this went thru my mind

 

Baytown & Mont Belvieu: Chambers Town Center

A look at the plan for the the construction of Chambers Town Center near the intersection of I-10 & Hwy. 146 in Baytown, TX.

Church, idolatry & ministry: When Church Becomes an Idol

“… what does this look like when church itself is the ‘idol’ a pastor is venerating?”

Criticism, listening, preaching, respect, selective hearing & sermons: Sick of Sermons [required reading]

“Chronic critique of sermons is an illness. …  Some sufferers have lived with this condition for so long that they have found ways to manage it: committing to ministries that pull them out of the sermon … venting … or using the sermon-time for completely unrelated spiritual exercises. The long-term prognosis is grave: spiritual malnourishment. The table that God sets for us has two parts, Word and Sacrament, and Christ is the bread of both. But we only get what we’re willing to receive. How can we fight this illness that has us always excusing ourselves from the table during the first course and frequently ruining the appetite of others? I recommend aggressive treatment.”

Discouragement, faith, humility, passion, perseverance, & zeal: Maintaining a Holy Fire When You Feel More Like an Unholy Fizzle

“… because we live in Christ we must wait for him to do the work. This is nearly a mockery to the flesh-driven personality. God, through the Spirit, opens doors and closes others. My exhilaration is when He opens them. My frustration is when none open and I impatiently knock harder.

“How do we maintain a holy fire when some days feel more like an unholy fizzle? Believe God works…and then wait on Him.”

Holiness, OMG, speech, respect & words: Is It OK for a Christian to Drop OMG’s?

“Remember, it is the trademark for the unbeliever to take God’s name in vain …”

Inspiration & interpretation: The Inspiration of Scripture: 2 Timothy 3:16

“In short, I tend not to read 2 Tim 3:16a as an assertion about scripture, but as an identification of which writings the author is talking about.”

Modesty: Modesty: I Don’t Think it Means What You Think it Means

“And so biblical modesty isn’t about managing the sexual impulses of other people; it’s about cultivating humility, propriety and deference within ourselves.”

Parenting: Dear Parents With Young Children [essential reading]

“You are doing something really, really important. I know it’s not easy. I see you with your arms overflowing, and I know you came to church already tired. Parenting is tiring. Really tiring.

“I watch you bounce and sway trying to keep the baby quiet, juggling the infant car seat and the diaper bag as you find a seat. I see you wince as your child cries. I see you anxiously pull things out of your bag of tricks to try to quiet them.

“And I see you with your toddler and your preschooler. I watch you cringe when your little girl asks an innocent question in a voice that might not be an inside voice let alone a church whisper.  I hear the exasperation in your voice as you beg your child to just sit, to be quiet as you feel everyone’s eyes on you. Not everyone is looking, but I know it feels that way.

“I know you’re wondering, is this worth it? Why do I bother? I know you often leave church more exhausted than fulfilled. But what you are doing is so important.”

Reading: * Read Your Bible: But How? (Lectio Divina); * Americans’ Reading Habits Over Time

* “I’ve benefited from reading large portions of Scripture–whole narratives, books, and multiple chapters–in one sitting. I’ve also benefited immensely from slowing down and meditatively just reading a few verses at a time. Lectio Divina is a way of reading Scripture that encourages that. It’s reading, as many have said, for transformation and not just information. …

“It goes like this: * 1. Read: What does the passage say? 2. Pray: What is God saying to me through this passage?  (short phrase or single word) 3. Listen: How is God calling me to respond to what he’s saying? 4. Respond: What will I commit to God to do in response?”

* “… the percentage of Americans who read a printed book in the previous 12 months fell from 72% of the population in 2011 to 67% in 2012.”

pondering prayer: it’s about following, not your feelings

 

NOTE: Following is a copy of the discussion guide that will be used in MoSt Church’s LIFE groups tomorrow (Feb. 3). This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon tomorrow morning. This sermon is part two in the Pondering Prayer series and is entitled It’s About Following, Not Your Feelings. Look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous discussion guides. All Scripture texts reproduced below are from the CEB.

Aim

To explore some of the most commonly misunderstood or mystifying aspects of prayer.

