links: this went thru my mind

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Bible study, books, interpretation, preaching, reading & sermon preparation: A Cautionary Word to Pastors About Internet Resources [especially wise advice for all, and insightful for understanding the needs of ministers]

“… there is a reason a lot of the resources online that have to do with the Bible are free. There is some truth to the old dictum ‘you get what you pay for.’ Some of the resources are simply junk, some are so badly out of date and out of touch with the current ministry scene that they are hardly useful, and some of them are so arcane it requires scholarly help to make good use of them. And this brings me to the second point.

“There is a need for critical judgment to select useful online resources that may indeed help one’s ministry. Critical judgment about not only technical scholarly works, but about mid-level works can only be developed over time and with good guidance. … I would stress, for the good of your soul as well as the good of your ministry, that you need to read good books, and I mean read them at a depth level, not superficially cherry picking this quote or that quote …

“What feeds good teaching and good preaching is continuing to feed your head with good resources, and to study them in some depth. You need to set aside more than an hour or two a week for such study and preparation, and the main thing you should do during that time is just read—- not outline sermons or lessons, but read…… read….. read.”

Birth of Christ, genealogy of Jesus & the birth narratives: An Amazing Genealogy of Jesus Infographic (and What It Means for XMas)

“The infographic represents both Matthew and Luke’s genealogies, showing the legal emphasis (in Matthew) meant to prove Jesus’s royal Israelite bloodline, and the biological emphasis (in Luke) traditionally linked to the family genealogy in Mary’s home. The ‘big names’ are given larger placement, with often humorous bits of info. Just a quick scan reveals how diverse, even scandalous, this genealogy really is – including kings and killers, prophets and prostitutes.”

Collection, contribution, donations, electronic giving, mobile giving, money & offering: A Case for Church Mobile Donation

“We are coming close to the time whereby a church not being able to accept online donations would be as bad as a church not being able to accept a check.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, nonviolence & pacifism: No, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Didn’t Try To Kill Adolph Hitler

“… there is no evidence that [Bonhoeffer] was actively involved in planning or attempting to assassinate Hitler– a basic fact accepted by the academy but seemingly missing from common internet discussions on Bonhoeffer.”

Prayer: When We Talk With God

“Surely one of the grandest transfers God has made in my life would be that of prayer.”

links: this went thru my mind

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Here are several links I found to be interesting and helpful.

Choices, decisions, discernment, intuition, morality, rationalization & thinking: Your Mind is a Spin Machine

“… usually, the rider is the servant to the elephant.”

Cinema, faith, film, forgiveness, hatred, movies, torture & war: The Power of Forgiveness [essential reading]

“How does a man forgive what is seemingly unforgivable? In search of the answer, I began a seven-year journey through his life, a journey that culminated in my book Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.”

Feast of Dedication, Feast of Lights, Hanukkah, Jesus & Jerusalem: * Jesus Visited Jerusalem During Hanukkah; * Hanukkah: When Jesus Claimed to be God

* “The Gospel of John records more visits to Jerusalem by Jesus than any other of the Gospels. John is the only one to record the visit during the Feast of Dedication.”

* “Today, some say Jesus never claimed to be God. But His words during that Hanukkah left little doubt.”

Israel, roads, the ascent to Jerusalem & travel: New Video: The Modern Ascent to Jerusalem

“Bill Schlegel, author of the Satellite Bible Atlas, has just posted a video showing the ascent to Jerusalem from the Shephelah. The 6-minute video uses drone footage to show the modern highway’s route and the new construction. In antiquity, travelers followed the natural routes along the ridges. Today when we deviate from those ridges, we spend billions to destroy the landscape in the construction of passes, bridges, and tunnels.”

Prison system & teens: End Solitary Confinement for Teenagers

“That the practice is widespread remains a disturbing indicator of how poorly we treat the hundreds of thousands of minors arrested each year in the United States.”

links: this went thru my mind

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Here are links to five articles I consider interesting and helpful for thought.

American history, memory, myth & religion: Why 1940s America Wasn’t as Religious as You Think — the Rise and Fall of American Religion

“It’s common for people to believe that religion was always more vibrant in the past. Earlier generations were always more religious than we are, right? Not always. Religiosity can rise and fall just like other things do over time. In fact, America of the 1940s was about as religious as America today.”

Bethlehem, nativity scenes & the birth of Jesus: Bethlehem – the Manger and the Inn

“What actually did a stable look like in the time of Christ?”

Church shopping: ‘It Meets My Needs’ and Other Bad Reasons for Choosing a Church

“If you’re like most, a day is coming when you too will be on the search for a new church to call home. When that day comes, you may want to think twice before using these all-too-common reasons for making your choice.”

