links: this went thru my mind

 

Capital punishment & the death penalty: Secret Drugs, Agonizing Deaths

“In the name of security, states are now withholding vital information about their death penalty procedures — from death row prisoners’ lawyers and from judges, whose stamp of approval they need to impose the ultimate sanction, as well as from the public, in whose name the sentence is carried out.”

Children, compassion, morality & parenting: Raising a Moral Child [essential reading]

“Despite the significance that it holds in our lives, teaching children to care about others is no simple task.”

Church: * The Church as a Hospice for the Dying [essential reading]; * What the Church May Need is What the Church Does Not Want

* “It seems to me that it’s better to think of the Church as a hospice, rather than as a hospital. … The Church as hospice makes good, Gospel sense. And, there are very practical implications in this metaphor as well. When people tell the pastor that they are leaving the church because their ‘needs’ aren’t being met, all the pastor has to do is remind them of what the Church is, and point out that their ‘needs’ are indeed being met: They’re being given an opportunity to die to their ‘needs’ in order to experience more of the resurrection life of Christ. So, the church really is meeting their needs; they just don’t know it.”

* “… I wonder if the Christian element in America has grown fat and sassy.  Have we fallen into a dangerous religion of indifferent slumber? Persecution may not be at our doorstep; but I do think it is traipsing up the sidewalk. This will never be the thing we want.  Yet, it may be the very thing needed to move us from our glut of mediocre indifference.”

Crucifixion: Roman Crucifixion Methods Reveal the History of Crucifixion

“… Hershel Shanks looks at evidence of Roman crucifixion methods as analyzed from the remains found in Jerusalem of a young man crucified in the first century A.D.”

Faith & science: 9 Groundbreaking Scientists Who Happened to Be Christians

“There’s a general sense that science and religion are two camps, and the two can never meet without fighting or, at the very least, stepping mighty carefully around each other’s views. There might be a very little bit of truth to that—a few noisy emissaries from both sides have been known to go out of their way to discredit the other. However, what is frequently lost in all this is that the history of science is rich with believing Christians, for whom the process of discovery did not jeopardize their faith, but enforced it.”

Fear: Do Not Let Fear be the CEO of the Church

“How many times have we said or at least heard, I’m afraid of what this might lead to?”

Passover: Passover as Jesus Knew It

“It was a joyous, celebratory occasion: work was temporarily stopped, families were reunited, food and wine were plentiful, and hopes and dreams were in the air. At the heart of the festival was a story: an account of a chosen people liberated from slavery centuries before through God’s gracious deliverance. But there was also a tragic irony: Israel was no longer free. This time the oppressors were not the Egyptians, but Rome. Together, these ideas created a lethal cocktail of deep religious yearnings, nationalism and resentment. ‘It is on these festive occasions that sedition is most likely to break out’ noted the historian Josephus wryly (War 1.88), and most of the riots recorded in his works seem to have occurred at Passover in particular.”

Prayer: Did Jesus Send a Mixed Message About Repetition in His Teaching About Prayer?

“… Jesus is talking about different things in these two teachings.”

how to pray for your church’s leaders

 

Do you have a deliberate, regular plan you work as to how you pray for your church’s shepherds and staff? Or if you’re a church leader, how would you like fellow church members to daily pray for you?

I recently noticed that Thom Rainer relates in his fine book I Am a Church Member (p.51) that he has for many years regularly asked church members to deliberately pray five minutes a day, every day, for their leaders. Imagine every church member praying daily for their church’s leadership. Amen!

But if you were to start praying for shepherds and staff, what would you pray about each day? If you don’t already have a plan, let me suggest a plan I follow whereby I talk to God about seven specific matters regarding our church family’s leaders. To keep it simple and steady, each day of the week has a specific point of focus. Pick up this plan – or let it spark one of your own – and run with it!

  • Sunday – guidance from God’s Spirit and godly influence with people
  • Monday – spiritual development, growth & maturity
  • Tuesday – purity & holiness of life, protection from Satan’s traps, & escape from temptation
  • Wednesday – provision for their physical needs & ways
  • Thursday – discernment, insight, knowledge, tendencies & wisdom
  • Friday – family (marriage, children, extended family & closest friends)
  • Saturday – strength of emotional, mental & physical health

links: this went thru my mind

 

Bias, criticism, open-mindedness & thinking: Why We Confuse The Onion for the News [essential reading]

“… we all have biases, and our efforts to rid ourselves of them through education and self-awareness don’t actually ‘fix’ the problem.”

