links: this went thru my mind

Brain, health, mental disorders, mental health, & technology: NetBrain: Your Gadgets Could Be Giving You Psychological Problems

“The greatest factor in whether or not someone exhibits NetBrain/iDisorder symptoms is whether or not they own a smartphone.”

Brotherly love, love, Muslims, terror & violence: Loving our Neighbor in an Age of Terror [essential reading]

“I had an interesting conversation with my son last night about the terrible violence in Paris. Among other things we talked about the increase of anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe and here in the United States. Life will be increasingly difficult for average Muslims who are law-abiding and peace-loving citizens of France, other European countries, and the U. S. … There is much that should be said and done in response to this act of evil. Certainly those nearer to the horror are able to help those affected. But where I live, embodying loyalty to Jesus may involve being watchful of how such events can stir up emotions that confuse and perhaps diminish our fundamental loyalty to King Jesus and thus to love our neighbors as ourselves.”

Church, kingdom & the Sermon on the Mount: God Promised Me a Kingdom and All I Got Was This Lousy Church

“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a nation created in the midst of other nations. The other nations are under oppressive rule by illegitimate, even demonic powers. … The church is a colony of heaven on earth.”

Ecology & faith: The Old Testament Isn’t ‘Green’ … Or Is It? [required reading]

“Both radical ‘green’ and radical consumption narratives are at odds with the Old Testament view of the relationship between humans and God’s good creation. The fatalistic narrative that the earth is cursed and we must live with the curse is also at odds with the Old Testament. The people are always called to choose between obedience and blessing or disobedience and cursing. We can and should strive for righteousness and proper wise keeping of God’s creation. Wisdom is the key – always bearing in mind the role that human embrace of evil can play in our perceptions. What does it mean to fill the earth and subdue it? What is the mandate given to humans?”

Happiness & peace: Why “Having a Peace About It” is a Terrible Reason for a Christian to Make a Decision (parts 1 & 2) [essential reading]

“I can’t count the number of times a Christian has said to me that “they have a peace” about a certain decision and therefore plan to move forward. Sometimes they make this decision despite obvious signs that their decision is unwise and not in conformity with the guidance of Scripture. In these cases, a person tends to simply slap a kind of divine mandate on top of what they want to do anyway. When friends or family members try to refute their decision, they simply reply that there is to be no argument because ‘God told them’ or ‘God gave them a peace.’ One example of this kind of mindset can be found on popular Pentecostal writer and speaker Joyce Meyer’s website.”

eluding our idols: twenty questions on 1 John 2.28-3.12

This coming Sunday (Jan. 11) at 9:00 a.m., some of our adult classes at MoSt Church will continue in a study entitled Eluding Our Idols. It’s a close look at what’s commonly known as John’s letters (1, 2 & 3 John). To help you get ready for this encounter with Scripture and our discussion of it, you’ll find the following below: (a) the text of 1 John 2.28-3.12 and (b) twenty questions and exercises to go along with this reading.

receiving this word

And now, little children, remain in relationship to Jesus, so that when he appears we can have confidence and not be ashamed in front of him when he comes. If you know that he is righteous, you also know that every person who practices righteousness is born from him.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us in that we should be called God’s children, and that is what we are! Because the world didn’t recognize him, it doesn’t recognize us.

Dear friends, now we are God’s children, and it hasn’t yet appeared what we will be. We know that when he appears we will be like him because we’ll see him as he is. And everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself even as he is pure. Every person who practices sin commits an act of rebellion, and sin is rebellion. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and there is no sin in him. Every person who remains in relationship to him does not sin. Any person who sins has not seen him or known him.

Little children, don’t let anyone deceive you. The person who practices righteousness is righteous, in the same way that Jesus is righteous. The person who practices sin belongs to the devil, because the devil has been sinning since the beginning. God’s Son appeared for this purpose: to destroy the works of the devil. Everyone who is fathered by God does not go on sinning, because God’s offspring remain in him; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been fathered by God. That is how it is clear who are the children of God and who are the children of the devil: everyone who doesn’t practice righteousness is not of God, particularly the person who doesn’t love their brother or sister. This is the message that you heard from the beginning: love each other. Don’t behave like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he kill him? He killed him because his own works were evil, but the works of his brother were right. (1 John 2.28-3.12 CEB)

wrestling with this word

1. What exactly does it mean to “remain in relationship to Christ?” (2.28a) How might this call have been especially challenging to John’s original audience? How is it challenging to us today?

