links: this went thru my mind

 

Christianity: The Top 20 Countries Where Christianity is Growing the Fastest

“Are you surprised to see that 19 of the countries in the top 20 are in Asia and Africa? Did you notice 11 countries on the top 20 list are Muslim majority countries? Did you catch that not a single country from Europe, Northern America or Latin America makes the top 20 list?”

Civility, hate, Obama, President, racism & respect: Hating President Obama [required reading]

“I know many people who not only hate President Obama, but are proud of doing so.”

Corporal punishment, parenting & spanking: Random Thoughts on Spanking or not Spanking as a Parent

“To spank or not to spank…that’s probably one of the most frequent debates I have heard about parenting. Parents ask me frequently for my opinion on the issue. It is an important, but seldom talked about by those who teach on parenting.”

Culture, death, funerals, grief & mourning: * How Culture Stops Mourners From Healing; * How to Plan for Death

* “Our death denying culture continues to send the message to mourners that the healthiness of an individual’s grief is to be measured by how quickly and proficiently the mourner ‘gets over’ the loss and moves into a productive life. … The problem is that our society considers talk about death and grief as morbid and taboo. Living in an atmosphere where grief emotions and mourning are stifled we mourners sometimes feel forced to carry unexpressed grief and unresolved issues concerning a loss throughout our lives.”

* “As most people know, your death doesn’t only affect you; it affects everyone that you surround yourself with, and it’s important that you leave this world on good terms. There are many ways to make amends with your loved ones before passing, but of these things are a few that stand out above the rest.”

Demographics, Hispanics/Latinos: Mapping the Latino Population, By State, County and City

“Today, the 100 largest counties by Hispanic population contain 71% of all Hispanics. … But the share of all Hispanics who live in these same counties has fallen from 75% in 2000 and 78% in 1990 … reflecting Hispanic population growth outside of these 100 counties. … Half (52%) of those counties are in three states—California, Texas and Florida. Along with Arizona, New Mexico, New York, New Jersey and Illinois, these eight states contain three-quarters (74%) of the nation’s Latino population.”

Denominations: Denominational Diversity in North America: Why Are There So Many Denominations? [required reading]

“Why do denominations form? Why are there so many of them? These are complex questions with even more complex answers. Every denomination has its own unique mix of factors that influenced its origins. At the risk of over-simplifying, we can identify several of these factors that led to many denominations …”

Earth & geography: Another ‘Grand Canyon’ Discovered Beneath Greenland’s Ice

“Scientists reported Thursday that they’ve discovered a vast canyon, twice as long as the Grand Canyon. It carves a deep scar from the center of the world’s largest island out to the coast. And, oh … it’s buried beneath as much as two miles of ice. Yes, we’re talking about icy Greenland.”

God: Thinking about God Makes Me Just Want to Keep My Mouth Shut [required reading]

“I think this is what God laughing at us looks like.”

Grace: Max Lucado Goes Overboard on Grace

“The apostle Paul never seemed to exhaust the topic of grace—what makes us think we can? He just kept coming at it and coming at it from another angle. That’s the thing about grace. It’s like springtime. You can’t put it in a single sentence definition, and you can’t exhaust it. No other philosophy or religion has anything quite like this idea that God takes the initiative and comes after us—not just to save us, but also to sustain us.”

Income tax & poverty: 43% Pay No Federal Income Taxes

“The majority this year — nearly 67% — have incomes below $30,000. … A misconception about those who end up owing no federal income taxes — especially those with low incomes — is that they pay no taxes at all. In fact, most pay payroll taxes to support Medicare and Social Security as well as sales taxes and state and local taxes.”

Prayer: 6 Ways to Pray the Lord’s Prayer

“Use it as a model. … Pray the prayer word for word. … Set aside certain times to pray the prayer. … Pray it with others. … Pray it in private. … Designate a certain part of the prayer to pray each day.”

