this went thru my mind

 

Archaeology: Cyrus Cylinder Begins American Tour

“Since its discovery more than 130 years ago, the Cyrus Cylinder has been a striking example of an archaeological artifact that independently confirms a Biblical account. … Visitors to five U.S. museums will have the rare opportunity to see this fascinating artifact firsthand in The Cyrus Cylinder in Ancient Persia, on tour this year. The cylinder is usually on display at the British Museum in London. … May 3–June 14, 2013 – The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston – Houston, Texas – www.mfah.org

Communion: A Hearty Eucharist [very interesting; read this with my sermon last Sunday morning in mind]

“… there is something to be said for going back, insofar as possible, to a practice that more closely resembles the early church or Jesus’ last meal with his disciples itself. How can we reclaim, for our congregations and our worship services, a sense of how the early church both commemorated the last supper and ate together? How can we, in our communion practices, strive to (in the most literal sense) be more Christ-like?”

Depression: How Can the Church Help People Struggling with Depression?

“How can the church do a better job of helping people struggling with depression and mental illness?”

Entitlement: What I Deserve

“I deserve better. I’m entitled to certain things. I have my rights. My forefathers worked hard so that I could live a certain way. I’ve worked like a dog so that I could live like a king. Said any of those things? Thought any of those things?”

Grief & miscarriage: How Does a Pastor Care for a Couple Who Just Experienced a Miscarriage?

“Here are a few tips for those interested in knowing helpful ways to care for a couple who have just experienced this loss.”

Hospital visitation: Five Things I Learned in the Hospital

“With my almost 3-week hospital stay behind me, I realized there are several things I learned from the experience. Here are five of them.”

Marriage & ministry: * Is Ministry Killing your Marriage?; * 10 Things I’ve Learned About Being A Preacher’s Wife

* “Pastors reflect on building a harmonious relationship between their ministries and families.”

* “I don’t think preacher’s wives are understood by most people. … Here are some things I presume most preacher’s wives wish someone had told them before they became such.”

Speech, suffering & words: How Not to Say the Wrong Thing [required reading]

“… you can say whatever you want if you just wait until you’re talking to someone in a larger ring than yours.”

Suicide: 7 Questions About Suicide and Christians

“… to address seven of the questions that arise in our minds at times like this.”

this went thru my mind

 

ALS, life, death, & meaning: I Am So Honored by Tim Stevens

“At some point, in the last few months, my focus has shifted. And I am overwhelmed with gratefulness. I have a front-row seat to watching a man praise God until his dying breath. He is a prisoner in his own wheelchair, yet does not curse God. He endures humiliating processes with the hospice nurse, yet he still smiles. He can’t walk, scratch his nose, shoo a fly away, hold a pen or say a word. And yet he still praises God.”

Children & ministry: Craig Groeschel on Children’s Ministry (parts 1, 2, & 3)

“The key elements of an excellent children’s ministry are solid safety procedures, an environment that is comfortable and aesthetically pleasing to a child, great curriculum that teaches biblical truth and how to apply it and most importantly, an amazing team of volunteer leaders who understand the vision of your ministry. … The responsibility of leading children to become fully devoted followers of Christ is one of the most daunting tasks you can face. It’s an intimidating challenge for even the most spiritually grounded. Here’s what we believe (because it’s scriptural): God has placed that task squarely on the shoulders of parents. So our role is to offer them a support system.”

Fear: Fear! Fear! Fear! by Mark Woodward [required reading]

“So how does a Christian respond to a world driven by drama and conflict …? Christians do not need an addiction to conflict. … If you are one who writes or speaks or provokes others to think or to do, be careful about manipulating artificial conflict or dramatic words to create fear. FDR said the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.  Scripture is full of God’s messengers saying, ‘Be strong and courageous, and do not be afraid!’ Fear is not a harmless emotion.”

Funerals & grief: What to Say (and Not to Say) at a Funeral by Caleb Wilde

“Here’s the text of an article written by Gloria Horsley that can help you know what to say and what not to say.”

