Archive for June, 2012

Christianity in a Culture of Narcissism

“Narcissus” by Caravaggio, 1596

“I wanna talk about me, wanna talk about I, wanna talk about number one, oh my me my.”
– Toby Keith, country singer[1]

“I think I’m fascinating.”
– Snooki, Jersey Shore star[2]

“What do you really want out of life?  A bigger, better job?  A hotter sex life?  The lean, mean body you had in college?  All of the above?  Men’s Health can help you get there.”
Men’s Health promotion[3]

As the Roman poet Ovid tells it, Narcissus was quite the heartbreaker.  Narcissus was a handsome young hunter, furiously courted by every young lady who met him.  But Narcissus rejected every advance of every young lady because Narcissus only had eyes for…himself.  The story goes that one day, after an especially rigorous morning of hunting, Narcissus decided to rest for a moment on a verdant pasture next to a quiet pond.  When he went to the pond to get a drink of water, what did he see, but himself!  So enamored was Narcissus by his own appearance, that he eventually died there by that pool, for he was unable to pry himself away from his striking reflection.[4]

Narcissus, of course, serves as the namesake and the caution for the personality disorder we know as narcissism.  I recently read that the American Psychiatric Association is considering removing narcissism from its highly influential Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).  Why?  Because more and more psychologists consider it to be “a manifestation of normal personality.”[5]  Narcissism is now normal.  Or so psychologists say.

One doesn’t need to look very far to see just how “normal” narcissism has become.  From country singers who want to talk about themselves to faux reality TV stars who find themselves to be inexhaustibly interesting to magazines which unabatedly sell narcissism to self-absorbed, even if fitness-conscious, consumers, instances of narcissism are everywhere.  Yet, I would argue that simply because narcissism is prevalent doesn’t necessarily mean it is normal.  “Normal” refers to something which “conforms to a standard or common type.”[6]  But what “standard or common type” norms that which is normal?  In psychology, it is the standard of self.  Whatever behavior, trait, or characteristic is most common among the majority of people is considered normal.  Majority norms psychology.  Hence, the reason narcissism is being considered for removal from the DSM.  Theologically, however, things work differently.  Normal is not defined by human prevalence but by divine revelation.  And theologically, narcissism is most definitely abnormal – and worse, sinful.  As the apostle Paul warns, “But mark this:  There will be terrible times in the last days.  People will be lovers of themselves” (2 Timothy 3:1-2).  According to Paul, to be obsessed with self is a sinful sign of the terrible times.  It’s time, then, to leave narcissism behind for something else – something better.

Over the next few weeks in my blog, I’ll be probing the foundations of narcissism in our society and asking, “How did we get here?  How did narcissism become ‘normal’?”  To this end, I’ll be exploring the historical underpinnings of narcissism philosophically, scientifically, and therapeutically.  All of these disciplines, of course, will be discussed in light of the Bible’s verdict on narcissism theologically.

Ovid says of Narcissus’ narcissism, “Its empty being on thy self relies; Step thou aside, and the frail charmer dies.”[7]  Here is a somber warning that we would do well to take to heart.  Ovid cautions that narcissism finally leads to death.  For in its emphasis on the self, narcissism leaves you only by yourself.  And left by yourself, you will only die.  For you are only mortal.  This is why Jesus invites us to leave behind the deathly hallows of narcissism to find lasting life in Him:  “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me” (Mark 8:34).  Jesus is clear:  He and narcissism do not mix.  Following Him is about losing yourself, not indulging yourself.  For when you lose yourself, you happily wind up getting lost in Jesus Himself – His love, His grace, His mercy, His compassion, His identity, and His everlasting life.  And He is better than you.  In a culture of narcissism, this is what we, as Christians, are called to proclaim.

[1] Toby Keith, “I Wanna Talk About Me” (2001).

[2] Hillary Busis, “Barbara Walters Learns What ‘Smoosh’ Means During Interview With Jersey Shore Cast,” Mediaite (12.10.10).

[3] Email promotion from Men’s Health Magazine (5.31.11).

[4] Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book 3.

[5] NPR Staff, “It’s All About Me:  But Is Narcissism A Disorder?” National Public Radio (12.11.10).


[7] Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book 3.

