Covenant – First Essay (BTH101 – OL1)

Standard

When reading through the chapters assigned for this essay, I noticed one thing that I don’t believe I have ever noticed before. I always assumed that Lot was Abram’s brother, but it says in two different places that he is his brother’s son or nephew. (Genesis 12:5, 14:12 NABRE) I don’t know how this relates to the covenant, but I thought it would be worth mentioning as I started my essay to set up the understanding of how this relationship between Abram and God will affect Abram’s relationship with his family.

Professor Larsen’s video

First, we read about the original covenant with Abram, Moses and Jesus. Professor Larsen in his “Covenant” video, said that these beginning verses encapsulate the meaning of the three main covenants of the bible. He mentions the blessing of Abraham’s name and his family, the people of his nation, and the people of the whole world. (Genesis 12:1-3 NABRE) To me, this explanation is a great way to explain the meaning of the bible to someone who has never read it before and could easily get caught up in the symbolism of the book of Genesis, and get bogged down in understanding the details before they ever get a chance to hear the good news.

Second, the idea of marriage as a covenant relationship has always been hard for me to accept. I do believe it is a covenant, but the fact that my own parents are divorced makes it difficult to see the reality of what God meant for it to be. However, as Professor Larsen said in his “Covenant” video, it is supposed to be a relationship where two people stay together for their whole life, and he adds, “If their faithful.” Unfortunately, both my Dad and my Mom decided to not be faithful to the covenant, and the consequence of that is that their children suffer with accepting of the permanence of a covenant relationship. My wife and I have not been perfect through 16 years of marriage, but it helps us to realize that our four children are looking to us to see that covenant relationship. We don’t just stay together for the kids, but we grow closer every day to become better role models of the loving relationship that our children can expect from God.

Finally, in Chapter 14 of Genesis, we see how Abram goes to war to save his nephew and his kinsmen. It is helpful to me to understand that as Abram did not hesitate to come to the aid of his kinsmen, we must be willing to defend our brothers and sisters in Christ who are being persecuted today in different parts of the world. For some reason, I had never read that Abram’s nephew, Lot, was his nephew and not his brother as I had thought before. The deeper meaning of this, for me, is that even though we may not be close to our relatives in our own family, we can’t forget about their need of a savior. In the same way, we wouldn’t forget about sharing the good news with our closest relatives, we should be willing to share it with everyone. It is a sure sign of our covenant relationship with God, that we entered into at our Baptism, that we are willing to share this good news with everyone.

What is the will of your Father?

Standard

In order to answer this question, I propose that we ask the opposite question and look to scripture to find the answer.  What is not the will of the Father?  If you follow me on Twitter, you saw this answer coming.  Matthew 18:14 says, “In just the same way, it is not the will of the Father that one of these little ones be lost.”  I just tweeted this verse from scripture because I know most people are not going to take the time to read this post, but I think the message is something believers in this world really need to hear right now.  Earlier in the chapter, Matthew’s gospel offers a glimpse of who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven and what the perception of temptation should be.  However, right before this, he tells us what lengths he is willing to go to save the lost sheep.  How many of us can say we are willing to be uncomfortable to save a lost sheep when there are 99 found sheep with us?  If we are being honest, it is really hard to choose to be uncomfortable when it looks like we are already surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.   The will of the Father is that all of his sheep are brought back to the sheepfold, so we must stand ready to go in search of them when we are sent.  We will probably not be consulted about how and when we will be sent, so we must stand ready at all times. Just like he did…Jesus

Jesus, help us look at our cross and not count the cost…Save us, savior of the World…For by your cross and ressurection you have set us free…Amen!

Mary knew, but knowing it doesn’t make it easy!

Standard

I was pondering this song that was made popular again by Jordan Smith during the latest final’s competition of the Voice on NBC.  The song is called, “Mary did you know?”  In reviewing all of the reasons that people like or dislike this song, I came to a new conclusion.  It is not the basis of the theology that troubles me, but rather the idea that somehow knowing would make things easier.  It is the idea that once I know something, I will be able to live my life fully in response to that knowledge.  Mary could, because she was preserved free from the stain of original sin, but I can’t because I will always have that thing that leads me to struggle with my decision to follow Jesus.