Word

• Know this: the Lord takes personal care of the faithful. The Lord will hear me when I cry out to him. (Psalm 4.3)

• Listen to what’s right, Lord; pay attention to my cry! Listen closely to my prayer; it’s spoken by lips that don’t lie! … You have examined my heart, testing me at night. You’ve looked me over closely, but haven’t found anything wrong. My mouth doesn’t sin. (Psalm 17.1,3)

• The Lord’s eyes watch the righteous, his ears listen to their cries for help. But the Lord’s face is set against those who do evil … When the righteous cry out, the Lord listens; he delivers them from all their troubles. (Psalm 34.15-16a,17)

• If I had cherished evil in my heart, my Lord would not have listened. But God definitely listened. He heard the sound of my prayer. Bless God! He didn’t reject my prayer; he didn’t withhold his faithful love from me. (Psalm 66.18-20)

• I cry out to you, Lord: Come to me—quickly! Listen to my voice when I cry out to you! Let my prayer stand before you like incense; let my uplifted hands be like the evening offering. Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep close watch over the door that is my lips. Don’t let my heart turn aside to evil things so that I don’t do wicked things with evildoers … Instead, let the righteous discipline me; let the faithful correct me. (Psalm 141.1-4a,5)

• Those who turn their ears from hearing Instruction—even their prayers will be detested. (Proverbs 28.9)

• During his days on earth, Christ offered prayers and requests with loud cries and tears as his sacrifices to the one who was able to save him from death. He was heard because of his godly devotion. (Hebrews 5.7)

• The prayer of the righteous person is powerful in what it can achieve. Elijah was a person just like us. When he earnestly prayed that it wouldn’t rain, no rain fell for three and a half years. He prayed again, God sent rain, and the earth produced its fruit. (James 5.16b-18)

• Husbands, likewise, submit by living with your wife in ways that honor her … Honor her all the more, as she is also a coheir of the gracious care of life. Do this so that your prayers won’t be hindered. … ‘The Lord’s eyes are on the righteous and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord cannot tolerate those who do evil.’ (1 Peter 3.7,12; cf. Ps. 34.11-18)

Open

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

1. What kind(s) of music cause you to “tune out?” What kind(s) move you to “tune in?”

2. Tell us of a time when having strong feelings about something blinded you to reality or truth.

Dig

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

1. Read the five texts above from the Psalms. List all the things the righteous do and don’t do.

2. Restate the truth expressed in Proverbs 28.9 in your own words.

3. God “heard” Christ because of his “godly devotion” (Heb. 5.7b). So why note his feelings (7a)?

4. Elijah “was a person just like us.” (James 5.17)? In what way(s)? Recall some of Elijah’s life.

5. How is it how you respect your mate should affect how God respects your prayers? (1 Pet. 3.7)

Reflect

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

1. If right living and praying are connected, which comes first: the praying or the living?

2. What does it mean to be “righteous?”

3. What sort of things do “righteous people” pray about? And not pray about? Why?

4. Why is it that our emotions aren’t always solid indicators of our “righteousness?”

5. When your prayers seem to go unanswered, does that mean God thinks you’re unrighteous?

6. “Please give me some advice as to how to pray so as to grow in holiness!” What do you say?

this went thru my mind

 

Church life: How and Why I Stay in the Dysfunctional Family of God by Donald Miller

” … I understood these true but harsh facts, I was able to turn around and see it for what it was, a flawed, beautiful collection of people who are stuck with each other. And as cynical and judgmental as this post may seem, it was important for me to draw a very clear line between how God saw the church and the man-made construct that is so repellent to so many. These paradigm shifts, and many more, have kept me in the family of God. I consider them truths God gave me to, in part, keep me around.”

Complaining: If Jesus Complained Like Us by Dan Bouchelle

“Is this how you sound to him?”

Creativity: The Most Important Part of the Creative Life by Jeff Goins

“There are three types of space every creative must consider …”

Grace & holiness: Do American Christians Need the Message of Grace or a Call to Holiness?

