Seeking to Understand God’s Will

As a Christian, I struggle to understand how God’s Will should be accomplished in a world filled with evil deeds and threats to the common good. We are taught regularly to love our neighbors and our enemies. How should one act when evil forces threaten the well-being and safety of our families and friends? Should one follow the concept to: “turn the other cheek” or should one fight back and seek to defeat evil forces in our lives? These thoughts apply equally to nations or regions where many people are held captive and suffering persecution by dictators and terrorists.

In the O.T. we receive God’s Will through the laws of the Ten Commandments. God’s Will is updated and refined in the N.T. with the Beatitudes presented so beautifully through the teachings of Jesus. The broad models for righteous living are there – the day-to-day details require prayer and discipline.

One may ask: “what did Jesus do while on earth when faced with evil forces? In John 3:17, we read: ”for God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved”. This is a powerful commission! While in most relationships Jesus radiates love, compassion and forgiveness, he aggressively attacked the evil doers in the temple just prior to his arrest. He demonstrated his courage and physical opposition to evil without hesitation. Despite logical, earnest and human pleas to avoid crucifixion, Jesus said to his Father: “nevertheless, not my will but Thy Will be done”.

In numerous places in the Old Testament God’s people took actions to fight and defeat evil forces that appear to oppose God’s Will. We are not sure that all of the executions of enemy populations by the Israelites were aligned with God’s Will – but it is reasonable to assume that God’s people thought they were following God’s Will.

So fast forward the history tape to the twentieth century, we then clearly note that our country along with our allies, fought three or four major wars against known evil governments and believed their actions were in line with our Christian God’s Will. How shall we reconcile these aggressive acts of war with the teachings of Jesus? The answers may seem contradictory but they are not, if we can comprehend and believe that God’s Will may take on two valuable and complex meanings. First, we believe the Bible not only stresses love, compassion and redemption, it strongly supports good people (and nations), seeking to defeat evil of any kind or size. We believe God has a temporary (Conditional Will) that supports the opposition and elimination of evil forces. Second, most human actions (executing God’s Conditional Will) will hopefully lead to God’s “Ultimate Will” – love, peace and good will for all people everywhere.

The complexity arises with judgements, of when and how to oppose evil, that are considered by imperfect people. Leaders of Christian nations have probably made some mistakes while fighting evil – but many lives (and nations) have been saved by good leaders taking actions they thought were correct and in line with God’s Conditional Will.

On a personal level, the greatest battles to resist wrong living rests within the hearts and souls of each individual. As Christians, we read, study, serve and pray that over time, our lives may slowly grow and reflect a higher and more blessed alignment with God’s Ultimate Will.

May our prayers include pleads for wisdom, mercy and courage that may lead the world closer to God’s permanent and “Ultimate Will”. – “Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Written by W.F. Peck

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How Shall Christians Understand God’s Definition of Hell?

I share the view along with many liberal theologians that hell is not a physical place – it is a state of mind of any one choosing to avoid the presence of God in this life.

In support of this concept, I believe God establishes the criteria for righteous living given to us in the life, death and teachings of Jesus, and if individuals reject or ignore his guidelines for living forever, they will stay on a wrong course and drive themselves into an “eternal state of hell” – both in this life and the life hereafter.

However, the majority of Christians, including all fundamentalists, believe hell is a physical place. There are a number of scriptures (particularly in Matthew) that support their theological position.

Many in the clergy, maybe one half, believe the scriptures describe hell as a symbolic place of dissent, suffering and pain after death, where sinners, by the grace of God, may, over time, receive expiation for their sins. The Catholic Church expresses this intermediary condition as “purgatory” where lost souls may be redeemed after a period of suffering and misery.

It is hard for me to accept Biblical statements that condemn   any of God’s children to experience pain and suffering – forever. Why would our God of the N.T. give us his son to suffer and die for us and then cut off some of his children – forever?

Is it possible that the word “lost” should be interpreted to mean – temporarily “lost”? If we believe that God loves us all, then our God of love, forgiveness and redemption must surely provide a path of salvation for even life time common criminals and terrorists. With some period of proportional punishment, after death, could it be that all will be given a chance to be reconciled to God through a change of heart? Maybe for some, this process will take a hundred years or more to be converted and saved. It should not be easy, but I believe it should be possible.

