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

 

 

Bible reading: 3 Biggest Reasons Bible Reading is Down

“Bible reading is down because people read it in fragments, a-historically, and in isolation.”

Christianity, communication, disagreement, influence, love, relationships & words: Civil Religion Can We Talk? [essential reading]

“… we need to assume goodwill and generosity on the part of others, no matter how wrong we might thing they are. For the sake of having better conversations, and for the pursuit of truth, we have to be able to admit we don’t have it all, After all, if we want to be heard, we have to learn how to listen. So what do you say, Can we talk?”

Culture, history & the United States: I Hope We Never Become a ‘Christian Nation’ Again

* “In reality, Christianity in America may not have the same political, social, and corporate authority it did in the past, but Jesus never intended to spread the gospel message through political strength or domineering control. The problem with people claiming that America used to be a Christian nation is that, well, it never was.”

Creation, nature & stewardship: Stewardship: Being in and Working with Creation

“We use the world’s resources, but the trick is to use them wisely, and with a careful, conservative sense of balance. That’s the difficulty of stewardship. When we use up resources — the resources God gave us — with abandon and without care, the results aren’t pretty. We can never really grow it back. That’s the thing about nature; we can manage it well, but we can’t create it from scratch. Only God can do that. Stewardship is the balanced middle way — it’s not ‘use it up and move on to the next,’ but it’s also not untouched nature for nature’s sake.”

Discouragement, encouragement, ministry & support: 5 Ways to Discourage Your Pastor

“As a pastor of a local church for over twenty-five years, I had my share of buildups and letdowns. Sometimes I recall the discouraging times more. I know that I was not supposed to get down because of people and circumstances, but it happens. I also know that the people who discouraged me did not always mean to do so. But it happened. The purpose of this post is to let you in on a few things to avoid (unless you want to discourage your pastor). If you are bent on discouraging him or her, here are 5 surefire ways of doing so.”

God, suffering, tests, and trials: God Will Give You More Than You Can Handle. I Guarantee It. [essential reading]

“There’s a certain phrase I’ve come to really dislike. … ‘God will never give you more than you can handle’ is the phrase I’m referring to.”

Parenting: Top Ten Mistakes Christian Parents of Teens Make

“It might be difficult for some parents to read through, but here’s a top ten list that I’ve been wanting to write for a while.”

Parenting & social media: Destroying Your Child’s Heart – One FB Picture At A Time

“Public shaming is awful and is nothing less than societally sanctioned parental bullying. Especially harmful to the young people against whom it is used as a weapon, the ramifications will resonate throughout their lives. They aren’t as tough as we pretend we are.”

Social media: 5 Reasons Social Media is Dangerous For Me [required reading]

“I went on an internet fast recently – I spent 40 days without logging on to anything. Here is what I learned about how I had allowed social media to change me over the years.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Books & reading: Books to Have and to Hold

“This may seem like a trivial difference, but that’s not how it feels.”

Brokenness, healing, trauma & understanding: Understanding Trauma – How We Treat the Broken Among Us

“To be broken means that we lack the strength or capacity to manage our circumstances. It means we are truly helpless in the light of the challenges we face. All of us experience this state at one time or another, but the traumatized and mentally ill face it every day.”

Empathy, leadership & power: When Power Goes To Your Head, It May Shut Out Your Heart [required reading]

“Power fundamentally changes how the brain operates.”

End of an era: A Farewell, and Thanks

“It gives me no pleasure to write this, but I am no longer going to be publishing the e-zine New Wineskins. As both a print magazine and later an online e-zine, New Wineskins has had a colorful history over the last 20+ years, but I can no longer continue to publish it.”

Expectations & people: You Get What You Expect [essential reading]

“If we expect something good, it has a way of showing up. If we expect something bad, it too has a way of showing up.”

Grammar & writing: En Dash, Em Dash: What Are They and How To Use Them [really?; we need three different kinds of dashes?]

“What are these dashes you speak of?”

Preaching & sermons: * Sermons are Not for Liking [essential reading]; * Clarification on My Comments About Preaching and Change

* “Sermons are not for liking. There are at least two reasons for this: it dishonors preaching and it dishonors the preacher.”

* “… change in shared practices, involves more than changing our minds about things. This requires deeper, cultural change.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Christianity, humility & pride: Have I Become the Christian I Can’t Stand?

“I know too many people that have been ‘burned’ by a ‘well-intentioned, God-fearing Christian.’”

Encouragement & self-esteem: 5 Tips for Recovering from Emotional Pain

“Here are five questions people often ask about psychological injuries: 1. Why does getting rejected hurt so much? … 2. If thinking about your feelings is good for you, how can brooding and ruminating be bad? … 3. Is it possible to prevent a significant failure from affecting your self-esteem? … 4. Why do people who have hurt another person’s feelings still feel guilty even after they’ve apologized? … 5. Why do some daily users of positive affirmations still have low self-esteem?”

