As of today, I turn 59 years of age. I can hardly believe it.
That’s 21,550 days I have been gifted by God. The number staggers me. That’s 517,200 hours of opportunity for me to honor the one who has gifted and graced, fortified and forgiven, enlightened and invigorated, me.
I must pray. Join me?
My Father in heaven, who am I that you should bless me so? But bless me you have, so incredibly far beyond my feeble awareness. Words fail me. Let my life be full thanksgiving to you and growth in you. Here and now I turn to afresh to you and, even ask all the more of you in the name of your Son Jesus: grant that whatever time is allotted to me be only used in ways that most fittingly honor you. Lead me to that end, your staff and your rod steering and correcting, prodding and protecting, me. All to the praise of your name and to the blessing of all others. Amen.
“In terms of qualifications and rights, we are all like Jonah. Who can claim to be qualified for participation in the divine work? Who has not disobeyed in the past and forfeited any rights that might pertain to serving God? The service of God is thus … always a second chance, always an undeserved privilege. And if vocation comes to us, we can never say that it is on the grounds of our gifts and qualities, or our capacities for the job at hand. The call of God is … a sign of mercy, in that he is willing to employ the unworthy …” (Peter C. Craigie)
Following are links to five articles I found good for thought. Perhaps you will, too.
Antiquities, archeology, looting & theft: The Causes of Destruction of Antiquities
“Archaeological sites are in danger around the Ancient Near East. While there are antiquities laws in place throughout the region, they rarely suffice to deter the destruction. Once the crime is committed, the data is irretrievably lost, or at best, it is devalued.”
Faith & grace: Beyond “Sola Gratia” (Grace Alone)
“Unlike Paul of the Bible and the saints of old, our Christian faith and practice in the 21st century is characteristically … too much of the head (heady) and less about the heart (hearty) … too formulaic and less mystical in articulation … too programmatic and less … spontaneity in worship in action … too rationalistic and less relational in belief and practice … too purpose-driven and less … passion-driven in design … too self-centered and less God-centered in focus … too gravy-loaded and less grace-saturated in emphasis … too this-worldly and less other-worldly in perspective … too pragmatic and less transcendent in orientation.”
Ministry & women: How Does a Pastor Use Wisdom to Shepherd Women in His Church?
“… the first thing to establish in a pastor wisely thinking through caring for women in the church is the need for balance.”
Parenting & sports: The Biggest Lie Parents Believe [required reading]
“Parents, stop believing the lie that sports build character! Sports don’t build character, they reveal it.” A guy named John Wooden made that statement.”
Prayer: Unanswered Prayer [required reading]
“Who said that disappointment in prayer is a bad thing?”
Bible literacy & reading:* Biblical Illiteracy by the Numbers Part 1: The Challenge [required reading]; * 9 Things Everyone Should Do When Reading the Bible [essential reading]
* “Study after study in the last quarter-century has revealed that American Christians increasingly don’t read their Bibles, don’t engage their Bibles, and don’t know their Bibles. It’s obvious: We are living in a post-biblically literate culture. Just as critical is the second word of the Bible literacy problem: literacy. Pew Research tells us that 23 percent of us didn’t read a single book in the last year. That’s three times the number who didn’t read a book in 1978.”
* Read ‘King’ when you see ‘Christ.’ … read ‘you’ differently … if you see a ‘therefore,’ find out what it’s there for … realize that not all ‘if’ statements are the same … recognize that lamenting is OK … realize that prophecy is more often forth-telling than fore-telling … become familiar with the idioms of your King … remember what you learned in English class … read to study, but also, read to refresh your heart.”
College funding: A College Financial Aid Guide for Families Who Have Saved Nothing
“In just a generation or two, we’ve gone from students working their way through college without too much trouble, to many parents still being able to write checks to cover tuition out of current income, to sticker prices being so high that two decades of savings may not be enough to cover two children from relatively affluent families.”
Government, Houston, law suits, litigation & sermons: Victory Through Defeat
“As a matter of normal legal practice, I doubt that Mayor Parker, David Feldman, or anyone at the City of Houston read the subpoenas before they were sent, much less specifically ordered the discovery and confiscation of sermon notes and other communications involving homosexuality and gender identity. Typically in litigation lawyers will throw a bunch of jello at a wall and see what sticks, so to speak. Or, to put it another way, they’ll fill up the kitchen sink and see what takes. In other words, the lawyer drafting the discovery requests and subpoenas probably tried to think of every conceivable thing that could possibly be related to this lawsuit and asked for it. You don’t get it if you never ask, and litigation is all about being aggressive and taking anything that the other side will give you. Again, these are just requests (issued by a lawyer), and the judge can quash the subpoenas or issue a protective order for the pastors. …
“… the reality is that we are merely dealing with an overbroad discovery request from a zealous trial lawyer employed by the City. So the sky is not falling. This is not a government-wide ‘approval’ system of pulpit messages. The pastors aren’t being threatened with punishment merely for the contents of their sermons. But this is harassment, and the small things add up. A government that tries to intimidate pastors who would seek to employ the democratic process to repeal a morally questionable piece of legislation is no friend of liberty, religious or otherwise. The government answers to the people; the people do not answer to the government. Remember that. The subpoena is only step one in their 12-step program.”
