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.”

sermon summation: pondering prayer (2)

 

These words ran like a recurring refrain through her e-mail to me:

“Don’t you believe if I’m sincere enough in my heart when I pray then God will give me what I pray for?”

He was pouring his heart out to me about his frustration with some things at church and he said:

“What we need to do is to pray harder!”

Skimming through a magazine my eyes fell on a page that contained these words:

“If you can’t get worked up in your prayers, then don’t expect God to work with them.”

Now in her golden years she had approached me privately to talk about how she had some troubles with her faith. She began by hanging her head and saying in a very quiet voice:

“I just don’t feel my prayers like I used to.”

As I was surfing through some channels on television I happened to hear a preacher emphatically say:

“Passionate prayers are the prayers that claim God’s promises for prayer!”

Question: What do those five statements have in common, aside from the fact they all deal with prayer?

Answer: They wrongly make our emotions the heart and soul of, and the determining factor in, prayer.

Now it’s true that prayer that’s real will often engage, and make mention of, our emotions. Read the Psalms and you’ll find those prayers are packed with every conceivable kind of emotion. After all, how can a person get real in talking with God and not do so with some feeling?

But when our emotions become the sun, and not merely a planet in the solar system of our prayers, we shouldn’t be at all surprised if our faith becomes a black hole.

While we are emotional beings, it’s our actions, not our feelings, that must take the wheel in our journey of faith.

Take Jesus for example. He prayed often to his Father and he prayed with intense emotion. But it wasn’t because he “prayed hard” that he got heard by God. No, there was something else at the center. Something else was the the fulcrum of his faith.

“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)

Did you notice where the emphasis was put? Jesus’ prayers were heard by the Father not because he expressed great feeling to God, but because he lived out great following after God. “He was heard because of his godly devotion.”

The Bible is absolutely full of this teaching and the Psalms are saturated with it. Take Psalm 4.3 as one small example:

“Know this: the Lord takes personal care of the faithful. The Lord will hear me when I cry out to him.”

The matter is so clear you’d have to work to miss the point: the psalmist is confident the Lord will hear his prayers because he’s confident that he has been “faithful” to God.

Need more examples? Read the following in the Psalms for a sampling of the many that are there: Psalm 17.1-3; 66.18-20; 141.1-5. And it’s the same when we turn to the New Testament.

“The prayer of the righteous person is powerful in what it can achieve.” (James 5.16b)

It does not say “the passionate person.” It does not say that “emotionally intense” person. It does not say “the person who gets worked up into a frenzy of feelings.”

What it does say is “the righteous person” is the person who finds their prayers are promised to be powerful and effective. That is, prayer that is heard by God comes from the person who has been made right by God and who has built their life around living out what they’ve heard from God.

We won’t find a more precise example of this teaching of Scripture than what we find in 1 Peter 3.7:

“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.”

As back up for what he says here, Peter then goes on to quote (in verse 12) the words of Psalm 34.15-16:

“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.”

Husbands, do you want your prayers to ring through heaven? Then treat your wife right here on earth for it’s your ways that give weight to your words in the hands of God.

Emotions are elusive creatures; feelings are funny animals. God knows they’re not an accurate gauge of our faith by and they never were intended to be the engine for our prayers. And God knows whether we’re walking after him with the light he has revealed to us already. What he’s after is not the energy of our emotions so much as the efforts we’re making to be his in every way. Keep that in mind the next time to ask him for more light in your life as you pray.

this went thru my mind

 

Boredom & contemplation: A Boredom Revolution

“[James] Alison is making the argument that the world tends to function as a Nuremberg rally where everything around us–from political discourse to advertising to social media–is trying to whip us up into a frenzy. A frenzy that, more often than not, is directed against others. Cable news, talk radio and political blogging are basically a Nuremberg rally, an attempt to anger us and excite us with propaganda. In the face of all this excitement and frenzy Christian worship, according to Alison, should function as a sort of counter-propaganda, a place where we can become unexcited. Where others are whipped into an anxious or angry frenzy Christians should be bored.”

Church hopping: Church Hopping

“What’s driving this? For some, it’s simply the consumer mindset of our culture at work. .. For some, it’s insecurity. … For some, it’s spiritual gluttony. … For some, it’s refusing accountability. … For some, it’s avoiding stewardship. … For some, it’s emotional immaturity. … In truth, there can be times to not simply hop, but leap. … But for the typical hopper, it’s not time for self-justification, but loving admonishment.”

