this went thru my mind


Baby boomers: Last Chances for Churches to Reach 50 Million Americans

“Here are a few (hopefully) helpful facts about the Baby Boomers and churches. Of course, our findings depict the majority of Boomers, not all of them at any one time.”

Baptism & rebaptism: Benjamin Franklin on Rebaptism

“In the years prior to the Firm Foundation (begun in 1884) there was practical unanimity on the question of whether one who had been previously immersed to obey God but without the knowledge of its saving import should be rebaptized. The answer was an unequivocal ‘No.’ … Anyone immersed upon a confession of faith in Jesus as the Christ, thought Campbell, was legitimately baptized and needed no further “re-do″ when they later learned that baptism was for the remission of sins.”

Children, manhood, movies & the learning of gender roles: How Movies Teach Our Kids about Gender [watch the 12 min. TED talk video; required viewing]

“What are movies teaching our kids about gender, about what it means to be men and women? That’s the question Colin Stokes asks in this recent TED Talks video.”

Colors: A Designers Guide to the Psychology of Color [infographic]

“Color is far more powerful than we give it credit for.”

Computing, privacy & security: How to Sacrifice Your Online Privacy for Fun and Profit [required reading]

“You have value—and not just as a good friend, loving family member, and upstanding member of society. You’re also a valuable commodity that companies buy and sell. Your age, browsing habits, and friends lists are all hot properties. And yes, all this data is recorded, packaged, and sold to the highest bidder by your favorite websites.”

Culture & sin: Americans Reveal Their 3 Favorite Sins

“‘Temptations and America’s Favorite Sins,’ a survey conducted by the Barna Group, a Christian research firm, concludes that the moral struggles that vex most Americans aren’t the salacious acts that drive the plotlines of reality television shows. Most Americans are too worn down or distracted to get snared by those vices, the survey concludes. The top three sins seducing most Americans: procrastination, overeating and spending too much time on media.”

Drugs & prison sentences: The Drug Laws That Changed How We Punish

“Half a century ago, relatively few people were locked up, and those inmates generally served short sentences. But 40 years ago, New York passed strict sentencing guidelines known as the ‘Rockefeller drug laws’ — after their champion, Gov. Nelson Rockefeller — that put even low-level criminals behind bars for decades. Those tough-on-crime policies became the new normal across the country.”

Loving your enemies: Love Your Enemies … Sort Of?

“‘Love Your Enemies … It Pisses Them Off’ or ‘… It Makes Then So Damn Mad’ or ‘… Nothing Annoys Them So Much.’ No doubt these lines are supposed to be funny. But in fact they diminish the love Jesus called for by delighting in the negative response some people might have when they are greeted with unexpected love. Such statements infer that the very aim of loving those at odds with us is to strike a blow against them, albeit of an unconventional sort. Yet the love that Jesus advocated was not some sort of unconventional blow but a blessing.”

this went thru my mind


Aging & scams: Why It’s Easier To Scam The Elderly by Patti Neighmond

“The older adults rated the trustworthy faces and the neutral faces exactly the same as the younger adults did, but when it got to the cues of untrustworthiness they didn’t process those cues as well,” she says. “They rated those people as much more trustworthy than the younger adults did. In a small follow-up study using brain imaging, Taylor’s findings suggest older adults may have less activity in the very area of the brain that processes risk and subtle danger.”

Archaeology & ancient peoples: Did Moses Know the Alphabet? Was There Writing in Ancient Israel? A Lecture with Dr. Alan Millard at Lanier Theological Library [55 min. video; there’s a great, brief bit of humor regarding graffiti from 16:54-17:18]

“… there is the question of how early in their history the Israelites could write their records, rather than relying on oral tradition. This lecture will explain how discoveries in the Holy Land are helping to answer these questions and consider if it matters whether Moses could write, or not.”

Bethlehem: Bethlehem: Then & Now by Mitrib Raheb

“At the time of Jesus, Bethlehem was a little town of 300-1,000 inhabitants. What people might not know is that the city of Bethlehem today is not in Israel but in Palestine, and that it is a bustling city with 28,000 people. One third of them are Palestinian Christians.”

