Saturday, February 27, 2010

Two Reasons Churches Collapse

There are two frequent patterns that show up when you examine churches that collapse.

1. Churches that intentionally become insular and inward focused die. Sad to say, but the people practically eat one another alive.

2. Churches with a strong external focus on something that is wrong with the culture, but with a mindset that 'we have to clean this up so people can be saved.' This attitude tends toward deadly forms of legalism, and misses the point of the Gospel: people need to be saved by God, and then He will clean them up.

Lies Satan Wants You to Believe About Suffering

There are a number of lies that Satan wants you to believe about suffering, including:

1. You're all alone in your suffering.

2. Suffering is pointless and without purpose.

3. Suffering means God doesn't really love you after all.

4. You wouldn't be suffering if you were a real Christian.

Can you think of others?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Men, Don't Settle Short

There's an important lesson for men in the life of Terah. First let's read the account:

27 This is the account of Terah.
Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran. And Haran became the father of Lot. 28 While his father Terah was still alive, Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, in the land of his birth. 29 Abram and Nahor both married. The name of Abram's wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor's wife was Milcah; she was the daughter of Haran, the father of both Milcah and Iscah. 30 Now Sarai was barren; she had no children.

31 Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there.

32 Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Haran. (Genesis 11:27-32)

Look again at verse 31: they set out from Ur to go to Canaan, and they settled in Haran.

They settled short of the goal. And Terah died short of the goal.

In chapter 12 we'll see how God calls Abram to leave his family, leave Haran, and go to Canaan. We don't see in the Genesis 11 account that God specifically spoke to Terah, but it's clear it was his ambition to leave Ur (one of the most important and sophisticated cities of that time) and go to Canaan. But Terah does not make it there.

Maybe Haran was good enough. Maybe there was a picture-perfect homestead there. Maybe Canaan was simply more difficult to get to. (Check this map, it's quite a distance further!) Perhaps there were comfortable distractions in Haran. Perhaps there was a magician or healer in Haran that Terah thought could make Sarai fertile. And we can infer that Terah stayed in Haran a long time -- see Gen 12:5 for notes about the family accumulating possessions and people.

Let's be clear: God has his sovereign plans, and had plans for Abram to receive His blessings. We aren't told what might have happened had Terah taken his family all the way to Canaan.

We simply don't know why Terah settled, but he settled short. And that's the legacy of Terah.

Men, let's recommit today not to settle short.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

When You Drop Your Cellphone in the Toilet…

When you drop your cellphone in the toilet, you have a split-second to make up your mind about reaching in and grabbing it.

(This is a real-life example – I wish I were making it up.)

When you are surprised by a more-flesh-than-should-be-showing magazine cover in the supermarket checkout line, you have a split-second to decide what to do.

If someone comes into your school or church or business site and threatens to hurt someone else, you may have only seconds to take action or take advantage of opportunities to protect others.

The key to all these situations is to pre-decide what you will do. I’m going after the cell phone. I will bounce my eyes away from images I shouldn’t see. I will attack the gun-wielding mass murderer or distract him by throwing something at him, since dying is not the worst thing that can happen to me, and I may save some lives.

What else do you need to pre-decide? What do you need to help your children pre-decide?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Peter's Story

Here is an outstanding 6 minute clip, telling the end of Peter's life. This is an excellent example of how to tell a story, and weave in encouragement and application.

The Early Church from Granger Community on Vimeo.

HT: LeadingSmart

Friday, February 19, 2010


I use mind maps quite a bit, just for me as I read and think and plan, but also to create presentations for others. Some people have seen my maps and would like to do this too, but need a little help getting started.

The main thing to remember: you can't produce a bad mind map. They are tools for you to use. Play with them, move things around, expand and collapse, draw connectors -- that's the point. Don't get hung up or self-conscious.

