this went thru my mind, too


Discipleship: We Need Boring Christians

“Regardless of our location, abroad or at home, all ministry is inescapably local. Every worker in a global context must embrace the monotonous minutiae of a new daily grind after the plane lands—figuring out the postal service, dealing with the cell phone company, conjugating verbs in the slow and tedious study of the language.”

Evangelism: * Talking About Jesus * Answering Questions People Actually Ask

“The doc smiles, then asks in apparent good faith. ‘How does someone avoid missing heaven by eighteen inches?’ I ask what he means. He repeats the question with some explanation. ‘Suppose a person almost makes it into heaven but comes up just short of what is required. Is there some way to make sure that does not happen?'”

Facebook: * The Reboot: Deleting Your Facebook Profile Every Year as a Spiritual Exercise * Facebook is Making Us Miserable

“First, it’s creating a den of comparison. Since our Facebook profiles are self-curated, users have a strong bias toward sharing positive milestones and avoid mentioning the more humdrum, negative parts of their lives. … Second, it’s fragmenting our time … the issue with this constant “tabbing” between real-life tasks and Facebook is what economists and psychologists call “switching costs,” the loss in productivity associated with changing from one task to another. … Last, there’s a decline of close relationships. Gone are the days where Facebook merely complemented our real-life relationships. Now, Facebook is actually winning share of our core, off-line interactions.”

Government, Mennonites, politics, and voting: Lipscomb on the Mennonites

“I think no greater evil can befall the churches of Jesus Christ than for them to enter the field of politics, drink into the spirit of the civil powers, and look to them for help in enforcing morality and in carrying out the law and the righteousness of the Bible. The more widely the church and the State can be kept apart in their operations, the better for both. The reason of this is, they are diverse in nature and character, and must be run on different and antagonistic principles.”

Pacifism: Introducing Christian Nonviolence – Two Resources for the Interested and Skeptical

“In North America, the idea of Christian nonviolence or Pacifism (meaning to “pacify” not inactive passivism) is largely unaccepted by evangelical Christianity. This is odd considering that the peace teachings of Jesus and the early church are basic to New Testament teaching and theology. I want to offer two resources to give a basic introduction into this subject. I realize that many of my readers will disagree, but if you are willing to wrestle with the following resources, I promise that you will at least come to appreciate this perspective (and who knows, maybe you will embrace it!).”

Politics: The Damage of 2011

“… major reductions in the vital category known as nondefense discretionary spending, which faces cuts of around $800 billion over a decade. That category includes education, housing assistance, transportation, public health, veterans benefits, law enforcement and courts, environmental protection and many other crucial programs.

“This spending category has been the main focus of Republican pressure for decades. In the 1970s, nondefense discretionary spending represented about 5 percent of the gross domestic product; that is now down to about 2.5 percent. Over the next decade, once the new cuts go into effect, it will decline to less than 2 percent. This year’s spending bill, signed into law a few days ago, is roughly 10 percent lower than last year’s, cutting Pell grants, environmental programs and aid to desperate states. Low-income heating assistance was cut by 25 percent.

“As the economist Jared Bernstein has noted, this is the category of spending that helps people move up the income ladder, providing nutritious food, improving early education and job training and putting people to work.”

Virginal conception of Jesus: Suspending Skepticism: history and the virgin birth by N.T. Wright

“If the first two chapters of Matthew and the first two of Luke had never existed, I do not suppose that my own Christian faith, or that of the church to which I belong, would have been very different. But since they do, and since for quite other reasons I have come to believe that the God of Israel, the world’s creator, was personally and fully revealed in and as Jesus of Nazareth, I hold open my historical judgment and say: If that’s what God deemed appropriate, who am I to object?”

