My Picks for Thursday 3-31-2016

This is the stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

Encouragement and challenge for church volunteers…

No Big Deal. Just a Regular, Old Martyr.Michael Kelley
5513064474_d0a74b98f9_b“In truly ironic fashion, the first Christian martyr was one of the men selected to do the good but often unappreciated volunteer work of the church so the apostles could place their full attention on prayer and their preaching ministry…

…And yet this regular guy, when called on the carpet, boldly delivered a cutting gospel message and then died for his faith…

…Churches are full of these people. They’re not the ones behind the pulpit or strapped up with the guitar. They are the ones who work all day and then come home to get their house ready to host a community. They are the ones who give up their vacation time to drive a church van full of teenagers to camp. They are the ones who spend an extra hour on Sundays rocking babies and changing diapers. They are the regular saints. And Jesus is happy with them.”

Excellent insights from the author of How to Be an Atheist: Why Many Skeptics Aren’t Skeptical Enough

Admit It: Atheists Have a PointMitch Stokes
Apparently, many Christians think that acknowledging an opponent’s strength is a sign of weakness, compromise, or lack of commitment. But it’s not; rather it’s just being intellectually honest. And underestimating your opponent is foolish in any case. Something I learned from Ravi Zacharias years ago is that if you can make a worldview look absolutely ludicrous, you probably haven’t sufficiently understood it.

This is true of atheism. Though there are serious intellectual and pragmatic problems with unbelief—and excellent reasons for belief in God—it isn’t as if atheists have no good points. And it does absolutely no good to fail to admit this. Thoughtful people are going to see straight through simplistic answers. If I consistently ignore the force of atheists’ arguments, if I fail to admit where they get it right, then I shouldn’t be surprised when they ignore me.

I would ignore me too.”

I found this interesting but I’m still not sure what it means…

Evangelicals Least Likely to Pay Close Attention to 2016 Campaign -The Barna Group
“Contrary to past election cycles, evangelical Christians were actually the faith group least engaged thus far with the presidential race. Only one out of five evangelicals (20%) said they were following news about the campaign very closely. Voters who associate with non-Christian faiths (such as Judaism, Islam and Buddhism) reported the highest level of engagement: 41% were following campaign news very closely, which is twice the proportion among evangelical Christians. Even religious skeptics (atheists, agnostics and unaffiliated) were substantially more engaged in the race than evangelicals (36% vs. 20%).”

A lesson from Abraham Lincoln on church conflict…or any conflict, really…

My Side, Your Side, or NeitherDerrick Lynch
“An interesting dynamic occurs in these kinds of church conflict.  Both sides will convince themselves that they are more than just right; they will convince themselves that God is on their side.  When the inevitable resolution comes, the “winners” will rejoice in God’s vindication.  Meanwhile, the “losers” will consider themselves martyrs who will one day experience God’s eschatological vindication.  Thus, in victory or defeat, both sides refuse to give up their claim God that was on their side.

But what if they are both wrong?  What if God wasn’t “on” either side?”

Click image for a larger version. Source: Pearls Before Swine

What’s Next?

There are times, when I read scripture, that I have a really hard time putting myself in the place of the disciples. I wonder how they could see all that they saw and still be such dunderheads. How could they not get it? He was right there! He calmed the storm. He healed the sick. He even raised the dead, for crying out loud!

How could they not believe him when he said he would rise from the dead?

Then he died.

Ok, this definitely feels different.

Yeah, we saw him raise a couple of dead people back to life, but now he’s dead. Who’s gonna raise him?

Then, the tomb was empty! What happened?!? Where did he go?!?

Then he shows up at dinner!! He’s here eating fish and chips with us!

Then he disappears

What we call “Holy Week” is over. Life goes on. This has to be a weird time for the disciples. This period of time after Easter and before Jesus’ ascension to heaven intrigues me.

He died, but he’s not dead. No, he wasn’t “undead”…a zombie…he was alive, really alive. But he died, they saw it! But he’s not dead, they saw that too. This was what they had to grasp.

He gave them forty days.

After that, he promised he’d come back, but he didn’t say when.

But, oddly, when I ask myself what they may have been thinking and feeling during that six week period, I think I know. I think I can put myself in their place during this time.

Because it’s where we live, isn’t it?

We’ve seen some evidence of Jesus in our lives. If we’ve ever met him at all, he’s changed us. Or maybe we’ve seen him change someone we know. I remember, very clearly, some specific times when I know he was right here. It was him, without a doubt. It’s the only explanation. Haven’t you experienced that? I know I was dead in my sins, but I’m not anymore. He’s conquered death…hasn’t he? But where is he? What’s he doing right now? When will he show up again? That was really him, right?

That’s right where we live.

He died, but he’s not dead.

He promised he’d come back, but he didn’t say when.

