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 mind

 

American history & the Fourth of July: Debunking the Fourth: Top 10 Unsightly Facts about the American Revolution

“The majority of the Founding Fathers weren’t Christians, but deists.”

Annihilationism, conditionalism & hell: Ask a Conditionalist (Annihilationist) … Edward Fudge Responds

“Conditionalists begin with the premise that only God is inherently immortal. For humans, immortality is God’s conditional gift, bestowed at the resurrection but only to the redeemed. Those who reject God’s grace throughout life do not live forever. When John 3:16 says the options are eternal life or perish, conditionalists say that means just what it seems to say.

According to conditionalism, at the end of the world, the good and bad alike are raised to face judgment. The righteous enjoy eternal life with God; the lost are sentenced to hell. But God does not keep billions of them alive forever to torment them without end. Instead, those in hell suffer such precise pains as divine justice may require, in a destructive process that ends in extinction. This is the second death, the wages of sin. Eternal punishment is eternal destruction, eternal capital punishment.”

Christianity, civil religion, nationalism, & nominalism, & the United States: 7 Marks of A Stereotypical American Christian

“Obviously, many Christians are more complex and inspiring than the attributes listed above, but we need to start realizing the influence American culture has on our faith. Unfortunately, many of these stereotypes are still perpetuated by American Christians who have strayed away from Christ’s example of sacrificial love and are using religion to serve their own misguided agendas. Nobody is perfect, but we need to start emulating Christ instead of subtly allowing our social surroundings to dictate our spiritual priorities.”

Climate change: Bill Nye The Science Guy Explains The Basics Of Something You Should Really Know [4 min., 34 sec. video]

“If you know anyone who’s having trouble wrapping their head around climate change as a human-driven crisis, this video could really come in handy.”

Culture, evangelism & outreach: Christians and Cultural Engagement

“… Jesus established a relationship in which he could speak and have it heard as a word of grace rather than a ‘I’m-right-and-you’re-wrong’ word of condemnation.”

Children, fatherhood, parenting & singles: The Rise of Single Fathers: A Ninefold Increase Since 1960

“In comparison, the number of single mother households increased more than fourfold during that time period, up to 8.6 million in 2011, from 1.9 million in 1960.”

Communication, credibility, gossip, lies, slander, speech & words: Don’t Believe Everything You Read or Hear

“Slander is a serious sin, and according to Paul, slanderers will be barred from the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).”

Divorce & marriage: Jesus Never Moves On

“…  he has chosen me, he has set his love on me, and nothing will cause him to abandon me. He will never give up.”

Doctors, health & medicine: Common End-of-Life Medical Terms

“Here are some terms likely to be used in such situations as defined by Dr. Darlene Nelson, a pulmonary and critical care specialist at the Mayo Clinic.”

Head coverings, interpretation & women: Head Coverings in Worship: Why Female Hair is a Testicle (parts 1 & 2)

“Recently, my colleague Trevor Thompson, who is a New Testament scholar here at ACU, shared with me some of the work of another NT scholar, Troy Martin, who is a friend of Trevor’s. One of Martin’s areas of expertise is using ancient medical texts to illuminate NT passages, particularly passages that seem confusing to us. In various studies Martin makes the observation that some of these confusions stem from the fact that we don’t share the same medical understandings of the NT writers and their audiences. When ancient medical terms or ideas are used we often miss the meaning. A good example of this comes from 1 Corinthians 11.2-16.”

Ministry & preaching: * I Am a Preacher; * 10 Things You May Not Know About Senior Pastors

* “I offer this in tribute to all the brave men and women of God who bear up under the weight of our call. I hope it articulates some of the ambiguity, beauty and tension wrapped up in saying ‘yes’ when God summons you to the pulpit.”

* “… I know this is a representative list for many.”

Poverty: Greg Kaufmann on the Truth About American Poverty

“Greg Kaufmann, poverty correspondent for The Nation, says the poor in America are stereotyped and demonized in an effort to justify huge cuts in food stamps and other crucial programs for low-income Americans.”

