links: this went thru my mind

 

Affordable Care Acts / Obamacare: * Affordable Care Act and Health Coverage; * Obamacare: Your 12 Biggest Questions Answered

* “On next Tuesday, October 1, 2013, Americans without health insurance coverage will be able to enroll for coverage under provisions of the Affordable Care Act. The process is fairly simple. You can apply online at www.healthcare.gov.”

* “Will the new insurance exchanges make buying insurance on my own easier? … I’ve already got insurance at my job. Why does any of this matter to me? … I’ve been buying my own insurance for years. What changes? … Will the exchanges lower prices? … What about my premium? Up or down? … Can I still buy insurance off the exchange? … Will I really have to pay a fine if I opt out? … I keep hearing about subsidies. Who is eligible for one? … I’m retired. What do I need to do? … This all sounds pretty complicated. Do we have a logistical disaster in the making? … Could the government still pull the plug? … What happens if too many opt out?”

Arrogance & pride: Three Signs of Arrogance

“Now, of course, you might say, “Not me! No way I am even remotely an arrogant person.” Sometimes we think of people who act pompous and immediately conclude that we are certainly not arrogant. Yet, arrogance sometimes comes out in people who think they are … better … smarter … more important.”

Children, parenting & youth ministry: Anonymous Youth Pastor’s Letter to a Parent

“I need to get something off my chest. When I first came to this church, you told me how excited you were that I would be showing your kids what it means to love Jesus, be part of His Church, and grow as a Christian. You told me you were praying for me and that you had my back. You had high hopes for the youth ministry. I had high hopes too. But I must confess that I am frustrated right now because I feel like you’re working against me, not with me.”

Civility, internet, respect, rudeness, speech, thoughtlessness & words: ‘Popular Science’ Shuts Comments, Citing Internet ‘Trolls

“We’re all familiar with that deep, dark rabbit hole of Internet comment boards. A negative or critical comment sparks a firestorm of debate until the discussion erodes into a cavalcade of insults and personal attacks. Once you finally snap back to reality, you realize you’ve often strayed so far from the original story that it’s often difficult to find your way back.”

Death, heaven, resurrection, the intermediate state & transformation: NT Wright on the Intermediate State

“Going to heaven when you die’ is not held out in the New Testament as the main goal. The main goal is to be bodily raised into the transformed, glorious likeness of Jesus Christ.”

Deception, government, money, poor & wealthy: Interests of the Wealthy Elite and Myth of Government “Inefficiency”

“What is very much a biblical concern is that ‘the powerful dictate what they desire; thus they pervert justice’ (Micah 7:2-3). A government that deserves the support of people of faith is one that stands with the weak against the strong. Those responsible for governing who fail to do this are the very ones ‘who make iniquitous decrees, who write oppressive statutes, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right’ (Isaiah 10:1). The rich who use government to their own advantage also promote distrust of government that serves the broader legitimate interests of the population.

“It is to the advantage of the power and wealth elite to convince others that the government is wasteful, ineffective and untrustworthy. The mighty moneyed elite have pressed this message incessantly for decades. They have successfully mobilized their media and advertising power to shape the perceptions of many to the advantage of the few. And the push toward privatization has filled their pockets to overflowing.”

Education: Education Statistics: High School Diploma or Higher, by Percentage (Most Recent) by State [Texas comes in dead last]

“Percentage of population over 25 years old with a high school degree or higher.”

this went thru my mind

 

Anarchy, civility, control, leadership, power, relationships & spiritual warfare: CSC Paper: “It Should Not Be So Among You” (Previously “On Anarchism and Assholes”)

“In 2004 [Dr. Bob] Sutton proposed and wrote up what he called the “No Asshole Rule” as a “Breakthrough Idea” in the annual edition on that topic for The Harvard Business Review. Basically, the “No Asshole Rule” states that a company would do well to attend to and address the behavior of mean, nasty, selfish, egomanical, and rude persons in the workplace. After publishing his idea in the Review Sutton was overwhelmed with feedback from people around the globe telling him stories of the toll assholes exact in the workplace. He also received confirmation that companies who had implemented a version of the “No Asshole Rule” had experienced not only a boost in their corporate culture but to their bottom line as well.”

