links: this went thru my mind

 

Accountability, church attendance, church membership, discipleship, responsibility & spiritual formation: Why join a church? (This generation of Christians wants to know.) [required reading]

“It’s the difference in becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ and being an attender only. Attenders have no commitment to the team, but are looking for a comfortable place.  They sit back and let others take the lead. But disciples are committed to this body of believers and determined to forward its vision.  Attenders want a good seat, but disciples take a stand!”

Capital punishment, civilization, government, humanity & society: Are We Descending into Barbarity?

“We Americans like to think of ourselves as among the most developed and civilized countries in the world (if not at the top of the list!). But much of the rest of the world thinks otherwise. We don’t help our case when we continue to engage in acts that can only be called barbaric.”

Christ & salvation: Christ Confesses Us

“What is salvific is that Christ, witnessing our lives, recognizes and confesses us.”

Congregational singing: 15 Reasons Why We Should Still Be Using Hymnals

“…  hymnals … are important symbols for worshiping congregations. Here are some of the reasons why.”

Conscience: Can You Always Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide?

“God never intended your conscience as your guide. It has another purpose.”

Divorce: A Good Infographic About Divorce

“In 2012, 2.4 million people got divorced in the U.S. … So what’s happening and can anything be done to keep the love?”

Prayer: * What Good Does Prayer Do?; * Does Prayer Really Make a Difference?; * Prayer Killers for Pastors

* “Why do I pray? There must be a thousand reasons. Here are the first 20 of my answers …”

* “I know the traditional cliché that prayer is for our sake, not God’s. It changes us, not God, or God’s plans. Even C .S. Lewis said that! I have the greatest admiration for Lewis, but on this account I think he is dead wrong.

“Prayer does certainly change us, but that’s not why we’re told to engage in it. We’re commanded to engage in prayer because it is a God-ordained means of impacting him and changing the world. Jesus didn’t say if we have faith and pray our attitude toward mountains would change. He said the mountain would move! Prayer changes what happens in world.”

* “How’s your prayer life? On a scale of 1 to 10 from non-existent to stellar how would you rate it? I bet most charitably argue for a 6 to 8. Few might place them self in a 9 or 10. Rating myself honestly, I am a solid 3.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Atheism, evangelism, outreach & persuasion: How Not to Debate an Atheist

“When you combine the powder keg of Christians proselytizing about Christ and atheists proselytizing about secularism on the Internet, you get an explosion of arguments … Here are some ways I’ve seen these conversations go wrong as a former atheist.”

Capital punishment, death penalty, ethics, faith & Jesus: Albert Mohler Has No Use For Jesus [required reading]

“… obviously there are some things Jesus didn’t talk about…but the death penalty isn’t one. … You see, the challenge all of us face along with Mohler is straightforward: If we talk about Jesus all the time, but when we claim we’re taking a Christian position Christ is nowhere to be found, then there’s nothing actually particularly Christian about our position.”

C.S. Lewis, perspective & progress: Why We Need ‘Dinosaurs’ Like C. S. Lewis

“When I have started a sum the wrong way, the sooner I admit this and go back and start over again, the faster I shall get on. There is nothing progressive about being pigheaded and refusing to admit a mistake.”

Evil, Satan, wickedness & the world: Our Beautiful, Nightmarish World

“I honestly don’t see how it is possible to explain how an all-good God could create a cosmos that is this screwed up without accepting that he’s opposed by forces of evil that operate on a cosmic scale. Appealing to human free will alone simply doesn’t cut it.”

Future & technology: A Vision of the Future From Those Likely to Invent It

“Almost two-thirds of Americans think technological change will lead to a better future, while about one-third think people’s lives will be worse as a result, according to a new survey from Pew Research Center. Regardless, expect more change. In a series of interviews, which have been condensed and edited, seven people who are driving this transformation provided a glimpse into the not-too-distant future.”

Television: Television and the Glamorization of Anything It Desires [required reading]

“Watching too much TV can triple our hunger for more possessions while reducing our personal contentment by about 5 percent for every hour a day we watch.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Capital punishment & the death penalty: Secret Drugs, Agonizing Deaths

“In the name of security, states are now withholding vital information about their death penalty procedures — from death row prisoners’ lawyers and from judges, whose stamp of approval they need to impose the ultimate sanction, as well as from the public, in whose name the sentence is carried out.”

