links: this went thru my mind

 

Capital punishment & the death penalty: Secret Drugs, Agonizing Deaths

“In the name of security, states are now withholding vital information about their death penalty procedures — from death row prisoners’ lawyers and from judges, whose stamp of approval they need to impose the ultimate sanction, as well as from the public, in whose name the sentence is carried out.”

Children, compassion, morality & parenting: Raising a Moral Child [essential reading]

“Despite the significance that it holds in our lives, teaching children to care about others is no simple task.”

Church: * The Church as a Hospice for the Dying [essential reading]; * What the Church May Need is What the Church Does Not Want

* “It seems to me that it’s better to think of the Church as a hospice, rather than as a hospital. … The Church as hospice makes good, Gospel sense. And, there are very practical implications in this metaphor as well. When people tell the pastor that they are leaving the church because their ‘needs’ aren’t being met, all the pastor has to do is remind them of what the Church is, and point out that their ‘needs’ are indeed being met: They’re being given an opportunity to die to their ‘needs’ in order to experience more of the resurrection life of Christ. So, the church really is meeting their needs; they just don’t know it.”

* “… I wonder if the Christian element in America has grown fat and sassy.  Have we fallen into a dangerous religion of indifferent slumber? Persecution may not be at our doorstep; but I do think it is traipsing up the sidewalk. This will never be the thing we want.  Yet, it may be the very thing needed to move us from our glut of mediocre indifference.”

Crucifixion: Roman Crucifixion Methods Reveal the History of Crucifixion

“… Hershel Shanks looks at evidence of Roman crucifixion methods as analyzed from the remains found in Jerusalem of a young man crucified in the first century A.D.”

Faith & science: 9 Groundbreaking Scientists Who Happened to Be Christians

“There’s a general sense that science and religion are two camps, and the two can never meet without fighting or, at the very least, stepping mighty carefully around each other’s views. There might be a very little bit of truth to that—a few noisy emissaries from both sides have been known to go out of their way to discredit the other. However, what is frequently lost in all this is that the history of science is rich with believing Christians, for whom the process of discovery did not jeopardize their faith, but enforced it.”

Fear: Do Not Let Fear be the CEO of the Church

“How many times have we said or at least heard, I’m afraid of what this might lead to?”

Passover: Passover as Jesus Knew It

“It was a joyous, celebratory occasion: work was temporarily stopped, families were reunited, food and wine were plentiful, and hopes and dreams were in the air. At the heart of the festival was a story: an account of a chosen people liberated from slavery centuries before through God’s gracious deliverance. But there was also a tragic irony: Israel was no longer free. This time the oppressors were not the Egyptians, but Rome. Together, these ideas created a lethal cocktail of deep religious yearnings, nationalism and resentment. ‘It is on these festive occasions that sedition is most likely to break out’ noted the historian Josephus wryly (War 1.88), and most of the riots recorded in his works seem to have occurred at Passover in particular.”

Prayer: Did Jesus Send a Mixed Message About Repetition in His Teaching About Prayer?

“… Jesus is talking about different things in these two teachings.”

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.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Church, heart, ministry, myths, numbness, service & spiritual emptiness: 7 Beliefs That Can Burn the Bridge Between the Heart and Hand of a Church

“Here are seven beliefs that can contributed to church paralysis.”

Complaining: How to Complain Less [essential reading]

“How then, might we begin to overcome the habit of complaining? First, admit lifestyle changes can take time. And then, consider adopting some of these helpful steps …”

Faith, fear, hell & salvation: When Hell is Scared Out of People in Church

“When hell is scared out of people in church, and that is the basic call of their belief system, this leaves one merely in neutral.  Empty and prideful, these move throughout their spiritual journey just wishing and hoping they don’t do anything wrong.  And…they feel sure most others are doing many things wrong.”

Income, money, poverty, upward mobility & wealth: In Climbing Income Ladder, Location Matters

“A study finds the odds of rising to another income level are notably low in certain cities … The study — based on millions of anonymous earnings records and being released this week by a team of top academic economists — is the first with enough data to compare upward mobility across metropolitan areas … Climbing the income ladder occurs less often in the Southeast and industrial Midwest …

“Income mobility was also higher in areas with more two-parent households, better elementary schools and high schools, and more civic engagement, including membership in religious and community groups.”

Online security: Study: Millennials Indifferent to Online Risks

“Cybercrime is an increasing problem, especially for Millennials.”

links: this went thru my head

 

Apps, books, reading & technology: Oyster: The Netflix Of Books

“Oyster … is already being called the ‘Netflix for books.’ That’s a lofty moniker, but the app may just live up to the hype – it offers access to over 100,000 books for $9.95 a month!”

