links: this went thru my mind

 

Church & expectations: * Church and The “Jacob Syndrome”; * 7 Things Churches No Longer Do (But Should)

* “The burden is on all of us to be serious about our faith while also being patient with the shortcomings of ourselves and others. So before you are tempted to say you would be a part of a church only if the did X, Y and Z…take yourself out of the driver’s seat for a moment and pray that God would shape your choices and decisions because God often has a way of using imperfect people and situations to really shape us in significant ways.”

* “Participating in church now means attending weekly services — but rarely requires anything beyond that. What if churches required their congregations to go out into the world and be missionaries, sacrificially, humbly, and passionately loving others just as Jesus did — practicing what is actually being preached?”

Discipleship & influence: The Trouble With Being Salt and Light

“Who among us will be common for God’s sake?”

Dogs: How Dogs Read Our Moods: Emotion Detector Found In Fido’s Brain

“Dogs always seem to know when you’re upset and need extra love, even though they hardly understand a word of what you say. How can that be?”

Discontent, disgruntlement, offense & unhappiness: * Spirit Airlines Taps A Nation Of Hate Fliers; * It Is Our Duty To Never Be Offended [essential reading]

* “The hate flier is the guy who knows what he’s getting into, doesn’t like it, but flies Spirit anyway because it’s so cheap.” [This article makes me how many Christians are - unknown to themselves - actually 'hate members' (i.e. - they know what the church they're a part of is like, don't like it, but stay with it anyway because - equally sadly - it doesn't require much of them at all.)]

* “To be “offended” is an expression which should never be welcome in the Christian vernacular. There is no virtue in being indignant and we have no “right” to take offense. There is a lot progress the Church, and humanity as a whole, could make in understand each other if we stopped indulging in this petty and whiny reaction.”

Politics, power & temptation: The Seduction of Worldly Political Power [required reading]

“… why Christians ought to be wary of the seductions of earthly political power.”

Worship: The Risky Nature of Worship [essential reading]

“A world largely driven by consumerism, self-interest, and entertainment might just prefer worship services that have regularity, rhythm, and pleasantness. I am sure many would prefer worship that is relaxing, lovely, and safe. If necessary, one should be able to catch up on some sleep. But from the beginning, worship has not been so innocuous.”

imagine you, on food stamps (5)

 

Note: The following is not an account of any one conversation I’ve had with any one person regarding the Imagine You, On Food Stamps project, but is a composite derived from a number of conversations.

Oh, the conversations this project is generating!

“David, aren’t you afraid?”

“Afraid of what?”

“Of what eating like that for a month could do to your health, that’s what!”

“No, not really. Should I be?”

“Yes! That stuff can’t possibly be good for anyone!”

“That ‘stuff’?”

“You know what I mean. I mean the food you’d have to live on that can be bought for $4.00 a day.”

“Oh, you mean the ‘stuff’ we’re content for other folks to live on as long as we don’t have to live on it ourselves, don’t you?”

“No, that’s not what I mean. I mean those people who receive that kind of food are only getting what they deserve. You don’t deserve that.”

“I’m not sure I understand your point. Help me here.”

“They’re in the fix they’re in because they wanted it that way. They made some bad choices and now they have to experience the consequences. If that’s all they have to eat, let them eat it. Perhaps they’ll learn from the experience!”

“Really? ‘All’ of ‘them?’ How do you know the situations of all of the lives of all of these people? I doubt either one of us would say, after a little reflection, that every person who is poor – or even the majority of the poor – chose to be poor or want to remain in need. And even if what you’re saying is true – and I don’t believe for a minute that it is – what does that have to do with eating on $4.00 per day for a little while?”

“Okay, we both know there are surely some exceptions, but you and I both know most of the money going out for food stamps is just a waste.”

“No, actually I don’t know that … and I don’t believe you do, either. I only know a great many people don’t eat nearly as well as either of us and I think we both would do well to remember that often. Doing so would surely change the way we think of and live with the people around us.”

