links: this went thru my mind

Here are several links I found to be interesting and helpful.

Choices, decisions, discernment, intuition, morality, rationalization & thinking: Your Mind is a Spin Machine

“… usually, the rider is the servant to the elephant.”

Cinema, faith, film, forgiveness, hatred, movies, torture & war: The Power of Forgiveness [essential reading]

“How does a man forgive what is seemingly unforgivable? In search of the answer, I began a seven-year journey through his life, a journey that culminated in my book Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.”

Feast of Dedication, Feast of Lights, Hanukkah, Jesus & Jerusalem: * Jesus Visited Jerusalem During Hanukkah; * Hanukkah: When Jesus Claimed to be God

* “The Gospel of John records more visits to Jerusalem by Jesus than any other of the Gospels. John is the only one to record the visit during the Feast of Dedication.”

* “Today, some say Jesus never claimed to be God. But His words during that Hanukkah left little doubt.”

Israel, roads, the ascent to Jerusalem & travel: New Video: The Modern Ascent to Jerusalem

“Bill Schlegel, author of the Satellite Bible Atlas, has just posted a video showing the ascent to Jerusalem from the Shephelah. The 6-minute video uses drone footage to show the modern highway’s route and the new construction. In antiquity, travelers followed the natural routes along the ridges. Today when we deviate from those ridges, we spend billions to destroy the landscape in the construction of passes, bridges, and tunnels.”

Prison system & teens: End Solitary Confinement for Teenagers

“That the practice is widespread remains a disturbing indicator of how poorly we treat the hundreds of thousands of minors arrested each year in the United States.”

sum of the sermon – love is a battlefield: be strong in the Lord

 

Most of you have probably seen the videos that have gone viral of late of people accepting “The Ice Bucket Challenge.” It’s a gimmick to raise awareness of – and funds for – the fight against Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known to a previous generation as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

I accepted the challenge – dump a bucket of ice water on yourself – and I’ve set aside a contribution to the ALS Association. I challenge you to do the same (at alsa.org).

But this morning I challenge you to consider what it means to “be strong in the Lord.” For that is precisely what each of us here is called to become. “Strong in the Lord.”

Just what does that phrase say to you? What image does it conjure up in your head?

Let’s ask the person who first used it: an apostle of God. His name was Paul. And when Paul thought about “being strong in the Lord” his mind instantly went to an image of war. (Eph. 6.10 NRSV) It’s an image of a soldier fully equipped to do battle with the enemy. (Eph. 6.11 NRSV)

Being “strong in the Lord” is deadly serious business; it’s a battlefield!

In that sort of scenario, you are, if nothing else, fully-focused. There are things you just don’t do (like carry things you don’t need). And there things you do no matter what (you “behave appropriately”). cf. Rom. 13.12b-13a NRSV. For it goes without saying: it’s a matter of life and death.

Now let me ask you: how do you picture yourself when it comes to being “strong in the Lord;” when it comes to your engagement in spiritual warfare?

I can’t see your answer, but I can relate to you what I sometimes hear.

“I want to be strong in the Lord, but I’m just not feeling it. I want to be spiritual and I start out doing well, but I seem to quickly fizzle out. What am I doing wrong?”

Does that sound like you? What it looks like is hand-to-hand combat and the battlefield is your mind. God has put his Spirit in us to permeate our mind and work out his will in this world. However, our enemy, Satan, opposes God and us. His plan of attach is to reverse God’s intended nature of things by using the world and its ways to impact us sensually, taking control of our mind and dominating our spirit. The contested ground, the ground where the battle will be either won or lost, is in our mind.

Through the years I’ve had occasion to talk with combat-hardened veterans of military service. Sometimes I’ve asked them what being truly ready for battle is all about. More often than not they do something like this (“tapping their head”) and say something like “keeping your head in the game.”

One time, I had a young veteran – one of the current generation raised on video games like Call of Duty – look me right in the eye and say:

“They lied to me. There’s nothing quick, easy, or fun about killing a man.”

I’ll leave it to you to sort all of that. Including what all that young man must have wrestled with (and still does).

But I think what he said nailed it. It comes down to what we’re thinking and our expectations. Make no mistake about it: our part in the battle – the fulfillment of our duty to God – will be won or lost in our head.

