Thursday, May 31, 2012

Keys to Strategic Leadership

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Types of Leadership

Many key words are attached alongside leadership today: servant leadership, empowering leadership, managerial leadership, visionary leadership to name a few. This post will focus in on strategic leadership and comes from the quest leaders like myself are on, to not simply coast through their time on earth with little impact and little value.

Strategic Leadership

Tony Keys in Strategic Leadership tells the story of NASA sending the Apollo 7 to the moon. When launching the rocket, where did they aim the rocket? To the moon? Close, but no. They aimed the rocket to where the moon would be when the rocket made its way through space.

Strategic leadership is about taking your situation and thinking it through. Where do you want to be in 5 years? What will it look like? What's your strategy on how to get there?

Personally, I don't always grasp this. In fact, at times I forget it. This is my honest side coming through right now. Strategic leadership at times is replaced by, 'quick get all the admin done!' kind of leadership. You know what I mean. You know deep down you need to plan for the future, and begin to map out the goals and outcomes, but your office is untidy and you have to bank some money.

The greatest hurdle to effective strategic leadership is surely the tryanny of the urgent.

Can you send this off in the post? Can I get reimbursed for that? I better send that email and pop that in my diary. Also, I must remember to put the rubbish out.

Some people just know how to plan well for the future. They know how to become an intuitive leader. The key for many though, is to find time to think strategically about your organisation, or church, or business.


Thinking Strategically with Jesus

That's maybe not a subheading I have thought of before, but it relates to a story Jesus gives about discipleship. He says firstly in Luke 14:27 - '...whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.' Then he goes on to say in Luke 14:31 - '...suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won't he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?' Seemingly the story depicts that of thinking it through, what we may word as strategic thinking in today's terms. (Leadership insights from Jesus)

While we are challenged here by Jesus to think it through before simply 'taking up your cross' and following him, I think we must challenge ourselves, to think strategically about our organisational objectives, our plans, our dreams and not just coast through life with apathy or being hooked into a cycle of the tyranny of the urgent. The key to strategic leadership is maybe simply, to think strategically. That's a start at least.
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Inspiring posts on leadership:

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This post is written by Pete Brookshaw.
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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Leadership Quotes - Short and Snappy!

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Leadership Quotes for the Aspiring Leader! These Leadership quotes were taken from the Global Leadership Summit back in 2007. 

  • Vision leaks: Recast vision all the time.
  • What is a leaders greatest fear? Fear of failure...
  • "The higher you rise in an organisation the less truth you hear" - Colin Powell
  • Most of the time we are 'doing good', but are we doing the 'most good'? Are we using our time and resources to the best of our ability, producing the best results?
  • If you're nervous when you are preaching or public speaking, and your palms are sweaty and your lips are dry, try licking your palms.
  • In your leadership teams promote a clash of ideas. Encourage team members to participate. Leave the meeting with a united resolution for the future.
  • Maintain an open door policy (except when going to the toilet)
  • Have an optimistic attitude. Adopt the idea, that things will always look better in the morning.
  • Employees that are highly motivated have a 40% higher performance in the workplace than those who are unmotivated.
  • Get people around you that give you a motivational 'jolt' when they walk into the room.
  • Make a point of rubbing shoulders with exceptionally inspiring people!
  • Connect everyone you lead to a compelling cause

More on LEADERSHIP Here.



Salvation Army Quotes that Inspire a Movement

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The Salvation Army has had its doors flung open since 1878 and before (as The Christian Mission), and over those years a plethora of inspiring Salvation Army quotes have been uttered. Here is just a small sample of those quotes:


General Edward J. Higgins: 'Nothing is so likely permanently to stop soul-saving as the want of intense zeal on the part of our own people. How far are your soldier's meetings utilised for the development of the personal religion and fighting capacity of your people? Never mind the fewness of the numbers; if you can but get the few set on fire, the fire will attract others.'

General Paul A. Rader: 'While we are motivated by great optimism as to the possibility for change and new life for persons and communities, we are not naive regarding the fallenness and sinfulness of the human heart. Nor are we unaware of the evil desire of Satan to deceive and destroy, to demean and damn human personal. Further, we accept that there can be a powerful and pervasive demonic dimension evident in human systems and structures, institutions and cultures. We are called to live out our faith and pursue our mission in a fallen world that may put us at risk. All the more we are determined not to back down from any overt or insidious challenge to Christ's Kingdom, whether that challenge is in the form of personalised or institutionalised evil.'


More Salvation Army Quotes that Inspire a Movement:



General Linda Bond: 'A Spirit-filled Army tells the gospel story faithfully and trustingly, believing that there is power in the name of Jesus, power in this life-giving message, the power that the Holy Spirit exerts to bring about transformation'. 


General Linda Bond: 'An Army was not raised up for the parade square but for the battlefront. A Salvation Army remembers that salvation did not come easily or cheaply. It came at great cost, the sacrifice of all sacrifices. To be filled with his Spirit calls for nothing less than our living sacrifice'.


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For more Salvation Army quotes, and more on Salvationism, read:
Major Stephen Court's Blog - HERE.

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Stop Trying to Please Everyone!

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How do you please everyone? You don't!

That's a lesson I'm learning right now. I shouldn't be surprised by this statement; I mean I've heard it for years. You can't please everyone so don't even try.

Could it be that the issue for me (and could I say maybe you as well), is that we want everyone to like us? We want everyone to approve of the way we complete our work, the way we run our family, the way we live our lives.

Now, if we were simply able to tune into what God thinks of us, and then act on what he places in our heart, we wouldn't be tying ourselves up in knots. 'How to please everyone' wouldn't even be a statement that enters our mind.

Focusing in on knowing Christ and understanding as much of the love of God as we can is possibly the answer. Albeit a cliché, Christian kind of answer; but I believe it to be right!