Mary did not need to know what it felt like to carry Jesus in her heart, but it didn’t make her suffer any less when she watched him die for all of us, including her.  She did not need to know what it would be like to hear God’s voice and wonder if she should follow it, she just did it.  I can hear everyone saying than why did she question the angel who told her, “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.”  (Luke 1:31)  She questioned it, because it was not physically possible to conceive a son without being sexually active, and she had not been.  The angel gives her the assurance that what is going to happen is from the holy Spirit, and she is to name her son, Jesus.  Contrast this to what had just happened a few verses earlier in Luke Gospel account of the conception of John the Baptist.  Zechariah had also questioned the angel, but pay close attention to what he asked.  Then Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”  (Luke 1:18)

Mary did not need to know it, she was asking for physically how it was possible.  She was overshadowed by the holy Spirit and became one with God through this amazing encounter.  Unfortunately, Zechariah was struck dumb for his need for knowledge, and it was only because of his concupiscence that he was made to stay quiet while God did his great work of making conception possible in his wife’s womb.

We should not be questioning, “How will we know this?”, unless we are comfortable with the suffering that will accompany our waiting for God to supply the answer.  It is not possible to completely get rid of our concupiscence, so the suffering for most of us will be a part of this life.  However, if we can be like Mary when we say, “May it be done to me according to your word.”  (Luke 1:38b)  We will be given the holy Spirit to lead us on our journey to heaven, and maybe we can save some of the suffering that comes to us when we always need to know.

Updating the Roman Catholic Church…

Standard

Signature assignment for Marketing 330 at Northwest Christian University

An Offering  (If you are Catholic – click here first!)

In coming up with a large firm to study for this paper, it was important to make sure it was a firm that could make an impact on the whole world.  Although most of the faithful Catholics would see the church as a non-profit, it operates like a multi-national company in the way it uses its resources across almost all boundaries of nations.  However, the purpose of this paper is not to show how to make the church more profitable in monetary gains, but show how one minor change to the application of one of its seven sacraments could change how the whole world perceives God’s mercy.

Updating the Roman Catholic Church by Bringing the Mercy of God to the Whole World

The leader of the Roman Catholic Church has declared a Jubilee Year of Mercy that started on December 8th, 2015.  During this Year of Mercy there are going to be many opportunities to experience God’s mercy for the people that are already Roman Catholic.  The main problem of public relations that exists for the worldwide church today is that we spend a lot of time discussing how we are different and not enough time discussing how we are the same.  There may be the same understanding of who God is between many of the Christians that live in the same territory, but how often do they get together to discuss their commonalities.  Sure, there have been plenty of ecumenical activities planned by the worldwide church, but too often those activities are for the leadership and not for the regular guy on the street.

Executive Summary

The Roman Catholic Church has been a missionary church since its inception.  In the interest of ecumenism, I will not get into how or when the inception occurred.  However, it is undisputed that the Roman Catholic Church has essentially infiltrated every corner of the world with its teachings about who Jesus is and the good news he brings about salvation.  They have used some pretty amazing tactics over the centuries, in order to insure that the basic teachings of the church were not lost, but new believers would be easily enculturated into the church.  For instance, when coming to the new world, it was an image of a mestizo woman that was used to convert over 9 million indigenous people of Mexico.  The woman in the image is believed to be the Mother of God by the faithful, but she is pictured as an Aztec princess with the facial features of a half Indian/half Spanish or mestizo woman.  The miraculous nature of the image and how it came into being is omitted in this report, to focus on the nature of spread of the church through the use of the image.

The new product offering that could be offered by the Roman Catholic Church is a meeting with a priest in order to experience the mercy of God.  The great thing about this new product that will be offered in the church, is that instead of adapting the message to fit the people that are receiving the message, it is offering a message that has existed for over 2000 years to everyone.  Almost 2000 years ago, in a desert just outside of Jerusalem, John the Baptist was calling for the people of faith to repent, and they came out of the comfort of their homes to join him in the desert to be washed by the waters of repentance.  They came because they knew they were in need of mercy, but they would have to wait for the one John was announcing before they would know God’s mercy.  As it is recorded in the gospel of Luke, “John answered them all, saying, ‘I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire.’”  (Luke 3:16 NABRE)  The one mightier that was coming is Jesus, and the faithful believe that he is coming again.  Before he comes again, the faithful Catholics believe that Jesus is truly present in the sacrament of Reconciliation in the person of the priest, so they confess their sins to them and receive absolution in the form of their prayer and blessing from God.  This meeting between the penitent and confessor is normally only offered to the baptized Catholics that are seeking to repair their broken relationship with Jesus.  However, this new product offering would be to allow all people to meet with the priest in order to know the mercy of God through him.  In order to be more concise, “the church” will be used interchangeably with the Roman Catholic Church.

