Monthly Archives: February 2012

Settling for an Insufficient God

I suggest we should not settle for an insufficient God, or relationship with God. It is easy to do and given our natural leaning toward laziness,… uh, efficiency, we too often do.

God is God. Dr. Marva Dawn, a professor at Regent College in Vancouver captured it well: “God wouldn’t be God if we could always understand Him.” Allow God to be mysterious. Let the Bible leave you a little baffled sometimes. It is okay not knowing everything.

That attitude forces us to accept our own limitations, and the limitations of others. If you assembled all the knowledge of God from all those who have known Him through all history, it would still be like a single grain of sand amidst the Arabian deserts. God is infinite. Trying to understand Him and his ways can be complex, time-consuming, and sometimes downright confounding.

Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love God and the second is like it: to love our neighbors as ourselves (Luke 10:27). In fact, He said that sums up the ethical demands of our faith.

When we decide we have things figured out, we make law. Jesus said living by the letter of law is the wrong way. We are to live by the Spirit in a dynamic, moment-by-moment walk with God. When we think we know something, we become proud. God resists the proud (James 4:6), so we actually know far less than the little we thought we knew.

When we make law, we reduce God to our understanding. We put Him in a box that we can control. We make Him a lesser, insufficient God. We need to let God be God, in many ways beyond our grasp and reasoning. Otherwise, He is no god at all.

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Healer of My Soul

Psalm 147:3 says the Lord “heals the brokenhearted, And binds up their wounds.” The term translated as brokenhearted means simply broken. The term for wounds includes emotional pain: to grieve, to become tired or weary, to be bitter or despairing, to be troubled.

In Matthew 8:16, the term for healing is therapeuo, where we get therapy, which we typically think of not so much as healing but restoring physical or mental health. Jesus was going about…healing every kind of disease and sickness… (Matthew 4:23). That seems redundant but sickness here is malakia (the origin of malady) which means softness or weakness. Jesus offers restorative therapy for grief, weariness, bitterness, despair, and worry. He repairs softness and weakness.

Jesus healed us spiritually by displacing our guilt before God by paying the penalty for sin at the Cross. We are healed as we displace our guilt, shame, worry, and weakness by placing our confidence in Christ.

Jesus made a way for us to become different than we have been. The Bible makes a lot of promises and Jesus invites us, by faith, to believe every one. His invitation includes the gift of eternal life. That means our physical afflictions are temporary.

But Jesus’ invitation also includes the opportunity to live in a new perspective…His. The quest to find His perspective helps us focus on something greater than ourselves. We can learn to stop worrying about offenses we have inflicted on others (finding forgiveness) and put to rest the offenses we have received (by forgiving others).

Above all, Jesus gives us the opportunity to be in right relationships…with God and with everyone we have ever known or ever will. Relationships made right…that is the meat of healing the soul.

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from Eden’s Bridge – Excursus: On Capitalism

(This essay is a close adaptation excerpted from the book Eden’s Bridge: The Marketplace in Creation and Mission, © David B. Doty, 2011, available from the author or from Wipf & Stock Publishers. This essay should be read with the thesis of Eden’s Bridge—the marketplace is an institution of God, implicit in the creation narrative of Genesis 1–2 and vital to God’s mission in the world—in full view.)

Market functions have existed on a wide variety of levels from creation forward. Capitalism is a relatively new twist to market economics and human history, evolving through various stages of development over the last five hundred years.(i) But the potential of the marketplace has unleashed an unprecedented era of collective imagination and hope.

Within capitalism, entrepreneurs with access to increasing global wealth have been empowered to think in larger and more efficient ways. The collective faith of risk-taking investors has allowed the development of new technologies and new enterprises that few individuals, even the wealthiest, could have facilitated historically. Pooled capital has helped industries leapfrog from local and regional scales to transnational presence while bringing about dramatic innovations. The advance of medical science is an illuminating and encouraging case validating capitalism.

Corporate management is still prone to corruption at times. Though it may seem prevalent corruption is actually the exception rather than the rule (ii)  and corporations have contributed to an expansion of global wealth unprecedented in human history. The poor in developed countries are now seldom poor by the standards of even fifty years ago, based on household amenities and access to healthcare and education. They remain relatively poor only within the context of their local or national economies. They live with fewer of the difficulties experienced by their parents and grandparents and more than twice the life expectancy. Many of the poor in developing economies have been lifted from abject poverty and middle classes are beginning to emerge. In the last twenty years, China and India have increasingly embraced capital markets, instituting legal and governmental systems with foundations in moral reasoning. (iii) Collaboration and cooperation continue to develop higher efficiencies in market activities, increasing global wealth and its reach further down the economic ladder.

