word for the weak: week thirty-one

 

This week’s theme in MoSt Church‘s 2012 Bible reading project – the Uncommon Truth for Common People project – is God’s will. Each week’s theme and Scriptures are discussed in our Wednesday night auditorium class.

• Mon., July 30 – Psalm 119.97-112
• Tues., July 31 – Psalm 37.3-7; James 4.13-17
• Wed., Aug. 1 – Psalm 27; Matthew 6.7-15
• Thur., Aug. 2 – Acts 16.6-10; Colossians 1.9-14
• Fri., Aug. 3 – Psalm 19.7-14; Proverbs 2.1-11

This week’s memory verse is James 4.15: “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this and that.”

this went thru my mind

 

Chick-Fil-A: In the Basement by Jen Hatmaker; * Some Words for Christians On Both Sides of the Chick-fil-A War by Rachel Held Evans

* “This is precisely how I feel about the Chick-Fil-A debacle and all the other accouterments of the culture wars. I am so over it. I’m so over the fear mongering and hate propaganda. I’m over the political posturing and power plays. I’m over the finger pointing and name-calling. The storms are raging overhead, and let me tell you something: I’m going to the basement.”

* “Just some thoughts from a retired veteran of the culture wars …”

Christianity in China: Listening to Chinese Christians

“There is much we can learn by listening to Chinese Christians.”

Churches of Christ: * Homeless: An Essay on the Ecclesial Lives of Young Adults from the Churches of Christ by James McCarty; * JamesMcCarty’s Thoughts on Why Young People Are Leaving Churches of Christ by Matt Dabbs

* “I have met dozens of young adults (20-35 years old) over the last several years who grew up in the churches of Christ but no longer attend one. I’ve met dozens of others who still attend a church of Christ, at least somewhat regularly, who feel that such a church is no longer the ideal place for them but know of nowhere else to go. I am primarily concerned in this essay with the latter though I will make some reference to the former. These still-attending-but-uncomfortable CoCers are uncomfortable in the churches of their youth for a variety of reasons, the most common of which are …”

* “This is not a unique list for churches of Christ. I am not certain that his five points get to the heart of what is really happening here. I think this is more of a symptom checklist of some deeper issues that have to be uncovered if we are going to move forward. You could “fix” all five of his points and still have young people leaving the church.”

Creativity: Tips on How to Be More Creative by John Cleese

“… we can benefit greatly from being even more creative. So how to do that? One way to start is to listen to the legendary John Cleese below and incorporate his tips into your daily work and life where possible. This speech is from 1991 and is as relevant as ever. … In case you don’t have 30 minutes to watch this video,  I have summarized Cleese’s thoughts here. “

Disappointment: 10 Tips for Recovering from Major Disappointments by Ron Edmonson

“Sometimes life throws curves at us that take the wind from our sail. If we aren’t careful we can allow the injury to haunt us for life; never regaining what we have lost. … What steps should you take to get back on track and succeed again after a major disappointment?”

Evangelism: An Evangelism Secret by Terry Rush

“Pay attention.”

Ministry & writing: Paul and the Pastoral Practice of Writing

“It’s easy to underestimate the value of letter writing for pastoral ministry in the electronic age.  But when a pastor takes time to write a letter (even if via email) to a person under their care it creates a connection. I asked a pastor friend of mine, now retired, to share his thoughts/experiences of writing letters as a pastor. Here’s what he said.”

Photography & the Middle East: NASA’s View of the Middle East by Seth M. Rodriquez

“NASA has a website called ‘Visible Earth’ where they post pictures taken by astronauts and ‘sensors’ they have in orbit.  Within this large collection of pictures, there are several that are focused in on Israel and the Middle East. Here’s a taste of what you can find there …”

Poverty: Poverty – Understanding Scale [required reading]

“The poverty level as defined by the federal government in 2010 was $11,139 for an individual and $22,314 for a family of four. Could you take care of a family of four on less than $2000 a month? … The following are 40 facts about poverty in America that will blow your mind …”

Priorities: * Erase “I Don’t Have Time” from Your Vocabulary by Melanie Pinola; * Could a Checklist Empower Your Ministry?

* “Whenever you find yourself thinking ‘I don’t have time’ change it to ‘It’s not a priority.’ Watch how quickly your perspective shifts when looking at life’s challenges this way.”

