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

 

Archaeology: Digging for The Past and Future

“In Jerusalem, the capital of a modern country enthralled by its past, a unique national archaeology campus is being built. The project—commissioned by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and officially named The Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein National Campus for the Archaeology of Israel—combines three major components: storage of the national archaeological treasures (some two million items); restoration labs for objects made of various materials, including the Dead Sea Scrolls, mosaics, and glass, textile, and clay finds; and a national archaeology library and archive. … Construction of the 350,000-square-foot project, which was funded mainly by private donations, began in 2012 and is to conclude in April 2016.”

Books, learning & reading: Kids Don’t Read Books Because Parents Don’t Read Books [essential reading]

“Is the problem that kids don’t read books, or is the problem that nobody reads books because our culture has become anti-academic and anti-intellectual?”

Compassion, poor, poverty & social justice: Unconventional Ways to Fight Poverty [essential reading]

“Here are four ways you can fulfill your calling to care for the least of these that you may not have thought about before. … Change the way you talk about poverty. … Respect the dignity of the poor. … Do your job well. … Rethink ethical buying habits.”

Endurance, history, human dignity, life & resilience: The Symphony That Saved a City

“… the whole city had found its humanity.”

Fasting: Sharpen Your Affections With Fasting

“Fasting can be an expression of finding your greatest pleasure and enjoyment in life from God.”

Pentecost: Did You Miss Pentecost Last Sunday?? Do You Know Why?

“… where is Pentecost in our churches?  I have scratched my head trying to figure out why there is virtually no acknowledgement of Pentecost …”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Fiction & reading: Why Do We Read Fiction?

“I often hear people say that they struggle to appreciate fiction. Life is short, and they’d rather spend their time on books that are more informative or useful. … fiction allows us to see the world through someone else’s eyes.”

Government, hunger, politics & poverty: Why Hasn’t Any President Since Lyndon B. Johnson Made Ending Hunger and Poverty a National Priority?

“Truth is charity–all charity–amounts to only about 5 percent of the food we distribute to folks in need here in the U.S. The federal government’s nutrition programs, such as school lunches, the WIC program or SNAP – formerly known as food stamps –makes up the other 95 percent. Just to put that into context, that’s $96.9 billion from the government compared to $4.1 billion of food distributed by all charities in 2011. That is a huge gap that charities wouldn’t be able to fill if Congress cuts vital programs.  But the best tool to fight hunger is job security with fare wages.”

Judgmentalism: The Subtle Sin of Judgmentalism and How It Works [essential reading; would that every Christian would reflect on this piece!]

“If you are prone to criticism and judging others, chances are you will be the last to know it.”

Noah & The Great Flood: The Flood Story: Test Your Knowledge

“With the showing of the movie “Noah” in our country and around the world, people are talking about the flood and whether it really happened. In the process, many people who have a meager knowledge of the Bible are writing about Noah and the flood and in the process, they are introducing mistakes into their discussion of the flood.”

Stress: * 3 Ways To Stop Being So Stressed Out; * Indifference is Ideal

* “The key to overcoming stress is not to work harder but to get perspective.”

* “…  in caring less, I grew to care more.”

Violence: Let There Be Violence?

“Many Christians today are critical of the violence they see in other religions — especially Islam — but there’s an inescapable cognitive dissonance if you are appalled by the violence done in the name of one religion but not by the violence done in the name of your own.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Attitude, church & cynicism: The Most Damaging Attitude in Our Churches [required reading]

“Subtly, without even realizing it, we had become cynics. … cynicism doesn’t always present itself in the sweeping, broad negativity we see on TV. In the day-to-day, it looks more like quick, unwarranted, ‘constructive’ criticism. I’m not talking about the critical thinking required for success as an adult. I’m referring to the way we constantly evaluate and critique people and what they do.”

Computers, privacy & rights: Judge: Feds Can Snatch Your Laptop – for No Reason

“Meet New York federal Judge Edward Korman. On New Year’s Eve, he ruled that if you’re at the U.S. border, the federal government can confiscate your laptop, smartphone or tablet for any reason. No probable cause is needed.

“‘Well,’ you might say, ‘that’s worrying, but I don’t travel outside the U.S. so it isn’t my problem.’ You’ll want to keep reading anyway, because “border” in this ruling doesn’t mean what you think it does.

“In fact, the so-called ‘border exemption’ extends 100 miles inland from the actual border. That includes everyone on the Eastern Seaboard, the West Coast, the Gulf or the Great Lakes.”

Creation & evolution: What We Learned From the Ken Ham/Bill Nye Debate

“Whatever value there might be in a public debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye, there’s a lot more value in Christians loving their neighbors, whatever their beliefs about life’s origins.”

Marriage: * 7 Ways a Husband Injures a Wife Without Even Knowing It; * 7 Ways a Wife Injures a Husband Without Even Knowing It

* “You can’t address what you do not know.”

* “She’s a precious gift, guys. Let’s treat her well.”

Miracles: Wait, No Miracles … Wright On!

