On Pastoral Plagiarism

In Jeremiah 23:30, God spoke to Jeremiah strikingly about the false prophets who “ . . . steal from one another words supposedly from me . . .” Not only were the words that they were speaking delusions that claimed to be from God, they were copying each other’s words. With a closer look at the whole passage and chapter where Jeremiah prophesies about the false prophets, it is evident that God considered his Word not only to be his own possession, but to some extent the possession of the prophet to whom he had given his Word, and therefore, he termed taking the words of another man of God and presenting them as one’s own as an act of theft.

One of the biggest temptations to a pastor is that he may become a spiritual copycat and take what was presented in the preaching and teaching of other pastors and teachers of the Word as his own. There will always be an influence on the spiritual life and therefore the preaching and teaching of a pastor from the preaching and teaching of those he has heard and read. No pastor is a spiritual island, or the first one to whom the Word of God has come. Yet plagiarism is considered a form of academic dishonesty and theft, and throughout church history there have been those who have spoken out against it. It’s ironic that Charles Haddon Spurgeon, one of the most plagiarized preachers over the past century and a half, was one of the most outspoken critics of plagiarism in the pulpit himself.

The first guideline to avoid being a plagiarizing pastor is simply: acknowledge when you are citing the words of someone else as a corroborating, more experienced or more eloquent witness or authority with specialized knowledge in your preaching and teaching. If possible and appropriate, give the name of the source of a citation, either as as direct quote or paraphrase, and something about who that person is and why what that person said or wrote is relevant.

Even if it somehow does not seem to be appropriate to name a source directly, don’t try to give the impression that you are the real source if  you are in fact echoing the words of someone else. For instance, in my first church, one of the women recognized one of the stories which I used as an illustration was from a devotional booklet she had read. When she asked me, I acknowledged to her that it was the source, and that I took my sermon illustrations from many other sources as well, such as my personal experience and my personal reading of Christian and historical literature.

Of course, it’s hard to give footnotes when a person is preaching and teaching. It is a good idea, though, to indicate that the insight you may be sharing is not specific to you, that it may reflect universal Christian experience, that it may come from others with specialized knowledge in the Biblical languages, history or archaeology, or that it  may simply be stated in words more eloquent than you can formulate. No one expects a pastor to have all possible or available knowledge of the Biblical languages, history, background or theology, or to be the only one who can express something succinctly or aptly. Congregations do expect a pastor to do his preparation for preaching, and for it not to be merely a statement of a pastor’s personal opinions, notions and preferences, but to be based upon the scriptures, to be a reasonable explanation of what the scriptures mean, to reflect universal, realistic and attainable Christian belief and practice, and to be stated in an understandable and attractive way. Being able to point to these kinds of influences can be a tremendous bolster to the credibility of a pastor.

There are also times when a pastor can credibly preach the sermons of others, and if a pastor does this, he should acknowledge that he is using or adapting the sermons of someone else. For instance, Billy Graham preached the classic Jonathan Edwards sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” during the Los Angeles crusades, when he himself was running out of prepared sermons due to the crusade meetings being extended. A seminary professor of mine once memorized and preached the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5-7. Moreover, V. Raymond Edman preached some of the sermons of Charles Finney during the Wheaton Revival. They all acknowledged this publicly, though, and there is no indication that their ministries were ever strongly dependent on preaching what others had previously preached or written.

Certainly, then, pastors need to make sure that the majority of their preaching and teaching comes from personal study of the Word of God and preparation time. While others in the body of Christ, and others who have preached and taught the Word of God through the ages may have had a great influence on a pastor, seek to formulate your own sermons and lessons as much as you can from your own study of the Word, prayer and pastoral ministry. In the age of Google there is more material available than ever before. In the past sermon-stealers relied on collections of Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s sermons a lot, and I’ve seen some pastors who were sons of pastors preach their father’s sermons without any acknowledgment. But God  definitely holds the pastor responsible to receive the Word of God personally (James 1:22-25) and handle the Word of God accurately (II Timothy 2:15), and most congregations expect that as well.

Finally, don’t bad mouth someone personally, living or dead, in the pulpit, or through any kind of insinuations, to whom you are indebted for any part of your preaching and teaching. I frankly don’t know how anyone could ever expect God to bless his ministry with conviction and power who does this, but I’ve seen it happen. No one expects a pastor to agree with everything that someone else said and wrote who has been an influence on his preaching and teaching, but it seems that there is something dishonest, hypocritical and even malicious if a pastor takes insights and material from someone else and then disparages, demeans or disdains that person in any way. Scripture says, “Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor” (Galatians 6:6) and “Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold hem in the highest regard in love because of their work” (I Thessalonians 5:12-13). This would definitely apply to giving due respect to those whose preaching and teaching has been a positive influence on one’s own preaching and teaching.