Young-earth creationists: A Nice Argument for the Age of the Earth

“I am regularly approached by young Earth creationists… If I have the time I try to engage them on the age of Earth, since Earth is something whose existence them and I agree upon. They will tell me that Earth is somewhere between 6,000 – 10,000 years old, and, when prompted, that the rest of the universe is the same age as well. I have taken the approach of responding to this assertion by pulling out a print of the far side of the Moon.”

this went thru my mind


Atheism & morality: Good Minus God

“I gather that many people believe that atheism implies nihilism — that rejecting God means rejecting morality. A person who denies God, they reason, must be, if not actively evil, at least indifferent to considerations of right and wrong. After all, doesn’t the dictionary list ‘wicked’ as a synonym for ‘godless?’ And isn’t it true, as Dostoevsky said, that ‘if God is dead, everything is permitted’? Well, actually — no, it’s not. (And for the record, Dostoevsky never said it was.) Atheism does not entail that anything goes.”

Benevolence: The Gleaners: Giving More Than Food to the Working Poor

“‘We’re a hand-up, not a handout,’ … ‘It’s 90 percent about the people and only 10 percent about the food.'”

Birth of Jesus: When a Poor Baby in a Manger Overthrows an Empire: The First Christmas

“May your Christmas be a time when you ponder the summons of a subversive kingdom. May you choose to peacefully follow the baby in the manger to the cross and through resurrection, proclaiming with the angels that a new era has begun; an era when the people of God can undo the works of oppressive ’empires.'”

Christianity & militarism: The Christian Industrial Complex

“I went into a Christian bookstore the other day and was surprised to see some of the most prominent display space given over to military flags for the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. These flags, and a vast assortment of Americana merchandise, were on sale for the holidays.

“A part of me ached because I know how difficult it must be to run a little Christian bookstore these days. But I winced as I heard the manager fatalistically confess that he resorted to selling military merchandise to ‘make it.’ It is a sad day when we sell our military banners next to Jesus’ enemy-loving cross to make it in a financial recession. (Before long we’ll be pushing posters of scantily-clad women accompanied by a verse from Song of Solomon).”

Bible interpretation & creation: If God had explained the origin of the universe to Moses in technical language it may have looked like this

“… God’s inspiration is not divorced from the language and concepts of the humans authors.”

Culture: When Bedford Falls Becomes Pottersville

It’s a Wonderful Life is a fitting metaphor for a nation absent Christian belief. Jesus Christ said that his followers were to be like “salt”; that is, a people whose presence is felt for the good that they do. As a man or woman’s evil nature is gentled and restrained by the grace of God, there is a corresponding outward transformation of society.”

Generations: Connecting 20 Somethings to Older Generations by Matt Dabbs

“20s and 30s have a deep need for relationships. Once you start a ministry to this group one of the things that happens is they tend to become isolated from the rest of the congregation because they develop such close bonds with each other. That is not all bad and is really to be expected. However, I think it is important to be intentional about getting them to form relationships with older Christians as well.”

Civility, gossip & politics: A Serial Husband: New(t)s or Gossip?

“President Obama may be more of a plodder than a doer when it comes to his leadership style, but you have to hand it to him, Obama is no gossip-monger.”

Handicaps & deformities: Augustine on the Monsters Among Us

“No matter how different in appearance, a being that descends from humans is human. And no matter how great the deformity, in their uniqueness and peculiarity, that person contributes to ‘the beauty of the whole.'”

Parenting & faith: Honesty in the Journey (or On the Raising of Young Heretics)

“We construct many reasons for maintaining a posture of dishonesty. For many, the failure to utter before God where we really are and what we are real think reflects a lifetime of corrupt spiritual teaching: God went through a lot of effort to save you, so the least you can do us have your act together so as not to disappoint him.”

Santa Claus (Saint Nicholas): * In Search of the Historical Santa * Real St. Nicholas: Persecuted, Jailed Christian

“Saint Nicholas of Myra was a 4th century Greek Christian bishop of Myra in Lycia (Turkey). From an early age he devoted himself to the Christian faith. As a Bishop he was famous for his work amongst the poor and needy. There are stories of him raiding the church’s kitty so that he could leave coins in the shoes of those who were struggling. His acts of generosity were legendary. However, of all the stories known about him perhaps the most reliable and best known is the gift he gave to a father which saved the man’s three daughters from being sold into prostitution.”