  • Colossians 2:2 - 'My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ.
  • Eph 3:16-19 - 'I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.' 


This idea of pleasing God first, somewhat contradicts the teachings from Dale Carnegie (How to Win Friends and Influence People), which is all about the characteristics we should show in life to build respect amongst others. I'm not saying the chapters found in Carnegie's book are not worth following, but I am saying, that following God first, discerning his opinion and knowing Christ all trump the human aspects of building respect amongst others.

 I leave you with a thought that is just as much for me, as it is for you:

STOP trying to please everyone!


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Facebook Page - Disciples in Training.

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Religion is Irrelevant

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Religion is irrelevant.

There you go. I said it.

Actually, I'm not claiming that this is my opinion. Nonetheless, it is the opinion of millions around the world.

Maybe it's their understanding of the dark hours of Church History. Maybe it's the rules and regulations of most religious institutions that give them this opinion. Could it be the people that represent the message of the religion today have represented it badly? Or is it the strict moral code that Christianity aspires to? Whatever the case may be, the consensus among many is that religion is irrelevant. Based on its history and its actions, it is quickly dismissed among many. They claim it to be irrelevant. Though IS religion irrelevant?

When I consider what religion is, I think of an institutional body. A church building. An ordained priest in weird looking garbs. I think of a man-made construct that gained political power in the 4th Century and began 1700 years of what we call Christendom. Religion in this sense may well be irrelevant. But let me pose something for you.

God sent Jesus into the world (John 1:14). He was radically subversive and controversial. He did not go with the status quo. He in fact quite often infuriated the religious leaders of the day. Jesus began a movement (Acts 1:8). A movement of followers. I am not sure that Jesus even intended that an institutional construct would develop in the years to come, that we would label 'Religion'.

I am urging us to not confuse 'man-made' religion, with the breath-taking, intriguing nature of Jesus, who claims to offer salvation to the lost, and who offers opportunity for people to follow him and embrace all that he teaches.

Religion or Jesus? Are they mutually exclusive? It is not that simple to simply separate the two, but lets not confuse what really matters: A relationship with Jesus that in turn affects the way we live our lives.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Light Piercing the Darkness! "Hey, Turn the light off!"

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You're sleeping in a pitch black room, and suddenly someone turns on the light.

"Hey!! Turn the light off!" You shout out as you try to let your eyes adjust.

At times, that's what it feels like, when we 'shine the light of Jesus' for people. You know, when we share some element of truth about who Christ is, or we do a good deed that confounds someone. The person doesn't always react as well as we had hoped! 

Here's some facts about light:
o   Light is a form of energy that travels freely through space
o   Light travels at 2.99792458 x 108m/s
o   It takes Light 8mins 17sec for light to travel from the Sun’s surface to Earth.
o   Every second around 100 lightning bolts hit the earth
o   When sunlight is intercepted by a drop of water in the atmosphere, some of the light refracts into the drop, reflects from the drop’s inner surface, and then refracts out of the drop. The first refraction separates the sunlight into its component colours, and the second refraction increases the separation. The result is a rainbow.

·        One of the metaphors used to describe the Kingdom of God, is light and darkness. Those who are living for God, are living in the light, and those that are not living for God, are living in darkness. It’s pretty straight down the line. Naturally there are other metaphors to describe God's Kingdom, but this one is particularly confrontational. 

     We see in Genesis 1:4 what God did on the first day – ‘And God said, “Let there be light, and there was light. God saw that the light was good and he separated the light from the darkness’

We are called to live in the LIGHT

1 Thessalonians 5:5 – ‘You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness’.
1 John 1:5-7 – ‘This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light, in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.’


We are called to shine the light into the world

Mat 5:14-16  "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Have a quick read of these two verses from Isaiah: 

Isaiah 60:1-2 - 'Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you.'

If the light is shining brightly for you and your eyes are struggling to adjust. Take a moment to get used to the light. Maybe the brightness will help you have a clearer picture of reality. Maybe you'll end up saying, "Hey, keep the light on!"

Friday, May 25, 2012

Courage under FIRE!

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Salvationist John Staite from his small book Leading Simply: A common-sense approach to inspirational leadership had this to say about courage:

A leader is often required to display courage, especially when challenged by adversity or criticism. Indeed, the hallmark of a good leader is the capacity to endure and stand ready to display that courage. When there is a 'weak link' in the chain of the team's ability to face difficulties, or when a team member attempts to divert the endeavour, leaders need to step up and show their willingness to face the challenge of the moment. 
This is the challenge isn't it? To step up. The easy option is the back down and settle for mediocrity. Though mediocrity is a cop out. We must face the challenge of the moment. Staite goes on to say:
Courage of conviction is also important. Leaders may well have to be prepared to stand alone in front of their peers or superiors, and know that some members of the team may not support them. It is important for the team as a whole to feel the reassurance of the leader as one who doesn't hesitate or baulk when faced with opposition or uncertainty. Leaders need to consistently demonstrate courage and show that they are on the right path to achieve common goals. Be courageous and stay focused. (p.18-19)
I find myself relating well to these words today. I need courage. Courage to follow my convictions. Courage to do God's will despite the setbacks. Courage to continue to seek after God's heart and not be distracted.

If you are in that situation right now, be courageous; don't be afraid or discouraged, for God is with you every step of the way (Joshua 1:9).
 
 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Daniel's Wisdom - I need that!

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Have a look at the first four verses of Daniel:


Daniel 1:1  In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.
Daniel 1:2  The Lord let King Jehoiakim of Judah fall into his power, as well as some of the vessels of the house of God. These he brought to the land of Shinar, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his gods.
Daniel 1:3  Then the king commanded his palace master Ashpenaz to bring some of the Israelites of the royal family and of the nobility,
Daniel 1:4  young men without physical defect and handsome, versed in every branch of wisdom, endowed with knowledge and insight, and competent to serve in the king's palace; they were to be taught the literature and language of the Chaldeans (NRSV).

