links: this went thru my mind

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Here are links to five articles that I’ve found to be interesting and helpful reading.

Aggression, American Sniper, Chris Kyle, cinema, distortion, film, miscommunication, myth, nationalism, patriotism & war: Why I Refuse to See ‘American Sniper’ [essential reading]

“When you have experienced firsthand the multitude of ways war wreaks havoc on families, you have little tolerance for the mythmaking that war always seems to invoke. Not to mention the patriotic, almost nationalistic fervor that accompanies a flag-draped coffin.”

Alexander the Great, Amphipolis, archaeology & Greece: Amphipolis Excavation: Discoveries in Alexander the Great-Era Tomb Dazzle the World

“… since August 2014 … the Ministry of Culture has been gradually releasing to the public the incredible archaeological finds that have been uncovered in what is the largest tomb ever found in Greece. … It has been popularly speculated that the Amphipolis Tomb was built for one of Alexander’s generals or family members—perhaps his mother, Olympias, or his wife, Roxanne. After Alexander’s death, his generals fought over control of the Macedonian Empire, which stretched from the Balkans to what’s now Pakistan and northwest India. Alexander’s mother, wife, son and half-brother were murdered during this time—most near Amphipolis. It’s still not clear for whom the magnificent tomb was built and why the five individuals were buried in the tomb.”

Disabilities & Social Security: Social Security’s Christmas Present: Benefit Cuts for Millions of Disabled Workers

“The fact that benefits need to be cut or taxes raised, or both, to keep Social Security solvent does not justify treating the disabled like second class citizens.”

God, free will & the hardening of hearts: God Hardens Hearts – What Does That Mean?

“God justly responds to people’s wickedness by strengthening their resolve against him. In every instance where Scripture speaks of God hardening someone, it’s an act of judgment in response to decisions these people had already made. God simply ensures that these rebels will do what their own evil hearts desire and not alter course for ulterior motives. But it’s altogether unwarranted to suppose that God unilaterally hardens people’s hearts against himself in the first place—all the while pretending to offer them the hope of salvation! When God decides to harden someone’s heart, we can be assured that God wishes it didn’t have to be that way.”

Leisure, technology, time & work: Speed Kills: Has Technology Destroyed Leisure

“… the fact that we welcome progress, increased convenience and the sheer excitement of speed in different forms—are so deeply entangled with detrimental effects (the stress and feelings of disaffection that come with living a mediated life, the actual physical danger of speed in some cases) that the phenomenon is interesting to analyze but difficult to address.”

links: this went thru my mind

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Brain, health, mental disorders, mental health, & technology: NetBrain: Your Gadgets Could Be Giving You Psychological Problems

“The greatest factor in whether or not someone exhibits NetBrain/iDisorder symptoms is whether or not they own a smartphone.”

Brotherly love, love, Muslims, terror & violence: Loving our Neighbor in an Age of Terror [essential reading]

“I had an interesting conversation with my son last night about the terrible violence in Paris. Among other things we talked about the increase of anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe and here in the United States. Life will be increasingly difficult for average Muslims who are law-abiding and peace-loving citizens of France, other European countries, and the U. S. … There is much that should be said and done in response to this act of evil. Certainly those nearer to the horror are able to help those affected. But where I live, embodying loyalty to Jesus may involve being watchful of how such events can stir up emotions that confuse and perhaps diminish our fundamental loyalty to King Jesus and thus to love our neighbors as ourselves.”

Church, kingdom & the Sermon on the Mount: God Promised Me a Kingdom and All I Got Was This Lousy Church

“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a nation created in the midst of other nations. The other nations are under oppressive rule by illegitimate, even demonic powers. … The church is a colony of heaven on earth.”

Ecology & faith: The Old Testament Isn’t ‘Green’ … Or Is It? [required reading]

“Both radical ‘green’ and radical consumption narratives are at odds with the Old Testament view of the relationship between humans and God’s good creation. The fatalistic narrative that the earth is cursed and we must live with the curse is also at odds with the Old Testament. The people are always called to choose between obedience and blessing or disobedience and cursing. We can and should strive for righteousness and proper wise keeping of God’s creation. Wisdom is the key – always bearing in mind the role that human embrace of evil can play in our perceptions. What does it mean to fill the earth and subdue it? What is the mandate given to humans?”

Happiness & peace: Why “Having a Peace About It” is a Terrible Reason for a Christian to Make a Decision (parts 1 & 2) [essential reading]

“I can’t count the number of times a Christian has said to me that “they have a peace” about a certain decision and therefore plan to move forward. Sometimes they make this decision despite obvious signs that their decision is unwise and not in conformity with the guidance of Scripture. In these cases, a person tends to simply slap a kind of divine mandate on top of what they want to do anyway. When friends or family members try to refute their decision, they simply reply that there is to be no argument because ‘God told them’ or ‘God gave them a peace.’ One example of this kind of mindset can be found on popular Pentecostal writer and speaker Joyce Meyer’s website.”

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

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.”

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.”