links: this went thru my mind

Change & habits: How to Form a Habit, a Scientific Approach

“… habits are reinforced by a three-part loop: trigger, behavior, and reward. The trigger tells you—consciously or unconsciously—to start the behavior, the behavior is the habit or action, and the reward is the benefit that you get from that action. You can see the loop: That coveted reward teaches us to continue the behavior, over and over again, until it turns into a habit.”

Christ, Ephesians 4, Psalm 68 & nonviolence: A Christological Reading of Psalm 68 [required reading]

“… what is startling about this imagery is how Jesus wins his victory over his enemies non-violently. On the cross Jesus is disarming and defeating his enemies–sin, death and the Devil–and taking them as captives in war.”

Churches of Christ, humility, leadership & the Spirit of God: Fix Me, Jesus: Jesus’ Plans for the Churches of Christ

“If God answered the prayer, ‘Fix me, Jesus,’ at the congregational level, what would a congregation under repair look like? what stories might we be able to tell?”

History, Middle East, politics, President Obama & Vietnam: Will Syria Be Obama’s Vietnam?

“War has a forward motion of its own. Most of Johnson’s major steps in the escalation in Vietnam were in response to unforeseen obstacles, setbacks and shortcomings. There’s no reason the same dynamic couldn’t repeat itself in 2014.”

Learning & study: Better Ways to Learn

“‘Most of us study and hope we are doing it right,’ Mr. Carey says. ‘But we tend to have a static and narrow notion of how learning should happen.’ … The first step toward better learning is to simply change your study environment from time to time. … “

Galatians: questions from my first “slow read” thru Gal. 1


One of the things I like to do whenever I read a text from which I’m going to teach or preach is to do a “slow read” of the text the first time I read it. As I do my “slow read,” I jot down any and all questions that spring to my mind, trying not to let a single question fail to be recorded.

This practice often helps me not only see where the text is going, but to see where the text might be headed with me. It also helps me discern what parts of the text need more exploration on my part than others and also helps me anticipate potential questions that might arise from my message. After I have gone further into the book I’m studying and know the book better, I check back on these initial questions and note how answers have come to them in my mind, have been modified, or how I just flat out barked up the wrong tree by asking a particular question when a different one would have served me better. All of this helps me navigate the woods, so to speak.

Following is the list of “slow read” questions that came to my mind on my first pass through Galatians 1 as I prepared for this morning’s class. The numbers before each question correspond to the verse number in Galatians 1 that sparked the question in my mind.

1 – Who is Paul? What do I know of him? What did the Galatians know of him when Paul wrote them?

1 – What does the word ‘apostle’ mean and why use that word here?

1 – How, specifically, does this verse say Jesus was raised from the dead?

2 – Who are the brothers and sisters with” Paul at the time he wrote this letter?

2 – Where, and what, is Galatia?

3 – What is the significance of the words ‘grace’ and ‘peace’ here? Why use these words and not others?

3 – Who is “Lord”, and, “consequently, who is not?

4 – Why did Jesus die? To what end was his death?

4 – Was the death of Christ an “accident?” Where was God in it all?

4 – Of whom is God the “Father?”

5 – Explain the meaning of this phrase: “to God be the glory forever and always!”

5 – What does the word “Amen” mean?

6 – Who is the “one” who called the Galatians?

6 – On a scale of 0-10, how serious is the problem Paul is addressing here?

6 – What would Paul call “the grace of Christ?”

7 – Who are the people confusing the Galatian Christians and how are they confusing them?

7 – How many “gospels” are there? How many true ones?

7 – What could motivate someone to try and change the gospel of Christ?

8 – Would Paul have seen the two examples of apostasy he gave in this verse to be hypothetical or a potential reality?

8 – What sort of confidence did Paul have that he was preaching God’s will?

8 – What does it mean to be “under a curse?”

9 – Why would Paul repeat what he just said?

10 – What is it that makes this verse sound like Paul is an addressing an accusation made against him?

10 – How is it that it’s not possible to be simultaneously a people-pleaser and a God-pleaser? Similarly, how it it not possible to simultaneously call two people or entities, “Lord?”

10 – Is Paul’s view of himself as Christ’s “slave” to be normative for all Christians? Why use the word “slave,” Paul?

11 – This verse is a restatement of the claim Paul made in vs. 1. Again, why repeat what you’ve just said, Paul? What does this repetition of thought say about the matters, and people, you perceive are at the root of the problem you’re addressing?

12 – Paul’s message came to him as a “revelation from Jesus Christ.” How do you back up this stupendous claim, Paul?

13 – How might the Galatians known of Paul’s reputation? What do I know of his reputation of living prior to his life in Christ?

14 – Does the word “traditions” have a negative, positive, neutral, or dual connotation here?

14 – What does Paul perceive as the path of advancement within his previous way of faith?

15 – Does this verse imply God sets all Christians apart from birth to a certain purpose or task?

15 – Was God’s grace irresistible to Paul? That is, could Paul have successfully resisted becoming a Christian and apostle?

16 – God was pleased to reveal his Son in, and use a man like, Paul. What does this say about God’s character?

16 – How important is it to Paul that he preach to people who are not Jews?

