links to 5 helpful posts

1. It’s Getting Harder to Talk About God by Jonathan Merritt

“A paltry 7 percent of Americans say they talk about spiritual matters regularly. But, here’s the real shocker: Practicing Christians who attend church regularly aren’t faring much better. A mere 13 percent had a spiritual conversation around once a week.”

2. American’s Spend $70 Billion on Pets, and That Money Could Do More Good

“This year alone, pet spending in the U.S. is estimated to exceed $72 billion, which is more than the combined GDP of the 39 poorest countries in the world.”

3. The Point of the Book of Job by Greg Boyd

“… our original job description – a job description God is yet calling on us to fulfill – involves very little knowing but a great deal of loving. Our limited domain of responsibility is primarily to love God and others as we are ourselves filled with God’s love. Hence the Bible repeatedly calls on us to love and refrain from judgment (Mt 7:1-5; Rom 2:1-5; Jame 4:11-12).”

4. Eugene Peterson Enters Hospice Care

“… Peterson is a ‘shepherd’s shepherd’ …”

5. A First Glimpse of Our Magnificent Earth, Seen from the Moon [30 min. video]

“The first people to view our planet from the moon were transformed by the experience. In this film, they tell their story.”

links: this went thru my mind

Apps, archaeology & children: Free App “Dig Quest: Israel” Teaches Children about Archaeology in Israel

“The app is in English and is available for download at the iTunes Store for iPhones and iPads. An Android version will be made available soon. The app features two simulated dig sites.  One is based on the site of a Roman period mosaic at Lod and the other on the site associated with the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran.”

Beauty, creation, earth, environment, goodness & wonder: Creation Is a Many-Splendored Thing: Delighting in Creation’s Goodness

“… the psalmist praises God and relishes the vastness, complexity, and beneficence of God’s creation and the astonishing creatures who find a home there …”

Bible reading: Five Practices to Refresh Your Bible Reading [essential reading]

“1. Retell the passage from the perspective of the different characters. … 2. Interview each of the characters. … 3. Read the passage five times with each of the five senses in mind. … 4. Find the good news in the passage. … 5. Read the passage out loud.”

Discrimination, prejudice & racism: * The New Threat: ‘Racism without Racists’ [required reading]; * America the Beautiful, America the Violent

* “…  racial domination is a collective process and we are all in this game.”

* “We remained either quiescent or ambivalent on race and violence, and then somehow manage to look at the images in Ferguson with shock and dismay.”

Food & recipes: Amazing Recipes from Chefs Who Feed the Homeless

“… here are a collection of holiday recipes we’ve culled from restaurants, shelters and churches that serve those in need, but also value nutrition and fine cooking.”

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

 

Aliens, hospitality & immigration: True Biblical Hospitality: Loving Immigrants, Strangers, and Enemies [required reading]

“… what does it actually mean to show hospitality? This is where things really get interesting: in English, we typically understand hospitality as a willingness to host, feed, and entertain a guest … something we all do and especially with our personal friends. However, what if the biblical term has a much deeper (and more difficult) meaning?”

Astronomy, awe, creation, earth & space: A Glimpse of Earth, Shining Brightly, From Very, Very Far Away

“[This] … picture … from the Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn. On July 19, at a distance of 1.4 billion kilometers (900 million miles) from Earth, it took [this] … image. … Cassini was on the far side of Saturn, looking back toward the inner solar system.”

Atonement: At-One-Ment by Edward Fudge [required reading]

“We recently ended an assortment of twelve gracEmails, in which we explored the atonement made by Jesus Christ and the way American evangelicals have limited their conception of it almost exclusively to the penal substitutionary atonement theory to the neglect of other theories that are equally Bible-based. Now you can see all twelve of these in one location.”

Budget, economics, finances, income & money: Family Budget Calculator

“EPI’s Family Budget Calculator measures the income a family needs in order to attain a secure yet modest living standard by estimating community-specific costs of housing, food, child care, transportation, health care, other necessities, and taxes. The budgets, updated for 2013, are calculated for 615 U.S. communities and six family types (either one or two parents with one, two, or three children).

“As compared with official poverty thresholds such as the federal poverty line and Supplemental Poverty Measure, EPI’s family budgets offer a higher degree of geographic customization and provide a more accurate measure of economic security. In all cases, they show families need more than twice the amount of the federal poverty line to get by.”

Competition: Should There Be Competition in Sunday School?

“When we ingrain a competitive spirit into faith – a culture of public shame and reward – is it any wonder we end up with some really faith damaged adults?”

