Absence of Trust Vs. Trusting Teams

Members of Teams with an Absence of Trust:
  • Conceal their weaknesses and mistakes from one another
  • Hesitate to ask for help or provide constructive feedback
  • Hesitate to offer help outside their own areas of responsibility
  • Jump to conclusions about the intentions and aptitudes of others without attempting to clarify them
  • Fail to recognize and tap into one another's skills and experiences
  • Waste time and energy managing their behaviors for effect
  • Hold grudges
  • Dread meetings and find reasons to avoid spending time together

Members of Trusting Teams:

  • Admit weaknesses and mistakes
  • Ask for help
  • Accept questions and input about their areas of responsibility
  • Give one another the benefit of the doubt before arriving at a negative conclusion
  • Take risks in offering feedback and assistance
  • Appreciate and tap into one another's skills and experiences
  • Focus time and energy on important issues, not politics
  • Offer and accept apologies without hesitation
  • Look forward to meetings and other oppourtunities to work as a group
5 Dysfunctions of a Team:
  1. Dysfunction #1: Absence of Trust

    The fear of being vulnerable with team members prevents the building of trust within the team.
  2. Dysfunction #2: Fear of Conflict

    The desire to preserve artificial harmony stifles the occurrence of productive ideological conflict.
  3. Dysfunction #3: Lack of Commitment

    The lack of clarity or buy-in prevents team members from making decisions they will stick to.
  4. Dysfunction #4: Avoidance of Accountability

    The need to avoid interpersonal discomfort prevents team members from holding one another accountable.
  5. Dysfunction #5: Inattention to Results

    The pursuit of individual goals and personal status erodes the focus on collective success.

Characteristics of High Performing Teams

Teams willing to address the five dysfunctions can experience the following benefits. High performing, cohesive teams:

  • Are comfortable asking for help, admitting mistakes and limitations and take risks offering feedback
  • Tap into one another's skills and experiences
  • Avoid wasting time talking about the wrong issues and revisiting the same topics over and over again because of lack of buy-in
  • Make higher quality decisions and accomplish more in less time and fewer resources
  • Put critical topics on the table and have lively meetings
  • Align the team around common objectives
  • Retain star employees

Conquer Team Dysfunction.

Addressing the Dysfunctions. To begin improving your team and to better understand the level of dysfunction you are facing, ask yourself these simple questions:
  • Do team members openly and readily disclose their opinions?
  • Are team meetings compelling and productive?
  • Does the team come to decisions quickly and avoid getting bogged down by consensus?
  • Do team members confront one another about their shortcomings?
  • Do team members sacrifice their own interests for the good of the team?
The Dysfunctions

Dysfunction #1: Absence of Trust

This occurs when team members are reluctant to be vulnerable with one another and are unwilling to admit their mistakes, weaknesses or needs for help. Without a certain comfort level among team members, a foundation of trust is impossible.

Dysfunction #2: Fear of Conflict
Teams that are lacking on trust are incapable of engaging in unfiltered, passionate debate about key issues, causing situations where team conflict can easily turn into veiled discussions and back channel comments. In a work setting where team members do not openly air their opinions, inferior decisions are the result.

Dysfunction #3: Lack of Commitment
Without conflict, it is difficult for team members to commit to decisions, creating an environment
where ambiguity prevails. Lack of direction and commitment can make employees, particularly star employees, disgruntled.

Dysfunction #4: Avoidance of Accountability
When teams don't commit to a clear plan of action, even the most focused and driven individuals
hesitate to call their peers on actions and behaviors that may seem counterproductive to the overall good of the team.

Dysfunction #5: Inattention to Results
Team members naturally tend to put their own needs (ego, career development, recognition, etc.) ahead of the collective goals of the team when individuals aren't held accountable. If a team has lost sight of the need for achievement, the business ultimately suffers.

The Rewards
Striving to create a functional, cohesive team is one of the few remaining competitive advantages available to any organization looking for a powerful point of differentiation. Functional teams avoid wasting time talking about the wrong issues and revisiting the same topics over and over again because of lack of buy-in. Functional teams also make higher quality decisions and accomplish more in less time and with less distraction and frustration. Additionally, "A" players rarely leave organizations where they are part of a cohesive team.

Successful teamwork is not about mastering subtle, sophisticated theories, but rather about
embracing common sense with uncommon levels of discipline and persistence. Ironically, teams
succeed because they are exceedingly human. By acknowledging the imperfections of their
humanity, members of functional teams overcome the natural tendencies that make teamwork so elusive.


