links: this went thru my mind

Church, culture, demographics & multi-racial: The Changing Face of the American Church

“If you ask, would you like to have a multiethnic church, everyone says, ‘that would be wonderful’ … When you ask, what are you doing to make that happen—that’s when you hear the crickets.”

Contentment, life, meaning, significance & stimulation: What If Having an Extraordinary Life Isn’t the Point?

“What we are called to do every day, right where God has placed us, is rich and rewarding. … Sometimes, the best way to change the world is to live extraordinarily in what looks like an ordinary existence—to radically love and serve those around us every day, no matter where we are.”

Pornography & repentance: * Men and Porn (a four-part series; parts 1, 2, 3 & 4)

“The tips and suggestions below are based on my research into cognitive psychology over the years as well as from reported experiences of men who have quit using porn. Again, there’s no silver bullet. What works for one man, may not work for you. You need to be ready to experiment and try different things.”

Water: Water is the New Oil: How Corporations Took Over a Basic Human Right

“Water has become a commodity …and the world’s poor are paying the price. … Twenty percent of the world right now does not have access to clean water. Twenty percent of the world also happens to live on less than a dollar a day. And it’s interesting to look at how much those two groups overlap.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Aliens, culture, faith & immigration: God’s Immigrants [essential reading]

“The total global diaspora numbers about 859 million from 327 distinct people groups. A larger number of those peoples settle in the US than in any other host country, making about 11% of the US population foreign born. … Let us see if we can’t … reclaim the deep resonances and reverence scripture caries for the immigrant.”

Busyness, Christianity, church, faith, over-stimulation, United States: Why It’s Hard to Be Christian in America [essential reading]

“What we need is a community of people who agree to live by a different ethic and rhythm. The Bible has a word for that community. It’s called church. So, let the church be the church.”

Burnout, discouragement, leadership & ministry: * Ten Things Pastors Hate to Admit Publicly [essential reading]; * A Cure for Ministerial Burnout: Contemplative Prayer; * Don’t Make Your Pastor a Statistic?

* “My intention is precisely the opposite. I hope that from this: Churches will pray all the more for their pastors because they understand the challenges; Churches will be doubly grateful for the fact that so many pastors stay in the saddle despite their fears, hurts and frustrations; People in churches will think twice before engaging in things that sink deep into the soul of their leaders.”

* “If, each day, time had been set aside for the spiritual renewal that contemplative praying can provide, there probably would have been the kind of revitalization of mind and spirit that could have maintained their enthusiasm and commitment to ministry.”

* “Consider these figures compiled by the Schaeffer Institute …”

Church, church attendance & expectations: * #1 Reason Why Church Attendance is Down – Really? [required reading]; * Disillusionment With the Church [essential reading]

* “Take me for example, for a number of reasons, I am very close to burnout.  When I hear words like ‘active’, ‘committed’, ‘involvement’, and ‘monitor attendance’, it is going to produce the opposite of the intended effect in me.  If I hear these words from the pulpit on a Sunday morning, I am going to be less likely, not more likely,  to attend the following week.  I am burnt out and you want a larger commitment from me?!?

“Seven years ago, when we searching for a new pastor, our church surveyed our community.  When asked the number one reason why they didn’t attend church, the top two responses could be summarized as:  ‘Too tired’, and ‘not enough time.'”

* “I would contend that many of our disillusions with the church are based upon a wrong ethic. We misunderstand the true nature of fellowship in the gospel community. And therefore, we wrongly apply the ethic of other communities to the church.

“The foundation of our fellowship is not the feelings we have for one another, as important as they may be. Neither is the foundation of our fellowship based upon the fact that we live in the same geographic place, educate our children in the same way, hold similar political views, or are the same ethnicity. No. It is the gospel that is the foundation of our fellowship. Nothing else.”

Israel: * The Pilgrimage: Israel (a 25-part series by Ben Witherington; superb); * Gaza is in the News Again

* “I was fortunate enough to lead a tour to Israel and Turkey for two weeks in May with 29 hearty souls on pilgrimage, and we had a blessed time and a blast as well. It was all good. In the coming weeks I will be sharing some of the pictures and experiences from this trip and we will be talking about.”

* “Gaza is mentioned several times in the Old Testament. Here is a summary of these references.”

Listening, preaching & sermons: How to Get More from a Sermon [essential reading]

“Let’s talk about people who do not get full value from the sermons they hear.

