links: this went thru my mind

Following are links to five articles that I’ve found to be interesting and helpful.

Archaeology, Israel & Jerusalem: Nose Falls Off the Skull of Gordon’s Calvary

“Visitors to the Garden Tomb of Jerusalem are usually shown the “Skull” identified by Charles Gordon as part of the case that this spot may be the authentic site of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. On February 20 the bridge of the skull’s nose collapsed during a storm.”

Churches of Christ & church decline: The 2015 Churches of Christ in the United States

“… the average congregation size has declined … to 124 adherents per congregation. … The Christian Chronicle reports that the same figures reflect a 7.8% decline in membership since 1990, reflecting about 100,443 souls. … The 1990s were a time of plateaued growth … — essentially flat, even though it was a time of rapid population growth. … the rate of decline is accelerating. A lot. … The loss of members, adherents, and congregations is … doubling roughly every 15 to 20 years. … During this same period, the population of the United States has grown … the nation is growing at twice the rate at which the Churches of Christ are declining.”

Distraction, faith & focus: The Wheelchair or the Throne [required reading]

“Our enemy is an expert at distraction. If he can get our eyes off that throne and on the pain and uncertainty of the world, then we are doomed to walk this life in fear and agony. He knows that and he loves every minute of it. … Refuse to focus on what you can see and set your minds on things above. Look away from the evil and drama that saturate our lives and fix your eyes on the King of Glory. Only there will you find healing and hope.”

Documentaries, history, Jesus & media: Finding Jesus: Review of Part One

“… as a docu-drama, I thought this was better than many of them, and I look forward to the remaining five episodes.”

Evangelism, expectations, honesty, hypocrisy, outreach, sensitivity & transparency: Seven Lies Christians Tell [essential reading]

“We mean well, but is the truth really on our lips when we evangelize? … We lie when we claim we are more confident than we really are. … We lie when we claim that unexplainable things are in fact explainable. … We lie when we don’t acknowledge our doubts within the drama of faith. … We lie when we pretend like the Bible doesn’t say some really nasty things when in fact it does. … We lie when we claim we understand other beliefs, faiths and world views. … We lie when we claim that all of our beliefs are a ’10.’ … Finally, and most importantly, we lie (insidious and barbaric lying) when we pretend like we really, really, really love the other person when in fact we don’t.”

links: this went thru my mind

Christmas & displacement: Christmas for Those Who Feel Left Out

“He came to all who feel out of place in the world to give them a place in his world.”

Health, sleep & technology: Reading On A Screen Before Bed Might Be Killing You

“The best recommendation … would be to avoid use of light-emitting screens before bedtime …”

Kingdom: On the Term ‘Kingdom’

“… the expectation for anything using the word ‘kingdom’ would be a people governed by a king — and what was the biggest hope was that this people would be ruled by God. (And Messiah gets attached over time to God’s end-time rule over his people.) What would Jews have heard when Jesus said ‘kingdom’? That’s a question we must ask. (It would not have meant only God’s rule. It always involves a people ruled by a king.)”

Jesus, nonviolence, peace & violence: The Prince of Peace (parts 1, 2 & 3) [essential reading]

“… in the name of honesty, Christians ought either to quit fighting or quit calling themselves Christians. …”

“The use of force is one thing, the use of violence and especially lethal violence, violence with intent to do serious bodily harm or kill, is another. It is the latter that absolutely nothing in the teachings of Jesus sanctions, and much in his teaching completely rejects. …”

“”The Christian followers of Caesar have thus committed themselves to an absurdity that they can neither resolve nor escape: the proposition that war can be made to serve peace; that you can make friends for love by hating and killing the enemies of love. This has never succeeded, and its failure is never acknowledged, which is a further absurdity. … Jesus called us to self-sacrifice, not to a life of self-protection and self-preservation. If the whole or major rationale for allowing private citizens to carry guns is ‘self-defense’, then it is in order to point out that Jesus called us to give up that modus operandi and embrace another one— self-sacrifice.'”

Preaching, sin & spiritual sickness: Pope Francis: the Fifteen ‘Diseases’ of the Curia [essential reading]

“Francis invites his collaborators to examine their conscience to confess their ‘sins’ in today’s speech. He mentions vainglory and feeling essential, as well as ‘spiritual Alzheimer’s’ and hoarding money and power. The Pope also speaks of closed circles and worldly profit, as well as the ‘terrorism of gossip.'”

torture is wrong

While it’s the hot topic in politics and the news right now, the current, comparative silence on this subject in the Christian quarter of these United States is disturbing and deafening to me.