“What am I doing wrong?,” you ask.

It’s likely the way you think about things. Or more precisely, the way you don’t think about your expectations.

How many of us have been duped by the Devil to think our maturity in Christ can, and will, come quickly? How many of us live under Satan’s deception that being a Christian is supposed to come relatively easily? How many of us have been deluded to believe – and diluted in our faith – to suppose that life in God must be fun?

I tell you the reality of it is more like the difference between the look in the eyes of the fresh, new recruit who has never “seen the elephant” and the eyes of the battle-hardened veteran who has seen it all … again, and again, and again.

I challenge you: name one thing that’s solid and central about Christian faith that happens “quickly.” There’s nothing there. It takes time. A lot of time. A lifetime.

Precious little – if anything – about believing, truly trusting God, is “easy.” Faith is “the proof of what we don’t see.” (cf. Heb. 11.1b CEB) What, pray tell, is easy about that?

And “fun?” While joy is certainly part of the fruit that God’s Spirit grows in/on us, that word was never intended to carry the full freight load of what it means to follow after God and his will. If so, someone forgot to tell our Lord, our mentor, our model, the Man of Sorrows. No, strong Christians make use of all the colors in the box, not just happy yellow. They can, and do, “weep with those who weep” and they can, and do, grieve over their sins.

“What are you doing wrong?” It’s likely a matter of the battle going on in your mind. You have a set of assumptions and expectations that have no place on the battlefield, and you’re in the Army now, mister; get your mind right!

Put on the full armor of God! Every day the sun comes up is a day there is an enemy at the gates and evil in the air. (Eph. 6.13 NRSV) Gear up with faith in God, hope in Christ, and love by the Spirit. (1 Thes. 5.8 NRSV) Your life – and the lives those around you – depend on it. And march into battle with the assurance that Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, will see us through to our destiny with him, in him and for him. (1 Thes. 5.9 NRSV)

Who today will take up the challenge? Who will get their mind right by turning a deaf ear to the Devil’s propaganda? Step right into the ranks of the legions who call Jesus “Lord.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Affordable Care Act, health care system & medicine: Obamacare: The Rest of the Story

“This is the 90 percent of the story that doesn’t make the headlines. … they are transforming medicine from the treatment of disease to the treatment of patients — and ultimately the treatment of populations.”

Attitude, mind clutter & thinking: The Single Principle You Need to Clean Out the Mind Clutter for Good [required reading]

“We should start choosing our thoughts like we choose our clothes for the day. … We have chosen to give away the physical clutter that piles up in our spaces in exchange for serenity, for simplicity, and for a richer life. But what about non-physical clutter that fills up our minds and fogs our vision every day, every second even? Why can’t we apply the same principle to our thoughts, which could benefit a thousand fold from a little clean-up in their dusty attic?”

Calvin & Calvinism: Where Calvin Went Wrong

“… Calvin’s view of sovereignty so overwhelmed his theology that he ends up denying the capacity of humans to choose to believe.”

Christian college education & crisis of faith: The Christian College and the Crisis of Faith–and Why That Might be a Good Thing

“Many young people have an immature faith. Schools do not do them a service by helping them embrace this faith via dubious apologetics. Examination should always precede entrenchment.”

Church, God, idolatry & worship: Am I Just Now Beginning to Worship God? [required reading]

“When first converted I thought true worship was because of two facts: we did church right and we didn’t do it wrong.  That seemed to be both the message and the conclusion. … Our worship has failed to reach God for so many moments because we have stopped to worship the created rather than the Creator.”

Churches of Christ & the Restoration Movement: Why the Restoration Movement Needs a Gospel Revival [required reading]

“… biblically speaking, gospel is largely about us. It’s public. It’s as much about the restoration of the world as it is about the restoration of my soul.”

Facebook & privacy: How to Stay Private Now That Anyone Can Find You on Facebook

“You can control the audience of your updates, photos, or bio information if you don’t want strangers seeing your information.”

Generosity & giving: Generosity Is Its Own Reward

“… the relation between generous spending and happiness holds around the world, even in countries as impoverished as India and Uganda.”

