links: this went thru my mind

 

 

Bible, credibility & historical reliability: Is the Bible Reliable?

“Today some critics complain that we are biased if we heed works such as the gospels. Yet few critics would so readily dismiss the information in ancient biographies about other persons. One must wonder, then, in which direction is the bias really working?”

Greeting, guests, visitors & welcome: Smiling is Not Enough: The Top Ten Mistakes Your Volunteers Make Welcoming Guests at Church

“Here are the top ten mistakes I see when volunteers are helping me as a first time guest.”

Minimum wage & poverty: Highest Minimum-Wage State Washington Beats U.S. in Job Creation

“When Washington residents voted in 1998 to raise the state’s minimum wage and link it to the cost of living, opponents warned the measure would be a job-killer. The prediction hasn’t been borne out. In the 15 years that followed, the state’s minimum wage climbed to $9.32 — the highest in the country. Meanwhile job growth continued … above the national rate. Payrolls at Washington’s restaurants and bars, portrayed as particularly vulnerable to higher wage costs, expanded by 21 percent. Poverty has trailed the U.S. level for at least seven years.”

Persecution: When Persecution Is Persecution

“We really know nothing of real persecution. … Our right to assemble is guaranteed, our freedom to worship together is protected, and we live in the most Christianized nations on earth. And while we may be surrounded by people who are hostile to the Christian faith, we know nothing of the fearful plight of the persecuted church. … It’s hard for me to use the word “persecution” to describe the social pressure or personal rejection I may occasionally experience here when Christians are being tortured and murdered for their faith around the world. And if I’m fearful of rejection or insults, criticism or prejudice here, then I thank God I don’t live in countries where I might be tortured or killed for my faith for I would too quickly deny my Lord. The persecuted church knows something about faith. They know something about hope. They know something about endurance.”

Syria: Three Years of Strife and Cruelty Put Syria in Free Fall

“It is not as if the world has no evidence of Syria’s ordeal, which has killed an estimated 150,000 people. … Analysts say that 42 percent of all Syrians .. have fled their homes. … The Syrian refugee crisis, meanwhile, has not peaked. Unicef says 5.5 million children need aid, a number that has more than doubled in a year. Child refugees quintupled to 1.2 million, 425,000 of them younger than 5 …”

War: The Unlikely Road to War

“Yes, the Great War, the end of empires and the old order, was triggered by a teenager. … The unthinkable is thinkable. Indeed, it must be thought. Otherwise it may occur — soldiers reduced … to ‘fodder locked in the same murderous morass, sharing the same attrition of bullet and barrage, disease and deprivation, torment and terror.’”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Archaeology, history & Syria: Among the Wounded in Syria’s War: Ancient History

“The situation now is absolutely terrible there. … They come with jackhammers. That means everything is destroyed.”

Church atmosphere & environment: * What’s the Habitat? [essential reading]; * The Church is a Zoo; * The Dark Side of Small [essential reading]

* “Here’s an important question to ask regularly: ‘Who does well here?’ Don’t just ask, ‘who attends here currently?’ Ask, ‘Who thrives here?’ Ask it in the present tense rather than, ‘Who has survived here over the years?’”

* “… if God is bringing people different than those you thought He would bring, rejoice that He’s drawing any of His children to your church at all.”

* “I have often praised smaller churches. … But I am not wholly idealistic and naïve. Wherever there are human beings trying to make it through life together, there are problems. It matters not whether the setting is large or small. Every community of people faces challenges which, if not handled with wisdom, grace, and love, will threaten its health and perhaps even its existence.”

Crimea, Ukraine & Russia: The 160-Year Christian History Behind What’s Happening in Ukraine

“It would be pleasant to think that the U.S. and Europe are taking these religious factors into full account as they calculate their response to the present crisis in Crimea and Ukraine. Pleasant, but unlikely.”

