links to 5 helpful articles

1. What is the Gospel? [essential reading]

“Christ crucified for sinners is the divine ‘plan’ of salvation.”

2. The Courage and Folly of a War That Left Indelible Scars

“Seconds before an armistice formally ended World War I on Nov. 11, 1918, Pvt. Henry Nicholas Gunther, an American soldier from Baltimore, mounted a final, one-man charge against a German machine-gun nest in northeastern France. The German gunners … tried to wave him away, but he ran on, only to perish in a burst of heavy automatic fire — the last soldier of any nationality to die in the conflict — at 10.59 a.m. local time. One minute later, under the terms of an armistice signed about six hours earlier, the so-called Great War, the ‘war to end all wars,’ was over, and the world was an altered place.”

3. If There’s No Church Growth Guarantee, Does It Even Matter What We Do?

“What matters is not how many people are sitting in our building on a Sunday, but how well they’re living on mission as a result of having been with us.”

4. Love Your Political Frenemies

“I still ache over the anguish of some and the bigotry of others, but this prayer discipline has chipped away at the parts of me tempted to reduce, write off, or wage war on some of those at the table. It has helped me surrender my personal agenda to Christ’s agenda—quite distinct from promoting my own agenda in the name of Christ. Prayer has helped me become better at discerning when to speak and when to be silent, what I should say and how I should say it. It has enabled me to break free of the tribal patterns of the world.”

5. In 1868, Two Nations Made a Treaty, the U.S. Broke It and Plains Indian Tribes are Still Seeking Justice

“… when gold was found in the Black Hills, the United States reneged on the agreement, redrawing the boundaries of the treaty, and confining the Sioux people — traditionally nomadic hunters — to a farming lifestyle on the reservation. It was a blatant abrogation that has been at the center of legal debate ever since.”

links: this went thru my mind

Here are links to some reading I consider interesting and helpful.

Church, ministry & obstacles: Ten Ways We Get in the Way of God Building His Church

“When things don’t go well at church, is it possible that we are getting in God’s way?”

Church growth & martyrdom: Sorry, Tertullian

“‘The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church’ … early church theologian Tertullian argued … [However] church growth is ‘not strongly’ correlated with either governmental or societal persecution. However, Christianity ‘tends loosely’ to change more rapidly (grow or shrink) when governmental restriction is high, and stays relatively stable when such pressure is low.”

Cinema, film & movies: Do We Really Need Christian Film?

“What surprises me is that the church has all but ignored, and even villified, this art form. We sit around debating the usefulness of film, bemoaning the latest Hollywood faith-based effort, madly citing Marshall McLuhan with the worst of proof-texting, wondering why we don’t see the likes of Bach, Handel, John Bunyan or C. S. Lewis making powerful, intelligent films. Maybe in the next ten to twenty years a Christian filmmaker will come along and show us what powerful Christian film can be.”

Humanity, inhumanity & violence: Why are We So Mired in Violence?

“… we can’t relate to each other the way God intends unless we’re in relationship with God himself the way he intends.”

Faith & torture: * Christians & Torture; * You Cannot Be a Christian and Support Torture

* “Torture is the arrogance of the mighty. … The cross of Christ reveals what God thinks of torture: it is not the way of God. God turned torture into new life by resurrection and overcoming torture.”

* “… to be a Christian absolutely requires you to reject the use of torture. … Any thoughtful person, no matter their religion or non-religion, knows that you cannot support torturing people and still claim to be a follower of the one who commanded his disciples to love their enemies. The only way around this is to invent a false Jesus who supports the use of torture. (The Biblical term for this invented false Jesus is ‘antichrist.’)

“Those who argue for the use of torture do so because they are convinced it is pragmatic for national security. But Christians are not called to be pragmatists or even safe. Christians are called by Jesus to imitate a God who is kind and merciful to the wicked.”

this went thru my mind

 

Advertising & outreach: The Billboard Problem

“I’ve singled out billboards, but consider the billboard’s closest relatives: church signs, bumper stickers and statement T-shirts. Those are some of contemporary Christianity’s favorite means of expression, right? We see them as the perfect little platforms for hit-and-run declarations of eternal significance. These media dictate a compressed message, an abridged gospel, and post it in the peripheral vision of vehicles and lives barreling down the highway. At best, this approach is inert. At worst, it’s counterproductive to our calling: to be witnesses in our neighborhoods and to the ends of the earth. I’m convinced this calling requires more from us than what will fit on a billboard. If we’re to truly be witnesses, we’ve got stories to tell.”

