Saturday, January 30, 2010

The True Prosperity Gospel

Ben Witherington: If there is to be a prosperity gospel worthy of its name, it should be all about the great blessing of giving and living self-sacrificially and how freeing it is to be trusting God day to day for live and all its necessities.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Passover & Community

I've read Exodus 12 many times before, but something struck me as I read it this morning. This is the story of the final plague on Egypt, where God kills the firstborn in every Egyptian family. God has multiple bottom lines with his plans. His main purpose with this plan is obviously to redeem his people, but if you've read much of Scripture, you also know that God is giving them a symbolic picture of the ultimate redemption that will take place through Christ's sacrifice.

God wants his people here to create a tradition in which they will always remember what happened on that night. But here's what struck me this morning. He includes everyone in the community. Everyone is responsible for doing their part. This isn't just a task for the leaders. Each household is to sacrifice a lamb. They are to prepare that lamb in a certain fashion, and then they are to enjoy eating it. God gives special conditions that if a household is small and doesn't need a whole lamb, then they can go in with another small household and share a lamb. But everyone takes part. Every member of the community plays a role in God's plan.

Sometimes the details in the Old Testament can bog us down, but I think there's real purpose in them, and in a passage like this one, it's clear to me that God is giving us a picture of community. And I think it's a brilliant picture!

The Effects of a Broken Spirit

A spiritual goal I have for 2010 is to read through the entire Bible. This is something that I've never attempted, and am I excited by the challenge. I'm using this reading plan. Yesterday I was getting caught up after missing a couple of days, and came across a verse that I had never read before. It's from Exodus 6, which begins the back and forth dialog between God and Pharoah, with Moses as middle man.

In verse 2 God begins speaking his Father's heart for his people. He reminds Moses of the covenant that he established with them. He says that he has heard his people's groans as a result of their slavery, and he is going to redeem them. They will be his people and he will be their God. So Moses relays this message to the people, but verse 9 says that they did not listen.

You would think that if any message would cause you to listen, it would be this one. The Father's heart is on display. We see his passion and pursuit for his people, yet they don't listen. But the passage isn't over, and it's the remainder of verse 9 that spoke to me so powerfully. We learn here that there is a reason that they didn't listen. It's not because of their rebellious ways. It's not because they don't think God knows what he's talking about.

Verse 9 says that they didn't listen "because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery."

Here's what I felt God saying to me. I don't know what it's like to have a broken spirit, especially one that comes as a result of harsh slavery, or, really, any other kind of injustice. Because of this, I need to have a special compassion for those who have, and I need to seek understanding on what they are going through. It's difficult for me to understand how someone could not be captured by this message, but perhaps that's because I don't know the powerful effects that a broken spirit can have on a person.

We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness (Ephesians 6:12). These forces that Paul is talking about impact lives more than we realize. It's a scary thing. But here's the good news. We have someone fighting for us. In this passage God moves from Loving Father to Just Redeemer. He fights for his people. And the rest of the good news: He wins!

I am thankful that God fights for my soul, and I want to join that fight for the souls of others.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Weekly Links

Matthew May helps us to ask the question, "Am I making the most of what I have to offer the world?" He writes, "The sad fact is that many people, if not most, would rather be doing something else with their life and instead spend their day in some way distracted in their work or feeling like they don't or can't bring their true and best self to work."

JR Vassar reflects on five years of living in NYC.

Hugh Halter describes Adullam's weekly worship gathering

Jonathan Dodson on introducing your church to others (on Sundays and on your website)

NY Times columnist David Brooks writes that the recent tragedy in Haiti is a poverty story rather than a natural disaster story. His first point is that we don't know how to use aid to reduce poverty.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Reflections on Advent

Christmas is over at my house. Mandy took the tree down yesterday, much to the disappointment of Adam (he cried). So even though I'm a little late in posting this, here's what made the Christmas season special for me.

This is the third year that our family and church has participated in Advent Conspiracy, and I feel that each year has been better than the last. This year was no exception. I felt that our church entered into this season in a great way. It seemed to me that most in our community did a better job slowing down and spending less. I heard great stories of relational giving. And we loved all in tangible and practical ways (I'll be sharing this Sunday what we're doing with the money raised through our Advent Conspiracy offering, so stay tuned). Finally, our hearts were captured by the indescribable gift that God gave the world in Jesus.