2. How real to you is the prospect of Christ’s future appearance? (2.28b)

3. What gives us the ability to delight in, not dread, Christ’s coming appearance? (2.28b)

4. How is 2.29 a rebuke to those who left? How is it confidence/motivation to those who stayed?

5. What descriptors or declarations in Scripture speak deeply to you of God’s love for you (3.1a)?

6. Since the world rejected Christ, should Christians expect/seek, better treatment by it (3.1b)?

7. “… we’ll see him as he is.” (3.2b) What is John telling us we’ll see God to be?

8. How is our holiness fed and fueled by hope (3.3)?

9. “… sin is rebellion.” (3.4) What does this tell you about sin? About you? About God?

10. Why is sin not to be trifled with? (3.5-6) What sin(s) have been called out thus far in 1 John?

11. “… don’t let anyone deceive you.” (3.7a) How can a person grow to become less deceivable?

12. What does John mean in 3.7b? What does he not mean?

13. A person belongs to the one they serve. (3.8a) Thoughts?

14. Christ came to destroy the devil’s work. (3.8b) How exactly did he do that?

15. Is John saying Christians can mature to such a point that they cease to sin? (3.9) Explain.

16. Compare 3.10 with 2.9-11. How are these texts similar? In what ways do they differ?

17. Which archery target ring is labeled “do right?” Which is labeled “do right by others?” (3.10b)

18. Why is it just so plain difficult at times for Christians to just love each other? (3.10b-11)

19. Why did God reject Cain’s sacrifice? Was it about his offering or his life? (3.12; cf. Gen. 4.7)

20. What lessons does John expect his readers to glean from the Cain and Abel account (3.12)?

eluding our idols: twenty questions on 1 John 2.7-11; 3.13-24

This coming Sunday (Dec. 21) at 9:00 a.m., some of our adult classes at MoSt Church will continue in a study entitled Eluding Our Idols. It’s a close look at what’s commonly known as John’s letters (1, 2 & 3 John). To help you get ready for this encounter with God’s word and our discussion of it, you’ll find the below: (a) the text of 1 John 2.7-11; 3.13-24 and (b) twenty questions and exercises to go along with this reading.

receiving this word

Dear friends, I’m not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the message you heard. On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light already shines. The one who claims to be in the light while hating a brother or sister is in the darkness even now. The person loving a brother and sister stays in the light, and there is nothing in the light that causes a person to stumble. But the person who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and lives in the darkness, and doesn’t know where to go because the darkness blinds the eyes. …

Don’t be surprised, brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. We know that we have transferred from death to life, because we love the brothers and sisters. The person who does not love remains in death. Everyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. This is how we know love: Jesus laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. But if a person has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need and that person doesn’t care—how can the love of God remain in him?

Little children, let’s not love with words or speech but with action and truth. This is how we will know that we belong to the truth and reassure our hearts in God’s presence. Even if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts and knows all things. Dear friends, if our hearts don’t condemn us, we have confidence in relationship to God. We receive whatever we ask from him because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. This is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love each other as he commanded us. The person who keeps his commandments remains in God and God remains in him; and this is how we know that he remains in us, because of the Spirit that he has given to us. (1 John 2.7-11; 3.13-24 CEB)

wrestling with this word

1. How is the command John writes about both “old” and “new” (2.7-9)? What is this this command?

2. “The darkness is passing away and the true light already shines.” (2.8b) What is meant by this?

3. Knowing what we do of this letter’s original recipients and context, who is 2.9 talking about? Why?

4. “Don’t be surprised … if the world hates you.” (3.13) Define “world.” Why expect hatred? (3.14)

5. “The person loving a brother and sister stays in the light.” (3.10) “The person who does not love remains in death.” (3.14b) Brotherly love is crucial, not optional! How can we nurture such love?