June 25, 2012 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

It’s All Relative

Right and wrong are relative.  At least, we treat them like they are.  This is the thesis of an op-ed piece for The New York Times by David Brooks.  In “The Moral Diet,”[1] Brooks explains:

Nearly everybody cheats, but usually only a little…That’s because most of us think we are pretty wonderful.  We can cheat a little and still keep that “good person” identity.  Most people won’t cheat so much that it makes it harder to feel good about themselves.

The basis for Brooks’ thesis is a new book by Dan Ariely, a professor of psychology at Duke University, titled The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty.  Through a series of surprisingly creative studies, Ariely finds that people are disturbingly comfortable bending moral standards to suit their own purposes…as long as they don’t bend them too much.  For instance, for the purposes of his book, Ariely asked a blind and a sighted colleague to take several taxi rides.  The drivers happily cheated the sighted client by taking longer routes in order to rack up higher fares.  They did not, however, cheat the blind client nearly as often because of the stinging psychological guilt associated with cheating a blind person.

Brooks summarizes Ariely’s findings:

For the past several centuries, most Westerners would have identified themselves fundamentally as Depraved Sinners. In this construct, sin is something you fight like a recurring cancer – part of a daily battle against evil.

But these days, people are more likely to believe in their essential goodness. People who live by the Good Person Construct try to balance their virtuous self-image with their selfish desires. They try to manage the moral plusses and minuses and keep their overall record in positive territory. In this construct, moral life is more like dieting: I give myself permission to have a few cookies because I had salads for lunch and dinner. I give myself permission to cheat a little because, when I look at my overall life, I see that I’m still a good person.

The Good Person isn’t shooting for perfection any more than most dieters are following their diet 100 percent. It’s enough to be workably suboptimal, a tolerant, harmless sinner and a generally good guy.

Brooks and Ariely assert that when it comes to our modern moral reckonings, most people assume close is good enough.  But are Brooks and Ariely right in their analysis?

One of the bad habits I have is reading what commenters post at the bottom of online articles.  These comments range from the insightful to the mundane to the paranoid to the bellicose.  Nevertheless, the reason I read these commenters – as maddening as they can sometimes be – is because they give me a sense of our society’s zeitgeist.  It is with this in mind that I had to chuckle at the top comment, as chosen by The New York Times, on David Brooks’ piece:

Most people in the world today are just trying to survive. A billion people don’t have access to clean water. In America, we see people who destroyed the economy not prosecuted. We see soldiers fight in far off lands, many coming home damaged for life. We see corporations allowed to buy elections. Millions of dollars are thrown away on tawdry campaign commercials that only enrich the coffers of media companies.

There is so much angst in the world today, and Mr. Brooks thinks we should worry about stealing office supplies, or eating an extra cookie.

Thank you for proving Mr. Brooks’ point, kind commenter.  Notice how this commenter gauges morality.  There are big moral issues – things like dirty drinking water, crimes left unprosecuted, physically and emotionally wounded soldiers, and corporate corruption – and there are small moral issues – things like stealing office supplies or eating an extra cookie.  Who has time to sweat the small stuff when there are bigger fish to fry?

But notice the subversive self-aggrandizement that undergirds this commenter’s response.  For all of the immoral injustices this commenter identifies are “out there.”  Immorality resides in greedy politicians and corrupt corporations, not in people who casually comment on New York Times pieces.  This commenter intimates his own morality by decrying others’ immorality.  He implies his own relative goodness by opining about the macro-moral problems of our world while jettisoning the micro-moral failings of his life.  He seems to believe, to use Brooks’ language, in his own “essential goodness.”

All this is not to say our macro-moral problems are somehow unimportant.  They are vitally important.  But our micro-moral problems matter too.  Why?  Because there is no macro-immorality problem in our world that did not begin as a micro-immorality problem in a life.  Big injustices begin one person and one decision at a time.  Just ask Adam and Eve.

David Brooks concludes his column with a sage warning:  “We’re mostly unqualified to judge our own moral performances, so attach yourself to some exterior or social standards.”  Brooks is almost right.  An exterior standard is indeed necessary to gauge human morality in any sort of meaningful way.  But I would argue that this exterior standard should not be a social one.  For social standards, though they might be relatively external to us, are not absolutely external to us, because they are based on the collective consensus of human societies – you and me.  Thus, even morality guided by social standards ultimately collapses into an internal moral narcissism.  Only God is absolutely external.  Therefore, in the Christian view, only God can serve as humanity’s enduring moral compass.  Only God can judge our moral performances for what they truly are.  Is it any wonder the preacher of Hebrews declares of the Lord, “‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ and again, ‘The Lord will judge His people’” (Hebrews 10:30)?