Gun control: The Waiting is Over

“What we need is a balance between the right to bear arms and the right to live in safety.”

Hatred & violence: Violence, the Bible, and the Sikh Temple

“We instinctually know violent murder is wrong, but besides our instincts, there is a real reason: if we violate the image of God we are violating God. Human identity comes from being made in the image of God. Human dignity is an unalterable truth because we are made in the image of God. Reverence for God compels us to respect our fellow human beings. Reverence and respect. Those two principles keep us on track in life. And respect for people because they are made in the image of God not only makes murder wrong, but hatred of every kind.”

Passion: The Untapped Secret of Creating Passion

“Just imagine possibilities.”

Productivity: Stop Beating Yourself Up; You Can Be Productive Without Feeling Guilty

” … no productivity system should be set in stone. Don’t feel so bad about not getting enough stuff done. Eat well, sleep well, say NO more often and try your best. Remember you can always make a small change in your system and try again tomorrow.”

Space exploration: * Should Christians Care About Space Exploration?; * Thank You, Space! How NASA Tech Makes Life Better on Earth; *Why Mars Matters

“… if our purpose is to love and serve the Lord, what need do we have of space exploration? Why bother sending rovers to Mars when there are children to be fed, diseases to be fought, and souls to be saved right here on Earth?”

“What do US citizens get from our space agency, NASA? The short answer is: quite a lot. Let’s take a look at where NASA funding–at present, less than 0.5% of the US federal budget–shows up in our daily lives, and beyond.”

Words: * Passive-Aggressive Postures & the American Middle Class by Tim Gombis [required reading]; * Do Evangelicals Pray Passive-Aggressively? * Words: No Shirt, No Shoes, No Signature … No Way [required reading]; * How To Speak The Truth in Love

* ” … the dominant mode of communication for middle class people is indirect speech.  We cannot bring ourselves to speak plainly and directly about relationships, what we would like, what we want, or how we’re feeling. … Speaking this way is subtly manipulative and often leads to disappointment and anger when things don’t work out the way we’d like.  Further, indirect speech frustrates other people who are in the position of never quite knowing whether they’ve done what is expected. … American evangelicalism, which is largely made up of white middle-class suburbanites, is part of this middle-class culture, and in evangelical churches, this seemingly polite mode of discourse predominates.”

* “Do evangelical Christians pray passive-aggressively? It certainly seems that we sometimes pray manipulatively, use hedging speech, and say things we don’t really mean, but do passive-aggressive relational strategies ever manifest themselves when we pray?  If so, how?”

* “Anonymous comments have almost no value and almost no place in a free society. … we are responsible for our words. We are challenged to take responsibility for the powerful words that fall from our lips and keyboards.”

* “… if our motivations are truly loving, shouldn’t it seem like love? Shouldn’t an impartial observer be able to look at our actions, hear our words, and easily discern that what we’ve done is loving?”

this went thru my mind

 

Archaeology: The James Ossuary verdict. Does it matter? by Ferrell Jenkins

“Does it matter? If the inscription is authentic, it is another of the many archaeological confirmations of Biblical characters. We already know of Caiaphas, Pilate, Erastus, et al. It is another example of the historicity of the New Testament. It provides the earliest inscriptional evidence of Jesus. If the inscription is not authentic then it is just an ordinary limestone bone box, but one that has caused multitudes to discuss Jesus and the New Testament. Let us use it as an opportunity to discuss Jesus with those who do not know Him.”

Cynicism/skepticism: Faith amidst Cynicism and Skepticism by Joel Willitts

“… having faith is superior to cynicism and skepticism. Here are six reasons.”

Generations: The Boomerang Generation (Pew Research)

“More than three-quarters of young adults ages 25 to 34 who have moved back home with their families during the Great Recession and the troubled economic years that followed say they’re satisfied with their living arrangements and upbeat about their future finances.”

God: As If There is No God by Caleb Wilde

“What part of your god must die?”

Impatience: Is the Internet Making Us Impatient? (infographic)

“One in four people abandon a web page that takes more than four seconds to load.”

Judgmental: 11 Questions to Discern a Judgmental Heart by Trevin Wax

“Our pastor, Mike Lee, is currently preaching through the Gospel of Matthew. This past Sunday, he preached on Matthew 7 and Jesus’ command to ‘judge not.’ At the end of his sermon, Mike shared these 11 questions designed to help us discern a judgmental and critical spirit.”