God, judgment & wrath: The Judgment Boomerang by Gred Boyd

“… sin has natural consequences that boomerang back to us. While God’s wrath has serious consequences for us, we need to understand how God uses his wrath. In the clip, Greg talks about the mistaken picture of God that allows for the fear of God, but does not make it possible to really love God.”

this went thru my mind

 

Acts 5, Ananias, God, Sapphira & violence: How Do You Explain the Violent Judgment of Ananias and Sapphira? by Greg Boyd

“Knowing that God’s true character looks like Jesus voluntarily dying on the cross for his enemies, we will always know that something else is going on if God appears to act in ways that are contrary to this enemy-loving, non-violent character.”

Bragging, jealousy & rejoicing: Solving Your ‘You Problem’ by Sean Palmer

“I would only feel as if  they were bragging, if I felt something else first: JEALOUS!”

Church & faith: Together by William Willimon [21 min. sermon video clip; required viewing]

“Where the heck did you get the notion we wanted you to be comfortable? … The way of Jesus Christ is just too difficult to attempt it by yourself. …. the only way that you can be saved is by bringing all of us along with you. It’s together.”

Church & generations: A Head, Heart, or Hands Church? by Dan Bouchelle [truly required reading; as in "if you read only one thing this month"]

“I grew up in a church designed for the head. That is not a criticism. It is just a description. We did not trust emotions because they were easily manipulated and clouded thinking. Actions were important and we believed ‘good works’ were essential to faithfulness, but what really mattered was getting your theology straight. … The church of my heritage lost many of the boomer generation who walked away looking for a church with a heart. … Ironically, now that boomers make up the majority of leaders and have the most control in our churches, the emerging adult generation has shifted the criteria for validity again. Young adults today, and the culture in general, are not looking for a powerful experience of God or ballast for a head-heavy church. … What this generation longs for is not more heart but something to do with their hands. … While the young adult generation is not anti-logic or emotionless, they just aren’t impressed with their church options. They may show up for the show and agree with most of the teaching, but they will give their time and money to something that changes lives in tangible ways.”

Church & phones: The Cold, Hard Truth About Phones in Church by Jon Acuff

[I won't spoil it for you here. Go look at it. There's a powerful parable here, not just a smile.]

Leadership & worry: 7 Encouragements for Leaders Who Worry by Ron Edmonson

“Having a strong faith is no guarantee your emotions won’t play tricks on you at times.”

this went thru my mind

 

Books: Why Do Old Books Smell? by AbeBooks [2 min. video]

“Walk into a used bookshop and you will encounter the unique aroma of aging books. The smell is loved by some, disliked by others, but where does it come from?”

Benevolence: Early Christian Charity [9 min., 30 sec. video clip of speaker, Dr. John Dickson]

“… an overview from the time of the New Testament up to Constantine.”

Comfort: How Not to Minister to the Hurting by Joe McKeever

“You will not believe what some people say to a bereaved parent or the family member of someone tragically injured.”

Elders meetings: A Noble Task by Tim Woodroof

“We don’t expect much of elders’ meetings anymore. We do not attend with the anticipation that God’s Spirit will show up or lives will be transformed or the gates of hell might quiver and fall because we meet. … To be fair, we come by this lack of imagination honestly. We’ve learned to be modest in our hopes.”

Faith & politics: “Hide It Under a Bushel? Yes!” by Bryan Dyer

“… American Christians should keep faith hidden in the public sphere in order to preserve that identity’s integrity. If Christian identity is just another brand loyalty, then it is pointless.”

Graciousness: Graciousness: Daring to Live a Graceful Life by Jim Martin

“… the final act of grace is graciousness.”

Groups: Six Tips for Keeping New Small Groups Healthy by Brett Eastman

“Here are six tips for keeping new small groups healthy so they can make the impact God wants …”

Ignorance: Amazing Grace: Is Ignorance of God’s Will an Excuse? by Jay Guin

“… all my life, Church of Christ preachers have argued that ignorance of the law is no excuse. I’m a lawyer. And ignorance is not an excuse – in civil court. But when we begin applying American legal principles to Christianity, well, we just might be legalists.”

