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 Some of the resources are simply junk, some are so badly out of date and out of touch with the current ministry scene that they are hardly useful, and some of them are so arcane it requires scholarly help to make good use of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.”

5 book & Bible suggestions as Christmas gifts

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As you make your Christmas gift purchases, why not consider a book or a Bible? Following are five books I would highly recommend.

For children & parents

Sharing God’s Love: The Jesus Creed for Children by Scot McKnight & Laura McKnight Barringer

  • Shhhh, don’t tell anyone, but my kids will receive copies of this book to read to/with my grandkids.

For anyone interested in their life with God

Life Work: Confessions of an Everyday Disciple by Randy Harris

  • Honest. Thoughtful. Insightful. Stimulating. Challenging. Reflective. Relevant. Practical. Real. This is Randy Harris. And he’s at the top of his game with this book. I don’t say this about many books, but I’ll say it about this one: would that every Christian would read this book.

For Bible students

The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament by Craig S. Keener

  • Your understanding of what’s going on in Scripture will take several leaps forward if you grasp something of what the original audience of Scripture was dealing with at the time. This book will help you do just that and since it’s arranged like a commentary rather than a textbook, you can instantly turn to the passage on which you’re seeking cultural, historical, and contextual insights. Though written by a scholar, it is not written in scholarese; it is quite readable.

For preachers (and teachers)

Rewiring Your Preaching: How the Brain Processes Sermons by Richard H. Cox

  • The author is a psychologist, physician, and preacher. Fascinating.

For those who enjoy the unique

The Jewish Study Bible: Second Edition

  • For my personal Bible reading project in 2015 I had originally intended to focus on the New Testament. That is, until I saw this book. Now I plan to focus on the Old Testament exclusively next year and this is the Bible I’ll use in that effort.

links: this went thru my mind

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Age & habits: 15 Things to Start Doing By the Time You’re 30

“… everything on this list is worth doing in your twenties …”

Books, faith & reading: Why Christians Must Be Readers

“Whether you like it or no, read and pray daily. It is for your life; there is no other way.”

China & Christianity: Risen Again: China’s Underground Churches

“The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is wary of organized religion, and has alternately tried to crush, discourage, or co-opt Christian groups. But having survived the ravages of the Cultural Revolution, the faith is now flourishing: a 2010 study by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences estimated there are 23 million Christians in China. In 2011, Pew Research put the figure closer to 67 million, or 5% of the population.”

Church, marriage & singles: The Bible’s Special Word About Singleness

“The church can be a difficult environment for single people to navigate. Theologies that emphasize Christian fulfillment through marriage and parenting have caused marriage and the nuclear family to be so elevated that many singles feel like there is no place for them in Christian community.”

Doctrine: The Job of Doctrine

“[T]he job of doctrine is to hold us still before Jesus. When that slips out of view, we begin instead to use this language to defend ourselves, to denigrate others, to control and correct–and then it becomes a problem.”

links: this went thru my mind

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Bible literacy & reading:*  Biblical Illiteracy by the Numbers Part 1: The Challenge [required reading]; * 9 Things Everyone Should Do When Reading the Bible [essential reading]

* “Study after study in the last quarter-century has revealed that American Christians increasingly don’t read their Bibles, don’t engage their Bibles, and don’t know their Bibles. It’s obvious: We are living in a post-biblically literate culture. Just as critical is the second word of the Bible literacy problem: literacy. Pew Research tells us that 23 percent of us didn’t read a single book in the last year. That’s three times the number who didn’t read a book in 1978.”

* Read ‘King’ when you see ‘Christ.’ … read ‘you’ differently … if you see a ‘therefore,’ find out what it’s there for … realize that not all ‘if’ statements are the same … recognize that lamenting is OK … realize that prophecy is more often forth-telling than fore-telling … become familiar with the idioms of your King … remember what you learned in English class … read to study, but also, read to refresh your heart.”

College funding: A College Financial Aid Guide for Families Who Have Saved Nothing

“In just a generation or two, we’ve gone from students working their way through college without too much trouble, to many parents still being able to write checks to cover tuition out of current income, to sticker prices being so high that two decades of savings may not be enough to cover two children from relatively affluent families.”