Tipping: Tipping: To Ban or Not?

“If I had my way, we’d take this idea to its logical conclusion and get rid of the practice of tipping altogether. Just outlaw it …”

Worship: Ready to Worship

“As we prepare ourselves for worship each week here are three things we should keep in mind.”

this went thru my mind

 

Discernment & the Holy Spirit: The Church as a Community of Discernment

“…  I wonder what conditions are necessary to say, ‘it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us.’ I wonder if most congregations have orchestrated their life together so that this is a possibility. And if it isn’t–if the church isn’t conceived of to express its life as a matter of faith–then what do we imagine the church is, and how do we imagine that God is related to it? Is it really a church?”

Facebook: Protect Your Privacy From Facebook’s Newest Feature

“The feature in question here is Facebook’s Graph Search.”

Finances, generations & responsibilities: The Sandwich Generation: Rising Financial Burdens for Middle-Aged Americans

“Nearly half (47%) of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent age 65 or older and are either raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child (age 18 or older). And about one-in-seven middle-aged adults (15%) is providing financial support to both an aging parent and a child.”

Hell: Hell is for Real by Jason Micheli

“During the course of my ministry, I’ve met far too many people who’ve been hurt by Christians who spoke callously or cavalierly about Hell.”

Journaling: The 7 Benefits of Keeping A Journal by Michael Hyatt [podcast]

“If I had to sum it up, I would say journaling has afforded me seven benefits. 1. Process previous events. 2. Clarify my thinking. 3. Understand the context. 4. Notice my feelings. 5. Connect with my heart. 6. Record significant lessons. 7. Ask important questions.”

Lent: Why Lent? by Kai Nilsen

“‘Lent? What’s that? Are you talking about the fuzzy stuff I often find in my belly button?’ (Lint!)”

Security: More Than A Dozen Brands Of Security Camera Systems Vulnerable To Hacker Hijacking

“Eighteen brands of security camera digital video recorders (DVRs) are vulnerable to an attack that would allow a hacker to remotely gain control of the devices to watch, copy, delete or alter video streams at will, as well as to use the machines as jumping-off points to access other computers behind a company’s firewall, according to tests by two security researchers.”

Twitter & Vine: Twitter’s New Vine App – Opportunities for the Ministry by Ben Lichtenwalner

“How can we use this new medium for the ministry? Below are some thoughts to get us started.”

this went thru my mind

 

Climate change & global warming: How High Could the Tide Go?

“‘I wish I could take people that question the significance of sea level rise out in the field with me,’ Dr. Raymo said. ‘Because you just walk them up 30 or 40 feet in elevation above today’s sea level and show them a fossil beach, with shells the size of a fist eroding out, and they can look at it with their own eyes and say, ‘Wow, you didn’t just make that up.’”

Fear: Quit Asking Fear for Permission by Jon Acuff

“Quit asking fear for permission. Fear will never tell you it’s time to do the thing you’re afraid to do.”

Hell: * What Did Jesus Teach About Hell?; * Hell: From James to John

* “The traditional view of hell rests on four pillars: that the OT says nothing; that the Jewish view at the time of Jesus was one of eternal conscious punishment; that Jesus’ view was thoroughly Jewish; and that the NT authors follow Jesus. Edward Fudge, in Hell: A Final Word , subjects each of these to examination in a readable, accessible format. The first pillar is wobbly; the OT does speak about the “end” of the wicked and the idea is one of a “consuming” fire (not tormenting fire). The second? Wobblier. There were three views: a consuming fire, a purifying fire, and a tormenting fire. Third? Today we sketch Fudge’s short chapters on what Jesus taught, and I shall sketch his sketch.”

* “The Book of Acts does not motivate by fear.”

Pro-life: A Dialogue on What it Means to be Pro-Life by Shane Claiborne & Tony Campolo

“Our ideologies come with responsibility. In my neighborhood, to be against abortion means we have to figure out what to do when a fourteen-year-old girl gets pregnant. If we are really pro-life, we had better have some foster kids and teen moms living with us to prove it. I don’t want to just be an anti-abortion or anti-death person. I want to be pro-life.”

