Here’s an explanation of the plan.
The daily Bible Studies gathered into individual Bible books.
Nov 29, 2013 • By David Murray • 5 Comments
If you’re depressed and discouraged by all the bad news that’s abounding, try Chelsen Vicari’s Ten Things Evangelicals can be Thankful for This Year. In summary, her Top Ten are:
- Florida Orphan Flooded with Adoption Requests
- The Gospel Reaches Millions through the Record-BreakingThe Bible Series
- Pastor Saeed Abedini’s Family Allowed to Visit, Health Reported to Improve
- Megachurch Donates 1,500 Coats to the Poor, Homeless
- U.S. Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Case on Hobby Lobby Birth Control Plea
- Dr. Russell Moore’s Commitment to a Strong Social Witness
- Rev. Billy Graham’s Powerful Final Address to America
- Amidst Attacks, Operation Christmas Child will Spread the Message of Christ Worldwide
- America’s Pro-life Initiatives
- IRD Successfully Launches Evangelical Action
While I agree with many of these, some of them leave me underwhelmed. So what I would put in their place? My suggestions:
1. The Reformed African American Network: Jemar Tisby, Phillip Holmes, and their team of lively writers are continuing to challenge their own and other communities to build local churches that better reflect the beautiful diversity of God’s Kingdom. I’ve learned so much from these brothers (and sisters), and earnestly pray that God will use them to transform His church by transforming our hearts and minds.
2. 20 Schemes: This extremely tough groundbreaking mission to establish churches in Scotland’s housing schemes has given me hope for my beloved Scotland again. I love the energy, courage, and honesty of Mez McConnell and his co-workers as they journal the disappointments and triumphs of mission work in Scotland’s poorest and most violent communities.
3. Tim Challies: I’m grateful to all my blogging friends who daily sacrifice their time and energy to write edifying and informative posts and connect us with the best resources on the web. But special thanks must go to Tim Challies who maintains a consistently high quality throughout the year, serving hundreds of thousands of readers across the worldwide church. He’s a model of humility, courage, transparency, discernment, and biblical ecumenicity. I read him even before the BBC!
4. Ligonier Ministries: Another ministry that’s producing high quality, reliable, attractive resources year on year. It’s so encouraging to see how well the leadership transition is going under Chris Larson’s visionary guidance, with high quality teaching fellows and faculty supplementing the R.C. Sproul teaching archive. And perhaps the highlight of the past year has been R.C. Sproul Jr’s writing about his painful yet grace-filled journey through the valley of the shadow. It’s a Christian classic in the making.
5. Christian Publishers: I’m so grateful for the work of Christian publishers who continue to provide the church with so many wonderful books.
6. God’s Common Grace: I could provide a multitude of links to examples of this. Where would we be, church or nation, without the mercy of God over all His works (Ps. 145:9)? I praise God every day for His restraining providence and His making the sun to shine and the rain to fall on both the just and the unjust. Without common grace, we’d be unable to preach saving grace.
7. Local Churches Everywhere. No, they don’t make headlines, or appear on Top Ten lists, but it’s where the ultimate kingdom work is done week in week out. Of course, every church has its problems, but the vast majority of us love our churches and are so thankful for all who serve there in various roles.
What else do you think should go on the list?
Nov 29, 2013 • By David Murray • 0 Comments
15 Ways to Avoid Burnout When Working in Hard Places
Mez McConnell sends a dispatch from the trenches.
Thankful for our Women’s Ministry and Revive our Hearts
This is a really encouraging and inspiring story and video.
30 Reasons to Be Thankful
A day late, I know, but these truths are timeless.
This Facebook App Can Help You Grieve
Yes, you read that right. Sanctri is a Facebook app for creating memorial pages for loved ones who have passed away.
Nov 28, 2013 • By David Murray • 2 Comments
The world’s most prominent researcher and writer about gratitude, Robert Emmons, defines gratitude as “a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life.” Emmons’ research found that people who are thankful in this way tend to be happier, more energetic, more optimistic, and more helpful, more sympathetic, and more forgiving. They are also less materialistic, less depressed, less anxious, and less jealous.
In one study, some participants were asked to write down five things for which they were thankful and to do so once a week for ten weeks in a row. Other groups were asked to list five problems that they had encountered in the week. The findings?
Relative to the control groups, those participants from whom expressions of gratitude were solicited tended to feel more optimistic and more satisfied with their lives. Even their health received a boost; they reported fewer physical symptoms (such as headache, acne, coughing, or nausea) and more time spent exercising (The How of Happiness, 91).
Sonja Lyubomirsky’s studies on patients with chronic illnesses have shown that “on the days that individuals strive to express their gratitude, they experience more positive emotions (that is, feelings like interest, excitement, joy, and pride) and are more likely to report helping someone, to feel connected with others, and even to catch more hours of quality sleep.”
Lyubomirsky’s team went on to discover eight reasons thankfulness is so directly related to happiness (pp. 92-95).
1. Grateful thinking promotes the savoring of positive life experiences
“By relishing and taking pleasure in some of the gifts of your life, you will be able to extract the maximum possible satisfaction and enjoyment from your current circumstances.”
2. Expressing gratitude increases confidence
“When you realize how much people have done for you or how much you have accomplished, you feel more confident and efficacious.”
