links: this went thru my mind

 

Criticism & critics: How to Receive Criticism: 3 Ways to Avoid Feeling Attacked by Criticism

“You’re bound to face criticism of some form. The question is: how will you deal with it?”

Christianity, Democrats, identity in Christ, kingdom, nationalism, partisan politics, political parties & Republicans: * In Christ: Neither Democrat Nor Republican [essential reading]; * The Politics of Worship: Who Do You Serve?

* “… Christians would do much better to identify themselves from the point of their baptism rather than some political reality that belongs to the old dying world (or anything else belonging to this dying world).”

* “American Christians thus assume that capitalism, democracy, individualism, wealth, freedom and opportunity are Christian virtues passed down by Jesus himself. But the Gospel of Christ refuses this marriage of empire and Kingdom, realizing the Christian ‘we’ and the American ‘we’ are not synonymous.”

Contribution, giving, offering & money: Five Reasons to Keep Bringing Up Money

“… some reasons why the church should talk about money and ask for it consistently.”

Ministry: Nine Secrets Your Pastor’s Wife Wishes You Knew

“What if we just asked our pastor’s wife to candidly, honestly, even anonymously share some of their secrets? What if we invited them to share their hearts and tell us what they wished the church knew?”

Poor & poverty: Who are the Poor?

“What follows is not to be read as a listing of stereotypes.  Rather, these descriptions get at characteristics that various low-income persons exhibit.  I’ve encountered thousands of people over the last two decades here in Dallas who come to mind as I lay out this list.”

Rape & violence: The Bible’s Attitude to Rape [77 min. video]

“To give away the plot, Athas argues that: Rape is not condoned. Rape is equated with murder. The perpetrator is held responsible. The victim should not be blamed. The welfare of the victim is of the utmost importance. … this is one of the best OT presentations I’ve seen.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Bible, faith & Jesus: Are We Building Faith In The Bible INSTEAD of Jesus?

“… we should have the highest view of the Bible as possible, but the Bible is not for creating faith in the Bible, but in Jesus Christ. … Are we teaching our youth and all age groups, for that matter, how to build their faith on the written word or the Living Word? That difference may be subtle to you, but I contend it is essential.”

Critical spirit, criticism, negativity & youth: Curing a Critical Spirit in Students [essential reading]

“Every one of these deans, provosts, directors, faculty members and coaches had stories to tell about how much their students had criticized others. …  we have witnessed an increasing number of students who carelessly criticize programs, ideas and institutions. We are discerning a critical spirit among young Millennials. Why is this happening?”

Cross, faith, non-violence & self-sacrifice: Cross-like Love and Non-Violence

“Though it seems to have been forgotten by many today, the cross wasn’t simply something God did for us. …  contrary to the way most Christians today view the matter, the call to manifest God’s indiscriminate, self-sacrificial love and to unconditionally refrain from violence cannot be considered an optional aspect of what it means to follow Jesus. Rather, as cruciform love is the most definitive distinguishing characteristic of God’s nature, so manifesting cruciform love must be considered the sine qua non feature of all who are the children of this God.”

Generations: Generation X: America’s Neglected ‘Middle Child’

“This overlooked generation currently ranges in age from 34 to 49 … Gen Xers are bookended by two much larger generations – the Baby Boomers ahead and the Millennials behind – that are strikingly different from one another. … Gen Xers are a low-slung, straight-line bridge between two noisy behemoths.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Busyness & the speed of life: What Slowing Down Teaches You That Rushing Never Will

“The mother of a child with Down syndrome joins her daughter’s rebellion against hurried living.”

Christianity, culture & society: A Shocking Conclusion About American Christianity [required reading]

“The only way someone can think most of what goes on in American churches is authentically Christian is not to read the Bible, the church fathers, the reformers, and the great thinkers and evangelists of all denominations. … I am afraid that it is becoming increasingly harder to find the gospel in America. It is either wrapped so tightly in the flag as to be virtually invisible or relegated to a footnote to messages about ‘success in living,’ being nice and including everyone. … How like New Testament and historic Christianity is ours? What have we lost?”

