this went thru my mind


Anger, envy, Facebook & jealousy: Envy & Jealousy on Facebook – What New Research Has Revealed

“Several new studies have revealed that Facebook makes countless people feel bad about themselves leading to anger and hate against other people. Why? Because of envy and jealousy.”

Christianity & Islam: Worshiping Jesus in the Mosque

“Can people from other religious traditions genuinely follow Jesus without becoming ‘Christians’? The question is a point of much dispute within today’s missions world. Those who follow Jesus yet don’t formally express Christian faith are said to belong to insider movements. And no insider movement has received more attention than Muslims who embrace Christ yet stay within their Islamic community.”

Listening: Who’s Listening?

“Everything that Jesus did on earth was intentional, and the foundation of his ministry was listening to and responding to people’s desire to be understood, to be known by God. How do you think uneducated fishermen felt when Jesus (a teacher) asked them to follow him? What kind of effect do you think Jesus’ invitation to follow him had on Zacchaeus, a tax collector (the scum of the earth)? How do you think women felt when Jesus invited them to follow him, in a culture where only men followed rabbis? How do you think the bleeding woman felt when Jesus stopped everything he was doing to listen to her—and then to heal her?”

Prayer: Eugene Peterson on Prayer as Basic to the Christian Life

“Prayer is basic because it provides the primary language for everything that takes place on the way of Jesus. If we go to a shopping mall in North America, we speak English to get what we want. If we go to a restaurant in France, we speak French to order our meal. If we travel in Greece, we speak Greek to find our way to the Acropolis. And if we decide to become Christians and follow Jesus, we pray.”

this went thru my mind


Acts 5, Ananias, God, Sapphira & violence: How Do You Explain the Violent Judgment of Ananias and Sapphira? by Greg Boyd

“Knowing that God’s true character looks like Jesus voluntarily dying on the cross for his enemies, we will always know that something else is going on if God appears to act in ways that are contrary to this enemy-loving, non-violent character.”

Bragging, jealousy & rejoicing: Solving Your ‘You Problem’ by Sean Palmer

“I would only feel as if  they were bragging, if I felt something else first: JEALOUS!”

Church & faith: Together by William Willimon [21 min. sermon video clip; required viewing]

“Where the heck did you get the notion we wanted you to be comfortable? … The way of Jesus Christ is just too difficult to attempt it by yourself. …. the only way that you can be saved is by bringing all of us along with you. It’s together.”

Church & generations: A Head, Heart, or Hands Church? by Dan Bouchelle [truly required reading; as in “if you read only one thing this month”]

“I grew up in a church designed for the head. That is not a criticism. It is just a description. We did not trust emotions because they were easily manipulated and clouded thinking. Actions were important and we believed ‘good works’ were essential to faithfulness, but what really mattered was getting your theology straight. … The church of my heritage lost many of the boomer generation who walked away looking for a church with a heart. … Ironically, now that boomers make up the majority of leaders and have the most control in our churches, the emerging adult generation has shifted the criteria for validity again. Young adults today, and the culture in general, are not looking for a powerful experience of God or ballast for a head-heavy church. … What this generation longs for is not more heart but something to do with their hands. … While the young adult generation is not anti-logic or emotionless, they just aren’t impressed with their church options. They may show up for the show and agree with most of the teaching, but they will give their time and money to something that changes lives in tangible ways.”

Church & phones: The Cold, Hard Truth About Phones in Church by Jon Acuff

[I won’t spoil it for you here. Go look at it. There’s a powerful parable here, not just a smile.]

Leadership & worry: 7 Encouragements for Leaders Who Worry by Ron Edmonson

“Having a strong faith is no guarantee your emotions won’t play tricks on you at times.”

journey through James (16): twenty questions on James 4:1-12

This coming Sunday morning (Nov. 6) at MoSt Church, most of our adult classes will study James 4:1-12. We’ll use this phrase to focus our mind on the meaning of this passage: learning how to grow toward God and away from Satan, selfishness, and sin. To help you get ready for this encounter with God’s word and our discussion of it, here is the text and twenty exercises and questions.