Humility: In Humility Hold Others Above Yourself [essential reading]

“When it comes to humility I think a lot of Christians tend to work with the wrong idea. The idea that many seem to have is that humility involves thinking less about yourself, to have a negative or even morbid self-concept. … Humility is less about thinking other people are ‘better’ or ‘more important’ than you are. Humility isn’t about a morbid ego or a low self-esteem. Humility is, rather, a form of honoring and care-taking. Humility is lifting up (hyperecho) the concerns of others, placing them above and ahead of your own.”

Old Testament: And the Main Point of the Entire Old Testament is …

“I was taught in seminary and graduate school, as were many others of my generation and several before that, that the OT doesn’t have ‘a’ central point–there’s no central concept around which you can organize the OT. The OT is too diverse for that sort of thing. As soon as you find a theme that seems to work, it either doesn’t (e.g., covenant) or it’s too broad to be of much use (e.g., God).

“I agree, but some themes are right there in your face, more than others, and one of them is getting higher and higher on my top 10 list: land.

“That may sound off a bit boring–maybe even not terribly spiritual–but land is a major idea the Bible keeps on the front burner. Actually, I may even be understating things bit. The promise to receive land, getting it, how to hold on to it, losing it and getting it back, and how not to lost it again. I’ve just described the main storyline of the OT.”

Poverty: Epic Shanty Towns From Around the World

“… Addis has traveled and photographed squatter communities in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro; Lima, Peru; Mexico City; Mumbai, India; Cairo; and Dhaka, Bangladesh.”

creation is groaning

“I believe that the present suffering is nothing compared to the coming glory that is going to be revealed to us. The whole creation waits breathless with anticipation for the revelation of God’s sons and daughters. Creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice—it was the choice of the one who subjected it—but in the hope that the creation itself will be set free from slavery to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of God’s children. We know that the whole creation is groaning together and suffering labor pains up until now. And it’s not only the creation. We ourselves who have the Spirit as the first crop of the harvest also groan inside as we wait to be adopted and for our bodies to be set free. We were saved in hope. If we see what we hope for, that isn’t hope. Who hopes for what they already see? But if we hope for what we don’t see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:18-25 CEB)

What an arresting phrase!

“… the whole creation is groaning …” (vs.22)

Though the theology of this passage is more than just a word about ecology, the ecology of it is theology, too. Is there a passage more clear in all of the New Testament than this one as to how Christians should view nature?

The prevailing view among humankind seems to be that creation/nature is simply “stuff” that God made to support human life and so humankind can do whatever they will with it. Consequently, “Mother Nature” has been raped. Vast forests have been denuded. Oceans have been ravished. Chemicals of all kinds, new ones all the time being formed, pollute her.

However, a Spirit-inspired apostle named Paul laid out a radically different vision for us to capture. Here he lays out for all Christians of all time a brief “theology of ecology.” Yes, Paul was “green” a very long time before “green” was “cool.”

According to Paul, creation is something much, much more than “stuff,” mere lesser beings or inanimate objects useful only for humankind’s sustenance and distraction. Rather, all creation that is other than humankind is something meaningful, even personal – indeed, “alive” – to God. For creation acts much as humans do. It “waits.” It does so with “eager expectation.” It is “frustrated.” It knows how to “groan” – and does so, now. Right now it is held “in bondage.” Today it yearns to be “liberated” from the bondage in which we have placed it because of our sins. And in light of all this, the promise from God’s Spirit to all of creation is no less remarkable, parallel in fact, to the promise given to us as Christians, redeemed humankind:

“… the creation itself will be set free from slavery to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of God’s children.” (vs.21)

Take the time to read and re-read that sentence several times. Mull it over and ask yourself some questions. Questions like:

  • What would happen to us, and to nature, if we suddenly looked at nature consistently through these eyes?
  • How would we treat this planet differently if we became as “green” as God’s Spirit?
  • In light of what God’s Spirit says about the creation, how far will this word from him truly change my own habits and ways, behavior and buying, doing and voting, with respect to all of creation, not just people?
  • When will I start respecting creation the way God respects it, and so, respect him?

I don’t know about you, but I need to pray.

Father God, you sustain me and refresh me through all of your creation. So may the way I interact with all of your creation glorify you! For as surely as not even a single sparrow passes away without your notice nor does a single, hidden flower bloom without your will, I know you are concerned about my dealings with them. Forgive me of my often thoughtless, and even callous, indifference of this matter that means much to you. As I yearn for your Spirit to hear and convey the groans of my spirit to you, may I not cause any part of your creation to groan needlessly. In the name of him who frees all you have made from all that shackles – even me – I pray. Amen.