links: this went thru my mind

 

Church: * We’ve Seen Megachurch. But How About Micro-Church? [me like!]; * Slow Church (parts 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5; this entire series is essential reading; read part 1 and you’ll understand why)

* “We’ve designed a space to direct people toward God, not by turning their eyes to a far-removed altar, but by turning instead to one another. The most dominant feature will be three ovular tables for ten. The bowed shape ensures that everyone at the table can make eye contact with everyone else. In addition, we’re crafting a space that intentionally invites people to participate. Open shelves holding plates and glasses encourage newcomers to jump in and set tables. It’s easy to see where everything is stored — easy to take part. Like a Montessori classroom, the design to encourages interaction with both materials and people.”

* “In their revelatory new book, Slow Church, Chris Smith and John Pattison reflect …”

Corporate worship, times of services & worship gatherings: 5 Reasons We Worship in the Afternoon

“I  had to struggle to close down evening services at the last two churches I served. Both were holdovers from a previous era, a time when people would go to church several times a week. These services had dwindled to a dozen or so older worshipers who faithfully sang the old hymns and turned out to hear a preacher, who was tired from two or three services earlier in the day, deliver a warmed-over homily. In winter, when earlier darkness prevented many of them from driving to church, attendance could be a mere handful. It was hard to end a ministry which had ceased to be productive long ago. So it’s amusing to me, now that I’m planting a new church, that our primary worship service is in the afternoon! We meet at 4:30 p.m.”

Food, shrimp & slavery: Revealed: Asian Slave Labour Producing Prawns for Supermarkets in US, UK

“Slaves forced to work for no pay for years at a time under threat of extreme violence are being used in Asia in the production of seafood sold by major US, British and other European retailers … including the top four global retailers: Walmart, Carrefour, Costco and Tesco.”

Sexuality & self-righteousness: * Why I Didn’t Wait; * Homosexuality: Have I Changed My View? [required reading]; * Sex, The Sinner, and Jesus

* “All this said, for those of us who walked that road of casual sex and now struggle to feel forgiven and pure, I write these things not to condemn you, but to remind you that you can choose differently now. You can remind yourself of the precious gift of sex, in the right way with the right person at the right time, that it truly is worth waiting for.”

* “… I (still) believe homosexual behavior is sin. The difference, though, is that now I know why. … Hopefully, now, my view is based on the Bible and not my upbringing or assumptions. So I haven’t changed my view. However, I have changed my posture. … Jesus stood against extortion, yet didn’t mention extortion when he encountered extortionists (Matt 9:9-13; Luke 19:1-10). Jesus stood against violence, but didn’t mention violence when he befriended a leader of a violent superpower (Matt 8:5-13). Jesus opposed adultery and even took a hyper-conservative view on sexual ethics (Matt 5:27-32), but he didn’t front sexual sin when he encountered people engaged in it (Luke 7:36-50). Jesus didn’t often lead with law; instead, he led with love and he loved people into holiness.”

* “I’m not trying to make light of sexual sin or any sin for that matter. But I do believe the grace of God is bigger than any of our sins. But when sexual sin is singled out or when we think we are on higher ground because sexual sin is not our sin, something is afoul.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Anger, culture, morality, outrage & thinking: Addicted to Outrage

“I fear that outrage has become an addiction for many people of faith. I’m caused to wonder if certain endorphins are released when we feel anger over a just cause; an emotional, pseudo-spiritual ‘rush’ that just keeps us coming back for more. In order for us to feel ‘righteous,’ has it become essential that ‘indignation’ be an inseparable companion? ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers… twerkers.’ Reread the context of Luke 18:9-14 to be reminded of why Jesus told this parable.” The more I am consumed by moral outrage, the less time I have to dwell on those things that are ‘true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and of good repute; things that are excellent and worthy of praise,’ (Philippians 4:8).”

Community, generosity, greed, poverty, stinginess & wealth: As We Become Richer, Do We Become Stingier?

“…  the effects that wealth has on people: ‘We become more individualistic, less family and community oriented.’ … Greenfield’s findings and theories dovetail with a variety of other studies and research projects, including Robert Putnam’s 2000 book, Bowling Alone, which explores the decline in community relationships in the U.S.”

Faith, grace, law, OT, NT & works: Law and Grace, Faith and Works

“When we think that what Jesus did was substitute one written code for another, we fall into the trap that Paul condemned in the Galatian letter. When we depend on law, any kind of law, then we are no longer depending on grace.”

Fasting, peace, prayer this Saturday & Syria: A Fast for Peace September 7th [count me in, too; how about you?]

“… a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world, and I also invite each person, including our fellow Christians, followers of other religions and all men of good will, to participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative.”