This theological rationale is compatible with what Jesus said to one of the convicted criminals on the cross. When the criminal confessed that he wanted to be saved, Jesus,  in Luke 23:43 said: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise”. According to the dictionary, and I quote, “paradise is an intermediate place or state where the righteous departed await resurrection and judgement”. It would appear that the criminal was given a chance to be redeemed and saved prior to entering into heaven.

In Romans 5:10, we are assured that all persons shall be reconciled to God through our Lord Jesus Christ. And so there may be a temporary state where all sinners may be reconciled to God before being accepted into heaven.

Some additional thoughts for our consideration are:

  • Church going or non-church going does not decide who is saved or who is not. Personal resumes’ are not important – only honest, sincere Christian beliefs, attitudes and loving actions count in God’s sight.
  • God presents the path to eternal life, but each individual must choose to obey and follow, and as sinners, continuously ask for forgiveness for our transgressions.
  • Temptation is not a sin – Jesus was tempted. True and honest ignorance is not a sin – however, most of us know when we sin and cannot hide behind “ignorance”.
  • God does not directly punish people for their sins while they are living. People during their lives may receive suffering (punishments) as the result of their conduct as acts of free will.

In conclusion, this writing has been composed after considerable pray, study and thought. It is my hope that our God of love, forgiveness and redemption, presented to us in the New Testament, prevails over any concept of God of wrath and condemnation.

W.F. Peck

The Evolution of a Christian Prayer Life

The heart and soul of a Christian life is our prayer life. Any Christian seeking to follow the teachings of Jesus, has an active prayer life. However, overtime, conscientious Christians learn to grow in their knowledge and depth of how to talk to God.

Here are descriptions of possible types and levels of praying that most of us may experience as we grow in our Christian faith:

  1. No active prayer life – praying spontaneously only when serious needs arise
  2. Periodic “routine” praying – “now I lay me down to sleep” – “Our Father who art in heaven… “
  3. Periodic private prayers – occasional, inconsistent but sincere prayers
  4. Social praying – an accepted public prayer, before a group
  5. Personal praying – a commitment to pray privately and regularly
  6. A complete prayer life – talking daily with God on a continuing  basis

The best model for praying, the Lord’s Prayer, was given to us by Jesus. It begins with praise and adoration, then asks for forgiveness, cautions about temptations and concludes with expressions of trust in the power and glory of God. Much can be learned by a thorough study of this prayer.

The Bible, in most every book, offers many beautiful prayers from the prophets and the gospel writers. In Psalms 103:1, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name”. Romans 12:12, “Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” – and in Philippians 4:6, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God”.

Sometimes we fall into the habit of repetitive praying and fail to remember there are many types of prayers. Some of the most common prayers may focus on:  Thanksgiving, Forgiveness, Praise and Adoration, Intercessory, Resting, or Suffering prayers. There are two approaches to praying – Ritualistic praying and Informal praying. Both have a proper place and both are entirely acceptable to God.

God accepts all types and levels of praying from all peoples from every age, race, ethnic, religious or national background. He is open to the most simple to the most complex prayers we chose to submit. When and where we pray does not matter. In the midst of our greatest sins, God encourages us to pray. He always accepts and loves us as we are.

It is very human that some prayers center on the needs and feelings of the person praying. Others seek to express our concerns for the needs of others – both nearby and far away.   Sometimes we find ourselves “telling” God what needs to be done – fully realizing he already knows. It is very human- particularly when things are not going well- for us to ask God to intervene in the lives of people. I think this sincere asking is acceptable by God – but it seems rare for him to interfere with his created laws – accept when he decides a miracle is warranted. Miracles do happen – but sometimes they are delayed or changed by God. Under these special circumstances, mature Christians learn to trust in the fact that our heavenly Father is:  all powerful, all knowing, all present and all caring.

In the middle of all that our lives experience, we must remember that the lifelong goal of praying is to continue to strive to align our lives to the Will of our heavenly Father.

