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

 

Age, Boomers, faith, mid-life, & generations: Aged Out of Church [required reading]

“… Boomers are leaving the church in numbers that we usually think of when we talk about the exodus of the Millennial generation: “‘…during the past 20 years the percentage of unchurched Boomers has risen dramatically, jumping up 18 points! At 41 percent, they are now the generation most likely to be unchurched, surpassing the 39 percent level among Busters.’”

Attitude, complaining & grumbling: Grumbling & Complaining

“My heart has been a grumbling one recently. I could give you a few reasons I think why my grumbling is necessary or warranted, but the truth is that even talking about those situations would invite more grumbling. People talk about it being necessary to say how we feel, but I usually think there is more merit to say less about how we feel, and more about who God is in spite of our feelings.”

Bible, literacy, Millenials & reading: American Bible Society Report: The Bible in America, 2014

“Now there are just as many Americans skeptical of the Bible as there are engaged with the Bible. According to the fourth annual State of the Bible survey, 19 percent said that they were skeptical of the Bible. This number is up from 10 percent in 2011. This trend is even more pronounced among the Millennial generation (who range in age from 18-29).”

Children, courtesy, manners & parenting: Ten Forgotten Ways to Teach Politeness to Children

“Not every day is going to be a rip roaring success when trying to teach our children politeness, but if we are consistent, we will eventually see them get it right more than they get it wrong.  And, when they have successful and pleasant encounters with others, we are setting them up to be more successful in life.  These ten skills will serve them well all through adulthood, too.”

Culture & sin: 5 Overlooked Cultural Sins Threatening the Church [essential reading]

“What if the biggest threats to the church weren’t the things we thought they were? What if the very foundation of our country’s culture actually resembles the culture of our churches? We may find that we’ve been blind to more subtle and subversive influences that are having a greater impact on the church than the issues that consume us. Here are just five overlooked cultural norms that are contrary to the Kingdom and are sinful within the Kingdom, unknowingly supported by many of us. …  Competition … Celebrity … Patriotism … Fear … Individuality.”

Gospel, moralism & preaching: Moralism is Not the Gospel (But Many Christians Think it Is) [required reading]

“… one of the most seductive false gospels is moralism. This false gospel can take many forms and can emerge from any number of political and cultural impulses. Nevertheless, the basic structure of moralism comes down to this — the belief that the Gospel can be reduced to improvements in behavior.”

Marriage, relationships, technology & Twitter: Frequent Twitter Users Are More Likely to Cheat on Their Spouses, Get Divorced: Study

“Comparing his two studies, Clayton was surprised to find that the length of time a couple had been together did not affect whether they would be negatively affected by one partner’s Twitter activity.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Animals & creation care: * Animal Welfare [17 min. video; essential viewing]; * Should Christians Care about Animal Welfare?

* “Should cruelty to animals matter to the church? … Animals live not for us alone.”

* “… my daughter Jaclyn says I need to think more on this. Her favorite verse is Proverbs 12:10, ‘A righteous man cares about his animal’s health.’”

Bible reading & verse-sharing: Sorry, John 3:16: The Top 10 Bible Verses YouVersion Shared Most in 2013

“The Bible verse that was ‘bookmarked, highlighted, and shared … more than any other verse” in 2013′ Philippians 4:13: ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ Rounding out the top five: Isaiah 40:31, Matthew 6:13, Joshua 1:9, and Philippians 4:6. By comparison, the Bible’s most-read chapter was Romans 8—’read 4 times per second in 2013,’ notes YouVersion. The other top chapters were Romans 12, Matthew 5, 1 John 4, and Hebrews 12.”

Brains, birds & memory: What Chickadees Have That I Want. Badly

“They grow more brain when they need to remember things; then shrink that brain when the ‘remembering’ season ends. … ‘If you count the cells in a chickadee brain before the fall, and then count them after … the number of neurons definitely goes up in the hippocampus, and a number of us have confirmed that (including my lab).’”

Bullying, children & parenting: Responding to Bullies [7 1/2 min. video]

“Greg [Boyd] answers a question from parents as to how their child should respond to a bully.”

Conservation, creation care, environment & pollution: Rivers’ garbageman named CNN Hero of the Year

“I saw thousands of barrels, thousands of tires, cars, trucks and tops of school buses. … I got sick of seeing it and just wanted to do something about it.”

insight for life: Proverbs for January

 

I want you to join me in a topical, slow-read of the book of Proverbs in 2014! We’ll call this project in Proverbs Insight for Life. Picture this: sixty seconds of daily reading with the whole day left to ponder the meaning. We’ll read from tomorrow (New Year’s Day) to Halloween and it’s a six-day-a-week plan with Sunday as the “off” day.

You’ve got questions? Let me answer a few:

Q. Who came up with this topical arrangement? A. That would be me. Or you can blame the scholars behind the multiple Bible translations with cross references I consulted along with the scholars behind the numerous commentaries I checked to come up with this schedule.