Suggested resources:

How to make a mind map

How to use mind maps to solve problems

(There are many YouTube videos on different kinds of mind maps, usually to promote a particular piece of software. Just search for "mind maps"and start exploring.

A short tutorial for using Freemind (which is one of the best free tools for mind mapping)

A series of tutorial for MindManager Pro from MindJet (this is my favorite tool; you can get a free 30 day trial version)

Two newer free software tools are

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Men vs. Boys

Dennis Prager ask the question "Is America Still Making Men?" and outlines the differences between men and boys.

"What is a man (as opposed to a boy)? The traditional understanding was that a man is he who takes responsibility for others — for his family, his community and his country — and, of course, for himself. A man stood for ideals and values higher than himself. He conducted himself with dignity. And he was strong."

We have tended to obliterate the differences between men and boys, and between men and women. This creates all kinds of issues. I've written before about my concerns that American pop culture celebrates prolonged adolescence well into late 20's.

Mr. Prager points out there is a perpetuating cycle here:

"When boys do not become men, women assume their roles. But they are not happy doing so. There are any number of reasons American women suffer from depression more than ever before and more than men. It is difficult to believe that one of those reasons is not the very emasculation of men that the movement working in their name helped to bring about. And so, a vicious cycle has commenced — men stop being men; women become man-like; men retreat even further from their manly role; and women get sadder."

Read the whole article, it's a good analysis. Then think about what you can do to raise men in your family, your church, and your community.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Unfolding the Napkin

One of the most intriguing and useful books I've read in months is Dan Roam's Unfolding the Napkin. The subtitle gives you the value of this book: "The hands-on method for solving complex problems with simple pictures."

For years I've been an inveterate doodler. One friend at work jokes with me that "it hasn't been a meeting until Glenn gets up to the whiteboard. Maybe he likes to sniff the dry-erase markers."

The book is actually like a workshop. It's helpful to practice the drawing process along with the author.

The primary methodology is built on the FACT that our minds like pictures. Pictures communicate. Pictures are memorable. Pictures -- especially simply pictures -- engage our intellect and imagination.

I really liked Roam's process of breaking down problems into 6 elements (who/what, how much, when, where, how, why) and then using a SQVID process (it's an acronym) to figure out how to work through problems and present solutions to different types of stakeholders. Brilliant stuff! I think even a lot of the Ph.D.'s I know would appreciate this, and I'm confident that most teenagers would instantly get it.

Roam also gives at the end some very practical advice about tools. Nope, you don't need elaborate software, even for a computer intensive group that loves complicated software.

For me, this goes back into the reread in 2 months pile after I've practiced with pictures.

If you're a leader or teacher, you need this book. What I should say is, you need this capability to use pictures to communicate and solve problems.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Puritans and Sex: Happy Valentine's Day!

In modern-day usage the word "puritanical" means "stern, refraining from worldly pleasures and sensuality." (See definition.)

The reality is that the Puritans exalted sex within marriage, far above the Catholic Church, and above most of their contemporaries. See this article and this article for more details.

A toast to our Puritan forebears! And Happy Valentine's Day!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

While I'm Waiting

Terrific song by John Waller -- just the thing to encourage all of us in long waiting modes.

Listen to it here.

While I'm Waiting
I'm waiting
I'm waiting on You, Lord
And I am hopeful
I'm waiting on You, Lord
Though it is painful
But patiently, I will wait

I will move ahead, bold and confident
Takeing every step in obedience
While I'm waiting
I will serve You
While I'm waiting
I will worship
While I'm waiting
I will not faint
I'll be running the race
Even while I wait

I'm waiting
I'm waiting on You, Lord
And I am peaceful
I'm waiting on You, Lord
Though it's not easy
But faithfully, I will wait
Yes, I will wait
I will serve You while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting
I will serve You while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting
I will serve you while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting on You, Lord

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Got a Kindle? (Or free Kindle reader on PC?) Great Free Books Available!