Kindness: What I Regret Most In My Life Are Failures of Kindness

“… sin in the form of selfishness and self-absorption is deeply ingrained.”

Love & relationships: “But He’s Not My Neighbor”

“Jesus’ point is: don’t let yourself off the hook of the command to love your neighbor as yourself by limiting it only to a narrow group of people.”

Millenials: Millennials and Leaving Church: Really?

“Are today’s youth abandoning the Church? Is there cause for alarm? Or is the condition with youth in the church today about the same as always? These are questions that many people are asking and many people are also answering them. Often in uninformed ways.”

some of why I preach

 

A friend of mine recently asked me, and many other preachers, two questions: (1) what led you to decide to preach and (2) what most helped your development as a young man? Feeling a bit  reflective at the moment, I’ll take a swipe at answering such right here.

A lot of creeks fed those two rivers, but I’ll only share a few of them.

First: what led me to decide to preach?

(a) A godly grandmother laid the foundation before I even realized it. My Dad’s mother was a devout Christian. She lived 1,600 miles away and in the course of my entire life, I can count on one hand the number of times we saw each other face-to-face. However, from the time of my earliest memory, she wrote my family a letter every week, without fail; every week for years. With every letter – and with no exceptions – she would include along with her letter some religious clipping, a quote from a sermon, a church bulletin, a prayer, or some such. When I grew old enough to read on my own, I read her letters … and what she sent along. Ever so often – not “too” often, just ever so often – she would write a single sentence to the effect of something specific she was praying about for me and my parents, typically regarding our coming to know the Lord.

I was baptized into Christ at the age of 16 and shortly thereafter, my grandmother conveyed to me that her prayers had now shifted from my coming to Christ to my continuing with him and proclaiming him. I have no doubt that had it not been for my grandmother’s prayers, any and all other creeks that might have fed that river would have turned up dry.

(b) A sorry sermon was the tipping point. I was a young Christian (both in terms of age [19] and duration in Christ [3 yrs.]) anxious to hear some good word to help me grow in Christ. I had worked all day at my job, quickly come home and cleaned up, bolted out the door, and drove to a gospel meeting in a nearby town that had been heavily advertised, featuring the preaching of a very experienced and competent minister. However, what I received that night in terms of a sermon was a virtually empty plate, devoid of milk or meat. It was a 45 minute account of how many verses there are in the Bible, how many years required in its composition, etc. When the final “Amen” was said, I walked out the door totally frustrated, muttering under my breath as I exited, “I don’t know ‘come here’ from ‘sic ‘em’ yet and I could have done a better job than that!” It was not the most humble of thoughts, but it certainly was not one devoid of conviction … or lacking genuine foundation. I found myself dwelling on that thought all the way home, that night, considering it until I drifted off to sleep, and for the better part of probably a month following.

To fully appreciate that statement (“.. I could do a better job …”) you should also know that at that time, when it came to speaking in public, I was an introvert’s introvert. Looking back, I can say with confidence that the die was cast as I walked out the door that night; it just took a while for me to realize it.

(c) A college prof sealed the deal. Fifteen semester hours short of a degree, I had dropped out of college. After working at my Dad’s service station for about nine months I decided to get back into college (Cameron University). At the time, I didn’t have a clue what I was going to pursue for my degree, much less my life. My first class back was Fundamentals of Speech, my first exposure to any training in public speaking. The last day of the course, the prof – Dr. Tony Allison, a deacon in one of the Churches of Christ in Lawton, OK – called me into his office to talk privately. He had two things to say to me. First, he asked me what I planned to do with my life. I told him I hadn’t a clue. Second, he simply said: “Have you considered preaching? You’ve got what it takes. I think you should.” I was consumed with much thought and fervent prayer the weeks following. I went on to major in Speech and was preaching every week for well over a year before graduation. All because a brother in Christ, a prof of mine, took an interest in me and offered me his measured guidance.

Now I say all of that to say three things. First, for whatever reason(s), sometimes a sermon falls flat. Not to worry: someone just might get the idea to take up preaching as a result! Trust me, this is no small source of consolation to me whenever I feel upon exiting the pulpit on any given Sunday that I “just didn’t bring my ‘A’ game” that day and would rather just go crawl under a big rock and die. Second, never underestimate the power of little old blue-haired church ladies’ prayers. God’s answers to them just might be what keeps things going! Third, an individualized, sincere question from a righteous person coupled with a thoughtful, considered suggestion, is powerful and effective.