W.F. Peck

We Worship a Risen Savior – Not the Bible

At first glance, this title may imply that the Bible is not important to our Christian faith. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Bible is God’s book, created over thousands of years of early history by the best scholarly minds in the ancient world. It presents God’s Word in two authentic and valuable time frames. The Old Testament dates back to Genesis and the creation story and then guides the reader through two thousand years of struggles by God’s chosen people, slowly moving from a pagan civilization to finally accepting and believing in our one true God. 

The New Testament presents through the four gospels, an accurate historical account, the life and teachings of Jesus that establishes the foundation of our Christian faith. Numerous written records compiled from multiple writers of the first century AD, clearly validates God’s Word through the life, teachings and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

There were considerable struggles among Christian scholars for hundreds of years after Jesus’ earthly life about detailed theological beliefs. Today, while differing on some scriptural interpretations, our Christian churches hold dearly to the image of God given to us through the earthly presence and ministry of Jesus.

The Old Testament is a different story. It does not flow systematically and chronologically like most books. It is a series of individual stories loosely attached to a time frame, often with God’s messages hidden in beautiful allegories, genealogies, lists of instructions, songs and poems. Because of the wide time frame, with multiple writers composing their interpretations of God’s messages, modern biblical students are faced with substantial difficulties in understanding what portions of the literal scriptures are genuine reports of God’s Word. For example, if one sincerely believes that the God of the New Testament is the same God as the God of the Old Testament, how shall one reconcile the substantially different images of God presented between the two Biblical Testaments? What portions of the literal Old Testament scriptures were directed by, and/or approved by God?

Most modern biblical scholars believe that only those Old Testament scriptures (stories) that support the teachings and spirit of Jesus should be considered as God’s Word. Others hold tightly to the literal interpretation of all scriptures as being God’s Word. Vast quantities of intellectual Christian energies are dissipated in these well intentional disputes. One must ask, why do we waste so much time and energy studying and debating interpretations of biblical scriptures? Are different theological interpretations that important? I must confess to often being guilty of participating in these heated discussions.

Is it possible that if we could sit down with Jesus, he might counsel that Biblical studies are important but that intellectual correctness is far less important than reaching out to our friends and neighbors in need. He might ask that we biblical students (and scholars) should seek to redirect our Christian energies to helping to bring God’s kingdom on earth – as it is in heaven. Is it possible that some Christians, are like golfers who spend most of their energies on the “driving range” and seldom commit to playing in the real game?

Do we worship a risen Savior, or do we worship the Bible?

WF Peck

Gaining New Meanings About God’s Creation Through an Open Mind

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Have you ever made a mistake without knowing you did? Surely, we have all experienced not fully understanding the events and/or all the facts surrounding some event in our lives and made a wrong judgement. As we grow older and gain experience, we tend to correct our perspectives and hopefully avoid repeating the same errors.

However, time and experience does not always serve to improve our concepts and opinions on such serious matters as: morality, social or political correctness, religion or scientific knowledge. Time tested, traditional ways of thinking are strong forces in our lives.

Maturity normally enriches most of us with sound judgement and increased wisdom. Unfortunately, additional years can also harden and fix our opinions and beliefs developed over a life time. The traditions and beliefs we accumulate come from many sources: parents, grandparents, cherished ministers and teachers, friends, business associates, books and electronic media. Most of us elderly citizens are reluctant to explore new ideas and particularly scientific information and are even slower to change – no matter the objective evidence!

If one inherited (genetically) a thinking process that is dominantly “left brained”, then analysis, data and facts tend to control your thinking. If one inherited (genetically) a thinking process that is dominantly (right-brained), then feelings, empathy, traditions and building good relationships tend to guide ones thinking and decision-making.

Please be assured that both brain orientations are equally good and yet both have capacities to lead us astray. In short, strong left brain people get things done efficiently but sometimes at the expense of the thoughts and feelings of others. Strong right brain people tend to dislike analysis and avoid confrontations or debates and base their decisions and actions on feelings rather than facts. In truth, we all possess varying amounts of both types of brains. This discussion is not meant to favor one type of brain orientation over the other or to suggest one brain type is more intelligent than the other.