Community & complaining: The Monday Rule [essential reading]

“…  the Monday rule … might be stated this way: ‘If you have concerns or the feel the need to complain, do it Monday (or another day of your choice). Please don’t do it Sunday–or when the church is gathered for worship.’ … One of the greatest services leadership can provide the church is the effective handling of the church’s concerns, which includes the timing of such dealings—not just making sure they are heard. Implementing the Monday rule will do more for your church’s weekend assemblies than nearly anything. … A couple of assumptions can be made reasonably about people who complain chronically on Sundays. First, they lack a sense of the impact of their comments on others—especially staff or those whose spiritual frame of heart impacts others that day. Two, they lack spiritual focus during times that are unique in the practice of the church—and their complaining will spread this across the Body if not checked. Three, they likely do this because of proximity. They want to get it dealt with right then—because it could consume their time and energy to do it another time. So, they’d prefer to use yours on their terms rather than deal with the problem another way.”

Compassion, difficult people, ministry & relationships: People are Such Absolute Jerks (and So Can You)

“I’m convinced that we’ve got to put the oxygen masks on ourselves before we help others.”

Gospel, heaven & salvation: The Gospel Isn’t About Heaven [essential reading]

“The gospel is as much about earth as it is heaven. As much about before death as it is after death. It is the message that Jesus, the one true King, is expanding his reign onto earth. This, after all, is what Jesus called gospel: ‘Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.'” (Mark 1:14-15)

Gratitude, humility, mindfulness & the ordinary: Cherish the Ordinary

“We become bugged by ten things in our day that didn’t pan out as we had wished without noticing we were able, still, to swallow our food, drive our cars, read the paper, hear the radio, and go to the bathroom. … Decide to cherish the ordinary.  Men, women, and children are suffering from a terrible (yet acceptable and unnoticed by the masses) disease called ingratitude for the simplest of gigantic blessings.  Stop complaining, whining, and/or sighing. Treasure right now.”

Honesty, nationalism & the pledge of Allegiance: Why Christians Might Want To Abstain From Reciting “The Pledge Of Allegiance”

“… I think we’re having the wrong discussion on this issue entirely. Instead of a constant cultural debate over the wording of the pledge, I think a better question is: ‘Should a Christian recite the pledge of allegiance at all?'”

Preaching, relevance & teaching: Why So Many Churches Hear So Little of the Bible

“‘It is well and good for the preacher to base his sermon on the Bible, but he better get to something relevant pretty quickly, or we start mentally to check out.’ That stunningly clear sentence reflects one of the most amazing, tragic, and lamentable characteristics of contemporary Christianity: an impatience with the Word of God. …  the tragedy of a church increasingly impatient with and resistant to the reading and preaching of the Bible.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Beggars, the poor & the marginalized: Beggars in Mark

“The stories that end this chapter are about beggars, people who in desperate need. They are angry with life or with Satan, but not with Jesus. Life has not followed the rules with them—it has treated them and those they love unfairly—and they are not particularly concerned that Jesus doesn’t always color within the lines. In fact, they are quite hopeful that (with those they love) Jesus can stretch outside of normal boundaries and accomplish something beyond the ordinary.”

Bible reading: How the World’s Top 10 Countries Search the Bible Differently

“Two of the four ‘implications of the search for truth’ noted in the study: Are pastors and missionaries preaching too much from Paul? Too little from the Old Testament?”

Idolatry: If Daniel 3 Were Written Today

“Beloved countrymen, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question. If the God we serve exists, then He can sustain us in the event we are being marginalized, cast aside, and silenced, and He can rescue us from craving approval from the rest of our society. But even if He does not protect us from your penalties and fines, we want you as a society to know that we will not serve your gods or celebrate the gold statue you set up.”

Ministry: Just What Does a Minister Do Anyway?

“I don’t suppose there is an easier target for criticism or maybe jokestering than that of a minister.”

Parenting: 7 Ways Parents Injure a Child — Without Even Knowing It

“… looking back, I can see some of these we were guilty of doing — and I remain thankful for God’s grace in spite of me.”

Racism & reconciliation: Ok, White Folks, Here’s How You Can Really Help! [required reading]

“Young man we appreciate your support and energy but really the best thing you can do for our movement is to go back to your churches, families, communities and friends and share the truth you have heard today.  It is the education of your own race, which will be the biggest catalyst for change in reconciling all races and bringing the kingdom value of racial unity and harmony into existence.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Adultery: The United States of Adultery

[This is an interactive map. Houston is #2 in the country, beat out only by three-time winner Washington D.C.]