Q. Which Bible translation should I use? A. Whichever one works best for you. I’d encourage you to compare renderings in different translations. In Proverbs, I always like to compare the NRSV and the GNT. The links below make use of the Common English Bible (CEB).

Q. Why are we taking a whole year just to read one book of the Bible? A. Because Proverbs were meant to be pondered. Insight rarely comes quickly and wisdom takes its time (hey, that’s a proverbs right there!). So the whole idea is to put just a bit of distilled wisdom into our head so we can take the time necessary to truly consider it, chew on it, and savor it. We might live a fast-paced life in a fast tack world, but some things are only done well slow. That’s what BBQ and Proverbs have in common.

Q. Are there memory verses that go with this plan? A. If you want them to be. That is, why not memorize one proverb per day on your own?

Q. Why does the schedule only run the first ten months of the year? A. Two reasons. First, the topical breakdown of Proverbs naturally lends itself to such. Second, my experience has been that the months of November and December are so full for most folks due to end-of-year expectations, holidays, etc. that many a reading plan gets abandoned during those months.

Q. Do you plan to do any writing regarding any of these proverbs during the course of the year and if so, where? A. Yes. Often. Here.

Q. If I wanted to purchase a commentary or two on Proverbs for my own study, which one(s) would you recommend? A. Fortunately there is not a shortage of quality commentaries available today on Proverbs. For the average Joe or Suzy in the pew, I’d say you’d enjoy the work of Derek Kidner and/or Tremper Longman. If you really want to dig deep, pony up for Bruce Waltke‘s two- volume work. If you’re a teacher or preacher, you’ll definitely benefit from Ellen Davis and Paul Koptak.

And without any further ado, here’s the reading schedule for January. Enjoy!

links: this went thru my mind

 

Cats, language, learning & Spanish: I Can Haz Spanish Lessons: Cat Pictures Now Have A Purpose

“It’s no secret cats rule the Internet. Now, just flipping through cat pictures can be an educational experience. A new iOS app called teaches 1,000 basic phrases by showing you flash cards of cute cats. ‘It’s the most ridiculously silly, but yet ruthlessly effective way of learning conversational Spanish,’ says , founder of , the group behind Cat Spanish. For example, when learning the phrase ‘I need help,’ the app shows a cat tangled in a tree. Users memorize the phrases through repeated tests.”

Children & parenting: To The Mamas of Littles During the Holidays

“Lower your expectations for what is humanly possible in one day. Now think about how many toddlers you have and lower them again.”

Civility, disability, respect, sensitivity, speech & words: 10 Things You Shouldn’t Say to Someone Who Uses a Wheelchair

“Most people definitely mean well, but some sentiments aren’t received the way many able bodied people might expect. In the disabled community, it’s not uncommon for us to joke with each other about some of our interesting conversations with family, friends and strangers that often involve some off putting statements.”

Culture & family: The Changing American Family

“American households have never been more diverse, more surprising, more baffling. In this special issue of Science Times, Natalie Angier takes stock of our changing definition of family.”

Pope Francis: * Ten Reasons Why Evangelicals Should Read Pope Francis; * Evangelii Gaudium [essential reading]

* “While evangelicals and Catholics will continue to have their theological differences — differences that stem back 500 years or more — we just might find some common ground in the words of Francis.”

* “The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience.”

Self-deprecation: The Trouble With Self-Deprecation [essential reading]

“… all of us are good at something and lousy at something. And if we could only get that through our skulls, we would be freed once and for all to speak comfortably of our strengths and faults, and those of our brothers.”

Thanksgiving: * Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say So; * When I Had Beans for Thanksgiving; * Thanksgiving By the Numbers [infographic]

* “The Lord is good. His love endures forever. His faithfulness continues through all generations. So, let the redeemed of the Lord say so.”

* “Am I really thankful? Can I be thankful even for what I don’t have? Can I be thankful even when it’s not what I asked for? Can I be thankful in all circumstances, as the Apostle Paul commanded us?”

* “What was the menu for the first Thanksgiving? How many turkeys are consumed each year at Thanksgiving?”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Anger & offense: Choosing Not To Be Offended [essential reading]

“… there are many opportunities to be offended. … Offense is always a matter of perspective. … What kind of spirit are you trying to foster in your own heart? … What is the higher road that you can walk when offended? … Decide ahead of time to show love when love has not been shown to you.”

Appreciation, love, respect & value: The Most Ignored and Undervalued People Within Churches Today

“Churches are supposed to be communities that represent Christ’s infinite love — and many of them do — but certain groups of people seem to be continually ignored, alienated, undervalued, and simply lost within American churches. … Below are categories of people that I’ve repeatedly witnessed being underappreciated within various church environments …”

Children & parenting: * The Important Thing About Yelling; * Imprint the Image of a Godly Man on Your Daughter’s Heart; * Are You Raising Entitled Kids?

* “Let me tell you what had become of me. My distractions. Excessive phone use, commitment overload, multiple page to-do lists, and the pursuit of perfection consumed me. And yelling at the people I loved was a direct result of the loss of control I was feeling in my life.”