Modern corporations allow for stock ownership through affordable buy-in across a broad range of income groups. Many corporations begin informally among family and friends who pool their funds and talents to make a better life. Small business can be an inexpensive means for a broad range of operators to take greater control of their financial destiny by investing sweat equity. Even the very poor can exercise their entrepreneurial talents starting with very little capital as markets continue to specialize and decentralize, and collaboration increases between operators and resource-oriented NGO’s.

Capitalism is the dominant economic system in the world. But the reality of sin dictates the need for moral direction and constraint. The drive to produce and accumulate wealth makes optimizing profit the primary motivation behind many business decisions. (iv) The church is in a position politically, economically, and philosophically to work with secular, socially-conscious business operators and owners to redirect and ensure capitalism is moving toward supporting just relationships. Despite its shortcomings, capitalism still offers enormous economic and empowering potential, demonstrably more so than any other economic system in history.

In Revelation 21, the New Jerusalem holds untold wealth. The foundations and gates of the city are bedecked with jewels and the city made of gold. In the day that Christ’s Kingdom is fulfilled, precious metals and jewels, the currency of the ancient world and still valued today, will be of no more worth than cinder blocks and pine boards are today.

The call of the church is to encourage a righteous and abundant culture where the individual accumulation of wealth is all but pointless. Capitalism offers the greatest opportunity in our day toward that goal, but only as it is morally restrained and committed to the common good.

i. Novak, Michael. Business as a Calling: Work and the Examined Life. New York: The Free Press, 1996, 80.

ii. It is easy to take a jaded view of corporations given the accounts of corruption and greed in the daily news. But corporations include small businesses in every community, from gas stations and light manufacturing to lawn care companies and restaurants. The majority of business owner/operators are hardworking, honest people simply trying to make a good life for themselves, their families, and their communities. About 80 percent of corporations have less than 10 employees (http://www.census.gov/econ/smallbus.html).

iii. Studying numerous philosophers, political scientists, and economic theorists, like Adam Smith, John Locke, and Thomas Jefferson, is necessary to understand the complexities of democratic governance and market economics. Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments is a good example of the intellectual thought that characterized the democratizing and market developments of the 17th and 18th centuries.

iv. Profit is necessary to ensure financial sustainability. Pursuing profit becomes immoral when it relegates human welfare to a subordinate concern.

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(A) Musing: Psychotherapy vs. Christian Discipleship

I found several chapter headings using language applicable to Christian discipleship in the table of contents of Psychotherapy Relationships that Work (Norcross, 2011). The whole world is desperate for Truth! (Chapter titles are italicized and in bold.)

Alliance ­– God coming along side us in our journey of faith. “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which translated means, ‘God with us’” (Matthew 1:23).

Cohesion in Group Therapy – Healing amidst fellowship. “Jesus was going about…healing (therapeuo) every kind of disease and sickness…” (Matthew 4:23).

Empathy – Jesus “emptied himself…being born in human likeness” (Philippians 2:7). He faced our same temptations (Luke 4:13).

Goal Consensus and Collaboration – In John 17, Jesus asked His Father to make the Church of one mind, as He was with His Heavenly Father (v. 21), that unity would bear witness to the world of God’s love (v. 23).

Positive Regard and Affirmation – Paul calls Christ-followers saints (hagios) which means a most holy thing (Ephesians 1:1). That’s you and me in Christ!

States of Change – “We…are being transformed into the image [of Christ] from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Preferences – It is all about choices: “choose…whom you will serve…we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).

Culture“You are the salt of the earth [and] the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-14). We are a counter-culture movement.

Coping Style “Be anxious for nothing, but…by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). Sadly, the godless do not have a prayer.

Expectations“‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘…to prosper you… not to harm you, [but] to give you a future and a hope’” (Jeremiah 29:11).

 

‘Nuff said.

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Invitation to Connect – Researching and Networking God’s Marketplace Activity

We are, as the Church, the Body of the Living Christ, called to action as witnesses to the glory of our Heavenly Father by our good works, to be inspirational salt and light to the world, loving one another by ministering to the needs of the Church, and embodying God’s love for the lost. The Church has not only its own collective knowledge, wisdom, will, and resources, but the knowledge, wisdom, will, and resources of God, by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, to transform the world, including every overarching institution, false ideology, and social and cultural construct. It is to this aim that…

I am trying to network globally with anyone interested in the topics of Christian faith, economics, marketplace ministries, discipleship, and development. This is an open invitation to connect with me via LinkedIn. If you do not have a LinkedIn account or have access to me there (for my Facebook readers), join any of about thirty prominent LinkedIn marketplace-oriented groups and you can find me through my regular posts.