“Grace is more than some benign, sweet syrup poured over us by a God who only says, “I love you just as you are; promise me you won’t change a thing.” Holiness of heart and life demonstrates to the world that Christ is able to not only love us as we are but also change us into what he would have us be. Holiness is Christ not only forgiving our sin but also redeeming us and utilizing us for his work in the world. In other words, holiness is God’s grace in action, enlisting us to work for God’s will in the world.”

Leadership: 5 Reasons Some Leaders Finish Poorly by Ed Stetzer

“I think there are some common factors shared by those who don’t end well. Here are my five observations: 1. They did not trust the very people they developed for succession. … 2. They fought over things which were just not that important. … 3. Their identities were too connected to their movement. … 4. They grew angrier as they grew older. … 5. They could not hand over what they helped create.”

Marriage & ministry: How Much Should a Pastor Tell His Wife?

“So how much does a pastor share with his wife? Should a pastor keep some things from his wife? Let me turn for a balanced perspective to my wife—a pastor’s wife.”

devoted: keep it zipped!

 

NOTE: Following is a copy of the discussion guide that will be used in MoSt Church’s LIFE groups tomorrow (Dec. 2). This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon tomorrow morning entitled Devoted: Keep It Zipped! The sermon will be taken exclusively from 1 Thes. 4.3-8. Look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous discussion guides. All Scripture texts reproduced below are from the CEB.

Aim

To consider what it means to devote our private parts to God.

Word

Don’t be deceived. Those who are sexually immoral … adulterers, both participants in same-sex intercourse … won’t inherit God’s kingdom. That is what some of you used to be! But you were washed clean, you were made holy to God, and you were made right with God in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. … Flee immorality! (1 Cor. 6.9b-11,18a)

Sexual immorality, and any kind of impurity or greed, shouldn’t even be mentioned among you, which is right for holy persons. Obscene language, silly talk, or vulgar jokes aren’t acceptable for believers. Instead, there should be thanksgiving. Because you know for sure that persons who are sexually immoral, impure, or greedy—which happens when things become gods—those persons won’t inherit the kingdom of Christ and God. (Eph. 5.3-5)

God’s will is that your lives are dedicated to him. This means that you stay away from sexual immorality and learn how to control your own body in a pure and respectable way. Don’t be controlled by your sexual urges like the Gentiles who don’t know God. No one should mistreat or take advantage of their brother or sister in this issue. The Lord punishes people for all these things, as we told you before and sternly warned you. God didn’t call us to be immoral but to be dedicated to him. Therefore, whoever rejects these instructions isn’t rejecting a human authority. They are rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. (1 Thes. 4.3-8)

… you must be holy in every aspect of your lives, just as the one who called you is holy. (1 Pet. 1.15)

Marriage must be honored in every respect, with no cheating on the relationship, because God will judge the sexually immoral person and the person who commits adultery. (Heb. 13.4)

… Sodom and Gomorrah … practiced immoral sexual relations and pursued other sexual urges. By undergoing the punishment of eternal fire, they serve as a warning. (Jude 7)

Favored are those who wash their robes so that they may have the right of access to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates. Outside are … those who commit sexual immorality … and all who love and practice deception. (Rev. 22.14-15)

Open

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

1. Complete this sentence: “I feel like my privacy is being violated whenever __________.”

2. Zippers don’t always work like they’re supposed to work. Tell us of a funny (and of course, clean) broken or stuck zipper experience you’ve had.

Dig

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

1. Consider Eph. 5.3-5. How is it that loose living (vs. 3,5) often arises out of loose speech (vs. 4)?

2. Work through all of the preceding passages, compiling a list of other points of darkness with which sexual immorality often keeps company (i.e. – “deception” [Rev. 22.15b]).

Reflect

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

1. What evidence would you offer that sex is the “Lord” or “God” of many today?

2. Describe specific points of emotional anguish, mental pain, and relationship trauma that commonly follow immorality.

3. Brainstorm a list of the advantages and benefits that can be had from living a life of sexual purity.

4. What specific action steps would you offer a friend or your child to take to maintain sexual purity?

this went thru my mind

 

Faith/faithfulness: The Faithfulness of Jesus, or Faith in Jesus?