What is the source of conflict among you? What is the source of your disputes? Don’t they come from your cravings that are at war in your own lives? (2) You long for something you don’t have, so you commit murder. You are jealous for something you can’t get, so you struggle and fight. You don’t have because you don’t ask. (3) You ask and don’t have because you ask with evil intentions, to waste it on your own cravings.

(4) You unfaithful people! Don’t you know that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? (5) Or do you suppose that scripture is meaningless? Doesn’t God long for our faithfulness in the life he has given to us? (6) But he gives us more grace. This is why it says, God stands against the proud, but favors the humble. (7) Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will run away from you. (8) Come near to God, and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners. Purify your hearts, you double-minded. (9) Cry out in sorrow, mourn, and weep! Let your laughter become mourning and your joy become sadness. (10) Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

(11) Brothers and sisters, don’t say evil things about each other. Whoever insults or criticizes a brother or sister insults and criticizes the Law. If you find fault with the Law, you are not a doer of the Law but a judge over it. (12) There is only one lawgiver and judge, and he is able to save and to destroy. But you who judge your neighbor, who are you? (James 4:1-12 CEB)

Exercises & questions

1. List all of the things we know that God does or will do in light of the teaching of this text.

2. List all of the sins you see directly referenced or implied in this passage that were apparently common among the Christians to whom James originally wrote.

3. List what we know about the devil from what is directly stated or implied in this passage.

4. List all of the direct commands given to Christians in this Scripture.

5. Clearly, selfishness is a huge problem among the Christians to whom James is writing. How big a problem would you say selfishness is among Christians in our country today? Explain.

6. Given the immediate context (and other passages in James such as 5:6), would you say the reference to “murder” in vs. 2 is literal or figurative? Explain.

7. “You long for something you don’t have …” (vs.2). Good thing we don’t have that problem anymore, huh? Comment on our culture’s “cravings” and how we Christians often share the same cravings.

8. Struggle and fighting among Christians is sin and comes from sin. What sort of sins does James say fueled the struggles and fights he references in vs.1-3?

9. What does vs.2-3 teach you about prayer?

10. What does vs.3 have to say about the common teaching known as the “health and wealth” or “prosperity” gospel?

11. Given what is said in vs.4, would you say it is possible for a Christian to lose their salvation?

12. Verse 5-6b is notoriously difficult text to translate. Notice the variation in rendering by comparing the passage in several different English translations.

13. What does James mean that God “gives us more grace” (vs.6)?

14. Paul says God does not play favorites (Romans 2:11) and yet, here James says God “favors the humble” (vs.6b)? How can both of these statements be true, or can they be?

15. Given the context, what would you say might happen to a person if God draws near to them (vs.8a)?

16. What does it mean to be “double-minded?” (vs.8b)

17. As surely as we’re called to “rejoice in the Lord” (Phil. 4:4), we’re also called to “mourn” our sins (vs.8-10). How can a Christian do both of these things?

18. James says criticizing, disrespecting, insulting, or mistreating other Christians is akin to put yourself in the place of God (vs.10-12). What accounts elsewhere in Scripture come to your mind when you think of people (wittingly or unwittingly) putting themselves in God’s place?

19. James is using every possible means of persuasion as he urges the Christians to whom he is writing to get their act together. Try to list the various motivations James appeals to in this text. Which do you find most powerful or persuasive?

20. This much is certain from this passage: church life can sometimes resemble be hell on earth. What advice, derived from this text or elsewhere in Scripture, would you give to a new or troubled Christians who found themselves in the middle of a selfish church caught up in civil war among themselves?

this went thru my mind

Capital punishment: Why Capital Punishment is Not Such a Capital and Christian Idea by Ben Witherington

“Let me be clear that all the harangues in the world about what the OT says about capital punishment will not persuade me in the least that this makes it o.k. for Christians to participate in the legal taking of someone else’s life. Christians are not under any form of the old covenant, they are under the new covenant, and the new covenant is not just the old covenant renewed or Parte Deux, the sequel.”

Church attendance: Why Sunday Is Not On Your Travel Itinerary! by Mark Woodward

“I have a feeling that many, if not most Christians do not plan to go to church on Sundays when they are traveling. Sometimes we haven’t, but most of the time we try to and I’d like to tell you why.”