* “It worked for the airlines, the surgeons, and maybe it will work for the ministry.”

Stillness: The Practice of Stillness by Michael Hyatt

“… you must do nothing for at least fifteen minutes a day. … I have … practiced this discipline for twenty-two days in a row. Honestly, this has been one of the most transformational things I have ever done.”

Taxes: Taxation, Charity, and Robbery by James F. McGrath

“I’ve heard the argument made that the government taxing the wealthy and redistributing that wealth to those less fortunate than them is not taxation, but robbery. I wonder how many of those who say such things are Christians or Jews , and would also think Deuteronomy 26:12 was robbery?”

The Blind Side & Lifeway: Hollywood’s Blind Side by Mark Joseph

“Various writers are publicly kvetching about the decision by a Baptist-owned bookstore chain called Lifeway to stop carrying The Blind Side DVD because, according to the Southern Baptist Convention it contains “explicit profanity,” takes ‘God’s name in vain’ and contains a ‘racial slur.’ … But are the Baptists really at fault here? Aren’t they entitled to carry whatever product they want for whatever reason they want? And who are we as non-Baptists to castigate them for what they decide to stock in their stores, especially those products which offend their deepest religious sensitivities?”

Vision: The 5 Major Obstacles to Personal Vision by Will Mancini

“It’s very important to diagnose your life concerning the common obstacles that keep you from things like setting goals, defining your personal vision or achieving our life dreams. I believe there are five primary blockades to consider.”

Warfare: A Day Job Waiting for a Kill Shot a World Away

“When he was deployed in Iraq, ‘you land and there’s no more weapons on your F-16, people have an idea of what you were just involved with.’ Now he steps out of a dark room of video screens, his adrenaline still surging after squeezing the trigger, and commutes home past fast-food restaurants and convenience stores to help with homework — but always alone with what he has done.”

this went thru my mind

 

Aleppo: * Travelogue of the Aleppo Codex; * Brief History of Aleppo: A Great World City Now in the Grip of War; * A High Holy Whodunit

* “The Aleppo Codex has a history that is almost as dramatic as the Biblical events that it recounts. One of the most important ancient Biblical manuscripts, the Aleppo codex was … written … around 930 A.D. It became the version of the Hebrew Bible that was ultimately considered the most authoritative text in Judaism. … By the second half of the 15th century, the codex had somehow made it to Aleppo, Syria—the community that gave the codex its name. …  It remained in Aleppo for about 600 years. … In 1957, more than ten years after it was nearly destroyed in a riot, remnants of the king of ancient Biblical manuscripts were smuggled out of Syria by way of Turkey and brought to Jerusalem, where they remain today.”

* “In the city’s outskirts, sits the Church of St. Simeon, a 5th century Byzantine ruin built around the supposed site where Simeon, an ascetic Christian saint, perched himself atop a pillar for 37 years, choosing, as the 18th century British historian Edward Gibbon put it, ‘the celestial life.’”

“In Aleppo, Syria, where the codex was safeguarded for six centuries, it was believed to possess magical properties.”

Change: Change? Who? Me? by Karen Vestal

“We all want to change others, but is it even possible to think about changing ourselves?  Are we set and immovable, especially in those toughest areas?”

Church: * Is Your Church a Bad Hospital? by Tim Spivey [required reading]; * Do You Really Want to Be Part of a Second Chance Church? by Steve Ridgell; * Is Your Church Sound? by Chris Altrock

* “While no church wants to lose people, it’s a reality if you are healthy—not just unhealthy. If you don’t lose certain kinds of people, you will still lose people—just the healthy members of your church. You’ll be left with a bad hospital–lots of patients and no doctors. God will not bless such a hospital, for when the scarcity mindset trumps biblical instruction to correct, rebuke, etc., God’s Word is taking a backseat to feelings and fear.”

* “…  there are some conditions on accepting those sinners needing second chances.”

* “We can have correct creeds. We may perform worship wonderfully. Our rituals may be the best of any religion. Yet even with these we can be unsound. Even with these we can be unwell. The wealth of the church is one of the largest threats to the health of the church.”