“So you’re telling me people who make their own bed shouldn’t have to sleep in it? I don’t feel bad for bums who won’t work. It’s in the Bible for crying out loud!”

“I’m saying none of us knows what all went on to get anyone to the point they’d cry out for help with putting food on the table. We mustn’t presume we know what they’ll do with any or all of the help that’s offered to them, either. If they do happen to misuse some, or all, of that help, that’s on them, not us, and it’s between them and the Lord. It’s no excuse or reason for us to not be merciful. Besides, no small number of the ‘them’ you’re talking about are little children, people who have absolutely no say in their circumstances or their sustenance, but who like the rest of us, need to eat every day. There are more than a few words about mercy and about leaving all judgment to the Lord in the Bible, too.”

“I don’t think I’m being ‘merciful’ to them if I see them driving a newer car than I drive!”

“Again, we don’t know all the circumstances of their lives, do we? And, I must say with all kindness, but with forthrightness, I find the way you’re lumping and labeling all sorts of individuals together under the word ‘them’ and as people of suspicious character as degrading and dehumanizing, both of which lead to being judgmental.”

“So you’re saying I’m judgmental! Who do you think you are? I have eyes to see how some of them live.”

“I thin I’m someone inviting you to join me in eating the same thing other people eat for a little while just to see what that must be like.”

“Well, you can count me out because I don’t want anything to do with those folks!”

“I think you’ve established that quite clearly. And that’s the real issue, isn’t it? Not your fears for my health, but your own insecurities over who receives help and how that doing such might draw you closer to some you have little care for … and that’s very uncomfortable for you.” Right?”

[Long pause] Maybe.”

“Then let’s pray. Let’s pray right now on what we both must surely agree.”

“Father in heaven, by your goodness and mercy and in the name of Jesus Christ, we pray that neither one us ever gets to such a point of need or want that we’re ever tempted – much less frequently tempted – to cheat, lie, or steal.

“Because only you are the Most Holy One, we pray you would ever deliver us from setting ourselves up as judges of others. May we both be always content to leave all of that up to you.

“Because you are the Creator of all, we pray that our fear of others would melt away. What can man do to us?

“Because you are the source of all that is true strength, we pray that our fears based on our own frailties and weaknesses would recede through growing faith in you. May that faith lead us daily to where we know by faith you would have us always go: doing good to all as we have opportunity.

“Open our eyes to truly see every person we meet. Deliver us from seeing ‘around’ people. Open our minds to discern what you would have us to be them. Help us to think the way our Lord and Savior thinks. Open our hearts daily so that we love others – all others – with the love you have for them. May we be channels of your blessings, not filters. And may you open our hands so that we are genuinely giving people, seeing as how you are so generous to us in so very many ways every day. Amen.”

[Long pause] “Perhaps I was a bit … hasty. I’m not saying I’ll do this! I am saying ‘I’ll think about it.’”

“Thinking is good and an all too rare commodity these days. Let’s continue to think – and pray – about these things together.”

this went thru my mind

 

Basic Christianity: Hope for Life

Christians, nationalism, patriotism & the Fourth of July: A collection of various links & views:

Happy Fifth of July! by Timothy Archer

“The truth is that apart from Christ, Americans are as enslaved to the principalities and powers as any other person or group. That is why freedom is only found in Christ.” (quoting K. Rex Butts)

What are Some Helpful Ways to Celebrate July 4th in the Church? by Brian Croft

“… I do believe there are some things we can do in our worship services that celebrate the freedoms we have in this country, but take a more gospel focus in doing so.  Here are 3 we have done in our church that I feel accomplish this.”

A Nuanced Allegiance to the United States by Brian LePort

“… I hope that as Christians we can be reminded that our truest citizenship is “in heaven” (as the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 3.20). When we live for the Kingdom the United States benefits as does the other nations of this world. The way of Christ is best.”

A Fourth of July Treatise – America and a National Religion by Paul Smith

“Why are we not a Christian nation? Because we never were a Christian nation. Our founding documents preclude our ability to be a Christian nation.”