“For years, when I thought about prayer, I mostly felt guilty for my lack of a robust prayer life. Reading stories of great saints praying for two hours a day or more left me with a gnawing sense of defeat. I would often resolve to pray more. But the resolves didn’t last.”
Psalm 23: The Lord is My Shepherd – Psalm 23
“All of this comes from Yahweh’s ‘goodness and mercy.'”
Benevolence, compassion, grace, judging & need: Wasted Grace [essential reading]
“How do you help healthy beggars on the road you cannot know?”
Existence of God: Is God a Hoax?
“Is God real? Or, is this a figment of man’s needy imagination?”
Gossip & prayer requests: Gossip & Prayer Requests [essential reading]
“At what point do those prayer requests become sinful gossip? … It’s complicated. … Here is a mental checklist that I have developed for managing prayer requests in a careful, godly manner. Before you pass on that request, make sure to check your facts, your role, your audience, and your heart.”
Human life, martyrdom, nationalism, pacifism & respect: Blood Trumps Everything: Why the Church Needs Her Martyrs
“My point in all this is that debates about things like nationalism or pacifism aren’t simply abstract theological discussions. These debates need to, but often fail to, take into consideration the sacred element of human blood. These debates need to reckon with the face that blood is the most sacred thing we know, more sacred, even, than God. Emotionally, where this argument will be won or lost, blood will trump theology. Always. And this is why the church needs her martyrs.”
Sexuality & virginity: When Guys Found Out I’m a Virgin
“When it comes to my decision to stay a virgin until marriage — to hold out for that one-time-only chance to fully connect with and know and love another person — I want to make sure it’s the right man. Until then, bring on the squirmy no-sex chat.”
Choices, depression, happiness, mental health & thankfulness: What Are the Three Ways to Train Your Brain to Be Happy? [think Philippians 4.8]
“You can train your mind to be unhappy and you can train it to be happy. … Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep. Write down three things that went well today and why they went well. You may use a journal or your computer to write about the events, but it is important that you have a physical record of what you wrote. The three things need not be earthshaking in importance (“My husband picked up my favorite ice cream for dessert on the way home from work today”), but they can be important (“My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy”). Next to each positive event, answer the question “Why did this happen?””
Culture, grace & post-Christendom: Vanishing Grace
“Frankly, Christian faith is losing traction in society. It has lost traction in Europe and Canada where far fewer than half find religion a positive influence. And it will likely continue to lose traction in the US.”
Early Christianity, ingratitude, nonviolence, pacifism, perception & the state: Pacifism & Holy Ingratitude [essential reading; spot-on!]
“… the Romans considered the early Christians to be an ungrateful group of people. … Specifically, the Romans believed that Roman citizens owed a certain amount of gratitude toward the state. Romans lived in a great, prosperous and generally peaceful empire. Thus, Roman citizens owed the state gratitude. But the Christians seemed to differ. Confessing Jesus as ‘Lord of all’ and directing their gratitude toward God rather than toward the state the Christians busted up the cycles of gratitude that had kept Roman citizens bound to the state. One way that Christians expressed this holy ingratitude was in their refusal to kill for the state. This refusal struck the Romans as hugely ungrateful. Christians benefited as Roman citizens. Yet they refuse to participate in the fighting that created and maintained all those benefits. Non-violent Christians in their refusal to participate in the Roman military were non-patriotic slackers and free-riders.”
“… some of what we encounter in life may be simple chance.”
Intimidation, involvement, lukewarmness & spiritual maturity: The Institutionalization of Lukewarmness
“What causes mediocrity in the church members? You take a stab with your best guess. Mine is cowardice. We want peace which interpreted can mean, ‘Leave me alone to serve where I want. Do not press me else I will bolt.’ Intimidation often rules. This is why so many don’t sing. They don’t want to be heard. Others don’t serve. They don’t want to be seen. Yet, others sneak in and sneak out. They don’t want to be in contact. Living in the kingdom is a scary, threatening, and risky walk. Institutionalization, however, has declared immunity to the timid. Following Jesus demands we take up our crosses; not sneaking about in dark alleys at night going undetected, but bravely moving about in the public square destined for ridicule and persecution.”