James The Just

This is a fascinating book on James from a Jewish perspective.

A Jewish book. Written by Dr. David Friedman (Jewish Rabbi, scholar, former Academic Dean and Professor of Jewish Studies at King of Kings College in Jerusalem, Israel; currently lectures internationally on biblical topics), James The Just presents the view from a Messianic perspective by focusing on the Jewish aspects of this practical NT book. The author states that this is not a verse-by-verse exegetical commentary. He encourages us to put on our Jewish glasses (if we are not Jewish), and to read the NT as a Jewish book, which is the context in which James was written.

Who is James? James (Ya'akov was his real name) was the chief rabbi of his early Messianic Jewish community in Jerusalem. His role was that of Torah teacher par excellence, chief halakhic judge and authority, and spokesman for the entire community. (Halakha or halakhic: Applications of the biblcal commandments to a community lifestyle.) In brief, Ya'akov was:
  1. a chief rabbi.
  2. a Torah scholar.
  3. a Bible commentator.
  4. akin to a high court judge.
A practical application of Leviticus. The writings of Ya'akov were a specific style of rabbinic writings. It is a collection of highlights from the sermons of the chief rabbi of Jerusalem's Messianic Jewish community. Likely, James gave these sermon talks on Sabbaths where the ending section of Leviticus was studied (chapters 19-22).

It was a collection of a particular rabbi's sayings and teachings (a Yalkut, in Hebrew, is a collection of highlighted teachings by a rabbi, often collected by his students). The main emphases of the yalkut are:
  • practical Torah
  • practical encouragement on how to live
  • not philosophical, but concrete: instructional guides on how to live according to Torah
  • most misunderstood point: "fiath & works," Ya'akov's point: keeping the instructions of the Torah is proof that one has strong faith in God and in Messiah Yeshua (Jesus).
The subjects found in Leviticus 19-22 which Ya'akov expounds upon are:
  1. The proper use of speech (in rabbinic literature, it is the laws of improper speech, speaking behind someone's back, smearing another and slander).
  2. Proper business practices.
  3. Contractual oaths.
  4. The showing of favoritism in legal matters.
  5. The value of being humble.
  6. Society's obligation to widows and orphans.
  7. The royal law of the Torah.

His words were written down by a scribe or by his students, for distribution into the Diaspora as instrumental guides for communities. His "book" may have been distributed and studied as commentary to Leviticus 19-22 in early Messianic Jewish communities in the Diaspora.

Though James is written in Greek, the letter of James is a uniquely Messianic Jewish view based on thoroughly Torah-based concepts that are from the five books of Moses. It is Jewish in:

  1. Subject matter.
  2. Tone.
  3. Emphasis.
  4. It's main expressed points.

As expressed in Jas 1:22-25, "...the most important matter is not study (of the Torah), but the practice" (Shimon, son of Paul's teacher, Gamliel). The first century Jewish world, both Jews and Messianic Jews, views "works" as the performance of the biblical commandments as stemming from one's faith in God, and never in opposition to it. In Jewish thought, the purpose of fulfilling the biblical commandments was never to earn entrance into the world to come, which may be a misconception of many today.

I received a copy of the book for free from Messianic Jewish Publishers & Resources via Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for my review. I am under no obligation to provide a favorable review.


Romans 3:21-26

"But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify" (Rom 3:21, NIV).
  1. Why does Martyn Lloyd-Jones exclaim that "there are no more wonderful words in the whole of Scripture than just these two words 'But now...'" (Rom 3:21a)? Notice also, "But God..." (Eph 2:4).
  2. "Apart from law" suggest a new era of salvation. What does the law in the old era expose about man's spiritual state (Rom 1:18-20; 2:1, 4-5, 23-24; 3:9, 19-20)? How does "the Law and the Prophets testify" to "the righteousness of God" (Rom 4:1-8; Gen 15:6; Ps 32:1-2)?
  3. What is being referred to by the phrase "has been made known" (Rom 3:21-22)? What event helps us to know "the righteousness of God" (Lk 23:47)?
  4. "Righteousness" is having a "right relationship with God." However, John Stott explains "the righteousness of God" (21-22, 25-26; 1:17; Phil 3:9) in three ways as:
    1. An attribute of God: This is a quality--who God is.
    2. An activity of God: This is an action--what God does. (N.T. Wright.)
    3. An achievement of God: This is a gift--what God bestows, confers and accomplishes. (Reformed.)
    • Can you explain each phrase? Can the righteousness of God mean all three?
  5. How does one come to know the righteousness of God (Rom 3:22a, 25a)?
  6. How does Rom 3:22b-23 summarize a main theme in chapters 1-3?
  7. Explain how we are "justified freely by his grace" (Rom 3:24a). What is redemption (Rom 3:24b)?
  8. Explain "God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood" (Rom3:25a)?
  9. What sins did God pass over that were previously committed (Rom 3:25b)? How can God be just and still justify those who sin (Rom 3:25b-26)?