Encouragement, leadership & ministry: Minister Search: You Have More to Offer Than You Might Think

“Church leaders often underestimate what they have to offer a prospective minister.  They have much value to offer a minister and I’m not talking about money. … Church leaders need to spend time thinking about what they have to offer that is of value. … Church leaders who will form a hedge of protection around a young minister really have something of value to offer. … Church leaders who will show a genuine interest in the lives of their ministers and families definitely have something valuable to offer.”

Happiness, money, possessions & stuff: Why Buying Stuff Won’t Make You Happy (and One Thing That Might)

“The pursuit and purchase of physical possessions will never fully satisfy our desire for happiness. It may result in temporary joy for some, but the happiness found in buying a new item rarely lasts longer than a few days. Researchers even have a phrase for this temporary fulfillment: retail therapy.”

History & the United States: Watch the United States Grow Before Your Eyes

“On March 4, 1789, the U.S. Constitution took effect, forming a nation of 13 colonies and a whole heck of a lot of unorganized territory. On August 21, 1959, Congress admitted Hawaii as the 50th state. … [see] this handy gif of all the steps it took to get us from point A to point B.”

The South: These 9 Maps Should Absolutely Outrage Southerners

“… there are lots of things to love about the South. It’s clean and quiet. There’s delicious food, good people and often amazing weather. But that’s exactly why it makes us so sad to think about all the ways in which the region is struggling today.”

links: this went thru my mind (on violence)

 

Atrocities: A Photographer Captures the Violence in the Streets of the Central African Republic

“I think that you know, all the ghosts of Rwanda are waking up. … It’s very, very difficult to bear sometimes.”

Christian persecution: ‘Largest Massacre of Christians in Syria’ Ignored

“In late October, the U.S-supported ‘opposition’ invaded and occupied Sadad for over a week, till ousted by the nation’s military. Among other atrocities, 45 Christians—including women and children—were killed, several tortured to death; Sadat’s 14 churches, some ancient, were ransacked and destroyed; the bodies of six people from one family, ranging from ages 16 to 90, were found at the bottom of a well (an increasingly common fate for “subhuman” Christians).”

Economic violence on the poor: Good Poor, Bad Poor [required reading]

“On Sundays, this time of year, my parents would pack a gaggle of us kids into the station wagon for a tour of two Christmas worlds. First, we’d go to the wealthy neighborhoods on a hill — grand Tudor houses glowing with the seasonal incandescence of good fortune. Faces pressed against the car windows, we wondered why their Santa was a better toy-maker than ours.

“Then, down to the valley, where sketchy-looking people lived in vans by the river, in plywood shacks with rusted appliances on the front lawn, their laundry frozen stiff on wire lines. The rich, my mother explained, were lucky. The poor were unfortunate.”

Forgiveness & murder: Widow of American Teacher Forgives Attackers Who Killed Her Husband in Libya [essential reading]

“To the attackers, she wrote: ‘I love you and I forgive you.’ …

“‘I hear people speaking with hate, anger and blame over Ronnie’s death, but that’s not what Ronnie would want,’ Smith wrote of her husband. ‘I want all of you — all of the people of Libya — to know I am praying for the peace and prosperity of Libya. May Ronnie’s blood, shed on Libyan soil, encourage peace and reconciliation between the Libyan people and God.’”

links: this went thru my mind (on violence)

 

Drone warfare: Confessions of a US Drone Operator

“A former US air force drone operator has described how he is haunted by his time as a ‘remote killer’ functioning in ‘zombie mode’ in missions over Afghanistan and Iraq that claimed more than 1,600 lives. Brandon Bryant, a retired airman who operated remote-controlled Predator aircraft from US bases in Nevada and New Mexico, offers a rare military insider’s perspective on the US drone program …”

Guns: Bringing America Back to Life

“Other than car accidents, gun violence is the biggest killer of young people in the US.  One child or teen dies every 3 hours, 7 a day, over 50 a week. … I’ve seen a lot of the world, with travels taking me to about a dozen countries a year and this is what I’ve seen: In one year, guns murdered: 27 in Australia, 59 in England and Wales, 60 in Spain, 190 in Canada… and 10,177 in the US. …

“… [in the U.S.] we have around 90 guns for every 100 people, almost as many guns as people. The runner up was India, with about 4 guns per 100 people.”

