links to 7 items worth your time

1. Yes, You Can Be an Ethical Tech Consumer. Here’s How [essential reading]

“Products that we enjoy continue to create privacy, misinformation and workplace issues. We can do better at getting the industry to do better. … We are the buyers, users and supporters of the products and services that help Big Tech thrive. … So what do we do at this point to become more ethical consumers?”

2. In the time you spend on social media each year, you could read 200 books [required reading]

“Do not quit before you start. … Do the simple math. … Find the time. … Execute.”

3. How Cancer Changes Hope by Kate Bowler

“Much of Christian theology rests on the image of God as the ultimate reality beyond time and space, the creator of a past, present and future where all exists simultaneously in the Divine Mind. But where does that leave the bewildered believer who cannot see the future and whose lantern casts light only backward, onto the path she has already taken?”

4. The Virtual Commentary on Scripture

“The Visual Commentary on Scripture (VCS) is a freely accessible online publication that provides theological commentary on the Bible in dialogue with works of art. It helps its users to (re)discover the Bible in new ways through the illuminating interaction of artworks, scriptural texts, and commissioned commentaries. The VCS combines three academic disciplines: theology, art history, and biblical scholarship. While the project’s main commitment is to theology, it is responsibly informed by the latter two disciplines.”

5. The Otherworldly Beauty of a Dying Sea

“The Dead Sea is falling by more than a meter a year, and paradoxically, its destruction is revealing an eerie, enchanting world below the waters.”

6. Let Winter Do Its Work

“Winter has important work to do. Let winter do its work.”

7. Bono’s Testimony [11 min. video; essential viewing]

“… he [Jesus] was the Son of God or he … was nuts. … I find it hard to accept that wholly millions and millions of lives, half the earth, for two thousand years, have been touched, have felt their lives touched, and inspired, by some nutter. I don’t believe it.”

links: this went thru my mind

Art & happiness: Why You Need More Art in Your Life (and 5 Ways to Get It) [required reading]

“If you want to find more creativity, satisfaction, and happiness, the single best solution I know is adding more art to your life.”

Christian movies, end times, Left Behind, rapture & second coming: Why ‘Left Behind’ Should Be … Left Behind

“… while Left Behind may prove itself to be a mediocre box office success, it represents a severe misinterpretation of what the Bible actually says about the topic. To put it bluntly, and perhaps to the chagrin of some readers, the idea of a ‘rapture’ is simply not biblically based (and that’s where I’ve lost a third of you!) It represents, instead, a theology based on escapism and in the process does damage to what the Bible really does say about ‘the last days.'”

Death, euthanasia, hospice & quality of life: Doctors Wanted to Extend Life. Instead They Extended Death.

“If you look at people who want euthanasia it’s not who we think it is. It’s not people writhing in pain. It’s not people who can’t breathe because of emphysema. It’s people who are depressed and hopeless and don’t see meaning in life. I don’t think the right answer to that question is, ‘let’s give them some pills to knock them off.’ They need meaning back in their life. They need therapy or medication. Euthanasia, I think the research shows, is much more like suicide than it is like a medical treatment.”

Discernment, moral blindness & power: How Can It Happen? [essential reading]

“… ‘every strong upsurge of power in the public sphere, be it of a political or religious nature, infects a large part of humankind with’ moral blindness. That is, as power increases moral blindness increases. Without it the power could not increase; without it the moral blindness would not increase. Instead of acting, the morally blind person is filled with stupor and quiescence.”

Introverts, ministry, preaching & relationships: The Introvert Behind the Pulpit

“For these preachers, devotion to ministry requires balancing need for solitude with passion for sharing God’s word.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Art, cinema, Hollywood & movies: Why are So Many Christians Afraid of Hollywood Bible Movies? [required reading

“Art is about seeing beyond what’s on the surface and into what’s deep in the heart of people and the nature of the universe. That’s a scary idea to someone who’s surrendered their willingness to be thoughtful, willing and discerning in the name of piety.”

