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Blogs

Growing Up in a Porn-Saturated World | Thinking Out Loud
22 ways your kids’ world is much different than yours

Are Chip and Joanna Gaines ‘Cultural Heretics’? | TGC
Pray for Chip and Joanna and their church. The cultural inquisition is coming.

Pastors Can’t Afford to Neglect Themselves | TGC
Erik Raymond on the need for pastors to continue personal development.

Citing the pressing demands of ministry many simply don’t prioritize continuing theological education, training, and learning. Specifically, this means that many are not intentionally reading theological books, biographies, journals, or other materials geared to developing theological depth—unless they are studying for their sermons.

Top 10 Education Technologies that Will Be Dead and Gone in the Next Decade | Campus Technology

3 Common Ways Churches Overcomplicate Their Calendars – Eric Geiger
“When there is a plethora of programs/events on the calendar, it is hard to know which ones are really important. How do churches get to an overcomplicated church schedule? How does busyness creep in? Here are three common ways:”

11 Simple Techniques to Wake Up Earlier Every Morning
O
nly for those who are getting to bed on time the night before.

CDC Study Says Teen Virgins Are Healthier Than Sexually Active Teens
“High school students who are virgins rate significantly and consistently better in nearly all health-related behaviors and measures than their sexually active peers.

Kindle Books

The Happy Christian by David Murray $2.99.

Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace by Heath Lambert $3.99.

Preaching to a Post-Everything World: Crafting Biblical Sermons That Connect with Our Culture by Zack Eswine $3.99.

Video

A Drone Through Africa

Have a little peek into heaven


Some Worrying Stats About Digital Technology Use

I’ve often thought that future generations will look back on those of us who lived through the digital revolution and wonder, “What were they doing?” “Did they not realize the damage they were doing to themselves. The research is already beginning to reveal the harm we are doing to our brains. Here are some stats taken from the presentation The Great Disconnect: MegaHERTZ to MegaHURTS by Michael Wolff and Bradley Bridges.


JAMA reported that each additional hour of television a toddler watches can potentially result in a seven percent unit decrease in classroom engagement and a 13 percent unit decrease in weekly physical activity. Of those studied, television-watching toddlers also showed a 10 percent increase in classmate victimization, and are five percent more likely to have a high BMI.

8-10 year old children spend on average 8 hrs of media/tech time a day.

Tweens or teenagers average 11 hrs or more.

Girls dominate Visually Oriented Social Media Platforms like Snapchat and Instagram

Boys are much more likely to play video games.

The typical person by their early 20’s will have spent more than 30,000 hours on the internet or playing videogames. That’s roughly 3.5 years on the internet, playing games or using technology.

Children now spend more time with the media than they do with their family, in school, or sleeping.

The pleasure seeking center of the brain shows a similar activity pattern on cocaine and on video games. The picture on the left is the brain playing video games. The first picture on is the brain on cocaine, the second, the brain on video games.

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-8-51-53-pm

Brain

Compared with the group that played nonviolent video games, the group that played the violent video game demonstrated less activation in the prefrontal portions of the brain, which are involved in inhibition, concentration and self-control, and more activation in the amygdala, which is involved in emotional arousal.

Frequent multi-taskers performed worse because they had more trouble organizing their thoughts and filtering out irrelevant information, and they were slower at switching from one task to another.

University of London found people who multitasked during cognitive tasks experienced IQ score declines similar to if they had smoked marijuana or stayed up all night. IQ drops of 15 points for multitasking men lowered their scores to the average range of an 8 year old child.

University of Sussex compared the amount of time people spend on multiple devices (such as texting while watching TV) to MRI scans of their brains. They found that high multi-taskers had less brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex, a region responsible for empathy as well as cognitive and emotional control.

Read more here.


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Blogs

Top 16 Books of 2016
I always look forward to Tony Reinke’s annual list. Would make a great reading plan for 2017.

How to Read the Major Prophets Devotionally
“In the end, the best way to understand the Major Prophets is simply to invest time in reading them prayerfully. It’s not always easy going, but we can be confident God will enrich our souls when we seek him in his Word.”

Let’s Sing the Songs Jesus Sang
An article on the resurgence of Psalm singing.

5 Reasons Leaders and Creators Need Routines
“Creativity is fostered in daily rhythms that conserve your best thinking and energy for your work.”

How Domino’s Pizza Reinvented Itself
Fascinating article on how Domino’s turned around its sinking business and share price. One paragraph that caught my attention towards the end of the article can easily be applied to church leadership/

Omission bias is the tendency to worry more about doing something than not doing something, because everyone sees the results of a move gone bad, and few see the costs of moves not made. Loss aversion describes the tendency to play not to lose rather than play to win. “The pain of loss is double the pleasure of winning,” he argues, so the natural inclination is to be cautious, even in situations that demand creativity.

Kindle Books

The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters by Sinclair Ferguson $3.99.

Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines by David Mathis $3.99.

Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full: Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms by Gloria Furman $3.99.


Are You Addicted to the Internet?

What is addiction?

