links: this went thru my mind

Art & happiness: Why You Need More Art in Your Life (and 5 Ways to Get It) [required reading]

“If you want to find more creativity, satisfaction, and happiness, the single best solution I know is adding more art to your life.”

Christian movies, end times, Left Behind, rapture & second coming: Why ‘Left Behind’ Should Be … Left Behind

“… while Left Behind may prove itself to be a mediocre box office success, it represents a severe misinterpretation of what the Bible actually says about the topic. To put it bluntly, and perhaps to the chagrin of some readers, the idea of a ‘rapture’ is simply not biblically based (and that’s where I’ve lost a third of you!) It represents, instead, a theology based on escapism and in the process does damage to what the Bible really does say about ‘the last days.'”

Death, euthanasia, hospice & quality of life: Doctors Wanted to Extend Life. Instead They Extended Death.

“If you look at people who want euthanasia it’s not who we think it is. It’s not people writhing in pain. It’s not people who can’t breathe because of emphysema. It’s people who are depressed and hopeless and don’t see meaning in life. I don’t think the right answer to that question is, ‘let’s give them some pills to knock them off.’ They need meaning back in their life. They need therapy or medication. Euthanasia, I think the research shows, is much more like suicide than it is like a medical treatment.”

Discernment, moral blindness & power: How Can It Happen? [essential reading]

“… ‘every strong upsurge of power in the public sphere, be it of a political or religious nature, infects a large part of humankind with’ moral blindness. That is, as power increases moral blindness increases. Without it the power could not increase; without it the moral blindness would not increase. Instead of acting, the morally blind person is filled with stupor and quiescence.”

Introverts, ministry, preaching & relationships: The Introvert Behind the Pulpit

“For these preachers, devotion to ministry requires balancing need for solitude with passion for sharing God’s word.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Bible class, children, church & Sunday School: Sunday Schooling Our Kids Out of Church

“… churches creating Sunday School experiences for kids that ran concurrently with their parents’ worship service.  In other words, kids and parents were separated from each other, having different Sunday experiences. … But there was (and is) one huge unintended consequence:  We have raised the largest unchurched generation in the history of our country.”

Churches of Christ & religious debates: Debates

“No person and no church will ever agree on all topics. It is good to discuss many biblical and religious concepts, but all in love and in full fellowship with God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and all godly people through Jesus Christ.”

Encouragement, grief, mourning & respectTo Mourn, or Not to Mourn [required reading]

“When someone dies our first response should not be to condemn the life that has been lost or those who are mourning. The world needs to see compassion from us. They need to know we care. There are people struggling with depression and drug addiction all around us and to dismiss these diseases is to show a lack of compassion. The way of Jesus is not to condemn people who are hurting, but to come alongside them and to help them in their time of trouble. To help, show compassion, or mourn the effects of drug addiction or depression is not to approve of them. When we do these things we are showing empathy. We are trying to understand and help people escape the darkness they feel encompassed by. To fail to act in this way is to turn our backs on people who desperately need help.”

Generations & Gen Z: Coming Soon to a Workplace Near You: Generation Z

“… the most common definition of Gen Zers as being born after 1996 …”

Ministry: * The Two Times the Pastor is Most Vulnerable; * Higher Calling, Lower Wages: The Vanishing of the Middle-Class Clergy

* “The minister is most vulnerable at two times: in the few minutes before the morning service begins and in the half hour after it ends.”

* “There is certainly a growing trend towards bi-vocational ministry in both mainline and evangelical churches … This trend dovetails with other recent developments that are troubling to many religious communities. Not only is church attendance in long-term decline, but financial giving by church members is at Depression-era lows. Meanwhile, seminary students are taking on ballooning debt for a career that may not exist by the time they graduate. This trend began before the Great Recession, and has only worsened since then.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Appreciation, encouragement, gratitude & thankfulness: 25 People You Should Say Thank You To Today [required reading]

“Sometimes we get so caught up in our own little world that we forget to thank the people who have helped us the most.”

Church announcements, communication corporate worship, worship gatherings: Why Your Church Needs More (Often) Announcements in Worship

“Historically, the church began worship services by announcing all member-related deaths. Nothing screams ‘Let’s worship!’ like announcing Aunt Geraldine’s funeral.”

Communication, disagreement, discussion, listening, unity & words: The Art of Having Conciliatory Theological Discussions – Suggestions

“It has taken me a while to figure a few things out when it comes to discussing a disagreement with someone. Here are a few observations I have made over the last few years that set a positive tone for a healthy conversation.”

Fathers, parenting & words: When Daddy is Silent

“A daddy’s silence can be deadly. Far too many men are silent at all the wrong times.  A father’s silence can communicate volumes. The absence of his voice can leave a boy or girl feeling emotionally alone.”

Humility, knowledge, leadership, ministry, missions, others, perception & understanding: What People in Other Countries Need (And What We Think They Need) [required reading]

“… keep in mind … the principle of relative deprivation. It’s the idea of wanting something because others have it.”

Ministry & prayer: What is the Most Common Ministry Priority that a Pastor Neglects?

“… week after week, I saw the things I was supposed to be doing getting squeezed out of my schedule because there were urgent demands on my time. Above all else, the one task that seemed to get squeezed out most was prayer. … Unfortunately, prayer doesn’t demand your attention. In the midst of people wanting your time and urgent tasks to complete, spending time in prayer is easy to neglect.”

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.”