Culture, ethics & trust: Gallup’s Ethics by Profession by Ed Stetzer

“Gallup releases their listing of professions and the public’s perception of their ethics. Sadly, “clergy” are about in the middle of the pack. But, be thankful you are not a car salesman.”

Loving your enemies: Can Israel Love Its Enemies in Gaza and Keep Its People Safe? by Morgan Guyton

“Many of my fellow Christians see Jesus’ command to “love our enemies” as an impossible moral standard that we are exempted from fulfilling by accepting Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins. What’s even more ludicrous to many is to claim that Jesus’ teachings are relevant not only in private life but in the most complex geopolitical situations. I am convinced that loving your enemies is not only a moral standard but could be a very successful foreign policy strategy, even though it gets laughed out of the room by the same people who claim to advocate “Biblical” values in our government. What would loving your enemies look like in the greatest foreign policy crisis in the world now? What would it look like for Israel to love Gaza?”

Poverty: Poverty Pictured by Larry James

“Mental … spiritual … social … physical.”

this went thru my mind


Attack ads, critics & hate: Jesus and Paul Under Fire & The 2012 USA Presidential Election by Frank Viola [required reading]

“… why do politicians spend obscene amounts of money on ads which attack their opponents – most often falsely? Because they work. In general, people are gullible and will believe whatever they hear or read without checking the facts or going to the sources themselves. … his got me thinking. What’s happening in the political world right now in the USA has been going on in the “religious” world for over 2,000 years. Consider the misrepresentations and false accusations leveled at Jesus during His earthly days, thousands of years before the Internet and cable news …”

Evangelicals, history & politics: Pro-Life, Pro-Left ‘Moral Minority’ by David R. Swartz [a book review]

“So why did the evangelical left seem to dissolve into irrelevance? Swartz argues that evangelicals’ mass enlistment in the conservative Republicanism of the “culture wars” was not the inevitable consequence of doctrine or history: Jesus did not leave behind a clear party platform. But while members of the Christian right set aside doctrinal differences to rally around a shared cultural agenda, the left fell victim to internal identity politics and theological disputes.”

Logic, discussion & reasoning: Making An Argument the “Christian” Way? by Kurt Willems [required reading]

“… if we want to discover more truth. Here are my suggestion of arguing styles to be wary of.”

Migration & US population: American Migration [very interesting!]

“Close to 40 million Americans move from one home to another every year. Click anywhere on the map below: blue counties send more migrants to the selected county than they take; red counties take more than they send.”

Movies: Hollywood’s New Bible Stories

“The studios are increasingly reliant on source material with a built-in audience, something the Bible—the best-selling book in history—certainly has. And like the comic-book superheroes that movie companies have relied on for the past decade, biblical stories are easily recognizable to both domestic and the all-important foreign audiences. What’s more, they’re free: Studios don’t need to pay expensive licensing fees to adapt stories and characters already in the public domain.”

Non-Christians & perceptions: Seven Common Comments Non-Christians Make About Christians by Thom Rainer

“Over the past several years, my research teams and I have interviewed thousands of unchurched non-Christians. Among the more interesting insights I gleaned were those where the interviewees shared with me their perspectives of Christians. In this article, I group the seven most common types of comments in order of frequency. I then follow that representative statement with a direct quote from a non-Christian.”

this went thru my mind


Advice & opinions: Whose Opinion Matters by Ron Edmonson

“All leaders constantly hear opinions. It seems everyone knows what you should do. … Whose opinion matters?”

Anger: So You Are Angry by Dan Bouchelle

“So you are angry? Well, you might want to do something about that. That road goes to a bad place.”

Church & love: How to Love by Dave Barnhart

“I’m not sure who came up with this illustration, but I really like the way it helps me understand what Christian individuals and communities are supposed to do.”

Color: The Psychology of Color


Faith: Atheism & Belief in God: Countries Get Ranked

“The researchers looked at data from 30 countries where surveys, taken at two or more time points between 1991 and 2008, asked residents about their belief in God.”