So, let me say it loud and clear right here: torture is wrong. It’s always wrong; torture is never right.

  • If torture is a tool, it is a tool of Satan, not of God our Father.
  • If torture is a law, it is not the law of our Lord.
  • If torture is an aid, it is not an aid of the Helper who is the Holy Spirit.

Have we so sanitized the message of the offensiveness of Christ and his cross that we have missed or forgotten this message? Everything about the Christ and his cross says torture is wrong.

  • So says the beating of the Christ. Hear the groans of the Suffering Servant as each blow lands.
  • So says the whipping of the Christ. Feel the splash of blood and the strike of pieces of flesh from the Incarnate One splattering across your body.
  • So says the crown of thorns on the Christ. Taste the endless rivulets of blood as they run down Jesus’ face as your own.
  • So says the cross of Christ. See your Sacrifice struggle, agonizing and writhing with every tormented breath.

The Christ himself so says with his measured and costly words while on the cross:

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

He would not have prayed for his torturers’ forgiveness if their doings were not sin. And torture that leads to death is doubly sinful.

Since torture is wrong, we who are Christ’s disciples are called by God and expected of God to live out our lives as His Son lived out His own here in the flesh: expressive of the exact opposite of torture.

“… treat people in the same way that you want people to treat you; this is the Law and the Prophets”

Especially if/when you find yourself subjected to torture.

“If people slap you on your right cheek, you must turn the left cheek to them as well.”

Our Lord practices what he preaches and so, he teaches us over and over that torture is wrong, as powerfully with his ways as well as with his words. I ask you: just how many times did our Lord intervene on behalf of another whenever he encountered someone experiencing some – any – form of torture, be it verbal, mental, emotional, or physical?

Pause and let the people and his encounters with them come to mind. The list is rather long, isn’t it?

“If all of them were recorded, I imagine the world itself wouldn’t have enough room for the scrolls that would be written.”

And so:

  • Seek to grow a heart that is no longer numb or callous to torture, but appalled and revolted by it.
  • Seek to prioritize your citizenship in the eternal kingdom that is not a part of this world and its ways.
  • Seek right justice and not wrong revenge.
  • Seek to mature in a mindset that simply will not tolerate justifying the means so as to reach a desired end.
  • Seek to live in such a way that you add to the list of those on whose behalf you intervene and defend, not to the list of those who torment and torture others.

links: this went thru my mind

Bible reading, Churches of Christ, interpretation & open-mindedness: Reading the Bible in Churches of Christ

“The Bible is a finger pointing to Jesus. I love the Bible but I love Whom it points to even more.”

Church, generations, leadership, Millennials, ministry & mission: Five Reasons Why Millennials Do Not Want to Be Pastors or Staff in Established Churches

“My plea to Millennials is not to abandon established churches. Not all of them are as bad as many think. Consider yourself to be a part of the solution. Above all, look at these churches as mission fields just as you would a ministry in a distant continent. We need Millennials in established churches. Your present and future leadership is vital. Granted, church revitalization is messy and not easy. It is often slow, methodical, and frustrating. But God loves the members of established churches just as He loves the members of new works.”

Church dropouts: The Rise of the Dones

“… the Dones … these de-churched … [are] among the most dedicated and active people in their congregations. To an increasing degree, the church is losing its best. … The Dones are fatigued with the Sunday routine of plop, pray and pay. They want to play. They want to participate. But they feel spurned at every turn.”

Gun control, right-to-carry laws & violent crime: Right to Carry Increases Crime

“… extending the data yet another decade (1999-2010) provides the most convincing evidence to date that right-to-carry laws are associated with an increase in violent crime. … The totality of the evidence based on educated judgments about the best statistical models suggests that right-to-carry laws are associated with substantially higher rates of aggravated assault, rape, robbery and murder.”

Jesus & offense: Give Me the Doubly Offensive Jesus, Please

“The Jesus of the Gospels is offensive because of how inclusive He is. The Jesus of the Gospels is offensive because of how exclusive He is. The church is offended by His inclusivity, and the world is offended by His exclusivity. Thus we are inclined to weaken the offense, either by minimizing His inclusive call or by downplaying His exclusive claims. Unfortunately, whenever we lop off one side or the other, we wind up with a Jesus in our own image. Instead, we should celebrate both Jesus’ inclusiveness and His exclusivity, for this is the polarity that makes Jesus so irresistibly compelling.”