links: this went thru my mind

Acceptance, evangelism, fellowship, forgiveness, hypocrisy, love, mercy, murder & outreach: He Befriended a Serial Killer, and Opened the Door to God [essential reading]

“Mr. Dahmer left behind confused parents, dozens of distraught relatives of the victims, the traumatized city of Milwaukee — and this white-bearded minister, struggling still at 60 with the sense that he, too, had been condemned, for having the audacity to grant God’s blessings upon the devil.”

Announcements & corporate worship gatherings: Nine Observations about Announcements in Worship Services

“I asked a number of church leaders of congregations of varying sizes about their practices in this area. They pretty much confirmed what I am seeing as well. Here are my nine observations.”

Capital punishment, death penalty, payback & revenge: Don’t Give Tsarnaev Death Penalty [required reading]

“Should we kill Tsarnaev? And the answer, despite the abhorrent nature of the crime, is simple: No, we should not. We are better than that. The fact is that the death penalty isn’t justice, it’s revenge.”

Choices, farming, generations, life, lifestyle, Millenials & priorities: A Young Generation Sees Greener Pastures In Agriculture

“America’s heartland is graying. The average age of a farmer in the U.S. is 58.3 — and that number has been steadily ticking upward for more than 30 years. Overall, fewer young people are choosing a life on the land. But, in some places around the country, like Maine, that trend is reversing. Small agriculture may be getting big again — and there’s new crop of farmers to thank for it.”

ISIS, money, Muslim, power, stereo-typing, terrorism & violence: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: These Terrorist Attacks Are Not About Religion [required reading]

“When the Ku Klux Klan burn a cross in a black family’s yard, prominent Christians aren’t required to explain how these aren’t really Christian acts. Most people already realize that the KKK doesn’t represent Christian teachings. That’s what I and other Muslims long for—the day when these terrorists praising Mohammed or Allah’s name as they debase their actual teachings are instantly recognized as thugs disguising themselves as Muslims. It’s like bank robbers wearing masks of presidents; we don’t really think Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush hit the Bank of America during their down time.”

pleased: Galatians 1.13-17

You heard, didn’t you, the way I behaved when I was still within “Judaism.” I persecuted the church of God violently, and ravaged it. I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my own age and people; I was extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions. But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, was pleased to unveil his son in me, so that I might announce the good news about him among the nations – immediately I did not confer with flesh and blood. Nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me. No, I went away to Arabia, and afterward returned to Damascus. (Galatians 1.13-17 KNT)

Did you catch it? Paul says “God … was pleased to unveil his son in me …”


It’s a wonderful word in the original language: eudokeoEudokeo means not merely to thoroughly approve of something, but to take great delight in it. Think of the sparkle in the eye and wide-grin on a grandparent’s face as they watch their little grandchildren play and you’ve got the message. It pops up again and again throughout the New Testament to describe God’s delight in certain happenings.

As in the way he responds to Jesus’ baptism: “This is my Son whom I dearly love; I find happiness in him.” (Matthew 3.17)

Like when Jesus is transfigured on the mountain. “A voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my Son whom I dearly love. I am very pleased with him. Listen to him!'” (Matthew 17.5)

And in how Jesus encourages his disciples. “Don’t be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights in giving you the kingdom.” (Luke 12.32)

Now it’s one thing for God to say something about his pleasure in his Son, or his Son to say something about his Father’s pleasure in the Son’s followers, but it’s something else for one the followers to declare that the Father took delight in doing something for them. It’s the difference between (a) those with perfect knowledge informing the ignorant and (b) the ignorant drinking in, completely accepting, and then affirming before others this truth, all the while the latter knowing full well what they were like and about before.

All of which is to say that Paul surely took great delight in accepting the Father’s delight in him. That trust in God’s happiness with him fueled and fired his humble, complete devotion to God and his service in his Son’s name. And I believe that what was true of Paul in this regard is true of Christ’s followers today.

