links: this went thru my mind

 

Acappella singing, instrumental music & public worship gatherings: The Argument against Musical Instruments in Worship

“Some, not many, church groups do not believe in the use of musical instruments in public worship. The major example is the Churches of Christ. No less than one of their foremost scholars, Everett Ferguson, takes up his case against the use of instruments in public worship (The Early Church and Today, vol. 1). What are the arguments against the use of instruments?”

Benevolence: Care for the Socially Vulnerable in the Early Church—Aristides (2nd century)

“When a poor man dies, if they become aware, they contribute according to their means for his funeral; if they come to know that some people are persecuted or sent to prison or condemned for the sake of Christ’s name, they put their alms together and send them to those in need. If they can do it, they try to obtain their release. When a slave or a beggar is in need of help, they fast two or three days, and give him the food they had prepared for themselves, because they think that he too should be joyful, as he has been called to be joyful like themselves.”

Children, multi-generational church & senior adults: Why Should a Pastor Take His Children to Visit the Elderly in His Church? [replace the word "pastor" with "Christian" it's applicable to all; great article]

“My burden grows that the multi-generational local church is fading into the past. This should not be. The best way for us to fight against it is to do the things that cause young and old to grow in Christian love and affection for each other.”

Faith: Uzzah was Only Trying to Help!

“…  in the kingdom, we must leave the God-matters to God.”

Racism: American Idols: 3 False Beliefs That Can Blind White Men To Their Privilege

“The problem is, for many of us, our world view is based on the mistaken belief that these three things are already part of reality.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Busyness & God: 5 Ways to Remember God in Your Busy Life

“Unaware as it happens, we can allow our busy lives to crowd out our devotion to God. We enjoy our families, our homes, our food, our salvation—all of God’s blessings to us. But before we know it, we replace a devotion to the Lord with a devotion to His blessings. And in a sad, twisted irony, those blessings become our focus instead of the God who gave them. You’re going to stay busy. I get it. So let me share with you 5 ways you can remember God in your busy life.”

Change, church, repentance & transformation: Learning from a Lesbian Visitor to Your Church

“So many of us think of the lesbian caller and unknowingly respond like the Pharisee going to the temple to pray: “I thank you, God, that I’m not like that.” Meanwhile, we cling tenaciously to the sinful attitudes and actions that characterize our lives. And then we go home unjustified… and unchanged.”

Christians, faith & pride: Can You Really Tell the Difference Between Christians and Non-Christians?

“Instead of putting ourselves on a pedestal, we need to realize that everyone is created in God’s image, and that God loves all of creation — everyone. The point is to have a relationship with Christ. Are we working on knowing Jesus better, or simply working on trying to visibly act like we do?”

Debt ceiling, government shutdown & politics: * Debt ceiling: 8 Things You Need to Know but Wish You Didn’t; * The Captain Ahabs of the House; * Government Shutdown: Get Up to Speed in 20 Questions

* “… shutting the government down would be aggravating and a waste of time — and could reduce economic growth if it goes on too long. But that’s nothing compared to the risks posed if Congress doesn’t raise the debt ceiling soon. So what happens if Congress doesn’t raise it in time? No one knows for sure because that’s never happened before. But the going assumption is that no good will come of it.”

* “How many more times must the economic neck of the nation have a knife pressed against it by Republicans demanding a ransom?”

* “Here’s a quick Q&A to get you caught up on what happened over the weekend and what to look forward to Monday.”

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.”

twin towers: what to remember?

 

Let me briefly tell you about two friends of mine from years gone by.

The first was in many ways a tall tower of a good man. He was a very hard worker. He was honest and trustworthy. He was often a man with great self-control. He was very good to his wife.

But, he hated and despised anyone who even remotely looked like they could have been from somewhere in Asia. Deeply so. As in the deepest bitterness I’ve ever seen in a man.

Why? He was a Navy veteran of WWII. He had served aboard a ship that was docked in Pearl Harbor when it was bombed on Dec. 7, 1941. His ship was one of the few that was able to get underway and make it out of the harbor during the attack. Following, he helped collect the bodies, and parts of bodies, burned and blown to bits, out of the water, off the deck, and off of his clothes.

