links to 5 helpful posts

1. What’s Going On? The Day Motown Got Woke

“We can’t sing ‘moon and June’ songs any longer. And like Marvin Gaye, we may find ourselves simultaneously in a social and spiritual awakening.”

2. Our Father in Heaven – Matthew 6.9

“Unlike this clear focus on God in prayer, popular Christian prayers tend to pray focus on the needs of the person praying.”

3. The Wilderness of Judea: The Ultimate Getaway

“The places pilgrims come to see today show centuries of scars from the ruins and reconstructions of many faiths and peoples. But in the Wilderness of Judea, one can see what the ancients saw.”

4. Young Leaders: Who Will Replace Eugene Peterson and Other Giants We’ve Lost?

“So what does it take to cultivate a voice that has depth? What would it take for you to nurture a voice that speaks meaning into the lives of others during your lifetime, and perhaps beyond?”

5. New Social Security phone scams are so convincing they might even fool you

“… watch out for fraudsters that are spoofing the Social Security Administration’s official 1-800 number.”

eluding our idols: twenty questions on 1 John 2.12-17

This coming Sunday (Dec. 28) at 9:00 a.m., some of our adult classes at MoSt Church will continue in a study entitled Eluding Our Idols. This study focuses our attention on the letters of John (1, 2 & 3 John). To help you prepare for this encounter with God’s word and our discussion of it, you’ll find the below: (a) the text of 1 John 2.12-17 and (b) twenty questions and exercises. Dig in!

receiving the word

Little children, I’m writing to you because your sins have been forgiven through Jesus’ name.  Parents, I’m writing to you because you have known the one who has existed from the beginning. Young people, I’m writing to you because you have conquered the evil one.

Little children, I write to you because you know the Father. Parents, I write to you because you have known the one who has existed from the beginning. Young people, I write to you because you are strong, the word of God remains in you, and you have conquered the evil one.

Don’t love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in them. Everything that is in the world—the craving for whatever the body feels, the craving for whatever the eyes see, and the arrogant pride in one’s possessions—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world and its cravings are passing away, but the person who does the will of God remains forever.

wrestling with this word

1. What three metaphors are used in vs. 12-14 to describe a spiritual household with varying levels of spiritual maturity?

2. Note the past tense: “your sins have been forgiven.” (2.12). How real/final is that to you?

3. What does the phrase “through Jesus’ name” mean (vs. 12b)?

4. Spiritually speaking, what do “parents” do for “young people” and little children?”

5. How do “young people” and “little children” relate to, and what do they do for, “parents?”

6. Elsewhere in 1 John the phrase “little children” refers to all of this letters recipients, no matter their spiritual maturity (cf. 2.1,28; 3.7,18; 4.4; 5.21). To whom is the phrase referring in 2.14a? Why? What difference does it make to understanding 2.12-14 (or all of 1 John)?

7. Compare what’s said of parents (2.13a,14b) with what’s said of the letter’s author (1.1-4).

8. Notice the three phrases spoken to the “young people” (2.13b,14c). Why emphasize such?

9. If 2.14 is this letter’s thesis statement, what is the letter’s main point to the original readers?

10. Read Jeremiah 31.31-34. What portions of that text do you see correlate with 1 Jn. 2.12-14?

11. Again: what does John mean here (vs. 15-17) when he says “the world?” Hint: vs. 16.

12. The word used for “love” in vs. 15 is agape. What sort of love is this? How does it act?

13. What exactly is “the love of the Father?” (1.15b)?

14. “The world” is a trinity of evil. (2.16). Is this meant to be comprehensive list? Explain.

15. Compare 2.16’s rendering in paraphrased versions (e.g. – J.B. Phillips, The Message, etc.).

16. Compare this three-fold definition of “the world” (2.16) with the three temptations of Jesus. (Matthew 4.1-11). Do you see any correlation? Explain.

17. Try to rank the three aspects of “the world” (2.16) as to commonality and deadliness.

18. “… the world and its cravings are passing away …” (2.17a) How so? Do you believe this?