Announcements: How to Write Church Announcements

“… because department heads or ministry leaders tend to either give you too much or not enough information to promote their event, writing announcements is a chronically challenging task.”

Church growth: 10 Things I Wish Christians Understood About Church Growth

“The #1 way a church grows is by personal invitation. If you want your church to grow then invite people. … Evangelistic events seldom result in church growth. Sorry, but it’s true.”

Preaching: What Pre-Believers Listen for in Sermons

“In  emerging, twenty-first century churches, the sermon has lengthened from 25-30 minutes to 45-60 minutes. That’s a pretty amazing fact given that emerging churches often have a higher population of dechurched and unchurched people than our older, twentieth century churches. … Here are two observations from these preachers who connect to the millenial audiences in emerging churches: (1) They preach the text. There’s no waffling, excuses, or delaying. The preacher steps right into the biblical text as the context for their message. … (2) They illustrate before explaining. These emerging church preachers often introduce their points not from the text first, but from life.”

The Bible mini-series: History Channel’s ‘the Bible’— Less Filling, Tastes Great by Ben Witherington

“We live in a Biblically illiterate culture which is nonetheless a Jesus haunted culture. Jesus is swear word in 50 states, but the Bible remains for many if not most Americans terra incognita. So perhaps in this Lenten and Easter season we may be thankful for any conversation starter, however cheesy, that may give us a chance to have a richer discussion about the Bible and it’s riches.”

Work: * Five Faith Values to Practice at Work; * God at Work: Nunc Dimittus

* “Practice grace in the midst of turmoil. Practice contentment among those who grumble. Practice kindness, praising others instead of demeaning them. Practice joy. Practice love.”

* “… happiness isn’t a bad thing for work…It’s just not the only thing for work. And if it becomes that, then it will be unattainable. A job is only a vocation, a calling, if you do it for the sake of the other. And where your joy and the world’s need meet … that is where God is calling you.”

this went thru my mind

 

Business, consumers, marketing, shopping & tracking: Tracking Customers for Retail Profiling [infographic]

“64% didn’t know that supermarkets can sell their purchasing info to other companies.”

Church growth: 10 Old Wives’ Tales About Church Growth by Brian Orme

“There’s a lot of discussion that goes on about church growth: what causes it; how to generate it; prepare for it; launch it; build it; cultivate it and even, to some degree, manufacture it. Many of the discussions are helpful, but there are a number of subtle beliefs that still creep up that aren’t healthy. In fact, they’re downright superstitious and, at times, dangerous to the church.”

Faith & politics: The Role of Faith in the 2012 Election

“A new nationwide survey by the Barna Group among people who voted in the election reveals the role of faith had substantial influence on the election and upon people’s perspectives regarding the state of the nation and its future.”

Food stamps & poverty: * Living On Food Stamps: Newark Mayor Cory Booker Starts Challenge Today; * My Advice to Cory Booker – Eat Like a Medical Student

* “A campaign to raise awareness about the struggles of low-income Americans who depend on food stamps gets a high-profile plug today as Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, N.J., begins a week of living on $30 worth of food.”

* “Cory Booker has begun The SNAP/ Food Stamp Challenge. He’s eating on $4.40 a day, which totals to $30.80 a week. This started after a discussion he began with a person on Twitter, who believed that food stamps were unnecessary and too generous. … And me being me, and this blog being what it is, I can’t let this week slip by without offering my two cents on how he can manage on this budget.”

Family & technology: Don’t Sacrifice the Family to the Tyrants

“I have come to believe that we were able to make great memories because the time we spent together was time we spent with each other.”

Forgiveness & repentance: Going To Hell with Ted Haggard by Michael Cheshire

“You Christians eat your own. Always have. Always will.”

Ministry: * Two Ministry-Saving Spiritual Practices by Tim Spivey; * “What I Wish Someone Had Told Me:” Pastors of the 100 Fastest Growing Churches Share on Vision and Alignment by Will Mancini

* “Two spiritual practices have allowed me to stay in ministry for 17 years and still enjoy it. … Practice One: I take an annual personal retreat. … Practice two: I still date my wife.”

