this went thru my mind

 

Children, crisis & grief: * Dealing With Grief: Five Things NOT To Say And Five Things To Say In A Trauma Involving Children by Emily C. Heath; * How to Help Children After a Crisis by Delia Halverson; * Helping Children Cope With Violence by LeeDell Stickler

* “Unless you are God, don’t use this line.”

* “… during a crisis, we are often so preoccupied with news of the event that we don’t realize how overpowering our conversations and the continuing media coverage can be for a child.”

* “How can you help the children in your church cope with violence such as this?”

Forgiveness & work: The Five Stages of Forgiveness in the Workplace by J.B. Wood

“It’s not until you’ve been royally screwed over by someone at work that you realize how impossible it is to forgive. … if we really want to follow Jesus, we must … face the act of forgiving head-on.”

Faith, freedom, gun control, the U.S.A. & violence:* Freedom Bites Back by Scot McKnight [required reading]; * Guns and God and the U.S.A. by Patrick Mitchel; * The Freedom of an Armed Society by Firmin Debrabander [required reading]; * Do We Have the Courage to Stop This? by Nicholas Kristof [actually, all four of these article are "required reading," but read those by McKnight and Debrabander if you can read only two]

* “What does the church have to say about freedom? What does the gospel say about freedom? about violence? These are questions for Christians to ponder. We look to Jesus, not to laws about freedom.”

* “What I struggle to understand is the enthusiastic and active involvement in this gun culture by so many American Christians (and I know many others are as baffled by this as I am). By gun culture I mean a culture that puts trust in violence to solve problems and bring ‘peace’. That blithely seems to assume that I, the individual, am righteous enough not only to use violence for ‘just’ ends, but also that I am beyond making fatal mistakes and beyond the corruption that the power over life and death brings. Which leads, in some places, to numerous Christians turning up at church armed and where churches employ armed guards? How can Christians (of all people), with a supposedly developed and realistic sense of human sin, be so unself-critical? My theory – is this the dark side of American optimism about human nature? And the church (or part of it) has bought into it without a second thought?”

* “An armed society is the opposite of a civil society. … Liberty entails precisely the freedom to offend. A gun in every pocket would stifle that. … Such is the effect of guns on speech — and assembly. Like it or not, they transform the bearer, and end the conversation in some fundamental way. They announce that the conversation is not completely unbounded, unfettered and free; there is or can be a limit to negotiation and debate — definitively.”

* “Why can’t we regulate guns as seriously as we do cars?”

God & tragedy: Where is God When Tragedy Strikes? by Terry Rush

“So where was God during these recent tragedies?  He was covering for the innocent and the guilty some 2000 years back for precisely such times as these.  Where was God?  He was spending His ideal and perfect Jesus in payment for both heartache and break of all mankind for all time.”

Marriage: Winning Back Your Wife’s Heart by Ron Edmonson

” … what is a man to do if he feels his wife’s heart is injured? How do you heal a broken heart?”

Mental illness, mental disabilities, & tragedy: Don’t Blame Autism for Newtown by Priscilla Gilman

“This country needs to develop a better understanding of the complexities of various conditions and respect for the profound individuality of its children. We need to emphasize that being introverted doesn’t mean one has a developmental disorder, that a developmental disorder is not the same thing as a mental illness, and that most mental illnesses do not increase a person’s tendency toward outward-directed violence.”

this went thru my mind

 

Baptism, discipleship, evangelism & salvation: Saving Souls is More Than Counting Baptisms by Terry Rush

“Be about soul winning this week.  If any should be at the waters of baptism, praise God.  But, too, if any happen to be over a cup of coffee or in a waiting room and you seek to inspire someone back to greatness….this too would be winning of the soul.”

Bible interpretation: My Take: The Danger of Calling Behavior ‘Biblical’ by Rachel Held Evans

“… the Bible is not a position paper. The Bible is an ancient collection of letters, laws, poetry, proverbs, histories, prophecies, philosophy and stories spanning multiple genres and assembled over thousands of years in cultures very different from our own. When we turn the Bible into an adjective and stick it in front of another loaded word, we tend to ignore or downplay the parts of the Bible that don’t quite fit our preferences and presuppositions. In an attempt to simplify, we force the Bible’s cacophony of voices into a single tone and turn a complicated, beautiful, and diverse holy text into a list of bullet points we can put in a manifesto or creed. More often than not, we end up more committed to what we want the Bible to say than what it actually says.”