Anger, frustration, listening & worry: How to Listen When Someone Is Venting [essential reading]

“The way to listen when someone is venting is to ask them the following three questions …”

Change, church, ministry, evangelism, outreach & tradition: * 3 Things Churches Love That Kill Outreach [essential reading]; * Why Small Churches Are the Next Big Thing

* “1. Too many churches love past culture more than their current context. … 2. Too many churches love their comfort more than their mission. … 3. Too many churches love their traditions more than their children.”

* “”There’s no shortage of studies bemoaning the next generation’s exodus from the Church. Yet while some have written off Millennials’ spiritually, this is a mistake—for the Church and for the Millennials. In the face of this reality, a new opportunity is emerging. … Why? Because, as the first generation with a majority born and raised outside traditional marriage, genuine relationships and intimate worship—what small churches do best—will matter more to them than it did to their parents. But this opportunity comes with one, big condition: Millennials won’t give up quality to gain intimacy. And they shouldn’t have to.”

Culture: Lego Faces are Getting More Pissed Off, Study Says

“The study leaves us with an open question about what sort of impact the growth in conflict-based Lego characters might have on children’s play. The authors also acknowledge that this trend might be necessary for the toy company to maintain its place in the market and meet customer demand. The children that grow up with Lego today will remember not only smileys, but also anger and fear in the Minifigures’ faces,” reads the conclusion. It does recommend that toy designers take care in creating expressions and test the effect of the designs on children. What do you think? Are Lego toys becoming too negative?”

Discipleship & politics: 10 Political Things You Can’t Do While Following Jesus

“…  this is not a complete list but it’s a pretty good place to start.”

Elders & leadershipThe Problem With Elders (parts 1 & 2)

“I have listened to literally thousands of members, hundreds of elders, and hundreds of ministers in the last ten years and many of them have the same complaints/issues … Perhaps it’s time we talked about elders. The problem is … where to start?”

Grief & healing: * 5 Signs That Your Grief is Healthy; * Megan’s Hands

* “When do we know we are grieving well?  And when do we know our grief is becoming potentially destructive?  Walking through grief is a balancing act between allowing yourself to mourn in healthy ways and not allowing grief to take over your life making you unhealthy in mind, body and spirit.  But the question is “How do you know when your grief is being constructive and healing and not destructive and causing you further trauma?” Here are some suggestions on when you know grief is good and when you know grief might be causing you problems …”

* “… the dam broke and I was close to drowning from the depression, the doubt, and the grief. Fast forward many years to today.”

Love & Islam: Hard Teaching: Amid Fear and Division, What Does it Mean to Love Our Muslim Neighbors? [essential reading]

“I don’t call Amir Arain my brother in the faith, but that doesn’t make him any less my neighbor. According to Jesus, everyone is a neighbor, and there’s no one who’s not my neighbor. Yes, I disagree with Amir on the precise meaning of Jesus’ life. Because of this — not in spite of — I believe that the real test of my disagreement with Amir is in the depth of my commitment to love Amir as Jesus has loved both of us. It’s easy for me to love my brothers and sisters in the faith. Jesus wants to know if I know how to love my neighbors.”

Ministry: * 7 Most Frustrating Things Pastors Experience; * 7 Most Exciting Things a Pastor Experiences

* “What do you think are some of the most frustrating things that pastors experience?”

* “Here are 7 most exciting things pastors experience …”

N.T. Wright: Ask N.T. Wright …(response)

“Wright is the author of over 100 books, including the popular Surprised by Hope and Simply Christian. [He] … is currently Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at St. Mary’s College, University of St. Andrews in Scotland.”