Justification and the Righteousness of God (Romans 3:21-26)

Rom 3:21-26 is regarded by scholars and theologians as "the center and heart" of Romans as as "possibly the most important single paragraph ever written."

Rom 3:21-26 is loaded with key theological terms, and the phrase "the righteousness of God" stands out. This is a great text where Paul brings together so much, which is central to his presentation of the gospel. This passage has almost unparalleled power, not so much in its individual elements but the fact that Paul brings so many things and key ideas together: Our standing before God, how God secured that through Christ on our behalf, the importance of faith, what God did on the cross. (Douglas Moo  The Epistle to the RomansNICNT, 1996. 3:21-23 17 min; 3:24-26 27 min.)
  1. The noun "righteousness" {δικαιοσύνη (dikaiosynē)} occurs 4 times (Rom 3:21, 22, 25, 26).
  2. The verb "justify" {δικαιόω (dikaioō)} occurs 2 times (Rom 3:24, 26).
  3. The adjective "just" {δίκαιος (dikaios)} occur once (Rom 3:26).


Top 10 Tips for Clearer Preaching

  1. (Prepare a lot, share a little.) The more you say, the less people will remember. . . . "Sermons are improved by shortening."
  2. (Have mainly 1 thing to say, not many things.) Make the 'big idea' shape everything you say. . . . That's one of the best reasons to preach from a full script—you get to edit before you speak. . . . [From p. 64: "[I]t's easier for your listeners to catch a baseball than a handful of sand."]
  3. Choose the shortest, most ordinary words you can. . . . The more complex your subject, the more helpful it is to describe it in ordinary words. . . .
  4. (Sound normal, like yourself.) Use shorter sentences. . . . This isn't about 'dumbing down' your content. It's about communicating complex content clearly. (But keep in mind that alliteration is no longer considered tasteful.) More importantly, it's about sounding like a normal, conversational you.
  5. (Speak informally and extemporaneously.) Forget everything your English teacher taught you. . . . [I]f you're scripting a sermon you should expect it to read badly. It should break almost all the norms of good written expression and follow the rules of informal speech instead.
  6. (Avoid TMI.) Am I repeating myself? . . . [A]s you're introducing a new idea, it's incredibly helpful to restate the first sentence three times, rephrasing it each time but adding no new information. . . . Avoid giving too much information and learn the difference between the pace of your speech (in 'words per minute') and the pace of information (in 'ideas per minute').
  7. Translate narratives into the present tense. . . . [This] makes a story seem real and immediate—it's just like being there.
  8. (Share what's simple.) The six-million-dollar secret of illustrating. . . . Don't sweat over illustrating the complicated stuff—just illustrate the obvious! . . . Illustrate the obvious, and the complex ideas will take care of themselves, because your listeners will be fresh and focused enough to stay with you.
  9. (Share stories.) People love to hear about people. . . . The journalist's rule is this: if there are no people, there's no story.
  10. (Explain before quoting a key verse or text.) Work towards your key text. . . . When you're quoting a verse, help out the listener by setting it up before you read it, rather than after.

Most natural communicators—whether scripted or not—tend to do most of these things by instinct.

Gary Millar and Phil Campbell, Saving Eutychus: How to Preach God's Word and Keep People Awake  (Kingsford NSW, Australia: Matthias Media, 2013), 50–61.

Top 10 Tips for Being Clearer.


Gospel Diagnosis (Rom 3:1-20)

"For we have already accused everyone, both Jews and Greeks, of being under the power of sin" (Rom 3:9b, ISV).

