links: this went thru my mind

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Here are links to some reading I consider interesting and helpful.

Church, ministry & obstacles: Ten Ways We Get in the Way of God Building His Church

“When things don’t go well at church, is it possible that we are getting in God’s way?”

Church growth & martyrdom: Sorry, Tertullian

“‘The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church’ … early church theologian Tertullian argued … [However] church growth is ‘not strongly’ correlated with either governmental or societal persecution. However, Christianity ‘tends loosely’ to change more rapidly (grow or shrink) when governmental restriction is high, and stays relatively stable when such pressure is low.”

Cinema, film & movies: Do We Really Need Christian Film?

“What surprises me is that the church has all but ignored, and even villified, this art form. We sit around debating the usefulness of film, bemoaning the latest Hollywood faith-based effort, madly citing Marshall McLuhan with the worst of proof-texting, wondering why we don’t see the likes of Bach, Handel, John Bunyan or C. S. Lewis making powerful, intelligent films. Maybe in the next ten to twenty years a Christian filmmaker will come along and show us what powerful Christian film can be.”

Humanity, inhumanity & violence: Why are We So Mired in Violence?

“… we can’t relate to each other the way God intends unless we’re in relationship with God himself the way he intends.”

Faith & torture: * Christians & Torture; * You Cannot Be a Christian and Support Torture

* “Torture is the arrogance of the mighty. … The cross of Christ reveals what God thinks of torture: it is not the way of God. God turned torture into new life by resurrection and overcoming torture.”

* “… to be a Christian absolutely requires you to reject the use of torture. … Any thoughtful person, no matter their religion or non-religion, knows that you cannot support torturing people and still claim to be a follower of the one who commanded his disciples to love their enemies. The only way around this is to invent a false Jesus who supports the use of torture. (The Biblical term for this invented false Jesus is ‘antichrist.’)

“Those who argue for the use of torture do so because they are convinced it is pragmatic for national security. But Christians are not called to be pragmatists or even safe. Christians are called by Jesus to imitate a God who is kind and merciful to the wicked.”

links: this went thru my mind

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Church, gratitude & thankfulness: * Gratitude & Justice;  * Cultivating Gratitude in Our Communities

* “Gratitude is perhaps the most important way we practice recognizing the “enough” all around us. If “lack” is the root of injustice, then gratitude is at root of justice. How can we hoard what isn’t ours? … And if everything we have is a gift from God, how can we not share those gifts, even with our enemies (see Matthew 5:43-45, 48)? Gratitude can help us move from dissatisfaction, fear, and narcissism to satisfaction, trust, and a deeper appreciation of the interconnectedness of all things. It frees us up to live in the present and to accept each moment and every circumstance as a gift.”

* ” … we tend to focus more on what we don’t have, what we can’t do, and where we fall short. We often define and appraise our faith communities the same way.  What is absent can obscure what is present. This happens when we focus more on needs than assets … Rather than emphasizing what’s not there, the church should focus on what is. The work of the church is, in part, to help people discern their gifts, provide opportunities for people to publicly praise God for them, and support them as they exercise those gifts—’re-gifting’ them for God’s glory.”

Christian faith, civil religion, culture, nationalism, narcissism & Thanksgiving: Appreciation Day [essential reading]

“Appreciative folks value their stuff, but never acknowledge its true source.”

Dogs & learning: How Dogs Understand What We Say

“Tell all the emotional things to the dog in his left ear … For commands that you want a dog to get clearly and precisely, tell them in right ear.”

History, humility, memory, Native Americans & remembrance: Never Forget

“A people with our history should practice humility and exercise sensitivity far beyond what comes natural for most of us.”

links: this went thru my mind

Church, culture, demographics & multi-racial: The Changing Face of the American Church

“If you ask, would you like to have a multiethnic church, everyone says, ‘that would be wonderful’ … When you ask, what are you doing to make that happen—that’s when you hear the crickets.”

Contentment, life, meaning, significance & stimulation: What If Having an Extraordinary Life Isn’t the Point?

“What we are called to do every day, right where God has placed us, is rich and rewarding. … Sometimes, the best way to change the world is to live extraordinarily in what looks like an ordinary existence—to radically love and serve those around us every day, no matter where we are.”

Pornography & repentance: * Men and Porn (a four-part series; parts 1, 2, 3 & 4)

“The tips and suggestions below are based on my research into cognitive psychology over the years as well as from reported experiences of men who have quit using porn. Again, there’s no silver bullet. What works for one man, may not work for you. You need to be ready to experiment and try different things.”

