Thursday, November 09, 2017

Just Odd

This post is written by my fine friend and former coworker, Dr. Bill Bagents. Bill serves as the Vice President of Academics at Heritage Christian University in Florence, Alabama, and as a minister and elder with the Mars Hill church of Christ there. He writes thoughtfully, with humor and humility. – Cory

Why is it “fiery” and not firey? After all, the root word is fire.

Why do we love redundancy so much? Déjà vu all over again. Revert back. Read the following text below. Past history. And don’t get me started on future plans. Planning the past seldom works.

Why do we love phrases that are just plain dumb? Football announcers frequently say “young freshman” as if that were outside the norm. The only time it’s worth mentioning is when the freshman isn’t young. Same deal when they speak of some professional sports star as a “gifted athlete.” Non-gifted athletes don’t get to be professional sports stars.

Why do some speakers spend precious seconds telling us how little time they have been allotted to speak and how much more they could share if they had more time? Just get on with it.

Any logo or tagline that needs an explanation didn’t work. Same with any joke or illustration.

Did you hear about the family who bought a dog at Pet Smart, but it wasn’t?

Why is it always way too late when they finally say to us, “To make a long story short”?

Maybe you saw the article about the anti-abortion congressman who resigned after getting caught demanding that his mistress have an abortion. You can’t make this stuff up; and if you did, no one would believe you.

When people say to me, “You’re looking good,” I feel that I’ve encountered a multiple-choice test. Is it …

a. Exceedingly gracious, so that “Thank you” is the proper response?

b. Hyperbole mixed with satire?

c. A sign of cognitive decline?

d. Severely failing eyesight?

e. An excellent example of ellipsis? What they really mean is either “You’re looking good for a person of your advanced years,” or “You’re looking good in that I thought you died a few years ago.”

I like living on a dead-end street; I either start or end every day by repenting.

I like living adjacent to a cemetery; very quiet neighbors, at least so far.

The older I get, the more I’m okay with people asking me for advice and then rejecting it. I don’t take it personally, and it leaves me feeling no responsibility for the outcome of their decision.

All this and more is filed under Romans 12:3: “For I say…to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think…” James 1:19 and 3:2 also fit. None of us is immune.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Sticking to It – The Philosophy of Euclipides

Here's another post you may enjoy. 
"The Best Bible Class Experience You Have Ever Had."

I'll start with a silly old tale of unknown origin. A Greek man brings his torn pants to his tailor. The tailor looks at the pants and asks the man, “Euripides?” The man responds, “Yes. Eumenides?” Well, in that same spirit, I would like to introduce the fictitious ancient Greek philosopher, Euclipides. If you asked him what to do with all your loose ends and scattered papers, he would say, of course, “You-clip-a-dese!” What would be his cheap, simple, yet immensely effective tool? The paper clip.

The following article was written by James Clear. It describes a very practical, visual way to follow through every day on whatever spiritual goals and habits you have in mind, using paper clips. This strategy will work with prayer, Bible reading, sharing Christ with others, writing notes of appreciation, visits, phone calls, you name it.

How to Stick With Good Habits Every Day by Using the “Paper Clip Strategy”

In 1993, a bank in Abbotsford, Canada hired a 23-year-old stock broker named Trent Dyrsmid. Dyrsmid, was a rookie so nobody at the firm expected too much of his performance. Moreover, Abbotsford was still a relatively small suburb back then, tucked away in the shadow of nearby Vancouver where most of the big business deals were being made. The first popular email services like AOL and Hotmail wouldn’t arrive for another two or three years. Geography still played a large role in business success, and Abbotsford wasn't exactly the home of blockbuster deals.

And yet, despite his disadvantages, Dyrsmid made immediate progress as a stock broker, thanks to a simple and relentless habit that he used each day.

On his desk he placed two jars. One was filled with 120 paper clips. The other was empty. This is when the habit started.

“Every morning I would start with 120 paper clips in one jar and I would keep dialing the phone until I had moved them all to the second jar.” — Trent Dyrsmid

And that was it. 120 calls per day. One paper clip at a time.

Within 18 months, Dyrsmid’s book of business grew to $5 million in assets. By age 24, he was making $75,000. Within a few years, outside firms began recruiting him because of his success and he landed a $200,000 job with another company.

I was introduced to Trent Dyrsmid through my friend Nathan Barry. The quotes in this article come from an email exchange I had with Dyrsmid on April 1st, 2015, and April 2nd, 2015.

