links: this went thru my mind

Artifacts, history & Israel: Selected Artifacts from the Collections of the National Treasures

“The artifacts on the site are arranged both chronologically (according to archaeological periods) and typologically (according to the type of artifact), allowing either a gradual guided entry through the main title pages to the artifact’s information card, or directly to the artifact’s information card using an advanced search box.” [just type something in the search box; i.e. – lamp, seal, sword, etc.]

Atonement, Eastern Orthodoxy, morality, science, sin & transformation: Atonement: An Orthodox Perspective [14 min. video]

“… morality can become a heresy … a substitute for the inner transformation of the heart.”

Christian faith, influence & witness: Christians Should Give More Offense

“Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness and pride of power and with its plea for the weak. Christians are doing too little to make these points clear rather than too much. Christendom adjusts itself far too easily to the worship of power. Christians should give more offense, shock the world far more, than they are doing now. Christians should take a stronger stand in favor of the weak rather than considering first the possible right of the strong. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Church & discouragement: Five Ways to Discourage Your Pastor

“If you are bent on discouraging your pastor, here are 5 surefire ways of doing so …”

Football & injury: Brain Trauma to Affect One in Three Players, N.F.L. Agrees

“The National Football League, which for years disputed evidence that its players had a high rate of severe brain damage, has stated in federal court documents that it expects nearly a third of retired players to develop long-term cognitive problems and that the conditions are likely to emerge at ‘notably younger ages’ than in the general population.”

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

 

Church, consumerism & mega-churches: How Churches Became Cruise Ships

“Today, half of all churchgoers in the United States attend the largest 10 percent of churches. What rarely gets reported, however, is that on average 50 smaller churches close their doors every week in the U.S. The church-as-destination model hasn’t advanced the church in America, it has consolidated it.”

Children, parenting & technology: * 9 Most Dangerous Apps for Kids; * Five Ways to Mess Up Your Kids [required reading]

* “New apps are constantly being created, so it’s important to monitor what your child downloads. Being aware of the online tricks predators use will help you know what to look for …”

* “… it is possible to parent in such a way as to make it difficult for them to grow up, mature, and live as Christ-followers. The following are some ways to mess up your kids …”

Discouragement & ministry: Seven Ways to Hurt Your Pastor

“… they are real people who can really be hurt. The pastors I spoke with this past week shared with me seven common themes of the things that hurt them the most. So, if you really want to hurt your pastor, follow these guidelines carefully.”

Hispanics, immigrants & jobs: Latino Jobs Growth Driven by U.S. Born

“For the first time in nearly two decades, immigrants do not account for the majority of Hispanic workers in the United States. Meanwhile, most of the job gains made by Hispanics during the economic recovery from the Great Recession of 2007-09 have gone to U.S.-born workers …”

Small groups: Two Common Misuses of Small Group Ministry

“Small groups are actually best as a context for the ‘one anothers.’ Whether your church is big or small, you need some kind of system where people can show and be shown the kind of love the Bible commands the church to show. They often pop up in the New Testament as ‘one anothers,’ and this is what small groups are best for.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

 

Bible reading: 3 Biggest Reasons Bible Reading is Down

“Bible reading is down because people read it in fragments, a-historically, and in isolation.”

Christianity, communication, disagreement, influence, love, relationships & words: Civil Religion Can We Talk? [essential reading]

“… we need to assume goodwill and generosity on the part of others, no matter how wrong we might thing they are. For the sake of having better conversations, and for the pursuit of truth, we have to be able to admit we don’t have it all, After all, if we want to be heard, we have to learn how to listen. So what do you say, Can we talk?”

Culture, history & the United States: I Hope We Never Become a ‘Christian Nation’ Again

* “In reality, Christianity in America may not have the same political, social, and corporate authority it did in the past, but Jesus never intended to spread the gospel message through political strength or domineering control. The problem with people claiming that America used to be a Christian nation is that, well, it never was.”

Creation, nature & stewardship: Stewardship: Being in and Working with Creation

“We use the world’s resources, but the trick is to use them wisely, and with a careful, conservative sense of balance. That’s the difficulty of stewardship. When we use up resources — the resources God gave us — with abandon and without care, the results aren’t pretty. We can never really grow it back. That’s the thing about nature; we can manage it well, but we can’t create it from scratch. Only God can do that. Stewardship is the balanced middle way — it’s not ‘use it up and move on to the next,’ but it’s also not untouched nature for nature’s sake.”

Discouragement, encouragement, ministry & support: 5 Ways to Discourage Your Pastor

“As a pastor of a local church for over twenty-five years, I had my share of buildups and letdowns. Sometimes I recall the discouraging times more. I know that I was not supposed to get down because of people and circumstances, but it happens. I also know that the people who discouraged me did not always mean to do so. But it happened. The purpose of this post is to let you in on a few things to avoid (unless you want to discourage your pastor). If you are bent on discouraging him or her, here are 5 surefire ways of doing so.”

