links: this went thru my mind

 

Church, relationships & the marginalized: What of the Marginalized Christians?

“When Jesus ministered to people in the margins, the majority of them were people who were in the margins of Judaism, the church. They were already a part of the faith.”

Computing: 8 Essential Browser Tips & Tricks

“The Web browser is a funny thing. It’s one of the most-used computer programs, but many people don’t really understand it. … Today, I’m helping you get the most out of your browser with a few simple tricks that you really need to know.”

Justice, penal system, prison, punishment & solitary confinement: Solitary Confinement: 29 Years in a Box

“Prisoners in solitary confinement tend to be restricted to cells of 80 square feet, not much larger than a king-size bed.”

Marriage: How Do I Get My Wife to Love Me Again?

“A man seldom understands (this man included) how different a woman is from a man.”

Ministry: Three Smooth Stones for Ministry

“Ministry is about the two most unpredictable forces in the world–the Spirit of God and human beings. There’s little predicting to be done, or little cause and effect logic to be implemented when these are the primary mediums involved in your work.”

Non-resistance, nonviolence, pacifism & violence: The Case for Non-Resistance– Part One [essential reading]

“The nations of this world employ physical weapons of offense and defense. When Jesus announced His new nation, He needed to clarify the character of His nation with respect to the use of force.”

this went thru my mind (on violence)

 

V-for-violenceApologies, reconciliation & torture: Britain Apologizes For Colonial-Era Torture Of Kenyan Rebels

“A 60-year-old wound in Kenya has finally found its recompense. Last week, the British government finalized an out-of-court settlement with thousands of Kenyans who were tortured in detention camps during the end of the British colonial reign. The historic apology — and the unprecedented settlement — has been years in the making.”

Bible, children & violence: Is the Bible Too Violent for Kids?

“How did you balance the need to convey the Biblical message and keep it age appropriate? How do you respond to the modern desire to keep children from being exposed to the violence in the Bible?”

Christians, hypocrisy, prayer & the military: The Hypocrisy of a Warring Christian

“Just stop and think about it for a minute. Every Sunday, if not every single day, thousands, if not millions, of prayers are offered up in the name of the Prince of Peace begging the God of all reconciliation to please end all wars and ‘bring the boys home safely.’ We pray for our leaders to make wise decisions about the use of our tax dollars. We pray for love and charity to overwhelm the powers of hate and evil.

“And we scream like a bunch of scalded dogs when the military suggests that we no longer need the base down the street. …

“Christian brothers and sisters – can we not stop and think about this for a moment? Of what earthly or heavenly good does it do to pray for peace, of what earthly or heavenly good does it do for us to pray that God end all wars if we proudly and stubbornly refuse to turn our swords into plows? And why, among all peoples, are disciples of Christ among the most vociferous defenders of our killing machines?”

Drones: “I felt like a sociopath” – Drone Operator Says He Is Haunted By The 1,600 He Killed

“[Brandon] Bryant, now 27, served as a drone sensor operator from 2006 to 2011, at bases in Nevada, New Mexico and in Iraq, guiding unmanned drones over Iraq and Afghanistan. Though he didn’t fire missiles himself he took part in missions that he was told led to the deaths of an estimated 1,626 individuals. In an interview with NBC News, he provided a rare first-person glimpse into what it’s like to control the controversial machines that have become central to the U.S. effort to kill terrorists.”

Gun control: Democrats Quietly Renew Push for Gun Measures

“Americans remain broadly supportive of legislation that expands background checks on gun purchases but are skeptical that such a bill will pass.”

Gun sales: Smith & Wesson Booked Record Sales as Gun Debate Raged

“The past 12 months have been bad for gun violence, but good for Smith & Wesson. The gun maker reported preliminary results Thursday showing that sales for the fiscal year ended April 30 hit a record $588 million, a 43% increase versus the year prior.”

Military expenditures: F-35 Fighter Jet Struggles to Take Off

“After a decade of administrative problems, cost overruns and technical glitches, the F-35 is still not ready for action. … The GAO estimated the program would cost an unprecedented $12.6 billion a year on average through 2037 — that’s an average of about $1.4 million an hour for the next two and a half decades. The per-plane cost estimates have climbed to $161 million today from $81 million in 2001, the GAO said.”

this went thru my mind (on violence)

 

V-for-violenceAggression, bullying & reality television: Our Unhealthy Love of Reality TV Bullying

“Reality TV shows twice the number of aggressive acts as other shows.”