My interests lie in continuing the conversation, especially toward mobilization strategies, concerning the role of the marketplace functioning as a vital component of God’s Kingdom and for advancing God’s Kingdom via missional initiative(s). I am interested in soliciting and collecting case studies on any type of Christian marketplace ministries or initiatives including workplace discipleship, marketplace discipleship (not exclusive to a particular workplace), workplace prayer groups or prayer chains, focused academic programs, workplace Bible studies, Christian business or community development initiatives (including investment models, micro-economic development both domestic and international, and so on), or pretty much any model that connects any of the above.

One goal is to establish a network that can facilitate matching people, ministries, education, and needs to advance marketplace evangelism and discipleship, the alleviation of economic suffering and injustice, and intentional movement toward the biblical model of shalom for all.

 And now, a little more about my research to date and about me:

About Eden’s Bridge: The Marketplace in Creation and Mission and the Author, David Doty

For the last twenty or thirty years, it has become increasingly obvious that God is moving in the marketplace. Many marketplace-related ministries have sprung into action including workplace Bible studies and prayer groups, executive discipleship programs, economic development and skills training programs by missions and urban renewal ministries, and so on. A great deal of literature has been produced, especially on principles-based Christian marketplace ethics, the theologies of work and stewardship, and development work among the poor (both domestically and internationally).

What has been missing is a theological understanding of the marketplace, specifically in Biblical and missional perspectives. According to Victor Claar, economics professor and co-author of Economics in Christian Perspective, my newly published book from Wipf & Stock Publishers, Eden’s Bridge: The Marketplace in Creation and Mission, makes both the theological and practical cases for the marketplace in creation and the mission of God.

The central thesis of Eden’s Bridge is that the marketplace is an institution of God, modeled implicitly in the creation narrative of Genesis 1–2 and vital to God’s mission in the world for the advancement of His Kingdom.

Eden’s Bridge accomplishes three important things:
1)     It articulates the first biblically-based theology of the marketplace;
2)     It validates the careers of Christians in the marketplace as divine calling, liberating Christian workers from the false notion of “secular” vocation;
3)     It challenges each Christian worker to consider how their vocation glorifies God and contributes to advancing His Kingdom.

 Given the imperfection of a fallen world, there are no perfect answers to current issues in the marketplace. But, Eden’s Bridge aims to challenge the status quo. It asks readers to press more deeply into the Bible and their knowledge of God and His ways to bring about positive change in and through the marketplace as glorifying witness to the goodness of God and to advance the mission of God (the missio Dei) in the world.

Outcomes that I envision are 1) the empowerment of marketplace Christians toward a rising witnessing and discipling movement in the marketplace, 2) the opportunity to coordinate intentional advancement of God’s mission through the marketplace with regional, national, and global ministries, and 3) pursuing additional research toward that coordination and the revelation of God’s intentions in the marketplace and in economic justice in our day and looking forward.

Re my personal history and the making of Eden’s Bridge: I have held business management and administrative positions in a variety of industries through my thirty year career. Half my career has been as an entrepreneur, starting and owning three small businesses. In the midst of that career, God called me to complete an M.A. in World Mission and Evangelism at Asbury Theological Seminary (2006). I came to write Eden’s Bridge as a convergence of those two paths. The book is the result of eight years’ research and the opportunity to complete it came after Teresa and I shut down our last business in February, 2010, as a result of the recession. I believe God called us to the Atlanta area last fall to facilitate bringing this message to the church globally. We have been excited to connect to the church on many fronts, especially through North Point Community Church in worship, through C3G, and the Men’s Prayer Group.

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Praying for Our Nation(s)

“If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and [if] My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. Now My eyes shall be open and My ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place.” – 2 Chronicles 7:13-15 (emphases mine)

How often do we pray for our nation(s) without first humbling ourselves, without seeking God’s face, and without turning from our own wicked ways? It appears from this passage that the reason our land is not healed and remains ungodly is because God’s own people are not humble, not seeking His face, and not turning from their own wicked ways.

How often do we pray against someone else whom we have judged? Perhaps we believe our leaders (in government or at work) are ungodly and pray that God’s righteousness would come upon them. But we are commanded – “Do not judge lest you be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7: 1–2).

Lord, heal me first before I ask you to heal others. Let the pride of my heart be revealed to me to compel my own repentance such that I, like Christ, can intercede in righteousness according to your Holy Spirit. Father, our land does need your healing touch. Convict Your people today that we are humbled and become the salt and light of the world. In Jesus name, Amen.