So the question today is this: “Can you say this and does your life reflect it? Try it: “God was pleased to give me his Son and Spirit.”

Holy Father, I struggle at times with accepting your loving me so; I try to wriggle my way out of your embrace. I think at times you do well to tolerate me, much less be pleased in me. May my faith grow in you to accept what you say. May that acceptance cause to bloom within me deep humility, genuine assurance, exuberant praise, and ceaseless service to your glory. Amen.

this went thru my mind


Bible: C. S. Lewis and How the Bible Shows God’s Humility by Peter Enns

“Lewis says that neither Jesus nor Scripture are quite what we might have expected. Both are humble. And it is precisely this humility that drives us to see ‘the real sanctity, the real beauty, and sublimity’ in both.”

Civil War: Why Shiloh Matters by Winston Groom

“The Battle of Shiloh began at sunrise on April 6, 1862 … A great battle had indeed been anticipated; at stake was control of the Mississippi River Valley, which would likely decide who won the war. But the Battle of Shiloh was not the outcome that anyone wanted. … Americans north and south … were suddenly confronted with the sobering fact that Shiloh hadn’t been the decisive battle-to-end-all-battles; there was no crushing victory — only death and carnage on a scale previously unimaginable.”

[Personal note: Prior to the Civil War, some of my ancestors owned the land on which a significant portion of the Battle of Shiloh was fought.]

Economy: 50 Amazing Numbers About Today’s Economy by Morgan House

“In no particular order, here are 50 things about our economy that blow my mind …”

Opinions: Is Everyone Entitled to Their Opinion? by Seth Godin

“If we’re going to do great work, it means that some people aren’t going to like it. And if the people who don’t like it don’t have an impact on what happens to the work after it’s complete, the only recourse of someone doing great work is to ignore their opinion.”

Pacifism: From Religious Outsiders to Insiders: The Rise and Fall of Pacifism in the Churches of Christ by Michael W. Casey [required reading]

“… most in the mainstream Churches of Christ moved away from pacifism in the 1920s …”

Parenting: Should Your Kids Go To Haiti? by Mark Woodward

“Research … has shown that summer mission trips correlate at the top of those adolescent experiences that help secure faith in your children!”

Prayer: How to Pray for Your Pastor by Tim Spivey

“Praying for your minister is one of the most simple but valuable ways you can bless your church. It will bless your life as well. Some might ask, what specifically should I pray for? Good question.”

getting it

Read Romans 14 and then come back here. Go ahead; I’ll wait for you right here.

I understand this passage better now than I did at one time. Lord knows I didn’t understand it at all for years after I became a Christian and for years more after I started preaching. Back then, somehow, someway, I managed to read this chapter over and over and still miss three things Paul takes as givens in the life of faith together, namely:

1. Contrary to what seemed to be being drilled into me over and over again, agreeing on everything in the name of Christ is not job one.

2. No matter how hard we preach it, how consistent we teach it, how passionately we pray for it, or how obviously we try to exemplify it, we’ll never even get close to the point where all Christians agree on everything.

3. How you love God with all of our your, heart, mind, and strength is revealed best not by having all of the right convictions, but by truly loving others more than yourself.

You see, while I was taught that if we’ll all just focus on God there will be no variation in our beliefs, Romans 14 says radical variation is inevitable. While I was taught that Christians back in the day we are all perfectly united, can be now, and must be always, Romans 14 says they weren’t back then and agreeing on everything is not where it’s at. And while I was taught that the way we showed real love for God was by perfectly holding and expressing one right set of beliefs, Romans 14 says loving people who differ with me is far more important than the uninhibited expression of my beliefs.

What disturbs me most of all, though is not just that I could have misunderstood exceedingly clear Scripture for so long, but the fact that I taught my mistaken understandings to others and I know I’m anything but alone in this experience. And that leads me to want to unteach some of what I know I taught and calls for me to try to help others to see what I know they have yet to see. Let me just try to parrot what Paul says here, but in other words.