Creativity & weapons: * DIY Weapons of the Syrian Rebels; * RAWtools: AK47s into Farm Tools

“Homemade grenades are launched by jury-rigged shotguns or giant slingshots in the urban battlefields of Aleppo and Damascus. Gathered here are a few examples of the hand-built munitions of the Syrian rebels. [38 photos]“

“Our Mennonite blacksmith friends, Mike and Fred, have been inspired by the “beat your swords into plows… and study war no more” vision of the prophets Micah and Isaiah. After 9/11 they heard that some of the metal from the twin towers was recycled and used for a warship. After hearing of that, they caught the vision for RAWtools, Inc.(turning “war” around and cultivating life instead of death) – check them out: www.rawtools.org Now they have invited folks around the country to donate their weapons. From each semi-automatic, they can make several garden tools – which will actually be fully functional and ready for use …”

Entertainment & torture: Is This (Torture as Entertainment) What We Have Come To?

“From a Christian point of view, if not just a civilized one, torture is wrong because it violates the dignity of a person created in God’s image and likeness. I would like to suggest that torture in movies (and some TV shows) has become a new form of pornography.”

Gun control & military leaders: Retired Military Leaders Demand That Congress Act Now to Reduce Gun Violence

“Mayors Against Illegal Guns today released a new ad featuring retired military leaders calling on Congress to take immediate action and pass sensible gun reforms that will help stop the epidemic of gun murders that claims the lives of 33 Americans every day. The ad can be viewed below and at www.DemandAPlan.org/Military … Featured in the ad are Rear Admiral (Ret.) James A. Barnett Jr., USN; Brigadier General (Ret.) Stephen A. Cheney, USMC; Major General (Ret.) Paul Eaton, USA; RADM Malcolm MacKinnon III, USN (Ret.); Lieutenant General (Ret.) Charles P. Otstott, USA; and Brigadier General (Ret.) Stephen N. Xenakis, MD, USA.”

Homelessness, MST, veterans & women: Female Veterans Face Limbo in Lives on the Street

“… returning servicewomen are facing a battlefield of a different kind: they are now the fastest growing segment of the homeless population … While male returnees become homeless largely because of substance abuse and mental illness, experts say that female veterans face those problems and more, including the search for family housing and an even harder time finding well-paying jobs. But a common pathway to homelessness for women, researchers and psychologists said, is military sexual trauma, or M.S.T., from assaults or harassment during their service, which can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder.”

hell: a final word, reviewed (part 2)

 

Understanding the Bible is not a simple matter. Contrary to how I was first taught, not just “anyone with one eye and half sense can quickly understand it.” Indeed, there is little that is truly “simple” about it.

Of course, a great deal of the difficulty comes from the many misunderstandings that surround it. No small amount of my life has consisted of shedding false understandings. What I was told the Bible taught and what I found it to actually teach has often been two very different things. This has been true of topics as widely varied as divorce and remarriage, just war, poverty, and the work of the Holy Spirit, not to mention the very character of God himself.

However, coming to awareness that there was actually a decided difference between my understanding of a matter and that of Scripture has often not been a quick or easy matter. In most instances, it has taken years of study and prayer, coupled with people crossing my path and challenging my thinking, to change my views. For some of those changes in perspective I have paid a personal price, sometimes quite high, but it has led to a clarity and grounding in my conscience that is priceless.

My development in understanding the ultimate end of the wicked has followed this same difficult path and I know that I am not alone in this matter. Further, I know there are many Christians who remain secretly – and needlessly – tormented and unsettled on this subject. And why? Precisely because it touches on the character of God and the nature of human beings.

Though it may come as a surprise to some, there are a variety of views of hell among those who claim faith in Christ and who hold to the Bible as God’s communication with humankind. These views fall essentially into three categories: the traditionalist perspective, the universalist position, and the conditionalist (aka: annihilationist) understanding.

The traditionalist perspective is dominant. It’s understanding of hell is that those who will not submit to, and are, therefore, not saved by Christ, will suffer everlasting torment in hell. Hell is for people and people will quite literally be tortured there by fire forever.

Universalists take the opposite position, that no human will be tormented in hell forever, for all will ultimately be saved by God. Rob Bell’s recent book Love Wins (HarperOne, 2011) is perhaps the best known recent description of, and argument for, the universalist view.

