go see the Cyrus Cylinder

 

The-Cyrus-CylinderAttention all who live in the Houston, Texas area: there is now only one week left for you to view the Cyrus Cylinder as it makes its appearance during the American Tour at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The Cyrus Cylinder’s home is the British Museum so this opportunity to see it with your own eyes here in Houston is no small thing. The exhibit will run at MFH/Houston through next Fri., June 14.

“Why on earth would a 9″ long, barrel-shaped, baked clay cylinder, inscribed during the 6th century BC, in Akkadian cuneiform be of any interest to me?,” you ask. For the answer, watch this very well done 19 minute TED Talk video. If it would help whet your appetite for a viewing, let me just say if you have any real interest at all in subjects such as Bible prophecy, human rights, Thomas Jefferson, American history, the Iran-Iraq War, foreign relations today, multi-cultural tolerance, or a host of any other matters, rest assured you’ll find this archaeological discovery made in 1879 nothing less than fascinating. Again: watch the video.

Museum hours for MFA/Houston are: Tuesday–Wednesday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; Thursday, 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.; Friday–Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Free parking is available in the street-level lot directly across from the Law Building at 1001 Bissonnet Street. To maximize your experience, you might want to opt for the audio tour (available for $3 at the admissions desk).

You can read a translation of the Cyrus Cylinder’s text online.

The Bible speaks of real people in real places at real times. The Cyrus Cylinder is a great example of an archaeological artifact that corroborates that claim. Some of the passages in the Bible most pertinent to a full appreciation of the Cyrus Cylinder are Daniel 5, Isaiah 44:24-45:8, 2 Chronicles 36:22-23, and Ezra 1; 3:1-7; 4:1-5; 5.6-17.

the Christ house: Mark 12

 

The-Christ-HouseDuring the first sixteen days of this month MoSt Church is reading the sixteen chapters of Mark’s Gospel as a part of The Christ House project (TCH). Here’s a link to today’s reading: Mark 12.

The Christ verse for the month is Mark 9.41: “I assure you that whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will certainly be rewarded.”

civility is the respect of the Christ we wear

 

Civility.

What a word. Not extinct, but certainly endangered in our time.

How is it this word has virtually vanished from so much of what claims to be Christian representation or conversation?

Humor me and reflect on it with me for just a moment, won’t you?

If Christians are the embodiment of God’s love, then surely the clothes that body wears must be civility.

Or to use the metaphor of Scripture itself, Christians are God’s people clothed with Christ. If this is so, then surely civility is the respectfulness and the modesty of Christ, our apparel.

If there is nothing greater in the world than God’s love, then civility is one way his people express his love, magnificently so in terms of simplicity and wondrously so in terms of effect.

Further, since the way we love all others gives evidence of our relationship to Christ, ought we not as Christians then excel in civility, like no one else to compare?

And if we as Christian will do so for no one else, should we not seek to excel in it for the sake of those yet to believe?

For if those who are yet to believe do not first encounter civility in our ways with them, how then will they come to see anything further of God’s great love for them through us? Will they not rather, be blinded, if not repelled, before they can even grasp his goodness?

Yes, civility must then be the vanguard of our expression of Christ’s love. It is what makes the ever important “first impression” with all with whom we have dealings. It is what provides conveyance of the aroma of Christ in us. It is then, our first love language, forming our words that are most truly heard and remembered.

May all who wear the name of Christ consider their ways carefully in terms of civility without ceasing and may his words, and those of his Spirit, speak afresh to us with penetrating power:

“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” (Matt. 22.37-40)

“Love is patient, love is kind … it doesn’t brag, it isn’t arrogant, it isn’t rude, it doesn’t seek its own advantage, it isn’t irritable …” (1 Cor. 13.4-5)

“… with humility think of others as better than yourselves.” (Phil. 2.3)

this went thru my mind

 

Belonging, connection, self-worth & vulnerability: The Power of Vulnerability [20 min. TED Talk by Brené Brown]

“… the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees.”

Church dropouts, evangelism, outreach & restoration: An Open Letter to the Church: How to Love the Cynics [required reading]

“We left for a hundred different reasons, none less real or important than the other.”

Film: The Bible Series from Mark Burnett and Roma Downey- A Sneak Peak

“… brand new epic Bible Series … starts this Sunday evening on the History Channel (channel 269 on Directv).”

Homeless & homelessness: 10 Ideas For Helping Homeless People

“There is no template, one-size-fits-all plan that works for what we think of as ‘giving a cup of cold water’ to our friends on the street.”

Nationalism: Is the Pledge Good for Our Kids?

“Please stop and consider how we evangelicals have been conditioned not to see any conflict with nationalism and Christian discipleship. Will we allow another generation of our children to be taught that America is the hope of the world, or will we tell them the truth about a King whose Kingdom is not of this world, but is for this world?”