Complaining & gratitude: Building Habits of ‘Simple’ Gratitude in a Consumer Culture by Patrick Mitchel

“So why is it that I moan so much? Why is it that I tend to focus on what I don’t have, or on what’s wrong (or might go wrong) rather than what’s right? Why am I so thankless?”

Culture & politics: Poll: Most Americans Would Vote Atheist for President

“The latest survey, from June, found that 54 percent of those asked said they would vote a ‘well-qualified’ atheist into the Oval Office—the highest percentage since Gallup began asking the question in 1958, when only 18 percent said they would back a nonbeliever.”

Disability: Nearly 1 in 5 People Have a Disability in the U.S., Census Bureau Reports

“About 56.7 million people — 19 percent of the population — had a disability in 2010, according to a broad definition of disability, with more than half of them reporting the disability was severe, according to a comprehensive report on this population released … by the U.S. Census Bureau.”

Gun control: I Carried a Gun, and It Was Heavy by Michael A. Black

“I spent over 30 years as a police officer in the Chicago area, and I was required to carry a weapon both on and off duty. … I’ve faced people with guns many times and arrested violent, armed offenders for such crimes as robbery and homicide. … The suddenness and confusion of that moment [the last shooting incident in which I was involved] points out the folly of the politician’s belief that an armed civilian could have easily taken out James Holmes.”

Humility: A Pencil in the Hand of God by Joshua Graves

“What is God’s greatest gift to you? … The poor people. … How are they a gift? … I have an opportunity to be with Jesus 24 hours a day.”

Olympics: * Religion At 2012 Olympics: From Ancient Greece To London; * Legally Blind Archer Sets World Record At London 2012 Games

* “The combination of Greek sport and worship led the Roman Emperor Theodosius I, a Christian, to ban the Olympics in 393 A.D.”

* “His vision [Im Dong-hyun of South Korea] is now rated at … 20/100 in his right eye, and 20/200 in his left eye. … Olympic archers shoot at their target from a distance of nearly 230 feet — or, 70 meters, to be exact. The target has two center rings, which are 4.8 and 2.4 inches in diameter.”

Politics of every kind: Strip Clubs in Tampa Are Ready to Cash In on G.O.P. Convention

“Angelina Spencer, the executive director of the Association of Club Executives, which serves as a trade association for strip clubs, said an informal survey of convention business in New York and Denver had determined that Republicans dropped more money at clubs, by far. ‘Hands down, it was Republicans,’ she said. ‘The average was $150 for Republicans and $50 for Democrats.’ …

“As further evidence of the clubs’ nonpartisan appeal, Don Kleinhans, the owner of the 2001 Odyssey, said when the Promise Keepers, a male evangelical group, came to town years ago, business was rollicking. ‘We had phenomenal numbers all weekend, and they walked in wearing badges and name tags and weren’t shy at all,’ he said.”

Social networking: Guest Post: The Illusionary Nature of Online Friendships via Facebook & Other Social Media by Stephanie Bennett

“We may become adept at managing our hyper-organized lives, but none of it helps to nourish healthy, long-lasting relationships.  This may be particularly so when it comes to finding fellowship on Facebook and other computer networks that allow for social exchange.”

this went thru my mind

 

Church welcome: I Wish Every Church Said What This Church Says in Their Bulletin by Jon Acuff [required reading]

“We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, dirt poor, yo no habla Ingles. We extend a special welcome to those who are crying new-borns, skinny as a rail or could afford to lose a few pounds.

“We welcome you if you can sing like Andrea Bocelli or like our pastor who can’t carry a note in a bucket. You’re welcome here if you’re “just browsing,” just woke up or just got out of jail. We don’t care if you’re more Catholic than the Pope, or haven’t been in church since little Joey’s Baptism.

“We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome soccer moms, NASCAR dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk-food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you’re having problems or you’re down in the dumps or if you don’t like “organized religion,” we’ve been there too.

“If you blew all your offering money at the dog track, you’re welcome here. We offer a special welcome to those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or because grandma is in town and wanted to go to church.

“We welcome those who are inked, pierced or both. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down your throat as a kid or got lost in traffic and wound up here by mistake. We welcome tourists, seekers and doubters, bleeding hearts … and you!”