Have you ever prayed that God would endow you with the same sort of blessing that he gave Daniel? I mean, when we read about Solomon being given wisdom, we pray that God might do the same for us. When we read of David's courage (1 Sam 17), we ask God to fill us with courage. When we consider the faith of Noah, we pray God would give us faith. So what about Daniel?

I am pointing you to Daniel 1:4. Daniel had wisdom (of every branch of wisdom!) and knowledge and insight, and he was competent. He knew his literature. He was an intelligent man.

Pray today, that God, as God so chooses, would give you wisdom, and knowledge and insight, in Jesus' name!

Now, in light of what you have just prayed, pick up a book and study it! Get a newspaper and decipher its meaning. Hold the Bible and delve into some of its passages. Play your part.

God bless!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Changing Organizational Culture

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Changing organizational culture can be vital, especially if an organization is struggling and desires to be effective in the long term. We know stories of businesses that have crumbled because of a lack of integrity by the CEO, or a church that has closed because the senior pastor didn't know how to inspire a great culture within their church. 

How many morning tea times are full of gossip and frustrated employees who wish their business had a better culture? How many emails are sent daily complaining about the ins and outs of the workplace, all because leaders have not developed a great culture in their workplace? How many secret facebook messages do business people send to their friends, during work times, that relate to issues of culture?


Changing Organizational Culture through a Culture of Planning

Firstly, an organization needs to have a culture of planning. Ever heard, without a plan you plan to fail? Too many businesses go about everyday business without planning. Two questions need to be asked. Firstly where is our intended destination and secondly, how are we going to get there? The first question is a vision question, the second is a planning question. 

You can't climb Mount Everest without a plan, nor should we cruise through our workdays without planning how we will achieve what we are hoping to achieve. While the implications of bad planning (or no planning) for the Everest Climber is death, for an organization bad or no planning might mean a loss of income, loss of personnel, etc. A culture of planning, is a culture of strategic thinking. It is about looking at the mission, vision and values of the organization, and saying, 'How are we going to achieve this?' 'What is our strategy?' 'What is our plan?' High performing organizations execute plans well, and adapt them as circumstances change. They create a culture within their organization of strategic thinking and planning.

The reason a lack of planning creates dysfunctional organizational culture, is because spontaneity reigns, and while this can at times be managed, quite often it simply means there is organizational choas and lack of direction. A culture of planning is needed.

"Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed" - Proverbs 16:3

Changing Organizational Culture through Implementing a Culture of Execution

This is the mantra that says, 'If you say you're going to do it, then do it'. This builds trust amongst the people of an organization. It's about following through with agenda items, and implementing the ideas into concrete realities. Within a business, a culture of execution might look like the announcement of a new product range - an idea that could transform the business! A healthy culture of execution gets the job done! The idea doesn't just sit on the desk, or in the heart of the leader, it is communicated, thought through, researched and if appropriate, is actioned. A culture of execution inspires people to move from ideas and abstract concepts to implemented tangible practices.

Within a church, for example, a culture of execution is needed, because so many visions and dreams sit on the leader's desk, or even in the minds of the people. There needs to be encouragement to follow through and make it happen, with God's help, so the dream is not just some pie-in-the-sky concept.


Following through on tasks and commitments are important. Employees within organizations are disempowered if leader's don't attend the meetings they say they will, or if the leadership committee put forward another grandiose idea that everyone know will never happen. A culture of execution, lets people know, that people will do what they say. They will complete the assignments set for them, they will make the appropriate changes, because they believe in a culture of execution. This is a helpful leadership tip for creating a healthy culture in an organization! 


Changing Organizational Culture through Visionary Leadership

Without visionary leadership the people wander aimlessly says an old proverb. Without vision it is very easy to cruise through life, and to step back a year later and say, 'Have I actually gone anywhere?' 'Have I actually achieved anything that is purposeful?' While vision in itself is not enough to arrive at a place of effectiveness; vision helps inspire you, your team, your family, your co-workers, to reach for new heights. 

If you aim at nothing you'll hit it every time. Vision is important to me, because if I aim at nothing, I'll reach it! Though, if I aim at cloud number seven, and only reach cloud number 3, I've still gone further than if I have aimed at nothing! So vision, personally, provides an injection of passion and direction, that when aligned with strategy can produce great results.

A big vision in an organization helps produce a healthy culture, primarily because employees, from the cleaners to HR professionals to managers stop talking about what brand of coffee they are drinking, and start talking about the possibilities of the organization in which they work. It lifts their eyes from the mediocrity of mundane day-to-day work, to consider adapting their work choices, in order that vision can be accomplished. 
  • Does your organization have a culture of visionary leadership?
  • What do people talk about when they are grabbing their coffee? Is it about the organization's future and possibilities and potential? Is it a healthy discussion?

Changing Organizational Culture from Within - Integrity

One of most important leadership tip anyone could ever give in relation to creating healthy organizational culture, has to be the need for integrity. Now, this might seem simple enough, and we may well agree with the statement. It is when the rubber hits the road, that I wonder whether people really understand the importance of integrity.

Stories upon stories are heard of corrupt CEO's, abusive authoritarian leaders, a lack or morale because what the leader communicates does not match their actions, and the list goes on. 