Second: what most helped my development as a young man in Christ?

(a) Middle-aged folks and old timers in the church – not my peers – who took the time and made the effort to learn the name of a faceless teen who suddenly started showing up at church. They went out of their way to get to know me, befriend me, and deliberately be a source of endless encouragement to me when I had little to offer them in return aside from a smile and a simple pleasantry.

(b) Preachers who allowed me to simply be in their presence, ask them questions, hitched me up to responsibilities, gave me opportunities, put up with my mistakes, and/or who simply had a listening ear for a clueless teen seeking company and direction were invaluable. I will forever be in tremendous debt to men of God like Steve Bracken, Duard Givens, Robert Gregg, Jerry Hurst, Stanley Sayers, and Clayton Waller.

Preaching. It’s something that at one time in life I would ‘ve laughed in your face at the mere suggestion of it. Now it’s something I can’t imagine not doing. I wouldn’t ever want it any other way.

this went thru my mind

 

Apologies, civility, & humility: The Sorry State of the Apology by Dorothy Greco

“The apology seems to be at an all-time high, and simultaneously, an all-time low.”

Attitude, church, expectations, ministry & vision: 10 Dangerous Church Paradigms by Ron Edmonson

“I’ve been in church all my life. Along the way I’ve seen and learned a lot. Almost all the insight I have into church has come by experience. I have observed, for example, that paradigms can often shape a church’s culture. A paradigm in simple terms, is a mindset; a way of thinking. In this case, a collective mindset of the church, often programmed into the church’s culture. If the church is unhealthy part of the reason could be because it has some wrong paradigms. In that case, it will almost always need a paradigm shift in order to be a healthier church again.”

Bible interpretation, hermeneutics, & humility: CENI – Having a Humble Hermeneutic by Matt Dabbs

“My goal in this post is to … to remind us that we must be humble in how we interpret scripture and what we bind or don’t bind on other people.”

Cell phones & privacy: Create a Temporary Number

“Burner gives you a free number that lasts for one day, five voice calls or 15 texts. If you need more, you can buy a new number or extend your current number for a few dollars. Calls and texts don’t count against your monthly limit. The app allows you to permanently delete – ‘burn’ – any number at any time. This takes it out of the service and permanently deletes it from your phone.”

Climate change, ecology, environment, global warming, & preachers: New Research on Protestant Pastors’ Views of the Environment

“When asked to respond to the statement ‘I believe global warming is real and man made’ …”

Culture, history, immigration, prejudice, & the United States: Why I’ve Stopped Saying ‘We are a Nation of Immigrantsby Kevin Miller

“As innocuous as it sounds, the ‘nation of immigrants’ line is an abbreviated version of the prevailing narrative of national origins that makes white people like me the norm while making others, well, ‘others.’ Without appearing to do so, it subtly shapes my thinking about
who is and isn’t a true or real American.”

Evolution & science: Biological Evolution: What Makes it Good Science? (parts 1 & 2)

“Is the contemporary theory of evolution an example of good science? The answer to this question completely depends on how you define ‘science,’ and what you think makes science ‘good.’ … In conclusion, when measured against the standards of a good scientific theory, modern evolutionary biology clearly qualifies as good science.  Ongoing debates within evolutionary biology exist about mechanism, rates, and causes, but not over whether evolution occurred.  Such a question has been largely settled by the last 150 years’ worth of research.”

Grandparenting: A Letter to the Grandkids On Baptism by Mark Woodward

“Grandad would just like to write this letter to all of you, those baptized already and those who will be.  These are just a few things I really want you to know about your baptism that I’ve been thinking about.”

Leadership: Leading From Psychological Brokenness

“The High Calling talked to four experts about how psychological pathologies impact leaders and their organizations. In a series of four articles, we’ll examine the topic. First, let’s explore what we mean by psychological pathology.”

Marriage: So What IS Marriage by Patrick Mead

“… if you think THIS is complicated, wait until you study a bit and see how complicated sexual identity is.”

this went thru my mind

 

Bible, discovery, education & learning: Evangelicals & the Bible by Tim Gombis (parts 1, 2 & 3) [required reading]

“… about three weeks into every semester, a student would raise his or her hand and say, ‘I’ve never heard this stuff before.’

“I began to respond by saying, ‘you’re welcome!  You or your parents are paying me thousands of dollars to tell you things that you don’t know.  This is what we call “education” and it sounds like I’m doing my job.’”

“It began to dawn on me, however, that there was something about evangelical culture that was making these students assume that if something was unfamiliar, it was unbiblical. …

“What strikes me as odd is that the very thing I have come to associate with studying the Bible—the excitement of discovery—is the very thing that somehow frustrates the evangelicals I’ve been teaching.

