links: this went thru my mind

 

Beggars, the poor & the marginalized: Beggars in Mark

“The stories that end this chapter are about beggars, people who in desperate need. They are angry with life or with Satan, but not with Jesus. Life has not followed the rules with them—it has treated them and those they love unfairly—and they are not particularly concerned that Jesus doesn’t always color within the lines. In fact, they are quite hopeful that (with those they love) Jesus can stretch outside of normal boundaries and accomplish something beyond the ordinary.”

Bible reading: How the World’s Top 10 Countries Search the Bible Differently

“Two of the four ‘implications of the search for truth’ noted in the study: Are pastors and missionaries preaching too much from Paul? Too little from the Old Testament?”

Idolatry: If Daniel 3 Were Written Today

“Beloved countrymen, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question. If the God we serve exists, then He can sustain us in the event we are being marginalized, cast aside, and silenced, and He can rescue us from craving approval from the rest of our society. But even if He does not protect us from your penalties and fines, we want you as a society to know that we will not serve your gods or celebrate the gold statue you set up.”

Ministry: Just What Does a Minister Do Anyway?

“I don’t suppose there is an easier target for criticism or maybe jokestering than that of a minister.”

Parenting: 7 Ways Parents Injure a Child — Without Even Knowing It

“… looking back, I can see some of these we were guilty of doing — and I remain thankful for God’s grace in spite of me.”

Racism & reconciliation: Ok, White Folks, Here’s How You Can Really Help! [required reading]

“Young man we appreciate your support and energy but really the best thing you can do for our movement is to go back to your churches, families, communities and friends and share the truth you have heard today.  It is the education of your own race, which will be the biggest catalyst for change in reconciling all races and bringing the kingdom value of racial unity and harmony into existence.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Adultery: The United States of Adultery

[This is an interactive map. Houston is #2 in the country, beat out only by three-time winner Washington D.C.]

Birth of Jesus & Christmas: * Baby Jesus Meek and Mild, Overthrew an Empire – Wild!; * Is There A Dragon In Your Nativity Set?

* “May your Christmas be a time when you ponder the summons of a subversive kingdom. May you choose to peacefully follow the baby in the manger to the cross and through resurrection, proclaiming with the angels that a new era has begun; an era when the people of God can undo the works of oppressive ‘empires.’ Merry Christmas.”

* “Every nativity set needs a red dragon. If you don’t remember that part of the story, you might want to read chapter 12 of Revelation.”

China, Christianity & persecution: China’s Hardship-Hardened Church

“Vibrant amid persecution, it seeks faithfulness over freedom.”

Contribution, generosity, giving, possessions, sacrifice, stewardship & wealth: The Scary Truth About Christian Giving

“Over the past 40 years, self-identified evangelicals have given between 2 and 3 percent of their incomes to churches and Christian organizations. Stewardship is a crucial part of the Christian life, and according to these figures, it is sadly lacking.”

Criticism, hatred & humility: Haters

“Never criticize what God is blessing.”

Firearms & guns: Gun Country

“They bring families together and they tear them apart. They kill innocent people and protect them. The United States continues to love and revile its hundreds of millions of firearms. Here is a look at that complicated  relationship, told through the personal stories of Americans.”

Insurance & the uninsured: Mapping Uninsured Americans

“Census data released Dec. 17 show where the uninsured live.”

Love & truth: 3 John: When Love is Abused

“He abused his power; he abused the love entrusted to him.”

Poor & poverty: In the War on Poverty, a Dogged Adversary [required reading]

“Without the panoply of government benefits — like food stamps, subsidized school lunches and the earned-income tax credit, which provides extra money to household heads earning low wages — the nation’s poverty rate last year would have reached almost 31 percent, up from 25 percent in 1967, according to the research at Columbia.”

Warfare: The Great War’s Ominous Echoes

“… the era just before World War I, with its gas lighting and its horse-drawn carriages, seems very far-off, it is similar to ours — often unsettlingly so — in many ways.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Bias, criticism, open-mindedness & thinking: Why We Confuse The Onion for the News [essential reading]

“… we all have biases, and our efforts to rid ourselves of them through education and self-awareness don’t actually ‘fix’ the problem.”

Cell phones & etiquette: Cell Phone Funeral Etiquette

“Cell phones often go off when we least want them to. In church. In school. During sex. And at a funeral. As other funeral directors can attest, the oddest thing about a cell phone ringing during funerals is how many people will actually answer.”

Church attendance, faith, millennials, peace & unity: The Millennials Are Rejecting Fighting Churches and Christians [essential reading]

“… many of them are walking away from our churches, and more of them are not attending at all, when they witness or hear about negativity and divisiveness in those churches. They want to see unity among Christians, and they are often disappointed.”