Cell phones & etiquette: Cell Phone Funeral Etiquette

“Cell phones often go off when we least want them to. In church. In school. During sex. And at a funeral. As other funeral directors can attest, the oddest thing about a cell phone ringing during funerals is how many people will actually answer.”

Church attendance, faith, millennials, peace & unity: The Millennials Are Rejecting Fighting Churches and Christians [essential reading]

“… many of them are walking away from our churches, and more of them are not attending at all, when they witness or hear about negativity and divisiveness in those churches. They want to see unity among Christians, and they are often disappointed.”

Health: * Aging Well: Keeping Blood Sugar Low May Protect Memory; * Depression: Could Be Almost Depressed?

* “… even modest increases in blood sugar among people in their 50s, 60s and 70s can have a negative influence on memory.”

* “Research suggests that as many as 12 million people in the United States may be suffering from low-grade depression symptoms that are not severe enough to warrant clinical treatment. … In fact, on some of these measures, people who are almost depressed report feeling worse off than people who actually fall into the clinically depressed range. … There is also another more serious problem: Research indicates about 75% of cases of low-grade depression will devolve into full-blown major depression if they are not recognized and arrested.”

Grandparenting, parenting & prayer: How to Pray for Your Children & Grandchildren [required reading]

“Because there are 12 prayers in this list, you could concentrate on one prayer per month to concentrate on. Within a year you will have consistently prayed the entire list.”

Holy Spirit: The Kingdom’s Second Major Death

“Why has this gone on?  Why has the Holy Spirit been quenched in our circles? Control.  Man is obsessed with control; even in religion’s court. … The Kingdom’s second major death, after Jesus’ upon the cross, is that of the Holy Spirit within the hearts of men.  We have killed Him off and buried Him in our tombs of organization and control.”

Leisure, online & time management: What You Would Be Doing If You Spent Less Time Online

“More time online means less time socializing, studying, and sleeping.”

Faith & President Obama: * The President’s Devotional: What Obama ‘Did In Secret’ In Newtown; * The Man Behind the President’s Devotional

* “The president took a deep breath and steeled himself, and went into the first classroom. And what happened next I’ll never forget. … It must have been one of the defining moments of his presidency, quiet hours in solemn classrooms, extending as much healing as was in his power to extend. But he kept it to himself—never seeking to teach a lesson based on those mournful conversations, or opening them up to public view.”

* “Dubois has been sending devotionals to Obama every morning since the 2008 presidential campaign. A collection of these spiritual messages to the president has now been published Dubois’ new book, The President’s Devotional. Dubois started working for Obama shortly after he became a senator. A public policy and economics student at Princeton University, he was also ordained at a small Pentecostal church where he served as an associate pastor. It was this combination of skills that led him to become Obama’s faith outreach coordinator during his first presidential campaign and, later, to be appointed as the Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships during the president’s first term.”

putting skin on the sermon: pray this way

 

Today marks the start of a new series of regular posts here. Starting today, and always on Mondays, I’ll post (1) a brief summation of the gist of my sermon from the previous morning and (2) some random thoughts as to how to apply some aspect of the sermon to daily life.

My sermon yesterday morning was from Luke’s account of Jesus’ answer to the request of one of his disciples to teach them how to pray (Luke 11.1-13). After a look at the “what” of this basic, foundational prayer (the prayer’s five statements – vs.2b-4), we thought about “why” we regularly need to pray such.

For the sake of application, we summed that up with a paraphrase of the prayer with some of the “why” in mind. That paraphrase read: “Father, help me live holy before you. Override my self-seeking agenda. Give me what I need to live another day here for you. Show mercy to me the way I’m merciful to all who wrong me. When I’m distracted and lured from you, don’t leave me that way: arrest my attention and lead me home.”

Now, what can you do with that? Here are seven ways you can put some skin on this sermon:

1. Memorize this prayer our Lord told us to pray in Luke 11.2-4. Use the rendering of your choice, of course, but let me suggest the CEB for its simplicity and clarity here. Learn it so well that you come to say it just as easily and as naturally as you might already be able to quote the KJV’s rendering of The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6.9-13.

2. Identify any and all excuses you make for not praying. Write them down. Then set out to kill these excuses. Mercilessly.

3. Make a very simple, but specific plan each week as to when, where, and what you’ll pray. That is, create the skeleton on which you will put some skin.

