God created one race, the human race. Human beings created racism.
There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations — these are mortal and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.
Church attendance, commitment, culture, time & trends: The Most Important Trend of Church Trends in 2015 and What to Do About It [essential reading]
“Specifically, in the last 2 years, I have see one common thread become a common rope. It’s presence is now ubiquitous; every church I talk with mentions this problem when we discuss the Local Predicament in our Kingdom Concept work. (challenges and opportunities expressed in the local culture). I have never seen a problem discussed this commonly amidst a diversity of church sizes and denominational affiliations. What is the one trend? Your Most Committed People Will Attend Worship Services Less Frequently than Ever in 2015.”
Caricature, hatred, Islam, Muslims & stereotyping: How Not to Kill a Muslim [essential reading]
“The chief issue of Muslim-Christian tension in the United States is lack of relationship. Because many white middle/upper-middle class Christian citizens do not have meaningful relationships with a single Muslim, we are left to fill in the gaps of experience with stereo-types, caricature, and exaggeration.”
Cinema, Exodus, film & movies: Three Takeaways from ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’
“Whatever one might think about the explicit divergences from the biblical story (e.g., the conversation at the burning bush is too limited in the movie, the omission of the opening confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh, absence of Pharaoh-Moses interaction about the plagues, etc.), the story is told to make a point(s) for contemporary audiences. I heard several points, but here are my major takeaways. 1. Israel wrestles with God. … 2. Jewish Holocaust Relived. … 3. Not by Israel’s sword, but by the Lord’s right hand.”
Conversion, conviction, discipleship, gospel, kingdom & transformation: Have You Taken a Gospel Immunization Shot? [essential reading]
“Why does being ‘Christian’ in America make so little difference in so many people’s lives, when the kingdom movement revealed in the New Testament revolutionized people’s lives? … people give their mental assent to certain beliefs and are thereby ushered into a ‘kingdom’ that looks almost identical to the earthly kingdom they were supposed to be called out of. They can keep all their cultural assumptions, and, apart from avoiding certain behaviors that are singled out as the deal-breaker sins, their lives can continue on just as before. “All who are invested in the kingdom Jesus inaugurated in this world must find all of this deeply disturbing. … It’s as if they are a husband or wife who has security in their marital pledge rather than in the quality of the relationship he or she pledged to have. Many people today resist the need to cultivate an actual marriage-like relationship with Christ because they find their security in their past pledge.”
Desensitization, humanity, killing, military, violence & war: The Images Used to Teach Soldiers to Kill
“In my project Targets I look at the present day. I visited 30 countries to document the appearance of the targets with which soldiers today are conditioned to shoot, or as one trainer said: ‘They are supposed to learn to hit, not shoot.’ Another said, ‘It sounds cruel, but you have to learn to kill automatically in order to function.’ “How is he represented today – the enemy that soldiers are later expected to kill? Is he an abstract figure? Does he have a face, and if so, what kind? Has the image of the enemy changed?”
“So, you’re new in the ministry? And you want to get this right, of course. You have definitely come to the right place, friend. Pull up a chair and get ready to take notes.”
Here are links to some reading I consider interesting and helpful.
Church, ministry & obstacles: Ten Ways We Get in the Way of God Building His Church
“When things don’t go well at church, is it possible that we are getting in God’s way?”
Church growth & martyrdom: Sorry, Tertullian
“‘The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church’ … early church theologian Tertullian argued … [However] church growth is ‘not strongly’ correlated with either governmental or societal persecution. However, Christianity ‘tends loosely’ to change more rapidly (grow or shrink) when governmental restriction is high, and stays relatively stable when such pressure is low.”
Cinema, film & movies: Do We Really Need Christian Film?
“What surprises me is that the church has all but ignored, and even villified, this art form. We sit around debating the usefulness of film, bemoaning the latest Hollywood faith-based effort, madly citing Marshall McLuhan with the worst of proof-texting, wondering why we don’t see the likes of Bach, Handel, John Bunyan or C. S. Lewis making powerful, intelligent films. Maybe in the next ten to twenty years a Christian filmmaker will come along and show us what powerful Christian film can be.”
Humanity, inhumanity & violence: Why are We So Mired in Violence?
“… we can’t relate to each other the way God intends unless we’re in relationship with God himself the way he intends.”
* “Torture is the arrogance of the mighty. … The cross of Christ reveals what God thinks of torture: it is not the way of God. God turned torture into new life by resurrection and overcoming torture.”