A condition that results when a person ingests a substance (e.g., alcohol, cocaine, nicotine) or engages in an activity (e.g., gambling, sex, shopping, Social MEDIA/Technology) that can be pleasurable but the continued use/act of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary life responsibilities, such as work, relationships, or health. Users may not be aware that their behavior is out of control and causing problems for themselves and others.

Are you addicted to the internet? (or substitute “Texting”)

1. Do you feel absorbed in the internet (remember previous online activity or long for the next session?

2. Do you feel satisfied with internet use if you increase your amount of online time?

3. Have you failed to reduce, control, or give up internet use repeatedly?

4. Do you feel nervous, temperamental, depressed, or sensitive when trying to reduce or give up on internet use?

5. Do you stay online longer than originally intended?

6. Have you taken the risk of losing a significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of the internet?

7. Have you lied to your family members, therapist or others to hide the trith of your involvement with the internet?

8. Do you use the internet as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving an anxious mood, eg. feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, or depression?

You are an internet addict if you answered “yes” to questions 1-5 and to at least one of the remaining questions.

Extracted from the presentation The Great Disconnect: MegaHERTZ to MegaHURTS by Michael Wolff and Bradley Bridges.


Check out

Blogs

Why Pastors Are Committing Suicide
“Pastor Tony Rose fell into a “deep hole of depression with obsessive thinking” when he was 31. It got so bad he couldn’t physically lift himself off the floor. “I began begging God for somebody who could speak a vocabulary that preached to my soul, and I couldn’t find anybody in the contemporary Christian world,” said Rose, who now pastors in Kentucky. “Then I stumbled onto the Puritans. And they’re known for a lot of things, but very few people actually read their writing on pastoral care.”"

7 Reasons Churches are Too Busy
“So how did churches get so busy? How did their calendars fill up so quickly that it left no breathing room for members and staff? There seems to be seven major contributing factors.”

3 Ways Technology Makes Us Anxious
“Here are three common problems—and gospel solutions—to address our technology-driven angst.”

How to Connect Sermon Application to People’s Jobs
“Believers often wonder how they can serve God and neighbor at work, and often doubt the value of their work. But pastors can help, and the strategic sermon illustration is a leading tool in our arsenal. A good illustration is like a parable, presenting a case that is both particular and universal, specific and common.”

Why You Should Thank God That Your Kids Are Mediocre Athletes

“Thank God that your kids haven’t displayed the athletic prowess necessary to trick you into spending a fortune you don’t have for a dream that will almost certainly never materialize.”

Kindle Books

An Infinite Journey: Growing toward Christlikeness by Andrew Davies $0.99.

Love Into Light: The Gospel, the Homosexual and the Church by Peter Hubbard $0.99.

Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem by Jay Richards $1.99

Video

Awesome story of teen girl triumphing over adversity


The Big Picture Jesus

Most biographies start with a person’s past. Presidential biographies not only go back to the president’s first job, or where he went to school, or even where he was born. No, the author usually starts with the president’s parents, or grandparents. In fact, usually he goes as far back as records allow.

Why? Why so much interest in people and places that existed and lived hundreds of years before the president?

Partly it’s because we want to trace the important influences on the president’s ancestors. We recognize that a president’s genes, characteristics, interests, personality, etc., were all shaped by his family history and even geography.

But it’s also because we want to see a plan. We want to be able to look back many years and sense the guiding hand of Providence in a person’s story, even before they were part of the story. Biographers look for decisions, events, and characters, both big and small, that demonstrate the Divine Hand preparing the way for this remarkable person’s arrival on earth. He’s looking for evidence of a plan, a pattern, or a sense of destiny that can be traced way back, through centuries, perhaps.

Presidential candidates often attempt this in their own autobiographies. For example: Dreams of my Father by Barak Obama, Faith of my Fathers by John McCain, etc.  They want us to connect them with the past, because they all want us to see that they were “predestined” to this, that this was part of a higher plan they had little or no say in. They’re saying, “I’m not just an accident or a coincidence! I have a story, a long and important story, that Someone else is writing for me.”

The Gospels

That’s why the first chapter of the first Gospel, starts with a summary genealogy of Jesus’ ancestors. Although most people just skip over the first seventeen verses of Matthew and go straight to the baby scene, Matthew is saying: “Hey, this is important. Here’s a thumbnail sketch of this baby’s past. Now, go back, read the details, and see how this birth day is not just a combination of good luck and probability. Under God’s direction, many people, places, and events have prepared the way for this day. And if you really want to figure out who this baby is, what his purpose is, and what you should do with him, you have to go back and read about all that led up to this event.”

But not many do. Some might dip into the Psalms and Proverbs here and there, and perhaps read a couple of inspiring chapters in Isaiah from time to time, etc. But it’s like picking up the odd piece of a jigsaw puzzle, admiring it for a few minutes, then throwing it back in the box again. There’s rarely much attempt to put it all together, see the bigger picture, and identify the way that the Old Testament connects with the New, prepares for the New, sheds light on the New, and even makes sense of the New.