Forgiveness: Baptism Means You Can’t Hate Anyone by Dan Bouchelle

“Accepting baptism into the name of Jesus means you have to forgive everyone. Everyone! It doesn’t matter what they have done to hurt you.”

InternetAlmost Half of Online Americans Use the Internet for Religious Purposes

“… 17% read religion-oriented blogs once a month or more … 57% of online adults under age 35 use the Internet for religion, compared to 48% who are 35 to 49 years old, 36% who are 50 to 64, and 31% who are 65 or older …”

Texting: The Problem With Texting

“Sherry Turkle is a psychologist and professor at M.I.T. and the author, most recently, of ‘Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other.'”

Jesus and nonviolence: a third way


Following are some excerpts from Walter Wink’s powerful work entitled Jesus and Nonviolence: A Third Way (Fortress Press, 2003). It is simply one of the most eyeopening books I have ever read. I highly recommend it to every Christian.

If we total all the nonviolent movements of the twentieth century, the figure comes to 3.4 billion people, and again, most were successful. And yet there are people who still insist that nonviolence doesn’t work! (p.2)

Many Christians desire nonviolence, yes; but they are not talking about a nonviolent struggle for justice. They mean simply the absence of conflict. They would like the system to change without having to be involved in changing it. What they mean by nonviolence is as far from Jesus’ third way as a lazy nap in the sun is from a confrontation in which protesters are being clubbed to the ground. When a church that has not lived out a costly identification with the oppressed offers to mediate between hostile parties, it merely adds to the total impression that it wants to stay above the conflict and not take sides. (p.4)

The issue is not, “What must I do in order to secure my salvation?” but rather, “What does God require of me in response to the needs of others?” (p. 6)

A proper translation of Jesus’ teaching [Matt. 5.39] would then be, “Don’t strike back at evil … in kind.” … Jesus was no less committed to opposing evil than the anti-Roman resistance fighters. The only difference was over the means to be used: how one should fight evil. (pp.11-12)

There are three general responses to evil: (1) passivity, violent opposition, and (3) the third way of militant nonviolence articulated by Jesus. (p.12)

… Jesus abhors both passivity and violence as responses to evil. (p.13)

Jesus’ third way. Seize the moral initiative. Find a creative alternative to nonviolence. Assert your own humanity and dignity as a person. Meet force with ridicule or humor. Break the cycle of humiliation. Refuse to admit or accept the inferior position. Expose the injustice of the system. Take control of the power dynamic. Shame the oppressor into repentance. Stand your ground. Force the Powers to make decisions for which they are not prepared. Recognize your own power. Be willing to suffer rather than to retaliate. Cause the oppressor to see you in a new light. Deprive the oppressor of a situation where a show of force is effective. Be willing to undergo the penalty for breaking unjust laws. Die to fear of the old order and its rules. (pp.27-28)

We need to be very clear that it is in the interest of the Powers to make people believe that nonviolence doesn’t work. (pp.53-54)

It cannot be stressed too much: love of enemies has, for our time, become the litmus test of authentic Christian faith. (pp.58-59)

I submit that the ultimate religious question today is no longer the Reformation’s “How can I find a gracious God?” It is instead, “How can I find God in my enemy?” What guilt was for Luther, the enemy has become for us: the goad that can drive us to God. (p.59)

… nonviolent revolution is not a program for seizing power. It is, as Gandhi says, a program for transforming relationships, ending in a peaceful transference of power. (p.71)

Jesus’ Third Way preserves respect for the law even in the act of resisting oppressive laws. (p.72)

Citing Romans 13.1-7 and its call for ‘every person [to] be subject to the governing authorities” does not imply blind obedience. Submission may lead to obedience but does not necessarily require it. (p.74)

Jesus’ Third Way requires us to root out the violence within our own souls. To resist something, we must meet it with counterforce. If we resist violence with violence, we simply mirror its evil. We become what we resist. (p.77)

Jesus’ Third Way is not a law but a gift. It establishes us in freedom, not necessity. It is something we are not required to do, but enabled to do. (pp.81-82)