“It is Jesus’ faithfulness I can rest in, and not my own sometimes weak, wavering, and even battered faith. It’s not that I am excused not to hold on to faith, or keep the faith. But I can better do so by realizing that it’s because of the faithfulness of Jesus that I can continue in that stance of faith, and nothing more nor less. Of course the Spirit is at work in God’s grace in Jesus to help us, all part of what comes out of the faithfulness of Jesus.”

Firearms, gun ownership & violence: Why This Christian Will Never Own a Gun by Bruce Reyes-Chow

“When I say that I will never own a gun because of my Christian faith, that does not mean that I am saying that you are not a Christian if you do.”

Gospel: The Gospel … A Family Story by K. Rex Butts

“If we were to ask a hundred Christians what the goal or aim of the gospel of Jesus Christ is, I’m guessing a good bit of that number would provide an individualistic salvation answer. They would say something like, ‘to save me from my sins so that I can live eternally with God.’ … However, the aim of the gospel is reconciliation of people back to God and each other into “one body” so that we all are one community, the ‘household of God’ (Eph. 2:14-22).”

Government & taxes: Render to Caesar What is Caesar’s by Scott Elliott

“N.T. Wright has correctly said, ‘If Jesus is Lord, Caesar is not.’ First century Christians understood that professing Jesus as Lord could ultimately mean death because of its political implications. Becoming a Christian means that Jesus is our Lord and we are citizens of the Kingdom of God. We cannot serve two masters. Our sole allegiance is to God and His Kingdom.”

Growth: * The Myth of Endless Growth by Larry Osborne [required reading]; * Reflections on a Red God by Dan Bouchelle

* “I’ve always been told that if a business or church isn’t growing, something must be terribly wrong. After all, healthy things always multiply and grow. But frankly, that’s hogwash. It’s based on idealistic and wishful thinking. It’s a leadership urban legend. And a dangerous one at that.”

* “Perhaps our models of church have hindered the growth of the church as much as aided it. Perhaps the Christian faith grows best when it travels light. … The more I read … the more I’m convinced that we need to be doing what God is blessing instead of asking him to bless what we are doing. The mission is his. He is in the lead.”

Holiness, humility & respect: Committed to Holiness But Not Holier Than Thou [required reading]

“We hold to our convictions, firmly believing that we are right. Yet we can do so without judging others and without believing that our stance somehow makes us better than others. I will try to convince others of my position and hope they will try to convince me of theirs. That’s how we grow as Christians. Yet it must always be done with an air of acceptance and respect.”

Joy: Four Simple Things Stealing Your Joy (And What to do About Them) by Chris Altrock

“Richard Foster writes about four obstacles that keep us from joy. The first obstacle is inattention. … A second obstacle is the wrong kind of attention. … A third obstacle is greed. … The final hindrance is conceit.”

Politics: The Attack Ad, Pompeii-Style

“A.D. 79 was a rough year for Marcus Cerrinius Vatia. … Since tradition in Pompeii kept ads from being blatantly defamatory, a favorite trick of local politicians was to plaster the tombs and walls of the town with fake endorsements for their opponents from unsuitable supporters — runaway slaves, gamblers and prostitutes. In Roman politics, where the appearance of honor and dignity was all important, even obviously false endorsements could bring shame and defeat to a struggling candidate. The almost 3,000 political inscriptions that survive from Pompeii tell us more about Roman elections …”

Prayer: Pray Continually: Thoughts on Praying with the Church by John Byron

“The exhortation to “pray continually” is common to Paul’s writing and his life (Rom. 12:12; Eph 6:18; Col. 4:2; 2 Tim 1:3). … When we pray, whether alone or corporately and whether we realize it or not, we pray together with all the people of God.”

Silence: Only In Silence, The Word

“… when you are alone with just yourself and God, you find out how noisy your interior world is …”

longing for our faithfulness

NOTE: Following is a copy of the discussion guide that will be used in MoSt Church’s LIFE groups tomorrow (Sun., Nov. 6). This guide will enable your follow-up of the sermon that I’ll preach, God willing, that morning from James 4:4-10. You’ll find these LIFE group discussion guides categorized each week here on my site under the category title LIFE group guides.

Aim

To candidly call us all out of living after this world’s ways and into God’s world and his ways.