Children, compassion, morality & parenting: Raising a Moral Child [essential reading]

“Despite the significance that it holds in our lives, teaching children to care about others is no simple task.”

Church: * The Church as a Hospice for the Dying [essential reading]; * What the Church May Need is What the Church Does Not Want

* “It seems to me that it’s better to think of the Church as a hospice, rather than as a hospital. … The Church as hospice makes good, Gospel sense. And, there are very practical implications in this metaphor as well. When people tell the pastor that they are leaving the church because their ‘needs’ aren’t being met, all the pastor has to do is remind them of what the Church is, and point out that their ‘needs’ are indeed being met: They’re being given an opportunity to die to their ‘needs’ in order to experience more of the resurrection life of Christ. So, the church really is meeting their needs; they just don’t know it.”

* “… I wonder if the Christian element in America has grown fat and sassy.  Have we fallen into a dangerous religion of indifferent slumber? Persecution may not be at our doorstep; but I do think it is traipsing up the sidewalk. This will never be the thing we want.  Yet, it may be the very thing needed to move us from our glut of mediocre indifference.”

Crucifixion: Roman Crucifixion Methods Reveal the History of Crucifixion

“… Hershel Shanks looks at evidence of Roman crucifixion methods as analyzed from the remains found in Jerusalem of a young man crucified in the first century A.D.”

Faith & science: 9 Groundbreaking Scientists Who Happened to Be Christians

“There’s a general sense that science and religion are two camps, and the two can never meet without fighting or, at the very least, stepping mighty carefully around each other’s views. There might be a very little bit of truth to that—a few noisy emissaries from both sides have been known to go out of their way to discredit the other. However, what is frequently lost in all this is that the history of science is rich with believing Christians, for whom the process of discovery did not jeopardize their faith, but enforced it.”

Fear: Do Not Let Fear be the CEO of the Church

“How many times have we said or at least heard, I’m afraid of what this might lead to?”

Passover: Passover as Jesus Knew It

“It was a joyous, celebratory occasion: work was temporarily stopped, families were reunited, food and wine were plentiful, and hopes and dreams were in the air. At the heart of the festival was a story: an account of a chosen people liberated from slavery centuries before through God’s gracious deliverance. But there was also a tragic irony: Israel was no longer free. This time the oppressors were not the Egyptians, but Rome. Together, these ideas created a lethal cocktail of deep religious yearnings, nationalism and resentment. ‘It is on these festive occasions that sedition is most likely to break out’ noted the historian Josephus wryly (War 1.88), and most of the riots recorded in his works seem to have occurred at Passover in particular.”

Prayer: Did Jesus Send a Mixed Message About Repetition in His Teaching About Prayer?

“… Jesus is talking about different things in these two teachings.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Application & moralizing: Moralizing Scripture…the Rush to Application and Misappropriating the Text

“…  let us be careful when we moralize scripture and rush to application that we don’t, in the process, undermine the text and the power of God to do greater things than make us nicer people.”

Capital punishment & death penalty5 Death Penalty Myths Debunked

“In advance of the release of our 2014 Global Death Penalty Report tomorrow, here are 5 of the most common misconceptions about the death penalty.”

Children, church & parenting: Let the Children Come to Me…Unless They’re Too Loud, Distracting, or Difficult

“The church in America has raised a whole generation that has never really been spiritually formed by the larger church gathering.”

Cinema, film, movies & Noah: * To See or Not to See the Movie Noah? [required reading]; * What’s Really Behind Christians’ Rejection of Noah?

* “Art often needs to speak honestly about evil, and I hope we don’t sanitize the Bible to the point where we forget just how well it does that. I get the pushback about Noah going off script, and being concerned about disinformation. But I think our real problem is that, unlike Christians of earlier centuries, we no longer understand what art does or how it works.”

