links: this went thru my mind

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Here are links to some reading I consider interesting and helpful.

Church, ministry & obstacles: Ten Ways We Get in the Way of God Building His Church

“When things don’t go well at church, is it possible that we are getting in God’s way?”

Church growth & martyrdom: Sorry, Tertullian

“‘The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church’ … early church theologian Tertullian argued … [However] church growth is ‘not strongly’ correlated with either governmental or societal persecution. However, Christianity ‘tends loosely’ to change more rapidly (grow or shrink) when governmental restriction is high, and stays relatively stable when such pressure is low.”

Cinema, film & movies: Do We Really Need Christian Film?

“What surprises me is that the church has all but ignored, and even villified, this art form. We sit around debating the usefulness of film, bemoaning the latest Hollywood faith-based effort, madly citing Marshall McLuhan with the worst of proof-texting, wondering why we don’t see the likes of Bach, Handel, John Bunyan or C. S. Lewis making powerful, intelligent films. Maybe in the next ten to twenty years a Christian filmmaker will come along and show us what powerful Christian film can be.”

Humanity, inhumanity & violence: Why are We So Mired in Violence?

“… we can’t relate to each other the way God intends unless we’re in relationship with God himself the way he intends.”

Faith & torture: * Christians & Torture; * You Cannot Be a Christian and Support Torture

* “Torture is the arrogance of the mighty. … The cross of Christ reveals what God thinks of torture: it is not the way of God. God turned torture into new life by resurrection and overcoming torture.”

* “… to be a Christian absolutely requires you to reject the use of torture. … Any thoughtful person, no matter their religion or non-religion, knows that you cannot support torturing people and still claim to be a follower of the one who commanded his disciples to love their enemies. The only way around this is to invent a false Jesus who supports the use of torture. (The Biblical term for this invented false Jesus is ‘antichrist.’)

“Those who argue for the use of torture do so because they are convinced it is pragmatic for national security. But Christians are not called to be pragmatists or even safe. Christians are called by Jesus to imitate a God who is kind and merciful to the wicked.”

links: this went thru my mind

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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.”

links: this went thru my mind

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Behavior, habits, & thinking: How to Debug Your Brain and Build Better Habits

“… we tend to make stupid decisions at transitions, because we don’t think about them …”

Capitalism & faith: Capitalism: An Economic System that Requires Us to Think and Act As If God Does Not Exist

“I have come to believe that American Christians especially have become comfortable with this inner pluralism, internalizing a kind of practical atheism, laying it alongside belief in God and acknowledgment of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. With the unintended but inevitable result that God gets pushed into smaller and smaller inner spaces. Naturally, people want examples, so I’ll offer one here: capitalism.”

Disappointment, expectations, & photography: Here’s How to Stop Being Disappointed by Your Photos [this 6 1/2 min. video is applicable to much more than just photography; required viewing]

“How about giving up unrealistic expectations …”

Ministry: Ministry Isn’t Fair

“Today may have been truly awful. Tomorrow might be even worse. However, we never need to doubt that through us, in the sometimes cold and wet trenches of ministry, God is working. Who knows, with some perseverance, today’s trench may be tomorrow’s vineyard.”

Singing, spiritual discipline, & spiritual formation: Singing as a Spiritual Discipline [required reading]

“Our problem is that we enjoy, celebrate, bemoan, criticize, celebrate, and judge church life based on what we like. We are deciding on the basis of what we like because we’ve bought into the lie that our corporate singing should be personal. Personal worship for a personal savior, right? But what would church look like if we reframed corporate singing, not in the ever-narrowing category of “worship,” but as a spiritual discipline?”

links: this went thru my mind

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Church, church attendance, churchlessness & secularization: Secularism Grows as More Christians Turn Churchless

“There are tens of millions of active believers in America today. But the wall between the churched and the churchless is growing higher and more impenetrable as more people have no muscle memory of what it means to be a regular attender at a house of worship. How these people think, pray and use their time is shifting away from a faith-based perspective. As a result, a churchless or secular worldview ‘is becoming its own social force.'”

Ebola, faith, fear, hysteria & panic: How Christians Should Respond to Ebola in the United States [required reading]

“Never did I expect or think that my mom would contract the disease, be airlifted to Emory University Hospital or undergo the ordeal she did. We are exceedingly thankful for God’s mercy and kindness towards us in all the ways he provided to secure mom’s recovery and health. In recent days we’ve heard and seen more news of other American contracting the virus and even here in the United States. Unfortunately there is a high degree of panic about this virus, even among Christians. But this isn’t the way it should be, especially for those of us who follow and trust Christ. For Christian’s this ‘panic’ about Ebola isn’t warranted. Let me explain …”

Ministry, mission & outreach: Competency Three: Find and Cultivate New Partners in Mission

“The first work of conversion for us to have a credible witness in the world will be our own. And here is our salvation: to believe with everything we have that God’s power and significance in the world can be fully expressed in the form of a servant.”

Ministry & preaching: The Metric of a Prophet [required reading]

“‘How will the prophet measure success? In a world where the church is increasingly taken with corporate metrics of growth and success what is the metric of the prophet? … It’s found in [Ezekiel] 2.4-5: “The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says.” And whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious people—they will know that a prophet has been among them.’ … They may listen. They may not listen. But the one thing they will know is this: A prophet lived among them. … This … is the only thing you can control. That when people look back at their lives they remember your words and life. They remember, perhaps from a long time ago, that they once knew a person who spoke truth to them. In a world full of thorns and scorpions they once knew a child of God. A man or a woman who spoke words of judgment and words of grace. They remember a prophet once lived among them.”

Spiritual formation & worship: When Worship Becomes Formative

“… worship is designed to accomplish four things: First, worship redefines our identity. Second, worship reorders our affections. Third, worship repatterns our imagination. Finally, worship reorients our life in the world. How does this all happen? What is going on in the worship that leads to these four elements? What are we doing in worship? What are we to be doing when we gather for worship?”

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?”