4. Find and designate a specific place where you’ll often go to pray. Maybe it will be a chair on your back porch. It could be when and where you go to exercise or walk. Perhaps the driver’s seat of your car or a certain room in your apartment would work. The place matters not so much as the fact you have a specific place. After going there regularly for awhile to pray you’ll likely find your mind has become trained to almost naturally kick into, or more easily gravitate toward, prayer.

5. Select one of the five statements of the basic prayer in Luke 11.2b-4 and mull it over, reflecting on it throughout the course of a weekday. Let your heart and head chew on it throughout the day the way you’d chew on a piece of gum. The next day, select a different statement and do the same with it. Throughout each day discuss them with someone or, at the end of each day, jot down some of your ponderings in a journal.

6. Compose a prayer of your own. Write it down, using the basic prayer (vs. 2b-4) as your guide. You’ll likely find you’ll choose your words of prayer much more carefully when you write them down.

7. Brainstorm your own list of ways you could apply this basic prayer in vs. 2b-4 to your everyday actions and habits. Answer this question: “Since Jesus told me to pray this way, I will ____.”

Remember: God’s word is for our life, and our living is for our great God!

LIFE group guide: pray like this

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church tomorrow (Oct. 27). This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon tomorrow morning from Luke 11.1-13. This sermon is entitled “Pray Like This” and is another installment in the Jesus: Master & Commander series.

To find previous group discussion guides, look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous issues.

All Scripture texts reproduced below, unless otherwise noted, are from the CEB.

Reason

Stated in a single sentence, this is the purpose of the sermon series, or this particular sermon in a series.

To call our attention, and our conscience, to some of our Lord’s direct charges to us.

Revelation

These Scriptures formed some of the foundation and structure of the sermon.

Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

Jesus told them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, uphold the holiness of your name. Bring in your kingdom. Give us the bread we need for today. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who has wronged us. And don’t lead us into temptation.’”

He also said to them, “Imagine that one of you has a friend and you go to that friend in the middle of the night. Imagine saying, ‘Friend, loan me three loaves of bread because a friend of mine on a journey has arrived and I have nothing to set before him.’ Imagine further that he answers from within the house, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up to give you anything.’ I assure you, even if he wouldn’t get up and help because of his friendship, he will get up and give his friend whatever he needs because of his friend’s brashness. And I tell you:

Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you. Everyone who asks, receives. Whoever seeks, finds. To everyone who knocks, the door is opened.

“Which father among you would give a snake to your child if the child asked for a fish? If a child asked for an egg, what father would give the child a scorpion? If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” (Luke 11.1-13)

Relation

These icebreaker questions are meant to help us all start thinking, talking, and relating to the topic or texts. Discuss one.

1. Tell us when you feel truly loved, be it in being loved by God or by people, either one.

2. Do you have “a certain place” (vs. 1) or “places” where you pray? Tell us about such.

Research

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

1. What are five matters in life Jesus holds up as worthy of prayer in vs. 2-4?

2. How do vs. 11-13 serve as further commentary on the point made being in vs. 5-10?

3. The Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him. (vs. 13b) This means what?

Reflection

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

1. Why would we want/need to pray for God to uphold the holiness of his name (vs. 2)?

2. If we pray God will uphold the holiness of his name (vs. 3) we’re wanting to see _____.

3. What specific things can we do to help answer our own prayers as we pray vs. 2-4?

4. Is “brashnessness” or “persistence” (vs. 8) essential when asking something of God?

5. Vs. 2-4 tells us what to pray. Vs. 5-13 tells us why to pray. However, what are some “whats” of prayer that come to mind when you reflect on vs. 5-13?

Response

These ideas/suggestions are for your use beyond the group meeting, to aid you in living out today’s message in the coming days.

1. ID any and all excuses you make for not praying. Kill these excuses, mercilessly.

2. Make a simple, but specific plan for this week as to when, where, and what you’ll pray.

3. Compose your own prayer in writing. Use the exemplary prayer (vs. 2-4) as a guide.

a letter to my U.S. Senators and Representative

 

My two U.S. Senators are John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. My U.S. Representative is Steve Stockman. Following is the text of an e-mail I sent them recently.

I share this with you here to encourage you to avoid participating in the many negative and destructive conversations that make the air heavy these days and to deliberately choose a different path: praying for our national government’s leaders and respectfully sharing your thoughts with them.

Dear __________,

You deserve more clear and consistent input from more of your constituency. Please forgive me for not communicating with you more often. I write to you now, and appeal to you, as a Christian and as a preaching minister for over thirty years. Let me say candidly and concisely three things that are on my mind.