Quotes: Knowing Christ with Dallas Willard and John Ortberg

“In our world, relationships are based on attack and withdrawal. In the love of God, we don’t attack people. We don’t withdraw from them. We accept them.”

Sequester & tax cuts: * Today’s 3 ‘Should-Read’ Stories About The Sequester; * Impact of March 1st Cuts on Middle Class Families, Jobs and Economic Security: Texas [wow!]

“… get ready for “the sequester” — the $85 billion worth of across-the-board cuts in federal spending that would begin to kick in that day if lawmakers don’t strike some sort of deal before then.”

“If sequestration were to take effect, some examples of the impacts on Texas this year alone are …”

this went thru my mind

 

Aging, hearing & dementia: Straining to Heard and Fend Off Dementia

“Dr. Frank Lin, an otolaryngologist and epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, describes this phenomenon as ‘cognitive load.’ Cognitive overload is the way it feels. Essentially, the brain is so preoccupied with translating the sounds into words that it seems to have no processing power left to search through the storerooms of memory for a response. … Compared to individuals with normal hearing, those individuals with a mild, moderate, and severe hearing loss, respectively, had a 2-, 3- and 5-fold increased risk of developing dementia over the course of the study.”

Anxiety & stress: Anxiety, You’re Not the Boss of Me

“I will conquer because I will not allow anxiety and panic to kill another day of my life. It’s my life, and anxiety can’t have it anymore.”

Ash Wednesday & Lent: * Ash Wednesday: Beginning of the Lenten Journey; * Ash Wednesday: When Darkness Reigns by Jonathan Storment; * Homily for Ash Wednesday by Tim Gombis

* “Lent has also been understood as a time of preparation for the renewal of our baptismal covenant. In the early church, candidates for baptism spent as long as three years preparing to be baptized. The last 40 days were known as the “scrutinies,” when candidates examined themselves and church leaders determined whether they were ready to be baptized. Later, Lent became that time when all Christians were invited to consider their need for spiritual renewal. This was common practice by the time of the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D.”

* “… Ash Wednesday was going on long before Protestants and Catholics ever split. It’s an annual reminder that Christians have observed every year, for thousands of years It’s when we remember that from dust we came and to dust we will return.  It is profoundly ancient and biblical.”

* “A homily given on Ash Wednesday at Midtown Christian Community, Feb. 17, 2010.”

Children, parenting, relationships & technology: Raising Personable Children, Even If They’re Glued To Phones

“The biggest limitations that we talk about all the time is just making sure that our kids still interact with each other, and [are] articulate in conversation with adults … And with our oldest son interviewing for jobs and things like that, we wanted to make sure that they had good eye contact.”

Church dropouts & youth: Top 10 Reasons our Kids Leave Church [required reading]

“We all know them, the kids who were raised in church. They were stars of the youth group. They maybe even sang in the praise band or led worship. And then… they graduate from High School and they leave church. What happened? … The statistics are jaw-droppingly horrific: 70% of youth stop attending church when they graduate from High School. Nearly a decade later, about half return to church.”

Depression, Millenials & stress: * Who’s Feeling Stressed? Young Adults, New Survey Shows; * 7 Habits of Highly Miserable Twenty-Somethings

“Millennials [ages 18-33] are … more likely to be told they have depression or an anxiety disorder.”

“… here’s what I believe are the seven habits of highly miserable twenty-somethings, and then how we cure each one.”

E-mail & iPhone: Is ‘Mailbox’ for iOS Worth the Wait?

“Whether you’re a seasoned GTD ninja or daily drown in a deluge of email I think you will find Mailbox a breath of fresh air.”

Faith & science: The MIT Survey on Science, Religion and Origins: the Belief Gap [very interesting]

“We present a detailed survey of how different US faith communities view origins science, particularly evolution and Big Bang cosmology. We find a striking gap between people’s personal beliefs and the official views of the faiths to which they belong. … the main divide in the origins debate is not between science and religion, but between a small fundamentalist minority and mainstream religious communities who embrace science.”

Focus & solutions: The Silver Bullet by Tim Archer

“We need to decide to know nothing but Christ and him crucified.”

Minimum wage & poverty: The Impact of a $9 Minimum Wage

“The federal minimum wage has lost 30% of its purchasing power in recent decades, according to the law project. If the minimum wage had kept pace with the cost of living since 1968, it would now equal $10.56. The White House says that raising the wage to $9 restores its inflation-adjusted value to where it was in 1981.”

