1. 5 Ways Your Personality Changes in the First Year of Marriage: Cari Romm reports on a recent study in Developmental Psychology, "Overall, it’s kind of a mixed bag — the very beginning stage of a marriage can change people for the worse, but also for the better. A better takeaway, then, might be the fact that they change at all."
2. How to Make a Marriage: Gary Thomas with wise advice on the long process of making a healthy marriage, "In fact, one study suggests that it takes from nine to 14 years—at least a decade, and sometimes a decade and a half—for two individuals to stop thinking of themselves as individuals and to start thinking of themselves as a couple. That’s right—the journey from “me” to “we” takes years to achieve."
3. What is Wrong? Americans' List is Shrinking: Aaron Earls reports on a new Gallup poll that reports that across the board, Americans approve more of extramarital sex, divorce, cloning, suicide, gambling, same sex relationships, etc than they did ten to fifteen years ago.
4. Simplicity for the Sake of the Gospel: I found Jen Oshman's article very convicting. She shares, "We feel glutted—overstuffed on overabundance. We are sick of our calendars and Amazon shopping carts being jammed full with far more than we need. Maybe less is more, we think. A decluttered entryway. Leisurely evenings. A reduced pace of life. We’re searching for the simple life. But to what end? What is it we’re after? What will fill the void created by our new, simple lives? When my husband and I sensed God calling us to plant a church in our new neighborhood, the man we consider our spiritual father had some wise words for us. 'Do not get busy,' he said. 'If you want to minister to your neighbors and your community, you need to be home. Don’t make a bunch of commitments. Just be there. They will come.' I didn’t believe him."
5. Safari Botswana: I dare you to not want to go on a safari after this up-close-and-personal video.
I have slow feet. One of my favorite sports to play is basketball. I’m a decent player; over time my game has improved. I’m a better shooter, ball handler, and passer now than when I was when I was younger. But I’ve still got slow feet. If I play you and you have any quickness at all, I’m going to give you the three point shot and do my best to close out on you if you take it. Otherwise, you’re just going to go right around me to the hoop every time.
I compensate for my weaknesses on a basketball court. If I’m lucky and you haven’t played me much, I hope that you won’t know about this weakness. I hope that you don’t have quickness and a three point shot.
Boxers who have been hurt do the same thing. They might drop their gloves to compensate for a bruised rib or over-rely on their dominant hand if their non-dominant shoulder is hurt.
We all have weaknesses and insecurities. Where are your weaknesses? How are you compensating for them? How are you closing yourself off relationally or spiritually from having those insecurities addressed?
Most of us try to hide and compensate for our weaknesses. We are afraid of what others will think of us or we are embarrassed we haven’t been able to get ongoing sin under control. This is one of the great lies of the enemy: that masking our inadequacies is the best way to deal with them, that sharing them will make things worse, and that we can fix them on our own.
1. Comparing Take-Home Pay Around the World: Switzerland tops this list by a substantial margin while Mexico comes in dead last. The US comes in at the edge of the top third. And goodness gracious, if you think American income taxes are bad, don't move to Denmark!
2. God's Grace for Foster Parents: I resonate with James Williams's post, "Fostering is hard. A child comes into our home, alters the norm of our everyday lives for a number of weeks or months, and then by government order leaves as quickly as he or she came. Many find it difficult that we regularly let children we’ve grown attached to go back home, usually never to see them again. People often say to us, “I just don’t know how you do it.” That bewildered statement implies that we have some special gift or ability that others don’t have, but the truth is, we don’t."
3. 7 Things to Never Say at a Funeral: It's hard to comfort those who are have experienced a death. Aaron Earls tells us not to mess it up. Top on his list are, "They're an angel now," and "I know how you feel."
4. What Generation Z Wants to Do Before Hitting 30: Aaron Earls reports on Barna's recent findings: "Fewer Gen Zers say they want to enjoy life before having responsibilities of being an adult (38 percent), find out who they really are (31 percent), or travel to other countries (21 percent)."
5. How Involved Should Your Church Be During Elections? Kevin DeYoung with sober and timely advice.
6. Why Are Self-Driving Cars Taking So Long? Really interesting video by SciShow that considers why it has been so hard to put self-driving cars on the road.
“What’s God’s will for my life?” I’ve asked that question and heard that question asked a thousand times in my ten years as a pastor. It’s a go to question I deal with when talking to middle school, high school, and college students.