  • There are a number of matters that come under the heading of religion that are not only not worth arguing about, but mustn’t be argued about (vs. 1).
  • Don’t look down on those who hold to a different set of beliefs (vs. 2-3).
  • Always remember: God alone is judge and so, you’re not (vs. 4).
  • Everyone has a right to their own convictions and we should respect such (vs. 5-6).
  • Whatever we believe and do should be done not for ourselves or others, but with God in view (vs.7-9).
  • We will all answer to God for our convictions, not for the convictions of others (vs. 10-12).
  • If you’re headed down Judge Others Road, do a U-turn and take the first exit (vs. 13a).
  • Determine to make life easier, not more difficult, for others by respecting people’s convictions (vs. 13b).
  • What’s right for one person can be wrong for another because our conscience and convictions differ (vs. 14).
  • If you are truly about doing the loving thing you will seek to be sensitive to the convictions of others (vs. 15).
  • Being humble with your convictions doesn’t mean becoming a doormat; give respect and expect respect (vs. 16).
  • Don’t frustrate, rather, facilitate the establishment of God’s rule in the community of faith (vs. 17).
  • Look for the ways that God and people both applaud and go after them (vs. 18).
  • If you can’t make accommodations for people with your positions, your positions are wrong (vs. 19-21).
  • Refuse to flaunt your convictions; keep what can be kept private, private (vs. 22).
  • Follow your conscience informed by Christ, not the crowd (vs. 23).

I don’t live under any illusion that I understand everything in Scripture, particularly this Scripture, completely. I have much, much, much yet to learn, no doubt. But, here’s to the learning of it.

What have I missed? What have I got right? What can we learn together?

Heavenly Father, give me insight into the practical living out of your will in my life with others. I pray in the name of him in whom I believe and who has brought me into the fellowship of all who belong to him, Jesus Christ. Amen.

fresh bread: shame on us

Church, when you show favoritism you deny the faithfulness of our Lord Jesus Christ, our Lord who has been resurrected in glory.

Two men walk into our Sunday morning worship gathering. Both are newcomers, having never been in our building before. One drives up in a Cadillac sporting a suit and tie, nice shoes, a fine gold watch, and a rather dignified air that seems to radiate from his good looks and fitness. His wife is attractive, is beautifully dressed and comes across as very pleasant and quite courteous.

The other man drives up in an old beater of a truck. He is wearing well-worn jeans and a clean, but dated, stained and unironed shirt. His teeth are quite crooked and yellow and he is something less than plain in looks. He has arrived alone and his lack of confidence is obvious to all.

Who is treated best and receives special attention? Will not several approach the couple who are obviously doing well and say to them: “We’re glad you’re here! We’d love to have you as a part of this church. Won’t you come sit here with me and my family? Do you have plans for lunch?”

Meanwhile the poor man is virtually ignored. Some will cast secretive, suspicious glances his way, but otherwise he is shunned. He hears the unspoken message loud and clear: “Who are you? You’re not wanted here. Can’t you see you make us uncomfortable? Hopefully you won’t come back!”

Let me tell you my brothers and sisters, when you do this, your prejudice shows and you live like evil-minded judges.

My dear brothers and sisters, listen! Hasn’t God himself often chosen those who are poor by worldly standards to be rich in terms of faith? Hasn’t God chosen the poor as heirs of the kingdom he has promised to those who love him? But to your shame you treat the poor shamefully and cause shame to well up in the poor. …

Understand, when you do live out the royal law found in scripture – “Love your neighbor as yourself” – you do well. But when you show favoritism, make no mistake about it, you are actively sinning and by that same law you are exposed for what you are, a lawbreaker. … So in everything you do, talk and walk like people who will be judged by the law that gives freedom to all. There will be no mercy in judgment there for anyone who hasn’t shown mercy here. (James 2:1-6a,8-9,12-13 DSV)