He became an atheist that day. And forty years later, whenever we happened to be together and saw someone of Oriental descent or it was getting close to December, it was easy to see the anger, rage, and resentment that made his blood boil all day long. Some of his rants felt like fire; they seemed to melt all good away.

The second man was also a tall tower. In fact, he was one of the finest men I’ve ever known in life. Far more than hard-working, honest, trustworthy, self-controlled, and good to his wife, he was an obvious embodiment of the all that is the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I saw him in a great many settings across the years, but never saw him express even a hint of anything less than genuine care and love for every person he ever met. Not once.

It wasn’t because he was an Army veteran of WWII. Since he had served in an elite special ops unit known as Merrill’s Marauders (aka: Unit Gallahad) he had seen and experienced, in ways far beyond what words can describe, some of the worst that war can bring to combatants and civilians. The horror of it all was so complete that he very rarely spoke of his experiences at all and when he did, he always did so briefly … trailing off in a broken voice with tear-filled eyes.

He had been a Christian before he became a soldier. And he would tell you, thanks be to God, that the horror and terror he endured, and inflicted, didn’t destroy his faith in God. But, it radically changed it. Anger and bitterness, hate and resentment: he was done with for good. He simply had no room for such in life anymore. He had experienced enough taking of life; he was determined now to give it and share it with all, no matter who you were.

Now I ask you: what made these men different?

Who, what, and how they chose to remember.

Period.

One remembered inhumanity and evil, and so, grew cold and hard, remembering only that. He sailed the rest of his life through in darkness. Another remembered savagery and suffering, but did not stop there, choosing rather to remember it all in light of a still present, ever good, holy, and generous God. He marched through the rest of his life in the army of God.

One, due to memory, chose a path of unforgiveness and so, chose a life of living dead. Another chose, due to memory, the way of forgiveness and so, chose life with, and of, God, here and now.

Neither of these two towers stand anymore in this world. But, their lives still stand in my mind as witnesses of, and monuments to, the choice we each make every day: to move on to love, forgive, and hope, or to cuddle up with anger, hate, and despair.

May God help us all to choose well. To choose God, to choose his ways, and to make him our tower, and strength, and shield. Daily. And nothing less. Lest more innocent and guilty alike die daily, a thousand deaths.

“… if you were raised with Christ, look for the things that are above where Christ is sitting at God’s right side. Think about the things above and not things on earth. You died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. … put to death the parts of your life that belong to the earth … set aside … anger, rage, malice, slander, and obscene language. … Take off the old human nature with its practices and put on the new nature, which is renewed in knowledge by conforming to the image of the one who created it. In this image there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all things and in all people. … as God’s choice, holy and loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. … forgive each other. As the Lord forgave you, so also forgive each other. And over all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. The peace of Christ must control your hearts …” (Colossians 3.1-3,5,8-15)

links: this went thru my mind

 

Anger, culture, morality, outrage & thinking: Addicted to Outrage

“I fear that outrage has become an addiction for many people of faith. I’m caused to wonder if certain endorphins are released when we feel anger over a just cause; an emotional, pseudo-spiritual ‘rush’ that just keeps us coming back for more. In order for us to feel ‘righteous,’ has it become essential that ‘indignation’ be an inseparable companion? ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers… twerkers.’ Reread the context of Luke 18:9-14 to be reminded of why Jesus told this parable.” The more I am consumed by moral outrage, the less time I have to dwell on those things that are ‘true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and of good repute; things that are excellent and worthy of praise,’ (Philippians 4:8).”

Community, generosity, greed, poverty, stinginess & wealth: As We Become Richer, Do We Become Stingier?

“…  the effects that wealth has on people: ‘We become more individualistic, less family and community oriented.’ … Greenfield’s findings and theories dovetail with a variety of other studies and research projects, including Robert Putnam’s 2000 book, Bowling Alone, which explores the decline in community relationships in the U.S.”

Faith, grace, law, OT, NT & works: Law and Grace, Faith and Works

“When we think that what Jesus did was substitute one written code for another, we fall into the trap that Paul condemned in the Galatian letter. When we depend on law, any kind of law, then we are no longer depending on grace.”

Fasting, peace, prayer this Saturday & Syria: A Fast for Peace September 7th [count me in, too; how about you?]

