links to 10 items worth your time

1. Can Israel and Jordan cooperate to save the dying Dead Sea

“… the Jordan River isn’t the only biblical-site-turned-environmental-disaster.”

2. America’s New Religions

“Seduced by scientism, distracted by materialism, insulated, like no humans before us, from the vicissitudes of sickness and the ubiquity of early death, the post-Christian West believes instead in something we have called progress — a gradual ascent of mankind toward reason, peace, and prosperity — as a substitute in many ways for our previous monotheism. We have constructed a capitalist system that turns individual selfishness into a collective asset and showers us with earthly goods; we have leveraged science for our own health and comfort. Our ability to extend this material bonanza to more and more people is how we define progress; and progress is what we call meaning.”

3. How N.T. Wright Stole Christmas

“As it turns out, Wright is no Grinch. He didn’t steal Christmas. What he stole was a false Christmas, a de-contextualized and apolitical Christmas. But we shouldn’t have bought that Christmas in the first place, and should have been embarrassed to display it so proudly on the mantle. Good riddance, and Bah humbug.”

4. Gun-shy About Committing to Church

“Surviving spiritual abuse means I’ve had to learn to balance my wariness (especially if I sense a leader is practicing those familiar old power games) with a commitment to remain vigilant about allowing bitterness to take root in my soul. I don’t try to silence my internal critic during a church service or gathering, as this voice serves an important role in helping me to remember where I’ve been and what I’ve learned. However, I work to listen for the things that harmonize with that critic by seeking to worship God in community, be present with others he’s placed in my path, and serve without feeling the compulsion I once did to say ‘yes’ to every request.”

5. Becoming Poor and Finding Friendship on the Margins

“We assume God’s friendship is enough as we seek to make friends with God’s people: the poor, the suffering, the lonely, and all those who cry out from their hearts for mercy. This is how we live out Christ’s good news on the margins.”

6. Resilient Kids Come From Parents Who Do These 8 Things

“… resilience is a behavior learned through explicit lessons and examples, one that teaches kids how to, among other things, better handle stress, understand that rejection is not a comment on their entire existence, and view setbacks as things that don’t need to sideline them for good.”

7. ‘A Witness That They Were Here’: Los Angeles Honors 1,457 of Its Unclaimed Dead

“They are the forgotten people of Los Angeles — 1,457 people, to be exact. Old, poor, homeless, babies born premature and abandoned. They may have died alone, but they were buried together, in a mass grave, and were honored together this week in an interfaith ceremony that has been an annual ritual in Los Angeles for more than a century.”

8. Attention is not a resource but a way of being alive to the world

“… conceiving of attention as a resource misses the fact that attention is not just useful. It’s more fundamental than that: attention is what joins us with the outside world. ‘Instrumentally’ attending is important, sure. But we also have the capacity to attend in a more ‘exploratory’ way: to be truly open to whatever we find before us, without any particular agenda. …

“So, as well as attention-as-resource, it’s important that we retain a clear sense of attention-as-experience.”

9. Millennials experience work-disrupting anxiety at twice the US average rate

“Nearly one in five US workers are debilitated by anxiety or depression, and the rate only climbs when you zoom in on younger generations.”

10. How Modern Technology is Bringing Ancient Writings to Light

“Powerful imaging tools are enabling researchers to see inside scrolls too fragile to unroll and recover texts too faint to see, making thousands of illegible manuscripts readable again.”

LIFE group guide: be brave!

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Oct. 26) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. To find previous group discussion guides, look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous issues.

Reason

Stated in a single sentence, this is the purpose of this morning’s sermon.

A call to courage; a summons to live bravely in Christ’s name in a fearsome world.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.

• Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today … (Exodus 14.13 NIV)

• God says, “Because you are devoted to me, I’ll rescue you. I’ll protect you because you know my name. Whenever you cry out to me, I’ll answer. I’ll be with you in troubling times. I’ll save you and glorify you. I’ll fill you full with old age. I’ll show you my salvation.” (Psalm 91.14-16 CEB)

• … the righteous are as confident as a lion. (Proverbs 28.1 CEB)

• As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. (Luke 9.51 NIV)

• Stay awake, stand firm in your faith, be brave, be strong. Everything should be done in love. (1 Corinthians 16.13-14 CEB)

• … the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid … (2 Timothy 1.7 NIV)

• Through faith they conquered kingdoms, brought about justice, realized promises, shut the mouths of lions, put out raging fires, escaped from the edge of the sword, found strength in weakness, were mighty in war, and routed foreign armies. (Hebrews 11.32-34 CEB)

Relation

Use one of the following icebreaker questions to prime the pump, to help the conversation begin. Choose one to discuss.

1. “I remember a situation in which I was brave. I __________.” Seriously or humorously.