Birth of Jesus & Christmas: * Baby Jesus Meek and Mild, Overthrew an Empire – Wild!; * Is There A Dragon In Your Nativity Set?

* “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.’ Merry Christmas.”

* “Every nativity set needs a red dragon. If you don’t remember that part of the story, you might want to read chapter 12 of Revelation.”

China, Christianity & persecution: China’s Hardship-Hardened Church

“Vibrant amid persecution, it seeks faithfulness over freedom.”

Contribution, generosity, giving, possessions, sacrifice, stewardship & wealth: The Scary Truth About Christian Giving

“Over the past 40 years, self-identified evangelicals have given between 2 and 3 percent of their incomes to churches and Christian organizations. Stewardship is a crucial part of the Christian life, and according to these figures, it is sadly lacking.”

Criticism, hatred & humility: Haters

“Never criticize what God is blessing.”

Firearms & guns: Gun Country

“They bring families together and they tear them apart. They kill innocent people and protect them. The United States continues to love and revile its hundreds of millions of firearms. Here is a look at that complicated  relationship, told through the personal stories of Americans.”

Insurance & the uninsured: Mapping Uninsured Americans

“Census data released Dec. 17 show where the uninsured live.”

Love & truth: 3 John: When Love is Abused

“He abused his power; he abused the love entrusted to him.”

Poor & poverty: In the War on Poverty, a Dogged Adversary [required reading]

“Without the panoply of government benefits — like food stamps, subsidized school lunches and the earned-income tax credit, which provides extra money to household heads earning low wages — the nation’s poverty rate last year would have reached almost 31 percent, up from 25 percent in 1967, according to the research at Columbia.”

Warfare: The Great War’s Ominous Echoes

“… the era just before World War I, with its gas lighting and its horse-drawn carriages, seems very far-off, it is similar to ours — often unsettlingly so — in many ways.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Bias, criticism, open-mindedness & thinking: Why We Confuse The Onion for the News [essential reading]

“… we all have biases, and our efforts to rid ourselves of them through education and self-awareness don’t actually ‘fix’ the problem.”

Cell phones & etiquette: Cell Phone Funeral Etiquette

“Cell phones often go off when we least want them to. In church. In school. During sex. And at a funeral. As other funeral directors can attest, the oddest thing about a cell phone ringing during funerals is how many people will actually answer.”

Church attendance, faith, millennials, peace & unity: The Millennials Are Rejecting Fighting Churches and Christians [essential reading]

“… many of them are walking away from our churches, and more of them are not attending at all, when they witness or hear about negativity and divisiveness in those churches. They want to see unity among Christians, and they are often disappointed.”

Health: * Aging Well: Keeping Blood Sugar Low May Protect Memory; * Depression: Could Be Almost Depressed?

* “… even modest increases in blood sugar among people in their 50s, 60s and 70s can have a negative influence on memory.”

* “Research suggests that as many as 12 million people in the United States may be suffering from low-grade depression symptoms that are not severe enough to warrant clinical treatment. … In fact, on some of these measures, people who are almost depressed report feeling worse off than people who actually fall into the clinically depressed range. … There is also another more serious problem: Research indicates about 75% of cases of low-grade depression will devolve into full-blown major depression if they are not recognized and arrested.”

Grandparenting, parenting & prayer: How to Pray for Your Children & Grandchildren [required reading]

“Because there are 12 prayers in this list, you could concentrate on one prayer per month to concentrate on. Within a year you will have consistently prayed the entire list.”

Holy Spirit: The Kingdom’s Second Major Death

“Why has this gone on?  Why has the Holy Spirit been quenched in our circles? Control.  Man is obsessed with control; even in religion’s court. … The Kingdom’s second major death, after Jesus’ upon the cross, is that of the Holy Spirit within the hearts of men.  We have killed Him off and buried Him in our tombs of organization and control.”

Leisure, online & time management: What You Would Be Doing If You Spent Less Time Online

“More time online means less time socializing, studying, and sleeping.”

Faith & President Obama: * The President’s Devotional: What Obama ‘Did In Secret’ In Newtown; * The Man Behind the President’s Devotional

* “The president took a deep breath and steeled himself, and went into the first classroom. And what happened next I’ll never forget. … It must have been one of the defining moments of his presidency, quiet hours in solemn classrooms, extending as much healing as was in his power to extend. But he kept it to himself—never seeking to teach a lesson based on those mournful conversations, or opening them up to public view.”