Singing, songs & corporate worship: Ten Questions to Ask of a Song’s Lyrics

“… here are ten questions to ask about the words of any song that you’re considering including in corporate worship.”

this went thru my mind

 

Christian living: * The High Calling of Everyday Ordinary Living; * The Spiritual Formation of Things Not Going Our Way

* “Being a ‘radical,’ ‘missional,’ Christian is slowly becoming the ‘new legalism.’ We need more ordinary God and people lovers (Matthew 22:36-40).”

* “My Facebook feed is less populated by baby pictures and shots of other people’s food (yay!) and more a place to argue over the issues (sigh).”

Culture & vision: Where Will You Be in 2073?

“Who in 1953 was thinking that in 2013 our world would be as different as it is today? … So what will life in the USA be like in 2073?”

Facebook: What Really Happens When You Like

“The only reason scammers go to such lengths to create this kind of approach is simple. There’s a lot of money to be made. There are several ways to exploit your quick response to liking things.”

God: Tom Wright Skewers the New Marcionism

“Marcion, of course, was a second century bishop who taught that the Old Testament God, a jealous and retributive tribal deity, was incompatible with the God revealed in and through Jesus, who is an entirely benevolent God of love and compassion.”

Parenting: It’s Not The Bible’s Fault. You Might Just Be A Bad Dad

“Let me be clear about this: PARENTS DON’T BABY-SIT! PARENTS PARENT!”

Perceptions: Do the Best Professors Get the Worst Ratings?

“Do students give low ratings to teachers who instill deep learning?”

Preaching: Does Preaching Have a Future?: Technological and Sociological Trends in Preaching

“As a homiletics professor, I usually spend the last class of each semester peering into my crystal ball and imagining what the future of preaching holds. Not being a prophet, I am only making assumptions so please read the following with a discerning mind. Also, I don’t make these statements to be critical of anyone in particular or any church. I am simply making observations and doing a little forward thinking. So here are 14 statements about current trends and guesses as to the future of preaching.”

this went thru my mind

 

Baptism: N.T. Wright on the Meaning of Baptism [5 min. video; required viewing]

“… Wright lays out a narrative of baptism starting in Exodus and weaving it into Romans. He explains how the act of baptism is rooted in Exodus, which creates a depth in understanding.”

Bible study: 7 Ways to Do a Bad Word Study

“Here are some bad ways to do a word study, courtesy of Dr. Jennings of Gordon Conwell and Dr. Grant Osborne of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.”

Church: “I’m Not Getting Anything Out of Church” by Terry Rush

“A person who gets nothing out of church is also a person who has drawn nothing from God and puts nothing into people.”

Excellence, fear, failure & success: Good Enough by Richard Beck

“You are a failure. And that means you are good enough.”

Weariness: Moving Past Weariness by Jim Martin

“The following are a few realities I try to keep in mind during such times: (1) I have absolutely no control over so much of what happens in life. … (2) I need to trust in God. … (3) I need to be proactive instead of passive.”

Women: First Timothy 2.8-15 & the Silencing of Women in Worship by Bobby Valentine

“A text that is used, or misused, most frequently is 1 Timothy 2.8-15.”

this went thru my mind (on violence)

 

V-for-violenceAbortion: 40 Years of Roe v. Wade… Lord Come! by K. Rex Butts

“…  no human is ‘God’ with the right to decide which human life is of value and which life is not.”

Capital punishment & the death penalty: * Who Would Jesus Execute? by by Jim Wallis and Richard Viguerie; * N.T. Wright on the Death Penalty and American Christianity

* “My own road to Damascus on this issue came many years ago. When I was a young Republican in Houston in the late ’50s and early ’60s, I was a very hard-core, law-and-order type: ‘lock ‘em up, throw the key under the jail so they never get out.’”