Food stamps, poverty & the poor: On the Edge of Poverty, at the Center of a Debate on Food Stamps [required reading]

“No matter what Congress decides, benefits will be reduced in November, when a provision in the 2009 stimulus bill expires. Yet as lawmakers cast the fight in terms of spending, nonpartisan budget analysts and hunger relief advocates warn of a spike in ‘food insecurity’ among Americans who … ‘look like we are fine,’ but live on the edge of poverty, skipping meals and rationing food.”

Jesus, sin & sinners: * He Looked Like a Sinner; * Jesus is Not Mr. Rogers

* “Jesus didn’t look like a saint. Jesus didn’t look holy. He hung out with prostitutes and drank too much wine. He was a convicted criminal. He was given the death penalty. And he died under God’s curse. Jesus looked like a sinner.”

* “Jesus wasn’t always the nicest guy.”

Leadership, momentum & morale: 16 Practices that Reignite Momentum

“Working on positives more than negatives. Avoid taking the wind out of people’s sails.”

Singing: Love the Lord with All Your Voice

“Singing is a forgotten—but essential—spiritual discipline. … We might ask … why we could not simply speak the words of Scripture as if they were our own. What is gained by singing them? Just this: In song, we learn not just the content of the spiritual life, but something of its posture, inflection, and emotional disposition.”

Restoration Heritage & the Stone-Campbell Movement: Christian History Magazine Puts a Focus on Stone-Campbell Movement

“Restoration scholars Richard Hughes and Doug Foster served as advisers on the project and ‘provided a fair amount of content, along with other well-known authors/scholars in the movement’ … Download the full issue for free.”

sermon summation: the ‘don’t judge me’ verse

 

Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged. (Matthew 7.1)

Eight words. They seem clear enough. How could they possibly be misunderstood or misused?

Two ways. Quoting them the way the world does (i.e. – “never try to change me”). Or by getting tripped up by their apparent tension with other words from Christ (“judge with right judgment” – John 7.24). Which is it, Jesus? Judge or don’t?

Understand: the world misunderstands. When Jesus said “don’t judge” he was calling for people to change. Specifically, to stop living a life of condemnation. Sometimes we need to be challenged and to reform our ways.

Understand as well: sometimes the church doesn’t get it either. By thinking our Lord was somehow backtracking, contradicting, or qualifying himself. Christians need to exercise discernment and self-evaluation, and certainly so before they try to help others change.

And that’s the thing. Disciples of Christ must be discerning (“judge with right judgment”), but not damning (“don’t judge”). Or in Christ’s words, we’re to “be wise as snakes and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10.16)

There’s a world of difference. Discernment is a scalpel wielded by a surgeon for the good of the patient. Judgment is a lever in the hand of the executioner. The former is about saving life; the latter is about taking it. We must see the difference between being all we can be as humans walking with God and usurping God’s unique place over the lives of us all.

But blindness is common. And that’s the context in which Jesus’ words “don’t judge” originally appear.

You’ll receive the same judgment you give. Whatever you deal out will be dealt out to you. Why do you see the splinter that’s in your brother’s or sister’s eye, but don’t notice the log in your own eye? How can you say to your brother or sister, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ when there’s a log in your eye? You deceive yourself! First take the log out of your eye, and then you’ll see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s or sister’s eye. (Matthew 7.2-5)

Such blindness within us typically comes about in one of two ways, and they are not mutually exclusive, rather, they often go hand-in-hand. As in the passage just noted, our hypocrisy – that is, our play-acting – can come from, and bring about, blindness. When we condemn others for doing things that we are habitually about ourselves – perhaps even in far greater measure, but secretly! – we have become blind hypocrites and are in no position to lead the blind. In those cases, the log needs to be removed.

But such blindness can also come about by self-righteousness, simply forgetting that God is at the center of all things and has the final say, not us. We then need to recall the words of our Lord’s half-brother, James:

There is only one lawgiver and judge, and he is able to save and to destroy. But you who judge your neighbor, who are you? (James 4.12)

Who are you? Who are we? Indeed!

No one wakes up and says: “Today, I want to become a self-righteous hypocrite doling out condemnation.” No. Hear this! The slow descent to the hell that is hypocrisy is made by small, steady steps of being critical. Hypocrisy is simply the next step in the evolutionary ladder for someone consumed with casting criticism. To be hypercritical is to be hypocritical.

Now what I say next grieves me to no end, but I believe I would fail you if I didn’t remind myself, and all of us, of it. I do so with one end in mind: that we might be humbled, and ever remain so. Here it is: the heritage of faith of which I am a part has a long and strong reputation in the religious world for being just this: hypercritical. This is our history. And it is this sad truth that plays no small part in the reason why many will never seek out our counsel as to how to no longer be blind or will even remotely be open to our call for them to come see God.