So, if you are a pastor now, if you were to be in a secular job, would you present a report which someone else had written or to which someone else had contributed as your work alone? If you were to reply no, that that would be dishonest, it’s the same kind of matter with a sermon. To present something that another person has written or spoken, when that person has put in the time and effort to go into the Word and formulate its truth and has communicated it to others, as if it were your work alone is just as dishonest.

Bureaucrats and Solomon’s Last Rant

“If you see the poor oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things; for one official is eyed by a higher one, and over them both are others still higher. The increase from the land is taken by all; the king himself profits from the fields” (Ecclesiastes 5:8-9).

One of the biggest arguments against any kind of idealization of government redistribution of incomes is the Old Testament itself and the writings of the prophets such as Isaiah and Micah in particular. It should be noticeable that while the prophets do decry wealth, the wealth that they decry is not all wealth, but wealth from illegitimate means – wealth taken from others through fraud and oppression – in other words, ill gotten gain. And they definitely do have no illusions about the integrity of government officials in their own time.

Solomon himself included a terse and apt description of this in the book of the Bible that might be entitled, “Solomon’s Last Rant.” The passage in Ecclesiastes above is the general experience of the middle and lower classes under the empire states of the ancient Near East. The empires of the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians and Persians, as the later empires of the Macedonians and the Romans, exacted taxes, tolls and tributes through a series of officials that went all the way up to the supreme ruler – the king or emperor. The tremendous sums that were exacted came from the taxation of the subject peoples. For Israelites, this would have meant additional levies beyond the tithe that they normally gave to the support of the Temple, the priests and the Levites. Depending on the honesty and rapacity of the officials of the empire, these taxes could be quite onerous, and result in a tremendous transfer of wealth from the small farmers, artisans and merchants that were a large part of the peoples in an ancient empire-state.

This is something that is definitely mentioned in Biblical accounts: that poverty can result from government oppression, and especially, a corrupt government where the officials exact their cuts from the productivity of the population. The corruptibility of government officials, due to the corruptibility of their human nature, should be a definite caution to any Bible believing Christian that would see governmental redistribution as a solution to human need and poverty. That governmental officials might find the money that they exact in the course of their office something that they would skim off for their own advantage rather than something that they might use for the good of the population should not be something that Christians find either astonishing or even improbable.

What’s In It For ME? Another Neglected Passage in Preaching and Teaching

“Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said to himself, ‘My master was too easy on Naaman, this Aramean, by not accepting from him what he brought. As surely as the LORD lives, I will run after him as get something from him’” (II Kings 5:20).

As I was reading this passage yesterday morning, I realized that I had never heard any preaching or teaching on this passage, save possibly once about 22 years ago in a Sunday evening service. I don’t remember even hearing this passage referred to as a scriptural illustration, when another passage is the text of the sermon, though it could well be used as such, or any other passing allusion to it in any preaching and teaching. Yet in this passage there is an account of a man, the assistant to a great prophet, shaking down a new believer for an outrageous contribution to be diverted to his personal account. Is anything more relevant to today than this? Here are some ‘expository thoughts’ on how this passage could be used in preaching and teaching.

First, there is a great contrast of Gehazi the Israelite assistant of Elisha against Naaman the Aramean warrior general. It could well be said that Gehazi was the practical pagan in this situation, while Naaman was everything that Gehazi as an Israelite should have been. Gehazi was in this situation the man of unbelief and disobedience, though he had lived in proximity to Elisha the man of God. Though he saw the reality and power of the God of Israel through the ministry of Elisha, and probably through the ministry of Elisha’s mentor Elijah, little of their faith and obedience influenced his actions in this situation. Yet Naaman became the man of faith and obedience in this situation, though his pedigree as an Aramean and his background as a pagan would seem to have predicted differently. Naaman had been marked by his past as being distant from the things of God, but became someone who received the grace of God by the obedience of faith as demonstrated in this passage.

Second, this passage shows what really happens with what some may excuse as ‘white lies’ (who’s it really going to hurt?) and their consequences. Gehazi told a big lie to Naaman when he passed on a message purportedly from Elisha (II Kings 5:22). He then told a big lie to Elisha when he denied running after Naaman to shake him down for a contribution (II Kings 5:25). This passage shows a common pattern of lying, of telling a lie to defraud and another lie to cover the first lie. There are some passages in scripture where the lies of people of faith are simply reported without condemnation, though they are not held up as something for believers to imitate or to excuse the deliberate lies of believers. Another passage which shows the casual, sanctimonious lie and its consequence is the lie of the old prophet to the young prophet in I Kings 13:19, or the lies of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah (Genesis 12:13, 18, 20:2 and 26:7).