19. To do “the will of God” (2.17b) is to do the exact opposite of 2.16. What would that be?

20. The one “who does the will … remains forever.” (2.17b) How does “forever” appeal to you?

links: this went thru my mind

Choices, depression, happiness, mental health & thankfulness: What Are the Three Ways to Train Your Brain to Be Happy? [think Philippians 4.8]

“You can train your mind to be unhappy and you can train it to be happy. … Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep. Write down three things that went well today and why they went well. You may use a journal or your computer to write about the events, but it is important that you have a physical record of what you wrote. The three things need not be earthshaking in importance (“My husband picked up my favorite ice cream for dessert on the way home from work today”), but they can be important (“My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy”). Next to each positive event, answer the question “Why did this happen?””

Culture, grace & post-Christendom: Vanishing Grace

“Frankly, Christian faith is losing traction in society. It has lost traction in Europe and Canada where far fewer than half find religion a positive influence. And it will likely continue to lose traction in the US.”

Early Christianity, ingratitude, nonviolence, pacifism, perception & the state: Pacifism & Holy Ingratitude [essential reading; spot-on!]

“… the Romans considered the early Christians to be an ungrateful group of people. … Specifically, the Romans believed that Roman citizens owed a certain amount of gratitude toward the state. Romans lived in a great, prosperous and generally peaceful empire. Thus, Roman citizens owed the state gratitude. But the Christians seemed to differ. Confessing Jesus as ‘Lord of all’ and directing their gratitude toward God rather than toward the state the Christians busted up the cycles of gratitude that had kept Roman citizens bound to the state. One way that Christians expressed this holy ingratitude was in their refusal to kill for the state. This refusal struck the Romans as hugely ungrateful. Christians benefited as Roman citizens. Yet they refuse to participate in the fighting that created and maintained all those benefits. Non-violent Christians in their refusal to participate in the Roman military were non-patriotic slackers and free-riders.”

God & sovereignty: Does the “Sovereignty of God” Mean That God is Responsible for Everything That Happens?

“… some of what we encounter in life may be simple chance.”

Intimidation, involvement, lukewarmness & spiritual maturity: The Institutionalization of Lukewarmness

“What causes mediocrity in the church members? You take a stab with your best guess. Mine is cowardice. We want peace which interpreted can mean, ‘Leave me alone to serve where I want. Do not press me else I will bolt.’ Intimidation often rules.  This is why so many don’t sing. They don’t want to be heard. Others don’t serve. They don’t want to be seen. Yet, others sneak in and sneak out.  They don’t want to be in contact. Living in the kingdom is a scary, threatening, and risky walk. Institutionalization, however, has declared immunity to the timid. Following Jesus demands we take up our crosses; not sneaking about in dark alleys at night going undetected, but bravely moving about in the public square destined for ridicule and persecution.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

20’s, choices, decisions & wisdom: 10 Ways to Ruin Your Life in Your 20s [essential reading; spot-on]

“No one ever plans to ruin their life. … but it does happen. It happens far too often. And it happens because of the choices we make, even though that is not a result that anyone would ever willingly choose. Most of those choices take place when people are relatively young—old enough to be making important decisions about their life, but young enough for those decisions to snowball and grow to have disastrous consequences. … How can we avoid making such mistakes? Below are 10 things people can do to ruin their lives while still in their 20s. It is a list of what not to do, or things to stop doing immediately if you don’t want to suffer the results.”

Beauty: The Race We’re All Losing

“If beauty is fleeting, why do we chase it? … Our clay will never turn into the beautiful clear glass we are wanting because it is meant to clay.”

Change, development, spiritual growth & spiritual maturity: Bearing Fruit in Old Age

“If I am the same person today I was ten years ago, I have stagnated.”

Church & spiritual health: * Pain, Relationships, and the Body of Christ [essential reading]; * 5 Church-Types to Probably Avoid

* “It’s easy to say that I’d like to start a new church that will ‘do things right.’ Or choose to withdraw from the gathered body all together, focusing on my relationship with God outside the confines of organized religion. So here are some tempering thoughts, presented in no particular order …”

* “With all of those caveats aside, I want to share 5 different sorts of churches that I personally would avoid if I were moving to a new city and were not a pastor of a church.”

Doubt & outreach: 3 Things to Remember in Discussion with Doubters

“Saying your church is a safe place for doubters doesn’t make it so. … Doubting is never just intellectual. … Strengthened faith should lead to the strengthening of other people.”