Relationships & work: What If You Could Truly Be Yourself at Work? by Tony Schwartz

“Each of us is far less likely to succeed by forever pushing to stand out from the pack than by building communities of care and trust committed to raising the bar for everyone.”

Retirement & work: God at Work: Mission Work by Jonathan Storment

“The Greek view of work was that it was a necessary evil. … But Genesis, starts off radically differently. It involves a God who intentionally works and creates the world with care. In fact, the word that Genesis uses for God’s creative word is just the Hebrew word for everyday work. The Bible starts off with God working. And then he creates Adam and Eve and immediately puts them to work And that’s important, because before the fall, there was work. God didn’t finish creation, he started it and then joins in a partnership with them as they create culture, name animals and pioneer… well basically everything. …

“It’s interesting that the Bible doesn’t have [an] … idea of retirement. Instead the Bible has the idea of Sabbath. That is you don’t just work yourself to death until you turn 65. You work with the pace of someone who knows they aren’t the Savior and creator of the world. You rest for a season and then work for a season. But you never just decide to not work again.

“In fact, the closest thing in the Bible that would resemble what we call retirement is death.”

Social security: To Save Social Security, Raise the Minimum Wage

“… we have to do something that will top up benefit levels twenty years from now, not something to stave a complete collapse tomorrow. One thing we could do is simply make up the projected 27 percent shortfall in Social Security benefits through general government spending. At today’s prices, that would cost about $200 billion per year, or about 6 percent of the federal budget. That’s a lot, but not an unmanageable sum of money for the federal government. It could be done. Another thing we would do is just raise the minimum wage.”

this went thru my mind

 

Age of the earth & time: I Just Realized: My Age x 100,000,000 = the Age of the Earth, Which is Ridiculous by Peter Enns

“If 4.6 billion years is scaled to one mile, my life span is .00005 feet, or .0006 inches. That’s 6/10,000 of an inch. You can’t see that with the naked eye.”

Depression: How to Win Over Depression by Terry Rush

“Never will it be what others do for us that will defeat depression.”

Discipleship: Alan Hirsch on Making Disciples [2 min., 53 sec. video clip; required viewing]

“Everyone’s a disciple and no one ever stops being a disciple. … If we don’t disciple, the culture surely will.”

Hanukkah: The True Meaning of Hanukkah

“Hanukkah is one of the most widely celebrated Jewish holidays in America. But unlike Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Passover (or even the lesser-known Sukkot and Shavuot), all of which are explicitly mentioned in the Torah, Hanukkah gets only a brief, sketchy reference in the Talmud, the voluminous collection of Jewish oral law and tradition written down hundreds of years after the Maccabees’ revolt.”

Hell: Questions About Hell

“What does hell mean to Jesus?”

Jesus: Jesus, the King of Israel by Ted Gossard

“Jesus as Lord is to be king over the whole earth, but his rule starts over God’s people. And that rule extends beyond God’s people through conversion, never at the point of a gun, or the tip of a sword, but by the way of the cross. “Jesus and him crucified” is the message people need to hear. This king reigns on a cross and by way of a cross.”

Maturity, selflessness & service: Selflessness Leads to Spiritual Maturity by Jay Guin

“… on average only about 50% of those surveyed claim to be engaged in any meaningful service to others. (And I’m skeptical that the real numbers are even that high.) Therefore, at least 50% of our members do not sacrificially give or serve others. Just what kind of gospel are we teaching?”

Persuasion & words: The 5 Most Persuasive Words in the English Language

“… you might be surprised just how effective these deceptively simple words can be.”

Poverty: Profiting From a Child’s Illiteracy by Nicholas D. Kristof

“… the bottom line is that we shouldn’t try to fight poverty with a program that sometimes perpetuates it.”

this went thru my mind

 

Bible & trustworthiness: The Reliability of the Gospels and the Telephone Game [5 min. video clip; interview of Darrel Bock]

“Darrel Bock explains why “The Telephone Game” is a terrible way of explaining the oral transmission of the Gospels. Oral cultures were much better at passing information reliable than we tend to think.”