Forgiveness: Forgiveness

“Here are two videos on forgiveness that I found helpful. Lewis Smedes and Miroslav Volf …”

Grace & legalism: * Max Lucado Goes Overboard on Grace an interview by Mark Galli [required reading]; * The Attraction to Legalism by Matthew Olson

* “… [let me speak regarding] this tendency we have to fall back into legalism though we have been saved by grace. There are a few reasons for this. First, everything else in the world is based on legalism. If I have to pay money to buy bread, then surely at some point I have to pay for my eternal bread with some type of work. Second, down deep within us, we believe grace is too good to be true, and we feel better if we make some kind of contribution. Third, teachers fear what people will do with grace: ‘If I really teach grace, is that couple in the fourth pew who are living together—are they really going to get out of that relationship and get married?’”

* “Why is legalism so attractive? It is attractive because it feeds the sinful flesh. … The problem is that we can’t see it. … What makes our own legalism hard to see is that on the surface we can be doing a lot of things right.”

Humility: 7 Ways To Put On Humility by Mark Altrogge

“We must put humility on. This doesn’t mean we fake it, but that we begin to do it, even though it takes effort. Putting on humility isn’t easy. After all, it’s not easy to be humble when we’re as great as we are.  But it can be done.”

Internet addiction: * Silicon Valley Says Step Away From the Device by Matt Richtel; * What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Michael Hyatt

* “Stuart Crabb, a director in the executive offices of Facebook, naturally likes to extol the extraordinary benefits of computers and smartphones. But like a growing number of technology leaders, he offers a warning: log off once in a while, and put them down.”

* “On average, Americans stare at some type of computer screen for eight hours a day.”

Lord’s Supper: A Lord’s Supper Home Meal — A Method by John Mark Hicks

“On many different occasions, and some recently, I have been asked about how I conceive or conduct the Lord’s supper as a home meal. … In my small group, several of my classes and other occasions I have led or participated in group meals as the ‘Lord’s supper.’”

Leadership: * 4 Words of Advice for a Newbie Leader by Ron Edmonson; * How I Coach People into True Missional Leadership by Hugh Halter

* “Learn the people first … Go slow to change … Think intentionally in all you do … Pace your leadership for the long-term.”

* “I am giving you four key aspects of a leaders life that must be coached for a true missionally incarnational leader must be:
Deep in Character, Clear in Calling, Culturally Savvy, and Able to Lead Inclusive Community.”

Parenting: If You Are Not Praying for Your Children by Jim Martin

“If you as a parent are not praying for your children, then who is?”

Skype & privacy: Can Skype ‘Wiretap’ Video Calls? by John Sutter

“The video calling service Skype recently made a change to how it routes calls. Yawn, right? But here’s where it get a little juicier … the changes, which push some of the video calling process onto Skype’s own computers instead of onto random machines on the Internet, could help the app spy on users’ calls, presumably at the request of a court or government.”

Texting while driving: Driving While Intexticated [infographic]

“In the 5 seconds you read a text at 55 mph, you travel the length of a football field.”

Violence: * The Myth of Redemptive Violence by Shane Claiborne [required reading]; * Gleanings in Pacifism by J. Daniel Kirk; * Gun Laws, None Dare Call it Time by Sandy Levinson; * Assault Deaths within the United States; * Mark 15:1-20 – The Crowd Chooses Violent Revolution Rather than Jesus by John Mark Hicks [required reading]

* “I had a veteran friend once tell me, ‘The biggest lie I have ever been told is that violence is evil, except in war.’ He went on, ‘My government told me that. My church told me that. My family told me that … I came back from war and told them the truth – ‘Violence is not evil, except in war… Violence is evil – period’.”

* “… Christians must actively work for peace: blessed are the peacemakers. That should typify kingdom people.”

* “The GOP is in bed with the NRA; the Dems learned from Al Gore’s opposition to gun laws, which many Dems supported, that they can’t win elections with that platform. So today no party is willing to re-examine our gun laws.”

* “… it’s well-known that there are strong regional differences in the assault death rate in the U.S. by state and region. Here’s what the patterns look like by state from 1999 to 2009. … As is well known, the South is more violent than the rest of the country, by some distance. … Despite their large differences, all of the U.S. regions have higher average rates of death from assault than any of the 24 OECD countries we looked at previously.”