God, perception, understanding & worship: The Myth of Worshipping an Identical God

“… we worship our individual projection of God, not a perfectly identical God. And this projection is formed by hundreds, if not thousands, of individual experiences, lessons, traditions, people, and revelations we each have had. In a sense, our personal view of God is like a thumbprint. It’s that unique.”

Nonviolence: At Gunpoint

“Daniel told us he’d kill anyone who tried to come in and take his family away from him.”

Parenting: Teen Spirit

“Helicopter parenting has crippled American teenagers. Here’s how to fix it.”

Oral interpretation & Philemon: David Rhoads Performing Philemon [5 min. video; outstanding!]

“David Rhoads performing Philemon at SBL 2103 in Baltimore, MD.”

Teachers & teaching: What Can You Do?

“Do at least one thing really well, and that will mean doing at least a few other things barely adequately. As the saying goes, ‘If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly,’ and a lot of duties imposed upon many of us nowadays are worth doing … but just barely.

“If, instead, we try to do everything asked of us reasonably well–say, at a ‘B-‘ level–we’ll feel ‘B-‘ about it all. And exhausted in the process. And that’s a lousy way to live.

“Work at something, at least one thing, at an ‘A’ level. It might be small. It might not even be noticed by others. But you’ll know you did a great job of it, and the feeling of excellence you draw from that task will inspire you in the rest of what you do.

“Meanwhile, practice ‘prudent neglect’ of the stuff that doesn’t matter much.”

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!”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Culture, George Zimmerman, justice, racism & Trayvon Martin: * Trayvon and George: A Take of Two Americas; * Dear White Folks: Black People are Sensitive to Race [essential reading]

* “Emerging America doesn’t love Trayvon and hate George, or love George and hate Trayvon. Emerging America owns both Trayvon and George as their beloved sons, their Cain and Abel, their Jacob and Esau, their older and younger sons in Jesus’ most famous (but often worst-interpreted) parable. That’s why Emerging America is heartbroken about the recent verdict. But we will not let our hearts break apart in sharp and dangerous shards of resentment and shrapnel of fear. With God’s help, we will let the pain of love break our hearts open in renewed hunger and thirst for true justice and peace … for all people, equal and indivisible.”

* ” I’m a Black woman in my late 30s who grew up in mostly White, solidly middle-class neighborhood in Raleigh, NC.I was raised by parents who valued education. Both had Master’s degrees. My father was a chemistry teacher and served in the Army. My mother was a nurse and retired as a full-bird Colonel in the Air National Guard. I was an enviably good student, who was president of my high school Service Club, a member of the National Honor Society, an officer on the Student Council and a Varsity soccer player. I had a good childhood. And yet my childhood is stained – like so many other African-Americans’ – by a string of indignities that might seem slight to many. For the most part, I’m not talking about blatant, in-your-face ‘N word’ confrontations. I’m talking cowardly, ingrained, without-a-thought and possibly subconscious behaviors which tacitly and overtly tell a person they’re valued less by society than those with White skin.”

Disaster relief: UN Designs Giant LEGO Bricks for Disaster Relief

“When enlarged to human scale, the unique design of  this giant LEGO brick allows it to function as both a way to transport food, and a building block for constructing real-life buildings.”

Discernment, discipleship & spiritual maturity: Advice to New Christians [required reading]

“I wish someone told me the following things when I was walking on the clouds of the newfound joy of my salvation at age 16.”

Evangelism & outreach: The Art of Spiritual Conversation in a Changing Culture [required reading]

“The majority of Christians and non-Christians alike can agree on one thing: They are uncomfortable with the “E” word — evangelism. It’s one of the highest church values, and the least practiced. Perhaps there is a different “E” word that fills the need in this secular culture and lays essential groundwork for the Gospel — engagement.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Anger, Christians, culture, fear, indignation: Angry Christians [essential reading]

“This is not the way to be Jesus to the world.”

Apartheid, Mandela & racism: Dreaming of Mandela

“A friend of the family let slip a sentiment widely felt but seldom articulated: ‘Thank God for the blacks. If not for them it would be us.'”

Applause & clapping: The Science Of How Applause Spreads In An Audience

“When people clap at a performance, they’re not really driven by how much they enjoyed what they saw, according to a new study. Instead, they decide how long to applaud based on the applause they hear around them.”