Internet: Why One in Five U.S. Adults Doesn’t Use the Internet by Amy Gahran

“… one in five U.S. adults still does not use the Internet at all …”

Meetings: A Problem-Free Meeting by Dan Bouchelle

“I think every church should periodically have a problem-free meeting where we simply assess our gifts and strengths and then use the results as a basis to inform our ministry plans. What has God given us? What are we able to do well? How do we steward these strengths well in our context? We would doubtlessly be more effective in our service if we focused on these matter rather than spend all our time trying to shore up our weaknesses. Let’s change the self-talk of our churches by focusing on God’s power in us rather than our weaknesses.”

Poverty: “David Lipscomb and the Poor” (parts 1 & 2)

* “The sealing testimony in behalf of Jesus Christ being the Son of God is his own estimation, as divine to the disciples of John, was, ‘The poor have the gospel preached to them.” The world to-day needs this same sealing testimony, that it may believe that, Jesus is the Son of God. Every preacher that pretendedly, in the name of Jesus Christ, seeks the rich and the learned and the fashionable to preach to, instead of the poor and simple-hearted and unpretending, by that course nullifies the power of the great truth, that Jesus is the anointed one that was to come into the world to save the world. Such a preacher is no co-laborer with God; no true minister of Christ, but a servant of the wicked one in the livery of Heaven.”

* “Do we create spaces, relationships and opportunities where the poor feel welcome? Given our upper middle class buildings and fashionable dress and expensive stuff, it is little wonder that the poor are generally uncomfortable.”

Unchurched Christians: Better Conversations Between Churched and Un-churched Christians by Rachel Held-Evans

“While too many among the ‘churched’ seem unwilling to change, too many among the ‘un-churched’ seem unwilling to compromise.”

this went thru my mind

 

Bible interpretation: On Not Harmonizing by J. Daniel Kirk

Boredom: The Arrogance of Boredom by Dan Bouchelle

Church, comfort, learning & maturity: The Church is Not Trained to Be Disturbed by Terry Rush is so very, sadly true.

Civil religion: Why it’s unbiblical to affirm ‘In God We Trust’ by Bethany Keeley-Jonker

Coffee: 17 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Morning Coffee by Lindsey Savino

Comfort, encouragement, speech & words: What to Say When Someone is In Pain by Bev Hislop

Death & life: * If Only by Ben Witherington. Wow. * Richard Beck’s ongoing series on The Slavery of Death is required reading. Here is a link to part one and the most recent post, part thirteen. Read two posts a day and catch up.

Discipline: 5 Steps to Developing More Discipline by Michael Hyatt

Evangelism, gospel & preaching: Critical Concerns With Gospel Presentations is a three-part series by Peter Mead. Here are links to parts one, two, and three.

Facebook: The Unfaced Book World is telling.

Forgiveness: If Rwandans Can Forgive Killings, We Can Forgive the Waitress by Jeremy Cowart

Justification: New/Old Perspective on Justification is a series by Scot McKnight. Here are links to part one, two, three, four, and five.

Leadership & Joe Paterno: Leadership Lessons From Happy Valley by Tim Spivey

Meetings: 18 Rules for Creative Meetings by Brad Lomenick

Perspective: Study links regular religious service attendance, outlook on life

Reading: If you’re not reading, you’re missing out. This could be the most helpful post you’ve read in a long time – Michael Hyatt’s spot-on post entitled 5 Ways to Make More Time to Read.

Sexual abuse: * Remind Your Staff About Handling Abuse Properly by Brandon Cox * The Problem With Pederasty and the Penn State Scandal by Ben Witherington * Discounted Prices on Background Checks Through LifeWay by Erin Freshwater * Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network * The National Sexual Assault Hotline is 1-800-656-4673

Spiritual maturity: 5 Signs of Spiritual Maturity by Clint Archer

praying for the family of Osama bin Laden

“Forgive us for the ways we have wronged you, just as we also forgive those who have wronged us.” (Matthew 6:12 CEB)

“… you should treat people in the same way that you want people to treat you; this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12 CEB)

Father in heaven,

I come to you with praise for who you are and all you do. You alone are God and great! And so in the name of Jesus, your Son and my Lord and Savior, I come asking of you with Osama bin Laden in mind. For his family and for all who were close to him and who now grieve his death, I pray.