Border security, children, compassion & immigration: * 14 Facts That Help Explain America’s Child-Migrant Crisis [required reading]; * The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly: League City’s City Council’s Resolution Banning Undocumented Children from Entering League City [essential listening]

* “The flow of unaccompanied immigrant children across the US-Mexico border — mostly from Central America — is continuing to gain attention as a humanitarian crisis. So here are 14 things you need to know to get a handle on what is actually going on along the border right now; what process the US has in place to deal with unaccompanied kids and families; and what the government wants to do now.”

* “… those people would come to church on Sunday and have blistered ears when I got done with them. … If you claim to be a Christian and you go out of your way to actually be a bad Christian there’s a special place for you and it isn’t League City! You go out of your way to say you don’t want these children who are in this horrible circumstance and that you will do nothing to help them?! I just think that it is incredible.” [listen to 28.29-34.30 on the recording; spot-on!]

Children, conversion, faith & parenting: Comfort for Christian Parents of Unconverted Children

“Although salvation is the work of God and not something that we can do for our child, there is hope. Consider the following …”

Education, teachers and teaching: A Declaration for Teachers

“… we, the teachers of this nation, appealing to the good judgment of all who care for posterity and the future of our children, solemnly publish and declare that teacher leadership ought to be the foundation upon which education lies.”

Family, parenting, priorities & time: Finding Family Time in a Busier Than Ever World

“There isn’t one moment to spare when you’re intentional in raising a busy family. Not one moment. You can find the balance. It is hard. There’s nothing more rewarding.”

Government, homosexuality, Jesus, laws & politics: Three Reasons It Doesn’t Matter What We Think About Homosexuality

“… as a Christian, I am not called to be a policy maker for others. I follow Jesus, a man who recoiled when the devil offered him the reigns of every nation on earth, who disappeared any time his crowds tried to make him a ruler, and who in no uncertain terms told one of the few government officials he ever met that his kingdom is ‘not of this world.’ I fear we Christians who believe defending rights and patriotism are virtues above selflessness and grace have tragically missed the message of the very savior whose name we bear.”

iPhone: 21 iPhone Tricks You Didn’t Know

“Be an iPhone ninja with these 21 awesome tricks.”

Movies & reviews: Boyhood

“You need to know this about Boyhood going in: the star, Ellar Coltrane, was cast in the film in 2002 when he was six years old, and he—along with co-stars Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, and Linklater’s daughter Lorelei—proceeded to shoot the film periodically over the next twelve years, the characters’ ages keeping pace roughly with the actors’ real ages. Just stop for a second and think about that: this film was in production for twelve years.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Application & moralizing: Moralizing Scripture…the Rush to Application and Misappropriating the Text

“…  let us be careful when we moralize scripture and rush to application that we don’t, in the process, undermine the text and the power of God to do greater things than make us nicer people.”

Capital punishment & death penalty5 Death Penalty Myths Debunked

“In advance of the release of our 2014 Global Death Penalty Report tomorrow, here are 5 of the most common misconceptions about the death penalty.”

Children, church & parenting: Let the Children Come to Me…Unless They’re Too Loud, Distracting, or Difficult

“The church in America has raised a whole generation that has never really been spiritually formed by the larger church gathering.”

Cinema, film, movies & Noah: * To See or Not to See the Movie Noah? [required reading]; * What’s Really Behind Christians’ Rejection of Noah?

* “Art often needs to speak honestly about evil, and I hope we don’t sanitize the Bible to the point where we forget just how well it does that. I get the pushback about Noah going off script, and being concerned about disinformation. But I think our real problem is that, unlike Christians of earlier centuries, we no longer understand what art does or how it works.”

* “This week Christians will have the chance to see Noah. And in an ironic twist, Paramount Pictures and the director find themselves defending their film against strong criticism from Christians, the audience they assumed would be the first in line to see this biblically epic story. In what has become a reversal of roles, Hollywood has heard the cry of Christians for bible based films (and the allure of their money, no doubt) and produced an epic picture and now Christians are the ones rejecting it. And in this case, it’s Christians who may not be completely honest about their reasons for rejecting it as we’ve formerly accused Hollywood of being in rejecting bible based films in the past. And the only public leg we have to stand on is the presence of biblical errors in the movie.”

