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.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Anger & grief: How to Best Handle Your Anger in Grief

“In order to get a handle on anger in your grief journey, you may want to remember the following facts …”

Christians, persecution, & Syria: The Coptic Church in Peril

“It looks like the Coptic church may well go the route of the Assyrian church which was also expelled from the middle east by persecution.”

Church, mental health, & mental illness: Mental Illness and the Church: New Research on Mental Health from LifeWay Research

“Medicine is not the answer to everything, and we live in an over-medicated world, but we need to treat character problems like character problems—and illnesses like illness. I wish more Christians saw that.”

Consumerism, employment, idolatry, money, simplicity & work: * Pope Attacks Global Economics for ‘worshipping ‘god of money’; * 10 Common Objections to Minimalism

* “‘The world has become an idolator of this god called money,’ he said. … Francis … ended his improvised speech with a prayer asking God to ‘give us work and teach us to fight for work.’”

* “… what’s holding you back from exploring what minimalism has to offer?”

Internet & privacy: 9 Tips for Keeping Your Internet Usage Private [infographic]

“… follow these nine tips for keeping your Internet usage private …”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Anger, Christians, culture, fear, indignation: Angry Christians [essential reading]

“This is not the way to be Jesus to the world.”

Apartheid, Mandela & racism: Dreaming of Mandela

“A friend of the family let slip a sentiment widely felt but seldom articulated: ‘Thank God for the blacks. If not for them it would be us.’”

Applause & clapping: The Science Of How Applause Spreads In An Audience

“When people clap at a performance, they’re not really driven by how much they enjoyed what they saw, according to a new study. Instead, they decide how long to applaud based on the applause they hear around them.”

Bible translation: Finding the Right Words for God’s Word

“… Bible translators never achieve strict, word-for-word accuracy–even when they promise it.”

Boredom, church & worship: Our Fear of Boredom is Simply a Fear of Coming Face to Face with Ourselves [required reading]

“The Sunday morning hour, like the therapeutic hour, is a place to contemplate our capacity to deal with the fear of emptiness.”

Church: Go Big or Go Home? [essential reading]

“When our churches are big, and getting bigger, we take that as a sign that we must be doing something right, because surely, bigger is always better. Our culture teaches us to chase big, and we’re quick learners.

“But all this obsession with big creates problems for today’s followers of Jesus, because so much of what Jesus teaches and shows us is concerned about what happens on a smaller scale: attitudes of the heart, how we handle our possessions, learning to forgive, getting free of our addictions and idolatries, the nature of our trust and commitments, and so on. Jesus had big ideas and big dreams, to be sure—as big as his Father’s purposes to redeem the cosmos. But he went about his mission in surprisingly small ways, gathering small groups, touching the little people, focusing on deep problems in areas that might seem small-scale, such as how we treat one another, tending to a sick or needy individual, and working on personal speech habits. Big seems powerful, and sometimes it is. But when the basic unit of Christian community is so large that you can’t even see it all at once without going a mile up into outer space, the impressive view from a distance can lead us to lose sight of the fact that the Lord’s main work is meant to happen on the small scale, in up-close and personal ways. Big churches are not necessarily in a better situation to do that work, and they are often less adept at it.”

Children & parenting: 7 Tips For Surviving The Terrible Threes Of Parenting

“As with so many others (most it seems), it’s not the ‘terrible twos’ that is a problem … it’s the ‘terrible threes’.”

Evangelicals: 6 Evangelicals You Don’t Know … But Might Want To

“Meet six “new evangelical” leaders who embody aspects of the change under way in evangelical America, and whose work is clearing out a larger space for the common good.”

Fidelity & marriage: 7 Ways I Protect My Heart and Ministry From an Affair

“When the mind begins to wander in a lustful direction, it is very hard to control. The failure, I believe, comes more in not protecting the heart and mind. I know that I must personally work to protect myself, my wife, my boys and my church from the scandal and embarrassment of an affair. There are a few rules I have in place that serve to protect my heart.”

