this went thru my mind


Baptism: N.T. Wright on the Meaning of Baptism [5 min. video; required viewing]

“… Wright lays out a narrative of baptism starting in Exodus and weaving it into Romans. He explains how the act of baptism is rooted in Exodus, which creates a depth in understanding.”

Bible study: 7 Ways to Do a Bad Word Study

“Here are some bad ways to do a word study, courtesy of Dr. Jennings of Gordon Conwell and Dr. Grant Osborne of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.”

Church: “I’m Not Getting Anything Out of Church” by Terry Rush

“A person who gets nothing out of church is also a person who has drawn nothing from God and puts nothing into people.”

Excellence, fear, failure & success: Good Enough by Richard Beck

“You are a failure. And that means you are good enough.”

Weariness: Moving Past Weariness by Jim Martin

“The following are a few realities I try to keep in mind during such times: (1) I have absolutely no control over so much of what happens in life. … (2) I need to trust in God. … (3) I need to be proactive instead of passive.”

Women: First Timothy 2.8-15 & the Silencing of Women in Worship by Bobby Valentine

“A text that is used, or misused, most frequently is 1 Timothy 2.8-15.”

Bruner on John 21.3


… I am impressed … in this chapter [John 21] … that John sees Jesus revealing himself, first and most impressively of all, to failing, not succeeding disciples. Jesus is, surprisingly, not recorded here as revealing himself to a prayer meeting (‘surprising’ because Jesus so honors prayer in this Gospel: e.g., ‘asking’ in John 4); ‘coming to me’ in John 6; and then especially in his Discipleship Sermons his repeated promises to ‘asking’ disciples in John 14.13-14; 15.7,16; 16.23,26-27; but perhaps in special particular, by the model of Jesus’ own ‘asking’ in his long, seventeenth-chapter prayer). Nor is Jesus reported here as coming to his disciples when they are gathered in Bible study (though Jesus seeks Christ-centered Bible study, esp. 5.39-40). Rather, John chooses to tell a story that teaches us that Jesus is comes, precisely, to disciples disappointed in their work (Recall Jesus’ first two Beatitudes, Matt. 5.3-4)

Frederick Dale Bruner, The Gospel of John: A Commentary (Eerdmans, 2012), p.1208

this went thru my mind


Assumptions: Better to Ask than Assume by Rubel Shelly

“Lots of confusion could be eliminated and far more progress made this week by following this simple rule: When something isn’t clear, ask. Don’t assume. Don’t guess. Don’t mind-read. Trying swallowing your pride and saying, ‘I’m not sure I understand. Do you mind explaining that to me?'”

Bible geography & interpretation: Studying the Land by Wayne Stiles

“Studying historical geography, in my own experience, has permanently marked my life and changed the way I understand the Bible.”

Church & self: Church as Self-mortification? by Richard Beck

“A big part of church is learning to say No to yourself.”

Church leadership & successWhy Are So Many Church Leaders Falling? by Shawn Lovejoy

“Here’s my basic conclusion: the main reason so many of us are struggling stems from our basic definition of success. Our root problem is that we have exchanged God’s definition of success for our own. We have begun to measure success the way the world does.”

Church membership: Leaving Church … for Another Church by K. Rex Butts

“… the reasons for which we leave one church for another is a luxury that only a culture of affluence, division, and denominations can afford!”

Reading: Top 10 Most Read Books in the World [infographic; I’ve currently only read #1, #9, and #10]

“Based on number of books printed and sold over the last 50 years.”

Shopping: Skip Impulse Buys with a 30-Day List

“Take a minute to create a 30-day list, and every time you want to buy something that’s not absolutely necessary … put it on the list with the date it was added to the list. Make a rule never to buy anything (except necessities) unless they’ve been on the list for 30 days.”