Situation Analysis

Normally, there is some apprehension among the faithful Catholics to any kind of change.  In addition, Roman Catholics tend to be a little possessive of our Sacramental life, especially the time with their priests.  Roman Catholics believe that the sacraments are a physical expression of a spiritual reality.  Namely, Jesus becomes present to them through the sacraments, which expresses the spiritual sense of God being always with us.  However, because Pope Francis has declared this Jubilee Year of Mercy from December 8th, 2015 to November 20th, 2016, the faithful Catholics could see this as an extension of God’s mercy to all people.  As with most new things, you have the danger of the competitive churches that could offer a similar thing at their churches.  They could offer meetings with their pastors.  However, the good news is that any meeting between believers in search of his mercy will be met by an appearance of Jesus.  As the scripture says, “Again, [amen,] I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.  For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”  (Matthew 18:19-20)  Still, the general purpose of this new product offering will be accomplished if more people are approaching his mercy through a meeting with Jesus, even if it isn’t always happening in the Roman Catholic Church.  The marketing plan of the past within the church could be seen as converting the message to meet people how they see themselves, and this new product offering would be a way of meeting them just as they are, and bringing them to a place of repentance and conversion with the direction of people within the church to help them.

SWOT Analysis.   The strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to the Roman Catholic Church are pretty obvious.  The strength of the Roman Catholic Church is the tradition and the sheer number of faithful followers around the world.  The opening of the doors of the confessional to all people could serve to strengthen the faithful, by helping them to better see the value of the confessional to their own faith life.  Also, the idea that many people would not get to see the inside of a church, if the invitation is never made.  The weakness of any group of Christian believers is that it is comprised of sinners.  However, if the opening of the confessional works to bring more followers to the church, the chances are they will have a healthy attitude towards repentance and turning away from sin.  All corners of the world are reached by the Roman Catholic Church, so it is easy to see that if the doors are kept open to an experience of faith inside the walls of many of its churches, they stand to gain plenty of new followers.  The threats come from within the church, by people that choose to not work together to build it, and they would not support anything that is not already a part of the church.  There are threats from outside the church from people who choose to attack the church for its position on controversial issues.  The hope is that opening the confessional would not increase the threat from radicals who attack the church, and help bring more people to see that the church is trying to bring about better relationships with Jesus.  However, it is clear that bringing more people physically into the church would serve to create more opportunities for radicals to attack the church and its leadership once they are inside.  In certain parts of the world, it may even be necessary to provide some type of security to the priests during the confession times.

Marketing Goals and Objectives. If there are a large number of early adopters, it may be necessary to look at different ways to minister to the influx of patrons in the church.  During the initial phase of invitation to the public of this new offering of mercy, it may be necessary to enlist more lay ministers and deacons during normal confession times to ensure the proper execution of the product.  In addition, to ensure the lay ministers and deacons are prepared if needed, training should be implemented before the release of the product to the public, so the influx of new visitors to the church could be effectively handled.  Of course, the objective would be to sustain the numbers of new followers by being able to answer all of the questions and issues that people present with well-prepared ministers.  It would not be the goal of the product offering to monetarily take advantage of the patrons.  Nevertheless, if the new patrons of the church continued to visit the church, it would be incumbent on the ministers to invite them to become full members of the church at the appropriate time.  This discussion would include the idea of stewardship and providing resources of money and time to be able to continue the mission of the church.  After the introductory stage of release is over, the leadership could discuss strategies for effective use of the product as it reaches the maturity stage and the church begins to see less new visitors coming and more repeat visitors that would hopefully want to transition into learning more about the church, and how to get baptized.

