links: this went thru my mind

 

Christmas, culture & devotion: The Real War on Christmas

“The so-called war on Christmas rages on. … When Jesus is primarily just ‘the reason for the season,’ he’s just like that box of Christmas ornaments I keep in my attic. When the season starts, I pull him out, dust him off, and display him loudly and proudly. While the season progresses, I attend to him daily. But when the season is over, I can pack him back up and put him away someplace removed from my daily life. He goes from the middle of my life to the margin of my life relatively quickly.”

Communication: 5 Don’ts of Healthy Communication

“We are all guilty or some of these at times.”

Early Christianity: Social Description of Early Christians/Christianity

“… although this will hardly be news to anyone familiar with scholarly work of the last several decades, I thought it perhaps helpful to point to this work for others.  Essentially, a continuing line of studies has shown from various types of evidence that early Christian circles were comprised of people of a variety of social levels.  To be sure, we have indications that some were very poor and some were slaves.  So, the old stereotype was not totally wrong, just a stereotype, and so wrong.”

Marriage: Marriage Isn’t for You [essential reading]

“Having been married only a year and a half, I’ve recently come to the conclusion that marriage isn’t for me. Now before you start making assumptions, keep reading.”

Money, oppression & payday loans: I Applied For An Online Payday Loan. Here’s What Happened Next

“Payday lenders made about $49 billion in high-interest loans last year. More than a third of those loans were made online. I wondered what happens when you apply for such a loan, so I decided to find out.”

Parenting: Parents, Require Obedience of Your Children [essential reading]

“I am moved to write this by watching young children pay no attention to their parents’ requests, with no consequences. Parents tell a child two or three times to sit or stop and come or go, and after the third disobedience, they laughingly bribe the child. This may or may not get the behavior desired.”

Rest: Are There Any Christians Who Take a Day of Rest Anymore? [required reading]

“There is perhaps no single thing that could better help us recover Jesus’ lordship in our frantic, power-hungry world than to allow him to be Lord of our rest as well as our work. The challenge is disarmingly simple: one day a week, not to do anything that we know to be work.”

Short-term missions: Doing Short-Term Missions Well (parts 1 & 2)

“… how can we do STM in a way that provides a worthwhile blessing to those we serve without creating a problem?”

golden nuggets from Sirach (6)

 

Every few days now I’m posting five passages that have stood out to me as I read through Sirach (aka: Ecclesiasticus) this time. Here’s the latest batch of gleanings.

Many have sinned because of money, and whoever seeks to get more will turn a blind eye. A stake is driven between cracks in stones, and sin will be wedged between selling and buying. (Sirach 27.1)

Limit the time you spend with unintelligent people, but linger with the thoughtful. (Sirach 27.12)

A fire burns in proportion to its fuel, and conflict increases the longer it continues. The more powerful individuals are, the stronger their anger will be; and the wealthier they are, the more their wrath will increase. (Sirach 28.10)

… be patient with those in humble circumstances, and don’t make them wait for assistance. Help the needy for the commandment’s sake,     and in proportion to their need don’t turn them away empty-handed. (Sirach 29.8-9)

A parent who spoils children now will end up tending to their wounds, and will experience heartache at every outcry. A horse that is unbroken turns out stubborn, and a child, when given free rein, turns out reckless. (Sirach 30.7-8)

this went thru my mind

 

Bible study: Serious Bible Study on the Web by David Instone-Brewer

“The Internet is still full of rubbish … Google’s ‘ranking’ is based largely on linkages – if lots of people refer to a site, then lots of people thought it worth recommending. But they do not realize the value of a lot of things out there. The following essay will identify the best recommendations.”

Books & reading: Practical Tips for How to Make More Time for Reading

“Reduce your intake of social media and replace it with a book. … Shake up your routine. …  Go audio. … Turn off the TV. … Set a family goal. … Find a new reading spot. … Join a book club.”