Spiritual growth: How Spiritual Growth Really Happens by Brian Jones

“A Christian taking credit for growing closer to God is like a rooster taking credit for the sun coming up in the morning. Bible study, worship, prayer, etc., are all vital parts of the Christian journey and powerfully aid in creating the context in which God can draw near to us. However, in the vast majority of instances God makes himself known to us in spite of what we try to do, not because of it.”

this went thru my mind


Attitude: 7 Mental Mistakes That Stop You From Living a Life of Freedom and Peace by Henri Junttila

Biblical interpretation: Meaning: The Thin or Thick of It by Mark Love

Charitable giving: Remembering Those Who Truly Need a Holiday Gift by Joshua Becker

Children & technology: The Emergence of Digital Childhood — Is This Really Wise? by Albert Mohler

Church: Why Corporate Church Won’t Work by Mike Breen

Encouragement: After They Said “Brain Tumor” by Robert Ratcliff

Facebook: 12 Things You Didn’t Know Facebook Could Do by Paul Boutin

Failure: How to Compost Your Failures by Michael Hyatt

Gambling: What Do You Think About Gambling? by Michael Harbour

Gratitude: A Serving of Gratitude May Save the Day by John Tierney

Homelessness in America: Hard Times Generation: Families Living in Cars

Just for fun: Find Out What Flights Are Overhead With Wolfram Alpha. Several dozen planes fly over our neighborhood every day. I’ve often wondered, “Where did that one come from?” or “Where is that one going?” Now I can know and it couldn’t be more simple. Amazing.

Leadership: A Leader of Uncommon Strength by John Johnson (on Teddy Roosevelt)

Money: The Money Chart (an infographic). Wow!

Of left and right: Moving Right is Never Wrong by Scot McKnight is “required reading.”

Politics: How the GOP Became the Party of the Rich by Tim Dickinson

Productivity: 27 Productivity Killers: Why Nothing Ever Gets Done!

President Obama: Obama Delivers Very Christian Message at Christmas Tree Lighting

Twitter: The Beginners Guide to Twitter by Michael Hyatt

friedman’s fables (2)

The essential difficulty in trying to communicate with another is how to get past the interference of the resistance demons who inhabit that other. What makes this task especially difficult is that it is the intrinsic nature of such demons to stiffen in the faces of efforts to will them away. Yet they often vanish on the spot when our own demons no longer resist them. When, rather than trying to assault these demons head-on, we can, instead, stimulate in others their own imaginative capacity, we can often subvert the contrariness of their demons from within. That is why all successful artists, no matter what their medium, are always careful not to give too much information to, or solve the problem for, the viewer.

An American Holly

There was a certain holly tree whose owner, when it was very young, planted it close to the foundation of his house to shelter the tree from the icy blast of winter. He had done right. For it is the way of young, broad-leaved evergreens to lose their vital moisture to the evaporation of winter winds.

As time went by, however, the holly grew and soon found itself competing with that which had protected it during early life. The owner, therefore, decided to let the plant have more room. Carefully, early one spring, he dug up the sprouting tree and replanted it some distance away, so that it could branch out in all directions. As with the initial planting, the owner did everything with care; roots were embalmed in a big ball of earth, a mound of mud surrounded the new site to keep the rainwater from running away, and the protective blanket of the finest mulch covered the area about the slowly thickening trunk, and fertilizer, again only the finest grade, was liberally applied.

But all did not go well, despite the best intentions in the kindest care. The holly began to lose its leaves. Some were lost every year, of course, but others had always quickly blossomed to take their place. This time the dying leaves were not replenished. Something different was at work.

Perplexed by this unexpected turn of events, the owner gave his tree more care. He borrowed some books from the library to see what he could learn. He wrote to garden experts in the newspapers. Perhaps some blight or other noxious influence had come into the area, though he had read no warnings. He frequented the best garden shops and asked the old-timers what they did on such occasions.

Every question brought an answer; every question acquired more than one answer, if asked more than one time. And with each new suggestion, tale, or remedy he heard, the owner hurried back and tried anew. But nothing worked.

Each morning when the owner awoke he found that more leaves had fallen to the ground. Each week another branch was dead. Should these be allowed to remain on the trunk? Can life flow again through such hard wood? Or does the dead decay and add decay to the living nearby?

