links: this went thru my mind

 

Aliens, culture, faith & immigration: God’s Immigrants [essential reading]

“The total global diaspora numbers about 859 million from 327 distinct people groups. A larger number of those peoples settle in the US than in any other host country, making about 11% of the US population foreign born. … Let us see if we can’t … reclaim the deep resonances and reverence scripture caries for the immigrant.”

Busyness, Christianity, church, faith, over-stimulation, United States: Why It’s Hard to Be Christian in America [essential reading]

“What we need is a community of people who agree to live by a different ethic and rhythm. The Bible has a word for that community. It’s called church. So, let the church be the church.”

Burnout, discouragement, leadership & ministry: * Ten Things Pastors Hate to Admit Publicly [essential reading]; * A Cure for Ministerial Burnout: Contemplative Prayer; * Don’t Make Your Pastor a Statistic?

* “My intention is precisely the opposite. I hope that from this: Churches will pray all the more for their pastors because they understand the challenges; Churches will be doubly grateful for the fact that so many pastors stay in the saddle despite their fears, hurts and frustrations; People in churches will think twice before engaging in things that sink deep into the soul of their leaders.”

* “If, each day, time had been set aside for the spiritual renewal that contemplative praying can provide, there probably would have been the kind of revitalization of mind and spirit that could have maintained their enthusiasm and commitment to ministry.”

* “Consider these figures compiled by the Schaeffer Institute …”

Church, church attendance & expectations: * #1 Reason Why Church Attendance is Down – Really? [required reading]; * Disillusionment With the Church [essential reading]

* “Take me for example, for a number of reasons, I am very close to burnout.  When I hear words like ‘active’, ‘committed’, ‘involvement’, and ‘monitor attendance’, it is going to produce the opposite of the intended effect in me.  If I hear these words from the pulpit on a Sunday morning, I am going to be less likely, not more likely,  to attend the following week.  I am burnt out and you want a larger commitment from me?!?

“Seven years ago, when we searching for a new pastor, our church surveyed our community.  When asked the number one reason why they didn’t attend church, the top two responses could be summarized as:  ‘Too tired’, and ‘not enough time.’”

* “I would contend that many of our disillusions with the church are based upon a wrong ethic. We misunderstand the true nature of fellowship in the gospel community. And therefore, we wrongly apply the ethic of other communities to the church.

“The foundation of our fellowship is not the feelings we have for one another, as important as they may be. Neither is the foundation of our fellowship based upon the fact that we live in the same geographic place, educate our children in the same way, hold similar political views, or are the same ethnicity. No. It is the gospel that is the foundation of our fellowship. Nothing else.”

Israel: * The Pilgrimage: Israel (a 25-part series by Ben Witherington; superb); * Gaza is in the News Again

* “I was fortunate enough to lead a tour to Israel and Turkey for two weeks in May with 29 hearty souls on pilgrimage, and we had a blessed time and a blast as well. It was all good. In the coming weeks I will be sharing some of the pictures and experiences from this trip and we will be talking about.”

* “Gaza is mentioned several times in the Old Testament. Here is a summary of these references.”

Listening, preaching & sermons: How to Get More from a Sermon [essential reading]

“Let’s talk about people who do not get full value from the sermons they hear.

“These people may be taking SERMON-BLOCKERS. When the pastor gets up to preach, they … nitpick him … plan the week ahead … shift into neutral and become passive. … send their mind off on a mini-vacation. … listen with their ears but not their hearts … do not bring faith to what they are hearing.

“These people may hear thousands of sermons, but they do not benefit from them because they are resisting them, not listening to them, and not believing them. Such people are literally wasting their time by coming to church.”

Learning, online & reading: Being a Better Online Reader

“… we don’t read the same way online as we do on paper.”

Population density & the United States: Half of the United States Lives in These Counties

“… half of the United States population is clustered in just the 146 biggest counties out of over 3000.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

American history, church, civil rights, culture, discrimination, government, legislation, politics, religious rights, state & violence: * The Origin of “Separation of Church and State” in America; * A Deeper Look at the Politicians Who Passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964; * Five Takeaways From the Hobby Lobby Case

* “… I called the place Providence, I desired it might be a shelter for persons distressed for conscience.”

* “… the passage of the bill required the political machinations of an assortment of Republicans, Democrats, Northerners and Southerners, congressmen, senators, presidents and activists. … The debate over the Civil Rights Act is still, to this day, the longest debate in Senate history.”

* “Also unclear, legal experts say, is how this decision is going to affect religious non-profits and religiously affiliated schools and hospitals that want the same sort of exemption the justices awarded to Hobby Lobby.”