God, love, punishment & suffering: Did God Love the Egyptians?

“Did God love the Egyptians when he struck Egypt with plagues? In the larger biblical narrative, the answer is obviously yes. The prophet Isaiah later prophesies about judgments on Egypt (Isa 19:1-17, 22; akin to judgments he also prophesies against Israel); as a result, Egyptians will turn to God and they will become part of God’s people alongside Israel (19:18-25). In the law of Moses, Israelites are forbidden to despise Egyptians, because Israel’s ancestors found refuge in Egypt (Deut 23:7).”

Judging: Fellowship & Judgment

“‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.’ (Luke 6:37) These instructions are more specific iterations of the golden rule (Matthew 7:12), if you think about it.”

links: this went thru my mind

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Here are links to some reading I consider interesting and helpful.

Church, ministry & obstacles: Ten Ways We Get in the Way of God Building His Church

“When things don’t go well at church, is it possible that we are getting in God’s way?”

Church growth & martyrdom: Sorry, Tertullian

“‘The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church’ … early church theologian Tertullian argued … [However] church growth is ‘not strongly’ correlated with either governmental or societal persecution. However, Christianity ‘tends loosely’ to change more rapidly (grow or shrink) when governmental restriction is high, and stays relatively stable when such pressure is low.”

Cinema, film & movies: Do We Really Need Christian Film?

“What surprises me is that the church has all but ignored, and even villified, this art form. We sit around debating the usefulness of film, bemoaning the latest Hollywood faith-based effort, madly citing Marshall McLuhan with the worst of proof-texting, wondering why we don’t see the likes of Bach, Handel, John Bunyan or C. S. Lewis making powerful, intelligent films. Maybe in the next ten to twenty years a Christian filmmaker will come along and show us what powerful Christian film can be.”

Humanity, inhumanity & violence: Why are We So Mired in Violence?

“… we can’t relate to each other the way God intends unless we’re in relationship with God himself the way he intends.”

Faith & torture: * Christians & Torture; * You Cannot Be a Christian and Support Torture

* “Torture is the arrogance of the mighty. … The cross of Christ reveals what God thinks of torture: it is not the way of God. God turned torture into new life by resurrection and overcoming torture.”

* “… to be a Christian absolutely requires you to reject the use of torture. … Any thoughtful person, no matter their religion or non-religion, knows that you cannot support torturing people and still claim to be a follower of the one who commanded his disciples to love their enemies. The only way around this is to invent a false Jesus who supports the use of torture. (The Biblical term for this invented false Jesus is ‘antichrist.’)

“Those who argue for the use of torture do so because they are convinced it is pragmatic for national security. But Christians are not called to be pragmatists or even safe. Christians are called by Jesus to imitate a God who is kind and merciful to the wicked.”

links: this went thru my mind

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American exceptionalism: What “American Exceptionalism” Means to Me

“True American exceptionalism is saying ‘We did wrong; we apologize and promise never to do it again.’ Unfortunately, and very ironically, true American exceptionalism is becoming the exception.”

Assessment, bucks & butts, church & statistics: Counting Correctly: Create the Right Scorecard for Churches

“Fifty years ago, many churches had signs posted within the building showing weekly numbers on them: worship service attendance, Sunday School attendance, offering total, and even how many people brought their Bibles. We live in a different age now. … Among our churches, we need to ask if we are reaching people. We need to ask if we are discipling people. Are we reaching our goals or are we falling short? These are important questions to ask and important things to count. … What percentage of people in the church are serving? How many are serving inside and outside the church? How many are in small groups? How many are being trained into leadership in groups and in the church?”

Church giving, contribution, electronic giving, technology & the offering: Church Giving Tops $50 Billion A Year In U.S.—And Its Future Is Not A Collection Plate

“Churches are no different than any other operation in that they need to be relevant and convenient …”

Depression, emotions & seasonal affective disorder (SAD): 9 Ways To Cope With Seasonal Affective Disorder

“Roughly 10 to 20 percent of Americans report feeling tired or sad when there are fewer hours of daylight in the winter month. … While many people can still function even if they’re feeling a bit melancholy, for some, winter brings a clinical form of depression called seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD.”

Senses, sense of smell & worship: The Aroma of the Knowledge of God: How the Sense of Smell Inspires Worship and Awe

“… despite its meager number of occurrences in Scripture, the way biblical authors employ the sense of smell is truly remarkable. Here are three broad patterns regarding the sense of smell in Scripture …”