Marketing Strategy. Since we are dealing with a large number of non-profit churches that would be asked to implement this strategy, it would be a good idea to lay out the foundation for how it could be financially beneficial or at least be able to cover the costs to take on this new product offering.  The idea would be most effective in larger markets first, because of the larger number of ordained ministers in those areas.  The data collected from the larger markets could then be used to analyze the number of new patrons brought into the individual churches.  The percentages of new patrons compared to total number of patrons could be used to find out if the smaller parishes could offer this new product offering, based on the amount it would cost to prepare for its effective application.  The promotion strategy that could be used, would be the effective use of all the existing social media channels that are operated by the different levels of hierarchy within the church.  From the Pope’s Twitter page, all the way down to the local parishes Facebook page.  All channels, including personal social media pages of faithful Catholics, could be used to promote the offering of this new avenue of mercy being available to all people.

Marketing Implementation.  It would be necessary to begin developing the training tools immediately, because it could take a couple of months of dissemination before the training would get out to all the levels of authority within the church.  The Year of Mercy only continues for another 11 months, so it would be best to begin to start the offer at the beginning of the Easter season in the church, which officially starts on March 27th.  The pressures of church activity during the season of Lent, with the influx of regular penitents with the church, would make it difficult to start the offer during the month of February.  However, this would give the individual churches time to implement the training necessary for the different ministers that could be used to help during this time.  The Roman Catholic Church has an old tradition that has recently come back to prominence with the help of a little nun from Poland, named Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska.  She revived the idea, through the prompting of her conversations with Jesus, of celebrating the eighth day of Easter with a day called “Divine Mercy Sunday”.  So, this would be a great day to begin to offer this new product in select areas around the world.  After researching the best way to implement the product through testing in larger markets first, it could be universally applied to the all of the Roman Catholic Churches in the world.  It may be necessary to bring in new priests and lay ministers for areas that are understaffed, but this could lead to a long term solution to the shortage of priests in certain parts of the world.  It would also be necessary to take the necessary precautions with background checks and training in child protection for any additional staff, but these costs could be easily defrayed by effective new technologies available for patrons to support the church’s efforts.  These technologies could range from new donate buttons on websites to smart tags located outside the confessionals that led you to a mobile-friendly website that could accept your donation.  Of course, the donation and support from patrons would not be compulsory, but rather based on the patron’s ability to pay.

Finally, it goes without saying that this offer would be made to everyone, so it would be necessary to get an initial contribution from the faithful Catholics, to get the promotion started.  This would be necessary for the infrastructure changes needed to accept the new donations.  In addition, it would also be most likely supported by Pope Francis, since it is in support of his call to celebrate the Jubilee Year of Mercy.  The new efforts in technology would eventually pay for themselves as more technology friendly, younger believers come into the church to experience the mercy of God in a new old-fashioned way.

(March 9th, 2011). New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE). Washington DC: The Confraternity of Christian Doctrine.

 

How are we missing the signs?

Standard

Today’s readings from Mass are leading us to contemplate what the end will look like.  In Mark’s gospel, Jesus spells out what it will look like.  He says, “And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory, and then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.”  (Mark 13:26-27)

He goes on to say, “Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates.”  (Mark 13:28-29)

I read an interpretation this morning that said that Mark’s gospel was just relating the fact that most people of his time were expecting Jesus to return soon, so this is just his way of expressing that.  Since the person given the interpretation was a Catholic priest, I will accept that this a possible interpretation.  However, I will offer an alternative translation to this reading to say that we are possibly missing the signs that God is giving us through the events of the past few years and his return is now near.  I do not have the time this morning to reveal all of these signs, but I can tell you that they have been revealed to me through both secular and religious channels.

The question is, “What do we do now?”  The answer is, “We repent and continue to preach the good news to all who will listen.”  The time is short now, and the final coming of Jesus is imminent.  If we repent and believe in the gospel, we see it as an imminent joy that is coming, but if not we see it as imminent doom.  Now it is just a matter of choice, as to which perception of his coming is true.

Marketing assignment – Coffee survey

Standard

Summary

I decided on four questions that were mostly closed end questions. However, they were questions that gives me an idea of what things the respondents find important in their coffee experience. A total of 20 surveys were filled out.

Items on the survey were worded as direct questions, and included the following topics:

  • Ordering coffee
  • Experience
  • New coffee shop
  • Why coffee?