Friendship, Jesus & sinners: Setting the Record Straight on Jesus, ‘the Friend of Sinners’ [essential reading]

“… does it matter that we correctly understand Jesus’ social habits? It does actually. Because Christians believe they must “live as Jesus did.” If the faithful only build relational bridges with those who are open to converting, they will find it increasingly difficult to exist in a pluralistic, post-Christian culture.”

Ministry: * Dear Churchgoers …; * The Friendless Pastor

* “Now I understand you might think I should know all the things that are happening with you. I really do want to. Most of my fellow pastors would agree. We love to know the things that are going on in your life. We want to hear all about it. But there’s a good chance that we won’t know if you never tell us.”

* “It’s ironic that pastors, who talk the most about the need for community, experience it the least. … We have too many relationships and too few friends.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

 

Art, Christians, cinema, film, movie & the movie Noah: Will Evangelicals Miss the Boat on Noah?

“Not much has changed since the late Francis Schaeffer wrote in Art and the Bible, ‘I am afraid that as evangelicals, we think that a work of art only has value if we reduce it to a tract.'”

Brain, exercise, health & regulation: * The Toxins That Threaten Our Brains; * The Only 8 Moves You Need to Be Fit

* “… the real issue was not this particular group of 12 chemicals. Most of them are already being heavily restricted. This dozen is meant to illuminate something bigger: a broken system that allows industrial chemicals to be used without any significant testing for safety. The greater concern lies in what we’re exposed to and don’t yet know to be toxic.”

* “Human movement can be reduced to three basic categories: pushing, pulling, and hip extension (squatting, jumping, running, and even riding a bike). Functional fitness begins with learning good form for this essential repertoire and then gradually adding weight and difficulty to build stability and strength. Doing these exercises correctly with five pounds, in other words, is better than doing them poorly with 100.”

Church & discipleship: Deep Before Wide: A Vision for Returning Discipleship to the Church

“Discipleship is laboring in the lives of a few to give away your life and the gospel.”

Confession, Lent, repentance & sin: No Needy Among Us?

“This is one of the best arguments for seasons of confession like Lent. Without it, church starts becoming a place for ‘fine’ people to get together. We show up on the weekend with all our junk in order, and if we can’t at least look like that, chances are we just won’t go at all. We learn to stuff down this sense that all is not right in the world and all is not right with us.”

Critical thinking  & statistics: 3 Ways to Recognize Bad Stats

“We need to be shrewd when it comes to statistics and reality: things are not always as they seem.”

Forgiveness, Fred Phelps, grace & hate: * Hate and How to Overcome It: How Should We Respond to the Tragic Death of Fred Phelps?; * The Problem of Fred Phelps; * Fred Phelps: Life of Fear

* “… since a hateful man has died after distorting a message of Jesus’ love, I suggest that we consider three ways to respond …”

* “… to celebrate a death, especially one of such a tragic life, feels like we are starting to be on the wrong side of good.”

* “I pray when Phelps looked into the face of God, he saw a God he didn’t recognize. The God of all Creation, the One True God that casts out all fear. The God who loves us all enough.”

Payday loans: Garland Adopts Strong Payday Lending Regs

“An ordinance with real reforms to these predatory products …”

this went thru my mind

 

Art: Isn’t That King David? Nope, It’s Just Dave

“I know that putting modern clothes on classical sculptures isn’t a new idea. Michelangelo’s David has had modern clothes for years. But the skirts, T-shirts and shorts in these images look so comfortable and fit so well, these ancients torque suddenly into moderns. It’s like these two French artists have developed a new way to time travel.”

Atheism & community: In the Bible Belt, Offering Atheists a Spiritual Home

“With Sunday’s service — marking the start of Community Mission Chapel in Lake Charles, which Mr. [Jerry] DeWitt called a full-fledged atheist “church” — he wanted to bring some of the things that he had learned from his years as a religious leader to atheists in southern Louisiana.”

Choices, discernment, ethics, & guidance: The Jesus Compass

“The acrostic stands for: * Jesus – Are any of Jesus’ sayings or actions relevant to the question? * Church – What are the teachings of different Christian churches / denominations? * Obey Conscience – What might an individual Christian’s conscience tell them to do? * Ministers & priests – How might a minister or priest advise a Christian to act? * Prayer – How might praying help a Christian to make moral decisions? * Agape – What is the most loving thing to do? * Saints – How might the lives of famous Christians inspire others to behave? * Scripture – What Biblical quotations or teachings are relevant?”