“… a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world, and I also invite each person, including our fellow Christians, followers of other religions and all men of good will, to participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative.”

Food stamps, poverty & the poor: On the Edge of Poverty, at the Center of a Debate on Food Stamps [required reading]

“No matter what Congress decides, benefits will be reduced in November, when a provision in the 2009 stimulus bill expires. Yet as lawmakers cast the fight in terms of spending, nonpartisan budget analysts and hunger relief advocates warn of a spike in ‘food insecurity’ among Americans who … ‘look like we are fine,’ but live on the edge of poverty, skipping meals and rationing food.”

Jesus, sin & sinners: * He Looked Like a Sinner; * Jesus is Not Mr. Rogers

* “Jesus didn’t look like a saint. Jesus didn’t look holy. He hung out with prostitutes and drank too much wine. He was a convicted criminal. He was given the death penalty. And he died under God’s curse. Jesus looked like a sinner.”

* “Jesus wasn’t always the nicest guy.”

Leadership, momentum & morale: 16 Practices that Reignite Momentum

“Working on positives more than negatives. Avoid taking the wind out of people’s sails.”

Singing: Love the Lord with All Your Voice

“Singing is a forgotten—but essential—spiritual discipline. … We might ask … why we could not simply speak the words of Scripture as if they were our own. What is gained by singing them? Just this: In song, we learn not just the content of the spiritual life, but something of its posture, inflection, and emotional disposition.”

Restoration Heritage & the Stone-Campbell Movement: Christian History Magazine Puts a Focus on Stone-Campbell Movement

“Restoration scholars Richard Hughes and Doug Foster served as advisers on the project and ‘provided a fair amount of content, along with other well-known authors/scholars in the movement’ … Download the full issue for free.”

this went thru my mind

 

Bible literacy & reading: What People Quote vs. What They Read

“… people read the Bible primarily as a loosely organized collection of inspiring quotes surrounded by confusing babble … this way of reading the Bible is a rejection of the flow and structure of the canon.”

Children, parenting & technology: Resisting the Siren Call of the Screen [required reading]

“The message we communicate to our kids, she writes, is: ‘Everybody else matters more than you.’ Children, she declares, ‘are tired of being the ‘call waiting’ in their parents’ lives.’”

Church, community, discipleship, faith & fellowship: Passing on the Faith in a Makeshift Choir Stall

“It’s hard to pass on the faith … when people of different age groups don’t engage each other intimately.”

Faith & youth: On Moralistic Therapeutic Deism as U.S. Teenagers’ Actual, Tacit, De Facto Religious Faith [essential reading]

“Here we summarize our observations in venturing a general thesis about teenage religion and spirituality in the United States. … The creed of this religion, as codified from what emerged from our interviews with U.S. teenagers, sounds something like this …”

Tradition: Breaking Tradition [essential reading]

“… every tradition, at one point, was a break with the status quo. Every tradition started off with trying to do something new and fresh and compelling. And over time, what was once revolutionary becomes static and codified. We stop paying attention to what the tradition was trying to do, and only focus on what it did.”

Jaffa: Statue of Faith

 

Jaffa-Joppa-Yafo-Statue-of-Faith

Near the top of Tel Jaffa (Joppa; Yafo) in Abrasha Park there is a modern sculpture known as the Statue of Faith. Beautiful carvings adorn it, but it’s location and shape are meant to convey as much as the engraving.

In OT times, Jaffa was Israel’s only port of any size. Consequently, it was the way for many people and products into, and from, the rest of Israel by means of the sea. On land, ancient cities were often walled and the city gate, this statue assuming the shape of the frame for such a gate, was the entry and exit point for such.

The huge, solid pillars, each being four meters in length, speak of strength. And the carvings depict the strength of faith in the mighty, acting God of Israel. The carvings in the pillar on the right in this photo represent Abraham and his binding Isaac for sacrifice (Genesis 22; notice the ram at the base of the pillar). The engravings on the pillar on the left portrays Jacob’s dream of the ladder to heaven (Genesis 28). And the cross-piece on top, the lintel, depicts the conquering of Jericho by Joshua and the Israelites (Joshua 6). God’s promise first made to Abraham flowed through Isaac, and Jacob, and began to be realized through Joshua.