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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Bible literacy & reading:*  Biblical Illiteracy by the Numbers Part 1: The Challenge [required reading]; * 9 Things Everyone Should Do When Reading the Bible [essential reading]

* “Study after study in the last quarter-century has revealed that American Christians increasingly don’t read their Bibles, don’t engage their Bibles, and don’t know their Bibles. It’s obvious: We are living in a post-biblically literate culture. Just as critical is the second word of the Bible literacy problem: literacy. Pew Research tells us that 23 percent of us didn’t read a single book in the last year. That’s three times the number who didn’t read a book in 1978.”

* Read ‘King’ when you see ‘Christ.’ … read ‘you’ differently … if you see a ‘therefore,’ find out what it’s there for … realize that not all ‘if’ statements are the same … recognize that lamenting is OK … realize that prophecy is more often forth-telling than fore-telling … become familiar with the idioms of your King … remember what you learned in English class … read to study, but also, read to refresh your heart.”

College funding: A College Financial Aid Guide for Families Who Have Saved Nothing

“In just a generation or two, we’ve gone from students working their way through college without too much trouble, to many parents still being able to write checks to cover tuition out of current income, to sticker prices being so high that two decades of savings may not be enough to cover two children from relatively affluent families.”

Government, Houston, law suits, litigation & sermons: Victory Through Defeat

“As a matter of normal legal practice, I doubt that Mayor Parker, David Feldman, or anyone at the City of Houston read the subpoenas before they were sent, much less specifically ordered the discovery and confiscation of sermon notes and other communications involving homosexuality and gender identity. Typically in litigation lawyers will throw a bunch of jello at a wall and see what sticks, so to speak. Or, to put it another way, they’ll fill up the kitchen sink and see what takes. In other words, the lawyer drafting the discovery requests and subpoenas probably tried to think of every conceivable thing that could possibly be related to this lawsuit and asked for it. You don’t get it if you never ask, and litigation is all about being aggressive and taking anything that the other side will give you. Again, these are just requests (issued by a lawyer), and the judge can quash the subpoenas or issue a protective order for the pastors. …

“… the reality is that we are merely dealing with an overbroad discovery request from a zealous trial lawyer employed by the City. So the sky is not falling. This is not a government-wide ‘approval’ system of pulpit messages. The pastors aren’t being threatened with punishment merely for the contents of their sermons. But this is harassment, and the small things add up. A government that tries to intimidate pastors who would seek to employ the democratic process to repeal a morally questionable piece of legislation is no friend of liberty, religious or otherwise. The government answers to the people; the people do not answer to the government. Remember that. The subpoena is only step one in their 12-step program.”

Prayer: 5 Triggers to Grow Your Prayer Life

“For years, when I thought about prayer, I mostly felt guilty for my lack of a robust prayer life. Reading stories of great saints praying for two hours a day or more left me with a gnawing sense of defeat. I would often resolve to pray more. But the resolves didn’t last.”

Psalm 23: The Lord is My Shepherd – Psalm 23

“All of this comes from Yahweh’s ‘goodness and mercy.'”

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.”

links: this went thru my mind

Choices, depression, happiness, mental health & thankfulness: What Are the Three Ways to Train Your Brain to Be Happy? [think Philippians 4.8]

“You can train your mind to be unhappy and you can train it to be happy. … Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep. Write down three things that went well today and why they went well. You may use a journal or your computer to write about the events, but it is important that you have a physical record of what you wrote. The three things need not be earthshaking in importance (“My husband picked up my favorite ice cream for dessert on the way home from work today”), but they can be important (“My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy”). Next to each positive event, answer the question “Why did this happen?””

Culture, grace & post-Christendom: Vanishing Grace

“Frankly, Christian faith is losing traction in society. It has lost traction in Europe and Canada where far fewer than half find religion a positive influence. And it will likely continue to lose traction in the US.”