Our modern moral mores decry judging other people’s morality.  Christianity decries this too (cf. Matthew 7:1-2).  But Christianity takes it a step further.  For Christianity not only prohibits judging other people’s morality, it also prohibits judging our own morality.  Christianity teaches that we are so morally depraved, we can do nothing less than judge ourselves with a foolhardy rose-colored ethical optimism.  In other words, we dupe ourselves into believing we are better than we really are.  This is why it is God’s job to adjudicate morality – all morality…our morality.  And we are called to listen, follow, and believe God’s verdict on morality – all morality…our morality.

[1] David Brooks, “The Moral Diet,” The New York Times (6.7.2012).

June 18, 2012 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Why Didn’t God Do A Better Job?

Thomas Aquinas

“If…then why?”  I have been asked many a question about God which involved these three words.  “If God knew that Adam and Eve were going to eat the forbidden fruit, then why did God put the tree there in the first place?”  “If God knew some people were going to reject Him, then why did He even create them?”  “If God is so good and loving, then why do so many bad things happen?”

Truth be told, there are no easy or complete answers to these questions.  Indeed, all of these questions have behind them the problem of “theodicy,” a term borrowed from Greek meaning, “the justice of God.”  Theodicy describes the struggle to reconcile the perfect justice of God’s character with the sinful injustice in the world He created.

I have blogged about the problem of theodicy before.  And yet, it is impossible to address this troubling issue exhaustively, for no human understands it completely.  So, there is always more to say.  Thus, I thought it might be helpful to interact with this problem once again from yet another angle.  This time, Thomas Aquinas, the great thirteenth century theologian of the Roman Catholic Church, gives us some keen insight into theodicy.

Aquinas, in his seminal work Summa Theologica, makes a distinction between God’s absolute power and God’s ordained power.  God’s absolute power refers to the nearly infinite number of possibilities which God could conceivably bring to pass while His ordained power describes what God actually does.  Aquinas writes of God’s absolute power:

Now God cannot be said to be omnipotent through being able to do all things that are possible to created nature; for the divine power extends farther than that. If, however, we were to say that God is omnipotent because He can do all things that are possible to His power, there would be a vicious circle in explaining the nature of His power. For this would be saying nothing else but that God is omnipotent, because He can do all that He is able to do. It remains therefore, that God is called omnipotent because He can do all things that are possible absolutely; which is the second way of saying a thing is possible. For a thing is said to be possible or impossible absolutely, according to the relation in which the very terms stand to one another, possible if the predicate is not incompatible with the subject…and absolutely impossible when the predicate is altogether incompatible with the subject.[1]

Interestingly, even within the realm of God’s absolute power, Aquinas allows that there are certain things which are “absolutely impossible.”  That is, there are certain things not even God is able to do – not because they fall outside of the purview of His power, but because to demand them is utterly nonsensical.  For instance, the old cliché question “Can God make a rock so big He can’t move it?” is impossible to answer not because it exposes some hidden limit to God’s power, but because it doesn’t make any sense.  To answer this question with either a “yes” or a “no” is to compromise God’s omnipotence in some way.  In this sense, then, this question is not “possible” of God.  It is not possible at all.

Aquinas then goes on to speak of God’s ordained power:

We must say that God can do other things by His absolute power than those He has foreknown and pre-ordained He would do. But it could not happen that He should do anything which He had not foreknown, and had not pre-ordained that He would do, because His actual doing is subject to His foreknowledge and pre-ordination, though His power, which is His nature, is not so. For God does things because He wills so to do; yet the power to do them does not come from His will, but from His nature.[2]

This is heady stuff, but it is nevertheless important.  Aquinas explains that though there are many things God could do according to the omnipotence of His nature, there are many things God does not desire to do according to the foreknowledge of His will.  If God were to do these “other” things, these would be in contradiction to His perfect foreknowledge, thus compromising the integrity of one attribute of God – His foreknowledge – for another – His omnipotence.  And if God’s foreknowledge is compromised, ultimately, so is His omnipotence.  For then God is not powerful enough to figure out even what He Himself is doing!

Thus, the only way we can understand the power of God is in what God actually does, not in what we wish He would do.  This means, much to our chagrin, our many “If…then why” questions and accusations of God are futile.  For we cannot deal with God theoretically and abstractly in His absolute power, we can only deal with Him realistically and concretely in His ordained power.