Third, this passage is an egregious example of someone trying to make a profit or get a commission from the grace of God – something Paul described as making merchandise of the gospel (II Corinthians 2:17). Here Gehazi is pursuing personal profit with a false religious veneer – the great temptation of those who handle material things and money in the church of Jesus Christ. Elisha rebuked this seeking after rich clothes to make himself look good and money to invest in real estate and in a good life for himself (II Kings 5:26). He seemed to have an underlying attitude of entitlement, that “I’m entitled to what was given to God.” This passage could therefore be brought in as a Biblical illustration for passages such as I Timothy 6:3-10, where Paul wrote about people who think that “ . . . godliness is a means to financial gain” (I Timothy 6:5).

Smaller profits, but with the same grasping tendency, come with the much underreported and much under-rebuked sins of church pilfering. It’s worth noting that Judas, as the treasurer of the disciples, was often dipping into the till (John 12:4-6), and got the other disciples worked up when his motive was to get some for himself.  While I don’t wish to dwell on the sins of my brothers and sisters, I do believe that many believers are spiritually stymied because they have allowed money and items given for the work of God to stick to their fingers when they passed through their stewardship; like Achan, they saw something that they felt that they needed or wanted and grabbed it out of what had been devoted to God (Joshua 5:20-21). For example, Jim Cymbala, in his book Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire reported that there were these kinds of problems in his small church, such as pilfering from the offering by church officers, before revival struck. I think that it does bear asking church leaders and church members whether there are things in their possession which were never given to them, such as church library books and hymnals, or which were given for other purposes, or whether they have misused finances for their own advantage, or even had done such things as use church telephones to make personal long distance calls. Certainly confession and financial restitution when this has happened has often been a mark of genuine revival. Even more, it’s a good reason to make sure that ushers and church treasurers are being honest with the offering, particularly where there are cash contributions, and that there is no pilfering or misdirection to personal needs money and items given to God.

Next, this passage shows someone who was close to a genuine man of God taking advantage of someone else because of prejudice against that person. Gehazi very definitely saw Naaman’s pedigree as an Aramean as the basis that he was someone whom he could rightly take advantage of. Apparently he thought that Naaman deserved to be taken advantage of because he was from a different nation and a pagan background. Yet Naaman became practically an Israelite in faith because of his newfound devotion to the God of Israel, and shaking him down for a contribution was at least as bad as defrauding a fellow Israelite.

This passage also shows an egregious example also of taking advantage of someone who has experienced the grace of God and whose generosity was motivated by love and gratitude to God. It’s hard to find any words to describe how reprehensible, wicked and hypocritical it is for anyone – especially someone who might be in church leadership and has to stand before others in the church in a position of preaching and teaching — to see someone else’s love to God as a an opportunity to manipulate and exploit that person. It’s hard to see how there can be any love to God in a heart which sees someone else who has come into a fresh and life changing experience of the grace of God as a chump and patsy, as someone who is gullible and exploitable upon any kind of false pretext.

Next, this passage also shows Gehazi taking advantage of someone else who had abundance by fraud. Of course Naaman had more than he needed because of his position and authority. Of course he would never miss what he actually gave to Gehazi. But these definitely did not excuse his spiritualized fraud. The law of Israel had forbidden theft by fraud, and this passage definitely contradicts any excuse that it might be justified because the person defrauded will never miss it. This shows another pattern of defrauding that happens among the people of God – seeking personal gain at someone else’s expense. In fact, a whole scriptural pattern of defrauding could be summed up in the phrase seeking personal gain – money, prestige and reputation primarily – at the expense of someone else – theft through lies rather than through force and intimidation. In contrast, for all his faults, Abraham would not allow himself to be prospered at someone else’s expense (Genesis 14:23).

Even more, this passage shows that Gehazi had been following not the standard not of godliness in all things, big and small. His position as the servant of Elijah may well have been as his apprentice for future ministry, as his possible successor, as Elisha had been to Elijah and Joshua had been to Moses. Yet this passage reveals that his standard of righteousness was anything that he thought that he could get away with was all right. This standard of unfaithfulness in matters of honesty and obedience in matters both large and small has doubtless been the beginning of the shipwreck of many ministers and many promising leaders in the church. It is in contradiction to the explicit expectations of Jesus himself: “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with very much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with very much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own? No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Luke 16:10-13 – when was the last time you heard this passage mentioned in preaching and teaching? ).