* “Dubois has been sending devotionals to Obama every morning since the 2008 presidential campaign. A collection of these spiritual messages to the president has now been published Dubois’ new book, The President’s Devotional. Dubois started working for Obama shortly after he became a senator. A public policy and economics student at Princeton University, he was also ordained at a small Pentecostal church where he served as an associate pastor. It was this combination of skills that led him to become Obama’s faith outreach coordinator during his first presidential campaign and, later, to be appointed as the Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships during the president’s first term.”

this went thru my mind

 

Baytown & Mont Belvieu: Chambers Town Center

A look at the plan for the the construction of Chambers Town Center near the intersection of I-10 & Hwy. 146 in Baytown, TX.

Church, idolatry & ministry: When Church Becomes an Idol

“… what does this look like when church itself is the ‘idol’ a pastor is venerating?”

Criticism, listening, preaching, respect, selective hearing & sermons: Sick of Sermons [required reading]

“Chronic critique of sermons is an illness. …  Some sufferers have lived with this condition for so long that they have found ways to manage it: committing to ministries that pull them out of the sermon … venting … or using the sermon-time for completely unrelated spiritual exercises. The long-term prognosis is grave: spiritual malnourishment. The table that God sets for us has two parts, Word and Sacrament, and Christ is the bread of both. But we only get what we’re willing to receive. How can we fight this illness that has us always excusing ourselves from the table during the first course and frequently ruining the appetite of others? I recommend aggressive treatment.”

Discouragement, faith, humility, passion, perseverance, & zeal: Maintaining a Holy Fire When You Feel More Like an Unholy Fizzle

“… because we live in Christ we must wait for him to do the work. This is nearly a mockery to the flesh-driven personality. God, through the Spirit, opens doors and closes others. My exhilaration is when He opens them. My frustration is when none open and I impatiently knock harder.

“How do we maintain a holy fire when some days feel more like an unholy fizzle? Believe God works…and then wait on Him.”

Holiness, OMG, speech, respect & words: Is It OK for a Christian to Drop OMG’s?

“Remember, it is the trademark for the unbeliever to take God’s name in vain …”

Inspiration & interpretation: The Inspiration of Scripture: 2 Timothy 3:16

“In short, I tend not to read 2 Tim 3:16a as an assertion about scripture, but as an identification of which writings the author is talking about.”

Modesty: Modesty: I Don’t Think it Means What You Think it Means

“And so biblical modesty isn’t about managing the sexual impulses of other people; it’s about cultivating humility, propriety and deference within ourselves.”

Parenting: Dear Parents With Young Children [essential reading]

“You are doing something really, really important. I know it’s not easy. I see you with your arms overflowing, and I know you came to church already tired. Parenting is tiring. Really tiring.

“I watch you bounce and sway trying to keep the baby quiet, juggling the infant car seat and the diaper bag as you find a seat. I see you wince as your child cries. I see you anxiously pull things out of your bag of tricks to try to quiet them.

“And I see you with your toddler and your preschooler. I watch you cringe when your little girl asks an innocent question in a voice that might not be an inside voice let alone a church whisper.  I hear the exasperation in your voice as you beg your child to just sit, to be quiet as you feel everyone’s eyes on you. Not everyone is looking, but I know it feels that way.

“I know you’re wondering, is this worth it? Why do I bother? I know you often leave church more exhausted than fulfilled. But what you are doing is so important.”

Reading: * Read Your Bible: But How? (Lectio Divina); * Americans’ Reading Habits Over Time

* “I’ve benefited from reading large portions of Scripture–whole narratives, books, and multiple chapters–in one sitting. I’ve also benefited immensely from slowing down and meditatively just reading a few verses at a time. Lectio Divina is a way of reading Scripture that encourages that. It’s reading, as many have said, for transformation and not just information. …

“It goes like this: * 1. Read: What does the passage say? 2. Pray: What is God saying to me through this passage?  (short phrase or single word) 3. Listen: How is God calling me to respond to what he’s saying? 4. Respond: What will I commit to God to do in response?”

* “… the percentage of Americans who read a printed book in the previous 12 months fell from 72% of the population in 2011 to 67% in 2012.”