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

 

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

 

Busyness, church, fellowship & programming: Has Christianity Become Too Busy?

“Jesus is famous for many things—like performing miracles, claiming to be God, and dying on the cross—but one of his most underappreciated characteristics was his ability to just hang out. … Today, many churches leave little room for just hanging out. Instead, we do everything we can to contrive an extraordinary experience. Therefore, churches scheme, plan, design, create and facilitate multiple platforms for ultimate experiences to happen—but they often don’t.”

Chernobyl, nuclear power, pollution & Ukraine: Chernobyl: Capping a Catastrophe

“Against the decaying skyline here, a one-of-a-kind engineering project is rising near the remains of the world’s worst civilian nuclear disaster. … If all goes as planned, by 2017 the 32,000-ton arch will be delicately pushed on Teflon pads to cover the ramshackle shelter that was built to entomb the radioactive remains of the reactor that exploded and burned here in April 1986. When its ends are closed, it will be able to contain any radioactive dust should the aging shelter collapse. … The arch … allow(s) the final stage of the Chernobyl cleanup to begin — an arduous task to remove the heavily contaminated reactor debris for permanent safe storage. …  the Chernobyl arch alone will end up costing about $1.5 billion, financed largely by the United States and about 30 other nations. And making the site of a radioactive disaster truly secure can take generations. Engineers have designed the Chernobyl arch to stand for 100 years; they figure that is how long it may take to fully clean the area.”

Churches, demographics, evangelism, generations, Nones & outreach: The Gospel and the Nones [essential reading]

“Here is a fact: the median church size in America is now at 108 (down from 140). Churches are shrinking, the Nones are rising. … What’s the problem?”

Christians, Islam & Muslims: Why I Defend Muslims [essential reading]

“I’m ready and eager to talk about the uniqueness of Jesus, the wonder of the Gospel, and I’ll even talk about what distinguishes Christianity from other faiths, but I’m not going to do it by smearing our neighbors and their religion with half-truths and caricatures.”

Holocaust: Holocaust Remembrance Day

“… Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah) … extends from Sunday evening until Monday evening, April 27-28

Rest: The Lost Practice of Resting One Day Each Week

“‘He that can take rest is greater than he that can take cities.’ —Benjamin Franklin.”

Self-perception & thinking: Are Your Beliefs Keeping You Stuck?

“Beliefs about myself. … Beliefs about others… Beliefs about the world.”

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.”

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.”