* “This week Christians will have the chance to see Noah. And in an ironic twist, Paramount Pictures and the director find themselves defending their film against strong criticism from Christians, the audience they assumed would be the first in line to see this biblically epic story. In what has become a reversal of roles, Hollywood has heard the cry of Christians for bible based films (and the allure of their money, no doubt) and produced an epic picture and now Christians are the ones rejecting it. And in this case, it’s Christians who may not be completely honest about their reasons for rejecting it as we’ve formerly accused Hollywood of being in rejecting bible based films in the past. And the only public leg we have to stand on is the presence of biblical errors in the movie.”

Friendship, Jesus & sinners: Setting the Record Straight on Jesus, ‘the Friend of Sinners’ [essential reading]

“… does it matter that we correctly understand Jesus’ social habits? It does actually. Because Christians believe they must “live as Jesus did.” If the faithful only build relational bridges with those who are open to converting, they will find it increasingly difficult to exist in a pluralistic, post-Christian culture.”

Ministry: * Dear Churchgoers …; * The Friendless Pastor

* “Now I understand you might think I should know all the things that are happening with you. I really do want to. Most of my fellow pastors would agree. We love to know the things that are going on in your life. We want to hear all about it. But there’s a good chance that we won’t know if you never tell us.”

* “It’s ironic that pastors, who talk the most about the need for community, experience it the least. … We have too many relationships and too few friends.”

links: this went thru my mind (on violence)

 

Early Christian faith & violence: Were the Church Fathers Consistently Pro-Life? [essential reading]

“… the early Christian writers … are very clear. They explicitly say we don’t kill, and that means we don’t go to gladiatorial games, we’re opposed to abortion, capital punishment is not acceptable, and we don’t kill in war. … For early church fathers, a Christian could not have a political or judicial office where he would have the authority to pronounce a judgment of capital punishment. … The most frequently stated reason that Christians didn’t join the army and go to war is that they didn’t kill. … Every single text that we have on the topic says that Christians don’t kill. And it’s not ambiguous …”

Full contact sports: * When It Comes To Brain Injury, Authors Say NFL Is In A ‘League Of Denial’; * The Ethics of Football

* “‘Please, see that my brain is given to the NFL’s brain bank.’ …  there’s a dialogue beginning about whether you want to let your kids play or not.”

* “Why raise questions about the ethics of football? I see a few reasons for it. … football has grown in importance out of all proportion in terms of the number of people who can actually play it. … football has become a sport ruled by money. … football is dangerous to players’ health and well-being. … in today’s social climate, anyway, football seems to arouse inordinate and even dangerous passions among fans. …

“So what is my solution to the football ethics dilemma? I don’t suggest dropping or banning the sport—except for children not yet old enough to make informed consent decisions about whether they want to risk the injury to their brains. I don’t think boys under, say, 16 should be allowed to play tackle football. For them it should be flag football. And they should be offered alternatives such as soccer.

“However, I think especially Christians should call for a ratcheting down of the intensity of the sport so that it is not so all-consuming in terms of finances, passions, favor (to players), etc. And I think every player should be fully informed about the likelihood of suffering long-term brain injury that is irreversible.

“I also think high school and college counselors should promote information about the dangers of football to their student populations. Many college and university freshmen, for example, dream of “walking on” and becoming a star or just being on the larger team. Even if they never play in an actual game, however, they can suffer brain injury just from practices.”

Responding to violence: 16-Year-Old Malala Yousafzai Leaves Jon Stewart Speechless With Comment About Pacifism [6 min. video; essential viewing]

“… at just 14 years old, a Talib fighter boarded her bus, pointed a pistol at her head, and pulled the trigger. But she survived, made a full recovery in England, and has become and transformative figure in human rights. … ‘what would you do, Malala?”

WMD, the United States & chemical weapons: The United States is Still Getting Rid of its Chemical Weapons

“Syria has been given a year to eliminate its chemical weapons arsenal, or face the threat of a U.S. military strike. Yet it may come as a surprise that the United States has still not destroyed all of its massive supply of deadly nerve agents. … The United States estimates it will be at least another decade before it completes destruction of the remaining 10% of its chemical weapons, estimated at more than 3,100 tons.”