“… when people say can we believe in miracles I say no, because the word miracle gives us this sense of a normally absent God sometimes reaching in, that’s not the God of the Bible. … the thing about what we call the miracles, is not … wow! there seem to be radical abnormalities within the old world. No. The point is that these are the things that are starting to be normal in the new world which we see close up and personal with Jesus and then which, through the ministry of the gospel thereafter, start to happen in different ways in the wider world. It’s about the launching of new creation not about an invasion into the old creation.”

Parenting: How to Raise a Pagan Kid in a Christian Home [essential reading]

“Do you teach your kids “be good because the Bible tells you to” or do you teach your kids that they will never be good without Christ’s offer of grace? There is a huge difference. One leads to moralism; the other leads to brokenness. One leads to self-righteousness; the other leads to a life that realizes that Christ is everything and that nothing else matters.”

Philip Seymour Hoffman: Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Thoughts on Christ

“The idea that a young person could be sane, generous, intelligent and Christian held out great appeal for him.”

Racism: What Does Racism Have to Do With Gridlock?: In Atlanta, Everything

“The way forward is complicated, to say the least—but it’s hard to know where you’re going without a clear idea of where you’ve been. Southerners are notoriously poor at understanding our own history—there’s so much of it, and so much is painful—but here, today, is a really good place to start.”

Reading Scripture: Cultivating the Practice of Reading Scripture [required reading]

“This is a journey in which we discover that the work of scriptural reading is not about transforming an ancient message into a modern application but the transformation of our lives though Scripture. The Bible does not present us with texts to be mastered, then, but with a Word intent on shaping our lives, on mastering us.”

this went thru my mind

 

Baytown & Mont Belvieu: Chambers Town Center

A look at the plan for the the construction of Chambers Town Center near the intersection of I-10 & Hwy. 146 in Baytown, TX.

Church, idolatry & ministry: When Church Becomes an Idol

“… what does this look like when church itself is the ‘idol’ a pastor is venerating?”

Criticism, listening, preaching, respect, selective hearing & sermons: Sick of Sermons [required reading]

“Chronic critique of sermons is an illness. …  Some sufferers have lived with this condition for so long that they have found ways to manage it: committing to ministries that pull them out of the sermon … venting … or using the sermon-time for completely unrelated spiritual exercises. The long-term prognosis is grave: spiritual malnourishment. The table that God sets for us has two parts, Word and Sacrament, and Christ is the bread of both. But we only get what we’re willing to receive. How can we fight this illness that has us always excusing ourselves from the table during the first course and frequently ruining the appetite of others? I recommend aggressive treatment.”

Discouragement, faith, humility, passion, perseverance, & zeal: Maintaining a Holy Fire When You Feel More Like an Unholy Fizzle

“… because we live in Christ we must wait for him to do the work. This is nearly a mockery to the flesh-driven personality. God, through the Spirit, opens doors and closes others. My exhilaration is when He opens them. My frustration is when none open and I impatiently knock harder.

“How do we maintain a holy fire when some days feel more like an unholy fizzle? Believe God works…and then wait on Him.”

Holiness, OMG, speech, respect & words: Is It OK for a Christian to Drop OMG’s?

“Remember, it is the trademark for the unbeliever to take God’s name in vain …”

Inspiration & interpretation: The Inspiration of Scripture: 2 Timothy 3:16

“In short, I tend not to read 2 Tim 3:16a as an assertion about scripture, but as an identification of which writings the author is talking about.”

Modesty: Modesty: I Don’t Think it Means What You Think it Means

“And so biblical modesty isn’t about managing the sexual impulses of other people; it’s about cultivating humility, propriety and deference within ourselves.”

Parenting: Dear Parents With Young Children [essential reading]

“You are doing something really, really important. I know it’s not easy. I see you with your arms overflowing, and I know you came to church already tired. Parenting is tiring. Really tiring.

“I watch you bounce and sway trying to keep the baby quiet, juggling the infant car seat and the diaper bag as you find a seat. I see you wince as your child cries. I see you anxiously pull things out of your bag of tricks to try to quiet them.

“And I see you with your toddler and your preschooler. I watch you cringe when your little girl asks an innocent question in a voice that might not be an inside voice let alone a church whisper.  I hear the exasperation in your voice as you beg your child to just sit, to be quiet as you feel everyone’s eyes on you. Not everyone is looking, but I know it feels that way.

“I know you’re wondering, is this worth it? Why do I bother? I know you often leave church more exhausted than fulfilled. But what you are doing is so important.”

Reading: * Read Your Bible: But How? (Lectio Divina); * Americans’ Reading Habits Over Time

* “I’ve benefited from reading large portions of Scripture–whole narratives, books, and multiple chapters–in one sitting. I’ve also benefited immensely from slowing down and meditatively just reading a few verses at a time. Lectio Divina is a way of reading Scripture that encourages that. It’s reading, as many have said, for transformation and not just information. …

“It goes like this: * 1. Read: What does the passage say? 2. Pray: What is God saying to me through this passage?  (short phrase or single word) 3. Listen: How is God calling me to respond to what he’s saying? 4. Respond: What will I commit to God to do in response?”

* “… the percentage of Americans who read a printed book in the previous 12 months fell from 72% of the population in 2011 to 67% in 2012.”