Habits That Stick vs. Habits That Fail

When I asked Dyrsmid about the details of his habit, he simply said, “I would start calling at 8 a.m. every day. I never looked at stock quotes or analyst research. I also never read the newspaper for the entire time. If the news was really important, it would find me from other ways.”

Trent Dyrsmid’s story is evidence of a simple truth: Success is often a result of committing to the fundamentals over and over again.

Compare Trent’s results to where you and I often find ourselves. We want to be consistent with our workouts, but struggle to make it into the gym. We know we should write more thank-you notes or eat healthier meals or read more books, but we can’t seem to find the motivation to get it done. We’d like to achieve our goals, but we still procrastinate on them.

What makes the difference? Why do some habits stick while others fail? Why did Trent’s paper clip habit work so well, and what can we learn from it?

The Power of a Visual Cue

I believe the “Paper Clip Strategy” works particularly well because it creates a visual trigger that can help motivate you to perform a habit with more consistency.

Here are a few reasons visual cues work well for building new habits…

Visual cues remind you to start a behavior. We often lie to ourselves about our ability to remember to perform a new habit. (“I’m going to start eating healthier. For real this time.”) A few days later, however, the motivation fades and the busyness of life begins to take over again. Hoping you will simply remember to do a new habit is usually a recipe for failure. This is why a visual stimulus, like a bin full of paper clips, can be so useful. It is much easier to stick with good habits when your environment nudges you in the right direction.

Visual cues display your progress on a behavior. Everyone knows consistency is an essential component of success, but few people actually measure how consistent they are in real life. The Paper Clip Strategy avoids that pitfall because it is a built-in measuring system. One look at your paper clips and you immediately have a measure of your progress.

Visual cues can have an additive effect on motivation. As the visual evidence of your progress mounts, it is natural to become more motivated to continue the habit. The more paperclips you place in the bin, the more motivated you will become to finish the task. There are a variety of popular behavioral economics studies that refer to this as the Endowed Progress Effect, which essentially says we place more value on things once we have them. In other words, the more paper clips you move to the “Completed” bin, the more valuable completing the habit becomes to you.

Visual cues can be used to drive short-term and long-term motivation. The Paper Clip Strategy can provide daily motivation, but you start from scratch each day. However, another type of visual cue, like the “Don’t Break the Chain” Calendar that I described in my article on the Seinfeld Strategy can be used to showcase your consistency over longer periods of time. By stacking these two methods together, you can create a set of visual cues that motivate and measure your habits over the short-run and the long-run.

Creating Your Own Paper Clip Strategy

There are all sorts of ways to use the paper clip habit for your own goals.

  • Hoping to do 100 pushups each day? Start with 10 paper clips and move one over each time you drop down and do a set of 10 throughout the day.

  • Need to send 25 sales emails every day? Start with 25 paper clips and toss one to the other side each time you press Send.

  • Want to drink 8 glasses of water each day? Start with 8 paper clips and slide one over each time you finish a glass.

  • Not sure if you’re taking your medication three times per day? Set 3 paper clips out and flip one into the bin each time you swallow your pills.

Best of all, the entire strategy will cost you less than $10.

1.    Grab a box of standard paper clips (here is a cheap set).

2.    Get two standard paper clip holders (here you go).

3.    Pick your habit and start moving those bad boys from one side to the other.

Trent Dyrsmid decided that success in his field came down to one core task: making more sales calls. He discovered that mastering the fundamentals is what makes the difference.

The same is true for your goals. There is no secret sauce. There is no magic bullet. Good habits are the magic bullet.

From Cory: You and I can learn from “Euclipides” to use this practical, visual way to follow through every day on our spiritual goals and desired godly habits. This paper clip strategy will work with prayer, Bible reading, sharing Christ with others, writing notes of appreciation, visits, phone calls, you name it.

Give it a try! You’ll be clipping along before you know it!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Share the Gospel – With a Little Wrist Action!

Acts 8:4 Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.

There are countless ways to make the Lord part of your daily life and influence. Which way is best? The one that you will use, that works for you, that fits you. It may be a spoken word, a post on social media, an email, or a note. It may be a simple question about life, happiness, values, or destiny. Where there is a will there is a way. Once you and I determine to share our faith in Jesus Christ, the possibilities are endless.

One simple tool is a wristband you can wear at work, at school, at play, at the store, and wherever else you may be.

Recently my coworker arranged for all of us to have a wristband like the one you see in the photo. It graphically portrays the gospel, showing that Jesus came down from heaven, died on the cross, was buried in the tomb, rose again and ascended to heaven, and will return. Simple. Eye-catching. Intriguing. Silent.

