links: this went thru my mind

 

Archaeology, history & Syria: Among the Wounded in Syria’s War: Ancient History

“The situation now is absolutely terrible there. … They come with jackhammers. That means everything is destroyed.”

Church atmosphere & environment: * What’s the Habitat? [essential reading]; * The Church is a Zoo; * The Dark Side of Small [essential reading]

* “Here’s an important question to ask regularly: ‘Who does well here?’ Don’t just ask, ‘who attends here currently?’ Ask, ‘Who thrives here?’ Ask it in the present tense rather than, ‘Who has survived here over the years?’”

* “… if God is bringing people different than those you thought He would bring, rejoice that He’s drawing any of His children to your church at all.”

* “I have often praised smaller churches. … But I am not wholly idealistic and naïve. Wherever there are human beings trying to make it through life together, there are problems. It matters not whether the setting is large or small. Every community of people faces challenges which, if not handled with wisdom, grace, and love, will threaten its health and perhaps even its existence.”

Crimea, Ukraine & Russia: The 160-Year Christian History Behind What’s Happening in Ukraine

“It would be pleasant to think that the U.S. and Europe are taking these religious factors into full account as they calculate their response to the present crisis in Crimea and Ukraine. Pleasant, but unlikely.”

Encouragement, leadership & ministry: Minister Search: You Have More to Offer Than You Might Think

“Church leaders often underestimate what they have to offer a prospective minister.  They have much value to offer a minister and I’m not talking about money. … Church leaders need to spend time thinking about what they have to offer that is of value. … Church leaders who will form a hedge of protection around a young minister really have something of value to offer. … Church leaders who will show a genuine interest in the lives of their ministers and families definitely have something valuable to offer.”

Happiness, money, possessions & stuff: Why Buying Stuff Won’t Make You Happy (and One Thing That Might)

“The pursuit and purchase of physical possessions will never fully satisfy our desire for happiness. It may result in temporary joy for some, but the happiness found in buying a new item rarely lasts longer than a few days. Researchers even have a phrase for this temporary fulfillment: retail therapy.”

History & the United States: Watch the United States Grow Before Your Eyes

“On March 4, 1789, the U.S. Constitution took effect, forming a nation of 13 colonies and a whole heck of a lot of unorganized territory. On August 21, 1959, Congress admitted Hawaii as the 50th state. … [see] this handy gif of all the steps it took to get us from point A to point B.”

The South: These 9 Maps Should Absolutely Outrage Southerners

“… there are lots of things to love about the South. It’s clean and quiet. There’s delicious food, good people and often amazing weather. But that’s exactly why it makes us so sad to think about all the ways in which the region is struggling today.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Contribution, generosity, giving, offering & tips: * Why We Give (or Don’t) [required reading]; * Is It Stealing From God to Split Your Tithe Between the Church and Other Charities?

* “Why do we give to others? Why do we choose not to? New research seeking answers to these questions has important implications for Christians. For example, not all of our giving is altruistic.”

* “Three views on what it means to give faithfully.”

Education, income, social injustice, wages & work: What’s Wrong With This Picture? [infographic]

“Low-wage-workers are far more educated than they were in 1968 … but we’re paying them less.”

Nonviolence: She Survived a Standoff with a Gunman — Could You? [essential reading]

“Now she is the only one standing between the gunman and 800 children at an elementary school just outside Atlanta. Tuff began her day by reading Psalms 23: ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.’”

Stress: * How Couples Can Cope with Professional Stress; * When a Vacation Reduces Stress — And When It Doesn’t; * The Best Way to Defuse Your Stress; * What to Do When You Can’t Control Your Stress

* “Each couple will have to find their own solutions, but learning to cope with stress together is a fundamental skill for thriving at work and at home.”

* “Poorly planned and stressful vacations eliminate the positive benefit of time away.”

* “Think of stress as a monster, who lives in your body and feeds on uncertainty. The monster’s most satisfying meal starts with the sentence: ‘What will happen if … ?’”

