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.

Achievement, expectations, humility, service, success & the will of God: God’s Not Looking for Heroes

“We don’t all need to be heroes. Jesus is the Hero. The Hero came 2000 years ago. So He’s already the Hero. He’s not looking for heroes, He’s looking for co-laborers. The challenge is, most people want to be co-stars, not co-laborers. If you actually understood what it was to be a co-laborer, you could labor wherever you are.”

America, culture, individualism, materialism, nationalism, patriotism, values & war: American Values Are Not Necessarily Christian Values

“… [there can be] no excuse for conflating country and church. We can appreciate and even respect the nation in which we reside, but we must not forget that our status is as foreigner and exiles. (1 Peter 2:11)”

American Sniper, cinema, deception, distortion, evil, film, movies & payback: Clint Eastwood’s Sniper, and the American Messiah [essential reading]

“This is the problem with the white-hat black-hat narrative of Hollywood: when ‘they’ do what ‘we’ do (though ‘they,’ of course, poor saps, are just not as efficient in their killing as ‘we’ are) it is evil, but when Americans do it, it is heroic. Eastwood’s Kyle insists he is doing what he does because he does not want terrorists in our neighborhoods here. Yet he participates in the invasion of a country that had nothing to do with 9/11; a country who was headed by, no doubt, a despot but a despot who had furthered his hold on power by the support of our own country; and when those people fight back because they don’t want foreign invaders in their streets, it’s ‘evil’ like Eastwood’s Kyle has never yet imagined.”

Anger, bitterness, forgiveness, hatred & resentment: A Holocaust Survivor, Spared From Gas Chamber By Twist Of Fate

“Anger doesn’t get you anyplace. Hate doesn’t get you anyplace.”

Attention span, authority, church, commitment, Facebook & social media: 5 Ways Facebook May be Harming Your Church

“What effect does ‘social media’ technology have on the way we view church? What effect does it have on the way we conceive of life in the body of Christ?”

links: this went thru my mind

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Atrocities, Boko Haram, terrorism & violence: Nigeria’s Forgotten Massacre: 2,000 Slaughtered by Boko Haram, but the West is Failing to Help

“One of Africa’s most senior church leaders has accused the West of ignoring the threat of the militant Islamist group Boko Haram, days after the reported slaughter of up to 2,000 people by the group. Ignatius Kaigama, the Catholic Archbishop of Jos and president of the Nigerian Bishops Conference, spoke as bodies lay strewn on the ground in Baga, in north-east Nigeria, after a surge by Boko Haram fighters who took over the border town earlier this month. He highlighted the stark difference between the West’s willingness to act when 17 people were killed by militants in France and the approach to the slaughter in Africa.

“Estimates of the death toll in Baga and surrounding villages, which were razed by fire, have been put at up to 2,000. Most of the dead were women, children and the elderly who could not flee in time, said Amnesty International, which labelled it the group’s deadliest massacre yet. A further 30,000 people are thought to have fled their homes, 7,500 seeking sanctuary in Chad and the rest adding to Nigeria’s tens of thousands of displaced people.”

Cinema, film, Martin Luther King, Jr., movies & Selma: * David Oyelowo: ‘Selma Was a Spiritual Endeavor For Me’; * The Saints Go Marching On Selma

* “A lot of the people on the set were people of faith—they were either Christians or they’d been raised that way, and so it was very easy to talk about faith. Obviously, we were portraying people of faith, and there were several scenes, especially more difficult ones, where we would all pray together before going into those scenes.”

* “… it is most unfortunate that the editors did all they could to remove the references to Christ and the Gospel from King’s sermons, which are still powerful but end up sounding just like political diatribes for the most part. They don’t reveal the real spiritual core of what motivated King and what resonated in his message in and outside the churches. King was in fact deeply indebted to E. Stanley Jone’s biographical portrayals of Gandhi and his message as well as to the Bible. Fortunately, it is at least clear in the film that he and Malcolm X fundamentally disagreed on things like non-violence …”

Conformity, desensitization,  group dynamics, injustice, kindness & niceness: The Virtue of Not Being Nice

“… those who refuse to adjust to injustice and well-established discriminatory practices will inevitably irritate and annoy the accommodating majority. These people may not be as easy to get along with because they will not be passive and well-adjusted to a misshapen world. And they will care a whole lot less about the irritation they cause or disapproval they experience than they do about the needy people they seek to help. These are the kind of people Jesus calls us to be.”

Extermination of the Canaanites, genocide, God, holy war, OT & war: The Hope of Holy War

“… the Old Testament war stories then are subversions of the mentality of holy war.”

Faith, misconceptions & public education: Public Schools Aren’t the Enemy

“It’s time to repair the relationship between public education and the Christian community.”

links: this went thru my mind

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Church attendance, commitment, culture, time & trends: The Most Important Trend of Church Trends in 2015 and What to Do About It [essential reading]

“Specifically, in the last 2 years, I have see one common thread become a common rope. It’s presence is now ubiquitous; every church I talk with mentions this problem when we discuss the Local Predicament in our Kingdom Concept work. (challenges and opportunities expressed in the local culture). I have never seen a problem discussed this commonly amidst a diversity of church sizes and denominational affiliations. What is the one trend? Your Most Committed People Will Attend Worship Services Less Frequently than Ever in 2015.”

