Monday Picks ~ 9-26-2016

Picks Monday

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

How Can The Church Thrive In A Non-Christian World?
Ed Stetzer
How Can The Church Thrive In A Non-Christian World?Many of our churches stand as visible reminders that we’ve valued our sub-cultures more than the people to whom we’ve been sent, and we’ve refused to change. We’d rather do things how grandma did them than care about reaching her grandkids.

Culture is always changing. Always. You can resist it or ignore it or grieve it or wish it weren’t so, but that won’t make it any less real. And the more we insist on doing “business as usual” in our churches, the more we’ll find ourselves being ineffective…

…Contextualizing the gospel message doesn’t make it less distinct. It simply amplifies what makes it distinct. People shouldn’t come into our churches and primarily find the culture bizarre. They should find the message of the gospel bizarre.

We don’t contextualize to minimize the confrontational claims of Christianity, but to maximize them. It’s a matter of putting the gospel into language that our neighbors can hear and understand.


I grew up camping with my family and so did my kids…

3 Things Camping Has Taught Me About Parenting
Michael Kelley
Camping_by_Barriere_Lake,_British_Columbia_-_20040801Our family has steadily accumulated gear. We’ve learned the tricks of the campsite and what the true essentials are (at least for our family). And now, these several years later, we are more or less a camping family. Don’t misunderstand – we’re not hiking miles onto the Appalachian Trail and hunting squirrels for dinner. But we did buy a French press for coffee in the mornings. We’ve made a pretty good run at many of the state parks of Tennessee, and every time we go we build some good and lasting memories for our family.

But not only has camping caused us to gather some really cool stuff we keep in the garage, it’s also taught us some good lessons about parenting in general. Here are three of them…


Sure there are things about the past that I miss, but…

Don’t Let Nostalgia Overcome Your HopeTrevin Wax
nostalgia
The pull of the past is a good yet dangerous thing. Its force can either serve as a slingshot, whereby we pull back into the past in order to gain the force necessary to be propelled forward on our mission. Or its force can serve as a black hole that sucks up all our energy and emotion, until our present and future are swallowed up in a void of hopelessness.

How can we tell the difference?…

The idea that we can implement the same measures and methods as previous generations, in spite of how our cultural moment has changed, is to give in to the black hole of nostalgia. It is the choice between living in the past and learning from it…

“In nostalgia, one sacrifices the present and the possibility of the future as one squats in the past. Nostalgia implies that God is present in one moment and not another, or more perniciously, that one prefers to be in a previous, unlivable moment more than the one God has brought them to now.”


Some interesting info here…

The State of the Church 2016Barna Research
https://www.barna.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/website-hero_stateofthechurch.jpg

A few of the interesting observations from this study:

-Most Americans Identify as Christian
-There Are More Churched Than Unchurched Americans
-Christians Are More Generous Than Their Secular Peers


Tonight at 9:00 EDT…
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Click image for a larger view. Pearls Before Swine

Deuteronomy 9:13-29

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.

Deuteronomy 9:13-29
13 “Furthermore, the Lord said to me, ‘I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stubborn people. 14 Let me alone, that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven. And I will make of you a nation mightier and greater than they.’ 15 So I turned and came down from the mountain, and the mountain was burning with fire. And the two tablets of the covenant were in my two hands. 16 And I looked, and behold, you had sinned against the Lord your God. You had made yourselves a golden[a] calf. You had turned aside quickly from the way that the Lord had commanded you. 17 So I took hold of the two tablets and threw them out of my two hands and broke them before your eyes. 18 Then I lay prostrate before the Lord as before, forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all the sin that you had committed, in doing what was evil in the sight of the Lord to provoke him to anger. 19 For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure that the Lord bore against you, so that he was ready to destroy you. But the Lord listened to me that time also. 20 And the Lord was so angry with Aaron that he was ready to destroy him. And I prayed for Aaron also at the same time. 21 Then I took the sinful thing, the calf that you had made, and burned it with fire and crushed it, grinding it very small, until it was as fine as dust. And I threw the dust of it into the brook that ran down from the mountain.

22 “At Taberah also, and at Massah and at Kibroth-hattaavah you provoked the Lord to wrath. 23 And when the Lord sent you from Kadesh-barnea, saying, ‘Go up and take possession of the land that I have given you,’ then you rebelled against the commandment of the Lord your God and did not believe him or obey his voice. 24 You have been rebellious against the Lord from the day that I knew you.

25 “So I lay prostrate before the Lord for these forty days and forty nights, because the Lord had said he would destroy you. 26 And I prayed to the Lord, ‘O Lord God, do not destroy your people and your heritage, whom you have redeemed through your greatness, whom you have brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 27 Remember your servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Do not regard the stubbornness of this people, or their wickedness or their sin, 28 lest the land from which you brought us say, “Because the Lord was not able to bring them into the land that he promised them, and because he hated them, he has brought them out to put them to death in the wilderness.” 29 For they are your people and your heritage, whom you brought out by your great power and by your outstretched arm.’