* “When your anxious thoughts come at you, rather than grappling with them, you let them just be. Observe them.  Notice them. And simply direct your attention to something other than your thoughts, such as your breath. This may not be easy at first, but if you are having one of those days, it is likely to be much more successful before any meeting that provokes anxiety in anticipation of it. Also, practice makes perfect. If you practice this method often, you are likely to get better at it over time.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Affordable Care Acts / Obamacare: * Affordable Care Act and Health Coverage; * Obamacare: Your 12 Biggest Questions Answered

* “On next Tuesday, October 1, 2013, Americans without health insurance coverage will be able to enroll for coverage under provisions of the Affordable Care Act. The process is fairly simple. You can apply online at www.healthcare.gov.”

* “Will the new insurance exchanges make buying insurance on my own easier? … I’ve already got insurance at my job. Why does any of this matter to me? … I’ve been buying my own insurance for years. What changes? … Will the exchanges lower prices? … What about my premium? Up or down? … Can I still buy insurance off the exchange? … Will I really have to pay a fine if I opt out? … I keep hearing about subsidies. Who is eligible for one? … I’m retired. What do I need to do? … This all sounds pretty complicated. Do we have a logistical disaster in the making? … Could the government still pull the plug? … What happens if too many opt out?”

Arrogance & pride: Three Signs of Arrogance

“Now, of course, you might say, “Not me! No way I am even remotely an arrogant person.” Sometimes we think of people who act pompous and immediately conclude that we are certainly not arrogant. Yet, arrogance sometimes comes out in people who think they are … better … smarter … more important.”

Children, parenting & youth ministry: Anonymous Youth Pastor’s Letter to a Parent

“I need to get something off my chest. When I first came to this church, you told me how excited you were that I would be showing your kids what it means to love Jesus, be part of His Church, and grow as a Christian. You told me you were praying for me and that you had my back. You had high hopes for the youth ministry. I had high hopes too. But I must confess that I am frustrated right now because I feel like you’re working against me, not with me.”

Civility, internet, respect, rudeness, speech, thoughtlessness & words: ‘Popular Science’ Shuts Comments, Citing Internet ‘Trolls

“We’re all familiar with that deep, dark rabbit hole of Internet comment boards. A negative or critical comment sparks a firestorm of debate until the discussion erodes into a cavalcade of insults and personal attacks. Once you finally snap back to reality, you realize you’ve often strayed so far from the original story that it’s often difficult to find your way back.”

Death, heaven, resurrection, the intermediate state & transformation: NT Wright on the Intermediate State

“Going to heaven when you die’ is not held out in the New Testament as the main goal. The main goal is to be bodily raised into the transformed, glorious likeness of Jesus Christ.”

Deception, government, money, poor & wealthy: Interests of the Wealthy Elite and Myth of Government “Inefficiency”

“What is very much a biblical concern is that ‘the powerful dictate what they desire; thus they pervert justice’ (Micah 7:2-3). A government that deserves the support of people of faith is one that stands with the weak against the strong. Those responsible for governing who fail to do this are the very ones ‘who make iniquitous decrees, who write oppressive statutes, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right’ (Isaiah 10:1). The rich who use government to their own advantage also promote distrust of government that serves the broader legitimate interests of the population.

“It is to the advantage of the power and wealth elite to convince others that the government is wasteful, ineffective and untrustworthy. The mighty moneyed elite have pressed this message incessantly for decades. They have successfully mobilized their media and advertising power to shape the perceptions of many to the advantage of the few. And the push toward privatization has filled their pockets to overflowing.”

Education: Education Statistics: High School Diploma or Higher, by Percentage (Most Recent) by State [Texas comes in dead last]

“Percentage of population over 25 years old with a high school degree or higher.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Aliens, brotherly love, dehumanization, illegals, immigration & respect: I Don’t Know What an “Illegal” is … [required reading]

“In our culture, the way these folks are framed (‘named’) is by calling them ‘illegals.’ I am very convicted about this. … I feel I should say ‘I do not know what an illegal is. I know only humans.’”