We know from hard experience that being hypercritical comes at a very, very high price.

But, to this someone might say, “But truth is truth, God is truth, and doing it all right is what we must be about!” To which our Lord Jesus himself would respond: “Go and learn what this means: I want mercy and not sacrifice.” (Matthew 9.13)

Yes. Mercy. Let us learn what this means. Again and again. Afresh and daily. Not to judge.

this went thru my mind

 

Americanism: Is Americanism the Fourth Biblical World Religion? (Partial Review of Peter Leithart’s ‘Between Babel and the Beast’) by Roger Olson

“America became an agent not of God’s kingdom but an instrument for the spread of American institutions and American culture, and there was a tendency to see America ‘basking in [God’s] permanent favor.’ … Throughout American history, orthodoxy has been strong enough to check the danger of deifying America itself—check, but not eliminate. But the intellectual structure is in place for Americanists to think those who worship America are offering service to God.”

Certainty: Leaving Certainty Behind by Ted Gossard

“… I want to live and work as one whose hands are open and raised up toward God. Ready to be uncomfortable and challenged to the core on things I hold dear, or true, if and when they are challenged. Committed to the one who alone is my certainty and God, in and through Jesus together with others for the world.”

Confession, forgiveness, judgment & sin: * The Scarlet Letter: Dropping the Stones by Mike Cope [3 min. video clip]; * A People of Maybe by Jonathan Storment; * The Confession of Sins by Richard Beck; * Judging Others … A Word of Caution by K. Rex Butts

* “… this piece shot by Matt Maxwell …”

* “What the world needs to see is a people who are able to lovingly and gently correct each other without hate or envy, and for the purposes of Restoration.”

* “… the confession of sins pushes back on the triumphalism and self-righteousness of the church. … Not that saying the confession is a panacea and fix-all. But it has to have a salutary spiritual effect to take a moment each week to corporately say ‘We’ve sinned.’ We’ve sinned, often grievously so, against our neighbors by not loving them as we love ourselves in both what we’ve done to them and what we’ve failed to do for them.”

* “We are better off having said nothing at all than having said a word of judgment only to be exposed as a hypocrite.  So while on occasion circumstances may force us to pass a certain measure of judgment, we out to be very cautious in doing so.  And if I must error on one side or the other, I would rather error on the side of being too quick to forgive, show mercy, and offer generosity than being too quick to judgment.”

God: Thinking About God Makes Me Just Want to Keep My Mouth Shut by Peter Enns [required reading]

“My calculator broke.”

Women: * The Amazing Speeches of Women in the Conventions Makes the Silence of Women in the Church That Much More Deafening by Eugene Cho; * A Letter for Highland on Women’s Roles by Richard Beck

* “Before you throw stones or want to endorse me as a candidate for the next President, just hear me out. … about the importance of having the voices of both women and men in our lives.”

* “I’ve been struggling for some time with how I should best stand up for gender justice in my local church context.”

this went thru my mind

 

Art: Lego-Brücke

“[Pictured] here [is the result of a] four week transformation [of] a 250 square meter [area of a] bridge with … ​​Lego bricks.”

Bible translation: C.S. Lewis on the Nature of Scripture

“The same divine humility which decreed that God should become a baby at a peasant-woman’s breast, and later an arrested field-preacher in the hands of the Roman police, decreed also that He should be preached in a vulgar, prosaic and unliterary language. If you can stomach the one, you can stomach the other. The Incarnation is in that sense an irreverent doctrine: Christianity, in that sense, an incurably irreverent religion. When we expect that it should have come before the World in all the beauty that we now feel in the Authorised Version we are as wide of the mark as the Jews were in expecting that the Messiah would come as a great earthly King. The real sanctity, the real beauty and sublimity of the New Testament (as of Christ’s life) are of a different sort: miles deeper or further in.”

Chik-Fil-A, LGBT & the culture wars: * Christian Resources for Thinking About Homosexuality; * What Exactly Did Dan Cathy Say to Land Chic-fil-a in Hot Water?; * Five Reasons the Church Failed Yesterday; * Learning to Speak: Chick-fil-A & our Inability to Dialogue; * Do Corporations Have Souls?

* “My basic question is ‘What attitude should Christians adopt as we consider our interaction with the LGBT community?'”

* “‘We don’t claim to be a Christian business,’ Cathy told the Biblical Recorder in a recent visit to North Carolina. He attended a business leadership conference many years ago where he heard Christian businessman Fred Roach say, ‘There is no such thing as a Christian business.’ ‘That got my attention,’ Cathy said. Roach went on to say, ‘Christ never died for a corporation. He died for you and me.’ ‘In that spirit … [Christianity] is about a personal relationship. Companies are not lost or saved, but certainly individuals are,’ Cathy added.”