Conspiracy theories, culture, fear, paranoia & suspicion: Suspicious? In ‘United States Of Paranoia,’ It’s Not Just You

“… polls show a great deal of Americans — in some cases a majority of Americans — believing in secret cabals.”

Facebook: * How to See What Your Facebook Profile Looks Like to Others; * We Post Nothing About Our Daughter Online [required reading]

* “After all, you might not want the entire world to know of your woe-filled past relationships.”

* “The problem is that Facebook is only one site. With every status update, YouTube video, and birthday blog post, Kate’s parents are preventing her from any hope of future anonymity.”

Faith, finances, money & security: Give Us This Day Our Lifetime Supply of Bread? [essential reading]

“I’m only trusting in God if I pray, ‘Give us this day our daily bread,’ and then thank Him that I have had bread to eat at the end of that day.”

Gossip: 5 Alternatives to Gossip [required reading]

“One of the chief reasons why it’s hard to resist gossip is that we often can’t see any alternatives.”

Health insurance: Uninsured in Texas and Florida

“Low-income residents of Texas … desperately need health insurance, as shown by the Census Bureau’s Small Area Health Insurance Estimates for 2011, which were issued last week. The report found that more than 25 percent of the population in Texas under age 65 (5.7 million people) was uninsured, the highest rate in the nation.”

Leadership & listening: Seven Secrets to Listening When Time is Short

“The need to feel important closes ears and open’s mouths. Listening is both humble and humbling. Talking makes you feel important. Listening to others makes them feel important.”

Suffering: The Value of Suffering

“But does that change all the many times when suffering leaves us with no seeming benefit at all, and only a resentment of those who tell us to look on the bright side and count our blessings and recall that time heals all wounds (when we know it doesn’t)?”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Anxiety, fear & worry: How Fear Makes You Dumb [required reading]

1. How much of my fear is based on ignorance? … 2. How much of my fear is a lack of faith in my ability, versus a lack of faith in the environment? … 3. How much of my fear is rooted in a concern about being uncomfortable?”

Charitable giving & philanthropy: The Charitable-Industrial Complex

“Money should be spent trying out concepts that shatter current structures and systems that have turned much of the world into one vast market. Is progress really Wi-Fi on every street corner? No. It’s when no 13-year-old girl on the planet gets sold for sex. But as long as most folks are patting themselves on the back for charitable acts, we’ve got a perpetual poverty machine. It’s an old story; we really need a new one.”

Church attendance & spiritual maturity: Attendance Does Not Measure Spirituality

“It is the spirituality of walking, talking, and serving Jesus that is the litmus test. … The rock-bottom issue is the Rock; Jesus. Do we know him?”

Facebook: Step-by-Step Guide to Lock Down Your Facebook Profile

“I’m going to walk you through the big privacy settings on Facebook, step by step. If you haven’t checked in on your Facebook settings in a month or more, make sure you follow each step.”

Gospels: Gospels as the Archway into the Canon

“… analogize the four-fold Gospel as the keystone in the archway into the canon of Holy Scripture … The keystone of an archway fits in such a way that it holds both sides of the structure in place, thereby enabling an entryway. On the one side of the keystone are the Old Testament Scriptures; on the other side are the rest of the New Testament writings. It is the Gospels that uniquely are shaped, formed and placed to hold together these two major sections of the canon. On one side, the Gospels present themselves as the completion and consummation of the whole story of God’s work from creation through the exile of Israel; on the other side, the Gospels, as we have seen above, serve as the foundational source documents for the Epistles which take up the true accounts and teachings of Jesus and apply to pastoral situations.”

Gossip: ‘Gossip is the Devil’s Radio’– Gospel is the Savior’s Radio

“Consider for a moment the opposite of gossip— namely Gospel. Sharing the Gospel is about telling the Good News, telling the truth, not merely a rumor, about someone who now resides in heaven— Jesus. Suppose every time you were tempted to gossip instead you gospeled. Imagine how much more healthy and helpful that could be. If you are so keen about spreading supposed news about an absent person, why not spread some good news about the Person that people actually need and deserve to know the most about?”

Health & vitamins: The Vitamin Myth: Why We Think We Need Supplements

“Nutrition experts contend that all we need is what’s typically found in a routine diet. Industry representatives, backed by a fascinating history, argue that foods don’t contain enough, and we need supplements. Fortunately, many excellent studies have now resolved the issue.”

