links: this went thru my mind

 

Aliens, culture, faith & immigration: God’s Immigrants [essential reading]

“The total global diaspora numbers about 859 million from 327 distinct people groups. A larger number of those peoples settle in the US than in any other host country, making about 11% of the US population foreign born. … Let us see if we can’t … reclaim the deep resonances and reverence scripture caries for the immigrant.”

Busyness, Christianity, church, faith, over-stimulation, United States: Why It’s Hard to Be Christian in America [essential reading]

“What we need is a community of people who agree to live by a different ethic and rhythm. The Bible has a word for that community. It’s called church. So, let the church be the church.”

Burnout, discouragement, leadership & ministry: * Ten Things Pastors Hate to Admit Publicly [essential reading]; * A Cure for Ministerial Burnout: Contemplative Prayer; * Don’t Make Your Pastor a Statistic?

* “My intention is precisely the opposite. I hope that from this: Churches will pray all the more for their pastors because they understand the challenges; Churches will be doubly grateful for the fact that so many pastors stay in the saddle despite their fears, hurts and frustrations; People in churches will think twice before engaging in things that sink deep into the soul of their leaders.”

* “If, each day, time had been set aside for the spiritual renewal that contemplative praying can provide, there probably would have been the kind of revitalization of mind and spirit that could have maintained their enthusiasm and commitment to ministry.”

* “Consider these figures compiled by the Schaeffer Institute …”

Church, church attendance & expectations: * #1 Reason Why Church Attendance is Down – Really? [required reading]; * Disillusionment With the Church [essential reading]

* “Take me for example, for a number of reasons, I am very close to burnout.  When I hear words like ‘active’, ‘committed’, ‘involvement’, and ‘monitor attendance’, it is going to produce the opposite of the intended effect in me.  If I hear these words from the pulpit on a Sunday morning, I am going to be less likely, not more likely,  to attend the following week.  I am burnt out and you want a larger commitment from me?!?

“Seven years ago, when we searching for a new pastor, our church surveyed our community.  When asked the number one reason why they didn’t attend church, the top two responses could be summarized as:  ‘Too tired’, and ‘not enough time.'”

* “I would contend that many of our disillusions with the church are based upon a wrong ethic. We misunderstand the true nature of fellowship in the gospel community. And therefore, we wrongly apply the ethic of other communities to the church.

“The foundation of our fellowship is not the feelings we have for one another, as important as they may be. Neither is the foundation of our fellowship based upon the fact that we live in the same geographic place, educate our children in the same way, hold similar political views, or are the same ethnicity. No. It is the gospel that is the foundation of our fellowship. Nothing else.”

Israel: * The Pilgrimage: Israel (a 25-part series by Ben Witherington; superb); * Gaza is in the News Again

* “I was fortunate enough to lead a tour to Israel and Turkey for two weeks in May with 29 hearty souls on pilgrimage, and we had a blessed time and a blast as well. It was all good. In the coming weeks I will be sharing some of the pictures and experiences from this trip and we will be talking about.”

* “Gaza is mentioned several times in the Old Testament. Here is a summary of these references.”

Listening, preaching & sermons: How to Get More from a Sermon [essential reading]

“Let’s talk about people who do not get full value from the sermons they hear.

“These people may be taking SERMON-BLOCKERS. When the pastor gets up to preach, they … nitpick him … plan the week ahead … shift into neutral and become passive. … send their mind off on a mini-vacation. … listen with their ears but not their hearts … do not bring faith to what they are hearing.

“These people may hear thousands of sermons, but they do not benefit from them because they are resisting them, not listening to them, and not believing them. Such people are literally wasting their time by coming to church.”

Learning, online & reading: Being a Better Online Reader

“… we don’t read the same way online as we do on paper.”

Population density & the United States: Half of the United States Lives in These Counties

“… half of the United States population is clustered in just the 146 biggest counties out of over 3000.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Animals: Zoo Animals and Their Discontents

“The notion that animals think and feel may be rampant among pet owners, but it makes all kinds of scientific types uncomfortable. … That may be changing. A profusion of recent studies has shown animals to be far closer to us than we previously believed …”

Baptism: Six Things I Don’t Believe About Baptism

“… not an exhaustive list. But it’s a start.”

Church, evangelism, Nones & outreach: Five Toxic Church Environments Turning Away Nones

“… nones … They are currently the single fastest-growing religious group of our time and currently represent 20% of the US population.”

Discipleship & social media: Will Social Media Destroy Discipleship?

“The Internet becomes dangerous when it keeps us from deeply investing in real one-on-one relationships. God is an extremely relational God. He is one God in three persons. He is literally made up of relationship. We are created in His image. We are wired to be relational, to encourage, be with, and love other people. Discipleship is God’s joy and passion for His people. Discipleship is God’s plan for redemption.”

