links: this went thru my mind

 

Birds & climate change: Climate Change Will Disrupt Half of North America’s Bird Species, Study Says

“… climate change is likely to so alter the bird population of North America that about half of the approximately 650 species will be driven to smaller spaces or forced to find new places to live, feed and breed over the next 65 years. If they do not — and for several dozen it will be very difficult — they could become extinct. The four Audubon Society scientists who wrote the report projected in it that 21.4 percent of existing bird species studied will lose ‘more than half of the current climactic range by 2050 without the potential to make up losses by moving to other areas.’ An additional 32 percent will be in the same predicament by 2080, they said.”

Burdens, endurance, God, & trials: 21 Reasons God May Allow More Than You Can Bear

“Don’t believe the lie. God WILL allow more on you than you can bear — alone. You and I need a Him for our every breath. If you feel overwhelmed today — defeated — like there is more on you than you can bear – turn to the burden bearer.”

Christian nation, culture, morality, outrage & shock: 4 Reasons Why Christians Should Let Non-Christians Off the Moral Hook

“It bothers me that Christians continually express shock, disapproval and judgment at the way non-Christians live.”

Enemies, ISIS, and love: How are We to Love the Soldiers of ISIS?

“… as long as there are nations and governments, there will be people who are more than willing to engage in violence, for no national government can rule its people and survive outside threats without being willing to engage in violence. Nations, governments and violence go hand-in-hand, in other words. The call of kingdom people is to opt out of this whole enterprise by pledging allegiance to Christ alone as we leave all vengeance to God and simply imitate Christ by loving our enemies (Eph 5:1-2).”

Holiness, perception, purity & sexuality: Search Term Friday: Damaged Goods

“This is the psychology that makes the Christian purity culture so toxic.”

Poor & poverty: What Makes People Poor?

“Let’s imagine for a moment that there are no political pressures distorting our discussion of poverty and that we can look at it as a technical problem, not a moral one. Maybe we would find that most explanations – left, right and center – are not mutually exclusive but mutually reinforcing.”

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?