* “You can’t reconcile being pro-life on abortion and pro-death on the death penalty. Almost all the early Christian Fathers were opposed to the death penalty, even though it was of course standard practice across the ancient world. As far as they were concerned, their stance went along with the traditional ancient Jewish and Christian belief in life as a gift from God, which is why (for instance) they refused to follow the ubiquitous pagan practice of ‘exposing’ baby girls (i.e. leaving them out for the wolves or for slave-traders to pick up).”

Christians & guns: Following Jesus: The Best Gun Control Ever! by Kurt Willems [essential reading]

“I invite fellow Christians to consider a life where we all simply decided to S-T-O-P… stop; stop using the following arguments or taking the following stances to justify positions on gun control.

#1 Stop appealing to the 2nd Amendment as if it were the lost ending to the Gospel of Mark. … #2 Stop metaphorically connecting the loss of certain guns to the Apocalypse. … #3 Stop clinging to guns as if they are central to one’s identity. … #4 Stop ignoring the rest of the modernized world as if American culture has the corner on gun control (or the lack there of). … #5 Stop trusting guns as a source of personal security. …

“If we can stop the previous five approaches to the issue of guns, then perhaps we could start implementing several life-giving approaches to the gun conversation.

#1 Start appealing to the New Testament (which includes the Gospel of Mark, amongst other things). … #2 Start choosing to trust in God’s faithfulness to see us through even the worst of ‘apocalypses.’ … #3 Start building one’s identity on the biblical and relational person of Jesus Christ and nothing else. … #4 Start recognizing that we are citizens of a global kingdom, not an isolated nation called the United States. … #5 Start trusting that Christ is our only source of security and that our only weaponry is “spiritual” and never lethal.”

Consistency, gun control & history: NRA was Pro-Gun Control When It Came to Black Panthers

“While today’s NRA takes hardline positions against even the most modest gun control measures, this was not always the case.  Throughout its history, the NRA supported gun control, including restrictions on gun ownership, and was not focused on the Second Amendment.

“But the organization had a change of heart in the 1970s when the Black Panthers advocated for an individual right to bear arms. Ironically, the Panthers were the founders of the modern-day gun rights movement, which became the purview of predominantly white, rural conservatives.”

Covert operations: Dirty Wars

“… one of the things that humbles both of us is that, you know, when you arrive in a village in Afghanistan and knock on someone’s door, you’re the first American they’ve seen since the Americans that kicked that door in and killed half their family. And yet, time and time again, those families invited us in, welcomed us and shared their stories with us, based on—you know, we promised them that we would do everything we could to make their stories be heard in the U.S.”

Depression & guns: Please Take Away My Right to a Gun by Wendy Button

“My depression appeared for the first time in the late ’90s … It comes and goes like fog. Medicine can help. I have my tricks to manage and get through it. Sometimes it sticks around for a day or a week, and sometimes it stays away for a couple of years. … You’d look at me and never know that sometimes my fight against the urge to die is so tough the only way I get through it is second by second; I live by the second hand.

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 38,364 Americans lost that fight in 2010 and committed suicide; 19,392 used a gun. No one ever attempted to break down my door in the early morning again, but I had an episode when my depression did come back in full force in the early winter of 2009, after I made a career-ending decision and isolated myself too much; on a January night in 2010; and again in May 2012 … If I had purchased that gun and it had been in my possession, I’m not sure I would have been able to resist and would be here typing these words. …

“Please take away my Second Amendment right. Do more to help us protect ourselves because what’s most likely to wake me in the early hours isn’t a man’s body slamming at my door but depression, that raven, tapping, rapping, banging for relief. I have a better chance of surviving if I never have the option of being able to pull the trigger.”

Gun buy-back efforts: Steps to Disarm (Get Gift Card) at Ohio Church [cf. http://pdchurch.org/home/ for this church's website]

“… every gun collected — and turned over to the police to be destroyed — is a gun not found by a curious child, not reached for in a fit of anger over a slight on the street.”