Persecution & self-defense: Church Leaders Debate Self-Defense

“Church leaders in Nigeria are sharply divided over how to react to a surge in violent attacks against Christians and churches in the country’s Muslim-majority north. Hundreds of Christians have been killed and churches burnt in regular attacks launched this year by Fulani herdsmen in Jos and members of the Boko Haram terrorist sect in Kaduna, Borno, and Niger states.”

Trends: Barna Reveals Top Trends for 2011

“Every December, a tradition at Barna Group is to compile some of the most important trends of the year. We invite you to check out the six major trends that our team explored in 2011.”

reading schedule for weeks 1-5 in the UTCP project


MoSt Church‘s 2012 church-wide Bible reading project, Uncommon Truth for Common People, starts this coming Monday (Jan. 2). Following is the schedule for the first five weeks in this project. In this schedule you’ll find each week’s theme, the Scriptures to be read each weekday, and the page numbers on which the corresponding devotionals can be read in the edition of the Common English Bible known as the Daily Companion Bible.

We’ll study each week’s theme and Scriptures on Wednesday nights at MoSt Church in our adult auditorium Bible class. That means that on Wed., Jan. 4 we’ll discuss in class the theme Reading the Bible and the Scriptures that comprise the readings from Jan. 2-6.

I look forward studying the word with you this coming year! May God bless our reading and understanding of his word. Amen.

Week 1 – Reading the Bible

  • Mon., Jan. 2 – The Bible Tells Me So – Deuteronomy 8:1-11; Matthew 4:1-11; John 5:36-47; 2 Timothy 2:15 (p. 2)
  • Tues., Jan. 3 – Letting the Bible Read Us – 1 Corinthians 2:6-16; Psalm 119:1-16 (p. 3)
  • Wed., Jan. 4 – Finding Your Way in the Bible – 2 Timothy 3:10-17; James 1:19-25; Psalm 119:105 (p. 4)
  • Thur., Jan. 5 – Get the Most Out of Bible Study – 2 Kings 22:1-23:25 (p. 5)
  • Fri., Jan. 6 – Change Comes – Mark 4:1-20; Deut. 30:11-20; Hebrews 4:12-13 (p. 6)

Week 2 – Prayer

  • Mon., Jan. 9 – Jesus Teaches Us How to Pray – Luke 11:1-11; Matthew 6:5-15 (p. 8)
  • Tues., Jan. 10 – The Goal of Prayer – Luke 18:1-8; Genesis 18:16-33; John 17:1-16; Matthew 26:36-46 (p. 9)
  • Wed., Jan. 11 – Where Two or Three are Gathered – Matthew 18:18-20; Acts 12:1-19 (p. 10)
  • Thur., Jan. 12 – Confidence in Prayer – Luke 5:12-16; 6:12-29; 9:18-36; Mark 11:12-24; James 4:2-10 (p. 11)
  • Fri., Jan. 13 – When We Don’t Pray – Daniel 4:19-37; 2 Chronicles 7:14 (p. 12)

Week 3 – Community

  • Mon., Jan. 16 – We Were Made for Community – 1 John 1:1-10; 1 Corinthians 1:1-9 (p. 14)
  • Tues., Jan. 17 – Growing in Community – Acts 2:29-47; Hebrews 3:12-13; 10:19-25; Galatians 6:1-2 (p. 15)
  • Wed., Jan. 18 – But They Might Be Different – 1 Corinthians 12:12-27; 1 John 4:7-21 (p. 16)
  • Thur., Jan. 19 – The Work of the Community – Philippians 1:3-11; 2:1-4 (p. 17)
  • Fri., Jan. 20 – Mighty Works – Ephesians 3:14-4:6; Acts 4:31-35 (p. 18)