* “What really struck me are the common threads on vision and alignment. Look for how these pastors discuss clarity and unique calling. The big themes are as follows: Radical emphasis on mission and vision (including values and strategy); Willingness to “let people go” who don’t align with the vision; Commitment to stop programs and cut ministry not aligned with the vision.”

this went thru my mind

 

Discipleship: Did We Just Discover Discipleship? by Dan Bouchelle

“The informal models of discipleship that happened naturally in smaller, more rural communities, and within small family-based churches, did not require the kind of structural programing we just assume is mandatory today.”

Evangelism & outreach: The Dangers of Evangelism by Christian Piatt [required reading]

“Sometimes our zeal for sharing something that’s important to us blinds us to the havoc we can be wreaking in the process.”

Income inequality: How Income Inequality Is Damaging the U.S. by Frederick E. Allen [note]

“New research indicates that growing income inequality isn’t just unpleasant; it is seriously hurting the U.S. economy. And economists are figuring out just how the damage is done … The Congressional Budget Office recently reported that between 1979 and 2007 the top 1% of households doubled their share of pretax income while the share of the bottom 80% fell.”

Ministry: * Lessons from the Joshua Tree by Bert Crabbe; * Growing Problems … Old Wineskins by K. Rex Butts

* “Our team learned early on that if we didn’t establish clear boundaries to protect family life and personal health, the church would swallow every waking minute.”

* “To try and live out the good news in our old ways rather than following Jesus in his new ways is to sew a new patch on an old garment…to pour new wine into old wineskins.  This just will not work and ultimately it is a failure to follow Jesus in his new ways.”

Sexual orientation: Sexual Orientation: It’s Not a Sin by Kathy Vestal [required reading]

” … I am saying that sexual orientation, whether homosexual or heterosexual, is not a sin. What is done with that orientation is indeed a choice and can certainly lead to sin, for both homosexual and heterosexual people. Promiscuity. Adultery. But not mere orientation.”

this went thru my mind

 

Church growth: Let it Grow – Advice on Church Growth by Tim Spivey

“Each church’s journey is different, and it’s hard to get down to the level this can be talked about. However, someone needs to put on the table: The reason some of us aren’t growing is because our soil is sick.”

Google: Get More Out of Google [infographic]

“Here are some crucial tips for refining your Googling …”

Discipleship, gospel, salvation & the sinner’s prayer: The Gospel of Sin Management and the Loss of Discipleship by Jeff Clarke

“When we reduce the gospel story to salvation and salvation to personal forgiveness and forgiveness to a plan of salvation that focuses exclusively on getting people to make a decision (what Dallas Willard referred to in The Divine Conspiracy as the gospel of sin management), we essentially de-storify the gospel of Jesus and offer people what proves to be a serious mutation. We move from the birth of Christ to the death of Christ and forget the in-between life of Jesus. As a result, we end up living as though the middle section (i.e., his teachings, miracles, healings, and other kingdom-of-God-has-come indicators) has no inherent significance and salvific import …

“When we couple this with our North American preoccupation and unhealthy interest in numbers, we end up trying to compel as many people as possible to make a decision (whatever it takes), but only end up presenting a powerless, lopsided, half-story. However, our methods of persuasion ask people to make a decision, not for Christ alone, as the goal of the gospel, but to avoid hell (fire insurance), make us happy, help us find a mate, heal our marriage, etc, setting people up for failure. Then we add up the ‘salvations’ as though numbers indicate success. …

“However, by reducing the story of Jesus, a story that calls people to a life of devoted discipleship, to a system of salvation that only asks people to make a decision, we effectively short-circuit the power of the gospel.”

Manuscripts & preservation: Papyrus Conservation Videos

“… two videos on papyrus preservation. The first describes the work of Leyla Lau-Lamb, the principle papyrus curator at the University of Michigan Papyrus Collection. he second video from the British Museum records the restoration of a Book of the Dead scroll which was pasted to a sheet of paper.”