Caricature, hatred, Islam, Muslims & stereotyping: How Not to Kill a Muslim [essential reading]

“The chief issue of Muslim-Christian tension in the United States is lack of relationship. Because many white middle/upper-middle class Christian citizens do not have meaningful relationships with a single Muslim, we are left to fill in the gaps of experience with stereo-types, caricature, and exaggeration.”

Cinema, Exodus, film & movies: Three Takeaways from ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’

“Whatever one might think about the explicit divergences from the biblical story (e.g., the conversation at the burning bush is too limited in the movie, the omission of the opening confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh, absence of Pharaoh-Moses interaction about the plagues, etc.), the story is told to make a point(s) for contemporary audiences. I heard several points, but here are my major takeaways. 1. Israel wrestles with God. … 2. Jewish Holocaust Relived. … 3. Not by Israel’s sword, but by the Lord’s right hand.”

Conversion, conviction, discipleship, gospel, kingdom & transformation: Have You Taken a Gospel Immunization Shot? [essential reading]

“Why does being ‘Christian’ in America make so little difference in so many people’s lives, when the kingdom movement revealed in the New Testament revolutionized people’s lives? … people give their mental assent to certain beliefs and are thereby ushered into a ‘kingdom’ that looks almost identical to the earthly kingdom they were supposed to be called out of. They can keep all their cultural assumptions, and, apart from avoiding certain behaviors that are singled out as the deal-breaker sins, their lives can continue on just as before. “All who are invested in the kingdom Jesus inaugurated in this world must find all of this deeply disturbing. … It’s as if they are a husband or wife who has security in their marital pledge rather than in the quality of the relationship he or she pledged to have. Many people today resist the need to cultivate an actual marriage-like relationship with Christ because they find their security in their past pledge.”

Desensitization, humanity, killing, military, violence & war: The Images Used to Teach Soldiers to Kill

“In my project Targets I look at the present day. I visited 30 countries to document the appearance of the targets with which soldiers today are conditioned to shoot, or as one trainer said: ‘They are supposed to learn to hit, not shoot.’ Another said, ‘It sounds cruel, but you have to learn to kill automatically in order to function.’ “How is he represented today – the enemy that soldiers are later expected to kill? Is he an abstract figure? Does he have a face, and if so, what kind? Has the image of the enemy changed?”

Ministry: Joe’s 10 Iron-clad Rules for Success in Ministry (some of which need more ironing than others)

“So, you’re new in the ministry?  And you want to get this right, of course. You have definitely come to the right place, friend.  Pull up a chair and get ready to take notes.”

links: this went thru my mind

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Baptism, Carrie Underwood, joy & music: The Truth Behind This Song Had Me Yellin’ ‘Amen!’ You’ll Love This Super Star’s Song About Baptism [4 min. video; essential listening]

“I don’t know that there is anything better than hearing a song about baptism coming through my speakers! Preach it, Carrie!”

Choice, focus, mindset, mission, perspective, productivity & vision: 3 Mindsets You Must Conquer to Live Your Mission Each Day

“Jesus’s lived his mission each day by conquering three mindsets.”

Christian faith, evil, Hitler, martyrdom, Nazism, nonviolence, pacifism & WWII: The White Rose Martyrs

“I don’t know about you, but I always get a bit depressed when I think about the lack of Christian resistance to the rise of Hitler and Nazism in Germany. Dietrich Bonhoeffer is the main figure who comes to mind here. But were there any others? Any other heroes of the faith? Christians who pushed even harder than Bonhoeffer?

“Yes there were. The White Rose.”

Conflict, history & war: The Greatest Buildings You’ll Never See: 19 Priceless Monuments Lost in Conflict

“It is a cruel irony that a region so blessed with the treasures of early human civilizations is also among those most troubled by conflict. As the violence threatens to annihilate some of history’s greatest monuments, we count the cost of our irreplaceable losses.”

Prayer: Encountering God in Prayer

“If we are going to be imbalanced, better that we be doctrinally weak and have a vital prayer life and a real sense of God on the heart than that we get all our doctrine straight and be cold and spiritually hard.”

links: this went thru my mind

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Afghanistan, Iraq, ISIS, veterans & war: The Truth About the Wars

“If insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, I think we’re there.”

Church, expectations, inclusion, mission, perceptions & welcome: 3 Ways ‘All Are Welcome’ Is Hurting the Church

“Churches — like individuals — are called to know themselves, their strengths and weaknesses, and discern a clear and specific mission to where Jesus is calling them to act. Many times churches actually do have in mind a particular subset of people with whom they’d like repopulate their congregation. Many times this particular subset looks an awful lot like the current membership of the church, albeit 20-30 years ago. Often, though, neighborhoods and needs have changed. And a vital ministry — perhaps to immigrant workers, to retired folks, to single adults — is forgotten in light of chasing the ever-elusive ‘young families.'”

Corporate worship, hymns, music & singing: My Journey Away from Contemporary Worship Music

“I make this plea to my fellow ministers, do not neglect these milestones from ages past.”

Economics, income inequality & politics: A Change That Isn’t Coming

“…  until the two parties put forward lasting and structural fixes for these problems the pain and outrage are only going to intensify. And as the pain grows the American electorate will continue to lash out blindly and schizophrenically, alternately punishing the party in power and hoping for a change that isn’t coming.”

Joseph Smith, Latter-Day Saints, Mormons & polygamy: It’s Official: Mormon Founder Had Up to 40 Wives

“The biggest bombshell for some in the essays is that Smith married women who were already married, some to men who were Smith’s friends and followers.”