Communication, diversity, getting along, relationships & unity: 8 Ways Those From More Liberal-Progressive and Conservative-Evangelical Persuasions Can Better Love Each Other

“1.  remember first, that other person is a child of God, made in God’s image. … 2. respect each other’s biblical conclusions. … 3. lay down our ‘if they would justs…’ … 4. never pull the ‘but God says’ or ‘but it’s clear in the Bible’ card. … 5. acknowledge our own blind spots. … 6. celebrate what we do agree on. … 7. always put relationships above our positions. …  8. trust that God is big enough for our differences.”

Education, humanities & writing: The Decline and Fall of the English Major

“In 1991, 165 students graduated from Yale with a B.A. in English literature. By 2012, that number was 62. In 1991, the top two majors at Yale were history and English. In 2013, they were economics and political science. At Pomona this year, they were economics and mathematics. …

“What many undergraduates do not know — and what so many of their professors have been unable to tell them — is how valuable the most fundamental gift of the humanities will turn out to be. That gift is clear thinking, clear writing and a lifelong engagement with literature.

“Maybe it takes some living to find out this truth. Whenever I teach older students, whether they’re undergraduates, graduate students or junior faculty, I find a vivid, pressing sense of how much they need the skill they didn’t acquire earlier in life. They don’t call that skill the humanities. They don’t call it literature. They call it writing — the ability to distribute their thinking in the kinds of sentences that have a merit, even a literary merit, of their own.”

Love: Are You Agapephobic

“When you have a problem, ask this: How does love solve this? Every answer you find is another step toward God.”

this went thru my mind

 

Art: Lego-Brücke

“[Pictured] here [is the result of a] four week transformation [of] a 250 square meter [area of a] bridge with … ​​Lego bricks.”

Bible translation: C.S. Lewis on the Nature of Scripture

“The same divine humility which decreed that God should become a baby at a peasant-woman’s breast, and later an arrested field-preacher in the hands of the Roman police, decreed also that He should be preached in a vulgar, prosaic and unliterary language. If you can stomach the one, you can stomach the other. The Incarnation is in that sense an irreverent doctrine: Christianity, in that sense, an incurably irreverent religion. When we expect that it should have come before the World in all the beauty that we now feel in the Authorised Version we are as wide of the mark as the Jews were in expecting that the Messiah would come as a great earthly King. The real sanctity, the real beauty and sublimity of the New Testament (as of Christ’s life) are of a different sort: miles deeper or further in.”

Chik-Fil-A, LGBT & the culture wars: * Christian Resources for Thinking About Homosexuality; * What Exactly Did Dan Cathy Say to Land Chic-fil-a in Hot Water?; * Five Reasons the Church Failed Yesterday; * Learning to Speak: Chick-fil-A & our Inability to Dialogue; * Do Corporations Have Souls?

* “My basic question is ‘What attitude should Christians adopt as we consider our interaction with the LGBT community?'”

* “‘We don’t claim to be a Christian business,’ Cathy told the Biblical Recorder in a recent visit to North Carolina. He attended a business leadership conference many years ago where he heard Christian businessman Fred Roach say, ‘There is no such thing as a Christian business.’ ‘That got my attention,’ Cathy said. Roach went on to say, ‘Christ never died for a corporation. He died for you and me.’ ‘In that spirit … [Christianity] is about a personal relationship. Companies are not lost or saved, but certainly individuals are,’ Cathy added.”

* “Yesterday’s campaign, while I don’t think it should be considered or called ‘hate,’ neither can it be called love. … People felt hate and we ignored that. … By rallying behind CFA, Christians put an issue above people. … Once again, the mass actions of Christians built another wall of distrust between the Church and the GLBTQ communities. … Yesterday’s hoopla surrounding CFA did nothing to prove that Christians don’t hate gay people.”