Tradition: * Tradition: Chronological Snobbery [required reading]; * Restoring The Future

* “I’m part of a movement called Churches of Christ, and if you think back on the history of Churches of Christ or the Restoration Movement, you will see we effectively married ourselves to the Spirit of the age, only we were unaware of it at the time. This is why churches that are planted in different parts of the country and the world look so very similar to a 1970′s Texas or Oklahoma Church of Christ…even if they are in California in 2013. We tied our theology to our methodology, and kept answering the questions that people were asking back in 1970, even if no one was asking those same questions today. And this is mostly because we didn’t allow any Church Tradition to guide us.”

* “Some get stuck in the past. Others get stuck in the present. Paul wants his friend in Philippi to keep looking ahead.”

this went thru my mind

 

Bible literacy & reading: What People Quote vs. What They Read

“… people read the Bible primarily as a loosely organized collection of inspiring quotes surrounded by confusing babble … this way of reading the Bible is a rejection of the flow and structure of the canon.”

Children, parenting & technology: Resisting the Siren Call of the Screen [required reading]

“The message we communicate to our kids, she writes, is: ‘Everybody else matters more than you.’ Children, she declares, ‘are tired of being the ‘call waiting’ in their parents’ lives.’”

Church, community, discipleship, faith & fellowship: Passing on the Faith in a Makeshift Choir Stall

“It’s hard to pass on the faith … when people of different age groups don’t engage each other intimately.”

Faith & youth: On Moralistic Therapeutic Deism as U.S. Teenagers’ Actual, Tacit, De Facto Religious Faith [essential reading]

“Here we summarize our observations in venturing a general thesis about teenage religion and spirituality in the United States. … The creed of this religion, as codified from what emerged from our interviews with U.S. teenagers, sounds something like this …”

Tradition: Breaking Tradition [essential reading]

“… every tradition, at one point, was a break with the status quo. Every tradition started off with trying to do something new and fresh and compelling. And over time, what was once revolutionary becomes static and codified. We stop paying attention to what the tradition was trying to do, and only focus on what it did.”

this went thru my mind

 

Brotherly love: What Does It Mean To Lay Down Your Life for Your Brother? 1 John 3:16-18

“John tells us that, like Jesus, we ought to lay down our lives for others. No surprise there, but notice the example he gives of what this looks like. He doesn’t tell of a Christian dying for another Christian. John’s illustration of how to lay down your life for others is to help someone in need. The truth of the matter is, few of us will ever die for another person, while all of us have the opportunity to put others first on a daily basis.”

Christianity: The Shifting Global Church [infographic]

“* 4,300 people were leaving the church in Europe and North America while 16,500 people were coming in in Africa. * In a hundred years’ time, Africa has grown by 36x while Europe has only doubled. * China is currently the fastest region of growth at 16,500 new Christians a day, despite strong governmental resistance.”

Guidance & heart: Follow Your Heart – Why That’s a Bad Idea

“Obedience is that guide. Anything else is a bad idea.”

Ministry & success: Wanting vs Needing Your Church To Be Successful [essential reading]

“A definition of success that focuses solely on numbers (attendance, offerings) is unhealthy (for the pastor) and unrealistic. My experience in working with pastors and the churches they lead has shown time after time that a church can be healthy and not grow. I’ve also come to realize that a church can be unhealthy and grow. Strange as that may sound, it is true. I don’t think it’s necessary, or wise, to ignore attendance and offerings, but what is necessary is to find a definition of success that has very little to do with numbers.”

Persecution: Paper-Cut Persecution

“I have found myself coming across a lot of in the media and online from North American Christians referring to themselves as suffering for their faith or even being persecuted. Almost without exception, when I dig into their issues it most often is a situation where Christians have lost a place of privilege in our culture (one that we should perhaps not have had in the first place), but are responding to it as though they are being put to the rack.”

Repentance: How To Repent When You Want To But You Don’t Want To

“Repentance requires greater intimacy with God than with our sins! Intimacy with God is still out on the frontier for many who have been in the church for decades.  Closeness with God has been suffocated by sincere (yet often empty) intimacy with church attendance, brand of church attendance, projects to involve the church attenders, and the ever-famous “decent and in order” form of the church attenders.  Much of church has been everything but intimacy with God. But we are learning.”