Do you have more questions than answers? Do you want to believe but sometimes you’re just not sure? Are you wondering when, or even if, Jesus is going to show up again? So did these guys, and look what happened with them.

I say we hang in there and see what comes next.




Exodus 34:1-9

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Exodus 34:1-9
The Lord said to Moses, “Cut for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. Be ready by the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to me on the top of the mountain. No one shall come up with you, and let no one be seen throughout all the mountain. Let no flocks or herds graze opposite that mountain.” So Moses cut two tablets of stone like the first. And he rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him, and took in his hand two tablets of stone. The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands,[a] forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped. And he said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.”

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Spend some time today thinking about verses 6 and 7.
How can all of these things be true at the same time?
What kind of a God do you think I am?
Do these verses say anything to you about what Jesus did?

My Picks for Wednesday 3-30-2016

This is the stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

If you are involved in church leadership, be on the lookout for these subtle signs described by the always insightful Carey Nieuwhof…

7 Subtle Signs Your Church Is DyingCarey Nieuwhof
church is dying
6. You criticize younger, upstart leaders

Every leader is a young leader at some point.

Young leaders bring innovation, ideas and strategies to the table. In fact, they likely got your church to where it is today. Which is amazing.

But no one stays young forever.

After a decade in leadership, you’ll find yourself surrounded by younger leaders with different ideas.

Rather than deciding to learn from them, leaders of dying churches resist them, dismiss them and sometimes ridicule them.

That’s a critical mistake.”

Non-finishers are difficult to work with…

Are You a Self-Starter, But Not a Self-Finisher?
Eric McKiddie
self-finisher“…there can be a dark side to self-starters, which is when their interest in beginning new projects and their disinterest in finishing projects are equal.

It’s when you get close to the finish line that the real work begins. At that point, do you press through to the end, or do you get distracted by new ideas that sound more fun? …

…Finishing also gives you credibility. It builds trust in your supervisor, because he or she knows they don’t have to pester you to complete what you’ve committed to do. It builds trust among your church members, too, since churches are notorious for coming up with good ideas and then never executing them (or taking forever to do so). I get proud of the team I work with when members of our church comment to me that things actually get done around here.”

I very much appreciate Ed’s observations in this article…

The Future of Music in the ChurchEd Stetzer
The Future of Music in the Church“Now, I get that there are a thousand variants of musical style. My concern is more with the implications than the descriptions, but it is worth noting that we are the only generation in recorded history that can list its worship style by generation.

Hence, the point…

We’ve gone through a monumental shift of style in our lifetime, which has never happened before. If you were living between 1860 and 1890, you didn’t have the option of choosing between three generations of churches. But think about the remarkable shift that took place from 1960 to 1990.

My main concern is that the current patterns may not be sustainable…

…Most churches are going to make the transition to feel more contemporary than traditional…

I’m not saying you should. I’m not saying it’s the only way. And, I am not even saying it’s the best way.

But, most churches are changing…

…People often say “We’ve got to teach them the value of the hymns” which they tend to associate with a traditional musical style. If by learning the value of hymns, you mean having a more robust theology in lyrics, I agree. If you mean that we need (as a measure of discipleship) to teach them an old musical style—I want you to hear this, so I’ll say it very clearly: That’s missing the point.

Church survival doesn’t depend on music style…

…I leave you with this: most churches that want to reach their community will be more, rather than less, contemporary. As churches embrace that reality on the other side of the worship wars, we can (and should) bring back some of the things that might have been left behind—like more depth, broader variety, and congregational singing across generations.”

Wanna buy a used car?

The 6-Wheeled Monster Convertible From “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” Is on eBayEzra Dyer

Artist humor…
Source: Bizarro

Exodus 33:12-23

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Exodus 33:12-23
12 Moses said to the Lord, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ 13 Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” 14 And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15 And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. 16 For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”

17 And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” 18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 21 And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Yesterday you read that I would speak to Moses “face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” (33:11) How do you think this is different?
Read verse 19 again. How does that fit in with your image of me?
What kind of a God do you think I am?

My Picks for Tuesday 3-29-2016

This is the stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

The Church Helps Us Take Off the Grave Clothes
Michael Kelley
We, like Lazarus, were dead in our transgressions and sins. But as with Lazarus, Jesus loved us deeply, and made us alive together with Him when we were born again. But as we come into this new life, we are still bound by the marks of our old ones. We are still covered in the habits, patterns of thinking, vengeful motives, bitter attitudes, and everything else that comprise the walking around clothes of all those who are dead in sin.

But Jesus has not given us new life alone, but rather birthed us into a community of faith. In this community, we are responsible for one another. As we live, move, talk, pray, and love together, we help each other take off the clothes that once defined us. We are, daily, helping one another take hold of the new life that’s in us and yet not on us.”