“Like I said, I think this indicates that there’s something warped about how evangelicals regard the Bible. …

“… we please God when we are diligent students, which implies that we are always learning and that it’s okay (and normal) that there are things we don’t know!’ …

“My advice is to get to know the Bible over time—like, over decades. There aren’t five easy steps to Bible knowledge. I’ve told students in the past to measure their knowledge of the Bible in 5-year increments. And when I’ve said that, I could hear sighs of relief.

“Remember that the aim of getting to know Scripture is not to be equipped to get out there and have ‘impact.’

“The purpose of knowing the Bible is to develop Scripture-shaped minds so that we get to know and love God more faithfully, being transformed so that we love and serve others more creatively. The goal of Bible knowledge is the cultivation of virtue. And this is something that only happens over time.

“And the learning process itself transforms us, so we shouldn’t think that at some point we’ll be finished, “fully equipped” to get out there and put our knowledge to effective use.”

Bible & translation: Fifteen More Myths About Bible Translation by Daniel Wallace

“Perhaps the number one myth about Bible translation is that a word-for-word translation is the best kind.”

Certainty: The Lust for Certainty by Ben Witherington

“… we have to live on the basis of faith every day, not on the basis of some certainty or an ironclad guarantee.”

Churches: The 15 Largest Protestant Denominations in the United States

“The Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches assembles various data on churches and denominations across North America. I recently gleaned the top 15 denominations by membership in the United States from their reports.”

Contentment: Five Steps to Peace in a Really Bad Situation

“… how can we get peace if we’re headed into or in the midst of a crisis? God tells us how to do just that in Phil. 4:4-9.”

Grief & words: Seven Questions Mourners Need to Ask Before Replying to Hurtful Statements

“…  the question of how to reply to hurtful statements is that each mourner must make up his or her own mind in each situation as to what would be the wisest method or statement to make. If you do decide to immediately reply to a painful statement from a well-intentioned, goodhearted, but ignorant comforter, you might want to consider the following questions first …”

Holy Week: 9 Things You Should Know About Holy Week

“Holy Week is the week before Easter, a period which includes the religious holidays of Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. Here’s what you should know about the days that commemorate the Passion of Christ.”

Internet, maturity, & social media: * Social Media Becoming Integral Part of Churches; * NT Wright on Blogging & Social Media [3 1/2 min. video]; * Shortcut for Blocking Games on Facebook; * The Internet: It’s Like Never Leaving Junior High [essential reading]

* “From websites to blogs, podcasts and Twitter, church leaders are embracing social media as a way to spread the word of God, to share information and to woo new members.”

* “I have one big worry about that, which is the isolationism of sitting in front of a screen. Even if there’s lots of other voices there. it’s only a screen.”

* “That’s all there is to it. If you get a notification from an app in your notifications menu that comes from an app you just don’t want to ever see again, a few clicks and you’ll never be bugged again. Nice.”

* “If life is just like high school, then the Internet might be an age group lower. Much of our digital world means never having to leave junior high school behind. … Janet Sternberg, a communications professor at Fordham University in New York who’s written a great deal about online civility, sees a reverse of a pattern created by television. If, as cultural critic Neil Postman asserted, TV ended childhood — the medium provided an impetus for young people to act older, which created hand-wringing about generations growing up too quickly — the Internet has done the opposite, she says. ‘The Internet and digital media have produced this “Peter Pan effect” where we never grow up, we’re perpetual children, we never have to be responsible for anything — we keep this juvenile mentality,’ she says.”

Note-taking: The Lost Art of Note-Taking by Michael Hyatt

“I don’t recall anyone ever teaching me how to take notes. I didn’t learn it in school—not even college. Nor did I learn it on the job. It was something I had to pick up on my own. Maybe this is why so few people bother to take notes during meetings or presentations. No one has ever told them why it is important or how to do it. In this episode, I do both.”

Same-sex marriage: If the Supreme Court Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage, What Next?

“The biblical ideal of self-sacrificing, lifelong, heterosexual marriage is already countercultural. … If we have placed our trust in the God who does not change, we need not fear shifts in culture or law. … No plan A will skirt the issue that we are all sinners in need of a savior. We are on a level playing field with gays and lesbians who, in my experience, can detect condescension and hypocrisy a mile away.”

Television: 5 Reasons TV is Dead by Scott Elliott

“The mediums which we use to entertain ourselves or receive information come and go, but art is here to stay.”

The Bible mini-series: The Bible Series — Drama and Historical Context

“One of the aspects that I appreciate in the New Testament episodes of The Bible series is the attention paid to historical context. … This is not, of course, to suggest that attempts to provide historical context trump the drama.”