We are not the first generation to speculate concerning the possibilities of God’s absolute power over and against the realities of His ordained power.  The fifteenth century Roman Catholic Desiderius Erasmus found many of the speculative questions the armchair theologians of his day were asking to be deplorable:

  • Can God undo the past, such as making a harlot into a virgin?
  • Could God have become a beetle or a cucumber, instead of a human?[3]

And you thought we had tough questions of God!  Although the questions we ask concerning God’s absolute power may strike us as slightly less silly, they are nevertheless of the same ilk as the questions of Erasmus’ day.  For they are conjectures based on nothing more than the supercilious speculations of our fertile imaginations.

So what does all this mean?  On the one hand, it means that questions concerning why God created human beings if He knew they were going to sin and make a mess out of His world are not only unanswerable, they’re foolish.  Alternate scenarios of the way God could have done things can be multiplied ad infinatum.  The problem with these scenarios is that just when someone imagines one scenario that is better than the one we currently have, someone else imagines yet another scenario better than the already imagined one.  Thus, even if we had another scenario, we would likely be imagining still other scenarios and asking God why we did not have those!  To speculate about other scenarios that ask God “Why didn’t You do things this way?” is only to lead us down a careening path of theoretical improvement that ultimately leads and ends nowhere.  On the other hand, we can also rest assured that, according to God’s ordained power, it’s not as if God doesn’t know what He’s doing.  After all, everything is here and is the way it is according to God’s foreknowledge.  In other words, He knew things were going to turn out this way all along.  The question is:  Do we trust that God knows what He’s doing in His ordained power, or do we belligerently complain to God, explaining how we could have done a better job than He?

Finally, speculation about the way things could be or the way we think things should be leads only to frustration.  We have what is; not what is not.  But we also hope for what will be.  Though there is sin and despair in this world right now, it will not be this way forever.  God has promised to us perfection at the Parousia.  And His foreknowledge is immutable.  This assures us that this perfection will come to pass.  Thus, when we are content with what is while also looking forward to what is to come, we find true fulfillment.

So, frustration over what isn’t or fulfillment from trusting in a God who has created what is and will ultimately bring righteousness to reign – which would you rather have?

[1] Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 1.25.3.

[2] Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 1.25.5.

[3] Erasmus, Opera Omnia, 6.927 B-C.

June 11, 2012 at 5:15 am 1 comment

Facebook Follies

“Does Facebook Wreck Marriages?”  So asked the provocative title of Quentin Fottrell’s blog for the Wall Street Journal.[1]  Of course, we know that Facebook in and of itself is not responsible for the breakdown of wedded bliss; rather, it is the way people use Facebook that damages marriages.  Still, the statistics cited in Fottrell’s article are staggering:

  • More than a third of divorce filings last year contained the word “Facebook.”
  • Over 80% of U.S. divorce attorneys say they’ve seen a rise in the number of cases using social networking.
  • Of the fifteen cases Gary Traystman, a divorce attorney in New London, Connecticut, handles per year where computer history, texts, and emails are admitted as evidence, 60% involve Facebook exclusively.

Why does Facebook play such a key role in so many connubial collapses?  Fottrell brings in an expert for keen insights:

“Affairs happen with a lightning speed on Facebook,” says K. Jason Krafsky, who authored the book Facebook and Your Marriage with his wife Kelli. In the real world, he says, office romances and out-of-town trysts can take months or even years to develop. “On Facebook,” he says, “they happen in just a few clicks.” The social network is different from most social networks or dating sites in that it both re-connects old flames and allows people to “friend” someone they may only met once in passing. “It puts temptation in the path of people who would never in a million years risk having an affair,” he says.

Krafsky’s last line is key:  “It puts temptation in the path of people.”

Jesus knew how readily people can fall to temptation when it is placed even peripherally in their path.  This is why He warns His disciples, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Mark 14:38).  Jesus’ caution against temptation and His diagnosis of the flesh’s relative spiritual strength, or rather, its lack thereof, ought to be taken seriously.

When a marriage is in disarray, Facebook can provide an all too easily accessible foray into the arena of temptation.  Its appeal lies at two opposing poles.  On the one side, Facebook provides a public forum for a scorned spouse to spout off about how he or she has been wronged and receive eager and many times blind support from friends who are, at best, only partially informed about the situation.  On the other side, though Facebook is public, it deceptively feels private.  After all, it’s only “friends” who can see what you are posting – that is, until a divorce attorney subpoenas records from your Facebook account and presents them in court as incriminating evidence.