Four objections raised and refuted (Rom 3:1-8)
  1. God did not help his people (Rom 3:1-2).
  2. God is not faithful to his people (Rom 3:3-4).
  3. God is not fair or just (Rom 3:5-6).
  4. God does not mind sin because sin increases God's glory (Rom 3:7-8).
Seven indictments on sinful humanity (Rom 3:9-18) that affects:
  1. Our legal standing (Rom 3:10).
  2. Our minds (Rom 3:11a).
  3. Our motives (Rom 3:11b).
  4. Our wills (Rom 3:12).
  5. Our tongues (Rom 3:13-14).
  6. Our relationship with others (Rom 3:15-17).
  7. Our relationship with God (Rom 3:18).


Romans 1:18-3:20 (Douglas Moo)

Paul's Target in Romans 1-3: All People
  1. Rom 1:18-19: All People.
  2. Rom 1:20-32: People Apart from Special Revelation.
  3. Rom 2:1-16: People Who Rely on their Birthright.
  4. Rom 2:17-3:8: The Jews.
Summary of Paul's basic arguments in Romans 2-3
  1. The Principle: "...it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous" (Rom 2:13).
  2. The Problem: "...Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin" (Rom 3:9).
  3. The Prospect: "...no one will be declared righteous in God's sight by the works of the law" (Rom 3:20).
The problem is not that human beings sin. The problem is that (all) human beings are under sin's power (Rom 3:9), regardless of whether Jew or Gentile, Christian or non-Christian, Jewish Christian or Gentile Christian. Man's problem is far more than just doing bad things (which is obvious for Gentiles and the non-religious, but not as obvious for the Jew and the religious). The problem rather is that we are helpless slaves to doing bad things and can't rescue ourselves (though the Jew or moral person or Christian is able to control their outward behavior, so as not to appear to be doing bad things before the eyes of people).


Romans 2:6-3:20 (Douglas Moo's translation)

The Impartiality of Judgment (Rom 2:6-11)

6For he will render to each person according to that person's works. 7On the one hand, to those who by their persistence in a good work are seeking glory and honor and immortality [he will render] eternal life; 8but on the other hand, for those who are characterized by selfishness and who disobey the truth while obeying unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of a person who does evil, for the Jew first and then for the Greek; 10but there will be glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, for the Jew first and then for the Greek. 11For there is no partiality with God.


Gospel Impartiality (Rom 2:6-29)

"God 'will repay each person according to what they have done.'" "For God does not show favoritism." (Rom 2:6, 11).

Based on Rom 1:16-17, Romans may be summarized as:
  1. Romans 1-8: The gospel, the righteousness of God.
  2. Romans 9-11: First to the Jew, then to the Gentile.
  3. Romans 12-16: The righteous life.
Rom 1:18-32 shows how the Gentile world rejected God and plunged into immorality and idolatry. Paul's critique of them would have been roundly supported by any Jew listening to him. They could see how sinful the Gentiles were, while they were exempt from condemnation because they were God's chosen people. This is exactly how any religious person listens to Rom 1:18-32 today. They say, "Yes, of course God's wrath lies on the immoral, the one who lives a life of debauchery. But we have the Bible and live by that. We are not condemned." But it is because of the subtlety of sin and of idolatry that religious people can seem to agree with Paul about Rom 1:18-32 and yet be completely deluded!

Thus, in Rom 2:1ff, Paul shows the Jews (and religious people) that they were missing the whole point of the gospel! The heart of the gospel is that "the righteousness of God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last" (Rom 1:17). Everyone runs from it and tries to avoid it. We run from it whenever we rely on anything or anyone else but Jesus and his perfect, finished work. The pagans rely on their appetites, which become chains around their neck (Rom 1:18-32), but the religious people rely on religion and moral observance, which stores up God's wrath just as much (Rom 2:5). The pagans worship self through appetite, but the religious worship self through morality and religion. There are obvious (being immoral) and not obvious ways (being moral) to rely on (i.e. worship and serve — Rom 1:25) the creature rather than the Creator.

If you are a moral person who is satisfied with your spiritual state, you are denying the doctrine of righteousness through faith only. If you do not feel like a hopeless sinner, if you do not feel that God would have a perfect right to cast you off this minute because of the condition of your life and heart, then you are denying the gospel, and when it is open to you it won't change you or lift you up. You don't get it.

Christian (and other) Righteousness

The difference between Christian righteousness and all other kinds of righteousness.
  1. There is a political or civil righteousness. This is what world leaders, diplomats, civic leaders and lawyers must teach.
  2. There is a "social" righteousness, which is acting, speaking, dressing, and carrying oneself correctly according to the traditions and mores of a particular culture or vocation or field. This is what parents and families and schools teach.
  3. There is moral righteousness, "the righteousness of law" that comes from obeying the Ten Commandments. This the church teaches (but only in light of the "Christian" righteousness, below).
  4. The righteousness that comes from relationships — becoming attractive and loved by people of both sexes.
  5. The righteousness that comes from career achievement — becoming successful or respected or monied through your talent and work.]
There is another, a far better righteousness, which Paul calls "the righteousness of faith" — Christian righteousness.