Civil disobedience, faith, Martin Luther King, Jr. & racism: * Letter from Birmingham Jail [required reading]; * Loving the Dream by Jonathan Storment; * Martin Luther King, Jr. at Southern Seminary; * Are We There Yet? by Keith Brenton

* “There was a time when the church was very powerful. It was during that period when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators”‘ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide. and gladiatorial contests.

“Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an arch supporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent and often even vocal sanction of things as they are.

“But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.”

* “I read a survey a few years ago, that said 6% of white people in America, think that racism is still a problem. To help put that in perspective, consider this: 12% of people think Elvis may or may not be dead. But 93% of African American people think that racism is still a problem. And, at least in the world that I grew up in, and know today, they are right.”

* “”This podcast contains a recording of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on April 19, 1961. The speech is more remarkable considering the context. Southern Baptists were not unified in their posture toward the Civil Rights movement and in 1961 the outcome was far from certain.”

* “We may have made strides in our battle against racism, but in many ways, we have simply traded black and white for red and blue.”

Discipline & suffering: How Do We Know if God is Disciplining Us? by D.A. Carson

“… when we face suffering of any kind, we should use the occasion for self-examination. … the remedy is always the same: flee to the Cross, and trust our good and gracious and holy God. And it’s not inconceivable that we may conclude, with Job, that this suffering cannot be God’s punishment for specific sins in our lives. We sometimes observe that hard cases make bad theology. But easy, formulaic answers to questions of suffering are invariably reductionistic — and they make bad theology, too.”

Facebook: Search Option From Facebook Is a Privacy Test

“This week, Facebook unveiled its search tool, which it calls graph search, a reference to the network of friends its users have created. The company’s algorithms will filter search results for each person, ranking the friends and brands that it thinks a user would trust the most. At first, it will mine users’ interests, photos, check-ins and ‘likes,’ but later it will search through other information, including status updates.”

this went thru my mind

 

Change: How the Tech Parade Passed Sony By by Hiroko Tabuchi

“… Sony, which once defined Japan’s technological prowess, wowed the world with the Walkman and the Trinitron TV and shocked Hollywood with bold acquisitions like Columbia Pictures, is now in the fight of its life. In fact, it is in a fight for its life …”

Church: How Your Small Rural Church Can Do Something Big by Whitney Hopler

“… your church’s small size doesn’t have to limit its potential to impact the world in big ways.”

Church problems: * There’s The Door: Dealing with Conflictual Christians by K. Rex Butts; * Remaining Patient: Dealing with Sinful Behavior Among the Church by K. Rex Butts

* “… there comes a time when certain church members must be told ‘There’s the door’ and then told to leave.”

* “While we never want to approve of any sinful behavior, not all sinful behavior has the same consequences upon the local church, its mission and spiritual health.”

Conversion: The New Conversion: Why We ‘Become Christians’ Differently Today by Gordon T. Smith

“It is not be an overstatement to say that evangelicals are experiencing a ‘sea change’—a paradigm shift—in their understanding of conversion and redemption, a shift that includes the way in which they think about the salvation of God, the nature and mission of the church, and the character of religious experience. Although there is no one word to capture where evangelicals are going in this regard, there is a word that captures what they are leaving behind: revivalism.”

Faith: The Maximum Faith series: The Importance of Brokenness by George Barna

“The data indicate that very few people – barely one out of ten adults in the United States – could be considered to have been broken by their understanding of and distaste for their offenses against God. And a huge majority of Christians believes that you can be saved without experiencing such brokenness. Sadly, they are wrong. There is no salvation without brokenness.”

Feeding the hungry: Cuts to SNAP Will Hurt Texas Families Struggling to Afford Food by Larry James

“A cut of this magnitude would affect over 300,000 Texas families who will struggle to put food on the table without the support SNAP provides.”

Gated communities: The Injustice of Gated Communities by David Greusel

“… more than 10 million American households exist sheltered behind walls. While that’s just under 10 percent of U.S. households, it represents a sizeable minority hunkered down in fortified bunkers. … One question to ask about gated communities is, how real is the threat they purport to avoid?”