Homophobia Has No Place in the ChurchNick Roen
Homophobia Has No Place in the Church
Biblical exegesis is a wonderful underpinning for belief, and love is a worthy motive for action. Fear is a horrible reason for both.

It would do us well to humbly examine our hearts to reveal the motives and fears behind our attitudes toward people who identify as “gay.” Happily upholding Christian sexual ethics is not the same as harboring animosity toward an entire group of people simply because you find them yucky…

…The truth is that sin is sin, temptation is temptation, and “men who have sex with men” is listed right alongside greed, drunkenness, deception, and slander as worthy of exclusion from the Kingdom (1 Corinthians 6:9–10). All equally damnable. Who among us is innocent?

So let us examine our hearts, identify attitudes of fear and the roots of pride, wherever they exist, and put to death ungodly prejudices that ultimately hinder the truth. In our quest for biblical fidelity, we must not only uphold the truth, but do so in love (Ephesians 4:15).”

Love and EntitlementMelissa Edgington
“I read through the never-ending wishes for someone to attend to the girl’s every want and feeling, and I wondered how the definition of true love became a demand for pampering. I wondered when we decided that love is about entitlement. About looking out for number one. About making sure that our relationships are about US getting what WE want, and if the other person can’t deliver on our list of demands, then they just aren’t worthy of us.

But, you’re getting it all wrong, girls. Love isn’t a laundry list of behavior requirements. It isn’t an attempt to grab as much attention as you can, setting up ultimatums to try and control your loved one’s thoughts and actions. There’s a word to describe that type of attitude: abusive.”

Faithlessness Shrinks You Down To a Grasshopper
Trevin Wax
“When your God is small, your obstacles seem big. But when your view of God is small and your view of your obstacles is big, your view of yourself shrinks.

That’s the insight that rocked me. I’d always thought that “trusting in myself” was the sign that I was failing to trust in God. As if faith in God and faith in myself is a zero-sum game…

…Failure to see the grandeur of God squashes our hope in what He can accomplish through us. A distorted vision of God leads to a diminished view of ourselves. In the end, we no longer think we are capable of doing what God has called us to do.

Reading the narrative in Numbers, I want to step into the scene, shake the Israelites by the shoulders and say, “God sees you as His children! He has called and equipped you. Take the mountain! You are not lowly insects cowering under the feet of your enemies – you’re the children of the King whose footstool is the entire cosmos!”

Source: Off the Mark




Exodus 33:7-11

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Exodus 33:1-7
Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the Lord[a] would speak with Moses. 10 And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door. 11 Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.

From this passage I hear God asking me:
What do you think is going on here?
Where is your “tent of meeting”?
How would you describe your conversations with me?

What I Learned This Easter

“Learned” might be too strong. It’s probably more accurate to say that I’m learning these things. But the truth is, I already knew them. I mean, if the questions were on a test I would get the right answer.

But I’m beginning to sense the truth of these things in a new way…deep in my soul.

This Easter has been an interesting one. First of all, my mom went into the hospital on Thursday morning. There were some problems with her most recent blood work which indicated a kidney problem. The good news is that it was an infection that was treatable with antibiotics. She came home Saturday and was able to attend the Easter service at church and our family gathering at my house on Sunday afternoon.

I mention her hospitalization because it gave a little more urgency to the discussion we’ve been having with my parents about selling their home and moving into some sort of “assisted living” arrangement. You see, my mom is really pretty healthy and active. She’s 81 years old and takes care of my 84 year old father. I don’t want to go into great detail here, but suffice it to say that he has great difficulty doing much of anything anymore. He requires assistance for the most mundane and intimate of tasks. This is frustrating to him and he becomes depressed because he senses this need increasing on an almost daily basis. My mother willingly and devotedly provides the care he needs, but she is also beginning to sense her limitations. When she went to the hospital for a couple of days, and my sisters and I attempted to fill in for her, it served to highlight the need for other assistance.

What I’m learning is that we all need “assisted living.”

There’s no such thing as unassisted living.

I’ve always known this to be true, and would’ve gotten the right answer on the test. But I’m beginning to know it in ways that I still have trouble describing.

You may think of yourself as independent.

You’re not.

Neither am I.

The other thing that is happening in me is that death is becoming more of a reality. This is happening for a couple of reasons. One is that I’m getting to the point in my life where, even if I live several years longer than the average lifespan for an American male (which I have every intention of doing), the number of years remaining represent a time span which I have no trouble comprehending. When you’re 20 years old the idea of living another 60-70 years seems like all the time in the world. You simply can’t grasp it. However, at age 62 the idea of living another 20-30 years is very “grasp-able.” My parents are 81 & 84. We’ve been discussing the needs they will have in the coming years. The time seems downright immediate.