* “The issue is not homosexuality. We do the same with Muslims and Hindus, with Atheists and Agnostics. We do it with Christians that think differently regarding heaven and hell, baptism or remarriage, or those who get a little too charismatic when their favorite worship song is played. We do it with anyone who we view as ‘the Other.’ The real issue is us. We struggle to ‘put skin’ on the words and message of Christ with anyone who thinks differently than us. Too often, we demand conformity prior to connection.”

* “In light of the Chick-Fil-A ‘Appreciation Day’ I’m wondering, ‘When did corporations become moral guardians for our society?'”

Communication, ministry & relationships: Conversations Skills that Transform by Kevin A. Miller

“… they have scores of digital ‘friends,’ but what’s missing is analog—a slow, listening, face-to-face presence.”

Death & the hereafter: Immediately after Death, What Happens?

“Following a sermon one day a person waited around until everyone had left and he asked me this: ‘My father was a Christian; he died last week; we buried him Monday. Where is he now?’ And pastor after pastor has told me this is a very common — monthly — question they get from the grieving. Matthew Levering … explores how three representative scholars — N.T. Wright, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Aquinas — explain the so-called intermediate state.”

Drugs: Houston Area ‘Major Player’ in Synthetic Drug Market

“… the Houston area is the No. 1 spot in Texas when it comes to people getting poisoned by synthetic compounds designed to mimic the effects of marijuana and methamphetamines.”

Illegal alines & immigration: Immigration: Justice, Mercy, and the Great Commission by J. Lance Conklin

“…  are those entering the U.S. illegally breaking into a house to steal a T.V., or are they stealing a loaf of bread to feed their family?”

Introverts: Eight Things to Help You Understand Introverts by Thom Rainer

“I am an introvert. … I hope these eight statements will help you understand us a little bit better.”

Knife-sharpening: * Testing a Knife’s Sharpness;  * Stoning Your Knife;  * Honing Your Knife

Three brief videos by Bob Kramer, master bladesmith.

Olympics: Eric Liddell – A True Champion

“Eric Liddell is best known as ‘the man from Chariots of Fire’ (cue slow running) but there was much more to him than that!”

Parenting & texting: Control Your Kids’ Texting

“My kids are glued to their smartphones. … Is there a way I can turn off texting on their phones during a certain time?”

Politics & faith: A Third Party Candidate by Scott Elliott

“… many Christians have fallen into [a] … political trap. They ‘treat their religion as a kind of politics and their politics as a kind of religion.’ Politics becomes an idol, and hope rises or falls based on the outcome of the coming election. Christians on both sides of the aisle are guilty of bowing to an elephant or a donkey, thinking they have the answers to their problems. The truth is neither the Republicans nor the Democrats possess the solutions to that which plagues humanity, but there is a third option.”

Preaching: * Preaching: Raiding or Reading?; * It’s Not About You – Or Is It?

* “Bible Raiding. This sort goes to the Bible to find support for an already-decided-upon idea, to get answers from the Bible on the basis of a surface reading of the Bible … and lets what the preacher wants to say and what the preacher believes establish what is to be preached. … Bible Reading. This sort goes to the Bible to see what it says and what it says shapes what the preacher preaches and teaches. …”

* “Whether we like it or not, therefore, it is ‘about us’ – which raises all the more intensely the question of how we can also be certain that it is not only and primarily about us, but ultimately about the God we worship in and through Jesus Christ.”

Self-righteousness: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

“The really insidious part about this condition is that the more I go on as a Christian: the more I grow in knowledge, the more I become integrated into the Christian community, the more my lifestyle conforms to the expectations of my particular Christian group, the more separated I get from “the world” and its ways, the more I learn to act, speak, dress, and think like a Christian, the more my capacity for self-righteousness increases.”

Taxes & demographics: Study: Romney Tax Plan Would Shift Burden Toward Poor

“Mitt Romney’s tax plan would provide large tax cuts to the very wealthy, while increasing the tax burden on the lower and middle classes, according to a study … produced by researchers at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center …”

United States: Is America a Secular Nation? by Ben Witherington

“It would be nearer the truth to say that America is a narcissistic ‘who cares’ society when it comes to politics than to say it is a secular society.”