2. Tell us about something you did that you even surprised yourself a bit that you did.

Research

These exercises/questions are meant to help us grapple with Scripture(s) related to this sermon.

1. Poll the group. What would test their bravery most: disease, destitution, or derision?

2. Read Psalm 27. What does it say to you about fear and courage?

Reflection

These questions assist our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us in our encounter with God’s word.

1. Is there such a thing as “good fear?” If so, differentiate “good fear” and “bad fear.”

2. Specifically, how do life’s three greatest things – faith, hope & love – inspire courage?

3. Share one of the most encouraging (pouring courage into) acts you’ve ever received.

4. I find I’m most willing to face the difficult or try what I’ve not tried before when I ___.

Response

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

1. Make a list of the ways God “braved you up” to face difficult times. Then, thank him.

2. Get involved in a ministry you’ve either not engaged in before or it’s been awhile.

links: this went thru my mind

Advertising, Big Data, duplicity, Facebook & privacy: With New Ad Platform, Facebook Opens Gates to Its Vault of User Data

“Facebook built itself into the No. 2 digital advertising platform in the world by analyzing the vast amount of data it had on each of its 1.3 billion users to sell individually targeted ads on its social network. Now it is going to take those targeted ads to the rest of the Internet … On Monday [this past], Facebook will roll out a rebuilt ad platform, called Atlas, that will allow marketers to tap its detailed knowledge of its users to direct ads to those people on thousands of other websites and mobile apps.”

Brain, reading, reflection & thinking skills: Your Paper Brain and Your Kindle Brain aren’t the Same Thing [essential reading, not skimming]

“Neuroscience, in fact, has revealed that humans use different parts of the brain when reading from a piece of paper or from a screen. So the more you read on screens, the more your mind shifts towards ‘non-linear’ reading — a practice that involves things like skimming a screen or having your eyes dart around a web page. ‘They call it a ‘bi-literate’ brain,’ Zoromodi says. ‘The problem is that many of us have adapted to reading online just too well. And if you don’t use the deep reading part of your brain, you lose the deep reading part of your brain.'”

Distraction, education, learning, multi-tasking, & technology: Why a Leading Professor of New Media Just Banned Technology Use in Class

“I teach theory and practice of social media at New York University, and am an advocate and activist for the free culture movement, so I’m a pretty unlikely candidate for Internet censor. But I have just asked the students in my fall seminar to refrain from using laptops, tablets, and phones in class.”

E-mail, productivity & work flow: 9 Rules For Emailing From Google Exec Eric Schmidt

“In a new book out this week chock full of Google-flavored business wisdom, How Google Works, Google executive chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt and former Senior Vice President of Products Jonathan Rosenberg share nine insightful rules for emailing … like a professional.”

Exercise, peace, stress & worry: Best To Not Sweat The Small Stuff, Because It Could Kill You

“… it’s not the stress from major life events like divorce, illness and job loss trickled down to everyday life that gets you; it’s how you react to the smaller, everyday stress. The most stressed-out people have the highest risk of premature death, according to one study that followed 1,293 men for years. ‘People who always perceived their daily life to be over-the-top stressful were three times more likely to die over the period of study than people who rolled with the punches and didn’t find daily life very stressful,’ according to Carolyn Aldwin.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Afterlife, authority & heaven: Heaven Is For Real [essential viewing; a video 4:44 by David Platt)

“… our level of discernment in the church today on this topic is extremely low because the whole premise behind every single one of these books is contrary to everything God’s word says about heaven. … Not one person raised from the dead in the Old Testament or the New Testament ever wrote down what he or she experienced , including Lazarus, who had a lot of time in a grave for four days. … Paul sums it up in three verses. … Their visions are all fixated on the glory of God which defines heaven … Notably missing from all of the Biblical accounts are the frivolous features and juvenile attractions that seem to dominant every account of heaven on the best-seller lists. … Why … are we buying this stuff when we have the word of God?”

Anxiety, fear, stress & worry: This is You on Stress

” … There are things you can do to take the wind out of worry’s sails.”

Archaeology & the Western Wall: A Stonemason’s Chisel from the Second Temple

“Archaeologists associated with the Israel Antiquities Authority found a stonemason’s chisel which is believed to have been used by the workers who built the Western Wall in Jerusalem. … Most scholars believe that the Western Wall was one of the many building projects Herod the Great initiated during his reign. Among these projects was the Temple in Jerusalem, the Western Wall, and the fort at Masada.

“However, based on the dates of the coins found under the Western Wall, Shukron and Reich believe that the Western Wall was not built by Herod. The dates of the coins indicate that the Western Wall was built after Herod’s reign, probably by one of his heirs.”