* “The crowd chose violent revolution rather than the nonviolent revolution of Jesus. … What do we choose?”

praying for myself in light of one dark night

 

If Jesus had been in that dark, crowded movie theater in Aurora, Colorado when heavily-armed and armored James Holmes opened fire last week, I can quickly and easily imagine Jesus:

  • helping herd someone, or a group someones, to a safer position while trying to keep himself positioned between them and the shooter.
  • placing himself in the line of fire to deliberately take as many hits as possible to prevent those rounds from reaching someone else.
  • throwing himself down on top of someone, or several someones, in an attempt to shield them from harm.
  • trying to rush the shooter in the hope of physically taking him down and incapacitating him.
  • immediately attending to someone who had been wounded or injured.
  • whipping out a cell phone and dialing 911, calling for help.
  • some truly creative, “other” response.

However, what I’ve been totally unable to imagine Christ doing is whipping out his concealed, licensed-to-carry pistol, taking careful aim, and attempting to shoot the gunman dead.

Why is that? Really.

Is my imagination faulty or deficient? You tell me.

And one more thing. If Christians are to imitate their Lord Jesus, how would you hope you would have responded if you, being a Christian, had been in that hall of hell that night?

I have no idea what I would have done. I was not there. And so I thank God. And pray for all of those who were. As well as myself, knowing that one dark day or night, I might find myself, as a Christian, in just such a situation. And if so, just how well prepared will I be to respond rightly?

Heavenly Father, should I ever be found in a position similar to that of late in Aurora, Colorado, in the name of your Son, may I be found doing what he would have done. Amen.

how to do your preacher a favor

 

The next time your preacher preaches on …

  • God’s great, matchless love,
  • continually forgiving all others,
  • repenting of all forms of idolatry,
  • pursuing self-control in all things,
  • pondering the amazing grace of God,
  • nurturing a grateful and thankful spirit,
  • considering others better than yourself,
  • practicing the presence of God continually,
  • sanctifying your speech to the glory of God,
  • seeking the lowest, rather the highest, place,
  • growing a heart that’s hungry to worship God,
  • feeding on the word of God each daily and deeply,
  • developing a vocabulary and lifestyle of encouragement,
  • ridding yourself of all ways that compromise our holiness,
  • training yourself in the attainment of a Christ-like attitude,
  • being quite deliberate in your development of discernment,
  • striving to keep the unity of believers in the Spirit of Christ,
  • extending mercy to those who have treated you mercilessly,
  • how backbiting, complaining, gossip, and slander are all evil,
  • building and deepening the experience of Christian community,
  • trusting God no matter how difficult the times or circumstances,
  • being sensitive to those among us who are burdened or grieving,
  • talking with God in prayer with sincerity, faith, and transparency,
  • seeing yourself as Christ’s servant in every setting and to live as such,
  • distancing yourself from participation in all forms of violence and abuse,
  • the right responsibility and role of those who serve in church government,
  • parenting your children as they deserve to be parented, as gifts from God,
  • attempting to be ever open with, and accountable to, God and Christ’s kin,
  • turning away from consumerism, materialism, and the love of money and things,
  • purging from your heart and habits all forms of arrogance, selfishness, and pride,
  • making an effort to show genuine care to all you encounter who are weak or poor,
  • giving generously with a cheerful heart, looking for or expecting nothing in return,
  • how you should work doubly hard on the health of your marriage and closest relationships,

… and you overhear a fellow Christian sigh and say:

Why can’t that preacher ever just preach the gospel?” …

… take their hands in yours, look them straight in the eye with abundant, genuine love, and gently, but firmly, say …

“What you heard is God’s gospel. Christ’s cross and empty tomb both call us to take up our own cross, die to ourselves and live for him. God’s good news is that he’s not just about setting us right with him with, but about growing us in his grace and likeness for all of our days. The gospel is about so much more than our receiving forgiveness of our sins. The gospel is also about bringing God’s kingdom fully into our life and extending it in every way to all the world. This is why God gifts us with his Spirit as he forgives us. God’s gospel and kingdom are far, far bigger, broader, and deeper than you currently imagine. I must remind myself of this daily and I encourage you to remind yourself of the same.”

Rest assured, if you do so, you won’t be doing just your preacher a favor.