In the past, I feel like I've concentrated more on my church's experience with Advent than I have my family's, but this year was different. On December 26 I wasn't left thinking, "there's got to be more to this." A few highlights:
  • We weren't nearly as busy as in other years, and I feel like we took advantage of that as a family
  • As far as relational giving goes, Santa brought us a Wii, which has been great fun for the whole family. We brought it to Paducah on Christmas day, and everyone from the age of 4 to 84 played. We're looking forward to having some Wii parties in the future.
  • As far as loving all goes, I wanted to do something to help Adam understand that Christmas is more about getting presents, so we decided to sponsor a child through Compassion. Our sponsor child is a little boy named Gino. Gino is two months younger than Adam and is from the Philippines. Adam has written Gino a card with their picture on it, and yesterday he heard the Philippines mentioned on the news and exclaimed, "That's where Gino lives."

Healthcare in Haiti Before Earthquake

From Newsweek...
  • In 2008, three fourths of the population had no access of any kind to healthcare
  • Only one doctor for every 3000 citizens (compared with seven doctors for every 3000 US citizens)
  • Life expectancy is 61 (78 in US)
  • Infant mortality: 60 deaths per 1000 births, which is almost 10 times the U.S. rate and four times the rate in Memphis (US rate is 7 per 1000; Memphis: 15 per 1000)

Beyond Babyland

Beyond Babyland, a one-hour film, followed by a 60-minute panel discussion, premieres Monday, January 18 at 8:00 p.m. on WKNO/Channel 10. Award-winning filmmakers David Appleby and Craig Leake examine the problem of infant mortality in Memphis' poorest zip codes, and look at some of the people and organizations working to turn the tide and make a positive impact in our community.

Friday, January 01, 2010

2009 Top Ten Lists: Technology

A lot of my favorite blogs and websites from 2008 are still my favorite blogs and websites this year, so I decided to add a new category this year: Technology. I like gadgets, but some gadgets and technologies are more useful than others.

10. iTunes - I use it to keep all my music organized as well as my feed for podcasts. Free.

9. Files lite - I use this to keep Word and Excel documents on my iPhone. It doesn't allow for editing, but I don't really need that feature. I just want to have them available for reference. Free.

8. Grooveshark - allows you to listen to any song in its entirety as many times as you desire. Pretty simple. And free.

7. Syncback/Mozy Backup - Anyone who has lost data on a hard drive will tell you that you have to get a backup system in place. Here's mine. I use Syncback (scroll down to the free version) on my pc's. I use it to sync files between MyDocs and a separate partition on my hard drive. I do it every few days. I also use it with an external hard drive. Mozy costs $5/month, but provides secure offsite backup.

6. ReQall - This free service gives me a phone number that I have on speed dial in my iPhone. Here's how it works: I hit the speed dial, then a nice lady comes on, asking me if I want to add, share, or reqall. I always use the "add" feature. I hear a beep, then I make a statement like, "pay credit card bill" or "call John." I then get an email with the transcription. Best use is when I'm driving and think of something I need to do. Free.

5. Evernote - I had heard about Evernote for awhile before trying it out. Everything I read about it indicated that there are some very loyal fans of it. I've been using it for several months now, and really find it quite handy. I use it to organize research I'm doing online. For example, I'm teaching through Luke right now, so when I'm studying and come across a quote, link, idea, etc, I copy and paste it in the folder. There's an iPhone app as well. Free.

4. Twitter/Echofon/Facebook - I started twittering several months ago, and though I'm not near as deep into it as others, I've found it to be a useful and fun tool. Case in point: It's been easy to get updates on Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village in Dallas. Up to date info is the primary reason I read twitter feeds, and the primary reason I post is that I have my blog, facebook and twitter all linked up together. Echofon is the iPhone app I use. Free.

3. Kindle for iPhone/PC - I've written about the Kindle elsewhere. Amazon has most books available in Kindle format, and the majority are cheaper than the normal format. Plus, they are always offering Kindle books for free. Here is a list of their bestsellers (many are listed because of the fact that they are free). Free.

2. Google Reader - I've been using this as my RSS feed for the past year (after being onBloglines). It has a great iPhone application, which I use to browse feeds when I'm away from my computer. Free.

1. The iPhone - I probably don't need a link for this one, do I? You've probably noticed that almost all of the apps above are only possible because of this, or at least are greatly enhanced by this. Here's the review I wrote when I first purchased my iPhone last January.