Finally, Gehazi was marked with the disease that Naaman had had previously. This was the mark of the disease of his soul and the discipline of God upon his life. While certainly many brothers and sisters in Christ have often jumped to harsh judgments about the causes of hardships in the lives of other believers, nevertheless hardship is a time to ask God to search one’s own heart and life (Psalm 19:14 and 139:23-24, Hebrews 12:7-11). This application of the passage is not intended to be the basis of a self righteous judgment that someone could stand up and thunder down on another believer, in contradiction to Matthew 7:1-10, but rather as an application of the passage that each believer should search out in his or her own heart and life when under hardship that could reasonably be the discipline of God.

I think that too often believers themselves do not consider that the source of their hardships may be the discipline of God. In my personal reading, I’ve started back in with The Gulag Archipelago, and it’s noteworthy how Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn wrote about how he came to this practice in his own life, on the advice of a fellow convict in the Soviet gulags. He noted with apparent deep regret how the conduct of the backstabber that led to his own imprisonment was not that different than his own exploitation of his position as an officer before he was arrested. He noted how many times afflictions do seem to replicate the sins that we ourselves have committed. “You know what commands we gave you through the Lord Jesus. This is the will of God, your sanctification . . . not to transgress and act out of greed in a practical matter toward one’s brother, because the Lord is the avenger of all these things . . . “ (I Thessalonians 4:2-3, 6 – Dale’s sight translation). It’s worth consideration, then, how many of the hardships we may have may come from incidents where we might have acted like Gehazi, with lies, greed, self aggrandizement and self indulgence, and God is allowing us to experience the consequences of our own sins. Many times our disappointments are well deserved, if we look at our own conduct first. Our own confession and restitution is the scriptural response when we realize this.

A pastor who preaches on this passage and applies it might reasonably expect to step on some toes in some congregations. It’s therefore reasonable for the pastor to draw the application but do it in a way that avoids pointing a finger at someone, especially if you know of real life cases of people in the congregation who have acted like Gehazi in one way or another. This realization should then drive the pastor to prayer so that he may be bathed in the love, wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit, so he would preach and teach on this passage as if he were Jesus Christ himself opening up this passage to his congregation.

All scripture references taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, copyright 1973, 1978 by the International Bible Society and used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

The Social Behavior of the Abuser

Updated!

Over and over I have seen documented several behavioral patterns in the abusive person. The truth is that these kinds of obsessively controlling and vindictive people act in some common ways, and yet others cooperate with them a lot because they do not recognize the kind of wicked web in which they are participating. These kinds of abusers can be men or women, and their targets can be men or women. They may be family members or not. These patterns of behavior can take place when the targets are marital partners, family members, or people with whom there is some kind of workplace or social contact or interaction. The target may be well aware of the abuser’s malicious and aggressive intentions, and be avoiding them as much as possible, even to such actions as changing jobs, changing churches, changing contact information such as telephone numbers or email addresses, moving away. It’s also entirely possible that the abuser is so well practiced and so devious and downright sneaky that the target may not have seen any of the red flags which others have seen, so that the target may be unaware of the other person’s malicious and destructive agenda and may not have discerned these intentions yet.

Here are the patterns I’ve seen documented in the literature and in real life:

RED FLAG # 1: The abusive person talks about his or her targets behind their backs a lot.

The amount of talking about someone who is not there is one of the easiest markers to discern. It’s no exaggeration that one of the abusive person’s favorite topics of conversation is the target, when the target is not there or within earshot. The abusive person may have no visible closeness to the target – perhaps no ongoing relationship at all — and yet claim good and wonderful intentions and a special closeness and relationship with the targets. Moreover, the abusive person mixes a grain of truth with a gallon of falsehood and exaggeration about the targets, and, when these are exposed as lies, tries to justify it by loudly drawing attention to ‘the grain of truth.’ And what goes for the grain of truth may simply have been offhand remarks, small talk twisted to vicious and belittling extremes, and isolated incidents of things said and done far in the past.

This kind of backbiting and backstabbing is often tolerated because the abuser puts on his or her charm, and tries to make it entertaining by mixing it with mockery, ridicule and counterfeit compassion. The purpose is to isolate the target socially and to make the target a recipient of ridicule and contempt.

It only takes several reminders from scripture to show the wickedness of this subtle but pernicious behavior:

  • “Whoever conceals his hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a fool.” (Proverbs 10:18).
  • When words are many, sin is not absent . . . “ (Proverbs 10:19)
  • “A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends . . .” (Proverbs 16:28).
  • “A wicked man listens to evil lips; a liar pays attention to a malicious tongue.” (Proverbs 17:4).
  • “A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much.” (Proverbs 20:19)

Several extremely reasonable questions can usually bring this to a stop. I’ve adapted these from Neil Anderson and Charles Mylander, Setting Your Church Free: A Biblical Plan to Help Your Church.