Bible & interpretation: How To Completely Misuse The Bible In 5 Easy Steps

“The Bible is a notoriously difficult book (collection of books, actually) to understand. We’ve been wrestling with the meaning and implication of various texts within the Bible nearly since the moment it was written. … However, even though studying the Bible with a heart for understanding the message is difficult, it is the most beautiful journey I’ve ever set out on. … On that same note however, with the Bible being so difficult to understand, it is also easy to completely misuse it. Such a misuse, even done unintentionally, distorts the beauty of what actually lies inside. We’ve all seen it. In fact, we’ve all done it.”

Churches & social media: Using Caution with Social Media

“Whether you are a full-time staff person or a volunteer that is just starting out, you are representing the ministry you are serving in. As a member of this church, you need to understand that there are rules that must be followed online that simply cannot be violated. To help protect my ministry team, whether the church technology ministry, youth group, or a Saturday morning men’s Bible study, I have all volunteers commit to our social media policy.”

Communication & love: I Say This in Love …

“Sometimes people seem to think they can say anything — in any form — without considering the consequences — as long as they begin with that phrase. … let’s make sure we display love all the way through our conversations. Not just with the first five words.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Anxiety, fear & worry: How Fear Makes You Dumb [required reading]

1. How much of my fear is based on ignorance? … 2. How much of my fear is a lack of faith in my ability, versus a lack of faith in the environment? … 3. How much of my fear is rooted in a concern about being uncomfortable?”

Charitable giving & philanthropy: The Charitable-Industrial Complex

“Money should be spent trying out concepts that shatter current structures and systems that have turned much of the world into one vast market. Is progress really Wi-Fi on every street corner? No. It’s when no 13-year-old girl on the planet gets sold for sex. But as long as most folks are patting themselves on the back for charitable acts, we’ve got a perpetual poverty machine. It’s an old story; we really need a new one.”

Church attendance & spiritual maturity: Attendance Does Not Measure Spirituality

“It is the spirituality of walking, talking, and serving Jesus that is the litmus test. … The rock-bottom issue is the Rock; Jesus. Do we know him?”

Facebook: Step-by-Step Guide to Lock Down Your Facebook Profile

“I’m going to walk you through the big privacy settings on Facebook, step by step. If you haven’t checked in on your Facebook settings in a month or more, make sure you follow each step.”

Gospels: Gospels as the Archway into the Canon

“… analogize the four-fold Gospel as the keystone in the archway into the canon of Holy Scripture … The keystone of an archway fits in such a way that it holds both sides of the structure in place, thereby enabling an entryway. On the one side of the keystone are the Old Testament Scriptures; on the other side are the rest of the New Testament writings. It is the Gospels that uniquely are shaped, formed and placed to hold together these two major sections of the canon. On one side, the Gospels present themselves as the completion and consummation of the whole story of God’s work from creation through the exile of Israel; on the other side, the Gospels, as we have seen above, serve as the foundational source documents for the Epistles which take up the true accounts and teachings of Jesus and apply to pastoral situations.”

Gossip: ‘Gossip is the Devil’s Radio’– Gospel is the Savior’s Radio

“Consider for a moment the opposite of gossip— namely Gospel. Sharing the Gospel is about telling the Good News, telling the truth, not merely a rumor, about someone who now resides in heaven— Jesus. Suppose every time you were tempted to gossip instead you gospeled. Imagine how much more healthy and helpful that could be. If you are so keen about spreading supposed news about an absent person, why not spread some good news about the Person that people actually need and deserve to know the most about?”

Health & vitamins: The Vitamin Myth: Why We Think We Need Supplements

“Nutrition experts contend that all we need is what’s typically found in a routine diet. Industry representatives, backed by a fascinating history, argue that foods don’t contain enough, and we need supplements. Fortunately, many excellent studies have now resolved the issue.”

Millenials: Why Millennials are Leaving the Church [essential reading]

“What millennials really want from the church is not a change in style but a change in substance.”

Poverty: Hunger Makes People Work Harder, and Other Stupid Things We Used to Believe About Poverty

“As recently as 1820, researchers have calculated that 84 percent of the world’s population lived in ‘extreme poverty’ (on less than the 1985 equivalent of a U.S. dollar a day).”

Weddings: The Gospel According to Our Wedding

“The ceremony shares the gospel … when the doors are flung open and the bride and groom are finally brought together, we see echoes of the long-awaited joining-together of heaven and earth; the consummation. The two who were separate now become one, as they were meant to be. This powerful symbol is yet another extension of the gospel message, delivered through the medium of wedding ceremony. The beautiful thing is, the guests at the wedding all respond to this message of creation, fall, redemption and consummation the same way Jesus says we will in Revelation: with a feast!”

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.”