When fall came, the holly was a sorry sight. Few leaves were left and most of them were turning brown. The frost came, and then it was too late in the year to try more remedies. But the owner hadn’t ceased to care.

Every morning as he went to work, he saw the tree and wondered where he might have erred. Sometimes in the middle of the night, if he could not sleep and happened by the window, he would stop and stare. If there was moonlight, the branches, now so sparse of leaves, seemed even more bare.

Several times that winter it snowed, and the fall covered the lower, thicker part of the trunk so that the remainder look like some cast-off limb that had fallen from a taller tree and javelined its way into the ground.

With the spring thaw, the holly’s owner hoped again and waited for the buds. Perhaps with so few other leaves to share the nutrients, there would be more than ever. But no. If anything, there were fewer.

Still the owner tried: more fertilizer, a newer, softer blanket of mulch, further, careful pruning of the tips of the lambs, water with every day of sun. But the holly did not respond.

One day during the early summer, before the owner was about to leave for vacation, he was preparing his other plants for some weeks without attention, and he came upon his sorrowful tree. Gingerly he pruned each little limb that had died. He would bend each back gently to see if the sign of life – the rubbery flexibility – was there, and, if so, he let it snap softly back into place; if not, with his clippers, as always, at the proper angle, he sheared it near the base, as always at the proper place. This time, however, something changed in his heart. Rather than pity, he began to feel anger.

Suddenly, he began to cut without checking carefully to be sure the limb was dead. Faster he began to clip, faster and with gusto, indiscriminately, this way and that, this limb and that, and then, enraged, the trunk itself. And when he finally stopped, exhausted, his heart pumping, all that faced him was a scraggly stick that came up to his nose.

He hung his shears away and left with his family. Only once while they were gone did he think about the tree, and he said to his wife, “I’ll dig it up when we return.”

But when they returned something had changed. As they drove up, at first from the distance, and then with closer view, all could see the holly now bristling green. From every cut and wound and point from which a parted limb had gone, a hundred prickly, scorning tongues.

MORAL: If all else fails, don’t just do something, stand there!

Friedman’s Fables by Edwin H. Friedman (The Guilford Press, 1990), pp.51,61-64


While Jesus was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, came. With him was a large crowd carrying swords and clubs. They had been sent by the chief priests and elders of the people. His betrayer had given them a sign: “Arrest the man I kiss.” Just then he came to Jesus and said, “Hello, Rabbi.” Then he kissed him.

But Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came and grabbed Jesus and arrested him.

One of those with Jesus reached for his sword. Striking the high priest’s slave, he cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put the sword back into its place. All those who use the sword will die by the sword. Or do you think that I’m not able to ask my Father and he will send to me more than twelve battle groups of angels right away? But if I did that, how would the scriptures be fulfilled that say this must happen?” Then Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come with swords and clubs to arrest me, like a thief? Day after day, I sat in the temple teaching, but you didn’t arrest me. But all this has happened so that what the prophets said in the scriptures might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left Jesus and ran away. (Matthew 26:47-56 CEB)

Why does this Scripture trouble us so? I suspect it’s more than the fact that we know this is the beginning of the end for Jesus in the flesh. No, there’s more here that we don’t want to hear.

We don’t want to hear that Judas is the one who has that for which we thirst so often. Numbers are on his side, he has power in terms of might, and authority has his back.

We don’t want to hear that it’s one of Jesus’ own who takes him down, it’s one of those with Jesus who resorts to violence rather than faith, and it’s Jesus’ disciples who wuss out and bug out to save their own skin when things get scary.

We don’t want to hear that might doesn’t make right, that submission is God’s will, and that God’s way of getting things done contradicts our sound reasoning.

We don’t want to hear of heaven’s silence, the angels’ absence, or Jesus saying, “Let it be.”

We just don’t want to hear it. Probably because it all adds up to the fact that there’s only one in this narrative who doesn’t fail, and it ain’t us.

Thank God.

Thank you, Father, for making your strength perfectly known in our weak world. Thank you, Jesus, for your faithfulness in the midst of all our failures for our forgiveness. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for bringing us your truth to clear our minds of all false messages. Amen.