links: this went thru my mind

Here are links to six articles that I’ve found to be interesting and helpful reading:

Affirming, communication, freedom, respect, tolerance, welcoming & words: Slippery Words— Tolerance, Respect, Welcoming, Affirming, Freedom

“What of course has happened in our American society is that as the culture has changed, the semantic range of a whole series of words has changed as well.”

American Sniper, cinema, discernment, film, movies, military service, perspective & war: I Was An American Sniper, and Chris Kyle’s War Was Not My War

“Don’t make the mistake of thinking the hit movie captures the truth of the Iraq conflict. I should know. I lived it. … If you really want to be a patriotic American, keep both eyes open and maintain 360 degrees of awareness. Don’t simply watch American Sniper. Read other sources, watch other films about the conflict. Talk to as many veterans as you can, get a full perspective on the war experience and the consequences. Ensure the perceived enemy in your vision is what it seems.”

Bible interpretation, misappropriation, misunderstanding & promises: 2 Ways We Misinterpret God’s Promises [essential reading]

“Over my years of ministry, I’ve discerned a tendency among conservative Christians to assume that anything in Scripture that looks like a promise is in fact something that God promises them.”

Church decline, culture & religion, history, perceptions, time & United States: Religious Decline in America? The Answer Depends on Your Timeframe

“Did the twentieth century see a rise and fall of religiosity within a larger pattern of stability? Or does the late 20th-century religious decline shrink to insignificance when compared with the religious rise since the founding of the nation?”

Church life, generation & peace: 3 Ways to Encourage Peace Between Generations in Denominations

“The fact is, each member within a family has a tendency to find their own style and way in life. But as each individual develops their own unique identity, they should not develop a spirit of pride over the others in the family.”

Choices, consequences, corporate worship & legacy: 15 Worship Decisions We’ll Regret

“Dividing congregations along age and affinity lines. … Eliminating choral expressions in worship. … Worship leader ageism. … Elevating music above Scripture, Prayer and the Lord’s Supper. … Making worship and music exclusively synonymous. … Trying to recreate worship with each new generation. … Ignoring the Christian Calendar and adopting the Hallmark Calendar. … Worshiping like inspiration stopped with the hymnal. … Worshiping like inspiration started with modern worship songs. … Not providing a venue for creatives to express their art as worship. … Allowing songs about God to supersede the Word of God. … Elevating gathered worship above dispersed worship. … Setting aside traditionalism around the world but not across the aisle. … Worshiping out of Nostalgia or Novelty. … Worship services at the expense of worship service.”

links: this went thru my mind

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

Here are links to five articles that I’ve found to be interesting and helpful reading.

Aggression, American Sniper, Chris Kyle, cinema, distortion, film, miscommunication, myth, nationalism, patriotism & war: Why I Refuse to See ‘American Sniper’ [essential reading]

“When you have experienced firsthand the multitude of ways war wreaks havoc on families, you have little tolerance for the mythmaking that war always seems to invoke. Not to mention the patriotic, almost nationalistic fervor that accompanies a flag-draped coffin.”

Alexander the Great, Amphipolis, archaeology & Greece: Amphipolis Excavation: Discoveries in Alexander the Great-Era Tomb Dazzle the World

“… since August 2014 … the Ministry of Culture has been gradually releasing to the public the incredible archaeological finds that have been uncovered in what is the largest tomb ever found in Greece. … It has been popularly speculated that the Amphipolis Tomb was built for one of Alexander’s generals or family members—perhaps his mother, Olympias, or his wife, Roxanne. After Alexander’s death, his generals fought over control of the Macedonian Empire, which stretched from the Balkans to what’s now Pakistan and northwest India. Alexander’s mother, wife, son and half-brother were murdered during this time—most near Amphipolis. It’s still not clear for whom the magnificent tomb was built and why the five individuals were buried in the tomb.”

Disabilities & Social Security: Social Security’s Christmas Present: Benefit Cuts for Millions of Disabled Workers

“The fact that benefits need to be cut or taxes raised, or both, to keep Social Security solvent does not justify treating the disabled like second class citizens.”

God, free will & the hardening of hearts: God Hardens Hearts – What Does That Mean?

