links: this went thru my mind

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Church, church attendance, churchlessness & secularization: Secularism Grows as More Christians Turn Churchless

“There are tens of millions of active believers in America today. But the wall between the churched and the churchless is growing higher and more impenetrable as more people have no muscle memory of what it means to be a regular attender at a house of worship. How these people think, pray and use their time is shifting away from a faith-based perspective. As a result, a churchless or secular worldview ‘is becoming its own social force.'”

Ebola, faith, fear, hysteria & panic: How Christians Should Respond to Ebola in the United States [required reading]

“Never did I expect or think that my mom would contract the disease, be airlifted to Emory University Hospital or undergo the ordeal she did. We are exceedingly thankful for God’s mercy and kindness towards us in all the ways he provided to secure mom’s recovery and health. In recent days we’ve heard and seen more news of other American contracting the virus and even here in the United States. Unfortunately there is a high degree of panic about this virus, even among Christians. But this isn’t the way it should be, especially for those of us who follow and trust Christ. For Christian’s this ‘panic’ about Ebola isn’t warranted. Let me explain …”

Ministry, mission & outreach: Competency Three: Find and Cultivate New Partners in Mission

“The first work of conversion for us to have a credible witness in the world will be our own. And here is our salvation: to believe with everything we have that God’s power and significance in the world can be fully expressed in the form of a servant.”

Ministry & preaching: The Metric of a Prophet [required reading]

“‘How will the prophet measure success? In a world where the church is increasingly taken with corporate metrics of growth and success what is the metric of the prophet? … It’s found in [Ezekiel] 2.4-5: “The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says.” And whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious people—they will know that a prophet has been among them.’ … They may listen. They may not listen. But the one thing they will know is this: A prophet lived among them. … This … is the only thing you can control. That when people look back at their lives they remember your words and life. They remember, perhaps from a long time ago, that they once knew a person who spoke truth to them. In a world full of thorns and scorpions they once knew a child of God. A man or a woman who spoke words of judgment and words of grace. They remember a prophet once lived among them.”

Spiritual formation & worship: When Worship Becomes Formative

“… worship is designed to accomplish four things: First, worship redefines our identity. Second, worship reorders our affections. Third, worship repatterns our imagination. Finally, worship reorients our life in the world. How does this all happen? What is going on in the worship that leads to these four elements? What are we doing in worship? What are we to be doing when we gather for worship?”

links: this went thru my mind

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Following are links to five articles I found good for thought. Perhaps you will, too.

Antiquities, archeology, looting & theft: The Causes of Destruction of Antiquities

“Archaeological sites are in danger around the Ancient Near East. While there are antiquities laws in place throughout the region, they rarely suffice to deter the destruction. Once the crime is committed, the data is irretrievably lost, or at best, it is devalued.”

Faith & grace: Beyond “Sola Gratia” (Grace Alone)

“Unlike Paul of the Bible and the saints of old, our Christian faith and practice in the 21st century is characteristically … too much of the head (heady) and less about the heart (hearty) … too formulaic and less mystical in articulation … too programmatic and less  … spontaneity in worship in action … too rationalistic and less relational in belief and practice … too purpose-driven and less  … passion-driven in design … too self-centered and less God-centered in focus … too gravy-loaded and less grace-saturated in emphasis … too this-worldly and less other-worldly in perspective … too pragmatic and less transcendent in orientation.”

Ministry & women: How Does a Pastor Use Wisdom to Shepherd Women in His Church?

“… the first thing to establish in a pastor wisely thinking through caring for women in the church is the need for balance.”

Parenting & sports: The Biggest Lie Parents Believe [required reading]

“Parents, stop believing the lie that sports build character! Sports don’t build character, they reveal it.” A guy named John Wooden made that statement.”

Prayer: Unanswered Prayer [required reading]

“Who said that disappointment in prayer is a bad thing?”

links: this went thru my mind

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Age & habits: 15 Things to Start Doing By the Time You’re 30

“… everything on this list is worth doing in your twenties …”

Books, faith & reading: Why Christians Must Be Readers

“Whether you like it or no, read and pray daily. It is for your life; there is no other way.”

China & Christianity: Risen Again: China’s Underground Churches

“The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is wary of organized religion, and has alternately tried to crush, discourage, or co-opt Christian groups. But having survived the ravages of the Cultural Revolution, the faith is now flourishing: a 2010 study by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences estimated there are 23 million Christians in China. In 2011, Pew Research put the figure closer to 67 million, or 5% of the population.”