* “Yesterday’s campaign, while I don’t think it should be considered or called ‘hate,’ neither can it be called love. … People felt hate and we ignored that. … By rallying behind CFA, Christians put an issue above people. … Once again, the mass actions of Christians built another wall of distrust between the Church and the GLBTQ communities. … Yesterday’s hoopla surrounding CFA did nothing to prove that Christians don’t hate gay people.”

* “The issue is not homosexuality. We do the same with Muslims and Hindus, with Atheists and Agnostics. We do it with Christians that think differently regarding heaven and hell, baptism or remarriage, or those who get a little too charismatic when their favorite worship song is played. We do it with anyone who we view as ‘the Other.’ The real issue is us. We struggle to ‘put skin’ on the words and message of Christ with anyone who thinks differently than us. Too often, we demand conformity prior to connection.”

* “In light of the Chick-Fil-A ‘Appreciation Day’ I’m wondering, ‘When did corporations become moral guardians for our society?'”

Communication, ministry & relationships: Conversations Skills that Transform by Kevin A. Miller

“… they have scores of digital ‘friends,’ but what’s missing is analog—a slow, listening, face-to-face presence.”

Death & the hereafter: Immediately after Death, What Happens?

“Following a sermon one day a person waited around until everyone had left and he asked me this: ‘My father was a Christian; he died last week; we buried him Monday. Where is he now?’ And pastor after pastor has told me this is a very common — monthly — question they get from the grieving. Matthew Levering … explores how three representative scholars — N.T. Wright, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Aquinas — explain the so-called intermediate state.”

Drugs: Houston Area ‘Major Player’ in Synthetic Drug Market

“… the Houston area is the No. 1 spot in Texas when it comes to people getting poisoned by synthetic compounds designed to mimic the effects of marijuana and methamphetamines.”

Illegal alines & immigration: Immigration: Justice, Mercy, and the Great Commission by J. Lance Conklin

“…  are those entering the U.S. illegally breaking into a house to steal a T.V., or are they stealing a loaf of bread to feed their family?”

Introverts: Eight Things to Help You Understand Introverts by Thom Rainer

“I am an introvert. … I hope these eight statements will help you understand us a little bit better.”

Knife-sharpening: * Testing a Knife’s Sharpness;  * Stoning Your Knife;  * Honing Your Knife

Three brief videos by Bob Kramer, master bladesmith.

Olympics: Eric Liddell – A True Champion

“Eric Liddell is best known as ‘the man from Chariots of Fire’ (cue slow running) but there was much more to him than that!”

Parenting & texting: Control Your Kids’ Texting

“My kids are glued to their smartphones. … Is there a way I can turn off texting on their phones during a certain time?”

Politics & faith: A Third Party Candidate by Scott Elliott

“… many Christians have fallen into [a] … political trap. They ‘treat their religion as a kind of politics and their politics as a kind of religion.’ Politics becomes an idol, and hope rises or falls based on the outcome of the coming election. Christians on both sides of the aisle are guilty of bowing to an elephant or a donkey, thinking they have the answers to their problems. The truth is neither the Republicans nor the Democrats possess the solutions to that which plagues humanity, but there is a third option.”

Preaching: * Preaching: Raiding or Reading?; * It’s Not About You – Or Is It?

* “Bible Raiding. This sort goes to the Bible to find support for an already-decided-upon idea, to get answers from the Bible on the basis of a surface reading of the Bible … and lets what the preacher wants to say and what the preacher believes establish what is to be preached. … Bible Reading. This sort goes to the Bible to see what it says and what it says shapes what the preacher preaches and teaches. …”

* “Whether we like it or not, therefore, it is ‘about us’ – which raises all the more intensely the question of how we can also be certain that it is not only and primarily about us, but ultimately about the God we worship in and through Jesus Christ.”

Self-righteousness: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

“The really insidious part about this condition is that the more I go on as a Christian: the more I grow in knowledge, the more I become integrated into the Christian community, the more my lifestyle conforms to the expectations of my particular Christian group, the more separated I get from “the world” and its ways, the more I learn to act, speak, dress, and think like a Christian, the more my capacity for self-righteousness increases.”

Taxes & demographics: Study: Romney Tax Plan Would Shift Burden Toward Poor

“Mitt Romney’s tax plan would provide large tax cuts to the very wealthy, while increasing the tax burden on the lower and middle classes, according to a study … produced by researchers at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center …”

United States: Is America a Secular Nation? by Ben Witherington

“It would be nearer the truth to say that America is a narcissistic ‘who cares’ society when it comes to politics than to say it is a secular society.”