Both the public and private faculties of Facebook make its appeal to those in rocky relationships almost irresistible.  But when Facebook is used to arbitrate an unsettled union, it inevitably leads to ruin.  For it allows couples to steep themselves in the sometimes rotten advice from friends or the sometimes illicit advances of lovers while avoiding conversation with the person they need to be talking with the most – the other spouse.

So, how can a couple use Facebook to connect with friends – old and new alike – while steering clear of its more seedy enticements?  A few practical, common sense safeguards can go a long way to protecting your integrity – and your marriage.

  • First, make sure your spouse has access to your Facebook account.  There is no reason why your spouse should not know what you’re posting online.  If you’re trying to surprise him or her using a little help from your Facebook friends, find another way.  Sustained trust trumps an occasional need for the secrecy of a surprise.
  • Second, if your marriage is troubled, personal details are not Facebook appropriate.  You don’t need uneven advice from partial pals, you need professional guidance from a licensed therapist.  Facebook is a great place to post thought-provoking quotes, interesting articles, and even pictures of your Memorial Day backyard barbeque or your newborn bouncing baby boy.  It is not an appropriate place, however, to air your, or someone else’s, dirty laundry.  Falstaff, though he was a shameful coward in Shakespeare’s Henry the Fourth, proved to be wise beyond his actions when he said, “The better part of valor is discretion, in the which better part I have sav’d my life.”[2]  Discretion on Facebook may just save your marriage.
  • Third, be discerning.  Believe it or not, regardless of a person’s Facebook classification as your “friend,” not everyone you communicate with on social networking sites has your best interest at heart.  And not everyone who proffers advice via the internet knows what he or she talking about, or, as the case may be, “posting” about.  This means that you should not set yourself up to get bad advice from your Facebook friends by posting sordid details of your life gone awry, nor should you insert yourself via public posts into someone else’s messy Facebook spectacle.  If you’re truly concerned about someone, a face-to-face conversation, or, if that is impossible, a private conversation by some other means, works much better than a public posting.

Finally, a sober estimation of your own sinful desires and weaknesses may be the best safeguard against the wily relational entrapments that internet social networking can bring.  No matter how strong you may think your marriage is, all it takes is one click or keystroke to lead it down the road to ruin.  And so we pray, “Lead us not into temptation” (Matthew 6:13).

[1] Quentin Fottrell, “Does Facebook Wreck Marriages?The Wall Street Journal (5.21.12).

[2] William Shakespeare, Henry the Fourth (Part 1, Act 5, Scene 4).

June 4, 2012 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Concordia’s New Series: tHE aBNORMAL lIFE

We’re gearing up for our summer series at Concordia.  It’s one you’re not going to want to miss!  Even though you only have to wait one week to find out what it’s all about, we thought you might like a sneak peek.  The series is based on the feedback we received from our beloved Concordia.

We asked: What is you biggest struggle in…

  • Your relationship with God?
  • Your relationships with others?
  • Your finances?
  • Your health?
  • Your work?

In each of these important areas, we saw some common struggles emerge.  The series outlined below reflects these common struggles and themes.  We believe it will be helpful to you and we hope you’ll join us beginning June 10!  We worship Saturdays at 6 pm and Sundays at 8, 9:30, and 11 am.

tHE aBNORMAL lIFE:  Changing on Purpose

The word “abnormal” comes from the Latin word abnormisNormis describes a “rule” or a “norm,” and ab is a preposition meaning “away from.”  To be “abnormal,” then, means “to stray from the norm.”  Scripture tells us that we have all strayed from the norm of God’s Word.  This is why we all have abnormal lives!  Yet, by His grace, God can bring us back to His norms.

Series Memory Verse:  “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).

6/10 – Trusting God Totally

Based on Hosea 1:2-10.

God is in the business of asking people to do seemingly strange things.  In the book of Hosea, God asks the prophet to take a prostitute as a wife.  The prophet and the prostitute – what a combination!  But through this odd coupling, God teaches Israel about being faithful to Him.  Will we be faithful to God, even during difficult times?

What you’re saying about trusting God totally…

  • “I have trouble going to God with everything, especially big decisions.”
  • “It’s hard letting God take the driver’s seat.”
  • “I want to let God be ruler over my life.”
  • “I want to keep God first above all things.”
  • “Trusting God always and following His will is hard!”