Early Christianity, ingratitude, nonviolence, pacifism, perception & the state: Pacifism & Holy Ingratitude [essential reading; spot-on!]

“… the Romans considered the early Christians to be an ungrateful group of people. … Specifically, the Romans believed that Roman citizens owed a certain amount of gratitude toward the state. Romans lived in a great, prosperous and generally peaceful empire. Thus, Roman citizens owed the state gratitude. But the Christians seemed to differ. Confessing Jesus as ‘Lord of all’ and directing their gratitude toward God rather than toward the state the Christians busted up the cycles of gratitude that had kept Roman citizens bound to the state. One way that Christians expressed this holy ingratitude was in their refusal to kill for the state. This refusal struck the Romans as hugely ungrateful. Christians benefited as Roman citizens. Yet they refuse to participate in the fighting that created and maintained all those benefits. Non-violent Christians in their refusal to participate in the Roman military were non-patriotic slackers and free-riders.”

God & sovereignty: Does the “Sovereignty of God” Mean That God is Responsible for Everything That Happens?

“… some of what we encounter in life may be simple chance.”

Intimidation, involvement, lukewarmness & spiritual maturity: The Institutionalization of Lukewarmness

“What causes mediocrity in the church members? You take a stab with your best guess. Mine is cowardice. We want peace which interpreted can mean, ‘Leave me alone to serve where I want. Do not press me else I will bolt.’ Intimidation often rules.  This is why so many don’t sing. They don’t want to be heard. Others don’t serve. They don’t want to be seen. Yet, others sneak in and sneak out.  They don’t want to be in contact. Living in the kingdom is a scary, threatening, and risky walk. Institutionalization, however, has declared immunity to the timid. Following Jesus demands we take up our crosses; not sneaking about in dark alleys at night going undetected, but bravely moving about in the public square destined for ridicule and persecution.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Complaining & gratitude: Complaining is a Spiritual Problem

“The problem is how I see the world.”

Racism & repentance: * It’s Time to Listen: Will White Evangelicals Ever Acknowledge Systemic Injustice? (Part 1) by Leonce Crump; * Dr. Seuss Draws Anti-Japanese Cartoons During WWII, Then Atones with Horton Hears a Who!

* “We’ve launched a series here called, It’s Time to Listen. In it, we’ve asked African-American evangelical leaders to share from their diverse perspectives.”

 

* “In 1953, Geisel visited Japan where he met and talked with its people and witnessed the horrific aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima. He soon started to rethink his anti-Japanese vehemence. So he issued an apology in the only way that Dr. Seuss could. He wrote a children’s book … Horton Hears a Who!”

Grace & the Old Testament: God’s Scandalous Grace in the Old Testament [required reading]

“Grace is not just a characteristic of God that pops up here and there; it’s the very backbone of the Old Testament story.”

Health care: Cardiologist Speaks From The Heart About America’s Medical System

“American medicine is the best in the world when it comes to providing high-tech care .. If you have an esoteric disease, you want to be in the United States. God forbid you have Ebola, our academic medical centers are second to none. But if you have run-of-the-mill chronic diseases like congestive heart failure or diabetes, the system is not designed to find you the best possible care. And that’s what has to change.”

Loving your enemies: Three Barriers Hijacking Christians’ Ability to Love Our ‘Enemies’

“1. Fear … 2. Nationalism … 3. Power. … What if we took seriously Jesus’ words that the first shall be last and the last will be first?”

Revelation: Reading Revelation in an Unjust World [required reading]

“… just to be clear: Revelation doesn’t give us details about the rapture or who will be Left Behind. Revelation has as much to do with Four Blood Moons as Goodnight Moon. Revelation barely gives any details about the end times–even if it offers some clues about our perfect ending. Revelation doesn’t tell us about hell—even if some have been accused of Erasing Hell. The sole reason for Revelation’s existence is to encourage people who are suffering injustice.”