Jesus: Jesus in Non-Christian Sources

“These 7 points are nicely summarized by Paul Barnett in his volume Is the New Testament Reliable? (IVP Academic, 2003 [second ed.], p. 34).  Notably, each fact corroborates the record of the New Testament. …”

Motivation: Are You Doing It Because You Love It Or for the Reward That Follows? [essential reading]

“Psychologists believe there are two reasons people choose their behavior: They are motivated intrinsically or extrinsically.

“Intrinsic Motivation: This means a person chooses a behavior simply because of interest or enjoyment. The act of doing the behavior is itself the reward. One researcher defined intrinsic motivation in terms of what people will do without external inducement. When you do behaviors because of intrinsic motivation, you feel a sense of accomplishment and achievement. …

“Extrinsic Motivation: This means you do something because of factors outside yourself. For instance, you want your parent’s approval, a trophy, or a treat. Or perhaps you want to avoid the disapproval of others. The reason for the behavior comes not from the love of the activity, but from the reward that follows the activity. …

“Being intrinsically motivated correlates with maturity, and having a strong sense of self.”

Prayer& work: How Micro-Prayers Can Get You Through the Work Day

“To deal with the constant rash of self-centered and negative mind-chatter, I have taken to saying tiny micro-prayers at various points throughout the day: prior to walking into a difficult meeting; in the midst of same meeting; before presenting a Big Idea to the Big Cheese; while staring blankly into my computer; or just about any time when I suspect there might be head-butting and ego-clashing coming down the hall.

“The idea is to detach, to unlatch my ego-driven agenda from the situation, to make it more about the possibilities of God’s presence, or opportunities for the spirit to shine rather than about me getting my way.”

Salvation: Salvation is Bigger than Forgiveness

“In the journey toward the Beautiful One we become beautiful through transforming grace. God is beautiful and defines what Beauty is. Knowing God in love is to be drawn into the glorious beauty of God, and this drawing is a transformative drawing. Fear of God does not transform; the beauty of God does transform.”

LIFE group guide: make every effort

 

NOTE: Following is a copy of the discussion guide that will be used in MoSt Church’s LIFE groups tomorrow night (June 30). This guide will enable your follow-up in our LIFE groups of my sermon tomorrow morning from Luke 13.23-30. This sermon’s title is “Make Every Effort” and is another sermon in the Jesus Christ: Master & Commander series. Look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous discussion guides. All Scripture texts reproduced below, unless otherwise noted,  are from the CEB.

Aim

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

Word

Go in through the narrow gate. The gate that leads to destruction is broad and the road wide, so many people enter through it. But the gate that leads to life is narrow and the road difficult, so few people find it. (Matthew 7.13-14)

Jesus traveled through cities and villages, teaching and making his way to Jerusalem. Someone said to him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?”

Jesus said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow gate. Many, I tell you, will try to enter and won’t be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and shuts the door, then you will stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’ He will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you are from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ He will respond, ‘I don’t know you or where you are from. Go away from me, all you evildoers!’ There will be weeping and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in God’s kingdom, but you yourselves will be thrown out. People will come from east and west, north and south, and sit down to eat in God’s kingdom. Look! Those who are last will be first and those who are first will be last. (Luke 13.22-30)

Open

Icebreaker questions are meant to help us all start talking. Choose one of the following to discuss as a group.

1. Are you easy to surprise or startle? What would those who truly know you well say?

2. Tell us about something you’ve made a real effort to work hard at for a long time.

Dig

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

1. Compare and contrast the text in Matthew (7.13-14) with that in Luke (13.23-30).

2. How does the context in Matthew (7.7-12,15-20) provide commentary on vs.13-14?

3. The question asked of Jesus in Luke concerned quantity (vs.23). How does Jesus’ reply vs.24-30 not answer that question?

4. God’s grace doesn’t rule out human effort. What other Scriptures stress our doing?

5. What specifically does Luke 13.29-30 teach as to who will reside in God’s kingdom?

6. Notice how personal Jesus makes things in Luke 13.25-28 with the repetitive use of the word “you.” Why do you suppose he worded it so and what does this do to you?