God Does Not Love America by Karen Spears Zacharias

“God does not love America. If that offends you, you have a problem. God does not love Israel. Israel as a nation is a construct of the Truman Administration and some legal wrangling within the United Nations. I know we have been taught — truly indoctrinated — to think otherwise. I get it. It’s a hard truth to realize that as a nation God is no more devoted to us than he is to Afghanistan or Iraq, Iran or North Korea.  It’s like learning that your mama loves your brother as much as she loves you. It’s disappointing to not be the favorite. But when it comes to nation-building, God does not play favorites.”

Human rights: A Cruel and Unusual Record by Jimmy Carter

“The United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights.”

LifeWay Christian Bookstores: Christian Bookstores and Their Chokehold on the Industry

“… LifeWay Christian bookstores recently banned the movie ‘The Blind Side’ from their shelves due to language and objectionable content.”

Marital fidelity: 10 Keys to Avoiding the Tragedy of Infidelity by J. Carl Laney

“… my wife … and I … are taking precautions to make sure that … disaster does not take place with us. Over the years we have discovered ten keys that have helped us to avoid the tragedy of marital infidelity.”

Religion: How We Know What We Know – Does Religion Cause War & Pain? by Patrick Mead

“It seems John Lennon had it wrong. Imagining a world where there was no belief, no heaven, and no hell won’t bring paradise on earth, no matter how much Harris and Hitchens say so. It seems the data argues otherwise.”

Temptation: How to Resist Temptation Like Jesus by Wayne Stiles

“Jesus’ knowledge of the Word of God remains a model for us of faithfulness under fire.”

Vacations: Vacation Sabotage: Don’t Let It Happen to You! by Matt Richtel

“The secret to not killing your vacation revolves around understanding not just your motives, but also your brain and the role it plays in undoing your precious time off.”

this went thru my mind

 

Culture wars: The Cost of Waging the Culture War (part 1 & 2) by K. Rex Butts

* “I speak only for myself but if having a society where the laws reflect Christian beliefs and values means giving up the way of Christ, count me out. I believe in and follow Jesus, not a political movement that has hijacked the name ‘Christianity’ for its cause.”

* “What if instead of trying to force a vision of community based upon Christian values on the American society, what if Christians would simply love the American society regardless of what it becomes?”

Faith & works: Faith That Works: On the Meaning of “Works” by Jay Guin

“… is Romans almost entirely about an issue that no longer matters?”

History & the Mormons: The Mormons Sit Out the Civil War by John G. Turner

“A long war against the Confederacy, [Brigham] Young hoped, would distract the Union government from meddling in Utah affairs and finally leave the Mormons to govern themselves.”

Parenting: 10 Signs Your Kids Are Overscheduled

“We’ve all heard about the signs to look out for if your kid is using drugs—the glassy eyes, spending less time with friends and family, apathy towards everything—but what if the culprit isn’t pills but programming—and too much of it? … How do you know if your kid is too busy? Watch for these signs …”

Poverty: Defined as a Problem …

“… its really hard when you realize that you are regarded as ‘a problem’ by lots of people. It affects your self-understanding.”

Tests, temptations & trials: 3 “Weights” God Uses to Develop Spiritual Muscles by Ron Edmonson

“… my faith building has not always been that pleasant of an experience. As I’ve observed,God seems to use …”

this went thru my mind

 

Fear: Fearful Unto Death by Wade Hodges

“What do you do with a gospel that makes old men and women fearful unto death? I say you call it false and cast it into the depths of hell, where it belongs and where there is plenty of room for it.”

Gasoline prices: Gas Prices — How Do They Work?

“Many stand accused, including oil companies, the president, Congress, and speculators on Wall Street. Others assume that the earth is just running out of oil. The reality, economists say, is fairly simple.”

Humor: Marginalized

“Oh, my hand.”