Military service, pacifism & the early church: What Can We Learn From the Early Church? – Living Like the First Christians

“There can be no question but that Christians of the earliest period were overwhelmingly pacifist. I would say, until the year 200 pacifism was the norm for Christians. That began to change slightly from 200 to the Constantinian Edict in 313. Tertullian (160-225) was very strong in arguing that Christians could not participate in war, and he went so far as to say that those who were already soldiers must quit the military when they became followers of Jesus.  There are cases during this early period where Christians chose to be martyred rather than to serve in the military.”

Movies & politics: Why We Love Politics by David Brooks

“… ‘Lincoln,’ directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Tony Kushner. … portrays the nobility of politics in exactly the right way.”

Reading: Four Reasons Men Don’t Read Books (with a Practical Suggestion) by Tony Reinke

“… many Christian men do struggle with reading. Here are four reasons why: Men don’t read books because they don’t know where to begin. … Men don’t read books because visual allurements are more appealing. … Men don’t read books because they think it’s a waste of time. … Men don’t read because they lack literary discipline.”

Special needs: 4 Ways the Church Can Support Families with Special Needs Children by Chad Nall

“A parent of a special-needs child shared with several of us in a seminar four things the church can do to support families. They include …”

this went thru my mind

 

Equality & freedom: A Black Intellectual Writes to Thomas Jefferson by Bobby Valentine

On July 4, 1776 explosive words from Thomas Jefferson captured the hearts of men and women, white and black, in the British Colonies in America.  Those words read, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among them are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ … The letter of Benjamin Banneker to Thomas Jefferson on August 19, 1791 was laden with potential to renew the promise of the American Revolution. … Perhaps Banneker should be in the Canon of American Saints as much – perhaps more – than Thomas Jefferson.”

Faith & politics: The Real ‘Evangelical Disaster’ by Rachel Held Evans

“The great evangelical disaster is that evangelicalism has become synonymous with Republicanism rather than the gospel of Jesus Christ. This happened long before the 2012 presidential election. It happened when we turned the Bible into a conservative position paper and Jesus into a flag pin. “

Generosity: Family Christian Stores Buys Itself, Pledges to Give 100% of Profits to Widows and Orphans

“Under the new ownership, Family Christian’s pledge is to contribute 100% of its profits to Christian causes and, specifically, ministries serving widows and orphans both in the USA and abroad.”

Thanksgiving: * An American Thanksgiving from a Global Perspective by Dan Bouchelle; * Tips for Teaching Your Children Thanksgiving! by Mark Woodward

* “I have traveled to all six populated continents and preached for churches in each place. I spend a lot of time listening to church leaders and disciple-makers describe the realities they face in their countries with all the joys and struggles that entails. I also have gotten to witness first hand the living conditions, social realities, political climates, and spiritual environments of many different parts of the globe. With that as the backdrop to my current life, I enter into this Thanksgiving season differently than I once did.”

* “If you want your children to be thankful—grateful—adults, you have a great opportunity to work on them during Thanksgiving.  This holiday can be so much more than Indians and pilgrims or eating and football!  We Christians have a great opportunity to re-capture the holiday from the secularists and materialists and instill in our children a grateful spirit rather than an entitled one!”

this went thru my mind

 

Abortion: Why Abortion Should Not Be Politically Decisive for Christians by Craig M. Watts

“Unfortunately, the abortion issue has allowed many Christians – and conservatives as a whole – to claim to be working to defend the most vulnerable when in fact they are turning attention and national resources away from those who are most desperately in need. The good that actually could be done to protect life isn’t done because pro-life Christians lend their support to politicians who are most likely to block funding for programs for children and families of the weakest and most impoverished. The abortion issue ends up serving as a smokescreen behind which certain politicians work in the interests of those who are the most rich and powerful.”

Action: The Simple Power of One a Day by Seth Godin

“There are at least 200 working days a year. If you commit to doing a simple … item just once each day, at the end of the year you’ve built a mountain.”

Conversion, culture, men & singing: American Men Don’t Sing by Alistair Begg [required viewing]

“… you can really tell that American male has really been converted when he begins to sing during worship.”

Disconnection & youth: The Tragic Geography of Disconnected Youth

“More than one in seven young Americans are ‘disconnected’ from work and from school, according to a report released Thursday …”

Freedom, politics & speech: Freedom for What? by K. Rex Butts

“Everyday my Facebook feed is inundated with political stumps. … My problem is with the vitriolic nature and dishonesty many of these stumps carry forth.”

iO6: Everything You Need to Know About iOS 6

“Here’s everything you need to know, from how to update your device(s) to getting started with Apple’s latest OS upgrade.”