Christianity, civility, courtesy, culture, humility, influence, respect, speech, wisdom & witness: Civil Religion: Seeing Neighbors [required reading]

“In a pluralistic society, one of the greatest gifts the Church can give the world is to keep humanizing people and reminding the world that no one is exempt from being made in the image of God. From Donald Sterling to Jesse Jackson, from Rush Limbaugh to Hillary Clinton.”

Christianity, nationalism, patriotism & the United States: Christians and July 4th: Celebrate with Kingdom Lenses – Not Americanized Ones

“… how much the story of Christianity has been prostituted to the story of Empire. … At the same time, I think there is much about this country to celebrate. … So, let’s celebrate together on July 4th, but let’s do so with Kingdom lenses on. Enjoy the lights in the sky and the wonderful food. Enjoy the wonderful people of America. But, for those who follow Jesus, how can we subvert tendencies like the idolatry of flag pledges with humility? This, and many other questions that this day raises, will need to be handled with generous love towards those who disagree with us, while not compromising our true Kingdom allegiance.”

Facebook: Five Easy Ways to Customize Your Facebook News Feed

“If you’re tired of trying to find the things you want in your news feed, try these five customization options. They’re extremely easy to setup and you just might fall in love with your Facebook news feed again.”

Gossip, listening, slander, speech & words: When in the Company of Gossips

“When you find yourself in the company of gossips, Solomon says the best thing to do is get away!”

Parenting, role models, Super heroes, Wonder Woman & youth: 11 Reasons Wonder Woman Is a Good Role Model for Christian Girls

“Like Wonder Woman, we have a belt of truth, our best defense against the deceptions of the dark one and of everyone else, including ourselves.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Attention, busyness, communication, connection, distraction, listening & relationships: 3 Ways We Lose When We Don’t Connect with Others

“… sometimes the failure to be fully present with others is more than a momentary occurrence. Some people are just not emotionally present regardless of the circumstances. This is just the way they function. In other words, they live each day not really present in the moment they have right now. What do we lose when we are not fully present?”

Boko Haram: * Boko Haram is Not New; * Supplement to Boko Haram is Not New

* “The recent kidnapping of 300 girls in northern Nigeria has rightly ignited a fresh firestorm of concern about Boko Haram. We must be grateful that the world’s attention has turned to this crisis. … Although Boko Haram itself may date to 2002, similar violence was occurring in northern Nigeria in the 1990′s.”

* “… it is important for the world to know that these events have been building for a long time. Those in Nigeria working for peace and restoration (including help for the girls) need our prayers.”

Church, conformity, culture & Millenials: It’s Not About Conforming to the World

“These so-called ‘progressive evangelicals’ believe the Church must conform to the world or die. They tell us millennials will leave if we don’t get with the program and imitate the culture when it comes to gender, sexuality, and science. But we must remain faithful to the Gospel and to God’s Word in the face of this pressure or else risk losing our identity. We can’t just give in to the world because of pressure to be cool.”

“I hear some version of this argument at least once a week … and I believe it is common enough (and reasonable enough) to warrant a brief response here, extended with nothing but grace, peace, and goodwill for my brothers and sisters in Christ with whom I respectfully disagree.”

Depression: * The Hard Fought War Over Depression; * How to Help a Friend Fight Depression

* “Depression is a buried mind-field warfare and we must be careful not to step on them. We can blame others; yet I believe such charges are weak excuses. We are the ones who decide whether to let circumstances and comments take us down. We have the choice to resist. I was notoriously weak at resistance. For one, I didn’t know how. However, Philippians 4:4-9 urged me to practice thinking about the many things going right, with the promise that if I would, then the peace of God would persist.  When I began to obey this divine charge, a new and surprising life arose. I’d never seen this side of the thought terrain.”

* “I know I’m hard to love when I’m depressed, but if you are the rare friend who is committed to staying with me through the pain, consider these seven ways you can help me.”

God, grace, mercy & Scripture: The Bible Wasn’t Written to Tell God What He Has to Do [essential reading]

“… God will have mercy on whom he chooses to have mercy.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Church decline: To the Dying Church: Maybe Death Is a Blessing

“How very God-like of God to make death the beginning of a blessing.”

Congregational singing, corporate worship, singing & song-leading: The Church Singing

“Why We Sing … Five Qualities of a Congregational Song … Reflections on “What Can Miserable Christians Sing?” … My Congregation Barely Sings; How Can I Help? … Rediscovering Jesus’ Hymnbook.”