Reflect

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

1. Does God decide who does and doesn’t enter his kingdom or (2) does God acknowledges who has entered his kingdom and who has refused? Why?

2. You either “make every effort” (Luke 13.24a) or you’re an “evildoer” (13.27b)? Fair?

3. How do you sometimes resemble those who don’t enter the narrow gate (13.24b-28)?

4. What does making every effort look like? Or, what sort of habits might you expect a person bent on entering by the narrow gate to have in their life?

5. What does God’s kingdom being portrayed as a banquet (Luke 13.29b) say to you?

6. It’s not enough to be around Jesus (Luke 13.26); you must be about Jesus. As a group, pray that this “aboutness” is a daily, ongoing reality in every group member’s life.

this went thru my mind

 

Annihilationism, conditionalism & hell: The Legacy of Edward Fudge & the Future of Conditionalism

“The inaugural Rethinking Hell conference will be held on July 11th-12th, 2014, at the beautiful Lanier Theological Library in Houston, Texas. This will be an historic occasion for the movement of Evangelical Conditionalism/Annihilationism, representing the first gathering of its kind.”

Anxiety, fear & worry: The Dark Doctrine All Churches Hold Dear [required reading]

“How do we become obedient to God’s stark call to refrain from worry?  Stop it.  It is a choice; not a circumstance.  It is obedience; not a mood. To ignore this strong Word from God is indeed to hold a very dark doctrine of rebellion.”

Change & conflict: The Reality of Change and Conflict

“Change invites conflict. You can’t escape that fact. But … avoiding change stifles growth. Which eventually leads to conflict. (Ever been a part of a declining organization…or church?) And … avoiding conflict allows tension to build. Which in the end creates more conflict. (Ever seen what happens when someone is silently angry with you long enough?) Therefore … In my opinion… avoiding conflict or change is impossible.”

Church & witness: Why the Church Can’t Seem to Get Traction in Society

“The reason the church cannot seem to gain traction in this mega-troubled society is we have joined the masses in trying to escape.  Ours is not the call to dodge incoming arrows of rejection; but rather for staying put in pain upon the cross that the hurting may find perfect and ultimate healing.”

Cicadas: The Return of the Cicadas [7 1/2 min. video]

“I’ve been working an a 1-hour documentary on cicadas since 2007 …”

Consumerism & minimalism: Living With Less. A Lot Less.

“Our fondness for stuff affects almost every aspect of our lives. Housing size, for example, has ballooned in the last 60 years. The average size of a new American home in 1950 was 983 square feet; by 2011, the average new home was 2,480 square feet. And those figures don’t provide a full picture. In 1950, an average of 3.37 people lived in each American home; in 2011, that number had shrunk to 2.6 people. This means that we take up more than three times the amount of space per capita than we did 60 years ago. Apparently our supersize homes don’t provide space enough for all our possessions, as is evidenced by our country’s $22 billion personal storage industry.”

Dignity, modesty, respect & swimwear: Jessica Rey – The Evolution of the Swim Suit [9 1/2 min. video; required viewing]

“… he had to hire a stripper to wear it.”

Meaning, significance, and work: God at Work: Not in Vain

“The things we do with our life will find their way, through the resurrecting power of God, into forever. Your work is important, not just because you can contribute to church, but because you get to partner with God! The resurrection of the world means that some of the best ministries, don’t have the word ministry in them!”

Ministry: The Pastor’s Job Description

“Three pastoral acts are so basic, so critical, that they determine the shape of everything else. The acts are praying, reading Scripture, and giving spiritual direction. Besides being basic, these three acts are quiet. They do not call attention to themselves and so are often not attended to. In the clamorous world of pastoral work nobody yells at us to engage in these acts. It is possible to do pastoral work to the satisfaction of the people who judge our competence and pay our salaries without being either diligent or skilled in them. Since almost never does anyone notice whether we do these things or not, and only occasionally does someone ask that we do them, these three acts of ministry suffer widespread neglect.”

this went thru my mind

 

Apocrypha, Bible, & canon: The Second Canon

“Just how Protestants came to lose these books is a curious story. Reformation-era debates over the Bible naturally focused on issues of canon.”