Self-care: Steve Jobs on Self-Care: Keep Your Passion Kindled by Keith Anderson

“The thing is: ministry is hard. Really hard. Incredibly hard. That’s just the way it is and no amount of self-care is going to change that. And so, instead of inventing self-care strategies that try to avoid this reality, we need ones that can actually help us get through it.”

Technology: “A Prayer of Blessing to all Those Hands That Put Together the iPad That We’re About to Enjoy” by Eugene Cho

“God … As we enjoy our gadgets and our stuff, we say a prayer of blessing to the many hands that have put together these iPads and gadgets. While they are unseen and unnamed, we acknowledge that they, too, are your beloved. They are loved and seen by You. …”

30 days with the Human One (6)

What might we learn about Jesus if we zoomed in examined the instances in which he used the phrase “the Human One” to describe himself? Mark’s Gospel is likely the earliest Gospel written and Jesus is recorded as using the phrase “the Human One” thirteen times in Mark (2:10,28; 8:31,38; 9:9,12,31; 10:33,45; 13:26; 14:21,41,62). When we look at all of those instances, they fall into three categories.

First, on two occasions when Jesus refers to himself as “the Human One” his great authority – deity really – is highlighted. Who can forgive sins? God alone. Who is Lord of their own decrees? God alone. And in Mark’s Gospel, who do you suppose is depicted as doing both of these things. Jesus, “the Human One.”

“… know that the Human One has authority on the earth to forgive sins … (Mark 2:10 CEB)

“… the Human One is Lord even over the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:28 CEB)

Second, on three occasions Jesus, “the Human One,” is depicted as having tremendous position and power – God-like position and power – at the end of things as they are now.

“Whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this unfaithful and sinful generation, the Human One will be ashamed of that person when he comes in the Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38 CEB)

” The stars will fall from the sky, and the planets and other heavenly bodies will be shaken. Then they will see the Human One coming in the clouds with great power and splendor.” (Mark 13:25-26 CEB)

“… the high priest asked, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the blessed one?” Jesus said, “I am. And you will see the Human One sitting on the right side of the Almighty and coming on the heavenly clouds.”” (Mark 14:61-62 CEB)

Third, the remaining instances of Jesus’ use of the phrase “the Human One” in Mark’s Gospel underscore his selfless, serving, suffering, and self-sacrificing way of living and dying.

Then Jesus began to teach his disciples: “The Human One must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and the legal experts, and be killed, and then, after three days, rise from the dead.” (Mark 8:31 CEB)

As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them not to tell anyone what they had seen until after the Human One had risen from the dead. (Mark 9:9 CEB)

Why was it written that the Human One would suffer many things and be rejected? (Mark 9:12 CEB)

This was because he was teaching his disciples, “the Human One will be delivered into human hands. They will kill him. Three days after he is killed he will rise up.” (Mark 9:31 CEB)

“Look!” he said. We’re going up to Jerusalem. The Human One will be handed over to the chief priests and the legal experts. They will condemn him to death and hand him over to the Gentiles. (Mark 10:33 CEB)

… for the Human One didn’t come to be served but rather to serve and to give his life to liberate many people. (Mark 10:45 CEB)

The Human One goes to his death just as it is written about him. But how terrible it is for that person who betrays the Human One! It would have been better for him if he had never been born. (Mark 14:21 CEB)

He came a third time and said to them, “Will you sleep and rest all night? That’s enough! The time has come for the Human One to be betrayed into the hands of sinners.” (Mark 14:41 CEB)

What can we learn from all of this? We learn that when Jesus uses the phrase “the Human One” to describe himself he does so with a simultaneous awareness of (1) his preeminence in the scheme of things and (2) his deliberate lowering of himself to suffer and die. Or to put it another way, though “the Human One” is the one who brings supreme justice, he is the one who suffers the gravest injustice of all.

Wow.

Let’s pray, and in doing so today, let’s sing our prayer of praise to “the Human One!”

“You came from heaven to earth, to show the way.
From the earth to the cross, my debt to pay.
From the cross to the grave, from the grave to the sky.
Lord I lift your name on high. Lord I lift your name on high.”

Question: in what sort of scenarios can you imagine yourself laying down your life for those who would not even appreciate your sacrifice?