Health: * Aging Well: Keeping Blood Sugar Low May Protect Memory; * Depression: Could Be Almost Depressed?

* “… even modest increases in blood sugar among people in their 50s, 60s and 70s can have a negative influence on memory.”

* “Research suggests that as many as 12 million people in the United States may be suffering from low-grade depression symptoms that are not severe enough to warrant clinical treatment. … In fact, on some of these measures, people who are almost depressed report feeling worse off than people who actually fall into the clinically depressed range. … There is also another more serious problem: Research indicates about 75% of cases of low-grade depression will devolve into full-blown major depression if they are not recognized and arrested.”

Grandparenting, parenting & prayer: How to Pray for Your Children & Grandchildren [required reading]

“Because there are 12 prayers in this list, you could concentrate on one prayer per month to concentrate on. Within a year you will have consistently prayed the entire list.”

Holy Spirit: The Kingdom’s Second Major Death

“Why has this gone on?  Why has the Holy Spirit been quenched in our circles? Control.  Man is obsessed with control; even in religion’s court. … The Kingdom’s second major death, after Jesus’ upon the cross, is that of the Holy Spirit within the hearts of men.  We have killed Him off and buried Him in our tombs of organization and control.”

Leisure, online & time management: What You Would Be Doing If You Spent Less Time Online

“More time online means less time socializing, studying, and sleeping.”

Faith & President Obama: * The President’s Devotional: What Obama ‘Did In Secret’ In Newtown; * The Man Behind the President’s Devotional

* “The president took a deep breath and steeled himself, and went into the first classroom. And what happened next I’ll never forget. … It must have been one of the defining moments of his presidency, quiet hours in solemn classrooms, extending as much healing as was in his power to extend. But he kept it to himself—never seeking to teach a lesson based on those mournful conversations, or opening them up to public view.”

* “Dubois has been sending devotionals to Obama every morning since the 2008 presidential campaign. A collection of these spiritual messages to the president has now been published Dubois’ new book, The President’s Devotional. Dubois started working for Obama shortly after he became a senator. A public policy and economics student at Princeton University, he was also ordained at a small Pentecostal church where he served as an associate pastor. It was this combination of skills that led him to become Obama’s faith outreach coordinator during his first presidential campaign and, later, to be appointed as the Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships during the president’s first term.”

this went thru my mind

 

Baytown & Mont Belvieu: Chambers Town Center

A look at the plan for the the construction of Chambers Town Center near the intersection of I-10 & Hwy. 146 in Baytown, TX.

Church, idolatry & ministry: When Church Becomes an Idol

“… what does this look like when church itself is the ‘idol’ a pastor is venerating?”

Criticism, listening, preaching, respect, selective hearing & sermons: Sick of Sermons [required reading]

“Chronic critique of sermons is an illness. …  Some sufferers have lived with this condition for so long that they have found ways to manage it: committing to ministries that pull them out of the sermon … venting … or using the sermon-time for completely unrelated spiritual exercises. The long-term prognosis is grave: spiritual malnourishment. The table that God sets for us has two parts, Word and Sacrament, and Christ is the bread of both. But we only get what we’re willing to receive. How can we fight this illness that has us always excusing ourselves from the table during the first course and frequently ruining the appetite of others? I recommend aggressive treatment.”

Discouragement, faith, humility, passion, perseverance, & zeal: Maintaining a Holy Fire When You Feel More Like an Unholy Fizzle

“… because we live in Christ we must wait for him to do the work. This is nearly a mockery to the flesh-driven personality. God, through the Spirit, opens doors and closes others. My exhilaration is when He opens them. My frustration is when none open and I impatiently knock harder.

“How do we maintain a holy fire when some days feel more like an unholy fizzle? Believe God works…and then wait on Him.”

Holiness, OMG, speech, respect & words: Is It OK for a Christian to Drop OMG’s?

“Remember, it is the trademark for the unbeliever to take God’s name in vain …”

Inspiration & interpretation: The Inspiration of Scripture: 2 Timothy 3:16

“In short, I tend not to read 2 Tim 3:16a as an assertion about scripture, but as an identification of which writings the author is talking about.”

Modesty: Modesty: I Don’t Think it Means What You Think it Means

“And so biblical modesty isn’t about managing the sexual impulses of other people; it’s about cultivating humility, propriety and deference within ourselves.”

Parenting: Dear Parents With Young Children [essential reading]

“You are doing something really, really important. I know it’s not easy. I see you with your arms overflowing, and I know you came to church already tired. Parenting is tiring. Really tiring.

“I watch you bounce and sway trying to keep the baby quiet, juggling the infant car seat and the diaper bag as you find a seat. I see you wince as your child cries. I see you anxiously pull things out of your bag of tricks to try to quiet them.