Mass shootings: Explore the Data on U.S. Mass Killings Since 2006

“Mass killings — defined by the FBI as four or more victims, not including the killer — have occurred across the U.S. at the rate of about one every two weeks since 2006.”

Syria: * Syria Explained: How It Became a Religious War [required reading]; * In Syria, Doctors Risk Life and Juggle Ethics

* “How did Syria go from an internal uprising to a wider clash drawing funding and fighters from across the region? In a word, Middle East experts say, religion.”

* “The country’s once-functioning health system is in a shambles. More than half of its public hospitals have been damaged in the two-year-old civil war and 37 percent are out of service entirely …”

War: Justifying War: A Conversation with Nigel Biggar

“Professor Nigel Biggar is the Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology and Canon of Christ Church, Oxford. He also directs the McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics & Public Life. … His most recent book is In Defence of War, published by Oxford University Press. This week he spoke to David Lincicum and Michael Law about just war, human nature, forgiveness as a non-religious act of morality, and whether Christianity is inherently pacifistic — and he tangles with Stanley Hauerwas over realism.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Anger & grief: How to Best Handle Your Anger in Grief

“In order to get a handle on anger in your grief journey, you may want to remember the following facts …”

Christians, persecution, & Syria: The Coptic Church in Peril

“It looks like the Coptic church may well go the route of the Assyrian church which was also expelled from the middle east by persecution.”

Church, mental health, & mental illness: Mental Illness and the Church: New Research on Mental Health from LifeWay Research

“Medicine is not the answer to everything, and we live in an over-medicated world, but we need to treat character problems like character problems—and illnesses like illness. I wish more Christians saw that.”

Consumerism, employment, idolatry, money, simplicity & work: * Pope Attacks Global Economics for ‘worshipping ‘god of money’; * 10 Common Objections to Minimalism

* “‘The world has become an idolator of this god called money,’ he said. … Francis … ended his improvised speech with a prayer asking God to ‘give us work and teach us to fight for work.’”

* “… what’s holding you back from exploring what minimalism has to offer?”

Internet & privacy: 9 Tips for Keeping Your Internet Usage Private [infographic]

“… follow these nine tips for keeping your Internet usage private …”

a prayer with Syria in mind

 

God, my Father, hear me in the name of your Son, my Lord, Jesus.

My heart bleeds for the people of Syria; all of them.

The young and the old.

The bitter and the blessed.

The innocent and the guilty.

The orphans and the widows.

The Muslims and the Christians.

 The powerful and the powerless.

The grieving and those who are yet to grieve.

Father, stop this bloodshed.

Humble the proud and lift up those who think like you.

Break the unending cycle of violence and kick-start mercy.

Soften the hearts that are hardened and the minds that are clouded.

Prevent escalation of enmity and enlighten all who seek holy answers to anger.

Give the leaders of the nations your wisdom and the peoples of the nations hope.

Defeat now those you would have defeated and deliver those you would have delivered.

Raise up active, courageous people of peace and cast down those who work destruction and death.

So none would perish before they seek you and find you.

Amen.

links: this went thru my mind (on violence)

 

9/11, fear, priorities & terrorism: The Emotional and Spiritual Aftermath of 9/11 and Boston

“Strikingly, nearly three out of four Americans say that terrorism prevention is equal to or more important a priority than things like the preservation of families, immigration, healthcare, unemployment and education. Even 12 years after the 9/11 attacks, it would seem the threat of terrorism remains a powerful public motivator in America. For example, in a head-to-head prioritization, Americans rank terrorism prevention with nearly equal importance as family preservation (40% rank it higher and 38% rank it lower. The remaining 22% said they should be equal priorities.)

“The generational differences of opinion reveal an intriguing pattern when it comes to terrorism: Millennials, currently ages 18 to 29, are among the most likely to prioritize preventing terrorism above other social concerns.”