17 – If Paul didn’t get his ideas from humans, where did they come from?

17 – How could the fact Paul didn’t confer with the apostles and church leaders in Jerusalem advance Paul’s train of thought here with the Galatians? Is Paul speaking disparagingly of the leadership in Jerusalem?

18 – What did you do while in Arabia Paul? Why go there right after your conversion?

18 – Why return to Damascus after being in Arabia, and why stay there so long, Paul?

19 – Paul, what’s the significance of your noting to the Galatians that you met James, the Lord’s brother?

20 – Is swearing an oath to God always wrong?

21 – Why is Paul at pains to document his distance from the influence of, or the influencing of, the Judean churches?

22-23 – Has my reputation as a Christian surpassed the reputation I had before I believed?

24 – What impact does my way of life and my walk with Christ have on other Christians?

Galatians: misc. study resources (2)


Yesterday I pointed out a way you can access some of the material in high-quality study aids without having to purchase them. Of course, if you want to get your chest waders on and truly wade out into the Galatian pond, you’ll want to make some wise acquisitions for your study library.

If you’re the average Joe or Suzie, you can’t go wrong in acquiring a copy of Tom Wright’s devotional commentary entitled: Paul for Everyone: Galatians and Thessalonians (Westminster John Knox Press, 2004). While being quite readable and accessible, it’s based on solid scholarship. Since it’s not a verse-by-verse commentary, it won’t give you details, but it will provide you with the text of the KNT and will enable you to closely follow Paul’s flow of (sometimes convoluted) thought in Galatians. No matter who you are, if you’re studying Galatians, you’ll want this one on your shelf.

If you want to acquire a verse-by-verse commentary on Galatians, I’d choose Witherington’s Grace in Galatia. Witherington explore every nook and cranny in Paul’s letter while conversing with current scholarship at every hand. Witherington, like Wright, possess that all too rare ability to explain the complex in simple terms which makes all of his work, compared to much of the academic field, a joy to engage.

Teachers and preachers will likely want a copy of John R.W. Stott’s The Message of Galatians nearby. Stott’s ability to see threads of thought and to word things in memorable ways was well known. Though his work on Galatians was first published well over forty years ago (1968), it’s still brimming full of relevant observation. The wise leader will definitely want to have Stott whispering in their ear as they construct their message. If Stott is not available to you, I’d say consult Charles Cousar and his work in the Interpretation series.

If you’ll be leading discussion on Galatians in either a class or small group setting, you might want to pick up a copy of the study guide that complements N.T. Wright’s devotional commentary. Max Lucado’s Life Lessons’ guide on Galatians is also helpful, being a bit more “broad” in terms of the questions it offers. If I had to choose between the two, I’d go with the guide by Wright (which was co-authored by Dale & Sandy Larsen) simply because it dovetails well with the rest of Wright’s outstanding material on Galatians.

word for the weak: week thirty-four


This week’s theme in MoSt Church‘s 2012 Bible reading project – the Uncommon Truth for Common People project – is priorities. Each week’s theme and Scriptures are discussed in our Wednesday night auditorium class. The page numbers below correspond to the pages in the Daily Companion Bible.

• Mon., Aug. 20 – Micah 6.6-8; Matthew 6.25-34 (p. 200)

• Tues., Aug. 21 – Amos 5.11-15,21-24; Mark 12.28-34 (p. 201)

• Wed., Aug. 22 – James 1.19-27 (p. 202)

• Thur., Aug. 23 – Matthew 25.31-46 (p. 203)

• Fri., Aug. 24 – Luke 18.9-14; James 4.1-10 (p. 204)

This week’s memory verse is: “He has told you … what the Lord requires from you: to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6.8)

word for the weak: week thirty-three


This week’s theme in MoSt Church‘s 2012 Bible reading project – the Uncommon Truth for Common People project – is leadership. Each week’s theme and Scriptures are discussed in our Wednesday night auditorium class.

• Mon., Aug. 13 – John 13.1-20

• Tues., Aug. 14 – 1 Peter 5.1-10

• Wed., Aug. 15 – Exodus 33.7-23

• Thur., Aug. 16 – Exodus 8.7-17; Deuteronomy 1.9-18

• Fri., Aug. 17 – Deuteronomy 4.1-14; Hebrews 3.12-13

This week’s memory verse is Heb. 3.12: “Watch out … that none of you have an evil, unfaithful heart that abandons the living God.”

word for the weak: week thirty-two


This week’s theme in MoSt Church‘s 2012 Bible reading project – the Uncommon Truth for Common People project – is influence. Each week’s theme and Scriptures are discussed in our Wednesday night auditorium class.

• Mon., Aug. 6 – Joshua 2.1-24; 6.15-25; James 2.24-26

• Tues., Aug. 7 – Numbers 22.1-28; 24.1-14

• Wed., Aug. 8 – Ezra 4.1-5; 4.24-5.17; 6.14-18

• Thur., Aug. 9 – Acts 6.8-15; 7.54-8.3; 9.1-22

• Fri., Aug. 10 – Matthew 5.14-16; 2 Corinthians 2.12-3.6

This week’s memory verse is 2 Cor. 2.15: “We smell like the aroma of Christ’s offering to God …”