Most leadership books comment on the importance of depth of character, integrity and a sense of morality/conscience and the effect this has on those you are leading. John C. Maxwell devotes a chapter to integrity in Developing the Leader Within You (1993). He says:
  • Integrity builds trust
  • Integrity has high influence value
  • Integrity facilitates high standards
  • Integrity results in a solid reputation, not just image
  • Integrity means living it myself before leading others
  • Integrity helps a leader be credible, not just clever
  • Integrity is a hard-won achievement (p. 35-48).
Why does integrity amongst leaders help create a healthy organizational culture? Firstly, as already noted, trust is built. When the leader says something, you know they will be trustworthy, based on previous experiences. It is demoralizing to not be able to trust a leader, as this becomes an infectious disease within the organization! Secondly, integrity is paramount to this healthy organizational culture, because a leader exemplifies the 'do as I do, not just as I say' kind of rhetoric.

You may not be able to cause someone else to have integrity, but you can cause yourself to have it!

Finally, changing organizational culture takes leadership; visionary leadership, integrity, planning, and an ability to execute the tasks at hand.

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Join Pete Brookshaw on Disciples in Training on Facebook.

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Visionary Leadership

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Visionary Leadership is Vital!

Visionary Leadership is a must! The old proverb says that without vision the people perish; or as some say, without vision the people wander aimlessly.

I spent some time with our leadership team recently speaking about the vision of our church for next year, and the years to come. Why? Well, without a clear vision, it is so easy to wander aimlessly. It is so easy to merely work and work, and become busy 'doing' lots of things, and the question is whether you are achieving what you should be achieving. A vision keeps you on track. A mission statement highlights what your main purpose is, but a vision gives you an idea of the preferable future for your organisation.

A visionary leader motivates the troops. Without a dynamic vision, people will wander aimlessly not really understanding their purpose within the organisation. A vision helps people be on the same page, and to be striving for the same goals. A good vision will ignite passion in you to see change and transformation. A good vision will see people signing up to be a part of it. See Seth Godin's Blog.
  • What are you doing to inspire vision in the organisation that you are a part of?
  • Do you find there is a greater clarity and direction when you have a clear and purposeful vision?

Obstacles to Visionary Leadership

Commissioner Joe Noland of The Salvation Army, said:

"Do not let your vision be hindered by your resources
Do not let your vision be hindered by your experience
Do not let your vision be hindered by your self-esteem"

When we attempt to fulfil the vision laid on our heart, we inevitable hit roadblocks at times. The question is not whether we will have obstacles in our quest to fulfil vision, but how we will overcome them. Some of the obstacles we might have to reaching our dreams/visions are:
  • Lack of personnel - lack of trained staff, committed volunteers, etc.
  • Lack of resources - finances, buildings, tools/equipment, personnel, etc.
  • Lack of insight - the lack of wisdom and understanding of how to strategically plan to fulfil the vision - i.e. the vision is out of your current capacity!
  • Lack of confidence - young leaders especially question themselves at times, to their current capacity to actually work towards the vision they have.
  • Lack of support/buy-in to the vision - If the vision doesn't touch the heart of the people, and doesn't inspire them, then you will have a tough time reaching the vision on your heart.
We can overcome most obstacles. We need time to sit in our lazy chair and consider the options. We need to plan and learn and discover. I am reminded of Thomas Edison who didn't discover the Light Bulb on his first go; not even on his 20th attempt. It took him hundreds of adaptations to finally fulfil his dream of inventing the light bulb! So, do not give up on the quest for visionary leadership, especially if the vision is a God-honouring, kind of vision.
  • What are the obstacles you currently face to fulfilling the vision on your heart?

Visionary Leadership that Stagnates

'Decline is never the only answer' is an article from Leadership Journal.net. It mentions that nothing defeats the human spirit like stagnation. You know, that place you find yourself, where nothing is moving, nothing is changing, nothing seems to be working. So you stop; you stagnate. (Find the article here).

What needs to change first, is growth of the spirit inside the leader doing the work. That's so true. If the leader has lost the vision, don't expect others to keep the vision very long. When the leader grows in their ability to persevere and be strong, and be passionate, then they will battle against stagnation and decline.

Leaders who have fallen into a pit of despair need to pick themselves up and keep moving. 

Don't fall into the trap of denial - trying to justify to everyone that nothing is really wrong, that nothing really needs to change. Try not to fall into a place where you lack motivation. See the dream, and live it out. Let the vision and working towards its fulfilment be an absolute roller coaster, exciting journey! Don't be dismayed when few people are signing up. 

Consider whether there is something in your leadership style or behaviour that needs to change. Consider whether there is a different approach to the fulfilment of the vision. Maybe you need to head south-west, instead of south-east, so to speak. Consider whether you have let circumstances dictate your feeling about your vision - maybe its time to reengergize people with the value of what the vision/dream will mean, what it will affect, how things will be different when it is fulfilled. Maybe its time to turn the heat up on communicating the vision.

Become a visionary leader! 

Don't let vision stagnate. Don't let mediocrity set in.
  • Is your vision at the forefront of your communication and thinking?

--> ALSO - What is a Visionary and when should I eat that Pie in the Sky?
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Continue the discussion on Visionary Leadership at Disciples in Training on Facebook.
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Pete's Beginner's Guide to Attending Church

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"We love Church!"



Here are some worthwhile tips to keep up your sleeve if you are attending Church for the first time:

Feel free to share this with others!