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Does this passage alter your image of me in any way?
How?
Does it alter your image of yourself in any way?
How?
Who stops me from destroying you?
Does this have any impact on how you treat other people?
Should it?
Think about these things today.

Join In

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“That is what worship is all about.
It is the glad shout of praise that arises
to God the creator and God the rescuer from the creation
that recognizes its maker,
the creation that acknowledges the triumph of Jesus the Lamb.
That is the worship that is going on in heaven,
in God’s dimension, all the time.
The question we ought to be asking is how best we might join in.”

 –N.T. Wright, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense

Authentic Worship

Image result for authentic worship
Authenticity is an important quality that people look for in a church, so it seems appropriate to ask:

Do you experience authentic worship?

This has nothing to do with the music used at church. It has nothing to do with whether you think the music is too loud or not loud enough. It has nothing to do with the lighting, the videos, the preacher, the air conditioning, or any number of things people tend to focus on when they “attend” worship.

It has everything to do with whether you have a relationship with the Living God.

I read a little book several years ago that had a profound influence on me and my worship. The book is called The Way of a Worshiper by Buddy Owens. It’s not very long. You could probably read the whole thing in one sitting.

In his book, Buddy defines authentic worship this way:

“Authentic worship is a response
to an authentic encounter with the living God.”

You may know that I was a worship leader for 30+ years. I know how to take a group of musicians and lead soul-stirring music. I could orchestrate a service that would give you goosebumps. But unless you’ve had that authentic encounter with the Living God…experienced His grace and mercy in your own life…it’s all pretty meaningless.

Let me illustrate what I mean by showing you a little video of my granddaughter, Iris. This video is from 2008. I don’t know for sure, but I think this must be her first time ever playing in sand. I had removed some paving stones along the side of my house and uncovered the base of sand underneath. Iris was was sitting in the sand having a great time. Just watch and see what happens. It’s only about 20 seconds long so go ahead, I’ll wait…

You yelled “OH NO!” along with her mother and grandmother, didn’t you? If you didn’t, I’m sure you thought it. You had an authentic, visceral response, didn’t you?

Instead of sharing the video, I suppose I could’ve just described what she did and then explained how I thought you should respond, but it wouldn’t have been the same, would it?

You had to see it.

You had to experience it.

You had to taste the sand in your mouth.

The same is true with worship.

Unless we know God, we can’t worship Him, regardless of the music or the worship leader.  Worship is what spontaneously flows out of us when we come face to face with God. It’s the natural, visceral response to who He is and what He’s done – for you.

So, do you experience authentic worship?

Could you?

“Authentic worship is a response
to an authentic encounter with the living God.”

Lloyd

Weekend Picks ~ 9-23-2016

Picks Weekend

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

Good question…

If We Are So Burdened then Why Aren’t the Prayer Meetings Full? Erik Raymond
LightstockMany pastors who don’t have a prayer meeting at their church will tell you that they don’t have one because people won’t come. Many others churches who have the meetings in the church have a much smaller attendance in these meetings than the regular Sunday gathering.

I often wonder why the church does not pray more. Why it is so hard for Christians to talk to God but so easy for us to discuss our complaints with others? Or to vent on social media?

Are we really as upset as we let on? Do we really believe that God will answer us and act? If the answers to the first two questions are “yes” then why don’t we pray more?


I appreciated this advice on writing…

How to Be a Writer: 10 Tips from Rebecca Solnit
But start small: write a good sentence, then a good paragraph, and don’t be dreaming about writing the great American novel or what you’ll wear at the awards ceremony because that’s not what writing’s about or how you get there from here. The road is made entirely out of words. Write a lot. Maybe at the outset you’ll be like a toddler—the terrible twos are partly about being frustrated because you’re smarter than your motor skills or your mouth, you want to color the picture, ask for the toy, and you’re bumbling, incoherent and no one gets it, but it’s not only time that gets the kid onward to more sophistication and skill, it’s effort and practice. Write bad stuff because the road to good writing is made out of words and not all of them are well-arranged words.


Don’t miss this fresh look at communion…

It’s Communion, Get PushyMary Graham
its-communionI need to be the one who jumps up out of my seat and rushes to be first in line. Not because I’m more important, but because I’m so low and missing the point and in need of Jesus I can’t even see straight.

You’re probably in the same boat as me and need him just as desperately because we’re human and messy and loud and broken and shouldn’t we be scrambling to the communion table each week? Shouldn’t we be crawling bloody and bruised and weepy to our Jesus who offers us grace and mercy and healing?

Because you know that even though all those people at my church have their Sunday best on, inside that’s what they look like. Because you know that’s what my insides look like. And I don’t say that to out anyone, I just say it because it’s true and real and the Bible tells us we’re all in this mess together and that’s why Jesus came. Plain and simple.


I’ve already been seeing the social media demonizing of Terence Crutcher (as if that makes it ok to kill him). But I think the folks at Get Religion raise some interesting questions here…

‘Respect the culture’ of family of black man shot dead by Tulsa police — but what culture?Bobby Ross, Jr.
Image result for tulsa press conference
I wonder: What exactly is meant by the term “culture” in that quote? Might it have something to do with the family’s religion?