“And I see you with your toddler and your preschooler. I watch you cringe when your little girl asks an innocent question in a voice that might not be an inside voice let alone a church whisper.  I hear the exasperation in your voice as you beg your child to just sit, to be quiet as you feel everyone’s eyes on you. Not everyone is looking, but I know it feels that way.

“I know you’re wondering, is this worth it? Why do I bother? I know you often leave church more exhausted than fulfilled. But what you are doing is so important.”

Reading: * Read Your Bible: But How? (Lectio Divina); * Americans’ Reading Habits Over Time

* “I’ve benefited from reading large portions of Scripture–whole narratives, books, and multiple chapters–in one sitting. I’ve also benefited immensely from slowing down and meditatively just reading a few verses at a time. Lectio Divina is a way of reading Scripture that encourages that. It’s reading, as many have said, for transformation and not just information. …

“It goes like this: * 1. Read: What does the passage say? 2. Pray: What is God saying to me through this passage?  (short phrase or single word) 3. Listen: How is God calling me to respond to what he’s saying? 4. Respond: What will I commit to God to do in response?”

* “… the percentage of Americans who read a printed book in the previous 12 months fell from 72% of the population in 2011 to 67% in 2012.”

this went thru my mind

 

Apocrypha, Bible, & canon: The Second Canon

“Just how Protestants came to lose these books is a curious story. Reformation-era debates over the Bible naturally focused on issues of canon.”

Complaining, criticism, leadership, ministry, self-pity & whining: * No Whining; * How To Respond to Rejection and Unjust Criticism

* “Just about the worst thing a leader can nurture in his heart is self-pity. And just about the worst thing a leader can do in front of his people is murmur and complain. I understand there is an appropriate place for lament. I know it is not always wise for leaders to quietly endure injustice. I’m not encouraging leaders to be stoic and indifferent to pain. What I am saying—and rather forcefully I hope—is that leaders must not be whiners.”

* “Many Christians cannot get over rejection, let alone misunderstanding. And that is why there is no resurrection in their lives. In our own natural power, we are incapable of responding to pain the way Jesus did. But the good news of the gospel is that He lives inside of us, giving us both the power and the will to do His good pleasure. The secret is in letting go.”

Culture and the U.S.: A ‘Whom Do You Hang With?’ Map Of America

“The idea here is to show America not as 50 states, but as regions where people do stuff together. In other words, a ‘Whom Do You Hang With?’ map.”

Discipleship: Five Reasons We Don’t Disciple (links to parts 1, 2, & 3)

“Seven years ago Christianity Today magazine asked John Stott to assess the growth of the evangelical church. This was his reply: ‘The answer is “growth without depth.” None of us wants to dispute the extraordinary growth of the church. But it has been largely numerical and statistical growth. And there has not been sufficient growth in discipleship that is comparable to the growth in numbers.’ Sadly, seven years on, that assessment still rings true. Although our growth has been wide as the ocean, it’s often about as deep as a puddle. Why is that?”

Faith & grief: One Month by Keith Brenton

“Will I choose to continue believing, go on trusting?”

God, church, power & self: How Shall We Keep Going On? by Terry Rush [required reading]

“In actuality, if it is to be it is up to Him. Why do we need this reminder? When we think church is up to us, we become overwhelmed and inwardly overwrought with exasperation because WE CAN’T DO IT.  Frustration, guilt, and bummerism subdue the spirit of each servant.”

Preaching: * 5 Strategies to Get More Out of the Sermon by Sean Palmer; * When Your Sermon is Only a Single by Philip Nation

* “You have a role to play in helping your preacher preach better.”

* “Each week, we hope that our sermon will be a homerun. However, I’ve hit a lot more singles and doubles than triples. I’ve hit even fewer homeruns. In all honesty, there are many Sundays my sermon feels like a poorly executed bunt that I have to hustle out to first base. So what are you to do when you just hit a single?”

Productivity: How I Improved My Workflow, 90-Minutes at a Time

“Timing is everything, as they say, and your workflow is no different. The human body is hard-wired to pulse. To operate at our best, we need to renew our energy at 90-minute intervals — not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally.”

this went thru my mind

 

Criticism: It’s So Much Easier To Criticize! by Stephen Altrogge

* “… if our relationships are lacking encouragement, it doesn’t matter how much we speak the truth, it won’t be received.”

Depression: Treating Depression With Psychiatry and Faith

“… many people think depression is nothing more than an intense episode of ‘the blues.’ Why are they wrong?”

Facebook & privacy: Get Total Facebook App Privacy With One Setting

“… what if I told you that changing one simple setting can radically improve your privacy on Facebook? It sounds like a ‘too good to be true’ claim, but it’s true.”