6/17 – Leadership God’s Way

Based on Psalm 1:1-6.

Many people struggle finding time for God in Bible study and prayer.  For husbands and fathers, being rooted and grounded in these things is especially important, since they are called to lead their families spiritually.  On Father’s Day, we reflect on the promise that a man who is grounded in God’s Word will have the strength to lead his family faithfully and well.

What you’re saying about being rooted in God’s Word and prayer…

  • “I need to spend more time with God in prayer.”
  • “I’m not able to attend a weeknight Bible study because of work.”
  • “I want to be able to read the Bible every day.”
  • “Keeping in touch with God through prayer is tough.”
  • “I have trouble finding ways with my busy schedule to read the Bible.”

6/24 – Living with Loneliness

Based on Mark 14:27-31.

According to a study conducted by the AARP, 44 million people struggle with loneliness.  This same study found 35% are chronically lonely, a 15% jump from ten years ago.  Loneliness is epidemic.  Jesus can sympathize with our loneliness.  In His hour of deepest need – as He was on His way to the cross – His dear disciples left Him all alone.  In spite of Jesus’ own loneliness, however, He makes us a promise to never leave us or forsake us.

What you’re saying about loneliness…

  • “I feel like I live in a hole.”
  • “I do not know many people.”
  • “I need friends.”
  • “I’m not sure I know how to attract a mate.”
  • “I can’t find time to spend on relationships.”
  • “I feel like some people don’t have time for me.”

7/1 – Learning to Forgive

Based on Jonah 4:2-11.

When someone wounds you deeply, it is difficult to forgive.  Yet, forgiveness is what we are called to by God, for God Himself is forgiving.  The prophet Jonah despised this attribute of God.  He said, “I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity” (Jonah 4:2).  If we do not forgive, we are bound by those who hurt us.  When we forgive, however, we are freed!

What you’re saying about forgiveness…

  • “I have trouble trusting since I have been used and abused in the past.”
  • “My relationship with my dad needs a lot of work.”

7/8 – Giving Grace, Telling Truth

Based on John 8:2-11.

As Christians, we are called to speak the truth in love (cf. Ephesians 4:15).  However, holding love and truth together can be difficult.  Sometimes, we are tempted to tell someone the truth self-righteously, lambasting him or her to make a point.  Other times, we are tempted to avoid a tough conversation, preferring to offer only loving encouragement even when someone needs to be confronted in sin.  When Jesus meets a woman caught in adultery in John 8, He holds both love, or grace, and truth together in perfect tension.  He does not condemn this woman, but He also does not sanction her sin.

What you’re saying about giving grace and telling truth…

  • “It’s hard loving difficult people.”
  • “I need to try to see people using God’s eyes.”
  • “I am trying not to communicate with a condescending attitude.”
  • “I want to be more honest.”
  • “I don’t know what to say to people who misuse God’s grace a license for sin.”

7/15 – The One Debt You Want

Based on Romans 13:8-10.

Many people struggle with out-of-control debt.  God’s call is that we steward the resources He has given us faithfully and avoid debt as much as possible.  Yet, there is one debt God wants us to have:  the debt to love each other.  On Pastor Tucker’s Twenty-Fifth Ordination Anniversary, President Emeritus of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, Jerry Kieschnick, shares how the continuing debt to love each other is part of the pastoral ministry and every Christian’s ministry.

What you’re saying about debt…

  • “I am in debt and financially insecure.”
  • “I overspend on items and go over budget.”
  • “I want to get out of debt.”
  • “I want to learn how to pay off debt.”
  • “How do I avoid debt?”
  • “How do I pay off debt?”

7/22 – A Healthy Look At Me, Part 1

Based on Genesis 1:26-28, 31.

Many people struggle with feelings of worthlessness and unworthiness.  However, when we remember that we are made in God’s image, we can rest assured that it is in Him that we have our worth and identity.  It is from this that we can develop a healthy self-image.

What you’re saying about your self-image…

  • “I don’t eat enough to nourish myself.”
  • “I want to be able to look in the mirror and tell myself I am worthy.”
  • “I want to look more Christ-like.”
  • “I never think I have done enough.”
  • “I have a hard time putting me first before my children and family.”

7/29 – A Healthy Look At Me, Part 2

Based on 1 Timothy 4:1-8.

