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.”

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.