Complaining, criticism, leadership, ministry, self-pity & whining: * No Whining; * How To Respond to Rejection and Unjust Criticism

* “Just about the worst thing a leader can nurture in his heart is self-pity. And just about the worst thing a leader can do in front of his people is murmur and complain. I understand there is an appropriate place for lament. I know it is not always wise for leaders to quietly endure injustice. I’m not encouraging leaders to be stoic and indifferent to pain. What I am saying—and rather forcefully I hope—is that leaders must not be whiners.”

* “Many Christians cannot get over rejection, let alone misunderstanding. And that is why there is no resurrection in their lives. In our own natural power, we are incapable of responding to pain the way Jesus did. But the good news of the gospel is that He lives inside of us, giving us both the power and the will to do His good pleasure. The secret is in letting go.”

Culture and the U.S.: A ‘Whom Do You Hang With?’ Map Of America

“The idea here is to show America not as 50 states, but as regions where people do stuff together. In other words, a ‘Whom Do You Hang With?’ map.”

Discipleship: Five Reasons We Don’t Disciple (links to parts 1, 2, & 3)

“Seven years ago Christianity Today magazine asked John Stott to assess the growth of the evangelical church. This was his reply: ‘The answer is “growth without depth.” None of us wants to dispute the extraordinary growth of the church. But it has been largely numerical and statistical growth. And there has not been sufficient growth in discipleship that is comparable to the growth in numbers.’ Sadly, seven years on, that assessment still rings true. Although our growth has been wide as the ocean, it’s often about as deep as a puddle. Why is that?”

Faith & grief: One Month by Keith Brenton

“Will I choose to continue believing, go on trusting?”

God, church, power & self: How Shall We Keep Going On? by Terry Rush [required reading]

“In actuality, if it is to be it is up to Him. Why do we need this reminder? When we think church is up to us, we become overwhelmed and inwardly overwrought with exasperation because WE CAN’T DO IT.  Frustration, guilt, and bummerism subdue the spirit of each servant.”

Preaching: * 5 Strategies to Get More Out of the Sermon by Sean Palmer; * When Your Sermon is Only a Single by Philip Nation

* “You have a role to play in helping your preacher preach better.”

* “Each week, we hope that our sermon will be a homerun. However, I’ve hit a lot more singles and doubles than triples. I’ve hit even fewer homeruns. In all honesty, there are many Sundays my sermon feels like a poorly executed bunt that I have to hustle out to first base. So what are you to do when you just hit a single?”

Productivity: How I Improved My Workflow, 90-Minutes at a Time

“Timing is everything, as they say, and your workflow is no different. The human body is hard-wired to pulse. To operate at our best, we need to renew our energy at 90-minute intervals — not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally.”

this went thru my mind

 

Affliction, faith, loss, pain, & suffering: There Really Is A Reason – 12 Benefits Of Afflictions

“God doesn’t afflict us or allow us to be afflicted for no reason. … in God’s plan, afflictions have great benefit to us, as painful as they are at times.  If we keep these benefits in mind when we suffer, they can help us endure joyfully.”

Archaeology: Roads of Arabia Exhibition: Update

“Here is the schedule for upcoming shows of the exhibition … The Museum of Fine Arts – Houston, TX – December 22, 2013 – March 9, 2014.”

Busyness & leadership: Busy is Killing Leadership

“If you’re not careful busyness will quietly take over your life without you even being aware of it.”

Children & Uganda: Launching Reunite Uganda in the US! [essential reading; the work of one of MoSt Church's own: Darby Priest]

“Help us get Ugandan children out of orphanages and back to their families.”

Church, fear, ministry & the work of God: Francis Chan: Are You ‘Protecting’ Your Church from a Movement of God?  [10 min. video clip; required viewing]

“… it blew my mind that an older man would come alongside of me and believe in me.”