Sexualization: Sexualization and Christianity: How Should We Respond? by Jennifer W. Shewmaker [required reading]

“Sexualization is treating other people and/or oneself as an object of desire, with value primarily coming from sex appeal and physical attractiveness … Churches should be fighting against these messages of sexualization and objectification with all that we have. … And yet, if you take a hard look at some of the messages that are being sent to girls and women through church curriculum, Christian books on girl and womanhood, and mega-church sermons, I’m afraid that you will find many of the same messages. … What can Christians and church bodies do to stand against sexualization? How do we send a countercultural message? Here are some practical ideas …”

Silence: What Your Silence Tells Others

“For extroverts, finding silence during a week is very important even though silence is not their natural leaning. For introverts, finding silence is easy since they prefer less stimulation on any given day. For both groups, silence speaks volumes.”

imagine you, on food stamps (7)

 

At MoSt Church we assist, on average, 90-100 families each week for about 49-50 weeks of the year. And we’ve done this for many years. No brag, just fact.

Once a year, around the first or second week of December, we put on what we call The Big One food distribution. On that day, we assist, on average, 400 families with food in one day (actually, within two hours). This year, we were privileged to assist 436 families in The Big One distribution on Dec. 13.

Now folks from our community (Baytown, TX) can receive assistance from our pantry once every thirty days. And this thirty day period corresponds well with my plan to eat for a month on the equivalent of a diet sustained by food stamps. So I said to myself, “Self, food stamps are meant to supplement a family’s pantry, not be the sole source of it, so why don’t you receive from the pantry what folks would receive through it and then supplement that with what you can purchase with the equivalent of SNAP benefits (aka: food stamps), that is about $4.00 per day?

It sounded like a good idea so I took myself up on the suggestion and swiped a random sack from those put together for this year’s Big One food distribution. Now to be fair, let it be understood that folks who came to The Big One this year typically received three sacks: (1) a sack of produce (mainly onions and a watermelon), (2) a sack of meat (some frozen chicken), and (3) a sack of assorted food (primarily canned goods). The sack I swiped was a sack of assorted food (3).

Now I know you’re curious as to what was in my sack so here’s a picture (below) of the sack’s contents. And you should know that starting on Tues., Jan. 1, I plan to live the month of January on what you see below and whatever food I can purchase for $4.00 per day – just like a number of folks do who come to our pantry in Baytown, TX.

Pantry-sack-Dec-2012

No, I haven’t ate Spam in decades and I haven’t ate Vienna sausage in years. I rarely eat beef anymore, so making acquaintance with chili again will be something new and sweet peas aren’t high at all on my list of favorite things. I’ve ate very little pasta the past couple of years, so mac and cheese and Ramen noodles will be a fresh experience, but I love blackeye peas, baked beans, soup, corn, peaches, tuna, cranberry sauce, and cornbread (though preparing the cornbread will require me to purchase milk and eggs) so, all in all, I’m quite pleased with what I discovered in my sack from our pantry. A quick check proved that none of the items were out-of-date and as a bonus, some of the items were low sodium or no salt (a good thing for I have only only very rarely added salt to food the past 20+ years).

Rest assured, I’m not at all surprised by what I found, for the folks who work our pantry do a superb job with what they have to work with week in and week out. Glory be to God for the generosity and labor of love that exists for those in need.

this went thru my mind

 

Creation, God & science: God Did It by Carolyn Arends

“It wasn’t science that changed my position on creation, but biblical scholarship that convinced me that Genesis does not prescribe any particular scientific view.”

Facebook: Why Must It Be Facebook Pages vs Groups? [part 1]

“Facebook Pages are visible to the WWW. … Facebook Groups on the other hand, are not visible to the WWW.”

Giving: An Armchair Advocate’s Guide to: 24 Hours of Giving [infographic]

“Everyday we are surrounded by opportunities to give. Despite our packed schedules and shorter attention spans, there is no act too big or too small. … we present our latest infographic: An Armchair Advocate’s Guide to 24 Hours of Giving. We hope you find it a helpful reminder to use your time, treasures and technology for social good each day.”

Mercy ministry & the poor: Finding a Better Way for Mercy Ministry by Jamie Dunlop

“… how should your local church support mercy ministries? Sometimes we think the answer falls into only one of two categories—the options in the story above. In the first category, which I’ll call ‘programmed ministry,’ churches build a mercy ministry into their institutional life. They will fine-tune their budgets, staff, and vision statements to make sure that the ministry is integral to who they are as a church. In the second category, which I’ll call ‘organic ministry,’ the church simply leaves responsibility for mercy ministry in the members’ hands. The first category wires mercy ministry into the institutional church; the second leaves it to individual Christians. While both of these approaches may be appropriate in different situations, both can at times fall short. … Therefore, it’s worth considering a third level of support, which I’ll term ‘responsive ministry.’”

Stress: 7 General Suggestions for Handling Stress by Ron Edmonson

“How do we handle the stress of daily living?”