Marriage: Things My Wife Does I Take for Granted

“How many things does she do that I take for granted? … Men, what do you take for granted that your wife does?”

Parenting: Random Bedtimes Breed Bad Behavior In Kids

“Parents learn the hard way that late bedtimes make for cranky kids the next day. But inconsistent bedtimes may have a greater effect on children’s behavior, a study says.”

Tipping & wages: Why You Should Tip 25%

“The shameful state of the salaries of restaurant workers, who often earn a poverty-level $2.13 an hour before gratuities, is a topic … But while politicians argue about the minimum wage and lobbyists push to keep workers’ salaries artificially low, I have an unconventional recipe for righting this obvious wrong: Tip more.”

devoted: in mind

 

NOTE: Following is a copy of the discussion guide that will be used in MoSt Church’s LIFE groups tomorrow, Oct. 7. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon tomorrow morning entitled Devoted: In Mind. Look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous discussion guides.

Aim

To introduce and to explore what it means for our mind to be completely given over to God.

Word

Israel, listen! Our God is the Lord! Only the Lord! Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your being, and all your strength. These words that I am commanding you today must always be on your minds. (Deuteronomy 6.4-6 CEB)

Jesus replied, “The most important one is Israel, listen! Our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” (Mark 12.29-30 CEB)

The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people … I will put my Instructions within them and engrave them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. (Jeremiah 31.31,34b CEB)

This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord. I will place my laws in their minds, and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. (Hebrews 8.10 CEB)

… renew the thinking in your mind by the Spirit … (Ephesians 4.23 CEB)

… the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4.7 CEB)

… once you have your minds ready for action and you are thinking clearly, place your hope completely on the grace that will be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1.13 CEB)

… all the churches will know that I’m the one who examines minds and hearts … (Revelation 2.23 CEB)

Open

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

1. What’s the last song that got “stuck in your head?” What put it there? What got it out?

2. Which would you say works better these days: your rememberer or your forgetter?

Dig

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

1. Make two lists: one of the things God does and one as to what people do in the texts above.

2. How does God engrave his law within us today in ways he did not do so before (Jer. 31)?

3. Tackle Phil. 4.7. With what is our mind to be filled? Such a mind is kept safe from what?

Reflect

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

1. What random Scriptures use the words “think” or “remember?” How do they teach you?

2. Which do you think of most often: God’s expectations of you or his promises to you? Why?

3. How does prayer cleanse, set the tone for, and develop your everyday thoughts in life?

4. Which has the stronger influence: actions affecting thinking or thinking affecting actions?

5. A fellow Christian confides to you that they’re struggling with “stinking thinking,” be it impure thoughts, worry, or whatever. What advice would you give them and why?

this went thru my mind

 

Assumptions & daily living: 4 Assumptions You Can Make About Your Day by Jim Martin [required reading]

“Assume that you will experience interruptions and distractions. … Assume that you will need to extend grace to others. … Assume that you will have opportunities today. … Assume that you have enough time to do what really needs to be done.”

Children & television: Is ‘Secondhand’ TV Taking a Toll On Kids? by Amanda Gardner

“According to a nationwide study, a much bigger proportion of kids’ TV exposure comes indirectly, from television that’s on in the background while they’re doing other activities. The average child between the ages of 8 months and 8 years absorbs nearly four hours of this so-called background or ‘secondhand’ TV each day, the study found. And this indirect exposure, by detracting from play, homework, and family time, may have possible consequences for kids’ well-being.”

Church: The Way We Understand Church is Going to Change by Matt Dabbs

“Here are the things we need to address in order to find healthy change and growth as God’s people …”

Complaining, communication, leadership & relationships: When ‘Some People’ Complain by Matthew Kelley [required reading]

“…  triangulation involves three parties. Person A has something to say to person B, but instead of drawing a line of communication directly between A and B, person A gets person C to pass the word along. The concept of triangulation in interpersonal communication originated from psychologists who studied highly dysfunctional families.”