  1. Lower head when entering car park so as to avoid eye contact with that overly eccentric 50 year old woman holding three umbrellas. 
  2. Always create a diversion, in order to sneak in the front door without being welcomed.
  3. In order to grab a newsletter, you will now have to snatch one off the person in front of you. Normally the words, 'Hey look up there, Jesus has returned' usually works.
  4. Turn phone onto silent and close all untoward APPS that may be open. In fact, delete them.
  5. Smile and politely wave as the Minister up the front embarrasses you during the announcements.
  6. Bring your monopoly money, so as to avoid unnecessary awkwardness if you have nothing to put in the offering bag. 
  7. Ditch the monopoly money idea quickly, if the church are still using offering plates.
  8. Ensure your vocal chords are warmed up prior to the service to avoid any unpleasant sounding 'Hallelujahs'.
  9. Download Bible software onto your i-phone, so you can search for Bible references quickly, and of course so you can play Angry Birds on silent during the expose on Leviticus 19.
  10. If the church is singing, 'Oh, Happy Day', ensure that you hips are working fine.
  11. The Children's story is not the sermon. Don't get your hopes up.
  12. If people are walking down the front after the sermon, check twice if they are going for coffee or not. They may well be giving their lives to Christ, and you're now stuck up the front with no coffee, and a old man who wants to pray with you. Could be life-changing though.
  13. Following the last Amen, make a run for it. Usually a quick nod and a sprint for the door works well. Double check that the ushers have not locked the doors, as you want to refrain from the nose slam into the door frame. 
  14. Lastly, as you leave the Car Park, give it your blessing, and do it all again next week!
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How to be a Sticky Church!

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Quick, CLOSE THE BACK DOOR! All the new people are leaving!

Maybe you've said that before in a local church. How often do we see people visiting a particular faith community, in whatever context it might be, and then see them leave again.

Was the music off key? Was the welcoming lacking? Were the members of the church seemingly judgmental? Did the visitor not like dry, cheap biscuits? Surely they were not the reasons!

Larry Osborne writes a book called Sticky Church and the consensus is that effective small groups are what help to make a sticky church. In fact he goes on to outline that small groups help people interact and connect with each other, something of which you don't particularly get when you gather together for one hour or two a week on a Sunday morning.

Osborne's thoughts in Sticky Church are to align the teaching at the weekly gathering, with the teaching of the small groups. Sure to say, this would take some coordinating, and a shift in culture in many churches. Most of the small groups in my church are off doing their own thing (this can be either good or bad), and drawing people into a common theme would be difficult.

Nonetheless, to close the back door, maybe you need to get those discipleship groups happening effectively in the church.

All that being said, I have heard the music in your church, and it is a little off key!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Holy Spirit Baptism

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The thoughts are going wild, as I consider the role of the Holy Spirit in the individual. So many questions come to mind, and maybe you've come across the same kinds of questions in days gone by:

  • Am I filled with the Holy Spirit?
  • Is there any such thing as a second blessing? Is this the same as the Baptism in the Holy Spirit?
  • Should I speak in tongues? If I don't, am I filled with the Holy Spirit?
While many questions come to mind, some have been too prominent in the minds of people, thus neglecting other important questions like, humanity's role in feeding the poor, or the salvation of the lost or the growing of the Kingdom of God.

Questions about the Holy Spirit are fine. But do not be obsessed with them. Seek after God and the presence of his Spirit, and have some level of peace in your life, on the response that you get from God.

Addicted to Mediocrity - Tips on Beating Apathy and Half-Heartedness

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This is a post I have procrastinated about for months. Maybe that is because half-heartedness is so easy to achieve. Maybe the cause is apathy. The reason is, mediocrity is so much easier!

Leadership teachings tell us, the fulfilment of any vision in life cannot be accomplished with apathy; not at least if the vision is grandiose! Apathy and a mediocre attitude will never allow you to rise up and reach those heights you dream of.

I want to give you some tips on how to beat mediocrity. This is by no means a complete list, but a list that will help you rise up to new heights!

Tips on beating mediocrity and apathy:

  1. Be Decisive - When you are lying in bed wondering whether you should get up or not, you need to be decisive, and choose to get up! When you are sitting in the office wondering whether you should refresh your facebook page, or finish that document you know you need to complete, you must be decisive
  2. Press In - These are the two words my wife Jo and I use often. When things get tough, either physically, emotionally, or spiritually, we look each other in the eye and say, 'It's time to press in'. What we mean by that, is that we are choosing to push on and persevere. The only other choice is to give up, and that is where mediocrity happens! (See Philippians 3:12).
  3. Be a Learner - Mediocrity at times can be closely linked with ignorance. We remain ignorant about a particular subject, and therefore feel alright not to have to do anything about it. Let me give you an example. When you learn, you become informed about information that now requires you to make a choice. When you learn about extreme poverty in Sudan, for example, you are now privy to information that should cause you to respond. Learning about a particular topic can help deal with mediocrity, as it informs you about the topic at hand, and generally can equip you to make an appropriate response (See Daniel 1:3-4). Another example is this: I am mediocre at times with administrative tasks (probably because I put more emphasis on people becoming followers of Jesus than admin!). Part of that apathy and mediocrity about balancing the finances is because of my lack of understanding of the processes and procedures required to fulfil the task. So, if I learn, it helps me deal with mediocrity.
  4. Find Creative Solutions - Sometimes we ebb and flow out of half-heartedness because we lack the capacity to implement an appropriate solution. The challenge, is to continue to learn (as previously stated), and to brainstorm creative solutions to the problems. Rather than giving up, which results in apathy and mediocrity, hone your skills in gathering the right people around you and implementing a creative solution. An example would be a time I had two community groups wanting to hire our facilities at the same time. I procrastinated with responding, because I had not chosen to sit down and nut out a creative solution! Some would relate this to intuition.
  5. Let the Cause Drive You - Mediocrity can be nipped in the bud by allowing the vision you have for your organisation, family, business, church, etc, to be greater than your desire to do nothing! Let the cause be so strong that half-heartedness is not an option! For me, as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I have such a passionate desire to see people saved, set free and part of the journey of faith (see Isaiah 61:1, Matthew 28:19-20 and other Scriptures), that any inkling of giving up, letting go, sitting down or going through the motions, is not an option! If it becomes an option, then I must revisit the original vision I had, and ask myself whether that vision is worth working hard for...
  6. Do it Anyway Attitude - How often are there tasks to complete and expectations to rise up to, and you wonder whether it's worth it? For me, this is often. The choice for me, is a lousy attitude, or a 'Do it anyway' kind of attitude. I can sit and complain about the task at hand (whether it be work, home duties, etc), or I can simply press in, and have a decisive attitude that will finish what it required of me.
Well, I hope those tips on beating apathy and mediocrity were helpful. I write these as a personal challenge for myself in leadership, and hopefully you have been inspired by some of the tips yourself.