“These people may be taking SERMON-BLOCKERS. When the pastor gets up to preach, they … nitpick him … plan the week ahead … shift into neutral and become passive. … send their mind off on a mini-vacation. … listen with their ears but not their hearts … do not bring faith to what they are hearing.

“These people may hear thousands of sermons, but they do not benefit from them because they are resisting them, not listening to them, and not believing them. Such people are literally wasting their time by coming to church.”

Learning, online & reading: Being a Better Online Reader

“… we don’t read the same way online as we do on paper.”

Population density & the United States: Half of the United States Lives in These Counties

“… half of the United States population is clustered in just the 146 biggest counties out of over 3000.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Busyness, church, fellowship & programming: Has Christianity Become Too Busy?

“Jesus is famous for many things—like performing miracles, claiming to be God, and dying on the cross—but one of his most underappreciated characteristics was his ability to just hang out. … Today, many churches leave little room for just hanging out. Instead, we do everything we can to contrive an extraordinary experience. Therefore, churches scheme, plan, design, create and facilitate multiple platforms for ultimate experiences to happen—but they often don’t.”

Chernobyl, nuclear power, pollution & Ukraine: Chernobyl: Capping a Catastrophe

“Against the decaying skyline here, a one-of-a-kind engineering project is rising near the remains of the world’s worst civilian nuclear disaster. … If all goes as planned, by 2017 the 32,000-ton arch will be delicately pushed on Teflon pads to cover the ramshackle shelter that was built to entomb the radioactive remains of the reactor that exploded and burned here in April 1986. When its ends are closed, it will be able to contain any radioactive dust should the aging shelter collapse. … The arch … allow(s) the final stage of the Chernobyl cleanup to begin — an arduous task to remove the heavily contaminated reactor debris for permanent safe storage. …  the Chernobyl arch alone will end up costing about $1.5 billion, financed largely by the United States and about 30 other nations. And making the site of a radioactive disaster truly secure can take generations. Engineers have designed the Chernobyl arch to stand for 100 years; they figure that is how long it may take to fully clean the area.”

Churches, demographics, evangelism, generations, Nones & outreach: The Gospel and the Nones [essential reading]

“Here is a fact: the median church size in America is now at 108 (down from 140). Churches are shrinking, the Nones are rising. … What’s the problem?”

Christians, Islam & Muslims: Why I Defend Muslims [essential reading]

“I’m ready and eager to talk about the uniqueness of Jesus, the wonder of the Gospel, and I’ll even talk about what distinguishes Christianity from other faiths, but I’m not going to do it by smearing our neighbors and their religion with half-truths and caricatures.”

Holocaust: Holocaust Remembrance Day

“… Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah) … extends from Sunday evening until Monday evening, April 27-28

Rest: The Lost Practice of Resting One Day Each Week

“‘He that can take rest is greater than he that can take cities.’ —Benjamin Franklin.”

Self-perception & thinking: Are Your Beliefs Keeping You Stuck?

“Beliefs about myself. … Beliefs about others… Beliefs about the world.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Age, Boomers, faith, mid-life, & generations: Aged Out of Church [required reading]

“… Boomers are leaving the church in numbers that we usually think of when we talk about the exodus of the Millennial generation: “‘…during the past 20 years the percentage of unchurched Boomers has risen dramatically, jumping up 18 points! At 41 percent, they are now the generation most likely to be unchurched, surpassing the 39 percent level among Busters.'”

Attitude, complaining & grumbling: Grumbling & Complaining

“My heart has been a grumbling one recently. I could give you a few reasons I think why my grumbling is necessary or warranted, but the truth is that even talking about those situations would invite more grumbling. People talk about it being necessary to say how we feel, but I usually think there is more merit to say less about how we feel, and more about who God is in spite of our feelings.”

Bible, literacy, Millenials & reading: American Bible Society Report: The Bible in America, 2014

“Now there are just as many Americans skeptical of the Bible as there are engaged with the Bible. According to the fourth annual State of the Bible survey, 19 percent said that they were skeptical of the Bible. This number is up from 10 percent in 2011. This trend is even more pronounced among the Millennial generation (who range in age from 18-29).”

Children, courtesy, manners & parenting: Ten Forgotten Ways to Teach Politeness to Children

“Not every day is going to be a rip roaring success when trying to teach our children politeness, but if we are consistent, we will eventually see them get it right more than they get it wrong.  And, when they have successful and pleasant encounters with others, we are setting them up to be more successful in life.  These ten skills will serve them well all through adulthood, too.”