Kevin DeYoung insists that the answer to the question is as simple as his title. How do I know God’s will for my life? “Just do something.” At first blush that answer sounds as reckless as it does callous.
But DeYoung builds his case scripturally that a faithful Christian life is not a life waiting to hear the whisper of God about what parking spot to take, school to choose, career to select, and spouse to marry. Instead, again and again, scripture frames the will of God in terms of the character of God. What is God’s will? The fruits of the Spirit. In DeYoung’s words, “God's will is always your sanctification.”
Obsessing over choices God wants us to make actually shackles us from living in the freedom of God’s purposes. DeYoung says, “The only chains God wants us to wear are the chains of righteousness--not the chains of hopeless subjectivism, not the shackles of risk-free living, not the fetters of horoscope decision making--just the chains befitting a bond servant of Christ Jesus. Die to self. Live for Christ. And then do what you want, and go where you want, for God's glory.” Applying Christ’s words, it sounds like this, “Seek first the kingdom of God, and then trust that He will take care of our needs, even before we know what they are and where we're going.”
After NT Wright completed his seminal work on the resurrection of Jesus: The Resurrection of the Son of God he planned on writing a follow-up on the crucifixion of Christ (what would eventually be The Day the Revolution Began). As he prepared to write that book, tragedy struck as 19 terrorists hijacked four commercial airliners and flew them into civilian targets on the Eastern seaboard of the US. Wright realized he needed to write a book on the problem of evil before he dealt with the cross. This thin (less than 170 page) volume Evil and the Justice of God is Wright’s contribution on the subject of evil and God.
Wright’s book is neither primarily a pastoral nor a philosophical reflection on the problem of evil. It deals with the problem primarily from a cultural and biblical perspective. Wright speaks with such ease, you feel as though you’re sitting with a cup of tea in hand in his living room. This both warmly draws the reader in, but can at times give one the sense that the material is ad hoc and is not as well thought out as one would hope.
The encroachment of evil in the contemporary world has been a significant problem, and yet, Wright notes, it “seems to have taken many people, not least politicians and the media, by surprise.” This is because our cultural philosophy has no answer for evil. Wright identifies that cultural philosophy in one word: progress. What is new, no, what is next holds the highest value (look no further than our cultural worship of youth).
And yet, we should have learned that progress provided no real answers for our hardest questions. How, in light of Auschwitz, could we still be anchored by a philosophical mooring as weak as progress? Our answer has been to project evil outward: to the other, to society, to politics. But a culture of blame is no real solution.
Enter postmodernity, where cynicism reigns: “nothing will get better and there’s nothing you can do about it.” But that is no solution. Worse still, “postmodernity allows for no redemption. There is no way out, no chance of repentance and restoration, no way back to the solid ground of truth from the quicksands of deconstruction.”
Modernism did away with Satan and evil, but the burden of proof lies on the modernist to defend their tenuous construal of reality.
What does the God of the Bible do about evil? Wright takes us on a biblical tour to answer that question.
In his 1961 Inaugural Address John F Kennedy famously said, "Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate." For most of us, negotiation is almost synonymous with fear. How do we move to a place of negotiating with confidence and peace? Getting to Yes is as good a place to start that process as any I could imagine.
Getting to Yes was first published in 1981. In this, the third edition of this time tested book, the authors begin acknowledging the flattening of the workplace. If anything, flatter organizations make Fisher and Ury's work all the more important. It's not surprising then, that they note that "a generation ago, the term 'negotiation' also had an adversarial connotation. In contemplating a negotiation, the common question in people's minds was, 'Who is going to win and who is going to lose?'" Fisher and Ury suggest there is a better way in Getting to Yes and then show you how to get there.
As a pastor, you might think that negotiation isn't a skill I have to use very often, but Fisher and Ury's book was not only helpful to me in my personal life (over the past three years I have negotiated a home sale, solar panel contract, a car purchase, and a job contract). But our lives are filled with negotiation. Even in my role as a pastor, negotiation is a daily occurrence, from negotiating sermon series to recruiting people into ministry roles, to navigating ministry direction, to negotiating staff culture and church vision documents. Simply put, we all need Fisher and Ury's book.
In their clearly outlined book, they suggest that the most significant problem is that we bargain over positions. To transform our ability to successfully negotiate we must do the following four things:
1) Separate the people from the problem;
2) Focus on interests, not positions;
3) Invent options for mutual gain;
4) Insist on using objective criteria.
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