Don't be addicted to mediocrity, but committed to excellence.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Healing Diaries - May 2012

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31st May - Well it's the end of May, and we have been praying for the sick, and for those in need of a break through. I just read these words today from Matthew 4:23-24:

Mat 4:23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. Mat 4:24 So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he cured them.
Jesus we lean on YOU for healing today, and Jesus as you healed the sick then, you can heal the sick now. In your will, as you so choose, please bring healing, hope and restoration to us... So that you may be honoured. In Jesus' name!

21st May - We pray for the poor of Monroe Park (a city park in Richmond, Va. U.S.A) as a request from allenharrelson. We pray Jesus for your favour and blessing of the poor and homeless of this city. Lord you seem to have preferential favour towards the poor (Luke 4:18); let the Government of this city have the same. Amen!

21st May - Had the opportunity to pray for @raecheybaby. She mentioned that she had a cold virus that she couldn't shake off. Today we're rebuking that cold virus and asking it to leave Rachel's body, in Jesus name!

20th May - Prayed for @Rebecca_J89. I broke off a spirit of rejection off her life. I prayed for an infilling of joy and that she would be filled with the Holy Spirit to overflowing.




Any Prayer Requests - Click through to the main Healing Diaries page - HERE.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

1 Corinthians 6:1-11 - A Detailed Bible Study of the Passage

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Below is a detailed look at 1 Corinthians 6:1-11. Whether it be Bible Study, Expository Preaching or a Biblical Study, this essay will help you better grasp the Corinthian text and more specifically, lawsuits amongst Christians. This is written by Pete Brookshaw and forms part of Pete's Bible Commentary.


1Cor 6:1 (NRSV)  When any of you has a grievance against another, do you dare to take it to court before the unrighteous, instead of taking it before the saints?
1Cor 6:2  Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases?
1Cor 6:3  Do you not know that we are to judge angels--to say nothing of ordinary matters?
1Cor 6:4  If you have ordinary cases, then, do you appoint as judges those who have no standing in the church?
1Cor 6:5  I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to decide between one believer and another,
1Cor 6:6  but a believer goes to court against a believer--and before unbelievers at that?
1Cor 6:7  In fact, to have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?
1Cor 6:8  But you yourselves wrong and defraud--and believers at that.
1Cor 6:9  Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites,
1Cor 6:10  thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers--none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.
1Cor 6:11  And this is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.


Introduction to 1 Corinthians 6:1-11  

It seems the days of ‘going to court’ and processing a claim to the magistrate about your next door neighbor is not just a contemporary phenomenon. Trials and civil courts have existed for thousands of years and we only need to look to the book of Exodus to read about Moses finding himself swamped by the thousands upon thousands of hearings. Below we will read about Paul and his dealings with the Corinthian church, and especially around his comments on Christians taking other Christians to court, and also his strong comments about sexual immorality and the Kingdom of God.

Firstly we will look at the letter that Paul wrote to the church at Corinth and secondly we will explore the judicial process in Corinth and how it relates to his words to the church. Thirdly, it is helpful to gain perspective on the structure of 1 Cor 6:1-11 within some of the Corinthian letter and then some redaction criticism will be explored. Following this is an interesting exegetical reflection on the ten ‘sins’ or vices that Paul lists in 6:9-10. While the hope is that this specific discussion does not impinge on the overall message of 6:1-11, the exegetical summary is nonetheless helpful for those that wish to embark on a hermeneutic on a discussion about sexuality that is relevant in contemporary culture. Lastly, we look briefly at the style of writing of the Apostle Paul.


The Corinthian Church and Corinth

Paul wrote at least four letters to the Corinthian church; one of those prior to 1 Corinthians and one following 2 Corinthians. In recent history the integrity of 1 Corinthians has been called into question, with some arguing the letter in fact was more than one letter, but most are agreeable to Paul writing 1 Corinthians in whole, as one letter (Murphy-O’Connor, 1996: 253-254).  Witherington writes that, ‘Corinth was a bustling and prosperous metropolis of perhaps seventy to eighty thousand inhabitants in Paul’s day’ (1995: 18). It was a city with wealth, especially following the building of the road connecting the Peloponnese and the Greek mainland (or the Aegean Sea and the Gulf of Corinth). Actually, by the time Paul was visiting Corinth in the 50s, the city was on its way to being the richest city in all of Greece (Witherington, 1995: 5).

The exact purpose of 1 Corinthians is debatable, though Paul definitely writes this letter to highlight some moral issues affecting the Corinthian Church, and the response required from the people. How Paul learns of the issues in Corinth, whether it be issues of sexual immorality, marriage, lawsuits, etc, is probably through a letter from Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus. This was a letter sent back to Paul as a response to Paul’s first letter (prior to the 1 Corinthians text) (Neufeld, 2000: 381).  
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The Judicial Process in Corinth

Before exploring Paul’s reasons for challenging the Corinthian church regarding litigation, a brief overview of the judicial process in Corinth is helpful. There was a three step process for civil cases, which was:
1.      The plaintiff would speak to the magistrate requesting a case to be considered. The magistrate would then decide whether the potential case had merit and if so, then a ‘formula’ would be created listing the case details/facts.
2.      The magistrate would then assign a judge that both parties agreed upon.
3.      The judge would hear the case and pass down a ruling.
(see Witherington, 1995: 162)

With this process in mind, the question to ponder is why Paul was so forthright to the Corinthian church about not going to secular courtrooms. Many of the issues of litigation in the church of Corinth were due to the fact that certain members of the congregation were making judgments and acting on the basis of the wisdom of the world rather than the wisdom of God. For them, the wisdom of the world was equated with “knowledge” (gnosis), a kind of philosophic wisdom referred to as Gnosticism, which governed their attitude and actions.