Bible translation: Finding the Right Words for God’s Word

“… Bible translators never achieve strict, word-for-word accuracy–even when they promise it.”

Boredom, church & worship: Our Fear of Boredom is Simply a Fear of Coming Face to Face with Ourselves [required reading]

“The Sunday morning hour, like the therapeutic hour, is a place to contemplate our capacity to deal with the fear of emptiness.”

Church: Go Big or Go Home? [essential reading]

“When our churches are big, and getting bigger, we take that as a sign that we must be doing something right, because surely, bigger is always better. Our culture teaches us to chase big, and we’re quick learners.

“But all this obsession with big creates problems for today’s followers of Jesus, because so much of what Jesus teaches and shows us is concerned about what happens on a smaller scale: attitudes of the heart, how we handle our possessions, learning to forgive, getting free of our addictions and idolatries, the nature of our trust and commitments, and so on. Jesus had big ideas and big dreams, to be sure—as big as his Father’s purposes to redeem the cosmos. But he went about his mission in surprisingly small ways, gathering small groups, touching the little people, focusing on deep problems in areas that might seem small-scale, such as how we treat one another, tending to a sick or needy individual, and working on personal speech habits. Big seems powerful, and sometimes it is. But when the basic unit of Christian community is so large that you can’t even see it all at once without going a mile up into outer space, the impressive view from a distance can lead us to lose sight of the fact that the Lord’s main work is meant to happen on the small scale, in up-close and personal ways. Big churches are not necessarily in a better situation to do that work, and they are often less adept at it.”

Children & parenting: 7 Tips For Surviving The Terrible Threes Of Parenting

“As with so many others (most it seems), it’s not the ‘terrible twos’ that is a problem … it’s the ‘terrible threes’.”

Evangelicals: 6 Evangelicals You Don’t Know … But Might Want To

“Meet six “new evangelical” leaders who embody aspects of the change under way in evangelical America, and whose work is clearing out a larger space for the common good.”

Fidelity & marriage: 7 Ways I Protect My Heart and Ministry From an Affair

“When the mind begins to wander in a lustful direction, it is very hard to control. The failure, I believe, comes more in not protecting the heart and mind. I know that I must personally work to protect myself, my wife, my boys and my church from the scandal and embarrassment of an affair. There are a few rules I have in place that serve to protect my heart.”

Jesus: Jesus in Non-Christian Sources

“These 7 points are nicely summarized by Paul Barnett in his volume Is the New Testament Reliable? (IVP Academic, 2003 [second ed.], p. 34).  Notably, each fact corroborates the record of the New Testament. …”

Motivation: Are You Doing It Because You Love It Or for the Reward That Follows? [essential reading]

“Psychologists believe there are two reasons people choose their behavior: They are motivated intrinsically or extrinsically.

“Intrinsic Motivation: This means a person chooses a behavior simply because of interest or enjoyment. The act of doing the behavior is itself the reward. One researcher defined intrinsic motivation in terms of what people will do without external inducement. When you do behaviors because of intrinsic motivation, you feel a sense of accomplishment and achievement. …

“Extrinsic Motivation: This means you do something because of factors outside yourself. For instance, you want your parent’s approval, a trophy, or a treat. Or perhaps you want to avoid the disapproval of others. The reason for the behavior comes not from the love of the activity, but from the reward that follows the activity. …

“Being intrinsically motivated correlates with maturity, and having a strong sense of self.”

Prayer& work: How Micro-Prayers Can Get You Through the Work Day

“To deal with the constant rash of self-centered and negative mind-chatter, I have taken to saying tiny micro-prayers at various points throughout the day: prior to walking into a difficult meeting; in the midst of same meeting; before presenting a Big Idea to the Big Cheese; while staring blankly into my computer; or just about any time when I suspect there might be head-butting and ego-clashing coming down the hall.

“The idea is to detach, to unlatch my ego-driven agenda from the situation, to make it more about the possibilities of God’s presence, or opportunities for the spirit to shine rather than about me getting my way.”

Salvation: Salvation is Bigger than Forgiveness

“In the journey toward the Beautiful One we become beautiful through transforming grace. God is beautiful and defines what Beauty is. Knowing God in love is to be drawn into the glorious beauty of God, and this drawing is a transformative drawing. Fear of God does not transform; the beauty of God does transform.”