links: this went thru my mind

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Here are links to five articles that I’ve found to be thought-provoking and helpful reading:

Alliances, Bible interpretation, Israel, politics & war: Why Evangelicals Should Think Twice about Equating Modern Israel with Israel of the Bible

“Ancient Israel was not supposed to have a standing army. They weren’t supposed to stockpile weapons. There were no taxes to fund a permanent military. Israel’s rulers were forbidden from amassing large numbers of horses (Deuteronomy 17:16-17)—which was about as close as you could get to an arms race in the ancient Near East. Israel’s king was not supposed to make foreign military alliances. God stipulated that Israel should remain militarily weak so they would learn to trust him for protection.”

Benevolence, community, evangelism, & outreach: Instead of a Coffee Shop How About a Laundromat?

“… what would be a good third space for a poor neighborhood like the one surrounding our church? A place that would serve the neighborhood but could also be a place where people would spend time talking and forming relationships? My idea has always been for our church to run laundromat.”

Faith & prayer: 11 Brother Lawrence Quotes that Will Challenge How You Practice Faith

“After a dramatic religious conversion, young soldier Nicholas Herman decided to devote his life to following God and learning more about Christ. He joined a monastery and took the name Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection. There, he spent the rest of his life working in a kitchen and repairing his brothers’ sandals. But during his decades of doing seemingly menial jobs, Brother Lawrence discovered a profound truth about having a relationship with God: Experiencing His presence can—and should—happen everywhere.”

God’s character, justice & vengeance: Deconstructing the Bully God – N.T. Wright

“…  love, faced with rejection, overcomes it with yet more love.”

Non-violence & violence: Does the Bible Teach Total Non-Violence? [essential reading]

“If you honestly, carefully, and with an open mind study the following passages, I believe you’ll agree that the teaching against violence for Kingdom people is as clear as any teaching in the Bible could ever be. I’ll break this sampling of passages (the list isn’t at all exhaustive) into three categories, Old Testament, teachings of Jesus and teachings in the rest of the New Testament.”

links: this went thru my mind

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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.'”

links: this went thru my mind

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Bible study, books, interpretation, preaching, reading & sermon preparation: A Cautionary Word to Pastors About Internet Resources [especially wise advice for all, and insightful for understanding the needs of ministers]

“… there is a reason a lot of the resources online that have to do with the Bible are free. There is some truth to the old dictum ‘you get what you pay for.’ Some of the resources are simply junk, some are so badly out of date and out of touch with the current ministry scene that they are hardly useful, and some of them are so arcane it requires scholarly help to make good use of them. And this brings me to the second point.

“There is a need for critical judgment to select useful online resources that may indeed help one’s ministry. Critical judgment about not only technical scholarly works, but about mid-level works can only be developed over time and with good guidance. … I would stress, for the good of your soul as well as the good of your ministry, that you need to read good books, and I mean read them at a depth level, not superficially cherry picking this quote or that quote …

“What feeds good teaching and good preaching is continuing to feed your head with good resources, and to study them in some depth. You need to set aside more than an hour or two a week for such study and preparation, and the main thing you should do during that time is just read—- not outline sermons or lessons, but read…… read….. read.”

Birth of Christ, genealogy of Jesus & the birth narratives: An Amazing Genealogy of Jesus Infographic (and What It Means for XMas)

“The infographic represents both Matthew and Luke’s genealogies, showing the legal emphasis (in Matthew) meant to prove Jesus’s royal Israelite bloodline, and the biological emphasis (in Luke) traditionally linked to the family genealogy in Mary’s home. The ‘big names’ are given larger placement, with often humorous bits of info. Just a quick scan reveals how diverse, even scandalous, this genealogy really is – including kings and killers, prophets and prostitutes.”

Collection, contribution, donations, electronic giving, mobile giving, money & offering: A Case for Church Mobile Donation

“We are coming close to the time whereby a church not being able to accept online donations would be as bad as a church not being able to accept a check.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, nonviolence & pacifism: No, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Didn’t Try To Kill Adolph Hitler

“… there is no evidence that [Bonhoeffer] was actively involved in planning or attempting to assassinate Hitler– a basic fact accepted by the academy but seemingly missing from common internet discussions on Bonhoeffer.”

Prayer: When We Talk With God

“Surely one of the grandest transfers God has made in my life would be that of prayer.”

10 reasons I oppose open carry in Texas & hope you will, too

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“Jesus said … ‘Get ready for trouble. Look to what you’ll need; there are difficult times ahead. Pawn your coat and get a sword.’ …

“They said, ‘Look, Master, two swords!’

“But he said, ‘Enough of that; no more sword talk!'” (Luke 22.36-38)

Texas Governor-elect Greg Abbott wants to see the open carry of firearms become the law of the land in Texas.

With all due respect, I believe his sort of thinking is shot full of holes. For sake of brevity, let me just enumerate here ten ways as to why.

1. If you’re really trying to up your safety factor against criminals we all know the best way to do that is to start openly carrying a handgun – so the criminally-minded know exactly who to take out first, right?

2. Recent events in the national news (aka: deaths of innocent individuals) only reinforce the thought that law enforcement would never make a mistake in shooting someone they thought was carrying what appeared to be a firearm and so, open-carry laws could only minimize the number of such tragedies, right?

3. Everyone packing heat is always very level-headed and would never succumb to a raw emotional impulse, something they could avoid if they weren’t packing to start with, right?

4. All sorts of people in all sorts of places carrying lethal weapons in plain view for everyone to see just makes for a more at-ease, anxiety-free, and peace-minded society, right?

5. Affording quicker and easier access to children, those not fully responsible for themselves – anyone within reach, really – will never result in any accidents, right?

6. Our ancestors who lived through far more openly and consistently dangerous times and situations many years ago just didn’t have a clue what they were doing when they outlawed open-carry to start with, right?

7. No well known pro open carry organizations have a track record of harassment, bullying, or threatening people and have the NRA’s full support, right?

8. This push for legislation is based on solid research/studies and what’s truly best for people, with no political machinations at work, right?

9. There’s certainly no chance of any sort of subtle intimidation, wordless manipulation, unjust persuasion, or unconscious alienation going on in any conversation when one party is strapped and the other one isn’t, making for no distraction or disruption whatsoever in everyday dealings with any and all others, right?

10. After all, open carry just makes good sense for servants of the Prince of Peace and, loving your enemies is just so much easier in an increasingly violence-prone society when you’re totin’ a modern day “Peacemaker,” right?

For these ten reasons – and more – I believe an open carry law in today’s Texas makes little sense and could bring far more harm than any potential good it could ever bring. And so, I don’t think there’s much right about seeking an open carry law in Texas’ future.

Just one Christian thinkin’ out loud here.

“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4.5-7)

torture is wrong

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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.