Whether you have a physical Kindle device or are using the free Kindle for PC application, there are some terrific Christian books available for free. has 1.8 million books in their library -- and they are now starting to provide books in the .mobi format, which works on the Kindle and some smart phones! You can pick up classics like Calvin's Institutes, John Bunyan's complete works, Thomas Goodwin's complete works, etc -- all free. An excellent starting point is Project Gutenberg.

Here's how to use the Kindle browser to get books:
  • Open up the Internet browser on your Kindle, by going to the Home screen, pressing Menu, choosing Experimental and then choosing Basic Web.
  • Enter this URL on your Kindle
  • Either browse or search to find a book you like.
  • Click on "Mobipocket/Kindle to download it to your device.
  • After you accept the download, the book should appear in your Home screen.
Also, watch for specials on Christian classics. The ESV Study Bible in only $9.99 in Kindle format, and the complete works of Jonathan Edwards were available for $1.98.

Identifying Idols

The apostle John ends his first letter, "Little children, keep yourself from idols." Mark Batterson gives very helpful advice about identifying idols:

In the beginning, God created us in His image. We've been creating Him in our image ever since. Instead of worshiping the Creator, wesettle for something less. We find a substitute god, small g. And here's the tricky thing. Most idols are good things, but those good things become bad things because they take the place of God. Instead of being the Ultimate End, God become a means to an end. We want something more than we want God. And we try to use God to get it.

So how do you identify an idol? Here are four idol identifiers:

1) What consumes your thoughts? Your daydreams are idol clues. If it's something you think about more than God then it may be an idol.

2) What bad habits do you struggle with? Your addictions are idol clues. An idol is something you cannot control. It controls you.

3) What do you spend too much money on? Your spending habits are idol clues. Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also!

4) What produces your strongest emotions? Your intense emotions are idol clues. If you want to identify an idol, all you have to do is identify your emotional attachments.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Get Ready and Stay Ready to Die

From Ray Ortlund:

2010 might be your year of release. It might be mine. One year from today, we might be with the Lord. Better by far.

How to get ready and stay ready?

One, let’s die fully reconciled. Are we clear with every brother? “Strive for peace with everyone” (Hebrews 12:14).

Two, let’s die fully consecrated. Are we set apart to God? “Strive for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

Three, let’s die fully forgiven. Are we enjoying the grace of God? “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God” (Hebrews 12:15).

Four, let’s die in sweetness. Is any resentment spoiling our hearts? “See to it that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled” (Hebrews 12:15).

Five, let’s die in purity. Is the blessing of God more savory to us than the pleasures of the body? “See to it that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal” (Hebrews 12:16).

The battle rages. Let’s be ready to die at any time. Our moment will come.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Are Christians Required to Tithe?

It's a common question: "Are Christians required to tithe?" Let's be good students of the Word and think through this together. (By the way, this might make a really nice lesson for your students.)

The simple answer is that you will not find a clear command to tithe in the New Testament. You also won't find an explicit command to not tithe or not give generously. The New Testament tells us that the reality of our "new creation in Christ" life is a much higher standard of giving than legalistic tithing.

Let's walk through the Scriptures on this.

Many people will point to Matthews 23:23 as evidence that Christians should tithe. (There is a parallel passage in Luke 11:42.) I think this interpretation is missing the primary point.
In the whole chapter of Matthew 23, Jesus speaks harshly to the Pharisees about their religious practices. In verse 23, He does not condemn their systematic tithing (even of kitchen herbs) but challenges them to go beyond the letter of the law and live as a reflection of God's grace to them:
23"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices-mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law-justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. (Matthew 23:23)

Let's review New Testament passages which lead me to believe a higher standard of giving is normative for Christians.
Jesus commanded giving to God. It's not an option, if I read this correctly:

Then he said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." (Matthew 22:21)

Jesus commended the widow who gave far beyond a tithe:

1As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 2He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 3"I tell you the truth," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on." (Luke 21:1-4)

After Pentecost the new believers were incredibly generous with giving and helping. It does not appear they limited themselves to a tithe:

42They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)

Paul commends the extreme giving of Macedonian churches and urges the Corinthians to "excel in the grace of giving:"

1And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. 5And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will. 6So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7But just as you excel in everything-in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us-see that you also excel in this grace of giving. (2 Corinthians 8:1-7)

Paul's instruction to the Galatians and Corinthians is to give regularly in proportion to the income God has provided (without mentioning a specific figure):

1Now about the collection for God's people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. 2On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. (1 Cor 16:1-2)

I suggest to you that Christians are not given a command about a specific percentage offering (a legalistic standard) because we're called to give from the heart (evidence of God's grace).

Consider this part of Paul's letter to the Corinthians:
6Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9As it is written:
"He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever." 10Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
12This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. (2 Corinthians 9:6-13)

Another issue which is important to review: are we cursed if we do not tithe? Failure to keep the Mosaic law led to cursing, so if we don't tithe are we cursed by God? (Or at least not blessed as He describes in Deut 14:29 and Malachi 3:10-12?)

The answer is No. The work of Christ at the cross delivers Christians from the curse of the Mosaic Law, because the law has been fulfilled in Christ.

When people ask the question "Are Christians required to tithe?" my question is the attitude of the heart that provokes that question. I fear they are really asking "What's the minimum I can do and still be ok with God?" Legalism is deadly, but attractive because it's manageable within our own strength and tangible.

From the passages above I believe the New Testament give us a picture of extremely generous giving as the normal reflection of God's amazing love and power in our transformed hearts. Let's work to shift our attitude from "I have to tithe" to "I get to give generously and joyfully!"

In terms of directing our giving (e.g., how much should go to my local church?), there is no direct statement of command in the New Testament.

Let's think about some principles we can glean from the whole of Scripture:
  1. Everything we have is God's, not just X%. (See Psalm 24:1)
  2. We will be held accountable for how we steward what has been entrusted to us (Luke 16:12; 19:11-27)
  3. We should support church leaders and those who minister to us (see Galatians 6:6 and 1 Tim 5:17-19)
  4. We should help the poor, including widows and orphans (many passages)
  5. We should support missions outreach (many passages)

Let's also consider the structure of the Mosaic Law tithes, which included:
  • The tithe to support the Levites (see Lev 27:30,32; Num 18:24)
  • The festival tithe (see Deut 12:11-12)
  • The welfare tithe (see Deut 14:28-29) [This model provided for the whole community without any further government functions in an agrarian culture.]

The Old Testament tithe command is therefore not a comprehensive 10% (as most people think), but much more generous.

If we follow that pattern, then, giving to the local church for ministry support would be comparable to the tithe to support the Levites. Giving to support special events would be comparable to the festival tithe. And giving beyond that to support those in need would correspond with the welfare tithe.

Therefore many Christians have looked at 10% of income going to their local church as a good starting point, and then giving to special events/needs and to support the poor above and beyond that. I think this is a reasonable approach, but will not make it an expectation or mark of a "true" believer.

I cannot support the statement "Christians should give 10% of their income to their local church" specifically from Scripture. What I can support from Scripture is that Christians should give very generously to others, in accordance with the love of God in their hearts. Instead of a legal obligation to tithe we are offered the opportunity to give cheerfully and joyfully from the heart.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Proving You Don't Exist

I really liked this:

The story is told of an atheist philosophy professor who performed a parlor trick each term to convince his students that there is no God. "Anyone who believes in God is a fool, " he said. "If God existed, he could stop this piece of chalk from hitting the ground and breaking. Such a simple task to prove he is God, and yet he can't do it." The professor then dropped the chalk and watched it shatter dramatically on the classroom floor.