Hitler, home invasion, nonviolence, pacifism & self-defense: What If Hitler Invaded Your Home? [essential reading]

“Some trust in horses and chariots, some trust in Smith and Wesson, but we will trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

Humility, ministry, preaching & weakness: A Word to Those Who Preach

“…  our role is to tell Him thank you for the ways He is choosing to use us to reach the world.  You most likely assume that you are not a big deal.  Good.  We aren’t. However, we are in His eyes when we walk in humility alongside the Spirit of Jesus.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Church, consumerism & mega-churches: How Churches Became Cruise Ships

“Today, half of all churchgoers in the United States attend the largest 10 percent of churches. What rarely gets reported, however, is that on average 50 smaller churches close their doors every week in the U.S. The church-as-destination model hasn’t advanced the church in America, it has consolidated it.”

Children, parenting & technology: * 9 Most Dangerous Apps for Kids; * Five Ways to Mess Up Your Kids [required reading]

* “New apps are constantly being created, so it’s important to monitor what your child downloads. Being aware of the online tricks predators use will help you know what to look for …”

* “… it is possible to parent in such a way as to make it difficult for them to grow up, mature, and live as Christ-followers. The following are some ways to mess up your kids …”

Discouragement & ministry: Seven Ways to Hurt Your Pastor

“… they are real people who can really be hurt. The pastors I spoke with this past week shared with me seven common themes of the things that hurt them the most. So, if you really want to hurt your pastor, follow these guidelines carefully.”

Hispanics, immigrants & jobs: Latino Jobs Growth Driven by U.S. Born

“For the first time in nearly two decades, immigrants do not account for the majority of Hispanic workers in the United States. Meanwhile, most of the job gains made by Hispanics during the economic recovery from the Great Recession of 2007-09 have gone to U.S.-born workers …”

Small groups: Two Common Misuses of Small Group Ministry

“Small groups are actually best as a context for the ‘one anothers.’ Whether your church is big or small, you need some kind of system where people can show and be shown the kind of love the Bible commands the church to show. They often pop up in the New Testament as ‘one anothers,’ and this is what small groups are best for.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Criticism & critics: How to Receive Criticism: 3 Ways to Avoid Feeling Attacked by Criticism

“You’re bound to face criticism of some form. The question is: how will you deal with it?”

Christianity, Democrats, identity in Christ, kingdom, nationalism, partisan politics, political parties & Republicans: * In Christ: Neither Democrat Nor Republican [essential reading]; * The Politics of Worship: Who Do You Serve?

* “… Christians would do much better to identify themselves from the point of their baptism rather than some political reality that belongs to the old dying world (or anything else belonging to this dying world).”

* “American Christians thus assume that capitalism, democracy, individualism, wealth, freedom and opportunity are Christian virtues passed down by Jesus himself. But the Gospel of Christ refuses this marriage of empire and Kingdom, realizing the Christian ‘we’ and the American ‘we’ are not synonymous.”

Contribution, giving, offering & money: Five Reasons to Keep Bringing Up Money

“… some reasons why the church should talk about money and ask for it consistently.”

Ministry: Nine Secrets Your Pastor’s Wife Wishes You Knew

“What if we just asked our pastor’s wife to candidly, honestly, even anonymously share some of their secrets? What if we invited them to share their hearts and tell us what they wished the church knew?”

Poor & poverty: Who are the Poor?

“What follows is not to be read as a listing of stereotypes.  Rather, these descriptions get at characteristics that various low-income persons exhibit.  I’ve encountered thousands of people over the last two decades here in Dallas who come to mind as I lay out this list.”

Rape & violence: The Bible’s Attitude to Rape [77 min. video]

“To give away the plot, Athas argues that: Rape is not condoned. Rape is equated with murder. The perpetrator is held responsible. The victim should not be blamed. The welfare of the victim is of the utmost importance. … this is one of the best OT presentations I’ve seen.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Change, church, leadership & ministry: Your Three Options When Instituting Change

“Change is hard no matter where it happens, but it seems like it can be hardest in churches.”

Choices, decision-making, poverty & time: No Money, No Time

“When Mr. Shafir first began to study poverty, he came in with an overarching assumption: The poor made the same mistakes in judgment as everyone else, except theirs ended up being more costly. He soon learned he was wrong. ‘They were making mistakes that were different. They weren’t the typical decision errors. They were worse,’ he recalls. ‘When you don’t have enough, you focus on the little you have, and it leaves you with less attention.” And the “little you have,” he found, didn’t have to come from financial hardship.'”

Ecology, eschatology, future & hope: Jesus is Coming: Go Plant a Tree

“Yes, we need to be saved; Yes, we are saved by Christ; but Why? So we can bring glory to God as God’s Eikons ruling creation on God’s behalf.”

Intercession, prayer & public prayer: Praying for Others in Public

“Hope is at the core of prayer, and this means we need to be immersed in Scripture in order to see how God has acted so we can know how God will act. We need to name God’s faithfulness as the foundation for our intercession. We need to dare to be imperative before God the Father. The resurrection, the transfiguration and the incarnation form the core of our intercessions. We ask — we don’t hint or suggest or go all vague. Expect results, spell them out, express our hopes. Be the change or become the answer to the intercession. Pray for the church to become what God wants it to become.”

War: After All – On the Folly of War

“In my lifetime, we have not fought in one single war that was a declared war, or met the Geneva conventions for a justifiable war. Not one.”