Church budgets: Church Budgeting Myths by Tim Spivey

“The area of church finance is riddled with myths. They have pure motives behind them, but they are myths all the same. If you buy into them, you’ll set yourself up for financial peril down the road. Here are a few with some observations.”

Church membership: Why I Have No Difficulty Helping “Issue Christians” to Move On by Ed Stetzer

“… we should always provide guidance, but we should not always provide a platform. “Issue Christians” want a platform with you and your church because they are passionate about an issue–don’t let that distract you or your church from being and doing all that God has in store. Move on… and move them on.”

Committees: If Committees Told the Truth by Seth Godin

“… we will compromise the art and the vision out of it, we will make it reasonable and safe and boring.”

Computing: (1) Online Traffic Shifts from PCs by Jameson Berkow and (2) What to Do if Your E-Reader Is Lost or Stolen by Eric Dye

(1) “For possibly the first time, the most popular online activities are being carried out on devices other than a PC …”

(2) “The last thing you want to happen after realizing your Kindle is missing, is to find someone purchased hundreds of dollars worth of e-books under your account. Here’s what you need to do if your Kindle, Nook or Sony Reader vanish.”

Frustration: 5 Steps for Handling Frustration by Rick Warren

“Here are five simple steps for dealing with frustrations in your life.”

Hebrews: Hebrews Recited by Joel Shorey

The book of Hebrews describes itself as a sermon. Joel Shorey memorized the entire book of Hebrews and recited it, without comment, as a sermon. This is a 45 min. video of that recitation. Wow.

Jealousy: Jealousy at the Boiling Point by Brian LaMew

“What are you really jealous for in life? Isolate your jealous feelings. What is it that you really are seeking after and will obtaining that actually give you the contentment you desire?”

Love: The Dangerous Myth of Unconditional Love by Dan Bouchelle

“Here is a hard truth to hear that you need to know: God is the only one who is truly capable of unconditional love.”

Parenting & sports: When Sports Becomes God by Jonathan McKee

“… maybe parents need to think ahead when it comes to signing up for sports and decide exactly how committed to a team or activity they are really ready to be.”

Occupy Wall Street: (1) A Devotion for Wall Street: Does Jesus have anything to say about the “Occupy Wall St.” protests? by Shane Claiborne and (2) The Health and Wealth of the Church by Christ Altrock

(1) “Woody Guthrie may be right. If Jesus came to Wall Street preaching the same message that he preached in Galilee… he might land himself on a cross again.”

(2) “Occupy Wall Street might force America’s top 1% to soberly reflect on the “soundness” of their own fiscal lifestyle. Perhaps it ought to force us all, especially Americans, to soberly reflect on the “soundness” of our own fiscal lifestyles.”

Twenty-somethings: 20 Somethings: Why are they Leaving and What Can We Do About It? by Matt Dabbs

“Boil down all the issues and here is what you get – the vast majority of churches have a ginormous culture gap within the congregation and are doing little to nothing to resolve it.”

Violence: God Hates Bloodshed by Richard E. Oster, Jr.

“The commitment of the early followers of Christ to humility, peace, non-violence, and meekness stands in stark contrast to the glorification of brute force and bloodshed prevalent in the entertainment values of so many cultures, both ancient and modern.”


Wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there is disorder and everything that is evil. (James 3:16 CEB)

“No James, you don’t understand. Some people may have a problem with jealousy and so, screw up the order of things in their life, but not me. It might be an issue with others, but me, well, I’ve got it under control. I’m not going to say I don’t have any jealousy within me because that would be a lie. No, what makes it all different for me is that I keep my jealousy on a leash, you see. It’s tied down. I’ll admit, it’s there, but ‘disorder’ creeping in as a result, nah, that’s just not where it’s at with me. It’ll never happen. Not with me it won’t.

“See, all sorts of evil does creep into some folks’ lives. And it does so because they’re selfish in their ambitions. They’re all wrapped up in a “What’s in it for me?” way of thinking. They’re always looking to get something out of everything for themselves. But that’s not me. Not all. I’m immune to that sort of stuff. Oh sure, sometimes I get to thinking in a ‘I’m lookin’ out for number one’ mode, but it doesn’t last long and I certainly don’t dabble in that long enough for any other darkness to find its way into my mind. No, you don’t need to worry about me.