Pets: Do Pets Go to Heaven?

“An author, a professor, and an animal advocate weigh in.”

Politics: The Impermanent Republican Majority by Timothy Egan

“For those who believe that demography is destiny, there was no more jaw-dropping figure from the 2004 presidential election than this finding from the nation’s far-flung metropolitan frontier: George W. Bush carried 97 of the nation’s 100 fastest growing counties.”

Poverty: David Lipscomb on the Poor (parts 3 & 4)

“Lipscomb encourages a private, daily sharing of resources instead of a public, occasional large gift. The former arises out of a lifestyle but the latter arises out of a desire for reward. The former is the daily life of a Christian but the latter is more tuned to the formal religion with its love of a holy place that is “worldly.” The former practices the gospel in sharing with the poor but the latter practices the religion of building and forms.”

Preaching: The Sermon That Makes Them Mad by Joe McKeever

“… ministers are not sent to make the church happy. They are sent by God to make Him happy, and to make you the members holy and healthy.”

this went thru my mind

 

Commission: Called and Commissioned by Rubel Shelly

“The idea of leaving God’s work in the hands of a few talented professionals just isn’t biblical or practical.”

Dogs: Canaan Canine Faces Threat in Israel

“First-century rock drawings in the Sinai and more than 700 fifth-century B.C.E. canine skeletons … attest to the historical prominence of the Canaan dog, a pointy eared breed that has lived in Israel since Biblical time. … An online petition is raising awareness to protect Israel’s official breed, but a court decision could mark the end of an effort to sustain the ancient pedigree.”

Health: 4 Critical Gauges for Your Life and Work by Michael Nichols

“… a friend introduced me to 4 health gauges to assess my life and work – Physical, Mental, Spiritual, and Emotional. For more than 20 years, Bill Hybels has talked about these 4 gauges, but this was my first experience with them.”

Military service, pacifism & the American Civil WarTolbert Fanning–Advocate for Peace in 1861 by John Mark Hicks. Links to parts onetwothreefourfivesix & seven.

“Fanning, shaped by evangelists associated with [Barton W.] Stone and mentored by Alexander Campbell … was David Lipscomb’s mentor. … Fanning was a unique theological combination of Stone and Campbell and this was the legacy he left to many leaders in Middle Tennessee. … Though … Middle Tennessee voted 88% for secession in June [1861]. In this climate, Fanning attempted to persuade his readers to choose peace.”

Parenting: Brainwashing our Kids with Religion by Jared Byas

“How do you teach your kids about Jesus but also teach them to think for themselves? … For our family, we have decided that we are Christians and that we will raise our children as Christians. But along with our personal beliefs and the Christian tradition, we will indoctrinate them with a Christian faith that (1) respects religious diversity, (2) respects Christian diversity, and (3) humbly accepts they might be wrong.”

Prejudice: Ethnocentrism & Politics by Richard Beck

“Ethnocentrism is a mental habit. It is a predisposition to divide the human world into in-groups and out-groups. It is a readiness to reduce society to us and them. Or rather, it is a readiness to reduce society to us versus them.”

Productivity: 5 Reasons Why You Should Take a Nap Every Day by Michael Hyatt

“Did you know those who take a midday siesta at least three times a week are 37 percent less likely to die of heart disease? Working men are 64 percent less likely!”

Questions: 7 Suggestions for Asking More Powerful Questions by Michael Hyatt

“If you are going to be a successful leader, you are going to have to learn how to ask good questions. Here are seven tips for taking this skill to the next level.”

Receptivity & success: When to Wipe Our Shoes: What Does “Receptive” Mean? by Dan Bouchelle

“Jesus gives us a number for what defines receptivity: one.”

Sabbatical: My Monthly Trip To The Monastery by Brian Jones

“I’ve found that if I don’t get away about once a month and “clear my head” by refocusing and reprioritizing what’s on my plate, I lose my mind.