Culture & sin: 5 Overlooked Cultural Sins Threatening the Church [essential reading]

“What if the biggest threats to the church weren’t the things we thought they were? What if the very foundation of our country’s culture actually resembles the culture of our churches? We may find that we’ve been blind to more subtle and subversive influences that are having a greater impact on the church than the issues that consume us. Here are just five overlooked cultural norms that are contrary to the Kingdom and are sinful within the Kingdom, unknowingly supported by many of us. …  Competition … Celebrity … Patriotism … Fear … Individuality.”

Gospel, moralism & preaching: Moralism is Not the Gospel (But Many Christians Think it Is) [required reading]

“… one of the most seductive false gospels is moralism. This false gospel can take many forms and can emerge from any number of political and cultural impulses. Nevertheless, the basic structure of moralism comes down to this — the belief that the Gospel can be reduced to improvements in behavior.”

Marriage, relationships, technology & Twitter: Frequent Twitter Users Are More Likely to Cheat on Their Spouses, Get Divorced: Study

“Comparing his two studies, Clayton was surprised to find that the length of time a couple had been together did not affect whether they would be negatively affected by one partner’s Twitter activity.”

this went thru my mind

 

Children, parenting & technology: * The Bible App for Kids [essential notice; by the Makers of YouVersion]; * 10 Social Networks You Didn’t Know Kids are Using

* “Help your kids fall in love with God’s word.”

* “Hats off to you for paying attention to what your kids are doing online and on their phones …”

Culture & the U.S.: Forget The 50 States; The U.S. Is Really 11 Nations, Author Says

“… Colin Woodard … has studied American voting patterns, demographics and public opinion polls going back to the days of the first settlers, and says that his research shows America is really made up of 11 different nations.”

Gifts & giving: The Gift of Not Giving a Thing [required reading]

“What if nobody gave my boys presents anymore? What if we only gave GIFTS.”

Healthcare: Some Thoughts About the Affordable Care Act

“There is a huge–HUGE–gap in our safety net because health insurance is tied to full-time employment. Too many employers can game the system by hiring people just under full-time, making American workers work two jobs without getting insurance (or related benefits) from either employer. To say nothing of those who aren’t employed or who would like to get private insurance but have preexisting conditions. The fact that you have to go through insurance companies to get healthcare in American is hugely problematic. Too many people are left out of the system. It needs to get fixed.”

Marriage: Are These Enemies of Marriage in Your House?

“Run from these enemies.”

Ministry & parenting: Prodigal Pastor Kids: Fact or Fiction?

“… where does this stereotype of the prodigal pastor kid come from?”

Preaching: * The Weekly Emotional Process of Sermon Preparation … [Amen!]; * When Good Pastors Preach Boring Sermons

* “It goes something like this …”

* “Instead of becoming dissatisfied with our churches and forsaking them to listen to podcasts of our favorite “celebrity” preachers, I would like to suggest a couple of thoughts to consider.”

Simplicity: Simple Living. The Earlier, the Better. [required reading]

“When I was 33 years old, we began giving away all the possessions in our lives that were not absolutely essential to our purpose and goals. Eventually, our family removed over 60% of our earthly possessions. And we couldn’t be happier. We found more time, money, and energy to pursue the things in life most valuable to us: faith, family, and friends. We discovered far greater fulfillment in life pursuing our passions than we had ever discovered pursuing possessions. And now, my only regret is that we didn’t do it sooner—that we wasted so much time, so many years, and so many resources.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Christianity: The Top 20 Countries Where Christianity is Growing the Fastest

“Are you surprised to see that 19 of the countries in the top 20 are in Asia and Africa? Did you notice 11 countries on the top 20 list are Muslim majority countries? Did you catch that not a single country from Europe, Northern America or Latin America makes the top 20 list?”

Civility, hate, Obama, President, racism & respect: Hating President Obama [required reading]

“I know many people who not only hate President Obama, but are proud of doing so.”

Corporal punishment, parenting & spanking: Random Thoughts on Spanking or not Spanking as a Parent

“To spank or not to spank…that’s probably one of the most frequent debates I have heard about parenting. Parents ask me frequently for my opinion on the issue. It is an important, but seldom talked about by those who teach on parenting.”