Illustrations: Why “The Bible is our Instruction Manual” is the Worst Metaphor in the History of the World by Leslie Keeney

“While this worldview has been very successful at creating a comfortable, well-fed society, it has the added advantage of being simple. … The problem with this metaphor, however, is that it just doesn’t work.”

Jimmy Carter: President Jimmy Carter Authors New Bible Book, Answers Hard Biblical Questions

“Jimmy Carter served as the 39th president of the United States, founded the Carter Center and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. President Carter is also a Sunday School teacher and has followed that avocation since his earliest years. In this interview, HuffPost’s Senior Religion Editor Paul Brandeis Raushenbush spoke to President Carter by phone about the hardest questions presented in the Bible: from gays, science, the role of women, slavery passages and more.”

Leadership: 20 Essential TED Talks for Future Leaders

“… here we’ve collected some of the best videos for anyone, young or old, hoping to hone their leadership abilities.”

Life: The Map & the Plan by Jon Acuff

“I want a plan. I want a 10-year vision with details and steps and instructions. I want to map out the next 40 years of my life and know exactly where I am going and how I am going to get there. And every time I pray about that desire, every time I ask God for that, his answer is really simple: “No.” … You don’t need a perfect map for your life. You’ve already got a perfect Messiah. And, though it feels impossible to believe sometimes and doesn’t match your expectations, he’s got a plan more wondrous than you can even imagine.”

Meetings: How to Run an Elders’ Meeting by Andrew Davis

“By conduct, I mean how the meeting should be conducted, both practically and in submission to the Spirit of God.”

Ministry: The Subtle Art of Sabotaging A Pastor by Jared Wilson

“Suggest to your client that he works for the people, not the Enemy. This will not be a hard sell as they are faces he sees every day. Remind him who pays his salary. The quicker you can get your patient to see himself as a professional, as an employee, the better.”

Productivity: The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time by Tony Schwartz

“Why is it that between 25% and 50% of people report feeling overwhelmed or burned out at work? It’s not just the number of hours we’re working, but also the fact that we spend too many continuous hours juggling too many things at the same time.”

War: A War Hero Returns Home, 40 Years Later by John Blake

“… some memories may always linger. Perhaps no soldier really gets over war.”

therefore

“Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will run away from you.” (James 4:7 CEB)

Whenever I “reverse engineer” a “therefore” statement in Scripture, I never fail to learn, I’m often challenged, and I always walk away sharpened. So let’s do this.

What’s the subject? Two things: submitting to God and resisting the devil. That is, living in such a way that God looks at me and says, “He’s easy to get along with” and, simultaneously, the devil doesn’t even make time to hang around to talk.

“And from where will my humility to submit to God and my strength to resist Satan come?,” you ask.

To which James replies, “I’m glad you asked. That’s why I said ‘Therefore.’ Remember what I just said about God? “… he gives us more grace.” And God ‘stands against the proud, but favors the humble.’” (James 4:6)

Our ability to resist the devil comes by God’s grace. God favors us with the strength we need in the fight. As we humble ourselves to do God’s will we find ourselves able to stand with God against him who would work us ill. As we become easy to work with in God’s hands we find our hands strengthened for battle.

Grace isn’t an end, but a beginning. Our gratitude to God in thought, word, and deed is to follow after God’s grace. And by his grace, it will do just that. We’ll take all comers, starting with Satan himself, because God’s grace working through us will give us victory over the temptations that come against us daily. And our true grit comes by means of God’s grace in us. No brag, just fact.

“Therefore, let God have his way with you. Make a stand against the devil and he’ll retreat from you.” (James 4:7 DSV)

In the name of the Jesus, Father, I declare with you that your Son rules me and no one else will. By grace you have saved me, and by your grace you save me still, and will completely, on the great day of his appearing. Thank you Father for your favor on me. May I never forget it and only grow in it, always relying on your grace to give me the grit required in every situation. Amen.

this went thru my mind

Among the things I’ve read online this week, I’ve found the following to be especially worthwhile.

Church: Six Dramatic Trends Impacting Small Churches by Chuck Warnock.

