links: this went thru my mind

 

Benevolence, charity, generosity, money, poor, poverty & Texas: * Boom Meets Bust in Texas: Atop Sea of Oil, Poverty Digs In [required reading]; * Let Them Eat Cash

* “One-third of Texas’ $48 billion in tax revenue last year came directly or indirectly from the oil and gas industry … but very little of it is spent on social services and programs to assist the poor, although some helps finance public schools and universities. So, despite the boom, Texas has some of the highest rates of poverty in the nation and ranks first in the percentage of residents without health insurance.”

* “… he was worried that people might spend the handout on drugs or alcohol. This pessimism (and paternalism) is common and understandable. But evidence from other countries suggests we should be more optimistic.”

Church & complaining: How Complaining Keeps the Church from God’s Mission

“If you want to be a part of a church that makes a difference, if you want your small group to make a difference, refrain from wasting your energy on easy targets. It’s not worth your time. Stop ranting on social media about all kinds of things that are wrong from your point of view. We all have concerns. We all know that life is not as it is supposed to be. Instead focus your energy on what you do have influence. Spend your energy on serving your family today. Invest in a co-worker who needs a listening ear. Pray for your neighbor. You can change the world if you focus on your circle of influence.”

Discipleship: Four Marks of Biblical Discipleship

“The question isn’t merely about the mission; it’s about how disciple-making should be defined. Is disciple-making broad or narrow?”

Efficiency, productivity & work: 5 Unusual Ways to Start Working Smarter, Not Harder

“… it’s easy to fall into a pattern of “always working,” rather than working smart …”

Intercession & public prayer: Using “We” in Public Prayers [essential reading]

“… we need to be very careful about how we use the word ‘we.’ … five groups, for whom the ‘we’ in the congregation/church/service might not apply: (1.) Our troops: what if foreigners are present? (2.) Our country: same. (3.) Our young people (or our older people): what of visitors? or those who have no children? (4.) Our children’s children: same (5.) Our environment, our world: is the world ours? or God’s?”

Marriage: Eight Things We’ve Done Right in Our Marriage

“The most important thing we’ve done right is we’ve never given up on our relationship … no matter how hard things got.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Application, Bible interpretation, preaching & teaching: 1 Triangle, 3 Corners, 4 T’s

“Every word of the Bible was written at a certain time and in a certain context. Even the most recent of those times and the nearest of those contexts is at a great distance from us in time and space. Thus, when we read the Bible, we have to determine how those words apply to us today in our very different times and very different contexts. It is not always a simple task. We have all seen situations—and many of us have caused situations—where we have been sloppy in going from the text to today.”

Church, ministry & U.S. trends: MissionTrends: 4 Trends for Churches to Consider

“The next 20 years are going to be a challenge for convictional Christians and churches in many places. … 1. The Word “Christian” Will Become Less Used and More Clear. … 2. The Nominals Will Increasingly become Nones. … 3. Christians Will Increasingly Change Cultural Tactics. … 4. More Robust Churches will Result from the Death of Nominalism.”

Fulfillment, leadership, satisfaction & work: Why You Hate Work

“The way we’re working isn’t working.”

Leadership: 7 of the Hardest Paradigms I Had to Learn to be an Effective Leader

“I had to develop the ability to say no more than I get to say yes. … I have to live with sometimes being unpopular. … I have to move forward sometimes in uncertainty. … I had to get comfortable challenging mediocrity. … I had to lower my pride and admit I can often be wrong. … I had to come to a reality that I couldn’t be everywhere or do everything. … I had to realize that sometimes the best thing to put on my calendar is rest.”

Short term missions: 24 Things World Christians Wish North American Short-Term Missionaries Would Quit Doing …

“… Talk more than you listen. …”

Temptation & testing: A Test and a Temptation—Can You Tell the Difference?

“Both God and Satan perform tests on you and me. These road tests reveal how the rubber meets the road in our Christian lives. But the two tests have two completely different goals. Can you tell the difference?”

doing something vs. praying (doing nothing)

 

If you’re a Christian, more than once you’ve likely heard, or thought, of prayer as the opposite of work.

God have mercy!

For prayer is surely some of the hardest work done on this planet. And we all know it. Perhaps we have just momentarily forgotten the fact.

  • Ever pray when your body was weary, your eyes were heavy, and there were a thousand things crying for your attention? Then you know prayer requires real effort.
  • Ever pray while you were so burdened with your own shortcomings, failures, and sins that your prayers seemed empty or meaningless? Then you truly exerted yourself.
  • Ever pray when the words simply would not come, no matter how hard you tried? Then you knew the industry of prayer.
  • Ever kept talking to God when he seemed silent and non-responsive when it was your loved one who was gravely ill or in danger? That was truly hard labor.

Still not persuaded? Then try telling Jesus, the one in whose name you pray, that prayer isn’t work.

  • Tell him as you recall him daily getting up before others did to walk to a quiet place to pray. This was not done without deliberate, disciplined effort.
  • Tell him as you see him sweating blood in prayer in Gethsemane’s Garden. This was not done without a workman’s pirit of love, determination, and grit.
  • Tell him as you overhear him pray the most difficult of prayers – praying forgiveness for one’s enemies – with labored breath on his cross. This was not done without years of toil and testing in the field ahead of time for that very moment.
  • Tell him as your grasp the fact he intercedes for you still. This is far from “nothing;” more like the most precious of “something.”