(1) The government shutdown must be ended. It is always the most vulnerable in our society who suffer the most from such and I minister with some of these people, and to many more who minister to them, every week of every month of every year. Therefore, I urge you to immediately work to end the government shutdown now. Sever any ties of agreement on such with the Affordable Care Act. Please make these two matters – ending the government shutdown and Obamacare – two separate matters of discussion, both now and in the future.

(2) I urge you to vigorously work toward raising the debt limit. I want to see it raised before the deadline. We must not attempt to navigate uncharted paths at this time. While I don’t want to see our nation go off into the ditch on our left (insurmountable debt), I certainly don’t want to see us over-correct (by means of not raising the debt limit at this time) and so, land in the ditch on our right, taking no small part of the entire world with us.

(3) Know that I talk to God in prayer for you often. You carry a great weight of responsibility, but know that you do not carry it without others praying for you. Here is a link to a sample of one of my printed prayers for government leaders.

Thank you for listening to, and seriously considering, the thoughts of this very concerned citizen.

May God help you in all your work and bless you and yours in every thing you do.

a prayer for all civic leaders and politicians

 

Holy Father, God and King over all creation,

I come to you in the name of the Lord Jesus today, lifting up to you every civic leader and civil servant, every politician and government office holder, in this world.

Praise be to you for so ordering things that there is some semblance of order in this world gone wicked and mad.

Thank you not only for not writing off this part of your creation and allowing this world to descend into total disorder and anarchy, but for relentlessly pursuing it with your great love.

All glory and praise be to you in that you – wonder of wonders! – daily work your infallible will through fallible men and women.

And so may each and every one of these servant leaders know you, Father; truly know you and live for you for with every beat of their heart.

May you not be closed off from their first consideration in all their agreements, ballots, choices, decisions, deliberations, discussions, and votes.

Bring what you would to bear in the life of each of them to the end that they ever seek you foremost, seeking to honor and love you in everything by loving people with your love.

When they pray to you, listen to their prayers and give them the confidence that their prayers are heard by you.

Constantly call to their mind your promises as well the promises they have made to you, for these are ever greater than the promises they have made to others.

Ceaselessly broaden their field of vision, ever educating them to the needs of all the people they serve, and not merely those who like or support them.

May they ever learn, and love to learn, what is holy and good, pure and noble.

As they owe many people favors and kindnesses, ever guide them in the way of doing right, making them incapable of being bought or owned by others.

As they deal with much money often, guard their hearts, and all connected to them, from the love of money.

Shine your light on any and everything within them that even leans toward arrogance, deceit, deception, pettiness, pride, self-reliance, selfishness, or revenge.

Kill within them anything like even a single seed of the party spirit that kills the spirit of so many.

Enable them to recognize every form of subtle trickery, underhandedness, and manipulation, and as they identify such, may they not succumb to such or come to embody it themselves.

Surround them with good counsel, good friends, and good support, lest they find themselves surrounded by those who would seek to do evil to them or through them.

Remove any and all blinders with which others would mask them and summon up within them the vision to see through every unhealthy influence put to them by others.

As they are privy to and entrusted with far more than can ever be revealed to the people they serve, deliver them from being puffed up with such knowledge, along with their constituents in their ignorance.

Protect their hearts from the callousness that can grow from being constantly exposed to the friction and toil of gossip, lies, misrepresentations, misunderstanding, rumors, and slander.

As their families live constantly in the face of the camera and every watching eye, and as even the slightest matters of their loved ones are ever scrutinized and examined, safeguard all from bitterness and cynicism.

Still the tongues of all who mindlessly and heartlessly criticize, judge, and demean these servants of yours, putting within us all instead the ever present reminder to only do to others as we would have them do to us.

Help them to see beyond themselves, their dreams, and personal ambitions, and to perceive instead, your calling as to what you have in mind and would have done.

Shield them from despair and despondency when their good work surely seems in vain or once again goes unappreciated.

Forget not their righteous works and grant a good harvest from every seed of good mercy and true justice that they plant.

Give them a constant awareness of, and sensitivity to, the effects their attitudes and actions have on the most vulnerable in society, and grant them the courage to gladly stand up for such without hesitation, apology, or compromise.

When they are at an impasse with other leaders, may their efforts to work together never cease, growing instead only more sincere and humble, conciliatory and constructive with each passing day.

Pour out on them a steady shower of your discernment and wisdom that they may be quick to forgive of things past and equipped to forge a foundation for better relationships between all in the future.

Forgive them of their deliberate sins, as well as all unintentional slights to you or harm to any creature or aspect of creation.

Amen.