Yet even if I am committed to nonviolence, I may find myself in a situation where I am not able to find a creative, third way, and must choose between the lesser of two violences, two guilts. Even then, however, it is not a question of justifying the violence. I simply must, as Bonhoeffer did, take on myself the guilt and cast myself on the mercy of God. (p.82)

Jesus’ Third Way is the way of the cross. The cross was not just Jesus’ identification with the victims of oppression; it was … also his way of dealing with those evils. It was not because he was a failed insurrectionist that Jesus died as he did, but because he preferred to suffer injustice and violence rather than be their cause. (p.97)

… Jesus’ Third Way is not an insuperable counsel to perfection attainable only by a few. It is simply the right way to live, and can be pursued by many. (p.103)

Jesus and Nonviolence: A Third Way (Fortress Press, 2003)

this went thru my mind


Aging: Aging Well with Dr. Dan Blazer, Part 2: Successful Aging by Christine Scheller

“The perception of old age as a depressing season of life, however, is not confirmed in scientific studies of the elderly, Blazer concluded. Instead studies consistently show that only about 15 percent of older adults exhibit depressive symptoms.”

Application: How to Apply Scripture When It Does Not Speak Directly and Personally to You by Justin Taylor

“… we believe that ‘all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.’ But sometimes it is hard to see how.”

Apps: * Our New App, Evernote Hello, Will Help You Remember People; * Evernote Hello: The iPhone App All Youth Pastors Need

“Evernote Hello is based around the three fundamental ways that our brains actually remember people: (1) Faces – What do you look like?, (2) Time – When did we meet?, and (3) Context – Why did we meet and who else was there?”

Attitude: * How a Shift in Your Vocabulary Can Instantly Change Your Attitude by Michael Hyatt; * It’s Not That I Have To; It’s That I Get To by Chaplain Mike

“The first expression (i.e., I have to do it) is the language of duty. Nothing wrong with that. I am all for responsibility. But too often, we say it with a sigh, like it’s a sentence—or we are a victim. The second expression (i.e., I get to do it) is the language of privilege. It is as if we have been given a gift, and we are relishing the opportunity. This subtle shift may seem small, but it has had a big impact on my attitude. I am choosing the language of privilege every chance I get.”

Bible interpretation & study: * Why Studying the Bible Won’t (Necessarily) Change Your Life by Trevin Wax; * Paul’s Example on How to Deal with Silence in Scriptures by Matt Dabbs

“Bible study alone is not what transforms your life. Jesus transforms your life.”

Bible translation: An Evaluation of the 2011 Edition of the New International Version by Rodney J. Decker

“There is no one translation that is best in every situation.”

Church: Why Do People Stay? by Joe McKeever

“We have two kinds of people in our churches today: those who flit from church to church, never putting down roots or establishing relationships and finding their ministries, and those who will stay in a church regardless. It’s the second group that puzzles me.”

Christmas: * For Those Who are Hurting This Christmas Season by Thom Rainer; * Frankincense Comes From a Tree by Ferrell Jenkins; * Some Things You May Not Hear About Myrrh in a Sermon by Ferrell Jenkins

“In the midst of our own pain, we have the hope and promise of the gospel. May we ever be messengers of that gospel to those who are hurting and need to see that hope.”

Death: 10 Signs Death is Approaching by Paula Spencer Scott

“Not all dying symptoms show up in every person, but most people experience some combination of the following in the final days or hours …”

Heroes: Five Ways You Can Become An Everyday Hero by Michael Hyatt

“It’s easy to underestimate the power of one person’s influence. We think, What can I do? I am only one person. The truth is that each of us wields far more power than we could possibly imagine. However, most of us have never discovered this—or we have forgotten it.”

Iraq war: Iraq Ledger: War by the Numbers

“Coalition deaths totaled 4,803, of which 4,484 (93 percent) were American. The number of Americans wounded was 32,200. At least 463 non-Iraqi contractors were killed. Iraqi civilian deaths are estimated to total between 103,674 and 113,265. … the war resulted in 1.24 million internally displaced persons and more than 1.6 million refugees.”

Islam: How to Respond to Our All-American Muslim Neighbors by Margot Starbuck

“… pursue an authentic relationship with a person in your community who practices Islam. Now that would be radical.”