Fear & security: Everyday Idolatry: Security by Jonathan Stormented

“… the real risk of security is that you might be worshipping a god who is no god at all.”

Gossip: Addressing Gossip in the Church by Ron Edmonson [sermon; 27 min. video; essential viewing]

“Have you ever been the spreader of gossip? … Gossip is one those sins that no one admits to.”

Grief: Why You May Never Heal by Caleb Wilde

“The assumption to both Freud and Kubler-Ross’ model is that the end of the grief process (healing, acceptance) is a form of detachment from the deceased. But, I think they’re wrong. … Instead of saying that the end of the grief process is detachment and healing, I think we should say that the healthy end of the grief process is adjustment. It’s adjusting to the fact that your loved one is no longer here to share life experiences with you. It’s adjusting to the loss of the future, but there’s never a detachment from the past.”

Heaven: Heaven is for Real: A Book Review by Wayne Stiles [required reading]

“If this book’s story is real, Jesus needs to get His stories straight.”

Hope: How Hope Can Help You Heal

“Groopman’s research showed that during the course of illness, belief and expectation — two mental states associated with hope — have an impact on the nervous system which, in turn, sets off a chain reaction that makes improvement and recovery more likely.”

Illness & sickness: For a Sick Friend: First, Do No Harm

“Conversing with the ill can be awkward, but keeping a few simple commandments makes a huge difference.”

Jackie Robinson: Jackie Robinson and the Pattern of Jesus by David Mathis

“… if you are against him, you’re against all of us.”

Leadership & ministry: * Ministry Inside.115 by Jim Martin; * Something I’ve Learned as a Senior Leader

* “How do you stay sane when there is so much craziness that surrounds ministry? Good question. Craziness is everywhere.”

* “Not everyone will understand all the decisions a leader makes unless they sat where the leader sits.”

Listening, preaching & teaching: Exegetes at Church by Tim Gombis

“…  there’s a world of difference between a critical mind and a critical spirit.”

Parenting: Helping Your Teen Read the Bible by Chad Nall

“Let’s be honest, the Bible isn’t as easy to read as we would like it to be.”

Young adults: The Church and Young Adults by Joshua Graves

“In Robert Wuthnow’s After the Baby Boomers, three critical (in my estimation) observations are offered. … I will summarize Wuthnow’s observations and add additional reflection.”

this went thru my mind

 

Critics, criticism, leadership & ministry: Something I’ve Learned about Pastors and Leaders by Ron Edmonson

“We often let the few negatives overshadow the many positives. … the critic can destroy your perception of reality. That’s why, as leaders, it’s important that we keep our mind on the bigger picture of what God is doing, rather than the voices of the negative minority.”

Just for fun: The History of Doctor Who Companions [infographic]

“The History of Doctor Who Companions infographic … gives us a guide to all the companions that Doctor Who has travelled with and a sneak peak on the newest one. Along with the names and photos come statistics of gender, species, and who is the worst and the best companions.”

Justice: What is Justice? by Christopher Smith [required reading]

“One of the misfortunes in the long history of the church is that we have mistakenly separated love of God from love of neighbor, and always they are held together in prophetic poetry. Covenant members who practice justice and righteousness are to be active advocates for the vulnerable and the marginal and the people without resources, and that then becomes the way to act out and exhibit one’s love of God. So, love of God gets translated into love of vulnerable neighbor.  The doing of justice is the prophetic invitation to do what needs to be done to enable the poor and the disadvantaged and the neglected to participate in the wealth and resources of the community. Injustice is the outcome of having skewed neighborly processes so that some are put at an unbearable disadvantage. And the Gospel invitation is that people intervene in that to correct those mistaken arrangements.” [quoting Walter Brueggemann]

Mission statements & vision: Wasting Time on Mission and Vision by Dan Rockwell

“I think there’s so much time and effort wasted on setting forth mission statements and vision statements … If the mission or vision doesn’t directly effect how [front-line people] are doing their work then it’s … pointless.”

Short-term missions: Before You Plan That International Mission Trip …

“People who go on mission trips want to help or serve in some way. We often think in terms of a work project—something concrete where we can see the result. We would suggest that a more useful way to help and serve the people is to learn from them: about their culture, their reality, their history, the history of our country in relation to theirs, how their country was impoverished, and the unjust systems that continue to impoverish it.”

Texas: How Texas Laws are Made

“Texas Co-Op Power brings us the How Texas Laws Are Made infographic outlining the process bills go through in the state legislature to become the law of the land.”

Zealotry: Zealotry Today by Scot McKnight

“Zealotry is conscious zeal to be radically committed, so radically committed that one goes beyond the Bible to defend things that are not in the Bible.”