God, suffering, tests, and trials: God Will Give You More Than You Can Handle. I Guarantee It. [essential reading]

“There’s a certain phrase I’ve come to really dislike. … ‘God will never give you more than you can handle’ is the phrase I’m referring to.”

Parenting: Top Ten Mistakes Christian Parents of Teens Make

“It might be difficult for some parents to read through, but here’s a top ten list that I’ve been wanting to write for a while.”

Parenting & social media: Destroying Your Child’s Heart – One FB Picture At A Time

“Public shaming is awful and is nothing less than societally sanctioned parental bullying. Especially harmful to the young people against whom it is used as a weapon, the ramifications will resonate throughout their lives. They aren’t as tough as we pretend we are.”

Social media: 5 Reasons Social Media is Dangerous For Me [required reading]

“I went on an internet fast recently – I spent 40 days without logging on to anything. Here is what I learned about how I had allowed social media to change me over the years.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Alzheimer’s: Scientists Develop Early-Warning System for Alzheimer’s Disease

“A quick sniff of a nasal spray sends microscopic metal particles into the brain, where they target and destroy the damaging proteins of Alzheimer’s disease. No Alzheimer’s? No problem—the metal particles pass out of the body safely. Such is the promise of technology being developed by neuroscientist William Klein and nanotechnologist Vinayak Dravid of Northwestern University.”

Clutter & minimalism: 10 Decluttering Principles to Help Anyone Clear the Clutter

“… understanding just a few key principles can help anyone clear their clutter.”

Discouragement & leadership: Ten Tips for Overcoming Discouragement [required reading]

“Every leader fights a never ending battle for improvement, growth, excellence, and progress. It’s the “never ending” part that gets you down. Apart from intervention, discouragement sets in.”

Handwriting & personality: Your Handwriting, What it Reveals

[infographic]

Ministry: Stupid Ministry Tricks: Do Not Do This Thing.

“I have a former colleague who used to say he could solve the preacher-elder wars. To elders, you can’t make everyone happy. To ministers, don’t be stupid. I think both pieces of advice might be unrealistic. But I do think that ministers can be smarter about issues related to change. So, here’s to making smarter ministers.”

Sexuality: What Scripture Says About Sex

“… how do you approach talking to a teen about sex?”

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.”

this went thru my mind

 

666 & Revelation: “Why Can’t Johnny Count?” A Needed Guide for Preachers (and Commentators) on Gematria (666/616), Isopsephism, and Counting by Richard Oster

“A final inconvenient truth that has also yet to makes its way into some pulpits and halls of academic learning is that gematria was not a “secret code” used primarily by persecuted, minority groups to stay beneath the radar of the Evil Empire.”

Church & ministry: * The Problem with Grandpa’s Church; * An Open Letter to the Latest in a Long Series of People Angry at the Church; * Autopsy of a Deceased Church: 11 Things I Learned [essential reading]; * 10 Quick & Practical Ministry Principles that Will Bless Your Church

* “… there is a big problem that I see about seeking an adult faith and Church in the midst of youth culture, one that frightens and worries me deeply. The problem is me.”

* “To all those who are fed up with, cannot stand, and are otherwise angry at the church. I think I get your message. … The overwhelming majority of you are in your third decade of life. Some are much older, some are younger. That tells me that the majority of you simply have not had the opportunity to experience so much of life that longevity teaches. … hat leaves some of you who are my age and older who still angry at the church but for entirely different reasons. Maybe something I say will speak to you as well, but I fear the issues you have need another letter. Increased chronological age does not necessarily equate to increased maturity. An angry senior citizen is no improvement over an angry toddler. … I want to tell you that we – the older generation that you seem to be so bent on overcoming – have been where you have been and we have done what you are doing.”

* “As many as 100,000 churches in America could be dying. Their time is short, perhaps less than ten years. What do you think of the autopsy on this church? What can we do to reverse these trends?”

* “Here are ten ministry axioms I received from Larry Osborne.”

Depression & discouragement: * Is it ‘Unspiritual’ to be Discouraged? by Sinclair Ferguson; * Hymn Stories: God Moves in a Mysterious Way

* “Faith in Christ does not remove all of the causes of discouragement; rather, it enables us to overcome them.”

* “The mental pain [William] Cowper struggled with was primarily depression. He had four major battles with it through his life, leading him to attempt suicide on several occasions. … Cowper’s hymn writing came as a result of his friendship with John Newton.”

Heresy: I’m a Heretic, You’re a Heretic, Wouldn’t You Like to Be a Heretic Too?

“… how should we respond to heretical ideas in a world where any attempt to declare something heretical will be viewed with extreme prejudice? Here are just a few suggestions.”