If you meet anyone who tries this silly trick, take the roof off. Apply the professor's logic in a test of your own existence. Tell the onlookers you will prove you don't exist.

Have someone take a piece of chalk and hold it above your outstreatched palm. Explain that if you really exist, you would be able to accomplish the simple task of catching the chalk. When he drops the chalk, let it fall to the ground and shatter. Then announce, "I guess this proves I do not exist. If you believe in me, you're a fool."

Clearly, this chalk trick tells you nothing about God. The only thing it is capable of showing is that if God does exist, he is not a circus animal who can be teased into jumping through hoops to appease the whim of foolish people.

- Greg Koukl, Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions, p.150, 151

HT: Take Your Vitamin Z

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Believing What You See

I've said a few times now that this current generation is the first which cannot be sure that we see is real -- our ability to create images (static or video) has simply become that good. Check out this 4 minute video on use of chromakey ("green screen") in video production. It might open your eyes!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Book Review: Linchpin

I'm a fan of Seth Godin's material so had preordered Linchpin and started it immediately. I've read through it twice and recommend the book.

He's arguing for people to become indispensable - like a linchpin that holds a wheel to an axle. Let go of an ordinary life and decide to become extraordinary. Cogs in a machine see a job; linchpins see a platform to engage the world in amazing ways. Linchpins overcome "fake" fears - being laughed at, making mistakes, not fitting in. Instead of looking for inspiration, we need to figure out what's holding us back. No one gets plumber's block, so why does writer's block exist?We need to do the difficult work of bringing our very best self to each interaction.

Our job is to make change - connecting with people in a way that leaves them better and more able to get where they want to go. (Since I'm a natural encourager and teacher, this resonates strongly with me.) In the kinds of changing environment we live in now, we want people who can steer, innovate, provoke, lead, connect and make things happen. Our key work becomes deciding to work this way.

This message continues a story arc from previous Seth Godin books. In Purple Cow, the message was "Everyone is a marketer now." In All Marketers are Liars, the message was "Everyone is a storyteller now." In Tribes the message was "Everyone's a Leader now."

And the message of Linchpin is "Everyone is an artist now." Artist, taken broadly.

There are lots of reviews and promotional materials out for Linchpin. (Godin didn't want to do a book tour so he did a media tour instead; he did guest blog posts, answered questions from bloggers, and did phone interviews in the weeks prior to the release. Very slick.) I've attached the ChangeThis pdf that he produced.

I recommend this book, in part, because it will get a wide audience (though I'd be curious to see the ratio of purchasers and actual readers). But I do have some reservations.

  • The book length could have been trimmed. This may be Godin's longest book. Given the complexity of some of the ideas (like strategies for overcoming what Godin calls Lizard Brain), I suspect he felt he needed to say more. It's not that he says bad things, but usually he writes more sparingly -- and then fosters a lot of follow-up via his blog. With this book it feels more like he wanted to put *everything* in it.

  • At times the writing lacks flow. It feels somewhat like a sequential series of blog posts and tweets. (That does make it easier to dip into and get some information quickly.)
  • Some readers are going to want a 'what-do-I-do-next?' plan and will likely feel frustrated at the end when it's not there. That desire misses Godin's key thesis altogether, but the book does feel abrupt in its ending.
This may be Godin's most personal book. He shares stories from his own experiences. The chapters on Resistance and giving reflect his journey into Buddhist study.
Godin does a good job describing the value of genuine gifts to create relationships and connections. He goes too far in describing a gift-based economy. I think Godin is unduly hard on business systems, and rules out the possibility that systems management is itself an art. His ideals of a gift-based economy work best in a highly educated, affluent culture -- which is a product of the very things he despises about capitalism and business efficiency models. "There is no free lunch" is still true. In economic terms, everything free is subsidized in some way by other transactions. (Godin cites the potlatch giving of the American Indians in the Pacific Northwest as an example. But those were relatively small populations, they lived in a mild climate with abundant food sources, and used slavery.) Godin is an elitist dreamer who operates in a worldview where there is no sin and everyone aspires to higher order fulfillment. Actually, what he describes is in part how I imagine the economy of heaven might operate. Even there, "free" is supported by the Great Giver.