“Now don’t get me wrong. I appreciate you looking out for me and all, but buddy, you’re way overstating your case. In fact, let me just gently say you really need to just tone it down a bit, brother. Your ‘wherever’ is just too broad a net. Talking that way only weakens the point you’re trying to make with some folks. And hey, I have to be honest with you. The way you’re talking is just a bit offensive to me. I mean, you come across like you’re just lumping me in with the rest of the herd and that’s not right. When it comes to this sort of stuff, I’m different. It’s truly all different with me.”

To which James replies: “Whatever. I’m stickin’ with ‘wherever.'”

Wherever you find jealousy and selfish ambition you’ll find all sorts of evil and people’s lives and relationships in disarray. (James 3:16 DSV)

Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus, may I ever remember my place before you, dependent on your grace, and may I ever consider others better than myself. Amen.

then stop

However, if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, then stop bragging and living in ways that deny the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above. Instead, it is from the earth, natural and demonic. (James 3:14-15 CEB)

Have you ever noticed how radically different the Bible reads in comparison to how we tend to want it to read?

Take for example our seemingly unquenchable thirst for “relevancy.” We yearn for “what to do” to be spelled out to us. We expect sermons to be filled with the “how to” dimension of things and we call for teaching to be saturated with “points of application. We want an  “explanation.”

But the Bible rarely speaks in such terms. In fact, what you typically find as you engage Scripture (and not merely writings or teachings about Scripture) are a multitude of statements without any “how to” statements attached whatsoever.

This passage in James is a perfect example. James, writing to Jewish Christians scattered across the Roman world of his time, tells them that he’s aware of pervasive jealousy and ambition among their ranks. These are not surface problems, but are harbored in people’s hearts and are points of deep bitterness. Further, these pervasive problems are resulting in ways of living that deny the truth of God’s good news and even well up to the point of their bragging about it!

You can almost hear the Christians addressed so ask James, “What are we to do, James? Tell us.” And James says, “I’m glad you asked. Stop it.” And that’s all he says.

Not once does he illustrate or give example of the sort of thing he’s talking about. He doesn’t provide a ten step “here’s how to change your life” plan as a solution. He doesn’t lead us through a series of references to positive elements we can plug into our life that will help push out the sin that he sees in us. He doesn’t provide a list of resources or aids available to us that will assist us in making this “stop” happen. He simply says:

“... then stop ...”

Stop bragging. Stop denying the truth with your life. Stop filling your heart with selfish ambition. Stop nurturing and coddling bitter jealousy in your spirit. Just stop it. Period.

This, I believe, is a very good thing to do still today. It was good enough for James and his Christian brothers and sisters then and it should be good enough for us as Christians today. And let me tell you why: the silence of no “how to” challenges us to discover the way ourselves.

It’s this simple: the things we discover for ourselves are the things that typically work the best for bringing about real change in our lives.

The way will be different for each of us. Some of us will find our greatest help to be in the companionship of solid Christians. Others of us will find our great change-making strength to come through private prayer. Still others of us will find it comes through saturating our lives with Scripture so that we’re more mindful of what God wants of us all of the time. And the list can go on and on, but it basically boils down to this …

The who we need to focus on is not us, but the Lord and the thing we need to hear is not so much the how as it is the what.

Now stop … and think about that.

Let’s pray.

Father God, prevent me from burying your good news underneath a mountain of words not from you. When I, as a little child, cry out incessantly to you “Why” or “How,” remind me with love of your perfect will and call me to trust you. May this be enough for me to do just that and to show it by my actions. This I pray in my Lord’s name. Amen.