Loving one’s enemies: Hating Pixels: A Modern Day Reflection on the Sermon on the Mount by Richard Beck

“Might the souls of my liberal friends be hanging in the balance depending upon how they love (or fail to love) Sarah Palin? Might the souls of my conservative friends be hanging in the balance depending upon how they love (or fail to love) Barack Obama?”

Marriage: Barely Half of U.S. Adults Are Married – A Record Low (Pew Research)

“In 1960, 72% of all adults ages 18 and older were married; today just 51% are.”

Moving forward: New Year: 4 Ways to Move Ahead Instead of Remaining Stuck by Jim Martin

“Maybe some of us do not grow, develop, or mature because we rarely address the reality of our lives. Maybe we have allowed ‘but’ to excuse our behavior. The following are 4 ways to move ahead into this New Year instead of remaining stuck.”

Politics: 48% – The Generations and Politics: Who Was Our Best President? (Pew Research)

“When asked which president has done the best job in their lifetime, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan are the two most popular choices. Sizeable numbers in each of the four generational groups — including majorities of Millennials and Gen Xers — cite Clinton as either their first or second choice on the ‘best president’ question.”

Productivity: How to Accomplish More by Doing Less by Tony Schwartz

“… increased rest and renewal serve performance.”

Silence & solitude: Just Sit There by Peter Enns

“Why is it so hard to be alone?”

Women: Women and the Public Reading of Scripture by Scot McKnight

“Anyone who says reading Scripture is a teaching ministry is just making stuff up. Reading is reading and teaching is teaching, and preaching is preaching, and prophesying is prophesying, but reading is not teaching, preaching or prophesying. Women were prophets, women were apostles, women were teachers – this is all in the New Testament. That more than qualifies them for the public reading of Scripture.”

sermon follow-up: remember

Much of the world is remembering 9/11. Unquestionably that event, and particularly what we have chosen to remember about it, colors our thinking and perception of things. No doubt we’ve all learned some things from that day ten years ago and all of the days that have followed it. Those lessons may or may not be the right lessons to have learned, but we all surely claim to have learned something from 9/11 and that learning has affected our living ever since.

I want to hold up before you a memory, a living memory. I want to share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned, and am still learning, as the events of 9/11 have interfaced with him whom I follow, our Lord Jesus Christ. For by far the dominant memory that is to shape our thinking as Christ-followers is not the destruction of two towers, but the raising up of the Christ on a cross. Not the rejuvenation of a site of destruction, but the resurrection of the Son of God from the grave. If we are remember anything or anyone at all as Christians, we’re to remember Jesus Christ.

Think about what I’m saying; the Lord will give you understanding about everything. Remember Jesus Christ, who was raised from the dead and descended from David. This is my good news. (2 Timothy 2:7-8 CEB)

As I remember Jesus Christ – the Christ of Scripture, not of emotion or tradition – these are some of the things that come to mind as I simultaneously my Lord and 9/11.

I remember Jesus Christ saw his Father as his source of strength. He said, “I honor my Father.” (John 8:49). This is what his life was all about: honoring the one from whom his strength flowed. The Father was his sustenance and the source of all nourishment to be shared, and is still shared, with us. “My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.” (John 6:32). Now not everyone sees life, or their life in particular, this way. Most appear to see God and his strength as one among many sources of strength available to them. Some leave God out of the equation altogether. But as worshipers of the true and living God, we’re called to see things differently than the masses. “Some people trust in chariots, others in horses; but we praise the LORD’s name.” (Psalm 20:7)

I remember Jesus Christ lived his life completely free of resentment, slander, and violence. It might be impossible for us to do so completely, but it is our supreme task in life to imitate Jesus Christ as closely as possible. When we’re tempted to lean toward resentment, slander, or violence as ways to handle, or even as solutions to, life’s complexities, we as Christians see those things for what they are – temptations from hell – and so we take our stand against those temptations. This is what our Savior did and he is our Lord. I remember he said, “Don’t you think I’m able to ask my Father for more than twelve legions of angels right now?” (Matthew 26:53). And he could have … but he didn’t. When the suggestion of taking up arms was proposed to him, I remember how he looked the person making the suggestion – ironically, a very close disciple of his – right in the eye and flatly said, “Enough of that!” (Luke 22:38) Yes, when I remember 9/11 and view it through the lens of Jesus Christ, I can come to no other conclusion than this one: resentment, slander, and violence have no place in the lives of disciples of Christ.