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God Calling Marketplace Christians: Introduction to Eden’s Bridge: The Marketplace in Creation and Mission

(This post is the  Introduction to Eden’s Bridge: The Marketplace in Creation and Mission.  The book is now available via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Edens-Bridge-Marketplace-Creation-Mission/dp/1610978242/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1329750051&sr=1-1 or from the author on ebay at http://www.ebay.com/itm/Edens-Bridge-Marketplace-Creation-and-Mission-/190624511684?pt=US_Nonfiction_Book&hash=item2c621b36c4.)

Missiologists and mission practitioners have embraced the marketplace as a vital component in wholistic(i) evangelism, as it ministers to the needs of the whole person in mind, body, and soul. Jesus ministered through preaching, healing, deliverance, and feeding the people of His surrounding culture as they came to Him in their real world needs. He spoke of the hope of economic justice to the poor, that the covenantal system was being re-established in the world. As indictment that they would be held to account for perpetrating selfish injustices, Jesus called the rich and ruling classes to repentance.

This book proposes that the marketplace was intentional in God’s original design. Due to the scope of the subject, time and space dictate presenting broad themes in a globalistic way.(ii) The global view looks across disciplinary divides. Practice in the marketplace, politics, the arts, medicine, education and so on, move along a trajectory toward increasing specialization. Such narrowing disciplinary foci create blinders to the interconnectedness of diverse interests.

The treatment of specific material here is necessarily brief. Scholarly considerations of even one component could fill volumes and launch decades of legitimate discussion and development. The intent here is only to open the door a bit wider on a theoretical level and invite others to carry the conversation forward.

I came to this manuscript as a convergence of thirty years business management and administrative experience (fourteen as an entrepreneur starting and co-owning three small businesses) and eighteen years pursuing Christ, both spiritually and intellectually. It is also the culminating point of eight years’ research and reflection begun in 2003 while pursuing my Master’s degree at Asbury Theological Seminary. The early research was undertaken at the suggestion of my professor, mentor, and friend, Dr. Michael Rynkiewich, an anthropological missiologist.

Chapter 1—Proposing a Biblical Marketplace Theology is a brief statement (one page) of seven propositions supporting the central thesis of Eden’s Bridge—that the marketplace is an institution of God. Those propositions involve content of the creation narrative, filtering the biblical text through economic language and theory, the nature and character of God, Eve’s pivotal role, good and evil in commerce, and the missional function of business.

Chapter 2—An Economic Walk in the Garden is a reflective reading of the first three chapters of Genesis, the narrative of the creation and the Fall. This review is intentional in applying economic terminology to the narrative to illuminate the economic foundations in creation and the juxtaposition of the inherent goodness over against the moral corruption of the marketplace.

Chapter 3—Economic Models and Theological Concerns addresses relevant issues in theological and biblical perspective related to these propositions including economic models, God’s mission in the world (the missio Dei, iii), eschatology (the last things), teleology (the end, as goal or outcome), soteriology (salvation), and ecclesiology (the church).

Chapter 4—Engaging Relevant Modern and Ancient Terminology examines terms which, when understood in biblical and historic perspective and logically defined, help toward acquiring a Kingdom perspective of the marketplace. These include economic verbiage, definitions of business and the marketplace, and key biblical terms from the original Old and New Testament languages.

Chapter 5—Redeeming the Marketplace considers marketplace-related issues in God’s mission of redemption including the godhead and consecration (sacredness), and how these relate to scarcity, stewardship and debt, collaboration, competition and capitalism, eschatological vision, and the redemption of worldly wealth.

Chapter 6—Market and Mission reflects on a variety of Christian marketplace initiatives and socio-cultural concerns, the marketplace and evangelism, and possible pitfalls in current mission pursuits as the church explores reformative theories of commerce.

NOTES

(i) The specific spelling wholism is adapted as a linguistic means to distinguish Christian application of the term holistic from its general uses, especially in medicine and pagan religious appropriations. In Christian mission, wholism (or holism) has been predominantly used in two ways. The first references the whole ministry of the church, determining that evangelism and social action are inherently inseparable. The second recognizes that persons are whole in being, more than spiritual or temporal beings in isolation, and that Christian ministry should address all aspects of the person, including their temporal (psychological, emotional, intellectual, social, etc.) and spiritual needs in toto, as it seeks to make disciples.

(ii) Globalist was the term used by Thomas Friedman in The Lexus and the Olive Tree (2000, 23–28) to describe one practicing information arbitrage to span vast and divergent topics to reveal the “bigger picture” and the ecology between diverse parts.

(iii) Missio Dei is the Latin phrase for the mission of God, the redemption and restoration of all creation.

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