Look at your heart and see if you coddle bitter jealousy and strain to have things your way. See if you’re focused on talking big about what you can do or what you don’t do. See if you live in such a way that denies God’s truth. And if you see such things, stop them for you know that any “wisdom” they appear to have isn’t from God, but is earthly, empty, and evil. (James 3:14-15 DSV)

friedman’s fables (3)

There is a curious connection between the way people think and the way people bond. To the extent they tend to frame life’s issues in black-and-white, either/or, on-and-off-alternatives, to that extent their responses to the challenges of life will lack resiliency. And the more likely it is that their bonds will become binds. On the other hand, to the extent individuals are unafraid of ambiguity and can even come to appreciate its value, then the repertoire of their relational responses is broadened, and that in turn will enrich the alternatives in their style of thinking.

Jean and Jane

Jean and Jane were very good friends. But Jean and Jane were in no way alike. For Jane was very friendly, always cheerful, always happy. But Jean was more reflective, rarely laughing, rarely smiling.

While Jean stayed pretty much to herself, even in groups, Jane was the life of every party. While Jane entered any room and immediately attracted a crowd, Jean entered any room and remained so inconspicuous it was if she were not there.

Jean was not really less attractive, yet she attracted less. Jane was not really a superficial butterfly, yet she was never alone.

As time went on Jean began to worry about the difference. “Why is it,” she thought, “that Jane always has more fun? Why is it that I, on the other hand, am always so unhappy? Does Jane simply know better how to win friends and influence people? If so, where did she learn it, and why haven’t I, Jean, learned it?” Jean reflected on her own patterns and came to see there was no clear reason for their difference.

She and Jane were the same age, had about the same physical attributes. Ok, Jane was a blonde. But some men liked brunettes. They each could sing; each played about the same game of tennis. Ok, Jane was a better swimmer, but she couldn’t play golf!

The more Jean thought about Jane, the more depressed she became. It was not just envy. Jane was the reflection of her, Jean’s, own potential. Jane, right now, in the present, was all that Jean ever wanted to be but somehow found herself unable to be. As Jean brooded about this problem, things worsened. She isolated herself more. Then she functioned less. Eventually she stopped going out at all. And who would have wanted to be around her anyway?

Throughout this time, Jane continued on her way. Almost every evening the phone rang. At the club she was invited to every activity. For she was, after all, a pleasure to be with. Even at work others admitted that they worked harder in her presence, and she almost never had to eat by herself.

Finally, Jean, with great effort, managed to establish a relationship – with a therapist. Weekly she went, and she began to discuss her problem, how no one seemed to want her, how she was usually, left out of things, if not completely ignored, how jealous she was of Jane. Slowly, she talked about her own behavior. Carefully, she revealed her inner feelings. Hesitantly, she discussed her past.

As time went by, she made some progress, but it always seemed to be overshadowed by Jane, who, if this was possible, became even more popular than before. Thus Jane continued to be a reminder to Jean of what a woman could be. “Hah,” thought Jean one day, about six months after she had begun to work on her problem, “why if Jane ever had to see someone for professional help, she’d probably be through in a matter of weeks.”

It was in the midst of one of these doldrums that Jean, upon entering her therapist’s office, was astounded to see Jane coming out.

“Hi, Jean,” said Jane in her usual cheery way.

“Hi,” responded Jean, surprised.

“What are you doing here?” asked Jane sweetly.

“Me?” said Jean. “Why I’ve been coming here for almost a year. This is my regular weekly appointment. What brings you here today?”

“Well, we had to switch today. I’ve been seeing the doctor for several years now,” said Jane, still her usual eager self. “I wish I could cut down to only once a week.”

“But how often do you come?” inquired Jean, incredulously.

“Usually three times, but sometimes if I”m desperate he fits me in for a fourth.”

“Desperate!” exclaimed Jean.

“Oh, yes,” responded Jane. “You know, Jean, I can’t tell you how surprised I am to find you here. You always seemed so sure of yourself. You’re always so self-reliant, always so able to be alone. You have no idea how I admire your independence, your tolerance for solitude, your capacity to keep your distance.”

Jean was trying to come from behind the other side of the mirror as she finally asked, “But, Jane, what’s your problem?”

“You mean, you can’t tell?” chirped Jane. “I am totally unable to say no.”

MORAL: The grass is only greener when you’re not caring for your own lawn.

Friedman’s Fables by Edwin H. Friedman (The Guilford Press, 1990), pp.109,129-132