6. Do believers today try hard to insure the world doesn’t hate them? Are they shocked when it does?

7. What is “eternal life?” (3.15) Let John 17.3 inform you. How does this tie in with 1 John 3.17b?

8. How do Christians know how to go about loving others? (3.16) What does love look like? (3.16-17)?

9. Our life isn’t compartmentalized before God. Loving him and loving others are one (3.16-17). Why?

10. Why note the withholding of material things as a sign of a dropped connection with God? (3.17)

11. We all want to know we belong to the truth and want to be confident before God. (3.18-19) How?

12. Restate 3.18 in your own words.

13. How do you love someone with “truth?” (3.18b) cf. John 4.24 for use of the same word for “truth.”

14. What exactly is our “heart?” (3.19-21) Define it. What is an effective synonym for “heart?”

15. How might the first readers have struggled with having confident hearts before God (3.18-21)?

16. We all want what we ask of God to receive a big “Yes” from him. What enables that? (3.22)

17. When you don’t get what you ask for is that to be understood as a sign you’re disobedient? (3.22)

18. “We keep his commandments and do what pleases him.” (3.22) What pleases God? (3.23)

19. To believe in the name of Jesus and to love each other (3.23) is one “commandment?” How so?

20. How can a Christian know that God lives in them (3.24)?

a prayer for my own city today, with another – Ferguson, MO – in mind

Baytown-water-tower-2014As I pray today for all who live in Ferguson, MO, I’m moved to also pray for all who live in my own community. Won’t you join me?

You, Father God, are the Giver of all that is good. You are the perfect Understander of all things, even every human heart. You are the only wise, holy, and just Judge of all people and situations everywhere. Blessed be your name!

And so, I confess to you that I all too often take for granted the measure of your peace that you have granted to the community in which I live. I would do well to put my hand over my mouth more often than I do, rather than speak as if I have perfect understanding of people and events in my town. I sometimes make judgment calls on others that are hasty and unhelpful. Please, forgive me.

I thank you for every mind in my locale that is open, willing and active to learn how to best love others; this is from you. I’m grateful for all the hearts here in which the walls that separate them from others are crumbling; this is your work. And I’m appreciative for every pair of eyes that see past the outward appearance of people and see, in their neighbor’s eyes, the eyes of Christ; this is your grace.

And so, in the name of your Son Jesus, I ask you, Father God, that you shield and deliver my city from all the hatred, violence, and every other evil, that is welling up elsewhere. I request that you give me great wisdom as to how I should conduct myself when things do not appear to go the way I think they should and deep humility when they go the way I think they should. I pray your forgiveness and mercy on me for all the times I have judged others and have spoken ill of them for I know that such only tears community apart.

Deliver us from evil, Father, and lead in the ways that are good. Bring in your kingdom and use me in that good process, I pray.

Amen.

it’s a good day not to gloat

gloat (glōt); verb; to feel or express great, often malicious, pleasure or self-satisfaction.

  • Did your guy or gal win in the elections yesterday?
  • Did you get your way with the results from yesterday’s voting?
  • Did that co-worker who has been talkin’ political smack for weeks get squashed by the stats last night?
  • Do you feel a hint of self-righteous vindication and self-satisfaction welling up?
  • Do you have a bit of an ache within you for the coming weeks to pass quickly so you can watch those you helped lift up get to work their will?

Then remember: this verse could very well be the passage of Scripture you need most today and could be the one most immediately relevant to your living life as God would have it:

“You should not gloat over your brother in the day of his misfortune … nor boast so much in the day of their trouble.” (Obadiah 12)

Go and see what this means. For it is certainly the way of our Lord for us.

“… you should treat people in the same way that you want people to treat you; this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7.12)

links: this went thru my mind

 

Aliens, brotherly love, dehumanization, illegals, immigration & respect: I Don’t Know What an “Illegal” is … [required reading]

“In our culture, the way these folks are framed (‘named’) is by calling them ‘illegals.’ I am very convicted about this. … I feel I should say ‘I do not know what an illegal is. I know only humans.'”