Slavery: How Many Slaves Work for You? [take the survey]

“What? Slaves work for me?”

Small groupsWhy I’m a Fan of Small Groups…Now; * A Better Way to Care for the Hurting [required reading]

* “The truth is, I used to not like small groups very much. … Over time, I’ve become a raving fanatic for small groups … Here are four things that changed my opinion over time. Notice I said, over time. It’s hard to change one’s opinion on this instantly. The only way I know to do so is to be part of a good one.”

* “… small groups. It’s the primary means by which our church does pastoral care …”

this went thru my mind

 

Basic Christianity: Hope for Life

Christians, nationalism, patriotism & the Fourth of July: A collection of various links & views:

Happy Fifth of July! by Timothy Archer

“The truth is that apart from Christ, Americans are as enslaved to the principalities and powers as any other person or group. That is why freedom is only found in Christ.” (quoting K. Rex Butts)

What are Some Helpful Ways to Celebrate July 4th in the Church? by Brian Croft

“… I do believe there are some things we can do in our worship services that celebrate the freedoms we have in this country, but take a more gospel focus in doing so.  Here are 3 we have done in our church that I feel accomplish this.”

A Nuanced Allegiance to the United States by Brian LePort

“… I hope that as Christians we can be reminded that our truest citizenship is “in heaven” (as the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 3.20). When we live for the Kingdom the United States benefits as does the other nations of this world. The way of Christ is best.”

A Fourth of July Treatise – America and a National Religion by Paul Smith

“Why are we not a Christian nation? Because we never were a Christian nation. Our founding documents preclude our ability to be a Christian nation.”

God Does Not Love America by Karen Spears Zacharias

“God does not love America. If that offends you, you have a problem. God does not love Israel. Israel as a nation is a construct of the Truman Administration and some legal wrangling within the United Nations. I know we have been taught — truly indoctrinated — to think otherwise. I get it. It’s a hard truth to realize that as a nation God is no more devoted to us than he is to Afghanistan or Iraq, Iran or North Korea.  It’s like learning that your mama loves your brother as much as she loves you. It’s disappointing to not be the favorite. But when it comes to nation-building, God does not play favorites.”

Human rights: A Cruel and Unusual Record by Jimmy Carter

“The United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights.”

LifeWay Christian Bookstores: Christian Bookstores and Their Chokehold on the Industry

“… LifeWay Christian bookstores recently banned the movie ‘The Blind Side’ from their shelves due to language and objectionable content.”

Marital fidelity: 10 Keys to Avoiding the Tragedy of Infidelity by J. Carl Laney

“… my wife … and I … are taking precautions to make sure that … disaster does not take place with us. Over the years we have discovered ten keys that have helped us to avoid the tragedy of marital infidelity.”

Religion: How We Know What We Know – Does Religion Cause War & Pain? by Patrick Mead

“It seems John Lennon had it wrong. Imagining a world where there was no belief, no heaven, and no hell won’t bring paradise on earth, no matter how much Harris and Hitchens say so. It seems the data argues otherwise.”

Temptation: How to Resist Temptation Like Jesus by Wayne Stiles

“Jesus’ knowledge of the Word of God remains a model for us of faithfulness under fire.”

Vacations: Vacation Sabotage: Don’t Let It Happen to You! by Matt Richtel

“The secret to not killing your vacation revolves around understanding not just your motives, but also your brain and the role it plays in undoing your precious time off.”

getting it

Read Romans 14 and then come back here. Go ahead; I’ll wait for you right here.

I understand this passage better now than I did at one time. Lord knows I didn’t understand it at all for years after I became a Christian and for years more after I started preaching. Back then, somehow, someway, I managed to read this chapter over and over and still miss three things Paul takes as givens in the life of faith together, namely:

1. Contrary to what seemed to be being drilled into me over and over again, agreeing on everything in the name of Christ is not job one.

2. No matter how hard we preach it, how consistent we teach it, how passionately we pray for it, or how obviously we try to exemplify it, we’ll never even get close to the point where all Christians agree on everything.

3. How you love God with all of our your, heart, mind, and strength is revealed best not by having all of the right convictions, but by truly loving others more than yourself.