Culture, death, funerals, grief & mourning: * How Culture Stops Mourners From Healing; * How to Plan for Death

* “Our death denying culture continues to send the message to mourners that the healthiness of an individual’s grief is to be measured by how quickly and proficiently the mourner ‘gets over’ the loss and moves into a productive life. … The problem is that our society considers talk about death and grief as morbid and taboo. Living in an atmosphere where grief emotions and mourning are stifled we mourners sometimes feel forced to carry unexpressed grief and unresolved issues concerning a loss throughout our lives.”

* “As most people know, your death doesn’t only affect you; it affects everyone that you surround yourself with, and it’s important that you leave this world on good terms. There are many ways to make amends with your loved ones before passing, but of these things are a few that stand out above the rest.”

Demographics, Hispanics/Latinos: Mapping the Latino Population, By State, County and City

“Today, the 100 largest counties by Hispanic population contain 71% of all Hispanics. … But the share of all Hispanics who live in these same counties has fallen from 75% in 2000 and 78% in 1990 … reflecting Hispanic population growth outside of these 100 counties. … Half (52%) of those counties are in three states—California, Texas and Florida. Along with Arizona, New Mexico, New York, New Jersey and Illinois, these eight states contain three-quarters (74%) of the nation’s Latino population.”

Denominations: Denominational Diversity in North America: Why Are There So Many Denominations? [required reading]

“Why do denominations form? Why are there so many of them? These are complex questions with even more complex answers. Every denomination has its own unique mix of factors that influenced its origins. At the risk of over-simplifying, we can identify several of these factors that led to many denominations …”

Earth & geography: Another ‘Grand Canyon’ Discovered Beneath Greenland’s Ice

“Scientists reported Thursday that they’ve discovered a vast canyon, twice as long as the Grand Canyon. It carves a deep scar from the center of the world’s largest island out to the coast. And, oh … it’s buried beneath as much as two miles of ice. Yes, we’re talking about icy Greenland.”

God: Thinking about God Makes Me Just Want to Keep My Mouth Shut [required reading]

“I think this is what God laughing at us looks like.”

Grace: Max Lucado Goes Overboard on Grace

“The apostle Paul never seemed to exhaust the topic of grace—what makes us think we can? He just kept coming at it and coming at it from another angle. That’s the thing about grace. It’s like springtime. You can’t put it in a single sentence definition, and you can’t exhaust it. No other philosophy or religion has anything quite like this idea that God takes the initiative and comes after us—not just to save us, but also to sustain us.”

Income tax & poverty: 43% Pay No Federal Income Taxes

“The majority this year — nearly 67% — have incomes below $30,000. … A misconception about those who end up owing no federal income taxes — especially those with low incomes — is that they pay no taxes at all. In fact, most pay payroll taxes to support Medicare and Social Security as well as sales taxes and state and local taxes.”

Prayer: 6 Ways to Pray the Lord’s Prayer

“Use it as a model. … Pray the prayer word for word. … Set aside certain times to pray the prayer. … Pray it with others. … Pray it in private. … Designate a certain part of the prayer to pray each day.”

Tradition: * Tradition: Chronological Snobbery [required reading]; * Restoring The Future

* “I’m part of a movement called Churches of Christ, and if you think back on the history of Churches of Christ or the Restoration Movement, you will see we effectively married ourselves to the Spirit of the age, only we were unaware of it at the time. This is why churches that are planted in different parts of the country and the world look so very similar to a 1970′s Texas or Oklahoma Church of Christ…even if they are in California in 2013. We tied our theology to our methodology, and kept answering the questions that people were asking back in 1970, even if no one was asking those same questions today. And this is mostly because we didn’t allow any Church Tradition to guide us.”

* “Some get stuck in the past. Others get stuck in the present. Paul wants his friend in Philippi to keep looking ahead.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Aging: 7 Keys to Aging Well

“No one wants to be that grumpy old man who is always complaining and no one wants to talk to. We want to age well. We want to age gracefully. Aging well is not something that just happens. It is something we must commit to, preferably at a young age.”

Bible interpretation & the OT: Dividing The Word

“We definitely need to know how to correctly handle the Word of God. … But we don’t need to divide the Word, not if it means neglecting inspired words of God.”

Culture, Miley Cyrus, MTV, sexuality & the VMAs: * What We Should Be Talking About When We Talk About Miley Cyrus; * Jesus Loves Miley Cyrus; * Sorry, Miley; * Miley Cyrus, the VMAs, Sex, and Moral Outrage

* “Don’t just stand there pointing out sin, obvious, and dangerous. Get involved. Fight. Help.”