* “Perhaps the greatest gift a father can give his daughter, outside of leading her to salvation, is to imprint the image of a Godly man on her heart. One day we will be walking our daughter down the aisle, and the choice she made for a husband will likely hinge more on our actions than hers.”

* “Breaking the chains of entitlement begins at home. As you live out gratitude and graciousness, your children will see these values as worthy. You teach them by how you live, what you say, and how you allow them to struggle and work their own way toward responsibility. You can raise kids who live with humility and thankfulness, who see and appreciate what they’re given daily by the Giver of all good gifts.”

Church: * Why People are Staying in Churches [required reading]; 10 Reasons Why We Must Love Unlovable Church Members

* “If you still attend a Christian worship assembly, what is it that keeps you coming back? Here are some reasons I see that people are staying with it …”

* “I would be lying to say I never struggle now, but I’ve learned something about loving others.”

Communication, evangelism & outreach: * 5 Churchy Phrases That are Scaring Off Millenials; * 5 Things Mistaken for Evangelism

* “… let’s examine these terrorizing and terrifying words to see if we should drop them, modify them, or indeed say them more …”

* “The Christian call to evangelism is a call not simply to persuade people to make decisions but rather to proclaim to them the good news of salvation in Christ, to call them to repentance, and to give God the glory for regeneration and conversion. We don’t fail in our evangelism if we faithfully tell the gospel to someone who is not converted; we fail only if we don’t faithfully tell the gospel at all. Evangelism itself isn’t converting people; it’s telling them that they need to be converted and telling them how they can be.”

Early Christianity: Where did Earliest Christians Meet?

“For some time now, the general view has been that earliest Christians met (e.g., for group worship) in houses, at least mainly. In a newly-published study, Dr. Edward Adams (Kings College London) queries this, contending that the evidence for this view isn’t as solid and consistent as commonly thought, and that the extant evidence suggests instead a variety of settings.”

Evil, disaster relief, natural disasters & the Philippines: * Philippines Disaster Draws Limited Interest, Donations; * Typhoon Haiyan and “Natural” Evil

* “About one-in-three Americans (32%) say they are very closely following news about the deadly typhoon that struck the Philippines on Nov. 8. By comparison, 55% of the public closely followed the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami in Japan, 58% followed the tsunami that struck coastlines around the Indian Ocean at the end of 2004, and 60% followed the 2010 Haiti earthquake.”

* “… on Typhoon Haiyan and the reality of “natural” evil that’s not really natural at all. “This an enemy has done.” (Matthew 13:28)”

Grief: 10 Suggestions for Healthy Grieving

“The Scripture is clear. We do grieve. We simply don’t grieve like the rest of the world.”

this went thru my mind

 

Children, parenting & technology: * The Bible App for Kids [essential notice; by the Makers of YouVersion]; * 10 Social Networks You Didn’t Know Kids are Using

* “Help your kids fall in love with God’s word.”

* “Hats off to you for paying attention to what your kids are doing online and on their phones …”

Culture & the U.S.: Forget The 50 States; The U.S. Is Really 11 Nations, Author Says

“… Colin Woodard … has studied American voting patterns, demographics and public opinion polls going back to the days of the first settlers, and says that his research shows America is really made up of 11 different nations.”

Gifts & giving: The Gift of Not Giving a Thing [required reading]

“What if nobody gave my boys presents anymore? What if we only gave GIFTS.”

Healthcare: Some Thoughts About the Affordable Care Act

“There is a huge–HUGE–gap in our safety net because health insurance is tied to full-time employment. Too many employers can game the system by hiring people just under full-time, making American workers work two jobs without getting insurance (or related benefits) from either employer. To say nothing of those who aren’t employed or who would like to get private insurance but have preexisting conditions. The fact that you have to go through insurance companies to get healthcare in American is hugely problematic. Too many people are left out of the system. It needs to get fixed.”

Marriage: Are These Enemies of Marriage in Your House?

“Run from these enemies.”

Ministry & parenting: Prodigal Pastor Kids: Fact or Fiction?

“… where does this stereotype of the prodigal pastor kid come from?”

Preaching: * The Weekly Emotional Process of Sermon Preparation … [Amen!]; * When Good Pastors Preach Boring Sermons

* “It goes something like this …”

* “Instead of becoming dissatisfied with our churches and forsaking them to listen to podcasts of our favorite “celebrity” preachers, I would like to suggest a couple of thoughts to consider.”

Simplicity: Simple Living. The Earlier, the Better. [required reading]

“When I was 33 years old, we began giving away all the possessions in our lives that were not absolutely essential to our purpose and goals. Eventually, our family removed over 60% of our earthly possessions. And we couldn’t be happier. We found more time, money, and energy to pursue the things in life most valuable to us: faith, family, and friends. We discovered far greater fulfillment in life pursuing our passions than we had ever discovered pursuing possessions. And now, my only regret is that we didn’t do it sooner—that we wasted so much time, so many years, and so many resources.”