Week 4 – Serving

  • Mon., Jan. 23 – Getting Dirty – John 13:1-17 (p. 20)
  • Tues., Jan. 24 – Strength to Serve – John 14:1-14 (p. 21)
  • Wed., Jan. 25 – The Cost of Following Jesus – Luke 9:51-10:42 (p. 22)
  • Thur., Jan. 26 – Gifts for Service – Romans 12; Colossians 3:17-4:6 (p. 23)
  • Fri., Jan. 27 – Shine Like Stars – Matthew 20:20-28; Philippians 2:1-18 (p. 24)

Week 5 – Stewardship

    • Sat., Jan. 30 – What is Stewardship? – Genesis 1-2; Luke 12:35-48; 1 Corinthians 3 (p. 26)
    • Sun., Jan. 31 – Multiply Your Gifts – Luke 19:1-28 (p. 27)
    • Mon., Feb. 1 – Take Advantage – Ephesians 4:11-5:21 (p. 28)
    • Tues., Feb. 2 – Time Management – Psalm 90; Hebrews 3 (p. 29)
    • Wed., Feb. 3 – Simplicity & Stewardship– Matthew 6:9-14; 11:25-30 (p. 30)

And here are five verses for memorization over the course of these five weeks of the UTCP project.

  • Jan. 2-6 (week 1): “You must be doers of the word and not only hearers who mislead themselves.” (James 1:22 CEB)
  • Jan. 9-13 (week 2): “But Jesus would withdraw to deserted places for prayer.” (Luke 5:16 CEB)
  • Jan. 16-20 (week 3): “You are the body of Christ and parts of each other.” (1 Cor. 12:27 CEB)
  • Jan. 23-27 (week 4): “Don’t hesitate to be enthusiastic—be on fire in the Spirit as you serve the Lord!” (Romans 12:11 CEB)
  • Jan. 30-Feb. 3 (week 5): “Teach us to number our days so we can have a wise heart.” (Psalm 90:12 CEB)

my top 3 most (and least) viewed posts this year


Are you curious as to which posts were viewed here most often this year? Here are links to the top three:

3. Osama bin-Laden talks with God

2. the death of Osama bin Laden: a collection of Christian reactions (1)

1. 5 reasons to use your bound Bible & not your smartphone in church

And which, do you suppose were viewed least? The following links are to three posts which tied for last place.

4 significant changes I made in 2011


Understand, when I say “change,” I don’t mean I merely changed my mind or my intentions. I mean I changed my behavior, habits, and ways.

1. I changed the way I work. My “office” now is wherever I need to be to do whatever would be the best thing to do. Armed with a laptop, a smartphone, and a proactive mindset, I make a plan and work it. Rather than spending unproductive and often frustrating hours in an office endlessly punctuated by countless, often totally unnecessary interruptions, I now do far better work from home, in my car, and out and about in contact with people.

The result? I don’t feel nearly so stressed and burdened. I’m a happier person and I’m usually more pleasant to be around. I sleep better at night and I’m more fully “present” with people when I’m with them. I believe Christ is more easily seen in my life.

2. I changed my posture. I might spend a total of sixty to ninety minutes sitting at a desk in a given week now. For nearly all of my adult life I did that much sitting before sunrise every day. Not anymore. When I do desk work, now I do that work standing up. If I have a day that’s dedicated mostly to desk work, I stand up that day. Oh, I still have my desk and it gets used, but the top of a three-shelf bookcase serves as my primary “parking place” now.

The result? I’m more alert. My legs and feet are stronger. My back and knees hurt much less. I suspect my circulation is improved and my whole body generally thanks me for this change.

3. I changed my perspective of possessions. I went through my closet and donated half of my clothes to charity. I sold almost all of my music collection. In many contexts, I tell the clerk to “just keep the change” and in other contexts I often tip more generously than I have before. As for books, I sold virtually everything that wasn’t related to ministry. What I own now must fit in one of my two full-size book cases or in one of my two short bookcases or else I don’t purchase it. If I buy a new book, I sell or give away an existing paper book, even if the new book is in electronic format. I now own fewer books than I did when I entered full-time ministry almost twenty-nine years ago; fewer books than before my children were born.