I remember Jesus Christ wept with those who wept. I remember “Jesus wept” with, and for, those who grieved the death of a loved one, one also loved deeply by Jesus himself (John 11:35). I remember how on one occasion, as if with exasperation and a groan in spirit, he looked “into heaven and sighed deeply.” (Mark 7:34). We know that sort of sigh. We’ve sighed it ourselves when we’ve looked toward heaven and thought, “It’s just shouldn’t be this way. How long, O Lord, how long?” We weep with those who weep. Not merely for “the Americans” who lost their lives one day in the Twin Towers, but quite deliberately for the hundreds from fifty-five other nations who lost their lives as well that same day in the same place. We weep not only for the thousands of American troops who have lost their lives in the wars spawned from the events surrounding 9/11, and the tens of thousands more who have been maimed for life or their lives ruptured and their families fractured forever, but weep also for the hundreds of thousands more who, civilians and enemies alike, have been suffered the same, or worse, and are remembered by many as only so much “collateral damage” or a “victory.” No, when true Christians weep, they weep not for our nation alone, but for the world, and with our Lord who weeps no other way.

I remember Jesus Christ praised good in whoever he saw it. It mattered not their ethnic. It mattered not their language. It mattered not their nationality. It mattered not their religion, past or present. I remember how he looked at one, not of Israel, and declared for all to hear, “I haven’t found faith like this in Israel!” (Luke 7:9) If we praise only those who are like us, how are we better than the pagans? We must mimic our Master and do likewise. We must not dole out our praise of good to only those who are most like us. We must swim against the strong, continual current of partiality and hate that envelopes the lives of so many and, instead, live lives of impartiality and love.

I remember Jesus Christ loved all, including his enemies. I shudder to say this. I’m fearful to say it, but say it I feel I must. Some of my most horrific memories surrounding 9/11 and since don’t involve people leaping from a hundred stories up lest they burn to death. They aren’t about workers sifting through and breathing the ashes of those incinerated in the flames to try and find one yet alive. They don’t revolve around encounters with those who are still struggling daily with nightmares in their sleep from terrors they experienced on the battlefield years ago. Rather, they center on hate-filled words and vengeful anger from the lips of my brothers and sisters in Christ – yes, even from some of you – about “those people.” They turn on e-mail forwards which spouted horrendous declarations not at all like the Spirit of Christ, but all in the name of the red, white, and blue. Lord Jesus, forgive us! Would that I could banish these memories from my mind forever! Perhaps someday I’ll be able to do so, but may I sooner die than forget how my Lord’s own battered, bruised, and bleeding lips spoke from the stake, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” (Luke 23:34) Lord, make me and mine like you.

I remember Jesus Christ laid down his life for everyone. I remember how he didn’t just talk about love, but that he walked all his days exemplifying God’s love. His life was pure witness to his true words and his death undeniably sealed the testimony. I remember how he said, “No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) And he did. And his “friends” were all … including his betrayer, Judas. And so I recall how that if anyone will hear God’s call through my life, it will surely only be when my life matches my Lord’s words and ways. It will only be when I lay down my own life as he did with his. I ask you as I ask myself: how else will the Prince of Peace who spoke and lived the gospel of peace, work peace through you and me unless we too are deliberate, diligent peacemakers, laying down our lives daily for all to the end that his peace would come? This I remember.

But most of all I remember Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, that he rules from heaven now, and that he will return. I remember the greatest of the good news of Jesus Christ. “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:36) And indelibly stamped on my memory are his words, “I will return.” (John 14:3) Yes, this I remember; him, I remember.

My brothers and sisters. Friends and family. Neighbors and guests. Strangers and aliens. Citizens and foreigners. Church. Remember. Remember vividly. Remember demonstrably. “Remember Jesus Christ …