While these two views might seem to cover all of the bases, there is, however, a third view, the conditionalist (aka: annihilationist) understanding of things. The conditionalist’s perspective is that while God will certainly and actively punish the wicked, they will ultimately suffer the ultimate punishment, being annihilated. The wicked will, one day, entirely cease to exist.

Here, allow me to introduce a personal note. Though my parents were not Christians, I was raised to believe that there is a God, that there is only one God, and that this one God is very good. Though it was not the evidence offered to me by my parents, the evidence for such that proved most persuasive for me on these matters was found in creation itself. Nature spoke, and still speaks, volumes to me of God.

Across the years, only two things have seriously challenged my belief in such a God and one of those was the teaching and preaching on hell to which I was exposed in church when I began my journey with Christ. What I was taught the Bible said about hell came across as a strong contradiction of the character of the God I thought I had come to know, and continued to seek through the Scriptures.

My personal conflict, my secret quandary, was completely resolved upon the publication (1982) and my reading (about 1986) of Edward Fudge’s book The Fire That Consumes. Words simply cannot express my elation upon my discovery and digestion of this work. It’s description and development of the conditionalist perspective of God and Scripture not only fully addressed all of my questions, but did so in a compelling way. Now in its third edition, that book continues to provide strong light and guidance for me on the subject that challenged my heart and mind so early on in my walk with God’s Spirit. I owe Edward William Fudge a debt I can never repay and few days go by that I do not thank God for this brother of mine in Christ.

However, for years I’ve longed for the essence of that large volume, The Fire That Consumes, to be distilled into a much briefer and more readily readable format that I could confidently share with family and friends. And so, I’m thrilled to say that very longing has been fulfilled with the publication of Edward’s work entitled Hell: A Final Word. The serious Bible student or academic can appreciate the content and format of The Fire That Consumes, while everyman can easily engage Hell: A Final Word. This is the volume many of us have been waiting for and it does not disappoint. Thank you Edward, and thank you, Lord!

The text of Hell: The Final Word is divided into quickly readable portions, the vast majority of the text (pp. 13-172) being divided into fifty-one chapters. There is no multitude of footnotes in this work as was the case with The Fire That Consumes. In fact, there are no footnotes at all, just twenty-four brief endnotes (pp. 187-188).

There is nothing left dangling or assumed in the reasoning presented. Every stone is turned over and considered and no stones are thrown. The argumentation is coherent and tight, linear and clear, without in any way being argumentative. Grace and graciousness is pervasive in all of Edward Fudge’s work and this book is by no means an exception. Indeed, it is not only a true pleasure to read but, unlike most detailed presentations of Biblical teaching I have seen, is truly “a page turner.”

I can find virtually nothing I dislike about this work. Perhaps I would rather have seen the quiz (pp. 177-186) serve as a tantalizing introduction instead of appearing as something like at appendix. This Q & A alone is worth the price of the book.

The inclusion of a handful of discussion questions every few chapters would have made this work all the more instantly adaptable to use in a small-group or Bible class context.

I would like to have seen references to other works aside from those of Fudge in the chapter entitled “For Further Study” (pp. 175-176), but those who truly want to delve into things deeper need only turn to The Fire That Consumes and will find more than ample references there.

And some of the people I intend to steer toward this book would likely prefer to do without the autobiographical aspects of the work and would rather the author just stick straight to the issue at hand. However, I see the autobiographical style as a tremendous plus, especially to those reading it who have a history in the religious heritage in which Edward Fudge and I are of a part (Churches of Christ).

In sum, this book, like Fudge’s earlier work, The Fire That Consumes, is first rate. It’s precisely the sort of book I will happily be steering people toward for a very long time to come. I can easily see it as a resource for a mini-series in Bible class or for sermons, too. I hope this book finds its way into the hands of a great many, both those who believe already and those who are yet to believe. Would that every Christian would read it.

In short, I say: may this book live long and prosper, and may the same hold true for its author.

this went thru my mind

 

Bible reading: Six Steps for Reading Your Bible

“So, how is it going with your Bible reading for 2012? I know many of you have made the commitment to read through God’s Word this year, and I am proud of you for accepting the challenge. … Here are a few tips for staying the course and completing the process of reading through God’s Word.”

Church contribution: Five Ways to Make Giving Easier to Your Church

“We have to make it easy for people to give!”

House church movement: The Struggle With House Churches

“Despite the assertion from the house church movement that the house church is the normative, biblical model it’s not. House churches are culturally formed models that meet cultural conditions. So far our experience is that the congregational model, a mid to large size community of God’s people, is still the most effective form or model for new churches in America.”