  1. What is your reason for telling anyone/ me this?
  2. Where did I / you get your information?
  3. Have you gone directly to the source?
  4. Have you personally checked out all the facts?
  5. Will you allow yourself to be quoted on this?

It’s also reasonable to ask, on any past incidents or statements asserted as having come from the target, about when and where it happened. Information about other people has an extremely short shelf life, and it may be found to have long past the ‘expiration date’ of having any reasonable validity.

RED FLAG # 2: The abusive person recruits others to spy on his or her targets.

It’s amazing how naive and gullible people can be when the abuser seeks to get information on his or her targets. The abuser seduces them into being his spies and informants. This often accelerates when the targets start to distance themselves from the abuser. The spies, which become known as the dupes and henchmen of the abuser, apparently do not make the connection that the reason the targets distance themselves from the abusers is because they find the abusers to be dishonest, untrustworthy, envious, and cruel.

It’s noteworthy that no one in scripture who is wearing a ‘white hat’ – Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Hezekiah, Josiah, Paul, and especially Jesus – ever did anything like this. Rather, it is the ones with ‘black hats’ – Saul (I Samuel 22:8) and Tobiah (Nehemiah 6:19) especially – who do this. Moreover, one of the common complaints against the unrighteous in the Psalms is that they engage in this kind of spying and gossiping on others. This kind of behavior therefore cannot be justified as having any scriptural basis in either precept or example.

RED FLAG # 3: The abuser stalks the target from place to place and sometimes for years.

This is a particularly strong red flag, and it can in fact be a felony in many US states. Here is the Ohio definition of ‘Menacing by Stalking’ (Ohio Revised Code 2901.211):

No person by engaging in a pattern of conduct shall knowingly cause another person to believe that the offender will cause physical harm to the other person or cause mental distress to the other person . . . .

The pattern of conduct includes . . . a threat of physical harm to or against the victim . . . and thus would include repeated attempts of deliberate physical intimidation.

“Mental distress” means any of the following:

Any mental illness or condition that involves some temporary substantial incapacity;

Any mental illness or condition that would normally require psychiatric treatment, psychological treatment, or other mental health services, whether or not any person requested or received psychiatric treatment, psychological treatment, or other mental health services.

There is much more to the statute, of course. This kind of behavior is often is characteristic of the obsessive controller or person who will not let go of a grudge. This kind of person will often continue to try to ‘get at’ the target even if the target tries to put some distance between himself and herself and the abuser. Any believer should therefore beware of anyone that tries to get  a group in a church fellowship or in any kind of ministry situation to play tormenting games against someone else as  kind of vicious entertainment, to ‘mess with his or her mind’, and understand that the other person may well be trying to incite others to conduct which is not only unChristlike and unscriptural, but also probably illegal and may potentially rise to the level of  felonious conduct.

RED FLAG # 4: The abuser makes insinuations against the mental stability of the targets.

False accusations of mental illness and instability by abusers are one of the most common markers that the abuser is pursuing some malicious and vindictive agenda. It’s amazing how so few note how eminently unqualified the abusers are to make any such allegations and amateur diagnoses. They often throw out labels in a pretense of a sophisticated understanding of mental illness. This works for a little while because they know that others may not understand and will not take the trouble to verify what the abuser is actually saying.

There are two possible bases for the insinuations that may be evident. The first is that the target may actually be going through some life crisis, and may actually be suffering in some way. Or the abuser has heard of a previous life crisis of the target, and is presenting to others the past suffering of the target as an ongoing and present reality. It’s actually normal, though, for a person to be sad and hurt over a lost relationship, sudden unemployment, the death of a relative or some other life crisis for a period of time. It’s extremely cruel and callous for anyone to insinuate this kind of normal reaction is any kind of mental illness or evidence of any kind of mental instability. Rather, it fits into the abuser’s campaign to isolate and torment the target, to exploit their times of suffering to deepen the misery that they want to inflict on the target.

The second possible justification is that the alleged mental illness and instability of the target is actually the sadness, hurt and avoidance from the prolonged suffering caused by the abuser. Over the past few years some psychiatrists have come to the conclusion that some sufferers of depression, for example, are simply in prolonged abusive relationships, and that medicating them for depression amounts to anesthetizing the victim of abuse to the effects of the abuse – which is exactly what the abuser wants. The person who actually is demonstrating mental instability is the abuser. One of the signs that this is true is that after a period of separation from the abuser the target starts to show less evidence of sadness and hurt and starts to get back to getting closer to others. This time of separation, when the target is visibly more ‘normal,’ sometimes alerts others, then, that the behavior of the abuser is the real problem.