Even more frustrating to Paul, was the fact that some Corinthian Christians were wealthy and were exploiting the judicial process. The reason a wealthy person could exploit the system, was that they were able to utilise a lawyer with great oratory skills that gave them an unfair advantage. The advantage came, because, the cases were not so much judged on merit, but more on the social standing of the lawyer and plaintiff/defendant. Garnsey (cited in Witherington, 1995: 163) says, ‘The principal criterion of legal privilege in the eyes of the Romans was dignitas or honor derived from power, style of life, and wealth’. Understandably then, Paul’s tone and rhetorical expression is quite forthright, like 6:2, ‘are you incompetent to try trivial cases?’ As Hering says, ‘Paul expects the believers in Corinth to settle such embarrassingly small squabbles outside of the civil courts’ (2010: 1) and not take attempt to squander money from other Christians. Does this enter Paul’s mind when he mentions ‘the greedy’ as one of the list of sins in 6:10?


Structure of Passage

Without delving into the entire structure of 1 Corinthians, we see that chapter 5 and chapter 6 are closely linked. W. Deming argues for unity between 1 Cor 5 and 6, and writes, ‘there has been a single case of sexual misconduct that has resulted in the Corinthians’ engaging in legal actions in secular courts’ (cited in Soards, 1999: 125). More preferably is that chapters 5 and 6 are closely linked, with the former referring to case about incest, and 6:1-11 referring to a case about property (Witherington, 1995: 164). Interestingly though, is that 6:12-20 refers once again to sexual immorality, and thus 6:1-11 is somewhat sandwiched in between this ongoing topic.

A structure we might use to highlight these passages is as follows:

5:1 – 6:20 – Problems with sexual immorality and law suits
1.      The case about incest (5:1-5)
2.      Purity of the community (5:6-8)
3.      Differentiation from world ways (5:9-13)
4.      Christians and Legal Cases (6:1-8)
5.      Kingdom expectations (6:9-11)
6.      Challenge to flee from sexual immorality
(adapted from Interpreter’s Bible, 1953: 12)


Redaction Criticism

In 1Cor 6:2-3 Paul makes apocalyptic claims that one day the saints (those who are justified and sanctified) will judge the world. Soards mentions that Paul is adapting Jewish apocalyptic material; material that outlines the day of final judgment (1999: 122). The verse is most likely derived from Daniel 7:22[1], but also from other sources such as Wisdom of Solomon (3:8)[2], Jubilees 24:29, Enoch 38:5, 95:3 (Orr, 1976: 194; Barrett, 1971: 136). While Jesus refers to Christians judging others in the end alongside the twelve tribes of Israel, Paul would not have had access to Matthew’s complete gospel, as the first letter to the Corinthians was produced around 55AD and the Gospel of Matthew most likely in the 60s. This being said, Paul’s theology on Christian judgment does correlate well with those particular words of Jesus (see also Luke 22:30) (Soards, 1999: 125). The point of the verse though, is that since Christians will one day judge the world, why then would you litigate amongst judges on earth, who are from pagan courtrooms?

Paul’s reference to the saints judging angels (v. 3), interestingly is not sourced from Old Testament Scriptures. The Jewish apocalyptic sources explain that some angels rebelled against God, and were thus cast out of heaven, including Satan (Orr, 1976: 194), and Paul assumedly has that in mind. Orr writes that Paul elevates the saints to the work of judgment of the world and of angels, because, ‘the church is the habitation of the Spirit’ (1976: 194). While vague, the point seems to be, that because Paul believes strongly that believers, have Christ ‘in them’, and Christ works ‘through them’, they have the privilege of judgment at the end times. While, exegetically, judging angels is difficult to comprehend, the message Paul is really trying to communicate is that if we will have this privilege of judging angels one day, then surely Christians can be decisive on trivial cases, and work them out amongst themselves.


The Ten Vices

In 6:9-10, Paul lists ten vices, five of which relate to sexual issues, and the others of thievery, drunkenness, slandering, swindling and greediness. The inspiration behind the mentioned vices is important, as it adds or subtracts validity to the significance of the response of the Corinthian people to Paul’s ‘catalogue of vices’. Some argue (Weiss, Lietzmann, Conzelmann and Scroggs) that the vices listed in 6:9-10, ‘are not of individual contextual significance in this epistle, but should be regarded as a generalized form reflecting stereotypical ethical material drawn from Stoic, Cynic, or satirical sources…’ (Thiselton, 2000: 441). C.H. Dodd provides are more sound approach when he argues, conversely, that Paul’s ethics flow from a response to the gospel (: 442). When we take Dodd’s approach, the list from Paul becomes not merely some memorized verse from Stoic Philosophy, or irrelevant vices from a Greco-Roman background, but rather, they become behaviours and morals relevant to the Christian Corinthian people. 

From an overview of the culture of Corinth, we see this place as a place of rampant sexual activity, a place in fact known, for its, ‘elegant and expensive women’ (Achtemeier, 2001: 329). This letter to the Corinthian church is in fact a challenge to the ethical behaviours of the church that are coinciding too closely with these worldly activities in Corinth. More specifically, the verses in 6:9-10 are once again challenging the morality of the Corinthian church; and we see similar challenges in preceding verses such as 5:1, 5:9, etc. To say then, as mentioned previous, that Paul is just grabbing material from Stoic and other sources, undermines the value of what Paul is actually saying. He is rebuking and challenging the Corinthian church about issues that relate to them, and so is writing intentionally to them, and listing vices that are relevant to these problems.    