Bible reading, lectio divina, reflection, Sermon on the Mount & transformation: Ten Minute Transformation: Ten Minutes of Lectio Divina That Can Revolutionize Your Life (Matt. 5) [required reading]

“It’s a good question. If the Christian faith is only about going to heaven, then why do we stay here on earth?”

Bible study, college & faith: Open Letter to New Testament Students

” … if I am doing my job, you are probably going to undergo a slow process of discovering that what you thought was a book is, in fact, a bunch of books; you’re going to find out that what you know is often incorrect; and what has spoken to you has been edifying, but that text may not ever be able to speak with that same voice again.”

Busyness, culture, stress & the United States: 8 Things You May Not Know about Busyness in America [infographic]

“…  eight things that we should all keep in mind about our ‘busy’ lives.”

Brotherly love, humility, others, patience, understanding & sincerity: The Thing I’d Love to Forget About the People I Disagree With [essential reading]

“…  it’s a bit disconcerting to confront the reality that it’s possible to wrestle with the same God and walk with the same limp and yet reach different conclusions. Perhaps it is in the wrestling itself that we can find some common ground.”

Discipleship, knowledge, questionnaires, spiritual formation & transformation: Christianity: Has Education Replaced Transformation

“American Christianity is turning into a massive question-and-answer quiz, and I’m probably going to fail. The Bible isn’t a textbook — but people treat it that way, and “Christianity” is becoming a pass-or-fail test. … “

Sin: Have We Grown to Overlook Sin?

“…  we tend to elevate the sin of another which is different than ours.”

this went thru my mind

 

Art: Isn’t That King David? Nope, It’s Just Dave

“I know that putting modern clothes on classical sculptures isn’t a new idea. Michelangelo’s David has had modern clothes for years. But the skirts, T-shirts and shorts in these images look so comfortable and fit so well, these ancients torque suddenly into moderns. It’s like these two French artists have developed a new way to time travel.”

Atheism & community: In the Bible Belt, Offering Atheists a Spiritual Home

“With Sunday’s service — marking the start of Community Mission Chapel in Lake Charles, which Mr. [Jerry] DeWitt called a full-fledged atheist “church” — he wanted to bring some of the things that he had learned from his years as a religious leader to atheists in southern Louisiana.”

Choices, discernment, ethics, & guidance: The Jesus Compass

“The acrostic stands for: * Jesus – Are any of Jesus’ sayings or actions relevant to the question? * Church – What are the teachings of different Christian churches / denominations? * Obey Conscience – What might an individual Christian’s conscience tell them to do? * Ministers & priests – How might a minister or priest advise a Christian to act? * Prayer – How might praying help a Christian to make moral decisions? * Agape – What is the most loving thing to do? * Saints – How might the lives of famous Christians inspire others to behave? * Scripture – What Biblical quotations or teachings are relevant?”

Communication, diversity, getting along, relationships & unity: 8 Ways Those From More Liberal-Progressive and Conservative-Evangelical Persuasions Can Better Love Each Other

“1.  remember first, that other person is a child of God, made in God’s image. … 2. respect each other’s biblical conclusions. … 3. lay down our ‘if they would justs…’ … 4. never pull the ‘but God says’ or ‘but it’s clear in the Bible’ card. … 5. acknowledge our own blind spots. … 6. celebrate what we do agree on. … 7. always put relationships above our positions. …  8. trust that God is big enough for our differences.”

Education, humanities & writing: The Decline and Fall of the English Major

“In 1991, 165 students graduated from Yale with a B.A. in English literature. By 2012, that number was 62. In 1991, the top two majors at Yale were history and English. In 2013, they were economics and political science. At Pomona this year, they were economics and mathematics. …

“What many undergraduates do not know — and what so many of their professors have been unable to tell them — is how valuable the most fundamental gift of the humanities will turn out to be. That gift is clear thinking, clear writing and a lifelong engagement with literature.