You see, while I was taught that if we’ll all just focus on God there will be no variation in our beliefs, Romans 14 says radical variation is inevitable. While I was taught that Christians back in the day we are all perfectly united, can be now, and must be always, Romans 14 says they weren’t back then and agreeing on everything is not where it’s at. And while I was taught that the way we showed real love for God was by perfectly holding and expressing one right set of beliefs, Romans 14 says loving people who differ with me is far more important than the uninhibited expression of my beliefs.

What disturbs me most of all, though is not just that I could have misunderstood exceedingly clear Scripture for so long, but the fact that I taught my mistaken understandings to others and I know I’m anything but alone in this experience. And that leads me to want to unteach some of what I know I taught and calls for me to try to help others to see what I know they have yet to see. Let me just try to parrot what Paul says here, but in other words.

  • There are a number of matters that come under the heading of religion that are not only not worth arguing about, but mustn’t be argued about (vs. 1).
  • Don’t look down on those who hold to a different set of beliefs (vs. 2-3).
  • Always remember: God alone is judge and so, you’re not (vs. 4).
  • Everyone has a right to their own convictions and we should respect such (vs. 5-6).
  • Whatever we believe and do should be done not for ourselves or others, but with God in view (vs.7-9).
  • We will all answer to God for our convictions, not for the convictions of others (vs. 10-12).
  • If you’re headed down Judge Others Road, do a U-turn and take the first exit (vs. 13a).
  • Determine to make life easier, not more difficult, for others by respecting people’s convictions (vs. 13b).
  • What’s right for one person can be wrong for another because our conscience and convictions differ (vs. 14).
  • If you are truly about doing the loving thing you will seek to be sensitive to the convictions of others (vs. 15).
  • Being humble with your convictions doesn’t mean becoming a doormat; give respect and expect respect (vs. 16).
  • Don’t frustrate, rather, facilitate the establishment of God’s rule in the community of faith (vs. 17).
  • Look for the ways that God and people both applaud and go after them (vs. 18).
  • If you can’t make accommodations for people with your positions, your positions are wrong (vs. 19-21).
  • Refuse to flaunt your convictions; keep what can be kept private, private (vs. 22).
  • Follow your conscience informed by Christ, not the crowd (vs. 23).

I don’t live under any illusion that I understand everything in Scripture, particularly this Scripture, completely. I have much, much, much yet to learn, no doubt. But, here’s to the learning of it.

What have I missed? What have I got right? What can we learn together?

Heavenly Father, give me insight into the practical living out of your will in my life with others. I pray in the name of him in whom I believe and who has brought me into the fellowship of all who belong to him, Jesus Christ. Amen.

beyond halfway Christian

“So what? Should we sin because we aren’t under Law but under grace? Absolutely not! Don’t you know that if you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, that you are slaves of the one whom you obey? That’s true whether you serve as slaves of sin, which leads to death, or as slaves of the kind of obedience that leads to righteousness. But thank God that although you used to be slaves of sin, you gave wholehearted obedience to the teaching that was handed down to you, which provides a pattern. Now that you have been set free from sin, you have become slaves of righteousness.” (Romans 6:15-18 CEB)

“Now that you have been set free from sin, you have become slaves of righteousness.” (vs.18)

Many Christians grasp the meaning of the first half of that verse: “… you have been set free from sin …” They revel in the freedom they trust the Lord has given them from all their sin and shame. They are liberated people and their joy and peace says that to everyone who knows them.

Many other believers understand the last half of that verse: “you have become slaves of righteousness.” They realize the living out of Christian faith is a deadly serious business. When God says he owns them now and they’re no longer to be about living life after their own will, they get it. Their single-mindedness and purposefulness clearly says to all that they belong to God.

But few disciples, at least it seems to me, capture a good balance of both parts of this word from God. And yet, without that balance, we become only “half religious.” We cannot become holy, what God would wholly have us to be, without an understanding and appreciation of both aspects. Could it be that it’s right here at this point that Satan uses his crowbar best as he works it back and forth in our minds?

But we must not listen to him; we must listen to God’s Holy Spirit. We do not have to choose between joy and obedience. We don’t have to choose between experiencing freedom and being an obedient servant. We dare not separate what God has joined together and these two, freedom and service, belong together.

Father God, you have adopted me and brought me under your rule. So make me your servant, a servant who truly understands your great grace. Remind me often of what I am no longer under, all the while showing me how to offer more of myself to you. For you are my righteousness and life and you are the One who has set me free from the weights of the law and sin through your Son, in whose name I pray. Amen.