Debt, income, middle class, money & The American Dream: Debt and Income Inequality by Richard Beck

“In short, there is a moral asymmetry in how we view debt. … As incomes fell or leveled off since the 70′s, households have held onto to middle class lifestyles by going into debt. Either credit card debt or mortgage debt (those second loans on houses that fueled the housing crisis). And one could argue that the political and economic ‘powers that be’ were more than happy to extend this line of credit to Americans because it masked the real erosion of income that was taking place. Debt kept the middle class docile, feeling like the American Dream was still a reality while it was fading rapidly away. The facade of the middle class was being propped up with debt. It was a house of cards waiting to collapse.”

Heaven & hell: The Most Important Thing People Need To Know About Hell (And Heaven Too …) by Jonathan Morrow

“… the most important thing we need to know about heaven and hell is this: The essence of heaven and hell is relational because heaven (i.e., eternal life) is primarily defined as life with God and hell as life without God.”

Marriage: 7 Ways to Keep Respect as a Husband by Ron Edmonson

“You need respect. It’s a man’s greatest need. I’m convinced. … then it makes sense that if you ever received it you’d want to do your best to keep it.”

Militarism: Old Testament, Militarism, and Idolatry by Preston Sprinkle

“It’s common for Bible believing military personnel to use the Old Testament to support a certain warfare policy. But what would happen if they went all the way and took God as His full word? America’s military, for example, would be by volunteer only and would not be funded by taxation. America would not stock pile superior weapons … and it would make sure its victories were determined by God’s miraculous intervention, not by military might. Rather than outnumbering our enemy, we would deliberately fight out manned and under gunned … There would be no training, no boot camp, no preparation, other than fasting, praying, and singing worship songs (2 Chron. 20). If America really was the ‘new Israel,’ God’s holy nation (as some believe; I don’t) or the nearest equivalent, then we need to take our queue from God and his inspired manual for military tactics. But as it stands, many Christians will be content to cut and paste selected verses that align with America’s worldview to give our military some religious backing. Some call this bad hermeneutics, others call it syncretism. The Israelite prophets called it idolatry.”

hell: a final word, reviewed (part 2)

 

Understanding the Bible is not a simple matter. Contrary to how I was first taught, not just “anyone with one eye and half sense can quickly understand it.” Indeed, there is little that is truly “simple” about it.

Of course, a great deal of the difficulty comes from the many misunderstandings that surround it. No small amount of my life has consisted of shedding false understandings. What I was told the Bible taught and what I found it to actually teach has often been two very different things. This has been true of topics as widely varied as divorce and remarriage, just war, poverty, and the work of the Holy Spirit, not to mention the very character of God himself.

However, coming to awareness that there was actually a decided difference between my understanding of a matter and that of Scripture has often not been a quick or easy matter. In most instances, it has taken years of study and prayer, coupled with people crossing my path and challenging my thinking, to change my views. For some of those changes in perspective I have paid a personal price, sometimes quite high, but it has led to a clarity and grounding in my conscience that is priceless.

My development in understanding the ultimate end of the wicked has followed this same difficult path and I know that I am not alone in this matter. Further, I know there are many Christians who remain secretly – and needlessly – tormented and unsettled on this subject. And why? Precisely because it touches on the character of God and the nature of human beings.

Though it may come as a surprise to some, there are a variety of views of hell among those who claim faith in Christ and who hold to the Bible as God’s communication with humankind. These views fall essentially into three categories: the traditionalist perspective, the universalist position, and the conditionalist (aka: annihilationist) understanding.

The traditionalist perspective is dominant. It’s understanding of hell is that those who will not submit to, and are, therefore, not saved by Christ, will suffer everlasting torment in hell. Hell is for people and people will quite literally be tortured there by fire forever.

Universalists take the opposite position, that no human will be tormented in hell forever, for all will ultimately be saved by God. Rob Bell’s recent book Love Wins (HarperOne, 2011) is perhaps the best known recent description of, and argument for, the universalist view.