The other night my wife and I stopped at a sandwich shop. We ordered a turkey sub on wheat, with lettuce, tomatoes, sauce, and … Sorry, I digress. It’s not what we got on our sandwich that I want to discuss, but what I had on my wrist.

We always try to smile when we eat out, to be friendly, and to engage those we meet in simple chit-chat. However, in this situation we did not make any direct comment about the gospel. We did not need to.

The sandwich craftsman was a young boy, a teenager. As I paid the bill and added the tip, he saw my wristband and asked, “What’s that on your wrist?”

He started the conversation! It was he who asked me!

I gladly explained the symbols and their significance. He was very interested. He said, “I need to get back to church. I haven’t been since last summer.” I pulled out a card and gave it to him. We both invited him to come and study with us.

But there’s more to this story. As I showed him the wristband and explained its symbols, the young lady working with him came over to hear. She called out to her mother, who was also making sandwiches with the two young people. She asked me to explain the wristband to her as well. The mother and daughter then told us that they are part of a Spanish-speaking church.

A conversation started, about the gospel and about the Lord, all because of a wristband.

My wife and I really enjoyed eating that sandwich. We will be going back for more. We’ll get the turkey on wheat again, and we’ll offer the bread of life – with a little wrist action.

Would you like to read more? Here's another post on evangelism.

Friday, September 01, 2017

The Best Bible Class Experience You Have Ever Had

What are the keys to exciting, faith-building, life-changing Bible classes? What causes people to anticipate each session? Is it the teacher? The subject? The setting? The others in the group?

One answer that should be obvious is right there in your own hands and mine. It is what you and I bring to the class each week that determines to a large extent what you and I get out of it. That is why the teacher may seem to know the text so well and present it with such confidence and excitement. The teacher has thoughtfully, carefully, and prayerfully prepared. The teacher cannot wait for class to start, in order to share “nuggets” mined from God’s life-changing Word. You and I can do the same!

You can effectively prepare for Bible class each week in advance by using a very simple yet powerful method. It is an inductive approach, in which you draw points, ideas, and applications from the text itself, rather than first simply receiving what others have put together.

We are about to begin studying the Gospel of Luke where we are, so let's use Luke as an example in this post.

First, get a spiral notebook, folder, or three-ring binder.

As you read each section of Luke before class each week, write down as many of the following items as you find helpful. This does not have to be perfect or complete. This is not for anyone else but you. It is not an assignment exactly, but more of an invitation. Please accept it!

Write at the top of the page the Bible reference (For example, Luke 1:1-4).

Ask and write - 
·     Who is speaking?  To whom?  About whom?
·     What is the subject?  The event?  The instruction?
·     When do or will events occur?
·     Where did or will this happen?
·     Why is some element mentioned?  Why now?  Why to this person?
·     How is it to be done?  How will it happen?  How is it illustrated?

Notice and write -
Key words and phrases - 
Connecting words (like "therefore") -
Words that are repeated -
Words that suggest themes for the book as a whole - 
Persons -
Places -
Questions that the text answers -
Questions that you want to ask about the text -
Questions you would ask (for your class to answer) if you were teaching the text -
Points you would make if you were teaching the text -
Bible characters, texts, and accounts that illustrate the teachings in the text -
What this text is telling you to do as a result (application) -
A title for the text -
How the text follows what precedes it -
How the text leads to what follows it -

Bring your spiral notebook, folder, or three-ring binder to class.
Use what you wrote to contribute to the class.
Add more notes as you hear what others contribute.

To start, try using the inductive approach with the beginning of Luke.

Lk 1:1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, 3 it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; 4 so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.

Think about it! Write it down! Bring it with you! Share with the class (if you wish) what you found most helpful!

If you want to take a bigger piece of Scripture, continue as far as you can through Luke 1, then work on 2. As a result, this Sunday's class experience may just be the best you have ever had.