So, where does this evaluation of human personalities lead us? There are many areas where this knowledge can be useful. I select to apply it to our Christian studies of the Bible. Here are several questions for our reader’s consideration:

  • Have you ever evaluated yourself or ask a medical expert to assist you in understanding how you prefer to think and make important decisions? I have two Masters degrees and it took me over fifty years to understand how my brain works.
  • As a Christian are all of your thoughts and beliefs regarding the Bible rigid and fixed?
  • Do you have a mind that is open to new interpretations of scripture?
  • Do you believe that God may not have revealed all the details of his full plan of Creation in the Bible?
  • Do you agree that God’s Word in the Bible is about revealing his power, meaning and purpose and not about God’s full scientific processes of Creation?
  • Do you believe that all of the marvelous scientific inventions that we enjoy are part of his Creation plan?
  • Even though your educational background may hinder your ability to understand all the technical details of God’s creation plan, is your mind and faith open to accept scientific facts  proved and believed by an overwhelming majority of informed scientist – all over the world?
  • Still holding tightly to our basic Christian faith, are you open to sincerely reading and studying about God’s scientific acts of creation? It is the most logical  and inspiring explanation any open-minded Christian could ever imagine!
  • How do you think we can keep young, smart and highly educated people loyal to our traditional churches when the facts of God’s creation processes learned in their public school studies are totally different from what they are probably being taught in their Sunday school classes or church sermons?
  • Is it possible God has not revealed everything to us, so far, that may help the world to become his “kingdom on earth as it is in heaven?”

Justification for the Unusual Role of God in the Old Testament

So in order to reconcile what seems to be conflicts between our modern vision of our N.T. God and the God presented to us in the O.T., the following rationales are needed:

  • The writers of the O.T. reported how the ancient Hebrews related to and understood who God was for them – not to our modern culture with two thousand years of knowledge regarding the life and teachings of Jesus.
  • The O.T. world was primarily a primitive and pagan society not only struggling to evolve from beliefs in multiple gods to belief in one God, but living continuously under the pressures of military conquests by four very strong nations seeking to gain power over the various Hebrew leaders and their territories. For these reasons, confusion and inconsistencies in their writings could be expected.
  • The general populations of the O.T. were barbaric pagans who lived under whatever national power was in control. However, most of the biblical writers were priests or prophets that were historically a part of Gods remnant dating back to the early days of Abraham. They reported both what had been passed down to them and what they personally witnessed while living under substantial political pressure.
  • Biblical writers (including Prophets) often exaggerated the Hebrew Nations levels of suffering and oppression. Hyperbole expressions were common traits of ancient Hebrew writers.
  • Mid-eastern populations, for centuries, were culturally acclimated to believe their gods, and later our God, controlled and directed everything in their lives. Therefore, we must accept that O.T. writers (including prophets and priests) blamed their punishments for their sins on their enemies or oppressing  foreign powers –as being directed and controlled by their gods (or our God).
  • It seems reasonable to surmise that behind the scenes, our loving God of the N.T., during O.T. history, witnessed (and suffered) as his people performed terrible acts (sins) that he did not direct or approve of.
  • Many of the renowned writers in the O.T., being taught to believe that gods (or God) were responsible for all human events, put God in command of lots of terrible acts that were actually instigated by human leaders. How convenient it was to blame God.
  • In conclusion, one can accept that the God of the N.T. is the same God as the God of the O.T. only by understanding that the writers and cultures of both testaments come from entirely different time periods and sources of historic information. God’s role is seen differently by writers of both testaments.
  • Today, all believers, in all religions and Christian denominations continue to seek to understand who God is for them. We may never truly understand the nature of our God who is: all powerful, all knowing and all present. This is why we have faith.

 

Written by W.F. Peck

Management Evolution of Professional Leaders

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No matter the discipline – Physicians, Attorneys, Architects, Accountants, Engineers or Religious Ministers, to name a few, aspiring professionals invest six to eight years in formal training to become proficient in their chosen careers. After college, most professions require extensive testing and interviews before a panel of experts to gain final approval and certification as a worthy professional. While each new professional may spend their early years working as an apprentice, the final goal is normally to develop a career as an independent and competent member of ones chosen profession.