It’s logical to inquire very pointedly about the qualifications and reasoning of anyone who makes any insinuations about the mental stability of any adult who has not been professionally diagnosed and is not under professional care. Upon honest examination many times these will be found to be slander. Moreover, it is reasonable for anyone who hears any gossip about anyone who actually is undergoing any kind of professional care to put a stop to it, since such gossip and insinuations are practically never the business of the recipients of the gossip. Moreover, this kind of slander often seems to be an effort to undermine legitimate efforts by the targets to overcome past difficulties and suffering, to put and keep them having to deal with isolated incidents far in the past, and to grow and go deeper in the Lord. And again, this kind of behavior can have severe legal consequences for the abuser, with consequences spelled out in slander, libel and stalking statutes.

RED FLAG # 5: The abuser exercises assumed and legitimate authority in a Satanic, not a Christ like, manner.

The abuser often assumes authority over others that he or she has not earned, or may seek some legitimate authority. The abuser’s exercise of authority is most definitely not in a Christ like way. Moreover, it is indicated in scripture and throughout the experience of Christians around the world and throughout history, that these kinds of leaders are often under demonic deception. At times they become troubled over their behavior, but the deep and stubborn pride that goes along with the deception often precludes facing the truth and coming the depth of repentance needed to escape the net of deception.

  • The abuser sees authority as authority over other people for self aggrandizement. For him or her, authority is not a place of responsibility before God to glorify God and a place to serve others in a Christ like fashion (Luke 24:24-27, I Peter 5:2, II Corinthians 1:24).
  • The abuser does not serve as an example of his or her own expectations, but demonstrates incredible hypocrisy in the conduct of his or her office (I Peter 5:3).
  • The abuser is incredibly dishonest, vindictive and cruel in the exercise of authority. The abuser uses a lie at every opportunity to cover his or her mistakes and misconduct and to make life miserable for his or her targets. This demonstrates his affinity to ‘the father of lies.’ Sometimes this issues in false prophecy as well (cf. the false prophet Shemaiah and the prophetess Noadiah in Nehemiah 6:10,14).
  • The abuser believes and demonstrates that he or she can and will use any means, malicious and wicked as it may prove to be, to get others to follow his or her wishes, even when these wishes are clearly unscriptural and malicious. Sometimes the abuser, under demonic deception, even believes and says that God has given him or her special permission to inflict hardship, difficulty, suffering and ‘discipline’ upon the target. Legitimate scriptural authority is authority to build up, not to tear down (II Corinthians 10:8).
  • The abuser attempts to conduct and pursues virtual murder against his targets from the position of authority. This is not an attempt to extinguish the physical life of the target but rather to extinguish the God given individuality of the target where it differs from the abuser’s likes and dislikes. Often it seems to be an incredibly arrogant attempt by the abuser to remake the target in his or her image. Those in abusive relationships often attest to the torment of this attempted slow, insidious personality murder. The goal of scriptural authority, rather, is the Christlikeness of the person who has been made in the image of God, and sanctifies the God given individuality of the person that he has created (Romans 8:28-30).

The leaders and members of the body of Christ must understand their responsibility before God to recognize, to refuse to assist, to rebuke, and to place these abusers under church discipline if there is no repentance (Matthew 18:15-17, Galatians 6:1, Ephesians 5:11). They must recognize that these actions cannot be whitewashed with claims of love or good intentions. These red flags mentioned above are not intended to serve as license for either undue suspicion or intrusiveness, but for discernment of problems which are often camouflaged underneath counterfeit spirituality.

Technorati Tags: ,

Trusting Christ as My Provider And Some Other Resources for Those in Employment Transition

“During the days of the depression, hundreds of men came to my office for a handout, or a shakedown or the night. Many a time I asked them this question: ‘When you were earning money, did you square with God? Did you give to God that which belonged to him?’ Never once did I have that question answered in the affirmative. Every man who came for a handout had to admit he had not squared with God in the years of prosperity.”
Oswald J. Smith


Trusting Christ As My Provider

I. God provides of my daily needs

A. God promises to provide as I seek his kingdom and his righteousness: Matthew 6:33.

God promises to provide sufficiency, not extravagance: I Timothy 6:6-8, Matthew 6:25-32.

God wants us to pray for our daily needs: Matthew 6:11.