That seems highly likely, particularly given a later quote in the story…

Perhaps I’ve missed a story along these lines, but I’d love more in-depth details on the family’s faith and its role in loved ones’ response to Terence Crutcher’s death. I can’t help but think that religion is a big part of the family’s “culture.”


When you gotta go…
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Off the Mark

 

Deuteronomy 9:1-12

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.

Deuteronomy 9:1-12
“Hear, O Israel: you are to cross over the Jordan today, to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than you, cities great and fortified up to heaven, a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom you know, and of whom you have heard it said, ‘Who can stand before the sons of Anak?’ Know therefore today that he who goes over before you as a consuming fire is the Lord your God. He will destroy them and subdue them before you. So you shall drive them out and make them perish quickly, as the Lord has promised you.

“Do not say in your heart, after the Lord your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out before you. Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

“Know, therefore, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people. Remember and do not forget how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the Lord. Even at Horeb you provoked the Lord to wrath, and the Lord was so angry with you that he was ready to destroy you. When I went up the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant that the Lord made with you, I remained on the mountain forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water. 10 And the Lord gave me the two tablets of stone written with the finger of God, and on them were all the words that the Lord had spoken with you on the mountain out of the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly. 11 And at the end of forty days and forty nights the Lord gave me the two tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant. 12 Then the Lord said to me, ‘Arise, go down quickly from here, for your people whom you have brought from Egypt have acted corruptly. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them; they have made themselves a metal image.’

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Why do you think I have blessed you?
Do you think you deserve it?
Maybe just a little bit more than someone else?
Anyone else at all?
Don’t forget it.

Thursday Picks ~ 9-22-2016

Picks Thursday

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

I absolutely love this post by Carey Nieuwhof…

5 Unfair Myths About Megachurches It’s Time To Bust
Carey Nieuwhof
megachurch myths
I try not to engage the trolls and the haters in the comments on my blog (engaging them just gives them what they want). But I’ve also noticed that even among more balanced church leaders, it’s easy to take swipes at megachurches.

Sometimes I wonder how much of that is born out of envy, a sense of inferiority or simple misunderstanding, but after another set of cheap shots in response to my blog post on the recent exits of Pete Wilson and Perry Noble from their ministries, I thought it was time to engage the accusations that often come at megachurches.

So here are 5 myths about megachurches it’s finally time to bust…


Everyone Can See The Log Hanging Out Of Your Eye.
Why Can’t You?
Stephen Altrogge
http://theblazingcenter.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/pexels-photo-110321-1700x1014.jpegLogs don’t develop overnight. They’ve been around for a while. The subtle, almost unrecognized, growth of a log over time blinds us to its existence. Like a scar, we just get used to it being there. Someone else might immediately recognize the blight, but to us, it’s just a part of who we are…As a result, we are prone to conflate our sinful actions with our natural predispositions or inborn personality traits. The log has been around for so long that we assume it’s just how we are made.


It’s easy to lose some of this with automated giving…

Why Giving to the Church is Different from Paying Your Bills
Erik Raymond
Lightstock
How do you view giving in the local church? As I listen to what Christians say and read what they write I get the impression that many people think of giving simply as paying another bill. Giving is just like paying the utility or cable bill. Is this what you think?

Giving is more than this, much more. Rather than simply being mechanical, giving is a spiritual discipline that tangibly expresses our faith in God to provide for us and to use what we give for his work.

Consider what is really going on when we give…


This one is a year old but just this week I encountered a story about a Michelle Obama postage stamp, and one about Democrats cutting veterans’ pensions to pay for illegal immigrants and refugees, so I thought it might be worth sharing again. Please people, let’s get serious about honesty in our social media shares. It’s not that hard.

5 Tips for Spotting Fake NewsBob Smietana
5 Tips for Spotting Fake News“That’s sort of the point of good fake news: to take people’s anxieties and opinions right now, in this cultural moment, and make merciless fun of them,” said Kilpatrick.

But our anxieties can fool us into mistaking fiction for fact.

Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind, likes to say that “morality binds and blinds.”

“It binds people together into teams that seek victory, not truth,” he wrote. “It closes hearts and minds to opponents even as it makes cooperation and decency possible within groups.”

In other words, morality—which informs our gut reactions—is good because build community. But it also builds competition, where we look at people who hold different viewpoints as the enemy.

A fake news story can be appealing when it helps us hate the people we want to hate.


Natural selection…
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Bizarro

Deuteronomy 8:11-20

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.

Deuteronomy 8:11-20
11 “Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, 12 lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, 15 who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, 16 who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. 17 Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ 18 You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. 19 And if you forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. 20 Like the nations that the Lord makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the Lord your God.

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Who do you trust more, me or you?
Is it easier to trust me when times are good, or when times are bad?
So, why do you prefer the good times?

Deuteronomy 8:1-10

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.

Deuteronomy 8:1-10
“The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers. And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word[a] that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you. So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. 10 And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.

From this passage I hear God asking me:
How have I provided for your needs in the past?
List the ways.
Is that all of them?
Trust me, it’s not.  (v. 4)
Not even close.