Government, Houston, law suits, litigation & sermons: Victory Through Defeat

“As a matter of normal legal practice, I doubt that Mayor Parker, David Feldman, or anyone at the City of Houston read the subpoenas before they were sent, much less specifically ordered the discovery and confiscation of sermon notes and other communications involving homosexuality and gender identity. Typically in litigation lawyers will throw a bunch of jello at a wall and see what sticks, so to speak. Or, to put it another way, they’ll fill up the kitchen sink and see what takes. In other words, the lawyer drafting the discovery requests and subpoenas probably tried to think of every conceivable thing that could possibly be related to this lawsuit and asked for it. You don’t get it if you never ask, and litigation is all about being aggressive and taking anything that the other side will give you. Again, these are just requests (issued by a lawyer), and the judge can quash the subpoenas or issue a protective order for the pastors. …

“… the reality is that we are merely dealing with an overbroad discovery request from a zealous trial lawyer employed by the City. So the sky is not falling. This is not a government-wide ‘approval’ system of pulpit messages. The pastors aren’t being threatened with punishment merely for the contents of their sermons. But this is harassment, and the small things add up. A government that tries to intimidate pastors who would seek to employ the democratic process to repeal a morally questionable piece of legislation is no friend of liberty, religious or otherwise. The government answers to the people; the people do not answer to the government. Remember that. The subpoena is only step one in their 12-step program.”

Prayer: 5 Triggers to Grow Your Prayer Life

“For years, when I thought about prayer, I mostly felt guilty for my lack of a robust prayer life. Reading stories of great saints praying for two hours a day or more left me with a gnawing sense of defeat. I would often resolve to pray more. But the resolves didn’t last.”

Psalm 23: The Lord is My Shepherd – Psalm 23

“All of this comes from Yahweh’s ‘goodness and mercy.'”

links: this went thru my mind

Advertising, Big Data, duplicity, Facebook & privacy: With New Ad Platform, Facebook Opens Gates to Its Vault of User Data

“Facebook built itself into the No. 2 digital advertising platform in the world by analyzing the vast amount of data it had on each of its 1.3 billion users to sell individually targeted ads on its social network. Now it is going to take those targeted ads to the rest of the Internet … On Monday [this past], Facebook will roll out a rebuilt ad platform, called Atlas, that will allow marketers to tap its detailed knowledge of its users to direct ads to those people on thousands of other websites and mobile apps.”

Brain, reading, reflection & thinking skills: Your Paper Brain and Your Kindle Brain aren’t the Same Thing [essential reading, not skimming]

“Neuroscience, in fact, has revealed that humans use different parts of the brain when reading from a piece of paper or from a screen. So the more you read on screens, the more your mind shifts towards ‘non-linear’ reading — a practice that involves things like skimming a screen or having your eyes dart around a web page. ‘They call it a ‘bi-literate’ brain,’ Zoromodi says. ‘The problem is that many of us have adapted to reading online just too well. And if you don’t use the deep reading part of your brain, you lose the deep reading part of your brain.'”

Distraction, education, learning, multi-tasking, & technology: Why a Leading Professor of New Media Just Banned Technology Use in Class

“I teach theory and practice of social media at New York University, and am an advocate and activist for the free culture movement, so I’m a pretty unlikely candidate for Internet censor. But I have just asked the students in my fall seminar to refrain from using laptops, tablets, and phones in class.”

E-mail, productivity & work flow: 9 Rules For Emailing From Google Exec Eric Schmidt

“In a new book out this week chock full of Google-flavored business wisdom, How Google Works, Google executive chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt and former Senior Vice President of Products Jonathan Rosenberg share nine insightful rules for emailing … like a professional.”

Exercise, peace, stress & worry: Best To Not Sweat The Small Stuff, Because It Could Kill You

“… it’s not the stress from major life events like divorce, illness and job loss trickled down to everyday life that gets you; it’s how you react to the smaller, everyday stress. The most stressed-out people have the highest risk of premature death, according to one study that followed 1,293 men for years. ‘People who always perceived their daily life to be over-the-top stressful were three times more likely to die over the period of study than people who rolled with the punches and didn’t find daily life very stressful,’ according to Carolyn Aldwin.”