Tradition: Tradition: How To Stick It to the Man

“‘Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.’ – Jaroslav Pelikan

this went thru my mind

 

Bibliolatry: Harm in Holy Things

“Many Christians are much more at ease with studying the Bible than coming to Jesus. Reading a Book is safer, more comfortable than relating to a Person, especially an enigmatic, revolutionary Person like Jesus.  Insidious pride lurks in our hearts when we presume to know the Book, possess it, revere it and then misuse it to fence off undesirable types of people from our tidy lives. People, well-intentioned, begin to substitute finding something new and refreshing in the Bible without ever relating to the holy, very present God.”

Communication, courtesy, relationships, respect, smartphones & technology: How Smart Phones Lower CQ [required reading]

“Technology is not the enemy. And cold turkey approaches are unrealistic. … But we can reclaim control over our technology, rather than merely being seduced by its pings. A few simple ways to begin, when you travel and when you’re home.”

Faith, politics & prayer: * What President Obama SHOULD Have Said About Louie Giglio by Michael Lukaszewski; * Four Myths about Louie Giglio’s Inauguration Prayer (Or Lack Thereof) by Rachel Held Evans

* “As the President of the United States, I ask for the prayers of all Americans, those who share the beliefs of this administration and those who do not.”

* “We also have to be careful of using the word “bully” to describe what happened with Giglio, especially when we are dialoguing with folks whose experience with ‘bullying’ may very well have included physical violence, decades of merciless taunts, hateful slurs, and mistreatment at the hands of Christians.”

Food stamps & welfare: Spike That Email About Welfare And Work; Fact Checkers Say It’s Not True by Mark Memmott

“If you’ve gotten the “Death Spiral” email that’s apparently been arriving in many inboxes, here’s the verdict from two major, nonpartisan fact checkers: It is NOT true, as the email claims, that in 11 states there are more people on welfare than there are working.”

Humility: Well Done Dr. Neller by Jonathan Storment

“… each of us have a canon within a canon. That is, everyone who reads the Bible, privileges certain verses over others, and it’s important to acknowledge which passages we lean into. Because, he said, this will affect the way you do ministry and the way you view God.”

Investigation, learning, questioning, teachability & tradition: When Cute Little Bunnies Talk Theology [required reading]

“Of course, the point of this bunny dialogue is applicable not just to creationism but to other issues of theological disagreement where the familiarity and safety of an ‘authoritative tradition’ collides with thoughtful and needed exploration that challenges that authority.”

50 things I once believed (3)

 

So, how and why did I come to change my mind about these matters of my faith? I see at least seven steps common to virtually all of my change in belief.

First, someone challenged my thinking. In essence, they dared to say to me, “I respectfully disagree, and here’s why.” It wasn’t a matter of confrontation or debate, simply a clear and respectful challenge (let me underscore the word “respectful”). Someone dared to ask me why I believed what I believed, patiently listened to my response, and then either deliberately tried to set up a checkpoint of thought in my path or tried to plant in my mind the seed of a differing view.

In a few words, they disagreed with me without being disagreeable about it. As a result, I learned, and continue to learn, to welcome, rather than resent, questions about my faith.

Second, I dared to truly consider what the person had said or written. Actually “consider” isn’t a strong enough word; “ponder” is more accurate. But we’re talking baby steps here; consider, then ponder! This is often no easy thing to do, particularly given the speed at which we live our lives today and how so very much competes for our attention every minute of every day. Distractions are about us like the air; they’re everywhere. But unless a thought, especially a challenging thought, has time to settle deep into our mind, we will never open ourselves up to the chance of changing our mind.

If I changed my mind about something, it was because I didn’t let things go in one ear and straight out the other. This could very well be the most personally challenging of all the steps I’ll list here, for a full and busy life is not a friend to reflection.