* ” Part of me hates even acknowledging this event by writing about it—we’re giving MTV and Miley exactly what they want. But when people are talking, they’re also listening, and it’s important to think through what our response communicates about who we are. As Christians, when confronted with something offensive, we often condemn it on instinct. We want to make sure everyone knows how strongly we disagree, how completely we disapprove, how far we want to distance ourselves from such behavior. … but if all we do is shame Miley—a 20-year-old girl who grew up extremely privileged, extremely sheltered, and extremely publicly and is now in the process of discovering her adult identity—for her behavior, and bemoan one more nail in the coffin of this world, what are we communicating about a God who loves sinners and offers hope not just from them but to them?”

* “Adults are supposed to protect young people. Adults are supposed to refuse to treat young people like little gods, put them on pedestals, and parade them on stages. But adults do it, anyway, and our culture is just dumb, and just numb, enough to act like it’s perfectly normal. Turns out, as we’ve always known, celebrity messes with people’s heads, particularly the young. … Kids don’t need more kids. They know plenty of them. Kids need adults, actual adults, adults adult enough to reject a culture that is so bored, so dead, that it can only feel alive if given one more jolt, one more shock. And it’s hard to shock, anymore, but Miley hit that mark.”

* “If we are honest, we will admit that Miley isn’t much different than the rest of us. Whether positive or negative, we all crave attention, which is exactly what Miley is getting from us right now. Here we see that scandals are always relational and we are each responsible for our role in them: They create a co-dependent relationship between the offender and the offended. Miley needs our attention and we need her scandals to feel morally superior. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. I hope that Miley and Robin will take responsibility for their actions, but we all need to take responsibility for a culture that breeds these kinds of scandals.”

Culture, demographics, race & segregation: Racial Segregation in America

“The map displays the population distribution, using the 2010 census data, of every person in America broken down by ethnicity. The map has 308,745,538 dots, each representing a single person. Caucasians are blue dots, African-Americans are green dots, Hispanics are orange dots, Asians are red dots, and other groups are brown dots. From a bird’s eye view this is what America looks like …”

Gossip: The End of Gossip [required reading]

“Leadership is relational. Plans and programs shrivel compared to the relationships you create, nurture, or tolerate. Organizations are only as strong as the relationships that hold them together. Gossip weakens and destroys relationships. Gossip is about power. Those without power, gossip to get power. Manipulation, twisting truths, and speculation are symptoms of feeling powerless.”

I Have a Dream, March on Washington, MLK, politics & racism: * Has Dr. King’s Dream Come True?; * Something Was Missing From The March On Washington Anniversary [required reading]

* “For many, Dr. King’s dream has come true. Unfortunately for many more, the dream has not come true. …  May we be a people who rise up and carry on Dr. King’s dream and make those crooked places straight for the glory of the Lord and the good of His people. All His people.”

* “…  the absence of any prominent past or present Republican official in a speaking role at the commemoration …

“So instead of a bipartisan celebration of one of the 20th century’s greatest speeches and one of the most significant demonstrations in U.S. history, the event sometimes took on the feel of a Democratic National Convention. It seemed like just one more stop on the polarization express.”

Gospel, justice & mercy: A Better Story: How Our Understanding of Justice is Radically Re-defined by the Gospel [essential reading]

“The tragic irony is that inflicting violence and harm in the name of justice does not in fact stop violence at all; it perpetuates it.”

Introverts: 23 Signs You’re Secretly An Introvert [apparently someone took a long stroll around the inside of my head, took a lot of pictures along the way, and then, summarizing their observations, wrote this article about me, because except for #11 and #17, they ID’ed me perfectly]

“Think you can spot an introvert in a crowd? Think again. … ‘Introversion is a basic temperament, so the social aspect — which is what people focus on — is really a small part of being an introvert,’ Dr. Marti Olsen Laney, psychotherapist and author of The Introvert Advantage, said in a Mensa discussion. ‘It affects everything in your life.'”

Narcissism & self: Being True to Yourself is Living a Lie [essential reading]

“Disney doctrine can be summed up in a simple phrase: Be true to yourself. If you live according to this maxim, all your dreams will come true. … Now, I’m not a Disney hater, and I enjoy watching good movies with my kids and passing on these memorable stories. Still, there are two assumptions behind the Disney formula that we ought to be aware of: * You are what you feel. * Embrace what you feel no matter what others say. …

“Here’s where Christianity opposes the ‘follow your heart’ mentality of much of the Western world. … The truly courageous are those who crucify the self the world tells us to be true to. And then we are raised with Christ to become the person God always intended us to be.”