The Hebrew word for “health” is shalom, which describes not only our physical health, but our mental, spiritual, and emotional health as well.  God wants us to be healthy in all aspects of our lives.  The foundation for holistic health, however, is our health in Christ.  In this message, we discuss how all these areas of health intersect with each other.

What you’re saying about your health…

  • “I need to exercise and change my eating habits.”
  • “I eat too much junk food.”
  • “I struggle with fear and worry.”
  • “I struggle with depression.”
  • “I need to lose weight.”
  • “I’m trying to keep my diabetes under control.”
  • “I’m having trouble facing my mortality.”
  • “I’m challenged to make exercise a priority.”

8/5 – How to Pray

Based on Matthew 6:5-13.

Many people want to pray, they just don’t know how!  Thankfully, Jesus gives us a great way to pray in His prayer – the Lord’s Prayer.  But this prayer is not just a prayer to be recited, it’s a prayer to be followed.  Praying for everything from God’s glory to forgiveness for sins to our daily needs are all appropriate topics for prayer.  In this message, we learn how this one prayer can be a pattern for all of our praying.

What you’re saying about prayer…

  • “I need to spend more time with God in prayer.”
  • “How can I create time each day to spend with God in prayer?”
  • “How can I hear God’s directions and answers in prayer?”
  • “How do I keep in close touch with God through prayer?”
  • “I need to develop a devoted prayer time.”
  • “How do I pray?”

8/12  – Help!  My Job Is Unfulfilling!

Based on Genesis 39:1-4, 11-15.

A recent feature in Psychology Today asked, “Is Your Job Killing You?”  It’s no secret that some people do not like their jobs and feel like they are slowly having the life sucked out of them.  How do you survive when work gets hard?  You survive by remembering that, ultimately, even in a trying job, you can still serve God.  This is what Joseph had to remember when he worked for Potiphar.  His job was so bad that it landed him in jail.  But God ultimately came through for Joseph and He will come through for you too.

What you’re saying about your job…

  • “Accepting my lot in life is hard.”
  • “It’s hard to stay focused and work as if I worked for God.”
  • “My job is not stable.”
  • “I love my job, but I can’t help but feel there’s more I should be doing.”
  • “I’m not sure what I’m called to do.”
  • “How do I find joy in housework?”
  • “I’m presently unhappy at work and am ready for a change.”
  • “My job is unfulfilling.”

8/19 – Budgeting and Tithing

Based on Proverbs 3:5-10.

Key to any theology of Christian stewardship is budgeting is giving.  Solomon reminds us, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine” (Proverbs 3:9-10).  When we trust God to give back to Him what He has given us, our faith in Him to provide for all of our needs grows by leaps and bounds.

What you’re saying about budgeting and tithing…

  • “I want to continue to pay my bills and help God’s Church and my family.”
  • “I need God’s help for me to support His Church.”
  • “I’m having trouble tithing and budgeting every month.”
  • “I need to learn to budget more wisely and save.”
  • “How do I build my faith so I can tithe?”
  • “How can I know where God wants my finances to go?”
  • “I need to stick to a budget.”
  • “What do I do when my spouse doesn’t want to tithe?”

8/26 – Taking Work Home

Based on Exodus 20:8-12.

Many people take work home with them, either physically or emotionally.  Some people are always on call or working on projects and are never able to stop.  Other people carry the emotional weight of their work on their shoulders and are never able to relax.  In this message, we look at the importance of balancing work and rest and note how in the Ten Commandments, a mandate to rest goes hand in hand with a mandate concerning relationships in the family.

What you’re saying about balancing work and life…

  • “How do I stay healthy with so many things going on?”
  • “How do I keep my physical health and mental capacity at peak performance?”
  • “I never feel like I have enough done.”
  • “I’ve been doing the same thing for so long, I feel stuck.”
  • “I can’t find a good balance between work and home.”
  • “How do I maintain the discipline I need to get everything done?”

9/2 – Retirement That Works

Based on Exodus 7:1-7.

Retirement involves more than playing golf and lounging around!  When Moses led the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt, he was eighty and his brother Aaron was eighty-four.  Just because you retire doesn’t mean that God can’t use you to do amazing work!  What work is God calling you to do for Him?

What you’re saying about retirement…

  • “I need to retire!”
  • “How do I use my retirement years to be faithful to the Lord?”
  • “I’m retired and my volunteerism is limited. How can this change?”
  • “I need to figure out what to do after years focused on raising children.”

June 1, 2012 at 4:35 pm Leave a comment

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