Water: Water is the New Oil: How Corporations Took Over a Basic Human Right

“Water has become a commodity …and the world’s poor are paying the price. … Twenty percent of the world right now does not have access to clean water. Twenty percent of the world also happens to live on less than a dollar a day. And it’s interesting to look at how much those two groups overlap.”

links: this went thru my mind

Choices, depression, happiness, mental health & thankfulness: What Are the Three Ways to Train Your Brain to Be Happy? [think Philippians 4.8]

“You can train your mind to be unhappy and you can train it to be happy. … Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep. Write down three things that went well today and why they went well. You may use a journal or your computer to write about the events, but it is important that you have a physical record of what you wrote. The three things need not be earthshaking in importance (“My husband picked up my favorite ice cream for dessert on the way home from work today”), but they can be important (“My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy”). Next to each positive event, answer the question “Why did this happen?””

Culture, grace & post-Christendom: Vanishing Grace

“Frankly, Christian faith is losing traction in society. It has lost traction in Europe and Canada where far fewer than half find religion a positive influence. And it will likely continue to lose traction in the US.”

Early Christianity, ingratitude, nonviolence, pacifism, perception & the state: Pacifism & Holy Ingratitude [essential reading; spot-on!]

“… the Romans considered the early Christians to be an ungrateful group of people. … Specifically, the Romans believed that Roman citizens owed a certain amount of gratitude toward the state. Romans lived in a great, prosperous and generally peaceful empire. Thus, Roman citizens owed the state gratitude. But the Christians seemed to differ. Confessing Jesus as ‘Lord of all’ and directing their gratitude toward God rather than toward the state the Christians busted up the cycles of gratitude that had kept Roman citizens bound to the state. One way that Christians expressed this holy ingratitude was in their refusal to kill for the state. This refusal struck the Romans as hugely ungrateful. Christians benefited as Roman citizens. Yet they refuse to participate in the fighting that created and maintained all those benefits. Non-violent Christians in their refusal to participate in the Roman military were non-patriotic slackers and free-riders.”

God & sovereignty: Does the “Sovereignty of God” Mean That God is Responsible for Everything That Happens?

“… some of what we encounter in life may be simple chance.”

Intimidation, involvement, lukewarmness & spiritual maturity: The Institutionalization of Lukewarmness

“What causes mediocrity in the church members? You take a stab with your best guess. Mine is cowardice. We want peace which interpreted can mean, ‘Leave me alone to serve where I want. Do not press me else I will bolt.’ Intimidation often rules.  This is why so many don’t sing. They don’t want to be heard. Others don’t serve. They don’t want to be seen. Yet, others sneak in and sneak out.  They don’t want to be in contact. Living in the kingdom is a scary, threatening, and risky walk. Institutionalization, however, has declared immunity to the timid. Following Jesus demands we take up our crosses; not sneaking about in dark alleys at night going undetected, but bravely moving about in the public square destined for ridicule and persecution.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Birds & climate change: Climate Change Will Disrupt Half of North America’s Bird Species, Study Says

“… climate change is likely to so alter the bird population of North America that about half of the approximately 650 species will be driven to smaller spaces or forced to find new places to live, feed and breed over the next 65 years. If they do not — and for several dozen it will be very difficult — they could become extinct. The four Audubon Society scientists who wrote the report projected in it that 21.4 percent of existing bird species studied will lose ‘more than half of the current climactic range by 2050 without the potential to make up losses by moving to other areas.’ An additional 32 percent will be in the same predicament by 2080, they said.”

Burdens, endurance, God, & trials: 21 Reasons God May Allow More Than You Can Bear

“Don’t believe the lie. God WILL allow more on you than you can bear — alone. You and I need a Him for our every breath. If you feel overwhelmed today — defeated — like there is more on you than you can bear – turn to the burden bearer.”

Christian nation, culture, morality, outrage & shock: 4 Reasons Why Christians Should Let Non-Christians Off the Moral Hook

“It bothers me that Christians continually express shock, disapproval and judgment at the way non-Christians live.”

Enemies, ISIS, and love: How are We to Love the Soldiers of ISIS?

“… as long as there are nations and governments, there will be people who are more than willing to engage in violence, for no national government can rule its people and survive outside threats without being willing to engage in violence. Nations, governments and violence go hand-in-hand, in other words. The call of kingdom people is to opt out of this whole enterprise by pledging allegiance to Christ alone as we leave all vengeance to God and simply imitate Christ by loving our enemies (Eph 5:1-2).”

Holiness, perception, purity & sexuality: Search Term Friday: Damaged Goods

“This is the psychology that makes the Christian purity culture so toxic.”

Poor & poverty: What Makes People Poor?

“Let’s imagine for a moment that there are no political pressures distorting our discussion of poverty and that we can look at it as a technical problem, not a moral one. Maybe we would find that most explanations – left, right and center – are not mutually exclusive but mutually reinforcing.”