Third, I talked with God about these things with faith. I prayed for God to shed his light on the matter. I asked him to show me if I was wrong, where I was mistaken, and what path to take. I trusted him to lead me to a better understanding and practice of his will. I believed he would cross my path with the people, places, things, and experiences that would answer my requests of him.

I believe he did. And I believe he does.

Fourth, I sought more information from the person who planted the seed. This rarely happened at the time of the question or challenge, but came about instead after pondering the matter a bit. It was as simple as saying to the person who had differed with me, “I’ve been thinking about what you said the other day. Tell me more. I’m here to listen and learn, not debate or argue. I want to know more about what you believe and why for your view intrigues me.” Significantly, it was in this listening that I often discovered that some, or even all, of my conceptions as to what exactly others believed, or why they believed what they did, were often skewed mistaken.

How very embarrassing, but, oh, how enlightening is this step! In this I continue to learn that embarrassment is more often than not, a necessary part of learning. If I will not risk shame, I will not grow. It’s as simple as that.

Fifth, I investigated matters for myself. That is, I started reading and digging into the subject at hand and as I did so, I deliberately read outside of my comfort zone. I read things that challenged my views and differed from my understandings. I read the other person’s mail, so to speak. I tried to walk a mile in their moccasins. And as I did so, I deliberately tried to keep an open mind and to not engage the material in a combative spirit. And then, having read the other person’s mail, I’d go back and examine my beliefs in light of what I had encountered.

I have grown to relish this step, for it is here that I hear the cogs of my mind turning most clearly.

Sixth, I began to look more closely at the fruit of my beliefs and the fruit of the beliefs of others. Ideas have consequences and as I traced the trail of various beliefs to their logical ends and began to pay attention to how they were commonly and outwardly expressed, I discovered much more about the real “stuff” of these beliefs. I found that sometimes a belief that sounded reasonable in my head and didn’t meet strong resistance when expressed in words, actually made little sense at all, or was contradictory to the facts at hand, when put into practice. Typically, what I learned from these observations came as a complete surprise to me. I had expected one thing, but witnessed another. I believed that practice is the acid test of faith, but I came to realize that if I didn’t hang around long enough to see what happens to the belief when it was put into the acid, I’d never really know what my beliefs, or the beliefs of others, were made of.

I can’t begin to say how immensely powerful this single step was to opening my eyes up to my change in belief on some matters (for example, #6 on my list). Some of the most humbling experiences in my life have come from taking this step quite seriously. I believe it is one of the most commonly overlooked and least often practiced of the disciplines mentioned here. May this change.

Finally, I made it a point to not stop looking at, thinking about, listening to, and seriously considering, the minority view on matters. This didn’t come naturally for me, nor did it come easily or quickly. It was something I had to work hard at developing. What influenced me strongly then was the fact that there were people around me, or people to whom I frequently exposed my mind, who believed the same way I believed. They were “the majority,” in my mind, because they were my circle of influence. What slowly dawned on me across the years is that “the minority” view on a matter needed to be given extra attention in my mind if their perspective was to ever get a fair hearing. How so? Because the influence of “the majority” was so strong in my mind that it tended to filter out any real chance of detailed consideration of differing views. And so, I made up my mind to no longer be capable of being a mere bobble-head doll, nodding in near automatic agreement with those in my circle of greatest influence. I deliberately chose to allow other perspectives to go against the flow and challenge my thinking.

This is a huge, significant step for it strongly calls out what I actually believe about God. None of us hold our beliefs alone, but majorities and minorities don’t factor into the mind of God. As a Christian, I live under his sovereignty, not my democracy.

Without a doubt, I remain a very long, long way from where God would have me to be in terms of my walk with him, and my being shaped into his Son’s likeness. But this shaping must occur, inside and out, and must not ever stop. If by sharing these things with you, you find you’ve been helped in some small way, then I know that I have been helped as well.

God have mercy and give more of his light to us all as we can see it. And may he smile on all of us as we seek to become and reflect his ways. Amen.