Note: The complete survey questionnaire is included later in this document for reference.

Methodology

The final survey form asked respondents about their experience with buying coffee. The respondents were parents of our Youth Ministry youth and they were asked to complete the questionnaire and return it to the survey administrator.

Data analysis was completed using Excel.


The Survey

Which of these three things are most important to you when you order your coffee?

a)    Speed of delivery (I want my coffee fast, and I don’t want to wait in a line.)

b)    Quality of coffee (I don’t mind waiting, but the coffee better be good.)

c)    Number of options (I want to have the coffee that I want.)

When you visit a coffee shop, what is the most important part of the experience?

a)    Cleanliness of shop

b)    Friendliness of staff

c)    Other options on the menu (Food, energy drinks, etc.)

If you are looking for a new coffee shop, how would you decide to try one?

a)    Family or friend referral (including seeing your friends or relatives drinking their coffee.)

b)    Advertisement in newspaper or on TV (including their mission statement for why they serve coffee.)

c)    I might just stop in one time to see if they were any good (it wouldn’t hurt if the first cup was free, right?)

Finally, when you visit a coffee shop, what is the motivating factor that drives your visit?

a)    I’m tired and I need a pick me up.

b)    I want to reward myself for something.

c)    I just love coffee.

 

Conclusions –

 

After reviewing the survey and the respondents’ answers to the questions, I would change a few things if I did it again. First, the fact that I had options as a possible answer to the first two questions probably effected the results negatively on the second question. I could have eliminated the second question, because it is really obvious that everyone would want a friendly staff.

I would share with my friend that quality coffee is important. Even though people might just stop by and check you out if they are driving by, referrals would be a large part of the customers to start with, and that is more important initially than advertising. Finally, the fact that people were equally motivated to buy coffee by all three factors was surprising. So, if my friend was to advertise his coffee shop, all three factors should be included in the ad.

I have thought about offering coffee to the parents who are dropping off their kids for our youth programs, as a fundraising opportunity for the Youth Ministry. I am thankful for this assignment giving me this valuable information, if I actually can talk my pastor into it. (I wouldn’t mind having the coffee for myself either, because it seems that I never have enough time to stop and get one when I need it.)

Hell, it is a Hot 1…

Standard

Heaven or hell…It is our choice!

I was reading a blog that normally takes a pretty negative view of the church this morning.  However, today the post was very positive about the prospect of how many people are headed to hell.  I know you are supposed to capitalize the first letter in proper names, but I just don’t consider hell a proper place and I really do wish to de-emphasize the place, so less people will consider it as a destination.  Unlike the blogger, that you can read here…So Much Has Happened since I started this blog in 2013…I wish to stay positive about the possibility of more people avoiding this place, rather than see it as a destination that is a predestined target for all unrepentant sinners.  I am sure that if you ask most people, they would prefer not to spend eternity in hell, but like the blogger says, and I’m paraphrasing…What are they doing to avoid it?

For me, the first step towards repentance is a good confession.  If you are Catholic, this should be to a priest, who can give you absolution, so you can hear the words from a representative of Christ who is forgiving you.  If you are not Catholic, you could confess to God, the ways that you have failed to follow His Son.  The first thing you might want to confess is that you are not following His will, in favor of your own, by not being obedient to His church.  After that, you may want to tell him all the ways that you have failed to live up to the vocation that he chose for you.  (ie-father, pastor, child of God)  After that, you could tell him that even though he gave you a way to become more like him, in his body and blood in the Eucharist, you choose to be your own person, and not pay any attention to the real presence of His Son that is Holy Communion.  Finally, you can talk about all the ways that you serve other gods, like money, sex, power and prestige, rather than bowing at the altar of the One true God on a regular basis.

If all of this sounds really harsh, good!  It is meant to, because the truth is that I cannot understand how a “good” Christian can live without a “good” Confession.  Reconciliation is meant to be an opportunity to be “eye to eye” with God, in order to know, not only that He forgives you, but also that you are worth more than living out your life with all the resentment that comes from a lack of repentance.  You hear those words, “I absolve you…in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” and it has an eternal impact on your soul that cannot be denied.  The only response to His great gift of Reconciliation, is:  Amen!