Church, marriage & singles: The Bible’s Special Word About Singleness

“The church can be a difficult environment for single people to navigate. Theologies that emphasize Christian fulfillment through marriage and parenting have caused marriage and the nuclear family to be so elevated that many singles feel like there is no place for them in Christian community.”

Doctrine: The Job of Doctrine

“[T]he job of doctrine is to hold us still before Jesus. When that slips out of view, we begin instead to use this language to defend ourselves, to denigrate others, to control and correct–and then it becomes a problem.”

links: this went thru my mind

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Faith & sports: Why Do Preachers and Worship Leaders Talk So Much About Sports These Days?

“Sports is one of the greatest idols of contemporary American culture and we need to be very discerning about its presence and influence.”

God, judging others, love, nonviolence & vengeance: The Cross & the Tree [sermon by Greg Boyd; essential listening; 33 min. video]

“Unless we’re feasting on the love of God that’s revealed on the cross … we’ll find ourselves inexorably and invariably feeding off of others. … To the degree that we are not feeding on the love of God, we are feeding on others. We will become religious parasites. … When we judge we are playing God. … Instead of confessing we are the worst of sinners … we act as though we’re the least of sinners. … The kingdom of God is about a group of people saying we, ‘We opt out of this evaluation game. We opt out of the judgment game. We opt out of the retaliation game. We opt out of the violence game. We opt out of the hatred game. And rather we put all of our eggs in this one basket: We trust God to be the source of our life, even if we die. And we trust God to be the Judge of the world even if it costs us our life. And therefore we are the people who will respond to evil with good. We will respond to evil by loving our enemies. … We’ll be a people who live like, look like, love like, serve like Jesus Christ when he gives up his life for his enemies on the cross.’ … That folks is the kingdom of God. … It’s God’s way of overcoming evil. The only we’ll do it is by trusting all judgment to God.”

Involvement & volunteers: 5 Reasons People Aren’t Volunteering at Your Church

“I’ve never met a church that said, ‘You know … when it comes to volunteers, we’re good. We’ve got plenty. In fact, there’s a waiting list for the nursery.’ Churches everywhere need to mobilize more volunteers to get ministry done. But before you start signing people up and filling slots, it might be helpful to take a look at why people are not volunteering.”

Ministry: 10 Dangerous Distractions for a Pastor

“… I can’t address everything that gets in the way of a healthy pastor. I can only list some that are more common in my experience.”

sum of the sermon: it comes down to a simple choice, really

 

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another … If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. (Hebrews 10.23-27)

Andy and Red were up against it; they had their backs to the wall. They’d recently learned that one of their best friends, Brooks, had killed himself. Hopeless, he had hung himself.

And though neither Andy or Red ever mentioned the word, hope is what they were talking about. Specifically, what a person does – and does not do – as a result of having hope, or not having it, in their life.

The difference between them was that though both were imprisoned, only one of them was imprisoned in mind. As Andy saw it, the only thing keeping him from freedom was made out of stone. Red? He was so shackled the only thing left for him was to find the will to use a rope. Just like Brooks.

But Andy? Andy had hope. And so, he scratched his way out through stone walls and filth. How he perceived his future powerfully impacted what he chose to do with his present. He chose to hope, and so he chose to do. And so, stone walls wouldn’t – couldn’t – contain him.

“It comes down to a simple choice, really: get busy living or get busy dying!”

You probably recall that scene from the movie The Shawshank Redemption. This month is that movie’s twentieth anniversary (hard to believe, isn’t it). And so, let me ask you …

What do you believe? About your future? About hope? And what you’re to be about in the here and now?

Do you have hope? Vibrant, living hope? A hope you simply cannot leave behind? A hope that spurs you on to do what you can with today? For your own blessing and the blessing of others?

If you know Jesus Christ – truly know him – you don’t merely have hope. You know him as your hope. He is your hope. He is your all. Every day. He is what gives your life meaning.

You could no more turn your back on him and walk away from him than Andy Dufresne could have given up his dream to live in a place with no memory of all wrong and his daily toil to get there.

Know this kind of hope; come to know Jesus Christ. Know him as your Lord – as your daily hope – and he will be your Savior. Take on his mind and ways, and he will become your way to freedom. In this life, and in the one beyond. For no walls, made of stone or perception, can restrain him. Or you in your life with him.

Choose him. Choose life. Every day of your life. For today. For the sake of your future. For him.

It will make all the difference in your life. And in the lives of many a Red Redding.

Get busy living.