times.  So the idea of fearing the Lord shows up 45 times – do you get the idea that it’s important.  That’s something we should be doing?

But here’s the thing, while there are a lot of verses telling us to fear the Lord, there aren’t a lot about what that looks like.  What does it mean to fear the Lord?  What do you do?  That’s what we really want to know, right?  If we’re going to fear the Lord, and we all want to, it’s important, so what do we do, what’s that look like, so I can do it. 

There’s one other verse I want to share with you that talks about the Fear of the Lord, because I think it gives us an answer, and there aren’t many that do.  It’s Psalm 35:8-14..

And verse 11 is the key for us, he says, “Come my children, listen to me and I will teach you the fear of the Lord.”  If the fear of the Lord is that important, we want to know what it looks like.  Let’s listen to what he says and see if he’ll teach us what it looks like:

1.  Keep your tongue from evil.  That the first part of verse 13.  What does it mean to keep your tongue from evil?  It means to watch what we say.  Say good things, things to build each other up, don’t say bad things, things tear each other down.  Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come our of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building up others, according to their need, that it may benefit those who listen.”

James talks a lot about our words in chapter 2.  In verse 5, “The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.  V 6, “The tongue is like a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.  It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire.”  V. 8, No man can tame the tongue.  It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”  And finally in verse 9, he sums it up by saying, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come paise and cursing.  My brothers, this should be not.”

To fear the Lord, we need to keep our tongue in check.  And we’re not showing a fear of the Lord, if we don’t.

2.  Keep your lips from speaking lies.  I don’t know about you, but if you’re anything like me, you hate it when people lie.  I hear it all the time, people lie.  Since I’m a pastor, they don’t really want me to know how their doing.  They really want me to know what they’ve been doing.  And if their caught, they certainly want to be judged by it. 

But I’ll let you in on a little secret, God hates lying as much as you or I hate lying.  It was one of the 10 biggies, right, the 10 commandments.  Thou shalt not lie.  Colossians 3:9 says, “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with it’s practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its creator.”  In other words, we should lie, that’s what unbelievers do.  We live like Christ, and that means we’re honest.

3.  Turn from evil and do good.  My favorite example of what this looks like is in Galatians, and it involves the fruits of the spirit.  In Galatians 5, he starts talking in verse 19 about what is evil:  “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies and the like.”  That’s the evil we need to turn from.  “I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Then in verse 22 he starts to tell us the good that we need to be doing – turn away from the evil and do good….  The good is the fruits of the Spirit:  “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

4.  Seek peace and pursue it.  Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”  One of the beatitudes in Matthew 5 says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”

“Come my children, listen to me and I will teach you the fear of the Lord…  Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.  Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

The First Law of Motion

Sir Isaac Newton discovered, and later published, two Laws of Motion.  His first Law of Motion states that “a body at rest will remain at rest unless an outside force acts on it, and a body in motion at a constant velocity will remain in motion unless acted upon by an outside force.”  We all know that physical law, we can probably recite it, or at least paraphrase it.  We all know that an object in motion tends to stay in motion, and a body at rest tends to stay at rest.

 If you’ve seen a rock on the ground, you’ve seen an example of this physical law.  If you watch it, you’ll notice that it will stay right where it is.  It is an object at rest and will stay that way until something acts on it, till something moves it.  If you kick it, you’ll see it will tend to go a long way, until friction and gravity bring it to a stop.  That’s a real basic example, but I think you get the basic premise.

 That law applies to people, as well.  Those that seem to be really busy, will tend to stay really busy, finding things to do until something happens to force them to slow down.  Those who aren’t really busy, tend to take it easy until something happens to force them to get busy.

 This has some implications for the church.  Because now, in our post Covid-19 era, assuming the worst is over and this blip in the Delta variant will be short lived, our churches have seen more people staying home, and those who do go out, seem to be more content with just Sunday morning attendance than before.  Numbers are down, and this law seems to suggest they’ll stay slowed down until something happens to “get them in motion again.” 

 We saw the inverse when this pandemic started.  We were an active church, with a number of ministries going on, and a lot of participation.  We were a church in motion.  And the law states that we could expect to more or less stay in motion until something happened.  The something that happened was the pandemic.  We were forced to stay home for a few months.  We were forced to stop our activity, or at least dramatically reduce it, in the name of safety. 

 Now, we are a body at rest, and we need to start moving again.  Because if we don’t make the effort, the principal suggests that we will stay at rest until something happens.  What can be the motivator?  How can we begin to rebuild?  We can start by meeting together for dish-to-pass dinners.  Some don’t like the dish-to-pass format, so maybe we could have someone offer to do the main course, then someone to do sides, alternating among the people who come, at least for a while.  I don’t expect the number coming together would be too great, at least not as we get started.

 Or we could come together for game nights, or movies, or going out to a restaurant together.  Anything that gets us out of the house, bringing us together as a church family, and promoting fellowship within that family, will do the trick. 

 So what do you think?  Are we ready to “get in motion” again?  What would you like to do?  What do you get excited about?  Let me know? 

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Condemned Already

On Wednesday's, on Facebook, we do a Wednesday Bible Study, featuring a RightNow Bible Study link that you can watch, and then comment on.  There is a study guide available for a free download, and it's a neat way to continue Bible Study during our time of trying to stay safe from the virus.

Currently, we're doing a study by Dr. Tony Evans, titled The Gospel of John, and it's a great study, because Tony Evans is a great teacher.  This mornings lesson involved John chapter 3, and if you're a believer, that passage is probably somewhat familiar to you.

It's the passage where Nicodemus, a religious leader, a ruler of the Jewish ruling council, sneaks into see Jesus at night, so no one would see him, and began asking questions.  I like the passage, because Nicodemus is close to the kingdom of God, he has questions, and he knows he won't find answers from fellow Jewish leaders.  He want's to know who Jesus is.  And I admire that in anybody, the boldness and courage it sometimes takes to ask those questions.  Especially from a Jewish leader in Jesus' day.

It's in this passage we see one of our favorite passages, John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."  

But that's not the verse I want to talk about today.  It's the next verse, verse 17, that I want to look at this morning.  Because while 3:16 shows compassion, 3:17 shows why it's really needed.  Verse 17 reads, "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."  

I think a lot of people today think that Jesus is a condemning person, that he is always condemning you for having fun, for living the way you might want, for doing what you want. And I admit, it can feel convicting to face your sins and have to deal with them when you want to grow closer to Jesus.  

But the truth is, it's not Jesus that condemns us.  The verse tells us that we are condemned already, we are condemned by our sin.  You are condemned already, because you are a sinner already.  Following Jesus doesn't condemn you.  Following Jesus frees you from the condemnation you're already under.   

Jesus didn't come to rub your nose in it, He came to free you from it.

That's what following Jesus does.  It gives us a way out of our sinfulness.  It's gives a way to address the pain in our hearts, the guilt, the heartache, the lack of feeling, the hurt.  Because those feelings come from a separation from God.  A separation from God comes from our sinfulness.  Address the sinfulness, the feelings of despair go away.  The hopelessness can go away.

Jesus didn't come to condemn you.  He loves you.  He came to rescue you, to save you, to make you right with the God who made you, who also loves you.  

If you would like to know more, please comment or touch base with me.

An answer to Social Regression

Yesterday, I looked at some statistics from Roberta Gilbert’s book, The Eight Concepts of Bowen Theory, that show that our society today may...