“(1) Loosening denominational ties … (2) greater use of technology … (3) increasing informality in worship … (4) aging membership … (5) increasing member education and affluence … and (6) increasing growth and popularity of large churches.”

Guidance: Wondering If You Should Wait on God? by Jon Acuff.

“… I have discovered one tiny verse that’s challenged how I view the waiting dilemma. The verse is Mark 15:43, and it’s really simple. It’s such a fragment of a fragment of a much bigger story that it’s easy to overlook it.”

ImmigrationBiblical Principles Applied to Immigration Issues by Timothy Archer is good stuff.

“… I want to have a serious discussion on immigration issues. To get the thought process started, I wanted to … bring a number of different biblical principles into the discussion.”

Ministry: Pastors Feel Privileged and Positive, Though Discouragement Can Come.

“… the finding of a survey by LifeWay Research of 1,000 American Protestant pastors conducted Aug. 17-24, 2011.”

Oil: U.S. Oil Consumption Infographic.

“U.S. Oil Usage is an attempt to educate the average person about where U.S. oil comes from, how it is being used and how U.S. consumption compares with that of other major oil consumers. The information is both shocking and concerning!”

Parenting: Adam Marshall tipped me of to this excellent article by Jonathan McKee entitled ‘Dad, Can I Go to the Homecoming Dance?’

“WARNING: The following blog might offend some of you. The subject matter I’m talking about is pretty vile, and I’ve chosen to go ahead and just say it like it is. If you’re offended… GOOD. You should be. Because this is the crude reality most of our kids are facing right now, and parents need to open their eyes to it.”

Poverty: Two recent posts that will make you sit up and think are Could You Make It On Food Stamps? by Larry James and  Do Church Pantries Do More Harm Than Good? by Josef Kuhn.

“The USDA recently reported that 14.5 percent of Americans are food insecure. … “In June of this year, a staggering 45.2 million Americans filed to get food stamps because they either are facing or living in poverty. More than half of food stamp recipients are children and 8 percent are individuals over the age of 60.”

Q. You say churches and charities can harm those they propose to help. How? A: Typically, the giving is one-way: those of us with the resources give to those with a lack of resources. One-way giving tends to make the poor objects of pity, which harms their dignity. It also erodes their work ethic and produces a dependency that is unhealthy both for the giver and the recipient.”

Preaching & sermons: Adam S. McHugh’s post entitled Why You Can’t Express the Most Important Things just might be the most significant thing you read anytime soon regarding preaching and hearing sermons.

“… a person that can very clearly delineate the points of a sermon, may not have actually fully listened.”

Racism: Are You a Christian Racist? by Peter Scazzero. Take the eleven question quiz.

“… 21st-century racism is different from that of the past. Contemporary racism is not conscious, and it is not accompanied by dislike, so it gets expressed in indirect, subtle ways.”

Spiritual gifts: Matt Dabbs continues his series on spiritual gifts. Check out How to Determine Spiritual Gifts and Five Flaws With Some Spiritual Gifts Inventories.

“(1) I am not really certain they measure spiritual gifts given to you any more than they just confirm the things you enjoy doing. … (2) There are some things that I just may have never been exposed to that I have no idea I am gifted at unless I try. … (3) There may be things I am gifted at doing that don’t bring me enjoyment. … (4) An inventory is only as good at determining something as you are at accurately reporting it. … (5) They are impersonal. They don’t know you.”

Temptation: Quotes from C.S. Lewis make up this post entitled What to Remember When Fighting Temptation. Trey Morgan’s post entitled Overcoming Sexual Temptation is also full of good stuff.

“One of these days my funeral will come. I could care less if anyone mentions if I was a good minister or could preach a good sermon. I do not care if anyone mentions that I ever helped anyone. My only goal, as they stand over my dead body, is that they say,“He was faithful to God, his wife, and he was a good dad!”

Women: John Willis’ series on the role of women continues. Biblical Female Teachers, Deacons, Elders, Preachers (part 6).

“Biblically, both males and females fit the function of elders or shepherds.”