The other reason death is becoming more of a reality is that I have acquaintances who are dealing right now with the thing that, in all likelihood, will cause their death. They know it and they can see it coming. They are younger than me. Much younger, in fact. One is a good friend of my daughter’s. You can talk about average lifespans all you want, but the averages don’t really mean anything. The fact is that death does not discriminate. Young or old, believer or unbeliever, black or white. It’s the one thing we all hold in common. We can all unite around this one fact: death is our common enemy. (1 Corinthians 15:25-26)

But here’s where Easter comes in. Death may be the enemy, but he is beaten. This is the assurance Christ gives. I’ve known this to be true since my earliest days growing up in church. To be honest, my faith in this has swung wildly over the years from strong, to non-existent, to shaky. But I would’ve always gotten the right answer on the test.

This Easter, it’s finally starting to become a truth deep in my soul.

I still hate death. It ruins everybody’s life. It sucks. (I never use that term, but I use it now. That’s how much I hate death!)

Death is the enemy, but its days are numbered.

That’s what this Easter is teaching me.


My Picks for Monday 3-28-2016

This is the stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

Maybe it’s because this was in Pakistan and not Paris or Brussels, or maybe it was because the target was Christians and not random western civilians, but this savage attack merited only about 10 seconds on today’s Good Morning America. I don’t know if there has been other coverage, but I haven’t seen it if there was. Here are 2 articles about it…

Suicide bomber targeting Christians kills 65 in Pakistan parkMubasher Bukhari and Mehreen Zahra-Malik
A man uses his mobile phone as he stands next to bodies covered in sheets at the site of a blast, outside a public park in Lahore, Pakistan, March 27, 2016. Photo courtesy REUTERS/Mohsin Raza
“The target was Christians,” a spokesman for the faction, Ehsanullah Ehsan, said. “We want to send this message to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that we have entered Lahore.”

“He can do what he wants but he won’t be able to stop us. Our suicide bombers will continue these attacks.”

Suicide Bomber Kills 65 as Taliban Targets Christians Celebrating Easter at Pakistan Children’s Park
Morgan Lee and Jeremy Weber
“The Taliban-linked attack in Lahore comes one year after two suicide bombers targeted Lenten services in the city’s largest Christian neighborhood. While the final death toll of Christians and non-Christians remains to be tallied, today’s attack will likely be the deadliest assault on Pakistan’s Christian minority since the symbolic bombing of Peshawar’s All Saints Church in 2013.”

Ignore Your Friends and Listen to Your Enemies
Steven McCurdy
Picture“We find ourselves in a situation where it is easier than ever to get detailed information about other people’s beliefs without the usual propaganda. We can understand other views without resorting to straw men arguments based on ideologies taken to the extreme. Why aren’t we taking the time to fully appreciate and learn from other cultures and beliefs?

Take the time to understand everyone’s story. We can all learn from listening to anyone if we give them the opportunity. Please don’t listen to their stories as told by our culture leaders because that is bound to produce discrepancies. Listen to the stories as told by the people who have actually lived them. Get to know what people actually believe, and better yet, get to know why people believe it.

Now, this doesn’t mean that we always have to agree with differing views. This isn’t a call to operate in some hyper post modern, relativistic and syncretistic wasteland. In fact, listening to a variety of people will probably frustrate and could even anger you (as it probably should sometimes), but, at other times, it will also enlighten and convict you. It may point out your own bias and you may grow on your path to absolute truth.”

In order to survive, the Republican Party will require extensive self-examination followed by some major rebuilding, reorienting and clarification of purpose. This excellent article explains well what is happening…

The Two Republican PartiesKevin D. Williamson“Jonah Goldberg argues persuasively that no matter what happens with Donald Trump’s presidential aspirations, his campaign spells the end of the Republican party as we know it, the GOP’s two main camps disunited by Trump’s illiterate populism. Divorce indeed seems imminent, which suggests another question: What ever kept them together in the first place? There are policy fissures, class fissures, and social fissures in the Republican party, but the fundamental divide is one of mood: Aspiration Republican vs. Resentment Republicans…”
Source: Bizarro

Exodus 33:1-6

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Exodus 33:1-6
The Lord said to Moses, “Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give it.’ I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”

When the people heard this disastrous word, they mourned, and no one put on his ornaments. For the Lord had said to Moses, “Say to the people of Israel, ‘You are a stiff-necked people; if for a single moment I should go up among you, I would consume you. So now take off your ornaments, that I may know what to do with you.’” Therefore the people of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments, from Mount Horeb onward.

From this passage I hear God asking me:
What do you think is going on here?
You remember what sin does to our relationship, right?
What kind of a God do you think I am? (Hint: Holy.)
What would it take to enable us to travel together?
You realize that I did what it would take, right?
Makes you appreciate Jesus, doesn’t it?