Football & full-contact sports: * Our Shaken Faith in Football; * Is Football Too Violent? 11 Reflections on My Christianity Today Essay

* “If the NFL is effectively admitting that the game of football causes physical harm to the tune of nearly a billion dollars, does it behoove Christians to reconsider the game’s violence? I think it does.”

* “I just wrote this Christianity Today piece on football violence in light of the NFL’s nearly $765-million settlement with injured players. It’s stirred up a bit of interaction on Twitter, so say the least … [And so, here are a] few thoughts based on the response to the essay.”

Gun violence, shootings & youth: Program Fights Gun Violence Bravado With ‘Story Of Suffering’

“… Cradle to Grave, a violence prevention program … brings small groups of at-risk youth to the hospital to show them what getting shot is really like.”

Nonviolence & pacifism: Christian Pacifism: Relevant Beyond Syria [required reading]

“… many people fail to realize that Christian pacifism goes beyond just being philosophically opposed to war and violence — it’s about being a peacemaker. Instead of anti-violence and anti-war — it’s pro-peace. It’s not just about avoiding war and violence, it’s about bringing peace. There’s a big difference.

“Christian pacifism is proactive, doing everything possible to bring about peace (without the use of violence). Pacifism isn’t an ideology reserved only for when nations and armies go to war, but it’s a personal decision that should be incorporated within our everyday lives.”

Syria & war: * 9 Questions about Syria You were too Embarrassed to Ask [required reading]; * Respond, But How? What We’re Missing On Syria; * I Support War with Syria, Almost; Brutality of Syrian Rebels Posing Dilemma in West [satire]; * Brutality of Syrian Rebels Pose Dilemma in West; * Intervention in the Third World: A Case for Masterly Inactivity [required reading]; * Shane Claiborne’s Statement on Syria; * What I – a Pacifist – Would say to Obama About the Crisis In Syria [essential reading; outstanding!]

* “If you found the above sentence kind of confusing, or aren’t exactly sure why Syria is fighting a civil war, or even where Syria is located, then this is the article for you. What’s happening in Syria is really important, but it can also be confusing and difficult to follow even for those of us glued to it. Here, then, are the most basic answers to your most basic questions.”

* “When a head of state is responsible for the deaths of 100,000 of his people and has used chemical weapons against innocent civilians — the world needs to respond. … Doing nothing is not an option. But how should we respond, and what are moral principles for that response?”

* “War against Syria? Sure! Let’s do it! I’m game. I think it sounds like a great idea, personally. Or, it would be a great idea if …”

* “… while the United States has said it seeks policies that would strengthen secular rebels and isolate extremists, the dynamic on the ground, as seen in the execution video from Idlib and in a spate of other documented crimes, is more complicated than a contest between secular and religious groups.”

* “Cast your mind back to the 1950s, the last time U.S. policy was in the hands of an experienced and crafty general, who knew well the foolish advice military men often give civil authorities and could see through the machinations of the hydra-headed creature he baptized “the military-industrial complex.” General Dwight D. Eisenhower was President from 1953-61, a time when America’s superiority over the rest of the world was far greater than it is today. He received countless invitations and demands for U.S. intervention but always refused them. Only once, in 1958 and at the request of Lebanon’s president, Camille Chamoun, did Eisenhower agree to station troops for a short while. He withdrew them as soon as possible, three months later, without having fired a shot.

“Eisenhower’s record of nonintervention is worth studying … Ike recognized that getting involved in a military adventure was very easy, especially if you had the resources. But getting uninvolved was quite another matter and entailed the very real risk of humiliation and defeat. He therefore concluded it was best to say no–and did so.”

* “… you cannot fight fire with fire, you only get a bigger fire. You fight fire with water. You fight violence with nonviolence.”

* “I don’t believe Jesus’ and Paul’s teaching on the need for disciples to adopt an enemy-loving, non-violent lifestyle was ever intended to serve as a mandate for how governments are supposed to respond to evil.”