The vices are important to explore, because immediately preceding 6:9-10, is the statement that, ‘wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God’. Wrongdoers (NRSV), is the Greek word αδικοι which is an adjective that Paul uses, which others denote as wicked (NIV), unrighteous (KJV) or people who do evil (NJB). So Paul is clearly writing, that those who partake in the vices listed, are ‘wrongdoers’ (clearly not as harsh as NIV’s ‘wicked’), and that in consequence of this, will not inherit the kingdom of God. We find similar lists of vices from Paul (Rom 1:29-31, Gal 5:19-21), but we understand Paul is writing to the Corinthian church, and through this list is highlighting specific issues of morality within the Corinthian church.

Two of the sins listed require further exegetical comment, because of the contemporary discussion that surrounds them. Of interest are the two words that NRSV render, ‘male prostitutes and sodomites’, which in Greek are μαλακοι (malakoi) and αρσενοκοιται (arsenokoitai) respectively. The former is defined vaguely as ‘soft ones’, or as Thiselton notes, ‘In hellenistic literature of the Roman period it may mean effeminate when applied to men’ (2000: 448). Some authors argue for a definition related to pederasty[3] (Witherington, 1995 : 166), Scroggs argues specifically for a call boy who prostitutes his services to an older male, and Barrett defines it as, ‘the passive...partner...in male homosexual relations’ (cited in Thiselton, 2000: 449). There is less ambiguity on the latter of the two vices, (αρσενοκοιται)[4], which is clearly, the act of the sexual relationship between two males.

V. P. Furnish has his own opinion:

Exactly how Paul is using the two terms remains in dispute...Is he thinking of all kinds of homosexual relationships, or only of pederasty? Or only of male prostitution? For this reason, and also because one is dealing only with a list, 1 Cor 6:9 can be of little help in ascertaining Paul’s attitude towards homosexual practice (cited in Thiselton, 2000: 449).

Furnish’s supposition that we can know little of Paul’s attitude toward homosexual practice based on 1 Cor 6:9 is implausible. Paul clearly lists the sexual relationship between two males as an act that consequently will not inherit the kingdom of God. There is no doubt that vagueness remains on the definition of μαλακοι, but we are still left with the strong impression that Paul believes God does not look favourably upon active homosexuality in the Corinthian context.






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Style

Some stylistic methods of Paul have been alluded to already, and when we glance at 6:1-11, we are no doubt struck by Paul’s use of a diatribe style and consistent rhetorical questions. ‘The rhetorical expression in 1 Cor. 6:1-11 are to be taken as particular kinds of speech acts designed to challenge the behaviour of the Corinthians [that are] not in accord with Paul’s code of expected social behaviour’ (Neufeld, 2000: 375).


Conclusion
While the days of entering courtrooms still exists today, we have seen Paul’s reaction to parts of the litigation process in relation to Christians wishing to sue other Christians. We gained firstly an insight into the wealthy aspects of first century Corinth, and the culture to which Paul writes his letter. By looking at the judicial process of the day, we saw the manipulation of the courts to have cases benefit those of a higher socio-economic, and this was the circumstances wealthy Corinthian Christians were involved in. We see within the structure of 6:1-11, a piece sandwiched between two stories/examples of sexual immorality. The discussion also delves deeper into the list of ten sins that Paul writes from 6:9-10, and explores the exegetical nuances of Paul’s writing about the topic. No doubt, the contemporary issues and questions that arise from Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth would be interesting to explore, whether it be controversial topics like homosexuality, or whether Christians, in any circumstances should sue other Christians today. Hopefully then, the exegetical foundation is set, for the possibility of developing a sound, challenging hermeneutic for the church today.

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This bible study essay was written by Pete Brookshaw (copyright, 2010). This forms part of Pete's Bible Commentary. CLICK HERE.
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BIBLIOGRAPHY

Achtemeier, Paul J. & Green, Joel B. & Thompson, Marianne Meye. (2001). Introducing the New              Testament: Its Literature and Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans  Publishing Company.

Barrett, C. K. (1971). A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians. (pp. 134-143). London: A         & C Black.

Buttrick, George Arthur, et. al. (1953). The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 10. Nashville: Abingdon Press.

Conzelmann, Hans (1975). 1 Corinthians: A commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians.   Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Hering, James (2010). Paul and the Issue of Litigation in 1 Corinthians 6. Erskine Theological         Seminary.

Neufeld, Dietmar. (2000). Acts of Admonition and Rebuke: A Speech Act Approach to 1 Corinthians         6:1-11. Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden.

Orr, William F. & Walther, James Arthur (1976). 1 Corinthians: The Anchor Bible. (pp. 192 – 204). Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company.

Prior, David. (1985). The Message of 1 Corinthians. (The Bible Speaks Today). England: Inter-Varsity        Press.

Soards, Marion L. (1999). New International Biblical Commentary: 1 Corinthians. Peabody,           Massachusetts; Hendrickson Publishers.

Thiselton, Anthony C. (2000). The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text.         Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Witherington III, Ben. (1995). Conflict & Community in Corinth: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1       and 2 Corinthians. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

[1] Dan 7:22 – ‘...until the Ancient One came; then judgment was given for the holy ones of the Most High, and the time arrived when the holy ones gained possession of the kingdom.’
[2] ‘They will govern nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord will reign over them forever.’
[3] Pederasty – Sexual relations between two males, especially when one of them is a minor (Dictionary.com)
[4] αρσενοκοιται (arsenokoitai) – Scroggs interprets αρσενοκοιται as an idiom which is derived from the LXX[4], namely Lev 18:22 and Lev 20:13[4]. He interprets that Paul’s declaration in 1 Cor 6:10 is therefore condemning Homosexual activity in relation to what Lev 18:22 and 20:13 says (Soards, 1999: 126).

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