Millenials: Why Millennials are Leaving the Church [essential reading]

“What millennials really want from the church is not a change in style but a change in substance.”

Poverty: Hunger Makes People Work Harder, and Other Stupid Things We Used to Believe About Poverty

“As recently as 1820, researchers have calculated that 84 percent of the world’s population lived in ‘extreme poverty’ (on less than the 1985 equivalent of a U.S. dollar a day).”

Weddings: The Gospel According to Our Wedding

“The ceremony shares the gospel … when the doors are flung open and the bride and groom are finally brought together, we see echoes of the long-awaited joining-together of heaven and earth; the consummation. The two who were separate now become one, as they were meant to be. This powerful symbol is yet another extension of the gospel message, delivered through the medium of wedding ceremony. The beautiful thing is, the guests at the wedding all respond to this message of creation, fall, redemption and consummation the same way Jesus says we will in Revelation: with a feast!”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Anger, Christians, culture, fear, indignation: Angry Christians [essential reading]

“This is not the way to be Jesus to the world.”

Apartheid, Mandela & racism: Dreaming of Mandela

“A friend of the family let slip a sentiment widely felt but seldom articulated: ‘Thank God for the blacks. If not for them it would be us.’”

Applause & clapping: The Science Of How Applause Spreads In An Audience

“When people clap at a performance, they’re not really driven by how much they enjoyed what they saw, according to a new study. Instead, they decide how long to applaud based on the applause they hear around them.”

Bible translation: Finding the Right Words for God’s Word

“… Bible translators never achieve strict, word-for-word accuracy–even when they promise it.”

Boredom, church & worship: Our Fear of Boredom is Simply a Fear of Coming Face to Face with Ourselves [required reading]

“The Sunday morning hour, like the therapeutic hour, is a place to contemplate our capacity to deal with the fear of emptiness.”

Church: Go Big or Go Home? [essential reading]

“When our churches are big, and getting bigger, we take that as a sign that we must be doing something right, because surely, bigger is always better. Our culture teaches us to chase big, and we’re quick learners.

“But all this obsession with big creates problems for today’s followers of Jesus, because so much of what Jesus teaches and shows us is concerned about what happens on a smaller scale: attitudes of the heart, how we handle our possessions, learning to forgive, getting free of our addictions and idolatries, the nature of our trust and commitments, and so on. Jesus had big ideas and big dreams, to be sure—as big as his Father’s purposes to redeem the cosmos. But he went about his mission in surprisingly small ways, gathering small groups, touching the little people, focusing on deep problems in areas that might seem small-scale, such as how we treat one another, tending to a sick or needy individual, and working on personal speech habits. Big seems powerful, and sometimes it is. But when the basic unit of Christian community is so large that you can’t even see it all at once without going a mile up into outer space, the impressive view from a distance can lead us to lose sight of the fact that the Lord’s main work is meant to happen on the small scale, in up-close and personal ways. Big churches are not necessarily in a better situation to do that work, and they are often less adept at it.”

Children & parenting: 7 Tips For Surviving The Terrible Threes Of Parenting

“As with so many others (most it seems), it’s not the ‘terrible twos’ that is a problem … it’s the ‘terrible threes’.”

Evangelicals: 6 Evangelicals You Don’t Know … But Might Want To

“Meet six “new evangelical” leaders who embody aspects of the change under way in evangelical America, and whose work is clearing out a larger space for the common good.”

Fidelity & marriage: 7 Ways I Protect My Heart and Ministry From an Affair

“When the mind begins to wander in a lustful direction, it is very hard to control. The failure, I believe, comes more in not protecting the heart and mind. I know that I must personally work to protect myself, my wife, my boys and my church from the scandal and embarrassment of an affair. There are a few rules I have in place that serve to protect my heart.”

Jesus: Jesus in Non-Christian Sources

“These 7 points are nicely summarized by Paul Barnett in his volume Is the New Testament Reliable? (IVP Academic, 2003 [second ed.], p. 34).  Notably, each fact corroborates the record of the New Testament. …”

Motivation: Are You Doing It Because You Love It Or for the Reward That Follows? [essential reading]

“Psychologists believe there are two reasons people choose their behavior: They are motivated intrinsically or extrinsically.