* “… to be a Christian absolutely requires you to reject the use of torture. … Any thoughtful person, no matter their religion or non-religion, knows that you cannot support torturing people and still claim to be a follower of the one who commanded his disciples to love their enemies. The only way around this is to invent a false Jesus who supports the use of torture. (The Biblical term for this invented false Jesus is ‘antichrist.’)
“Those who argue for the use of torture do so because they are convinced it is pragmatic for national security. But Christians are not called to be pragmatists or even safe. Christians are called by Jesus to imitate a God who is kind and merciful to the wicked.”
When I look up at your skies, at what your fingers made—the moon … that you set firmly in place—what are human beings that you think about them; what are human beings that you pay attention to them? (Psalm 8.3-4)
Aliens, brotherly love, dehumanization, illegals, immigration & respect: I Don’t Know What an “Illegal” is … [required reading]
“In our culture, the way these folks are framed (‘named’) is by calling them ‘illegals.’ I am very convicted about this. … I feel I should say ‘I do not know what an illegal is. I know only humans.'”
Bible reading, lectio divina, reflection, Sermon on the Mount & transformation: Ten Minute Transformation: Ten Minutes of Lectio Divina That Can Revolutionize Your Life (Matt. 5) [required reading]
“It’s a good question. If the Christian faith is only about going to heaven, then why do we stay here on earth?”
Bible study, college & faith: Open Letter to New Testament Students
” … if I am doing my job, you are probably going to undergo a slow process of discovering that what you thought was a book is, in fact, a bunch of books; you’re going to find out that what you know is often incorrect; and what has spoken to you has been edifying, but that text may not ever be able to speak with that same voice again.”
Busyness, culture, stress & the United States: 8 Things You May Not Know about Busyness in America [infographic]
“… eight things that we should all keep in mind about our ‘busy’ lives.”
Brotherly love, humility, others, patience, understanding & sincerity: The Thing I’d Love to Forget About the People I Disagree With [essential reading]
“… it’s a bit disconcerting to confront the reality that it’s possible to wrestle with the same God and walk with the same limp and yet reach different conclusions. Perhaps it is in the wrestling itself that we can find some common ground.”
Discipleship, knowledge, questionnaires, spiritual formation & transformation: Christianity: Has Education Replaced Transformation
“American Christianity is turning into a massive question-and-answer quiz, and I’m probably going to fail. The Bible isn’t a textbook — but people treat it that way, and “Christianity” is becoming a pass-or-fail test. … “
“… we tend to elevate the sin of another which is different than ours.”
Crime prevention, intelligence, police, terrorism & violence: G.K. Chesterton’s Nightmare
“Thirty years ago, a British newspaper took an unscientific survey of current and former intelligence agents, asking them which fictional work best captured the realities of their profession. Would it be John Le Carré, Ian Fleming, Robert Ludlum? To the amazement of most readers, the book that won easily was G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday, published in 1908.
“This was so surprising because of the book’s early date, but also its powerful mystical and Christian content: Chesterton subtitled it ‘a nightmare.’ But perhaps the choice was not so startling. Looking at the problems Western intelligence agencies confront fighting terrorism today, Chesterton’s fantasy looks more relevant than ever, and more like a practical how-to guide.”
“More than two months after President Obama signaled a sharp shift in America’s targeted-killing operations, there is little public evidence of change in a strategy that has come to define the administration’s approach to combating terrorism.”
Inspiration, interpretation, Scripture & violence: The Cross and the Witness of Violent Portraits of God
“… since the ultimate author of Scripture is God, any given passage may have a number of meanings that go beyond what the human author intended. (This “surplus” of divinely-intended meaning is traditionally referred to as the “sensus plenoir” of Scripture). …
“So the question I’ve been wrestling with for the last several weeks is, how [such might] … help us discern how portraits of Yahweh causing parents to cannibalize their children (e.g. Lev. 26:28-29; Jer. 19:9; Ezek.5:10 ) or commanding genocide (Deut. 7:2) point us to the enemy-embracing, non-violent, self-sacrificial love of God revealed on the cross?”
Value of human life: Why Should We Value Human Relationships?
“As God’s image bearers we are all equal. We are equal in dignity and worth. We are created equally in His image. We are also fallen equally (Romans 3:23). Genesis 1:26 explains that God created man in His image. Of all of God’s creation, we are the only ones created in His very image, we have dominion over the rest (Genesis 1:28). It is a profound mystery (God is spirit so we do not bear His physical image, John 4:24) and yet a great privilege. Understanding our equality as image bearers changes everything we think about as it relates to our human relationships. As image bearers we should view others as God views them.”