The result? I feel more “free.” There’s less “stuff” to store and dust. I think less about owning or caring for things and so, have better things to do with my thoughts.

4. I changed the way I eat. I virtually eliminated caffeine consumption. What caffeine I consume now comes only in trace amounts in decaffeinated tea. I now nearly never eat beef or pork. To be sure, I’m not a vegetarian, but meat is now a rather small blip on the radar of my overall diet. I very rarely eat fried food of any kind and consuming strong sweets (candy, cake, pie, etc.) is an even more rare event (pretty much just on special occasions such as holidays or birthdays). Any sort of dairy product (milk, cheese, etc.) is history; either soy milk or almond milk goes on my cereal or oatmeal for breakfast. Wheat products of any kind, including bread, very rarely cross my palate now. Carbonated beverages? I don’t go there at all anymore, period. Water is what I drink 95% of the time.

And the result? I feel better; much better. I have more energy, can think more clearly, don’t crash in the afternoon, and don’t generally go to bed feeling fatigued. My complexion is much improved. To boot, I’ve gained a belt notch back and while that’s not much, it’s something and I’m still making headway. Further, I don’t long for my old eating habits nearly as much as you might guess. Truth be told, I rarely miss those ways at all.

Now that it’s the end of this year, I’m wondering why I didn’t make these changes years ago to the glory of God. But I am thankful I made them, by God’s grace, this year.

Question: What specific, significant changes could you make in your life this coming year that would significantly improve your life?

word for the weak


Consider this. If God’s word is our strength, how strong we are indeed when his word is in us. Consider further. If God’s word is our strength, then how truly weak we are without his word in our heart. We all would do well to do as the “truly happy person” does:

“The truly happy person … love[s] the LORD’s instruction, and they recite God’s instruction day and night!” (Psalm 1:1-2 CEB)

With that very thing in mind, won’t you consider adding a component to the upcoming Uncommon Truth for Common People (UTCP) reading project that begins one week from tomorrow (Mon., Jan. 2)? As you read each week’s Bible reading, try memorizing a brief portion of each week’s reading. Memorize it on the first day of the week’s reading and meditate on it a bit each day that week. Do this over the course of 2012 and by the end of the year you’ll have memorized fifty-two messages of strength composed by the the Spirit of God!

To make it easy for us all, I’ll select the Scriptures for you. They’ll all be no more than a single sentence in length. And they’ll all come from the Common English Bible which will make for accuracy and ease-of-reading.

As to how you can memorize these passages, experiment and find whatever works best for you, but let me recommend that you put them in a place where you’ll be frequently reminded of them. E-mail the week’s verse to yourself. Put it on your to-do list. Include it as a status update on your Facebook page. Write it on an index card and carry that card in your shirt pocket. Tweet it on Twitter. Write it on a post-it note and stick that note on your bathroom mirror. Text it to a different friend each day. Let’s get creative, but by all means let’s get these words of Scripture into our mind to mull over again and again, pondering them in our heart.

Let’s do this! Following are the five verses for memorization over the course of the first five weeks of the UTCP project.

Jan. 2-6 (week 1): “You must be doers of the word and not only hearers who mislead themselves.” (James 1:22 CEB)

Jan. 9-13 (week 2): “But Jesus would withdraw to deserted places for prayer.” (Luke 5:16 CEB)

Jan. 16-20 (week 3): “You are the body of Christ and parts of each other.” (1 Cor. 12:27 CEB)

Jan. 23-27 (week 4): “Don’t hesitate to be enthusiastic—be on fire in the Spirit as you serve the Lord!” (Romans 12:11 CEB)

Jan. 30-Feb. 3 (week 5): “Teach us to number our days so we can have a wise heart.” (Psalm 90:12 CEB)

May God grow us into “truly happy people” as we meditate on, memorize, and mimic God’s word.