Gospel, holy kiss, hospitality & table fellowship: Embodying the Gospel: Two Exemplary Practices

“Against those contemporary patterns of thought that segregate thinking and doing, or “theory” and “practice,” this essay urges that Scripture works with a more integrated and communal understanding of human life, and thus of Christian faith.”

Generations & Millenials: Millennials in Adulthood [required reading]

“The Millennial generation is forging a distinctive path into adulthood. Now ranging in age from 18 to 331, they are relatively unattached to organized politics and religion, linked by social media, burdened by debt, distrustful of people, in no rush to marry— and optimistic about the future. They are also America’s most racially diverse generation. In all of these dimensions, they are different from today’s older generations. And in many, they are also different from older adults back when they were the age Millennials are now.”

One another & unity: The Centrality of the “One Another” Passages for Christian Unity

“This is more than just a list of more things to do. This is about how we see others and our own obligation to be supportive of those around us. This is a call away from self and pride to make a difference in the lives of those around us. If Christian embraced this kind of vision for people and way of life…I am convinced we would make a huge impact on the world.”

Jesus, nonviolence & violence: Jesus Said, “Buy a Sword.” What Did He Mean?

“…  justifying the use of violence by citing this passage [Luke 22.35-38] is as unwarranted as citing the temple cleansing passage to this effect.”

Preaching, sermons & thinking: 2 Big Problems with Overly Simple Sermons [essential reading]

“Here’s the problem: sometimes reality is more complex than our desire for simplicity allows. … When simplicity becomes king, the pulpit is often its kingdom.  I think too many preachers have taken Einstein’s quote to heart. They’ve heard too often that good communication must be simple. So they force everything into that mold, talking about complex issues like poverty, suffering, ethics, and even the gospel, as though these were relatively simple and easy to understand. They’re not, and pretending otherwise sets us up for one of two problems (probably both): we create simpletons [and] we create despisers.

Respect: When You Fail to Show Respect

“I am not suggesting that people needed to be ‘nicer.’ The problem runs far deeper than this.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

American churches & change: Nine Rapid Changes in Church Worship Services [essential reading]

“If you were attending a church worship service in 1955 and then returned to the same church in 1975, the changes would be noticeable but not dramatic. Churches were slow to change over that 20-year period. If you, however, attended a church worship service in 2000 and then returned to that same church in 2010, there is a high likelihood you would see dramatic changes in just ten years. … Choirs are disappearing. … Dress is more casual. … Screens are pervasive. … Preaching is longer. … ‘Multi’ is normative. … Attendees are more diverse. … Conflict is not increasing. … More worship attendees are attending larger churches. … Sunday evening services are disappearing.”

Busyness rest, sabbath & work: Sabbath: Oasis for Body And Soul

“Sabbath requires surrender. If we only stop when we are finished [our emails, our projects], we will never stop—because our work is never completely done. … the Sabbath is patterned on the first days of creation, on a rhythm that predates both Christianity and Judaism. Sabbath keeping is not merely good advice for you to lead a nicely-balanced life. It is a practice that is knit into the created order.”

Children & communion: Children at the Table [essential reading]

“The Supper was originally experienced in the context of a meal—it was a Supper. Neither guests nor children would have been excluded from that meal. It was for everyone as witness to the grace of God, which is for everyone. Children, in particular, are invited to the table because they belong to the kingdom. They are kingdom people. They are on the journey of faith, and the Supper will shape the growth and development of that faith. The Supper testifies to the faithfulness and love of God, and when children eat, they experience that faithfulness and love at the table. The table, then, is a learning event for children.”

Church: 5 Church-Types to Probably NOT Avoid, but Embrace

“A church in which ‘Truth’ is embodied in the people, not merely in lists and statements. … A church that is driven by Jesus’ personality – not only the pastor’s. … A church that sees everything it does as an act of worship in union with Christ – so much so that social action is a natural outcome. … A church that speaks about the here and now rather than some Hollywood style Doomsday. … A church that consciously values being citizens of God’s Kingdom – one that tears down walls rather than oppressively reinforcing them.”

Hispanics & faith: Even as U.S. Hispanics Lift Catholicism, Many Are Leaving the Church Behind

“Even as a rising percentage of American Catholics is Hispanic, a falling percentage of American Hispanics is Catholic. … Only slightly more than half of Hispanics in the United States are Catholic.”

Jesus & violence: Was Jesus Violent in the Temple?

“… Jesus’ temple cleansing wasn’t a spontaneous outburst of anger. It was a premeditated, strategic act. … while Jesus’ behavior was certainly aggressive, there’s no indication whatsoever that it involved violence.”

Marriage: 5 Toxic Marriage Habits

“Nagging … Complaining. … Selfishness. … Anger. … Keeping Score.”