links: this went thru my mind

-

Here are links to five articles I consider interesting and helpful for thought.

American history, memory, myth & religion: Why 1940s America Wasn’t as Religious as You Think — the Rise and Fall of American Religion

“It’s common for people to believe that religion was always more vibrant in the past. Earlier generations were always more religious than we are, right? Not always. Religiosity can rise and fall just like other things do over time. In fact, America of the 1940s was about as religious as America today.”

Bethlehem, nativity scenes & the birth of Jesus: Bethlehem – the Manger and the Inn

“What actually did a stable look like in the time of Christ?”

Church shopping: ‘It Meets My Needs’ and Other Bad Reasons for Choosing a Church

“If you’re like most, a day is coming when you too will be on the search for a new church to call home. When that day comes, you may want to think twice before using these all-too-common reasons for making your choice.”

God, love, punishment & suffering: Did God Love the Egyptians?

“Did God love the Egyptians when he struck Egypt with plagues? In the larger biblical narrative, the answer is obviously yes. The prophet Isaiah later prophesies about judgments on Egypt (Isa 19:1-17, 22; akin to judgments he also prophesies against Israel); as a result, Egyptians will turn to God and they will become part of God’s people alongside Israel (19:18-25). In the law of Moses, Israelites are forbidden to despise Egyptians, because Israel’s ancestors found refuge in Egypt (Deut 23:7).”

Judging: Fellowship & Judgment

“‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.’ (Luke 6:37) These instructions are more specific iterations of the golden rule (Matthew 7:12), if you think about it.”

links: this went thru my mind

-

Church & kingdom: Raising Stones at the Gateway of Heaven: The Kingdom of God as Event

“Kingdom of God is an event rather than an organization. Some time ago I described the relationship between the Kingdom and the church this way …”

Church dropouts, twenties & young adults: The Real Reasons Young Adults Drop Out of Church

“Young adults drop out of church because their faith isn’t their own.”

Eternal punishment, God’s character & hell: Hell & Eternal Punishment?

“How are we consistently to conceive of a God who loves and died for every human who ever existed preserving their existence forever for no other purpose than perpetual torment? Further, how are we to understand the redeemed enjoying untainted bliss in heaven if alongside of this kingdom billions of people and fallen angels will be experiencing excruciating, unending anguish? The problem is exceedingly difficult and extremely important.”

Fish, fishing & the Sea of Galilee: Fish of the Sea of Galilee

“… there are 18 species of indigenous fish in the Sea of Galilee, and that 10 of those are important commercially.”

God & the Old Testament: 10 Old Testament Passages That Shape How I Think About God [required reading]

“God is not impressed with what we call success but with what is deep within us, perhaps even deeper than we ourselves can see.”

Happiness, joy, politics & suffering: * What is the Difference Between Joy and Happiness? [required reading]; * The Political Significance of Joy [a 20 min. video of an interview of N.T. Wright by Miroslav Volf]

* “or the most part, segments of our life, often entire chunks of it, aren’t going well and much of it we don’t live well. Given that joy attaches to life going well and being led well, must joy be lost to us? It need not be. We can rejoice over the many small goods we experience, and for those of us who are religious, we can find joy in the One Good that is both the source and the goal of our existence. Though fragmentary, all small joys celebrate goods in our lives that are and remain wonderful, at times no more than tender plants in the cracks of our otherwise heavily cemented and gray lives. And in all true joys we yearn for, and perhaps also faintly experience, a world in which all things and all manner of things shall be well.”

* “… the suffering is a badge of the fact that we’re sharing the Messianic sufferings of Jesus. … suffering is hope-full.”

links: this went thru my mind

Christian faith, ISIS, nonviolence, violence & war: A Christian Response to ISIS [essential reading]

“…  as Christians, we should be more concerned about faithfulness not effectiveness; we need to take our marching orders from the King of Kings and Prince of Peace, and we should not be blinded to think that a destruction of our enemies through violence will actually conquer evil. And I’m certainly glad that Jesus didn’t destroy me—even though I was His enemy.”

Faith, extra-terrestrial life & religion: Are the World’s Religions Ready for E.T.?

“In 1930, Albert Einstein was … asked whether science and religion conflict. ‘Not really, though it depends, of course, on your religious views.'”

God, pain & suffering: Is Suffering Part of God’s Secret Plan?

“…  in light of God’s revelation in Christ, our assumption should be that their suffering is something we should oppose in the name of God rather than accepting it as coming from God. Hence, the only relevant question disciples of Jesus should consider is, What can we do to bring God’s redemptive will into the situation, to alleviate suffering and to glorify God? How can we respond in such a way that God’s will is further accomplished ‘on earth as it is in heaven’? Instead of asking ‘Who sinned?’ we should ask, ‘How can we bring glory to God in this situation?’ (John 9:1-3).”

Koch Industries, politics & pollution: * Inside the Koch Brothers’ Toxic Empire; * Response to Rolling Stone Story; * Koch Industries Responds to Rolling Stone – And We Answer Back

“The Kochs are our homegrown oligarchs; they’ve cornered the market on Republican politics and are nakedly attempting to buy Congress and the White House.”

Parenting, privacy, social media, social networking & youth: 5 Social Networks You Don’t Know the Kids are Using

“The ones I’m going to talk about are ones the kids in your life probably know. However, they aren’t that kid-friendly, which means you need to know about them, too. You especially need to know the last one because you don’t want kids using it at all.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Blessing, kingdom living & love: The Kingdom of God While Mowing the Lawn [essential reading]

“… the first task Jesus gave this disciples when he sent them out to serve and evangelize the world was to bless every house they came upon (Luke 10). This, he suggested, is our first and most basic act of loving service to the world. We are to be a people who simply express God’s love by blessing people. We are to agree with God that each and every person we see was worth Jesus dying for. And we express this first and foremost by blessing them.”

Brain, dementia, health & mental health: Brain Games that Could Pay Off in Retirement

“While the scientific community has more to learn, for now it’d be hard to go wrong finding a progressively challenging hobby that you enjoy, and that won’t break the bank. Park and her research team decided to focus on quilting and photography, but other activities they considered studying were learning a second language, learning a musical instrument, dancing and bridge.

“Physical exercise is also essential. Studies have shown that aerobic exercise improves memory and brain function, in party by increasing blood flow to the brain. Also, remember to shake things up every once in a while: Vary your workout, learn something new, visit new places. Said Small, ‘The brain loves novelty.'”

God, forgiveness, suffering & time: Is God Inside or Outside of Time?

“… does this mean that God can simultaneously view all moments in time and know what is going to happen in the future without infringing on human free will?”

Grief: 1 Things Pastors Should Never Say to the Grieving

“Immediately after he passed away, a nurse came in and made an empty attempt at comfort, ‘He’s in a better place’ she said. As soon as the words were uttered they seemed to bounce around the room with nowhere to comfortably land.”

Roads, Roman Empire, & travel in the ancient world: Roman Roads and Milestones in Judaea/Palaestina

“… a systematic survey of all the extant remains related to roads, in order to provide a comprehensive picture of the Roman road network in Israel.”