As I ask for myself, I intercede for them. Forgive me. Forgive my not having loved them as I should and for not praying  for them as I could. Forgive them of any and all evil within them. Much of it they surely do in ignorance, knowing no better; much of it is surely with a will. But in either case, Father, have mercy on them, forgiving them of any and all sins of ignorance, commission, and omission. Deliver them from all that is hell.

Give them eyes to ever see your will and to have the vitality and courage to live it out, no matter the personal cost. May their lives become testimonies of your redemptive power and not be squandered. Shine your light into their lives, dispelling all that is darkness, that they might truly see.

Console them in their loss and comfort them in their pain, Father. Surround them and bathe them with your obvious concern and care. Bring into their lives people who model your life, Father. May those you provide be given the support they deserve and need from others like them.

When the spirits of Osama’s family and friends are so heavy they can do nothing, pick them up and carry them, showing mercy to them so that they might not only be enabled to go on, but might be drawn to seek you and find you, even as they mourn. May your peace settle on them and remain, fostering peace in their hearts and then, outwardly in their ways. May they give praise to you for the true rest only you can offer and dispense.

Wither and put to death any root of bitterness that would grow in them. Steer their hearts away from hate and toward everything that is imitative of your true love. Shield their minds from any seeds of vengeance that threaten to land and sprout, lest their thoughts be corrupted and only more grief come to many. When they falter and think to act without love, stay their hands, block their path, and cause them to consider again. Give them wisdom and discernment as to the way of holiness. And as surely as they receive all different kinds of counsel and influence from all kinds, and from so many sources, may you just as certainly assist them in making good choices, choices that respect you and all human life.

I ask much, Father, for I know you love much and give much. All good things come from you. And so may my life reflect your ways and only underscore my requests of you.

I love you, Father.

Amen.

what follows you?

And I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Favored are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”

“Yes,” says the Spirit, “so they can rest from their labors, because their deeds follow them.” (Revelation 14:13 CEB)

What fills your mind when you stop to consider God’s awareness of all that you do? Is it the questions you have? How you rarely think of such? That you try not to think about it?

What grips your heart when you pause and reflect on the fact that someday your life will be assessed by God in light of all that you do? Is it uneasiness? Shame? Fear? Terror?

What wells up in your spirit when you pause over these words of God’s Spirit for yourself: “their deeds follow them?” A sense of regret over things you’ve done? Have left undone? How you wish you could do more?

Now read this passage again slowly and ask yourself exactly what it is the writer, John, intended to convey to us by hearing these words.

“Favored are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”

“Yes,” says the Spirit, “so they can rest from their labors, because their deeds follow them.” (Revelation 14:13 CEB)

Who is being spoken of? Those who “die in the Lord.” How are we to view their condition? As “favored,” that is, “well off in the eyes of God.” What do they experience? “… rest from their labors …”

Now thus far, to say this is “good” is an understatement, no? Without a doubt! Now ask this passage, and yourself, one more question.
On what basis is it that this text says those who die in the Lord are well off in God’s eyes and experience rest?

Answer: “… because their deeds follow them.”

Clearly John is not holding out to us uneasiness or fear, regret or shame, uncertainties or questions. He is deliberately extending to those who labor in the Lord the great assurance, comfort, confidence, peace, security, and serenity that can, and does, come directly from the Spirit of God.

In other words, what you do matters. It matters for good. It matters here and now. It matters forever. It matters for others. And it matters for you.

Your good, no matter how large or small, is remembered by God. The power of your good work in the name of Christ is not dependent on its remembrance by others or even on your own memory. The good you do simply because you are in the Lord and you let him come out through you, as it were, go with you beyond the grave into God’s presence with you. And our awareness of that reality, made known to us by revelation, is a gift to God to us to encourage and spur us on to never cease doing good.

We will do good and not even realize it. We will do good and forget we even did it. We will do good and others will not even know it, remember it, or care. But God cares and remembers perfectly. God does not forget and will do good to those who live their lives expressive of his goodness, being “in him” and “for him” in life.

In this, let your mind find peace, your heart have rest, your spirit take comfort, and your hands, busyness to do good until the day you die. For what you do always matters.

Father God in heaven, remember me for good and help me to remember you in all things, that I might live well by you in Christ’s name. Amen.