Bible reading, lectio divina, reflection, Sermon on the Mount & transformation: Ten Minute Transformation: Ten Minutes of Lectio Divina That Can Revolutionize Your Life (Matt. 5) [required reading]

“It’s a good question. If the Christian faith is only about going to heaven, then why do we stay here on earth?”

Bible study, college & faith: Open Letter to New Testament Students

” … if I am doing my job, you are probably going to undergo a slow process of discovering that what you thought was a book is, in fact, a bunch of books; you’re going to find out that what you know is often incorrect; and what has spoken to you has been edifying, but that text may not ever be able to speak with that same voice again.”

Busyness, culture, stress & the United States: 8 Things You May Not Know about Busyness in America [infographic]

“…  eight things that we should all keep in mind about our ‘busy’ lives.”

Brotherly love, humility, others, patience, understanding & sincerity: The Thing I’d Love to Forget About the People I Disagree With [essential reading]

“…  it’s a bit disconcerting to confront the reality that it’s possible to wrestle with the same God and walk with the same limp and yet reach different conclusions. Perhaps it is in the wrestling itself that we can find some common ground.”

Discipleship, knowledge, questionnaires, spiritual formation & transformation: Christianity: Has Education Replaced Transformation

“American Christianity is turning into a massive question-and-answer quiz, and I’m probably going to fail. The Bible isn’t a textbook — but people treat it that way, and “Christianity” is becoming a pass-or-fail test. … “

Sin: Have We Grown to Overlook Sin?

“…  we tend to elevate the sin of another which is different than ours.”

this went thru my mind

 

Brotherly love: What Does It Mean To Lay Down Your Life for Your Brother? 1 John 3:16-18

“John tells us that, like Jesus, we ought to lay down our lives for others. No surprise there, but notice the example he gives of what this looks like. He doesn’t tell of a Christian dying for another Christian. John’s illustration of how to lay down your life for others is to help someone in need. The truth of the matter is, few of us will ever die for another person, while all of us have the opportunity to put others first on a daily basis.”

Christianity: The Shifting Global Church [infographic]

“* 4,300 people were leaving the church in Europe and North America while 16,500 people were coming in in Africa. * In a hundred years’ time, Africa has grown by 36x while Europe has only doubled. * China is currently the fastest region of growth at 16,500 new Christians a day, despite strong governmental resistance.”

Guidance & heart: Follow Your Heart – Why That’s a Bad Idea

“Obedience is that guide. Anything else is a bad idea.”

Ministry & success: Wanting vs Needing Your Church To Be Successful [essential reading]

“A definition of success that focuses solely on numbers (attendance, offerings) is unhealthy (for the pastor) and unrealistic. My experience in working with pastors and the churches they lead has shown time after time that a church can be healthy and not grow. I’ve also come to realize that a church can be unhealthy and grow. Strange as that may sound, it is true. I don’t think it’s necessary, or wise, to ignore attendance and offerings, but what is necessary is to find a definition of success that has very little to do with numbers.”

Persecution: Paper-Cut Persecution

“I have found myself coming across a lot of in the media and online from North American Christians referring to themselves as suffering for their faith or even being persecuted. Almost without exception, when I dig into their issues it most often is a situation where Christians have lost a place of privilege in our culture (one that we should perhaps not have had in the first place), but are responding to it as though they are being put to the rack.”

Repentance: How To Repent When You Want To But You Don’t Want To

“Repentance requires greater intimacy with God than with our sins! Intimacy with God is still out on the frontier for many who have been in the church for decades.  Closeness with God has been suffocated by sincere (yet often empty) intimacy with church attendance, brand of church attendance, projects to involve the church attenders, and the ever-famous “decent and in order” form of the church attenders.  Much of church has been everything but intimacy with God. But we are learning.”

Tradition: Tradition: How To Stick It to the Man

“‘Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.’ – Jaroslav Pelikan