“Maybe it takes some living to find out this truth. Whenever I teach older students, whether they’re undergraduates, graduate students or junior faculty, I find a vivid, pressing sense of how much they need the skill they didn’t acquire earlier in life. They don’t call that skill the humanities. They don’t call it literature. They call it writing — the ability to distribute their thinking in the kinds of sentences that have a merit, even a literary merit, of their own.”

Love: Are You Agapephobic

“When you have a problem, ask this: How does love solve this? Every answer you find is another step toward God.”

this went thru my mind

 

Apologetics, historicity of Christianity & scholarship: Epiphany – Five Reflections from a Life Time by Paul Barnett [required reading]

“Theology to be true depends on what happened historically.  If the Word did not actually become flesh in Bethlehem in the latter years of Herod, then the theology stated in John 1:14 is just empty words, akin to myth.”

Church guests, first impressions & welcome: The Other Side of Evangelism: The Importance of Receiving Those God Sends Our Way by Matt Dabbs

“We can go out and reach out to people all day but if we don’t receive them well then we may never gain access to getting into any deeper conversation with them than whatever they hear on their first visit, because they may never come back.”

Christianity & politics: Louie Giglio and Inauguration Day Prayer by Scot McKnight

“Louie Giglio did the right thing when he chose to back out of offering the Inauguration Day Prayer. He could have done the right-er thing by never accepting such an invitation. …

“Christian leaders and pastors need to be at the Prayer Breakfast or the Easter Breakfast, but not on the Inauguration Day platform — unless they line up with that platform’s agendas, and the most political ones and the most vocal ones and the most inflammatory ones are the ones that will determine suitability. Louie, you didn’t belong there. May all of us learn the lesson that Caesar is Caesar and Jesus is not Caesar.”

DiscipleshipHow To to Measure Discipleship by Geoff Surratt

“How do we measure discipleship? It is relatively easy to measure church attendance, giving, or small group participation, but how do we measure church members becoming more like Christ? … I think there are six vital areas that point to a growing disciple … Separate studies by the Willow Creek Association and Lifeway on discipleship came to the same conclusion; the single biggest factor in growing as a disciple is reading the Bible every day. It’s the magic pill of discipleship.”

Economy, education & food stamps: More Ph.D.s Needing Food Stamps

“While more than 293,000 master’s recipients needed public assistance in 2010, up from 102,000 in 2007, nearly 34,000 doctorate recipients used food stamps and other assistance programs. That’s a sizable increase from the 9,800 doctorate holders who needed support back in 2007…

“… one in six Americans received food stamps in 2011. That’s about 52.5 million people …”

Evil & hope: When the Children Cry by Paula Harrington

“Our hope isn’t in the United States nor is it in better or worse gun laws. Our hope is in the Christ.”

Grace: Grace, Electricity, and Sex by Dan Bouchelle [required reading]

“I grew up in a church that believed in God’s grace. We believed in it just like we believed in electricity. We believed it existed and we needed it. We were thankful for it. We knew we depended on it and would be in deep trouble without it. We didn’t want to give it up or live in a world without it. But, we didn’t understand how it worked and felt obliged to restrict its distribution to safe outlets so as to prevent its abuse, which would be our undoing. Grace was like sex. We liked it, but we didn’t talk about it freely because it was more than a little embarrassing. It made us feel exposed and vulnerable. Like with sex, people who got obsessed with grace could go overboard, losing both necessary discipline and holiness.”

golden nuggets from Sirach (2)

 

Every few days now I’m posting five passages that have jumped out at me as I make my way through Sirach (aka: Ecclesiasticus) this time. Here’s the next installment. Read and consider.

Let those who are at peace with you be many, but let only one in a thousand be your advisor. (Sirach 6.6)

“Don’t seek political power from the Lord or a seat of honor from the king.” (Sirach 7.4)

“Don’t be timid in your prayer, and don’t neglect caring for those in need.” (Sirach 7.10)

“Don’t make fun of the uneducated, or your ancestors might be insulted.” (Sirach 8.4)

“Turn your eye away from a shapely woman, and don’t stare at beauty belonging to someone else.” (Sirach 9.8a)