links to 5 helpful posts

1. It’s Getting Harder to Talk About God by Jonathan Merritt

“A paltry 7 percent of Americans say they talk about spiritual matters regularly. But, here’s the real shocker: Practicing Christians who attend church regularly aren’t faring much better. A mere 13 percent had a spiritual conversation around once a week.”

2. American’s Spend $70 Billion on Pets, and That Money Could Do More Good

“This year alone, pet spending in the U.S. is estimated to exceed $72 billion, which is more than the combined GDP of the 39 poorest countries in the world.”

3. The Point of the Book of Job by Greg Boyd

“… our original job description – a job description God is yet calling on us to fulfill – involves very little knowing but a great deal of loving. Our limited domain of responsibility is primarily to love God and others as we are ourselves filled with God’s love. Hence the Bible repeatedly calls on us to love and refrain from judgment (Mt 7:1-5; Rom 2:1-5; Jame 4:11-12).”

4. Eugene Peterson Enters Hospice Care

“… Peterson is a ‘shepherd’s shepherd’ …”

5. A First Glimpse of Our Magnificent Earth, Seen from the Moon [30 min. video]

“The first people to view our planet from the moon were transformed by the experience. In this film, they tell their story.”

pet exhorts owner to read her Bible

The following “better than average story” is the work of a dear friend of mine, Kathy Read, long-time secretary for the Missouri Street Church of Christ in Baytown, TX.

Enjoy.

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In today’s normal use of the language, we rarely use the word “exhort,” a word meaning “strong or ardent urging.” However, it seems that God inserts a wide variety of exhortations and reminders into our lives, some being ones we would never have even dreamed possible. For example, who would ever have considered the word used for exhortation to be “Arf?”

Now this year’s Bible reading project in my church family is the Psalms. I will freely confess: a regular reader of the Psalms I am not. I am not! But, I am once again giving this project a try.

Evening is when I do my reading in the Psalms and my evenings are spent with the faithful companion that God put in my life about ten years ago. She is a wee, small thing, currently down to her 98 pounds from her high of 110. In the dog pound she looked so beaten down and sad, but she looked at me like, “Please, take me out of this place!” And so I did and named her Shadow.

Now Shadow exhorts me at times. She has various ways to do this exhorting. Sometimes it is with a look. At other times it is an ear-piercing bark. And at still other times it is by simply walking over to the fridge and staring at the door as she tries to get her frozen marshmallows to materialize for our 7:00 p.m. game of catch. They are a relatively safe item to throw in the house, especially the mini-size. Great fun.

But, back to the Bible reading project. Normally about 8:00 p.m. I’ll say to my companion, “It is time to go read the Bible.” And after several weeks of this it is now routine for us, most nights. We go into the living room where the good old recliner and lamp are and we get comfortable; me in the chair and her laying right next to me on the floor. This year after nearly falling asleep reading silently, I decided maybe I’d get more out of it if I read the Psalms aloud … to Shadow. She doesn’t mind the mistakes or mispronunciations. After a few sighs, she looks up at me as if to say, “All is well” and she stops throwing balls at me and talking to me about various topics I’m still trying to understand and we read half a dozen Psalms or so together.

That is “Normally.” Some nights I doze off in front of the television and that is when my personal encourager/exhorter kicks in. She comes over next to me and stands there looking at me until she wakes me up. I’m supposed to move at this point, but some nights I can’t budge. She begins pacing back and forth from me to the recliner, to the recliner and me. If movement does not take place quickly enough, she walks back to me with a soft bark and walks back to the recliner. If by then I still haven’t gotten into gear, her exhortation kicks into high gear. She has the most ear splitting “Arf” you can imagine! You need ear protection for jet engines … and Shadow. By then, I’m on my way to the recliner, my Bible, and the lamp.

I start in with “O Lord” or “Sing to our God” or one of those beginning phrases throughout Psalms and once again the contented sigh is heard in satisfaction, knowing she has accomplished the work that God has placed in her being, to be that encouragement that a person needs in this world today.

Several thoughts come from this little message – exhortations to us all – but two stand out to me in this moment. First, look for the good, the encouragement in the smallest of things, and you will find it. And the second – the most important – is this: if hearing God’s word brings peace and contentment to an old dog, just imagine the joy and happiness it brings to God himself if we take the time to read of his love story to us.

Peace and “Arf!” to you!

this went thru my mind

 

Change: How the Tech Parade Passed Sony By by Hiroko Tabuchi

“… Sony, which once defined Japan’s technological prowess, wowed the world with the Walkman and the Trinitron TV and shocked Hollywood with bold acquisitions like Columbia Pictures, is now in the fight of its life. In fact, it is in a fight for its life …”

Church: How Your Small Rural Church Can Do Something Big by Whitney Hopler

“… your church’s small size doesn’t have to limit its potential to impact the world in big ways.”

Church problems: * There’s The Door: Dealing with Conflictual Christians by K. Rex Butts; * Remaining Patient: Dealing with Sinful Behavior Among the Church by K. Rex Butts

* “… there comes a time when certain church members must be told ‘There’s the door’ and then told to leave.”

* “While we never want to approve of any sinful behavior, not all sinful behavior has the same consequences upon the local church, its mission and spiritual health.”

Conversion: The New Conversion: Why We ‘Become Christians’ Differently Today by Gordon T. Smith

“It is not be an overstatement to say that evangelicals are experiencing a ‘sea change’—a paradigm shift—in their understanding of conversion and redemption, a shift that includes the way in which they think about the salvation of God, the nature and mission of the church, and the character of religious experience. Although there is no one word to capture where evangelicals are going in this regard, there is a word that captures what they are leaving behind: revivalism.”

Faith: The Maximum Faith series: The Importance of Brokenness by George Barna

“The data indicate that very few people – barely one out of ten adults in the United States – could be considered to have been broken by their understanding of and distaste for their offenses against God. And a huge majority of Christians believes that you can be saved without experiencing such brokenness. Sadly, they are wrong. There is no salvation without brokenness.”

Feeding the hungry: Cuts to SNAP Will Hurt Texas Families Struggling to Afford Food by Larry James

“A cut of this magnitude would affect over 300,000 Texas families who will struggle to put food on the table without the support SNAP provides.”

Gated communities: The Injustice of Gated Communities by David Greusel

“… more than 10 million American households exist sheltered behind walls. While that’s just under 10 percent of U.S. households, it represents a sizeable minority hunkered down in fortified bunkers. … One question to ask about gated communities is, how real is the threat they purport to avoid?”

Pets: Do Pets Go to Heaven?

“An author, a professor, and an animal advocate weigh in.”

Politics: The Impermanent Republican Majority by Timothy Egan

“For those who believe that demography is destiny, there was no more jaw-dropping figure from the 2004 presidential election than this finding from the nation’s far-flung metropolitan frontier: George W. Bush carried 97 of the nation’s 100 fastest growing counties.”

Poverty: David Lipscomb on the Poor (parts 3 & 4)

“Lipscomb encourages a private, daily sharing of resources instead of a public, occasional large gift. The former arises out of a lifestyle but the latter arises out of a desire for reward. The former is the daily life of a Christian but the latter is more tuned to the formal religion with its love of a holy place that is “worldly.” The former practices the gospel in sharing with the poor but the latter practices the religion of building and forms.”

Preaching: The Sermon That Makes Them Mad by Joe McKeever

“… ministers are not sent to make the church happy. They are sent by God to make Him happy, and to make you the members holy and healthy.”