Gospel Righteousness

In Romans so far, we considered:
  1. Gospel of Grace (Rom 1:1-6).
  2. Gospel Enthusiasm (Rom 1:7-15).
  3. Gospel Power (Rom 1:16).
  4. Gospel Righteousness (Rom 1:17) is next.
What does Paul mean by the righteousness of God? There are three options.
  1. An attribute of God, the righteousness that characterizes God. This righteousness may be either (a) God's justice (Rom 3:5, 25-26), according to which he always does what is right, or (b) God's faithfulness, according to which he fulfills his covenant promises to his people.
  2. A status or position that God bestows on those who believe. It is therefore a righteousness that comes from God. Martin Luther gave eloquent expression to this view in the 16th century. Luther concluded that the righteousness of God that is revealed in the gospel is a gift of God given to sinners through faith. This righteousness is purely forensic or legal. It is a matter of our judicial standing before God, not our internal or moral transformation. Thus, Luther's view is that Paul refers here to the righteous status that comes from God in the gospel through faith.
  3. An activity of God. The righteousness of God is God's action of intervening on behalf of his people to save and deliver them. This idea has strong support from the OT (Isa 46:13; 50:5-8; Mic 7:9).


Faith is NOT a Work that Possesses Merit or Worth

Belief (πιστεύω) and faith (πίστις) are key words in Romans. πιστεύω (248x in NT) occurs 21x in Romans, 7x in Rom 3:21-4:25, while πίστις (244X in NT) occurs 37x in Romans, 18x in Rom 3:21-4:25.

To "believe" is to put full trust in the God who "justifies the ungodly" (Rom 4:5) by means of the gospel--the cross and resurrection of Christ. Though intellectual assent cannot be excluded from faith, the Pauline emphasis is on surrender to God as an act of the will (Rom 4:18; 10:9).

Pauline (and NT) faith is not (primarily) agreement with a set of doctrines but trust in a person. Though not explicit in Rom 1:16, another focus of Romans is the insistence that faith is in no sense a "work" (Rom 3:20, 27-28; 4:1-8; 9:31-10:8).


How to Experience the Power of God

The gospel is the power of God (Rom 1:16).

How does one experience this power of God in their life?

Consider these and add to them:
  1. The love of God must be real to you (1 Cor 13:13).
  2. The grace of Jesus is fresh and new in your soul (2 Tim 2:1).
  3. Your friendships and relationships are Trinitarian:  All of Paul's 13 letters are HOT (honest, humble, happy, open, transparent).
  4. Have a clear life goal and purpose (Phil 3:14). Know what God called and set you apart for (Rom 1:1).
  5. Do something beyond yourself. Paul was praying to go to Rome though he had no way to go there (Rom 1:10, 13).


The Theme of Romans (1:16-17)

The gospel is the very essence of Paul's ministry (Rom 1:1, 9). It is also the message Paul wants to bring to Rome (Rom 1:15). In Rom 1:1-15 Paul has been telling the Romans about his call to ministry and how that ministry relates to them. But from Rom 1:16a Paul turns his attention away from his own ministry to focus it on the gospel as such. After this, nothing more is said of Paul's mission plans or the Romans (except for brief interjections -- Rom 7:1, 4; 8:12; 10:1; 11:13, 25; 12:1) until the "strong and the weak" section in Rom 14:1-15:13 and the final summing up of Paul's plans and prospects in Rom 15:14-33. Thus, the epistolary material of Rom 1:1-15 and Rom 15:14ff "frames" what appears to be a theological treatise.

Four subordinate clauses in Rom 1:16-17, each supporting or illuminating the one before:
  1. Paul's pride in the gospel (Rom 1:16a) is the reason why he is so eager to preach the gospel in Rome (Rom 1:1:15).
  2. This pride stems from the fact that the gospel contains or mediates God's saving power for everyone who believes (Rom 1:16b).
  3. The gospel brings salvation because it manifests God's righteousness, a righteousness based on faith (Rom 1:17a).
  4. Scriptural confirmation for the connection between righteousness and faith (Rom 1:17b).