II. God normally provides for me through employment.

A. Working for our living ensures that we are dependent on no one else: I Thessalonians 4:11-12, II Thessalonians 3:7-10.

B. The believer is to work as if the Lord Jesus were his personal supervisor, and to be respectful of his employer: Ephesians 6:5-8, Colossians 3:22-25 (substitute employee for slave in these passages; the relationship between employer and employee is of mutual advantage and mutual choice, though, and not permanent legal coercion).

C. The believer increases his income through diligence and skill: Proverbs 10:4. (See also Ecclesiastes 10:10, Proverbs 22:29, Deuteronomy 8:17-18)

III. God provides so that I can give to support the work of the gospel and the needs of the less fortunate.

A. Giving is to be through the local church on a weekly basis: I Corinthians 16:2 (a tithe is a good beginning).

B. Giving is to be of our own free will, in response to the grace of God: II Corinthians 8:6-11.

C. Giving demonstrates that our true treasure and Master is Christ: Matthew 6:19-21, 24.

Challenge: begin to give this week with a tithe.

Addressing Special Needs

1. Government assistance (welfare, SSI): For the believer in Christ, there have been some problems with the acceptance of government financial support without being employed by the government. It has encouraged laziness among the able bodied; it has encouraged dependence on the government instead of God; it dissociates income from work; it discourages marriage and stable families; and it supplants the financial support ministry of the body of Christ. Therefore the able bodied unemployed and the employable disabled need counsel and encouragement to become employed wherever possible for their own support, witness and obedience to God. Care should be taken not to abuse those in genuine need or to expect an immediate transition out of a state of dependence.

2. Restitution: Whenever a person has stolen or defrauded from an individual, a business or the government should receive restitution as a matter of honesty and as evidence of genuine repentance (Proverbs 6:31, the example of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10). Usually this can be taken from luxury and entertainment spending for a short period. A person who has been living a parasitic and exploitative lifestyle (stealing in the Biblical sense includes fraud and deceit for financial gain: Leviticus 19:12 is an expansion of Exodus 20:15) needs to be directed to work and giving (Ephesians 4:28, I Thessalonians 4:11-12).

3. Debt: Buying on credit can produce debt which is an unwise use of money; the interest on the credit increases the cost of the purchase and leave the borrower in financial bondage (Proverbs 22:7). Generally, excessive debt results from extravagant, unnecessary and premature purchases. The new believer should be referred to a Christian financial counselor — preferably one who is a volunteer.

4. Homemakers: Stay at home mothers with preschool children already have a full time job on their hands. It is financial wisdom for a husband to seek to improve his income so that they can survive on one income during the years of childbearing and during the years the children are preschool. During the school age years of the children, starting a home based business might be wiser than returning to work for an employer. There is good scriptural precedence for this in Proverbs 31:24, and it would be in accord with Titus 2:5. Generally a homemaker with Christ as her Lord and Supervisor will plan her day so that there are no significant times of idleness during the day, and so that she may use the evening for relaxation, entertainment and family devotions. She can also plan for significant times of personal ministry during these hours, and certainly time for her personal Bible reading and prayer.

5. Prosperity theology (the ‘health and wealth’ gospel: Believers who are still new to Christ can be deceived by this unbalanced application of the scriptures. Christ promises sufficiency, not material riches. Scriptures such as I Timothy 6:9-10, Luke 6:24, 12:13-21, and 18:23-25 should adequately address this teaching that substitutes wealth for sufficiency. Contentment with what we have from God is his will for us (Hebrews 13:5-6, Philippians 4:11-13, Exodus 20:17).

6. The stockholder mentality of giving to a church: Some have had an unfortunate tendency to use their giving, which is to be to God, to attempt to influence the direction of the church according to personal preference. In the New Testament, the funds that were given to the church were put at the disposal of the leaders whom God had called and appointed for the uses that they announced and decided (Acts 4:35-37: “at the apostles’ feet” means “at the disposal of the apostles”). This is less of a temptation for those who are unable to give large amounts, but the general principle is that we give to support God’s work in God’s way, and not our personal preferences.