So shout it from the rooftop: prayer, rightly done, is difficult, daily labor. And perhaps that’s why more prayers are not offered – because it is w-o-r-k!

After all, it is not an effortless thing just to try to wrap our head around the idea that the Most High Holy One works at listening to us. And what are we? Dust. But surely the vainest of things is to work in his name without praying, for what are our efforts without the work of the Lord mingled with them?

Prayer is work; make no mistake about it. And make not the mistake of not working at it.

links: this went thru my mind

 

American churches & change: Nine Rapid Changes in Church Worship Services [essential reading]

“If you were attending a church worship service in 1955 and then returned to the same church in 1975, the changes would be noticeable but not dramatic. Churches were slow to change over that 20-year period. If you, however, attended a church worship service in 2000 and then returned to that same church in 2010, there is a high likelihood you would see dramatic changes in just ten years. … Choirs are disappearing. … Dress is more casual. … Screens are pervasive. … Preaching is longer. … ‘Multi’ is normative. … Attendees are more diverse. … Conflict is not increasing. … More worship attendees are attending larger churches. … Sunday evening services are disappearing.”

Busyness rest, sabbath & work: Sabbath: Oasis for Body And Soul

“Sabbath requires surrender. If we only stop when we are finished [our emails, our projects], we will never stop—because our work is never completely done. … the Sabbath is patterned on the first days of creation, on a rhythm that predates both Christianity and Judaism. Sabbath keeping is not merely good advice for you to lead a nicely-balanced life. It is a practice that is knit into the created order.”

Children & communion: Children at the Table [essential reading]

“The Supper was originally experienced in the context of a meal—it was a Supper. Neither guests nor children would have been excluded from that meal. It was for everyone as witness to the grace of God, which is for everyone. Children, in particular, are invited to the table because they belong to the kingdom. They are kingdom people. They are on the journey of faith, and the Supper will shape the growth and development of that faith. The Supper testifies to the faithfulness and love of God, and when children eat, they experience that faithfulness and love at the table. The table, then, is a learning event for children.”

Church: 5 Church-Types to Probably NOT Avoid, but Embrace

“A church in which ‘Truth’ is embodied in the people, not merely in lists and statements. … A church that is driven by Jesus’ personality – not only the pastor’s. … A church that sees everything it does as an act of worship in union with Christ – so much so that social action is a natural outcome. … A church that speaks about the here and now rather than some Hollywood style Doomsday. … A church that consciously values being citizens of God’s Kingdom – one that tears down walls rather than oppressively reinforcing them.”

Hispanics & faith: Even as U.S. Hispanics Lift Catholicism, Many Are Leaving the Church Behind

“Even as a rising percentage of American Catholics is Hispanic, a falling percentage of American Hispanics is Catholic. … Only slightly more than half of Hispanics in the United States are Catholic.”

Jesus & violence: Was Jesus Violent in the Temple?

“… Jesus’ temple cleansing wasn’t a spontaneous outburst of anger. It was a premeditated, strategic act. … while Jesus’ behavior was certainly aggressive, there’s no indication whatsoever that it involved violence.”

Marriage: 5 Toxic Marriage Habits

“Nagging … Complaining. … Selfishness. … Anger. … Keeping Score.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Contribution, generosity, giving, offering & tips: * Why We Give (or Don’t) [required reading]; * Is It Stealing From God to Split Your Tithe Between the Church and Other Charities?

* “Why do we give to others? Why do we choose not to? New research seeking answers to these questions has important implications for Christians. For example, not all of our giving is altruistic.”

* “Three views on what it means to give faithfully.”

Education, income, social injustice, wages & work: What’s Wrong With This Picture? [infographic]

“Low-wage-workers are far more educated than they were in 1968 … but we’re paying them less.”

Nonviolence: She Survived a Standoff with a Gunman — Could You? [essential reading]

“Now she is the only one standing between the gunman and 800 children at an elementary school just outside Atlanta. Tuff began her day by reading Psalms 23: ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.’”

Stress: * How Couples Can Cope with Professional Stress; * When a Vacation Reduces Stress — And When It Doesn’t; * The Best Way to Defuse Your Stress; * What to Do When You Can’t Control Your Stress

* “Each couple will have to find their own solutions, but learning to cope with stress together is a fundamental skill for thriving at work and at home.”

* “Poorly planned and stressful vacations eliminate the positive benefit of time away.”

* “Think of stress as a monster, who lives in your body and feeds on uncertainty. The monster’s most satisfying meal starts with the sentence: ‘What will happen if … ?’”

* “When your anxious thoughts come at you, rather than grappling with them, you let them just be. Observe them.  Notice them. And simply direct your attention to something other than your thoughts, such as your breath. This may not be easy at first, but if you are having one of those days, it is likely to be much more successful before any meeting that provokes anxiety in anticipation of it. Also, practice makes perfect. If you practice this method often, you are likely to get better at it over time.”