Gun control: Gun-Control Advocate Looking for a Million Good Moms

“‘The time has come, just like in the 1980s when the time was right for Mothers Against Drunk Driving,’ Ms. Watts said. ‘We need MADD for gun control. … One Million Moms for Gun Control … The N.R.A. outlined how they saw the vision of America. That future is everyone is armed and the bad guys shoot it out with the good guys over our children’s heads. That’s not tenable, and it’s not the American way.’”

Hard contact sports: Junior Seau’s Family Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against NFL

“…  Seau committed suicide last May and a postmortem study of his brain by the National Institutes of Health found that he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a disease associated with receptive injuries to the head.”

Military service: Following Jesus Means Learning to Say Both ‘Yes’ and ‘No’

“I hate the fact that so oftentimes Christians have not helped one another discover what it means to worship a Savior who would rather die than use coercion to save us. And as a result, we underwrite forms of life, such as military formation. Which looks so morally attractive to so many people because it’s so much more compelling than anything we offer as Christians. I don’t in anyway judge people in the military because I think they are in many ways so morally admirable. But most of the time no one ever told them Christians might have a problem with war and that really bothers me.” (Stanley Hauerwas, as quoted in the embedded video clip)

Military spending: * The Force; * The U.S. Warfare State and Evangelical Peacemaking by David P. Gushee [required reading]

* “The United States spends more on defense than all the other nations of the world combined. Between 1998 and 2011, military spending doubled, reaching more than seven hundred billion dollars a year—more, in adjusted dollars, than at any time since the Allies were fighting the Axis.”

* “Retired U.S. Army Col. Andrew Bacevich argues in several important recent books that the direction of U.S. foreign and military policy is slipping from democratic control. It is instead dominated by a cohort of active and retired military, intelligence, law enforcement, corporate, lobbyist, academic, and political elites whose power in Washington is sufficiently impressive as to foreclose serious reconsideration of what Bacevich calls the ‘Washington rules.’ The elites enforcing these rules consistently drive us to policies of permanent war, a staggeringly large global military presence, and regular global interventionism. This analysis stands in striking continuity with the warnings offered 50 years ago by President Eisenhower about the ‘military-industrial complex.’”

Scripture & nonviolence: Swords into Plowshares

“The image of swords into plowshares is about dismantling guns and making gardening tools instead. It’s moving from full armories to full granaries, preferring crops to a cache of weapons. … It calls us–not to a less violent world, but a non-violent one. … This song of swords into plowshares stays with me these days. I’ve decided I don’t want to waste my energies on fighting. I want to feed people.”

Suicide: Mr. Hurd and Leaving Life Behind by Craig Cottongim

“Please, if you are ever contemplating suicide, seek help. There are better ways out of your despair. I think anyone who has been affected by suicide would plead with you to find help. If you’ve lost someone who took their own life, please don’t seclude yourself, and don’t suppress your feelings. There are loving friends and family and church members too who would be a great source of comfort for you.”

War: Janine di Giovanni: What I Saw in the War [11 min. TED talk video clip]

“… there were bodies piled twice my height.”

Women in combat: Military Removes Ban on Women in Combat

“The military has removed its ban on women in combat. The decision, which overturns a 1994 ban and is one of outgoing Pentagon chief Leon Panetta’s biggest decisions, ‘opens thousands of front-line positions’ to women, though the change ‘won’t happen immediately.’”

Galatians: Wright on 2.11-21

 