General Links:

Job Hunting:

Christian Jobs (formerly Intercristo): http://www.christianjobs.com/

Secular Links:


Interview Preparation Worksheet and Notes (Copy this into Microsoft Word, and use it to prepare for an interview and take notes during an interview)

Day and Date:

Location:

Meeting With:

  1. Name
  2. Title
  3. Company
  4. City, State Zip
  5. Telephone
  6. FAX
  7. Mobile/Pager
  8. E-mail

Major Accomplishments:

  1. Leadership and influence beyond the job description
  2. Catching major problems early

Management or Work Style:

  1. Creative/ innovative, intuitive
  2. Collaborative
  3. Analytic, pragmatic about solutions
  4. Independent
  5. Goal and results oriented
  6. Technically curious

Things You Need to Know About Me:

  1. Need fairly stable work schedule.
  2. Best results in positive, ethical, collaborative environment
  3. Need the technical tools to get the desired results
  4. Need management insulation from corporate politics at times

Reason I Left Last Job:

  1. Seeking position and organization more in line with career goals, work style, skill set

Answers to Difficult Questions:

My Strengths/Weaknesses:

  1. Learn, apply and share knowledge
  2. Excellent written/oral communication
  3. Focus on business objectives and results
  4. Able to troubleshoot, identify causes of serious problems

Things I Can Do For You:

  1. Make the whole team stronger
  2. Focus on business objectives, results, quality
  3. Work beyond the job description
  4. Provide process, discipline and best practices

Questions to Ask Interviewer:

  1. Duties and expected hours of the position
  2. Written job description
  3. Reporting structure, department
  4. Turnover, stability
  5. Internal politics of organization
  6. Type of work environment
  7. What computer software are already provided
  8. What kinds of training and development are available
  9. What is the advancement potential

Managerial Questions

  1. How do you encourage a fair and positive environment?
  2. How do you encourage initiative?
  3. How would you describe your communication style?
  4. How do you deal with constructive criticism (of both yourself and fellow employees)?
  5. How do you deal with negative criticism (of both yourself and fellow employees)?
  6. How do you deliver performance feedback?
  7. What would you say are good reasons to be a leader?
  8. What would you say are wrong reasons to be a leader?
  9. How do you deal with a consistently troublesome person on the job?
  10. Give an example, without names. What was troublesome about that person?
  11. How do you adjust your communication style to the person you are dealing with?
  12. What effect do your personal feelings about a person have on your treatment of that person (ask for examples)?


Here are a series of questions that I developed some years ago to gauge a person’s compatibility with a prospective manager during an interview. I never use all of them, but pick and choose as it appropriate. Several years ago one of my friends was impressed enough to have published these in the Mensa newsletter for Belgium.

Suggested Questions for a Prospective Hiring Manager

  • What access is there to be able to discuss risks, issues and what is going well?
  • What level of initiative is expected?
  • What sort of information is important for you to have in reports and one on ones?
  • How have you recently approached a situation where a direct report came to you with a problem or serious project issue?
  • How do you prefer to hear about problems or issues?
  • How do you prefer to hear about opportunities for improvements?
  • How do you prefer to hear about ideas and possible innovations?
  • Do you see value in allowing personal research and development time for developers?
  • How do you seek to understand and lead those who are different than you personally and technically?
  • How have you defined the boundaries of the positions of your direct reports in the past?
  • What problems are you hoping to solve with filling this open position?
  • What does a successful solution look like to you?
  • How will your circle of managerial responsibility be different after you fill this position than it is now?
  • What new initiatives, opportunities and challenges do you see for your area of managerial responsibility in the next month? In the next six months? In the next year? In the next two years?
  • What security access levels are necessary for the position?
  • What meetings, procedures or status reports are necessary?
  • What computer resources are provided, and what is the procedure for getting any which may be found later to be necessary or useful?
  • Who are good internal contacts to learn the environment and to learn how to get things accomplished in this environment?
  • What departmental system documentation and documentation of policies and procedures is available? How up to date is it?
  • Why are you in management? What has brought to seek, accept and remain in a management position?
  • How has your personal background prepared you to be in management?
  • What are you doing to improve your personal performance as a manager?
  • What would you say are right reasons to be in management? Wrong reasons?
  • What allowance do you make for differences of personal style in working among your subordinates?
  • How do you deal with situations where someone brings up criticisms of a coworker to you?
  • How do you deal with those who report to you whom you may not feel very comfortable, even dislike on some level?
  • How do you deliver feedback on performance to your direct reports?
  • How do you deal with feedback on your own personal performance as a manager from your subordinates?
  • How would you define a consistently troublesome subordinate?
  • How do you deal with a consistently troublesome subordinate?
  • How do you make sure that your direct reports have the skills to meet the challenges that face them?
  • How do you deal with a subordinate that wants to move on to a better position?
  • How would you deal with a subordinate that seems to be seeking to escape your management style?
  • How would you deal with a subordinate who is cooperative with you but very critical and competitive with his or her peers, even to the point of seeking to sabotage their work?
  • What has been the turnover among your direct reports since you became their manager?
  • What is your definition of hard work and expected effort?