Some may choose to join a large corporation or government agency and find satisfactory employment operating as a specialist in their chosen field. Many will seek employment in the private sector with firms that practice in their area of expertise. With time and experience, some will start their own companies, hire support staff and seek to find clients (or patients) to serve with commensurate compensation. As their practice (or church) grows, the leading professional is faced with an ever increasing mix of complex activities beyond the core disciplines they were trained to understand. Very soon each growing professional practice will face issues such as: business planning, marketing, finance and human resource management for the first time! If the organization remains relatively small, a few professionals may learn to handle these new duties with the help of their staff. Some professional practices may decide not to continue growing – or they fail to understand what is needed to promote growth. However, the organizations that seek to grow will be forced to gain new skills and professional support staff with specialized management skills.

To hold it all together, the top leaders must develop additional management skills and gradually turn the normal services (provided to clients) over to others in the organization. This changing role of the top leaders is crucial if the firm is to continue to grow and remain profitable. Some very competent, senior leaders learn to make this important transition, and some do not. Sometimes senior owners will remain as top technical consultants and delegate the key managerial positions to others better suited, and willing, to address the non-technical leadership roles in the firm. If a democratic- participative team effort can be evolved, the firm may be able to retain most of their best technical talent and also nurture a  group of competent business managers. Most of this scenario seems simple –but it is not!

There are many potential roadblocks to every organizations future success. Some are exterior to the firm in the market place. These retarders can best be addressed by creative minds and competent business planning. The most challenging roadblocks may be interior – within the complex mixture of leadership personalities. Some professional leaders grow and develop managerial skills that were never thought of or addressed while they were in college seeking to become technically proficient. Personality traits, totally independent of professional prowess, come into play within day to day interpersonal relationships. Here are several key personality descriptors for your consideration:

  • Type A vs. Type B personalities
  • Strong Autocratic personalities
  • Introverts vs. extroverts
  • Dominant “right brain” or “left brain” orientations

Please remember, none of these personality types relate to basic intelligence.

While dealing with these God given personality traits, what do these four characteristics mean?

  • Type A personalities are aggressive, extroverted and impatient. Type B types are more laid back and reluctant to lead.
  • Autocratic personalities tend to be dictatorial, demanding and not interested in the opinions of others.
  • Introverts may know what’s happening but they seldom volunteer to speak up. Extroverts sometimes speak before they think.
  • Dominantly Right brained people – avoid confrontations, base decisions on feelings rather than on facts – Left brained people are organized, analytical and get things done but sometimes step on the feelings of others.

Unfortunately many leaders bring a set of human traits to their business relationships and they are not aware of how their management styles negatively impact the effectiveness of their leadership.

So what is the answer, we are all different and imperfect personalities?  The beginning of wisdom is: “Know Thyself.” If one is a mediocre golfer, as I am, one must first decide:

  • Do I sincerely wish to become a better golfer?
  • Do I truthfully understand my strengths and my weaknesses as a golfer (or leader)?
  • Will I decide to seek help and discipline myself to adjust to change?
  • All pro football players, make mistakes, get knocked down – but the consistent winners get back up, examine their faults and seek to improve.

Even though you and I have natural conduct propensities, we can learn and decide to change and grow. Here are some concluding observations:

  • Most Physicians, Attorneys and Accountants need strong business managers on their staff to survive.
  • Some Engineers can adjust to being good business managers – but many will decide not to give up their technical activities.
  • Most Ministers are Right Brained, make excellent preachers and personal pastors, but in general are very poor business managers (left brain activities). These dedicated servants need substantial managerial support and/or extensive management training.

In conclusion, each professional, no matter the discipline, must decide:

  • What spectrum of professional activities am I best suited to perform?
  • Do I wish to remain a specialist in a narrow professional field or learn to become a broad based leader within a growing church or other business?
  • What, if any, personality factors, need further development to assist me in accomplishing my professional career goals?
  • How may I learn to maximize my opportunity to be the best leader possible?

No one set of choices fits everyone.  These are very personal and serious decisions that each professional should make in order to realize and enjoy the most successful career. With full consideration for all of the above, never forget that the most important characteristic of any effective leader is ……… Integrity!

Written By W.F. Peck