3. Gratitude helps people cope with stress and trauma.
The ability to appreciate your life circumstances enable a person to positively reinterpret stressful or negative life experiences. Indeed, traumatic memories are less likely to surface–and are less intense when they do-in those who are regularly grateful.
4. The expression of gratitude encourages moral behavior.
“Grateful people are more likely to help others (e.g., you become aware of kind and caring acts and feel compelled to reciprocate) and less likely to be materialistic (e.g., you appreciate what you have and become less fixated on acquiring more stuff).”
5. Gratitude can help build social bonds
It strengthens existing relationships and nurtures new ones. “Several studies have shown that people who feel gratitude toward particular individuals (even when they never directly express it) experience closer and “higher-quality” relationships with them…In addition, a grateful person is a more positive person, and positive people are better liked by others and more likely to win friends.”
6. Gratitude tends to inhibit invidious comparisons with others
“If you are genuinely thankful and appreciative for what you have (e.g., family, health, home), you are less likely to pay close attention to or envy what the Joneses have.”
7. Gratitude is incompatible with negative emotions
“It may actually diminish or deter such feelings as anger, bitterness, and greed…It’s hard to feel guilty or resentful or infuriated when you’re feeling grateful.”
8. Gratitude helps us thwart hedonic adaptation
Although our capacity to adjust rapidly to any new circumstance or event helps us when the event is unpleasant, it’s a disadvantage when the event provides a positive boost. The practice of gratitude can counteract this adaptation and maintain fresh wonder and joy.
Or as someone else put it: “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High” (Ps. 92:1).
THIS IS A SLIGHTLY EDITED RE-POST OF A PREVIOUS ARTICLE
Nov 28, 2013 • By David Murray • 4 Comments
Gay Rights and Christian “Wrongs”
An English Christian couple who turned away two gay men from their Bed and Breakfast have lost their last appeal against the order to pay the two men compensation.
The “landmark” nature of this judgment is reflected in the BBC commentator’s column who says: “Defeat in court has been compounded in some cases by the remarks of senior judges, making clear that their job is no longer to enforce morality, and that religious beliefs will not be given more weight than secular values…It makes their case another milestone in the waning influence of Christian teaching in British society and its laws, although the exact nature of that teaching is increasingly contested as many Christians reinterpret traditional beliefs in the light of contemporary experience.”
Teaching the Poor
In Talking Around the Education Problem, Rod Dreher agrees with an inner-city teacher that the main problem is broken families, but disagrees that the problem is more money. Dreher says: “There will never be enough money for the state to be the mother and father to children whose parents won’t fulfill their fundamental moral responsibilities to their kids. The bottom line is that this is not a problem that can be solved. A stable family is so critical to the socialization of children that the effects of its absence is obvious to schoolteachers.” One of the commenters, also an inner-city teacher offers some optimism amid the gloom.
And just to encourage all the teachers out there, here are The Three P’s of Amazing Teachers: Professional, Passionate, and Persevering.
A HealthCare Solution
Matt Perman has some good ideas here about how Health Savings Accounts Can Reform Health Care Better Than A Government Bill. I especially liked what he said about starting with the easy and common cases and then working towards the harder cases, rather than as with Obamacare starting with the hard cases and making that the template for everyone else.
Kindle v Paper
Looks like paper is still leading at half-time. A survey found that 62% of 16 to 24-year-olds prefer traditional books over their digital equivalents. “The two big reasons for preferring print are value for money and an emotional connection to physical books.” Other comments include: “”I collect,” “I like the smell,” and “I want full bookshelves.” “Books are status symbols, you can’t really see what someone has read on their Kindle.”
Personally, I’m increasingly returning to real books and enjoying my reading a lot more, as well as getting more reading done.
Faithful Catholics Endangered Species
Once you read this, you won’t think the evangelical scene is quite so bad. A poll among British Catholics reveals a massive chasm between Catholics and their church.
- Only 9% of self-identified Catholics would even feel guilty about using contraception.
- Only 25% disapprove of unmarried couples raising children,
- Almost 90% agree that an unmarried couple with children is a family
- 65% say that a same-sex couple with children is also a family.
- Majority in favor of gay marriage.
- Only 19% of British Catholics support a ban on abortion.
- 0% (yes, zero) of British Catholics now look to religious leaders for guidance as they make decisions and live their lives with the majority saying that they rely on their own reason, judgement, intuition or feelings.
- Just 8% of Catholics say they look to “tradition and teachings of the Church” 7% to God, 2% to the Bible, 2% to the religious group to which a person belongs, and 0% to local or national religious leaders.”
- Only 36% of Catholics say that the Church is a positive force in society, and when those who take the opposite view are asked their reasons, the most popular are: that it discriminates against women and gay people; the child abuse scandals; that it’s hypocritical; and that it’s too morally conservative
The report concludes: “If we measure them by the criteria of weekly churchgoing, certain belief in God, taking authority from religious sources, and opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage and euthanasia, only 5% of Catholics fit the mould, and only 2% of those under 30.
Denny Burk has a great article here to help us refute the charge that Hobby Lobby is “forcing it’s religion on others.” As Denny sums it up, “This case is not about a woman’s “right” to purchase contraceptives and abortifacient drugs. This case is about who will be forced to pay for them.”