In Galatians 2.11-21 Paul homes in on the crucial issue between him and Peter in Antioch: what does it mean, in practical terms, to be a member of God’s people? The discussion only makes sense if we assume that the Christian community in Antioch has been living as in some sense the renewed Israel, and that they now face the question of whether or not uncircumcised Gentiles count within that company, or whether they belong at a separate table. Verses 14 and 15 indicate that the question, ‘What does it mean to be a Jew?’, lies behind the argument: ‘If you,’ Paul says to Peter, ‘though you are a Jew, live in a Gentile fashion rather than a Jewish fashion, how can you force Gentiles to Judaize?’ Peter, by separating himself from uncircumcised believers, is implying that if they want to belong to God’s people they must take on themselves the identity of ethnic Jews by getting circumcised. There then follows the first ever statement of Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith, and, despite the shrill voice of detractors, it here obviously refers to the way in which God’s people have been redefined. ‘We,’ affirms Paul, ‘are by birth Jews, not “gentile sinners”; yet we know that one is not justified by works of Torah, but through the faithfulness of Jesus the Messiah; thus we too have believed in the Messiah, Jesus, so that we might be justified by the faithfulness of the Messiah and not by works of Torah, because through works of Torah no flesh will be justified.’

There is enough there to keep us going all day, but let me simply spell out three points. First, I have translated pistis Christou* and similar phrases as a reference, not to human faith in the Messiah but to the faithfulness of the Messiah, by which I understand, not Jesus’ own ‘faith’ in the sense either of belief or trust, but his faithfulness to the divine plan for Israel. … Second, the passage works far better if we see the meaning of ‘justified’, not as a statement about how someone becomes a Christian, but as a statement about who belongs to the people of God, and how you can tell that in the present. That is the subject under discussion. Third, the point of ‘works of Torah’ here is not about the works some might think you have to perform in order to become a member of God’s people, but the works you have to perform to demonstrate that you are a member of God’s people. These works, Paul says, simply miss the point, as Psalm 143.2 has indicated, partly because nobody ever performs them adequately, and partly because, here and elsewhere, works of Torah would simply create a family which was at best an extension of ethnic Judaism, whereas God desires a family of all peoples, the point which is repeatedly emphasized in Galatians 3.

Paul by N.T. Wright

* Editorial note: Most modern English renderings of this phrase appear as “faith in Christ” or the equivalent (cf. NASB, NIV, NLT, etc.). However, N.T. Wright renders the phrase “faithfulness of Jesus.”

Galatians: misc. study resources (2)

 

Yesterday I pointed out a way you can access some of the material in high-quality study aids without having to purchase them. Of course, if you want to get your chest waders on and truly wade out into the Galatian pond, you’ll want to make some wise acquisitions for your study library.

If you’re the average Joe or Suzie, you can’t go wrong in acquiring a copy of Tom Wright’s devotional commentary entitled: Paul for Everyone: Galatians and Thessalonians (Westminster John Knox Press, 2004). While being quite readable and accessible, it’s based on solid scholarship. Since it’s not a verse-by-verse commentary, it won’t give you details, but it will provide you with the text of the KNT and will enable you to closely follow Paul’s flow of (sometimes convoluted) thought in Galatians. No matter who you are, if you’re studying Galatians, you’ll want this one on your shelf.

If you want to acquire a verse-by-verse commentary on Galatians, I’d choose Witherington’s Grace in Galatia. Witherington explore every nook and cranny in Paul’s letter while conversing with current scholarship at every hand. Witherington, like Wright, possess that all too rare ability to explain the complex in simple terms which makes all of his work, compared to much of the academic field, a joy to engage.

Teachers and preachers will likely want a copy of John R.W. Stott’s The Message of Galatians nearby. Stott’s ability to see threads of thought and to word things in memorable ways was well known. Though his work on Galatians was first published well over forty years ago (1968), it’s still brimming full of relevant observation. The wise leader will definitely want to have Stott whispering in their ear as they construct their message. If Stott is not available to you, I’d say consult Charles Cousar and his work in the Interpretation series.

If you’ll be leading discussion on Galatians in either a class or small group setting, you might want to pick up a copy of the study guide that complements N.T. Wright’s devotional commentary. Max Lucado’s Life Lessons’ guide on Galatians is also helpful, being a bit more “broad” in terms of the questions it offers. If I had to choose between the two, I’d go with the guide by Wright (which was co-authored by Dale & Sandy Larsen) simply because it dovetails well with the rest of Wright’s outstanding material on Galatians.