As this disjointed and fragmentary approach to the Bible leads to a disjointed and fragmentary spirituality, let me give you four reasons to study the Big Picture of both Testaments.

Understanding Jesus better

First, the Big Picture helps us understand Jesus better. Whenever a President is asked what books have influenced them, his answer immediately propels that book to the top of the bestsellers list. People want to understand what went into the making of such a successful person, and also to see if the book will have a similar powerful effect on their lives.

The biggest influence on Jesus’ beliefs, language, decisions, spirituality, morality, and actions  was the Old Testament. Brought up in a devout Jewish home by a godly mother and father, He was immersed in the Hebrew Scriptures. He heard them, read them, memorized them, sang them, obeyed them, quoted them, consciously and deliberately fulfilled them, and regularly taught them to others. No other book had anything like this influence upon Him. It’s so hard, if not impossible, to understand much of what Jesus said and did without reading the book that shaped Him more than anything else in the world. It’s like putting a few central pieces of the jigsaw together but not even trying to complete the rest. If you complete the rest, you will see Jesus in a whole new light, you’ll see how each piece of the jigsaw connects so beautifully and necessarily with all the other pieces, even some of the oldest pieces.

Revealing more of Jesus

Second, the Big Picture reveals more of Jesus to us. What if I told you that I’d found 39 “Bonus” Gospels, 39 books that not only describe how the world and church were prepared for Christ, but are actually full of Christ? Yes, in the Old Testament, the Son of God was present and active long before his incarnation, revealing Himself to needy sinners via prophecies, pictures, precepts, and especially by His personal presence.

This is where Christ’s biography differs radically from every other biography. When we read about His past in the Old Testament we are not just reading about His background or His ancestors; we are reading about Him. When He was encouraging the Pharisees to read the Old Testament, the reason He gave was, “They testify of me” (John 5:29). These books were speaking about Him, telling people about Him, drawing people to put faith in Him, even before He was born! “Moses wrote of me” said Jesus (Jn. 5:46). That’s almost 1500 years before Bethlehem! Traveling even further back to 2000 BC, Abraham “saw” Christ’s day way down the road of faith and rejoiced (John 8:56).

But Christ was not just seen by forward-looking faith. He was actually there in the Old Testament and seen with human eyes. He frequently came to earth to minister to His people as the Angel (or Messenger) of the Lord, a divine person who often appeared in human form to bring messages of grace and merciful help to needy sinners. 39 Bonus Gospels!

Trusting in God’s Sovereignty

Third, the Big Picture builds confidence in God’s Sovereignty. The more you see the big all-encompassing and unchanging redemptive plan of God, the more you will trust in God’s sovereignty. When you see that no event was accidental, that every event was planned and part of the preparation for the Christ, that God has only a Plan A and it’s being perfectly accomplished, we can begin to trust Him better with our past, our present, and our future. If all I see are disconnected fragments, faith fails, especially in trial. But if I see that God has every piece in His hand and he knows exactly where to put it and when, and that it’s forming a beautiful big picture of Christ, that buttresses faith in a God who is in total and utter control of the world and of my world.

Making sense of our stories

Fourth, the Big Picture helps us make sense of our stories. In Christ-centered Biblical Counseling, counselor John Henderson corrects Reggie who tried to help Maggie’s suffering by quoting scattered Bible verses from here and there. He argues that we must always counsel within the grand narrative of Scripture, that these individual verses will never make sense to Maggie unless she gets The Story behind the verses. He compares Reggie’s approach to his own with this illustration:

I’m guessing you’re trying to get her downriver to a good place. I just can’t figure out how you’ll help her along by standing at the banks, drawing out buckets of water, and throwing them on her feet. They’re good buckets of water and all, but they have no current by themselves. Just like the rest of us, Maggie needs to be swept into the river.”[1]

As Henderson says, everybody has a story that they use to explain the world and their world. But “God’s revelation is The Story  meant to help us see clearly and interpret everything else….God’s story interprets, confronts, reshapes, and even redeems or condemns all our stories.”

When we are swept into God’s Story, God becomes the center of the story; and when God is the center of the story, it’s much easier to see how every part of my story is connected to His, how everything harmonizes, as Henderson again illustrates:

The Word acts like a mass symphony of instruments working in harmony and building to something grand, more than a phone book of musical soloists up for hire. All the stories and poems and letters and oracles and wisdom verses of God’s Word, like individual instruments in a great orchestra, serve the whole story. You served Mrs. Maggie a beautiful but single note from a single instrument in the orchestra. No doubt there are solos and duos all around, and each of these comfort and convict us in their way and time, but they aren’t strumming and blowing on their own. In His time, I think the Lord wants us to hear and appreciate the way they harmonize.”

If you see the Big Picture, you’ll increasingly hear the beautiful harmony of God’s Story, and you’ll sense your life’s many fragments coming together with grand purpose, new unity, and comforting cohesiveness.



[1] All quotes taken from John Henderson, “The Grand Narrative of the Bible.” Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling, (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2013), 80-81.