The description of the "lizard brain" is helpful. I think many people will recognize how to move past their fears once they understand these things. Godin's prescriptions aren't going to work consistently, however. When I was a practicing Taoist I loved the ideals, but there was no power to help me achieve their beauty.

For me personally perhaps the best chapter was on shipping. The idea here is that we're obligated to actually deliver our art, not just think on it some more, doodle it a bit better, hide it, but actually ship it. There were some practical ideas here about setting a ship date and then getting it done.

Monday, February 01, 2010

This Wasn't For Me--Until I Started Using It

This is a cross-post from my other blog, which is aimed at Bible teachers. I know many readers of this blog are small group leaders and thought this would interest you as well. -- Glenn

You know I'm a big proponent of using questions in Bible studies and lessons. (I even wrote a book on it!) Jesus taught with questions, story, and dialogue and so should you.

I generally don't have problems coming up with questions to use in Bible lessons. But many people write me and ask for help with this.

Someone in my family gave me the Serendipity Bible for Personal and Small Group Study for Christmas.

My first polite thought was "Well, that's nice, but I don't need that." A few days later I picked it up and started leafing through it. I was impressed at how well organized this is for small group leaders -- and for any type of small group leaders. The questions are actually very good.

Here's some description about the Bible:

"It provides Bible study leaders with ready-made, life-changing discussion questions on any passage of Scripture. In-text study questions help groups open discussion, dig deeper into the meaning of a passage, and reflect on life application. The 200 studies and 60 course plans address the needs of ten different groups, including men, women, singles, youth, and more. With the ready-made studies in the Serendipity Bible, the only thing a group leader has to prepare in the coffee!

Features include: • Thousands of penetrating study questions • 60 felt-need course plans for ten different kinds of groups • 16 topical study courses offer basic and deeper question tracks for study • 200 Bible story questionnaires offer another study alternative • Separate studies for each book of the Bible • Lectionary-based Bible studies for churches that follow the church year calendar • 200 general group studies address the needs of ten different groups, including men, women, singles, youth, recovery, and more • "Open-Dig-Reflect" questions help you discover each other’s hearts and apply God’s Word to your life • 32 two-color introduction pages help you use this Bible more effectively."

I heartily recommend this as a resource for Bible teachers and small group leaders.

I'm using it as a resource for my devotion and lesson prep the way I use commentaries. I spend a lot of time in the Bible text itself, chewing it over and over, and praying for insights. Then I will look up that same passage in this Serendipity Bible and check out the questions they have lined up for that passage. I'm usually picking up at least one really good idea with this approach.

I haven't yet tried any of their recommended courses (which take you topically through multiple passages of Scripture), but they look promising.

Teachers and small group leaders, add this to your resource library.

Israel, Palestine, and the Middle East

One of the most vexing problems in international relations today is the issue of Israel and its neighbors. John Piper presents an outstanding biblical look at Israel, Palestine, and the Middle East which I recommend to you.

I think he lays out the biblical evidence for divine covenant blessings of Israel's, the facts of Israel's disobedience, the role of Gentiles, and a strong admonition about how Christians should and should not proceed.

Here is his conclusion:

"You recall that all-important word that Jesus spoke to Pilate in John 18:36: “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Christians do not take up the sword to advance the kingdom of Christ. We wait for a king from heaven who will deliver us by his mighty power. And in that great day Jew and Gentile who have treasured Christ will receive what was promised. There will be a great reversal: the last will be first, and the meek—in fellowship with the Lamb of God—will inherit the Land.

"Therefore, come to the meek and lowly Christ while there is time, and receive forgiveness of sins, and the hope of glory."