Singles: What Happened to Singles Ministry? by Adam Stadtmiller

“The last 25 years have seen the church alter the way it relates to and reaches singles. The fervor to target singles directly is no longer front and center. On the contrary, ministry to singles is seen as a burden to many churches. What started out as a brilliant success has disintegrated into the realms of an epic fail. Singles ministry proved to be harder than the original pioneers expected. It took too much time, too many resources, and produced too few sustainable results. We are now living in the post-singles ministry era.”

this went thru my mind

 

Attitude: What Every Hard Week Needs to Know by Ann Voskamp [required reading]

“No one knows but you do war every single day with the slanderous voices in your head and you wrestle a bit with the death dark that encroaches around the edges of everything and you’re never the only one: anyone who gets up has to push back the dark.”

Bible reading: * How to Keep a Dogged Devotion to Bible Reading by Wayne Stiles [required reading]; * Richard Foster on Lectio Divina, “Reading [Scripture] for Formation”

* “Don’t misunderstand. By “daily” I don’t mean a legalistic box to check. (Even the Pharisees did that.) No, I mean a daily, dogged devotion that listens to, watches for, and waits upon God’s wisdom as found in the Bible. Bible reading gives us that benefit.”

* “What does lectio divina mean? Well, it means listening to the text of Scripture—really listening, listening yielded and still.”

Books & reading: Leaders are Readers: 9 Tips for Picking Good Books by Rick Warren

” … how can you recognize jewels from junk when you’re looking for a book? Here are a few tips.”

Church & closing the back door: Closing the Back Door in Churches: Four Keys by Thom Rainer

“So how do we close the back door? What do we do to keep people from leaving our church or just becoming inactive?”

Confrontation: A Generous Confrontation by Jonathan Storment

“… Christian love, really Jesus-like love assumes a generous explanation. … And this is what the world needs desperately to see.  Not a group of people who are just pretending to live in community, and gossip about what’s wrong with the other people around them. They already know how that looks. What they need to see is a group of people who care enough to try and help each other be the persons God made them to be. The world needs to see, and we need to be, the kinds of people who can speak into and receive a kind word of correction. The world needs to see a people who know how to have a Generous Confrontation.”

Grace: Saturday Afternoon Book Review: Grace

“What Lucado does is give one of the greatest pictures of what God’s grace is, how far it reaches, the goal that it has and that it always accomplishes what it sets out to do.”

Grammar: Blogging Grammar Tips [3 infographics in 1]

“You can proofread to your hearts content, but if you don’t know the rules of grammar, you’re doomed to break them. Here are some solid grammar tips.”

Jesus/wife manuscript: * Coptic Scholars Doubt and Hail a Reference to Jesus’ Wife; * Response to Holladay Comment in the New York Times by Darrell Bock; * Was Jesus Married? The Latest Coptic Papyrus Won’t Tell Us by Stanley Porter; * BW3 on Jesus’ Wife? by Ben Witherington [6 1/2 min. video; the one to watch/read, if you read only one of these four links]

* “When Karen L. King, a historian of early Christianity, announced this week that she had identified a fragment of ancient Coptic text in which Jesus utters the words “my wife,” she said she was making the finding public — despite many unresolved questions — so that her academic colleagues could weigh in. And weigh in, they have.”

* “A story appeared today in the New York Times updating the discussion on the Jesus wife fragment. It quoted me. Carl Holladay of Emory commented on my view that this text could be metaphorical and challenged that reading. Here is my response.”

* “At the end of the day, this papyrus looks like it is heading in the same direction as many other similar, previous finds—a lot of hoopla over nothing (remember the Gospel of Judas?).”

Ministry: One Way to De-stress Your Pastor or Leader… by Ron Edmonson

“Tell us what the conversation is about…before the meeting.”

Mystery: Grow in Mystery by Terry Rush

“The Word speaks of mystery. My earlier years didn’t include mystery. They included many answers, explanations, and facts.  But mysteries were avoided because these didn’t contain touchable/tangible rationalization. Yet as we grow to accept mystery in this vast kingdom called God’s, there seems to be a surprising peace which had yet been experienced.  That seems odd to the control freak; me.”

Work: Work With Your Hands: A Theology of Work in 1 Thessalonians 4 by John Byron

“As the church we need to find a way to balance between helping others and not being taken advantage of. And I suspect that is the one aspect of brotherly love that is the most difficult for those who practice it; there is always the chance that we will be taken advantage of.”