Life in Christ: Converting from Christianity to Christ

“When I was young, I decided to convert from my self-centered life to the religious life. Since then, I have been converting from the religious life to Christ’s way of life. There is a difference. A huge one.”

Meditation: Resist “Swish and Spit” Devotions

“What did you read yesterday? No, not what chapter, but what did you read? What from God’s Word got a hold of you to produce a response? Did anything evoke conviction or delight? Did something particular from your reading explode in your heart with thanksgiving?

“Hopefully the answer is yes. But too often the answer is, ‘Wait. Hold on. …I can’t remember.’

“This reminds me of childhood trips to the dentist. Do you recall after the dentist put that horrific fluoride treatment in your mouth? He then would spray in a bunch of water that you would lean over and (try to) spit in the small circular sink next to your head.

“Sadly too many of us have a ‘swish and spit’ devotional life. We grab a little Bible reading, swish it around in the morning, then spit it out on the way out the door. The treasures from the Word don’t get swallowed and digested but rather spit out quickly.

“How do you combat dental chair devotions? One word: meditation.”

Millennial generation: How to Lead Millenials

“A good friend asked me the other day my thoughts on how to lead the millennial generation, basically those born after 1980. We gather thousands of leaders who fit this category on an annual basis, and most of our Catalyst staff are under the age of 30.”

Nationalism: The Nazis and Christianity: Is History Repeating Itself?

“For now, I just want to point this out for two reasons. First, this is, in my judgment, the biggest problem facing Christianity in America. Secondly, I also want to stress the need for teaching the Bible, as well as Christian theology and church history among churches. We can learn from what happened in Germany that both nationalism as well as biblical, theological, and historical ignorance are cancers to the Christian faith as well as cancers to society.”

Possessions: Don’t Just Declutter, De-own

“… organizing our stuff (without removing it) has some other major shortcomings that are rarely considered …”

Reversal: Black Church Wins Klan Shop Ruling

“After a lengthy legal battle between a black South Carolina church and members of the Ku Klux Klan, a judge has ruled that the church owns a building where KKK robes and T-shirts are sold.”

Success: The Dangerous Side of Success

“An article out of the business section of this week’s Wall Street Journal, ‘Kodak Teeters on the Brink,’ tells the painful story of Kodak. After thirteen highly successful decades, the film and camera company is on the ropes. It is preparing to seek bankruptcy protection. … There’s much the church can learn from all of this, for church cultures are prone to the same thing—to achieve some success and then become satisfied, content, turning insular, rigid—oblivious to the warning Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, who once said: ‘When the rate of change inside an organization is slower than the rate of change outside of an organization, the end of the organization is in sight.’”

United States of America: America Shall Not Be Exceptional

“We had it right in 1998 when we published these words to the United Nations: “Torture is prohibited by law throughout the United States. It is categorically denounced as a matter of policy and as a tool of state authority. Every act constituting torture under the Convention constitutes a criminal offense under the law of the United States. No official of the Government, federal, state or local, civilian or military, is authorized to commit or to instruct anyone else to commit torture. Nor may any official condone or tolerate torture in any form. No exceptional circumstances may be invoked as a justification of torture.”

War in Iraq: The Forgotten Wages of War

“As is our habit, the discussion focused on the costs to America in blood and treasure, the false premises of the war and the continuing challenges of instability in the region. What happened to Iraqis was largely ignored. … We rarely question that wars cause extensive damage, but our view of America’s wars has been blind to one specific aspect of destruction: the human toll of those who live in war zones.”

Wonder: How to Stay Astonished in Five Simple Steps

“I know…we’re too busy to be astonished. … So here’s five simple things to turn up your astonishment on any given day.”

this went thru my mind

College: An Open Letter to a College Freshman by Timothy Dalrymple.

God, humanity & legalism: Dust & Grace by Richard Beck.

Gospels: You’re away of what is commonly known as “The Synoptic Problem,” but have you ever wished you could see a graphic depiction of how much the Synoptic gospels do, and do not, have in common? Now you can. Relationships Between the Synoptic Gospels.

Income, insurance & poverty: U.S. Census Bureau: Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2010.

Job: John Mark Hicks is sharing his in-depth notes on the book of Job. If you’ve ever wanted to understand this book and wrestle with the issues it raises, this is definitely a series to follow. Here’s a link to the first post in the series on his site. Reading Job: A Structural Guide by John Mark Hicks.