You may also use this method in your family devotional times. We have done so. Read a paragraph of Scripture out loud. Then each family member may respond to any or several of the inductive ideas listed above. You may be surprised by the energy, interest, and growth that you witness.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

To My Child: Things I Can and Cannot Do

To My Child: Things I Can and Cannot Do

I can share your life, but I cannot live it for you.
I can teach you things, but I cannot make you learn.
I can give you directions, but I cannot always lead you.
I can allow you freedom, but I cannot account for it.
I can take you to church, but I cannot make you believe.
I can teach you right from wrong, but I cannot decide for you.
I can give you love, but I cannot force it upon you.
I can teach you to share, but I cannot make you unselfish.
I can teach you respect, but I cannot force you to show honor.
I can tell you the facts of life, but I cannot build your reputation.
I can tell you about lofty goals, but I cannot achieve them for you.
I can teach you to obey, but I cannot answer for your actions.
I can warn you about sin, but I cannot make your morals.
I can love you as my child, but I cannot place you in God’s family.
I can pray for you, but I cannot make you walk with God.
I can teach you about Jesus, but I cannot make Him your Savior.
I can teach you about prayer, but I cannot make you pray.
I can tell you how to live, but I cannot give you eternal life.

Author Unknown

Monday, June 26, 2017

Simple Sermon Starters

Please check this post also in the future, as it will grow to include additional outlines.

Each year we host a four-day "TITUS" summer camp in Keller, Texas, to train boys to preach lessons from God's Word. These young men are going into 6th, 7th, 8th, or 9th grade in the Fall. I teach five lessons in homiletics (sermon preparation and presentation) to all the campers. I want to give them a choice of basic outlines that they can use to help them get started.

For this purpose I have put together the following basic sermon outlines. Please use these in any way you find helpful, and please comment below to give me additional outlines that I may consider including in this list. Thanks!

Also comment if you want more information about how your boys might be part of our next TITUS Camp. 