Word

“You unfaithful people! Don’t you know that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? Or do you suppose that scripture is meaningless? Doesn’t God long for our faithfulness in the life he has given to us? But he gives us more grace. This is why it says, God stands against the proud, but favors the humble. Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will run away from you. Come near to God, and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners. Purify your hearts, you double-minded. Cry out in sorrow, mourn, and weep! Let your laughter become mourning and your joy become sadness. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:4-10 CEB)

Open

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

1. Tell us about something you’ve bought, but broken because you used it the wrong way.

2. What is something, funny or serious, that you’ve been pleaded with to do, but still haven’t done?

Dig

These questions are intended to help us grapple directly with the sermon’s primary Scripture text.

1. As you read this text, what OT texts or events come to your mind? What words of Jesus?

2. True grit is required of us to do what’s expected in vs.7-10. Working from what is explicitly said in this passage, where will we find this grit?

3. In light of this Scripture, what role does emotion plays in our repentance?

Reflect

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

1. James is not speaking here to people who are yet to believe. James is passionately speaking to those who are already Christians to repent. Which was, or has been, the most difficult for you: to come to Christ or to continue with Christ? Why?

2. It’s all too easy to turn the spotlight that is this Scripture onto others and so, not allow it’s full force be felt in our own life. Why is this so? To what does this give witness?

3. Which of the three questions in vs.4-5 strikes home most deeply with you? Why?

4. What thoughts and emotions well up in you as you consider how God “longs for your faithfulness?” (vs.5)

5. This text starts with the thought of our broken promises to God (vs.4a) and ends on a note regarding God’s great promise to us (vs.10b). Which looms larger to you? Why?

6. Of all the commands given to us in vs.7-10, which would you say is the most difficult for you at this time in life? Why?

7. How can we specifically pray for you now as to your recalling and responding to the seriousness of the promises you’ve made to God?

what of the wisdom from above?

What of the wisdom from above? First, it is pure, and then peaceful, gentle, obedient, filled with mercy and good actions, fair, and genuine. (James 3:17 CEB)

James is thinking out loud here.

“What of the wisdom from above?”

With these words you can see the reflection and thought in his eyes. You can hear the gears turning; you can see the wheels moving. What will come of his thought work? Whatever, it will be authentic, clean, and holy.

“First, it is pure …”

And so James chooses his next words with great care. It is no random list. Each word is handpicked, carefully selected from the many available.

“… it is … peaceful, gentle, obedient, filled with mercy and good actions, fair, and genuine.”

With these words James now sets my mind’s gears to turning. My thoughts begin to race; random questions fill my mind.

You see, this is passage is nothing if it isn’t focused practicality. It’s anything but abstract; it’s work. It casts a vision that calls us to consider again our ways and what could, indeed must, be. It’s a call to personal repentance and deliberate activity. It’s a calling down of heaven’s glory to permeate the spirit of his people.

And so then what will I do with it?

I have to wonder …

What change might be wrought in my life if I memorized this Scripture and recited it to myself throughout the day and throughout the rest of my days? What sort of things might God’s Spirit work into my spirit and what sort of person might I become?

What of the wisdom from above? First, it is pure, and then peaceful, gentle, obedient, filled with mercy and good actions, fair, and genuine. (James 3:17 CEB)

Frederick Douglass, the nineteenth-century abolitionist, often used this very passage in his speeches to critique Christian slave-holders. This is the word from God he used as he attempted to break the bonds that kept so many minds captive. He could hardly have chosen a better text for the task.

Me thinks this text remains up to the task today. The task, that is, of setting hearts and lives free. Free from the slavery of selfishness. Free from the imprisonment of living life “set on cruise.” Free from the restraint of merely doing what we think has always been done.

It’s all here in it’s purity, the pearl of heavenly wisdom. And it is here for us to behold and to become. Let us wisely do so. Let us bring heaven’s wisdom down to earth and live it out in our lives.

What of heaven’s wisdom? I tell you from its purity flows peacefulness, gentleness, obedience, fairness, a life filled with mercy and good doings. It is real. (James 3:17 DSV)

In the name of Jesus, Heavenly Father, let my life become these words. Amen.