Judging: 20 New Ways to Judge Others by Joshua Becker is not sarcastic, but serious.

Mercy: Family of alleged hate-killing opposes death penalty in case.

Torture: This tragic story deserves much more press than it is receiving and should give us all pause. The Soldier Who Killed Herself After Refusing to Take Part in Torture.

Violence: On the Moral Example of Jack Sparrow by Richard Beck.

Women: John T. Willis’ carefully reasoned, Biblically-grounded, ongoing series on the role of women in ministry continues. Biblical Female Teachers, Deacons, Elders, Preachers (part 3) by John T. Willis.

this went thru my mind

Action: That’s what should arise from our adoption of Christ’s values. But how far do we go with that? Peter Rollins’ post I Believe in Child Labour, Sweatshops and Torture will make you think … and perhaps even act.

Apocrypha: You’ve known for years that some Christian groups “have extra books in their Bible.” You’ve wondered about that, but have never bothered to read about such to know what’s up with that. Bobby Valentine’s post entitled The Apocrypha: Reading Between the Testaments is your chance to learn.

Archaeology: Imagine excavating an ancient building and discovering that it was a museum. A place very old housing things even older. If that sounds interesting to you, then you’d enjoy Alasdair’s Wilkins’ post entitled The Story Behind the World’s Oldest Museum, Built by a Babylonian Princess 2,500 years Ago.

Bible: * First, did you notice the Snapshot in the Tuesday, May 24 print edition of USA Today? The question posed by a LifeWay Research survey to 1,004 adult Americans back in March of this year was quite simple: “How often do you read the Bible?” The results? “At least once a month” – 53%. “Rarely” – 22%. “Never” – 24%. “Don’t know” – 1%. Now, when 47% of Americans at best “rarely” read their Bible, I have to wonder: (a) why does anyone at all think the United States is “a Christian nation” and (b) if the results would have been vastly different if the same question had been posed only to “church going” folks? Or do I really want to know? * Second: N.T. Wright on Bible translation. Need I say more? Good stuff. Need a sample? “When people ask me which version of the Bible they should use, I have for many years told them that I don’t much mind as long as they always have at least two open on the desk. … The finest translations are still, basically, a matter of trying to play a Beethoven symphony on a mouth-organ.” Read Lost and Found in Translation: From 1611 to 2011.

Civil religion: It’s Memorial Day weekend and the 4th of July will be here before we know it. All of which puts to the fore the subject of civil religion. A number of fine, thoughtful posts on the subject appeared this week and Avoiding Civil Religion (Four Conversations) has links to several of them. Definitely required reading, especially the series by Dan Martin.

Disasters: * Storms and tornadoes of late have ravished a number of states recently, Alabama, Missouri, Oklahoma, and more. It affects us all, even in ways we may not recognize. And that’s what Kurt Willems’ fine post The Natural Disaster of Empathy Overload is about. * How do you talk with your children about such tragedies? Dale Hudson’s series entitled Talking to Children About Disaster should be a part of your reading. Here are links to part one and part two of that series.

Gospel: Tim Woodroof is starting a series entitled Packing the Gospel and I eagerly anticipate reading what he has to say.

Hell: No matter your take on things, I dare say you will never see the Bible’s teaching on hell as you did before once you read Edward Fudge‘s book The Fire That Consumes. The third edition of this marvelous, deep study has just been released. If you’re interested, ask me about how you can purchase an inscribed copy.

Judging: I preached on such just this past Sunday morning and Trey Morgan’s post entitled Guilty of Being Too Merciful serves as a good adjunct to that sermon. More than once I’ve had the very same experience as described in this article. Well said, brother.

Marriage: Married Couples Are No Longer a Majority says the headlines. The thinking of many Millenials is only a part, but still a part, of the reason why.

Reading: Read this list of the top twenty most well-read cities in the United States and notice where they fall on the map. Not much in the South and not at all in Texas. Hmmm. And here’s some good advice for people like me: Advice for Slow Readers.

Social networking: This CNN report entitled 10 fascinating Facebook facts and what they say about us and Toni Birdsong’s post entitled 10 Things We Wish Pastors Would “Get” About Social Media should be read together.

World religions: The subject of other religions will be our focus one night in our upcoming Wednesday night Summer Series at MoSt Church (The Reason for God). If you’d like to get a jump on that subject, you’d do well to note Ed Stetzer’s interview of Irving Hexham on Understanding World Religions.