Miscarriage: Letters to My Unborn Children: the Silent Grief of Miscarriage by Shawn Collins

“Our first pregnancy in 2004 ended in a miscarriage right after Easter. Through my wife Kristine’s five subsequent pregnancies—another miscarriage in 2004, healthy girls born in 2005 and 2008, a third miscarriage in 2010, and a healthy girl born in 2011—I wrote letters to my children to reflect on these experiences. These letters extended my lifelong habit of journaling about both formative and mundane events in my life.”

this went thru my mind

 

Faith/faithfulness: The Faithfulness of Jesus, or Faith in Jesus?

“It is Jesus’ faithfulness I can rest in, and not my own sometimes weak, wavering, and even battered faith. It’s not that I am excused not to hold on to faith, or keep the faith. But I can better do so by realizing that it’s because of the faithfulness of Jesus that I can continue in that stance of faith, and nothing more nor less. Of course the Spirit is at work in God’s grace in Jesus to help us, all part of what comes out of the faithfulness of Jesus.”

Firearms, gun ownership & violence: Why This Christian Will Never Own a Gun by Bruce Reyes-Chow

“When I say that I will never own a gun because of my Christian faith, that does not mean that I am saying that you are not a Christian if you do.”

Gospel: The Gospel … A Family Story by K. Rex Butts

“If we were to ask a hundred Christians what the goal or aim of the gospel of Jesus Christ is, I’m guessing a good bit of that number would provide an individualistic salvation answer. They would say something like, ‘to save me from my sins so that I can live eternally with God.’ … However, the aim of the gospel is reconciliation of people back to God and each other into “one body” so that we all are one community, the ‘household of God’ (Eph. 2:14-22).”

Government & taxes: Render to Caesar What is Caesar’s by Scott Elliott

“N.T. Wright has correctly said, ‘If Jesus is Lord, Caesar is not.’ First century Christians understood that professing Jesus as Lord could ultimately mean death because of its political implications. Becoming a Christian means that Jesus is our Lord and we are citizens of the Kingdom of God. We cannot serve two masters. Our sole allegiance is to God and His Kingdom.”

Growth: * The Myth of Endless Growth by Larry Osborne [required reading]; * Reflections on a Red God by Dan Bouchelle

* “I’ve always been told that if a business or church isn’t growing, something must be terribly wrong. After all, healthy things always multiply and grow. But frankly, that’s hogwash. It’s based on idealistic and wishful thinking. It’s a leadership urban legend. And a dangerous one at that.”

* “Perhaps our models of church have hindered the growth of the church as much as aided it. Perhaps the Christian faith grows best when it travels light. … The more I read … the more I’m convinced that we need to be doing what God is blessing instead of asking him to bless what we are doing. The mission is his. He is in the lead.”

Holiness, humility & respect: Committed to Holiness But Not Holier Than Thou [required reading]

“We hold to our convictions, firmly believing that we are right. Yet we can do so without judging others and without believing that our stance somehow makes us better than others. I will try to convince others of my position and hope they will try to convince me of theirs. That’s how we grow as Christians. Yet it must always be done with an air of acceptance and respect.”

Joy: Four Simple Things Stealing Your Joy (And What to do About Them) by Chris Altrock

“Richard Foster writes about four obstacles that keep us from joy. The first obstacle is inattention. … A second obstacle is the wrong kind of attention. … A third obstacle is greed. … The final hindrance is conceit.”

Politics: The Attack Ad, Pompeii-Style

“A.D. 79 was a rough year for Marcus Cerrinius Vatia. … Since tradition in Pompeii kept ads from being blatantly defamatory, a favorite trick of local politicians was to plaster the tombs and walls of the town with fake endorsements for their opponents from unsuitable supporters — runaway slaves, gamblers and prostitutes. In Roman politics, where the appearance of honor and dignity was all important, even obviously false endorsements could bring shame and defeat to a struggling candidate. The almost 3,000 political inscriptions that survive from Pompeii tell us more about Roman elections …”

Prayer: Pray Continually: Thoughts on Praying with the Church by John Byron

“The exhortation to “pray continually” is common to Paul’s writing and his life (Rom. 12:12; Eph 6:18; Col. 4:2; 2 Tim 1:3). … When we pray, whether alone or corporately and whether we realize it or not, we pray together with all the people of God.”

Silence: Only In Silence, The Word

“… when you are alone with just yourself and God, you find out how noisy your interior world is …”