“Intrinsic Motivation: This means a person chooses a behavior simply because of interest or enjoyment. The act of doing the behavior is itself the reward. One researcher defined intrinsic motivation in terms of what people will do without external inducement. When you do behaviors because of intrinsic motivation, you feel a sense of accomplishment and achievement. …

“Extrinsic Motivation: This means you do something because of factors outside yourself. For instance, you want your parent’s approval, a trophy, or a treat. Or perhaps you want to avoid the disapproval of others. The reason for the behavior comes not from the love of the activity, but from the reward that follows the activity. …

“Being intrinsically motivated correlates with maturity, and having a strong sense of self.”

Prayer& work: How Micro-Prayers Can Get You Through the Work Day

“To deal with the constant rash of self-centered and negative mind-chatter, I have taken to saying tiny micro-prayers at various points throughout the day: prior to walking into a difficult meeting; in the midst of same meeting; before presenting a Big Idea to the Big Cheese; while staring blankly into my computer; or just about any time when I suspect there might be head-butting and ego-clashing coming down the hall.

“The idea is to detach, to unlatch my ego-driven agenda from the situation, to make it more about the possibilities of God’s presence, or opportunities for the spirit to shine rather than about me getting my way.”

Salvation: Salvation is Bigger than Forgiveness

“In the journey toward the Beautiful One we become beautiful through transforming grace. God is beautiful and defines what Beauty is. Knowing God in love is to be drawn into the glorious beauty of God, and this drawing is a transformative drawing. Fear of God does not transform; the beauty of God does transform.”

this went thru my mind

 

Annihilationism, conditionalism & hell: The Legacy of Edward Fudge & the Future of Conditionalism

“The inaugural Rethinking Hell conference will be held on July 11th-12th, 2014, at the beautiful Lanier Theological Library in Houston, Texas. This will be an historic occasion for the movement of Evangelical Conditionalism/Annihilationism, representing the first gathering of its kind.”

Anxiety, fear & worry: The Dark Doctrine All Churches Hold Dear [required reading]

“How do we become obedient to God’s stark call to refrain from worry?  Stop it.  It is a choice; not a circumstance.  It is obedience; not a mood. To ignore this strong Word from God is indeed to hold a very dark doctrine of rebellion.”

Change & conflict: The Reality of Change and Conflict

“Change invites conflict. You can’t escape that fact. But … avoiding change stifles growth. Which eventually leads to conflict. (Ever been a part of a declining organization…or church?) And … avoiding conflict allows tension to build. Which in the end creates more conflict. (Ever seen what happens when someone is silently angry with you long enough?) Therefore … In my opinion… avoiding conflict or change is impossible.”

Church & witness: Why the Church Can’t Seem to Get Traction in Society

“The reason the church cannot seem to gain traction in this mega-troubled society is we have joined the masses in trying to escape.  Ours is not the call to dodge incoming arrows of rejection; but rather for staying put in pain upon the cross that the hurting may find perfect and ultimate healing.”

Cicadas: The Return of the Cicadas [7 1/2 min. video]

“I’ve been working an a 1-hour documentary on cicadas since 2007 …”

Consumerism & minimalism: Living With Less. A Lot Less.

“Our fondness for stuff affects almost every aspect of our lives. Housing size, for example, has ballooned in the last 60 years. The average size of a new American home in 1950 was 983 square feet; by 2011, the average new home was 2,480 square feet. And those figures don’t provide a full picture. In 1950, an average of 3.37 people lived in each American home; in 2011, that number had shrunk to 2.6 people. This means that we take up more than three times the amount of space per capita than we did 60 years ago. Apparently our supersize homes don’t provide space enough for all our possessions, as is evidenced by our country’s $22 billion personal storage industry.”

Dignity, modesty, respect & swimwear: Jessica Rey – The Evolution of the Swim Suit [9 1/2 min. video; required viewing]

“… he had to hire a stripper to wear it.”

Meaning, significance, and work: God at Work: Not in Vain

“The things we do with our life will find their way, through the resurrecting power of God, into forever. Your work is important, not just because you can contribute to church, but because you get to partner with God! The resurrection of the world means that some of the best ministries, don’t have the word ministry in them!”

Ministry: The Pastor’s Job Description

“Three pastoral acts are so basic, so critical, that they determine the shape of everything else. The acts are praying, reading Scripture, and giving spiritual direction. Besides being basic, these three acts are quiet. They do not call attention to themselves and so are often not attended to. In the clamorous world of pastoral work nobody yells at us to engage in these acts. It is possible to do pastoral work to the satisfaction of the people who judge our competence and pay our salaries without being either diligent or skilled in them. Since almost never does anyone notice whether we do these things or not, and only occasionally does someone ask that we do them, these three acts of ministry suffer widespread neglect.”