links: this went thru my mind

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Here are links to five articles I consider interesting and helpful for thought.

American history, memory, myth & religion: Why 1940s America Wasn’t as Religious as You Think — the Rise and Fall of American Religion

“It’s common for people to believe that religion was always more vibrant in the past. Earlier generations were always more religious than we are, right? Not always. Religiosity can rise and fall just like other things do over time. In fact, America of the 1940s was about as religious as America today.”

Bethlehem, nativity scenes & the birth of Jesus: Bethlehem – the Manger and the Inn

“What actually did a stable look like in the time of Christ?”

Church shopping: ‘It Meets My Needs’ and Other Bad Reasons for Choosing a Church

“If you’re like most, a day is coming when you too will be on the search for a new church to call home. When that day comes, you may want to think twice before using these all-too-common reasons for making your choice.”

God, love, punishment & suffering: Did God Love the Egyptians?

“Did God love the Egyptians when he struck Egypt with plagues? In the larger biblical narrative, the answer is obviously yes. The prophet Isaiah later prophesies about judgments on Egypt (Isa 19:1-17, 22; akin to judgments he also prophesies against Israel); as a result, Egyptians will turn to God and they will become part of God’s people alongside Israel (19:18-25). In the law of Moses, Israelites are forbidden to despise Egyptians, because Israel’s ancestors found refuge in Egypt (Deut 23:7).”

Judging: Fellowship & Judgment

“‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.’ (Luke 6:37) These instructions are more specific iterations of the golden rule (Matthew 7:12), if you think about it.”

links: this went thru my mind

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Church & kingdom: Raising Stones at the Gateway of Heaven: The Kingdom of God as Event

“Kingdom of God is an event rather than an organization. Some time ago I described the relationship between the Kingdom and the church this way …”

Church dropouts, twenties & young adults: The Real Reasons Young Adults Drop Out of Church

“Young adults drop out of church because their faith isn’t their own.”

Eternal punishment, God’s character & hell: Hell & Eternal Punishment?

“How are we consistently to conceive of a God who loves and died for every human who ever existed preserving their existence forever for no other purpose than perpetual torment? Further, how are we to understand the redeemed enjoying untainted bliss in heaven if alongside of this kingdom billions of people and fallen angels will be experiencing excruciating, unending anguish? The problem is exceedingly difficult and extremely important.”

Fish, fishing & the Sea of Galilee: Fish of the Sea of Galilee

“… there are 18 species of indigenous fish in the Sea of Galilee, and that 10 of those are important commercially.”

God & the Old Testament: 10 Old Testament Passages That Shape How I Think About God [required reading]

“God is not impressed with what we call success but with what is deep within us, perhaps even deeper than we ourselves can see.”

Happiness, joy, politics & suffering: * What is the Difference Between Joy and Happiness? [required reading]; * The Political Significance of Joy [a 20 min. video of an interview of N.T. Wright by Miroslav Volf]

* “or the most part, segments of our life, often entire chunks of it, aren’t going well and much of it we don’t live well. Given that joy attaches to life going well and being led well, must joy be lost to us? It need not be. We can rejoice over the many small goods we experience, and for those of us who are religious, we can find joy in the One Good that is both the source and the goal of our existence. Though fragmentary, all small joys celebrate goods in our lives that are and remain wonderful, at times no more than tender plants in the cracks of our otherwise heavily cemented and gray lives. And in all true joys we yearn for, and perhaps also faintly experience, a world in which all things and all manner of things shall be well.”

* “… the suffering is a badge of the fact that we’re sharing the Messianic sufferings of Jesus. … suffering is hope-full.”

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.”

links: this went thru my mind

Benevolence, compassion, grace, judging & need: Wasted Grace [essential reading]

“How do you help healthy beggars on the road you cannot know?”

Existence of God: Is God a Hoax?

“Is God real? Or, is this a figment of man’s needy imagination?”

Gossip & prayer requests: Gossip & Prayer Requests [essential reading]

“At what point do those prayer requests become sinful gossip? … It’s complicated. … Here is a mental checklist that I have developed for managing prayer requests in a careful, godly manner. Before you pass on that request, make sure to check your facts, your role, your audience, and your heart.”

Human life, martyrdom, nationalism, pacifism & respect: Blood Trumps Everything: Why the Church Needs Her Martyrs

“My point in all this is that debates about things like nationalism or pacifism aren’t simply abstract theological discussions. These debates need to, but often fail to, take into consideration the sacred element of human blood. These debates need to reckon with the face that blood is the most sacred thing we know, more sacred, even, than God. Emotionally, where this argument will be won or lost, blood will trump theology. Always. And this is why the church needs her martyrs.”

Sexuality & virginity: When Guys Found Out I’m a Virgin

“When it comes to my decision to stay a virgin until marriage — to hold out for that one-time-only chance to fully connect with and know and love another person — I want to make sure it’s the right man. Until then, bring on the squirmy no-sex chat.”

picture Bible commentary

Dallas-God-love-homeless-need

Isn’t this the fast I choose: releasing wicked restraints, untying the ropes of a yoke, setting free the mistreated, and breaking every yoke? Isn’t it sharing your bread with the hungry and bringing the homeless poor into your house, covering the naked when you see them, and not hiding from your own family? Then your light will break out like the dawn, and you will be healed quickly. (Isaiah 58.6-8a CEB)