Self-control & spiritual disciplinesWhat Neuroscience Tells Us about Lenten Disciplines by Rob Moll

“Neuroscience sheds light on how fasting and other spiritual disciplines work by training our subconscious mental processes. We think of ourselves as entirely the activity of our conscious thoughts. In reality, our brain has thousands of sub-conscious processes going on all the time.”

The tree of lifeThe Tree of Life by Richard Oster

“What one discovers is that nations of the Ancient Near East also had traditions about sacred trees, trees of life. … This reality does not “prove” that Israel’s understanding of the tree of life was borrowed from anyone else, but it does suggest at the least that the belief in the sacred tree was part of the religious lingua franca of both Israel and the Ancient Near East.”

Christ in the Psalms: restore us, Lord!

 

NOTE: Following is a copy of the discussion guide that will be used in MoSt Church’s LIFE groups tomorrow (Sun., Feb. 26). This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning from Psalm 80. This is the final sermon in the series entitled The Christ in the Psalms and the Psalms in the Christ. You’ll find these LIFE group discussion guides categorized each week here on my site under the category title LIFE group guides.

Aim

To underscore our dependence on the Lord for every blessing.

Word

Shepherd of Israel, listen! You, the one who leads Joseph as if he were a sheep. You, who are enthroned upon the winged heavenly creatures. Show yourself before Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh! Wake up your power! Come to save us! Restore us, God! Make your face shine so that we can be saved!

LORD God of heavenly forces, how long will you fume against your people’s prayer? You’ve fed them bread made of tears; you’ve given them tears to drink three times over! You’ve put us at odds with our neighbors; our enemies make fun of us. Restore us, God of heavenly forces! Make your face shine so that we can be saved!

You brought a vine out of Egypt. You drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it; then it planted its roots deep, filling the land. The mountains were covered by its shade; the mighty cedars were covered by its branches. It sent its branches all the way to the sea; its shoots went all the way to the Euphrates River. So why have you now torn down its walls so that all who come along can pluck its fruit, so that any boar from the forest can tear it up, so that the bugs can feed on it?

Please come back, God of heavenly forces! Look down from heaven and perceive it! Attend to this vine, this root that you planted with your strong hand, this son whom you secured as your very own. It is burned with fire. It is chopped down. They die at the rebuke coming from you. Let your hand be with the one on your right side—with the one whom you secured as your own—then we will not turn away from you! Revive us so that we can call on your name. Restore us, LORD God of heavenly forces! Make your face shine so that we can be saved! (Psalm 80 CEB)

Open

Icebreaker questions are meant to help us all start talking. Choose one of the following to discuss as a group.

1. Tell us about an experience you’ve had in attempting to grow something in your yard, garden, etc.

2. What usually causes you to change a bad habit: bad things happening or the prospect of blessing?

Dig

These questions are intended to help us grapple with Scripture related to this morning’s sermon.

1. Who is the “Shepherd of Israel?” (vs. 1) Who is the one at his “right side?” (vs. 17)

2. What statements are most repeated in this psalm? Where do they appear? What’s their point?

3. Israel is often depicted as a vine God planted. How does reading Isa. 5.1-7 help illuminate Ps. 80?

4. God had let Israel’s enemies ravage her (vs. 5-6,12-13,16). Using this psalm’s words, explain why.

Reflect

These questions facilitate our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us through his word.

1. When you’ve repented of a sin, but continue to reap its consequences, how do you talk to God?

2. The psalmist says, “Enough, God; we get it! How much more?” Is it ever OK to talk to God this way?

3. When you’re anxious for God to restore and bless you, what are the biggest temptations you face?

4. Does God leave people (vs. 14a) or do people leave God? Explain.

5. Read this Psalm as if you were Jesus. You’re recalling it in the garden of Gethsemane. Thoughts?

6. A fellow believer says to you: “Many times I’ve sinned and asked for God’s mercy. Many times I’ve pledged to do better by him (vs. 17-18) and then rarely did. Why should keep I asking and trying?” How do you respond?