While these two views might seem to cover all of the bases, there is, however, a third view, the conditionalist (aka: annihilationist) understanding of things. The conditionalist’s perspective is that while God will certainly and actively punish the wicked, they will ultimately suffer the ultimate punishment, being annihilated. The wicked will, one day, entirely cease to exist.

Here, allow me to introduce a personal note. Though my parents were not Christians, I was raised to believe that there is a God, that there is only one God, and that this one God is very good. Though it was not the evidence offered to me by my parents, the evidence for such that proved most persuasive for me on these matters was found in creation itself. Nature spoke, and still speaks, volumes to me of God.

Across the years, only two things have seriously challenged my belief in such a God and one of those was the teaching and preaching on hell to which I was exposed in church when I began my journey with Christ. What I was taught the Bible said about hell came across as a strong contradiction of the character of the God I thought I had come to know, and continued to seek through the Scriptures.

My personal conflict, my secret quandary, was completely resolved upon the publication (1982) and my reading (about 1986) of Edward Fudge’s book The Fire That Consumes. Words simply cannot express my elation upon my discovery and digestion of this work. It’s description and development of the conditionalist perspective of God and Scripture not only fully addressed all of my questions, but did so in a compelling way. Now in its third edition, that book continues to provide strong light and guidance for me on the subject that challenged my heart and mind so early on in my walk with God’s Spirit. I owe Edward William Fudge a debt I can never repay and few days go by that I do not thank God for this brother of mine in Christ.

However, for years I’ve longed for the essence of that large volume, The Fire That Consumes, to be distilled into a much briefer and more readily readable format that I could confidently share with family and friends. And so, I’m thrilled to say that very longing has been fulfilled with the publication of Edward’s work entitled Hell: A Final Word. The serious Bible student or academic can appreciate the content and format of The Fire That Consumes, while everyman can easily engage Hell: A Final Word. This is the volume many of us have been waiting for and it does not disappoint. Thank you Edward, and thank you, Lord!

The text of Hell: The Final Word is divided into quickly readable portions, the vast majority of the text (pp. 13-172) being divided into fifty-one chapters. There is no multitude of footnotes in this work as was the case with The Fire That Consumes. In fact, there are no footnotes at all, just twenty-four brief endnotes (pp. 187-188).

There is nothing left dangling or assumed in the reasoning presented. Every stone is turned over and considered and no stones are thrown. The argumentation is coherent and tight, linear and clear, without in any way being argumentative. Grace and graciousness is pervasive in all of Edward Fudge’s work and this book is by no means an exception. Indeed, it is not only a true pleasure to read but, unlike most detailed presentations of Biblical teaching I have seen, is truly “a page turner.”

I can find virtually nothing I dislike about this work. Perhaps I would rather have seen the quiz (pp. 177-186) serve as a tantalizing introduction instead of appearing as something like at appendix. This Q & A alone is worth the price of the book.

The inclusion of a handful of discussion questions every few chapters would have made this work all the more instantly adaptable to use in a small-group or Bible class context.

I would like to have seen references to other works aside from those of Fudge in the chapter entitled “For Further Study” (pp. 175-176), but those who truly want to delve into things deeper need only turn to The Fire That Consumes and will find more than ample references there.

And some of the people I intend to steer toward this book would likely prefer to do without the autobiographical aspects of the work and would rather the author just stick straight to the issue at hand. However, I see the autobiographical style as a tremendous plus, especially to those reading it who have a history in the religious heritage in which Edward Fudge and I are of a part (Churches of Christ).

In sum, this book, like Fudge’s earlier work, The Fire That Consumes, is first rate. It’s precisely the sort of book I will happily be steering people toward for a very long time to come. I can easily see it as a resource for a mini-series in Bible class or for sermons, too. I hope this book finds its way into the hands of a great many, both those who believe already and those who are yet to believe. Would that every Christian would read it.

In short, I say: may this book live long and prosper, and may the same hold true for its author.