Church & intergenerational ministry: Congregations as Families of Faith: Beyond Age-Level Ministries

“…  research has continued to show that intergenerational relationships are like glue that makes faith sticky for young people. Age-level ministries are still important to create a community of peers for children, youth, and adults to belong to. But if we hope to make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world, then we must develop intergenerational ministries that model the faith for our children and youth, and support our families as they seek to follow Christ. The research tells us that we need to be doing church differently.”

Communication, culture, demographics, social media, & society: Just Who Uses Social Media? A Demographic Breakdown

“You think you know social? How about who uses it? Well, you might not know it as well as you would have guessed. A new study from the Pew Research Center and Docstoc shed some light on just who uses social and on what platforms. Some of the findings seem in line with what you would probably guess, but others were surprising.”

Distribution of wealth: A Rise in Wealth for the Wealthy; Declines for the Lower 93%

“During the first two years of the nation’s economic recovery, the mean net worth of households in the upper 7% of the wealth distribution rose by an estimated 28%, while the mean net worth of households in the lower 93% dropped by 4%, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of newly released Census Bureau data.”

Employment, faith, jobs, & work: Why Tim Keller Wants You to Stay in That Job You Hate

“‘I hate my job. It’s not just like I don’t have a lot of power—I really can’t stand what I have to do every day.’ How would you pastor someone in that situation?”

Expectations & introverts: 7 False Assumptions Made About Introverts by Ron Edmonson

“There are a lot of false assumptions made when someone is introverted. Here are 7 false assumptions made of me as an introvert …”

Church finances, collection, contribution, electronic giving, & offering: What the Decline in Check Writing Will Mean for Your Church

“If we do not change our process for collecting the offering we will see our offerings decline. The reason is simple. The harder we make it for people to give the less likely they will give.”

Ego, Facebook, photography, pride, & vanity: Snap Judgments: Our Societal Obsession With Taking Pictures [required reading]

“Each day, we upload more than 5.2 million photos to Instragram and 100 million to Facebook, with no signs of slowing down our snapping and sharing. … In a sense, this is totally natural. Photographs speak to the age-old custom of physically marking spaces and moments in thanksgiving and remembrance. … The danger of using photos as markers is that images appeal to our vanity. We become quickly obsessed with accumulating experiences, capturing them in photos, and publicly displaying our photos as trophies. If we aren’t careful, our Facebook pages and blogs can become trophy cases of our own accomplishments: Me, on a church mission trip, lumped in with a group of smiling ethnic children.”

Grace: God at Work: Common Grace by Jonathan Storment [required reading]

“The bad guy in the Christian story isn’t someone, it’s the broken reality that Jesus calls sin. And because of common grace we can see God working through people outside of our tribe, our immediate community, or our faith. We can see the image of God in everyone.”

Hope, immigration, mercy, North Korea, pain, & suffering: Hyeonseo Lee: My Escape from North Korea [12 min. video clip; required viewing]

“… one day, in 1995, my Mom brought home a letter from a coworker’s sister. It read, ‘When you read this, all five family members will not exist in this world, because we haven’t eaten in the past two weeks. We are lying on the floor together, and our bodies are so week, we are ready to die.’”

Ministry, relationships, & time management: How Does a Pastor Interact With Those Who Seek to Monopolize His Time on Sunday?

“It is one of the great dilemmas every Sunday for the pastor.  Who do I speak with and for how long?  Most pastors stand at a doorway after the morning service to greet those who are leaving.  Others stay down front inviting folks to come and speak with the pastor to ask questions about the sermon.  It is a constant juggling match that most pastors feel they fail at most of the time. What adds to the madness is the person who aggressively hunts the pastor down after the service and feels entitled to his undivided attention for a long time.”

Worship: Your Worship Service is B-O-R-I-N-G!

“There’s a reason your church isn’t more creative. … most churches are boring because of The Olive Garden Problem.”

Americanism, culture, & politics: A Political Rant Born From a Deeper Theological Conviction than “Americanism”

“I’ve seen several posts on social media advocating a picture as a “way forward” in terms of political policy. It looks like this … What I want to do is interact with these ideas as a Christian who takes Scripture seriously and who is more committed to the kingdom of God than to a specific country/government. I intend to provide a ‘play by play’ through each of the statements …”