“God justly responds to people’s wickedness by strengthening their resolve against him. In every instance where Scripture speaks of God hardening someone, it’s an act of judgment in response to decisions these people had already made. God simply ensures that these rebels will do what their own evil hearts desire and not alter course for ulterior motives. But it’s altogether unwarranted to suppose that God unilaterally hardens people’s hearts against himself in the first place—all the while pretending to offer them the hope of salvation! When God decides to harden someone’s heart, we can be assured that God wishes it didn’t have to be that way.”

Leisure, technology, time & work: Speed Kills: Has Technology Destroyed Leisure

“… the fact that we welcome progress, increased convenience and the sheer excitement of speed in different forms—are so deeply entangled with detrimental effects (the stress and feelings of disaffection that come with living a mediated life, the actual physical danger of speed in some cases) that the phenomenon is interesting to analyze but difficult to address.”

links: this went thru my mind

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

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

Cinema, film & movies: The Uneven ‘Inspiration’ of Unbroken

Unbroken‘s Zamperini is brave, kind, stoic and tremendously longsuffering, but without his complex relationship with God, these are just words ripped from a motivational poster; pretty melodies with no real rhythm. … The phrase ‘the inspiring true story’ was made for just such a tale as Unbroken, and the film deserves to be seen. But it deserves a fuller, richer conversation as well. Few Americans have ever lived such an inspiring tale, from beginning to end. It’s just a shame that biopic glosses over the latter.”

Cuba & missions: Cuban Ministry

“Although no one knows at this point how the new relationship will work out, there is optimism among the ordinary citizens, [Tim] Archer said, based on conversations with people in Cuba. ‘They’re just out of their minds happy,’ said Archer, who is coordinator of Spanish-speaking ministries for the Herald of Truth. … Archer has made 18 trips to Cuba since 2006, the year he started work for the Herald of Truth, an evangelistic radio ministry started in 1952 by Church of Christ congregations in Abilene.”

Depression, discouragement & self-pity: How to Break the Bondage of Self-Pity

“The way to break the bondage of self-pity is to quit measuring how self is being treated.”

Google, Internet & search: 11 Google Tricks That Will Change the Way You Search

“Use quotes to search for an exact phrase. … Use an asterisk within quotes to specify unknown or variable words. … Use the minus sign to eliminate results containing certain words. … Search websites for keywords. … Search news archives going back to the mid-1880s. … Compare foods using vs.’ … Filter search results for recipes. … Use ‘DEFINE:’ to learn the meaning of words—slang included. … Tilt your screen by searching ’tilt.’ … Play Atari Breakout by searching it on Google Images. … Search images using images. … Press the mic icon on Google’s search bar, and say ‘flip a coin’ or ‘heads or tails’. … Press the mic icon on Google’s search bar, and say ‘give me a love quote’ or ‘I love you.’ …”

Greed, income inequality, money & wealth: What the 1% Don’t Want You to Know [essential reading]

“We’re seeing inequalities that will be transferred across generations. We are becoming very much the kind of society we imagined we’re nothing like.”

links: this went thru my mind

Here are several links I found to be interesting and helpful.

Choices, decisions, discernment, intuition, morality, rationalization & thinking: Your Mind is a Spin Machine

“… usually, the rider is the servant to the elephant.”

Cinema, faith, film, forgiveness, hatred, movies, torture & war: The Power of Forgiveness [essential reading]

“How does a man forgive what is seemingly unforgivable? In search of the answer, I began a seven-year journey through his life, a journey that culminated in my book Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.”

Feast of Dedication, Feast of Lights, Hanukkah, Jesus & Jerusalem: * Jesus Visited Jerusalem During Hanukkah; * Hanukkah: When Jesus Claimed to be God

* “The Gospel of John records more visits to Jerusalem by Jesus than any other of the Gospels. John is the only one to record the visit during the Feast of Dedication.”

* “Today, some say Jesus never claimed to be God. But His words during that Hanukkah left little doubt.”

Israel, roads, the ascent to Jerusalem & travel: New Video: The Modern Ascent to Jerusalem

“Bill Schlegel, author of the Satellite Bible Atlas, has just posted a video showing the ascent to Jerusalem from the Shephelah. The 6-minute video uses drone footage to show the modern highway’s route and the new construction. In antiquity, travelers followed the natural routes along the ridges. Today when we deviate from those ridges, we spend billions to destroy the landscape in the construction of passes, bridges, and tunnels.”

Prison system & teens: End Solitary Confinement for Teenagers

“That the practice is widespread remains a disturbing indicator of how poorly we treat the hundreds of thousands of minors arrested each year in the United States.”