Noah: a Titanic Success
Heb 11:7 By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.
Noah Heeded God’s Warning.
Noah Obeyed God’s Command (Prepared the Ark).
Noah Saved His Family.
Noah Received God’s Righteousness.
Abraham: Responding to God
When God calls, answer! Gen 12:1-4
When God sends, go! Gen 12:1-4
When God promises, believe! Gen 15:6
When God commands, surrender! Gen 22
Abraham: Answering God’s Call
Heb 11:8 By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; 10 for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
Listening   God called Abraham.
Leaving     Abraham obeyed.
Living        As an alien in a foreign land.
Looking     Anticipated.
Abraham: Passing God’s Test
Heb 11:17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; 18 it was he to whom it was said, “In Isaac your descendants shall be called.” 19 He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type.
Abraham Waited for Isaac as God Promised.
Abraham Offered Up Isaac as God Commanded.
Abraham Received Isaac Back as God Provided.
Joseph: A Hero Like Christ
Ac 7:9 “The patriarchs became jealous of Joseph and sold him into Egypt. Yet God was with him, 10 and rescued him from all his afflictions, and granted him favor and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he made him governor over Egypt and all his household. 11 “Now a famine came over all Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction with it, and our fathers could find no food. 12 “But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our fathers there the first time. 13 “On the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph’s family was disclosed to Pharaoh. 14 “Then Joseph sent word and invited Jacob his father and all his relatives to come to him, seventy-five persons in all.
Joseph, Like Christ, Rejected by His Brothers
Joseph, Like Christ, Exalted to the Throne
Joseph, Like Christ, Eager to Save His Brothers
Joseph, Like Christ, Prepared to Receive His Brothers
David: the Giant Killer
1 Sam 17
His Courage
His Character
His Conviction
His Conquest
Three Great Truths: Ecclesiastes 12:13
Fear God
Keep His Commands
This is the Whole Duty of Man.
Ezra: a Man of God
Ezr 7:10 For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.
Ezra Studied God’s Law
Ezra Practiced God’s Law
Ezra Taught God’s Law
The Nature of Sin
1 Jn 2:15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
Ge 3:6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.
The lust of the flesh
The lust of the eyes
The pride of life
The Sin Process (1)
Jos 7:20 So Achan answered Joshua and said, “Truly, I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel, and this is what I did: 21 when I saw among the spoil a beautiful mantle from Shinar and two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold fifty shekels in weight, then I coveted them and took them; and behold, they are concealed in the earth inside my tent with the silver underneath it.” 22 So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent; and behold, it was concealed in his tent with the silver underneath it.
I Saw.
I Coveted.
I Took.
I Hid.
The Sin Process (2)
Jas 1:14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.
Desire – “Lust has conceived.”
Action – “It gives birth to sin.”
Destruction – “It brings forth death.”
The Wide and Narrow Gates
Mt 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
The Wide Gate – Many enter it. It leads to death.
The Narrow Gate – Few find it. It leads to life.
The Wise and Foolish Builders
Mt 7:24-27
The Wise Builder – Hears and practices the teachings of Jesus. Survives the storms.
The Foolish Builder – Hears but does not practice those teachings. House falls.
The Parable of the Sower
Matt 13:1-9, 18-23
Some Seed Fell Along the Path.
Some Seed Fell on Shallow, Rocky Soil.
Some Seed Fell Among Thorns and Weeds.
Some Seed Fell on Fertile Soil.
The Pearl of Great Value
Mt 13:45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, 46 and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
A Merchant Shopped for Pearls.
He Found One Pearl of Great Value.
He Sold All He Had and Bought It.
The Kingdom of Heaven is Like That Pearl.
The Parable of the Net
Mt 13:47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind; 48 and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away. 49 “So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, 50 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The Net – The Gospel Going into the World
The Catch – Fish of Every Kind
The Separation – Judgment of the Wicked
The Prodigal Son – Who Are You Like?
Luke 15:11-32
The Younger Son – lost in sin, ready to repent and return to God.
The Older Brother – proud of yourself, resentful of sinners who want to follow God.
The Father – kind, forgiving, compassionate, eager to welcome lost sinners home.
Jesus the Light of the World (The Man Born Blind)
John 9
I was Blind.
I was Washed.
Now I See!
Jesus is the Answer
John 14:1-6
The Way – Without him there is no Going.
The Truth – Without him there is no Knowing.
The Life – Without him there is no Growing.
Because He Lives
Matt 28:1-8
Come and See.
Go and Tell.
Acts 2: The First Gospel Sermon
The Crowd (Pentecost)
The Christ (Peter’s Message)
The Conviction (Pierced to the Heart)
The Conversion (Repentance and Baptism)
The Church (Add Together)
The Conversion of Saul / Paul
Acts 9
Who He Was – Persecutor of Christians.
Who He Met – Jesus Christ in Glory.
Who He Became – Proclaimer of the Gospel.
Three Reasons for Joy
Rom 5:1-11
Past – We rejoice in Christ’s sacrifice, because he reconciled us to God.
Future – We rejoice in hope of the glory of God, because we are going to heaven.
Present – We rejoice in our troubles, because we grow through them.
We Do Not Lose Heart!
2 Cor 4
Because We Have a God-Centered Purpose (2 Cor 4:1-6)
Because We Have a God-Centered Treasure (2 Cor 4:7-12)
Because We Have a God-Centered Faith (2 Cor 4:13-18)
From my friend and colleague Dr. George Carman:
Timothy:  Never Too Soon!
Phil 2:19-20 – Timothy became such a great servant of God that Paul proclaimed there was no one like him. How did that happen?
It is never too early to begin our journey of faith, Prov 22:6.
Timothy had a mother and grand-mother that taught him from infancy, 2 Tim 1:3-5.
Timothy had a good reputation from his youth, Acts 16:1-2.
Timothy joined Paul as a traveling evangelist and became an example to all who knew him, 2 Tim 3:14-15.
Things Successful Christians Do
They say something to God every day (Pray), 1 Thes 5:17; Psm 107:2.
They let God say something to them every day, (Read and study the Bible) 2 Tim 2:15.
They do something for God every day, James 1:22; Gal 6:9-10.
Doing so will help them to “grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord,” 2 Pet 3:15.
Measuring Our Soul  2 Cor 13:5-6
From time-to-time we need to take a close look at our Christian life.  We need to learn how to measure our soul:
By our love for God and Jesus, John 14:21, 23.
By our love for each other, 1 Jn 4:20-21.
By our influence (What do others see in us?), Mt 4:13-16.
By our fruit, Gal 6:7-8; John 15:8
The Divine Visitor
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him and he with me”, Rev 3:20.
Jesus knocks as a physician to heal our sin-sick souls, Mt 9:12.
Jesus knocks as a teacher, Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, Col 2:3.
Jesus knocks as a bridegroom seeking a bride (the church), “Come, I will show you the Bride (the church), the wife of the Lamb (Jesus)”, Rev 21:15
When Jesus knocks on the door of our heart, we need to open the door that He might come in.
Three Great Words
Come: Mt 11:28
Become: John 1:11-12
Overcome: 1 John 5:4-5
We cannot overcome unless we become and we cannot become unless we come. Come to Jesus, He will save you.
From my friend and colleague Joe Slater:
Paul's Three "I Am's" Romans 1:14-16
I am a debtor (v. 14)
I am ready (v. 15)
I am not ashamed (v. 16)

Remember - give me additional outlines and ideas for these boys by posting a comment below! Thanks!