links: this went thru my mind

Church, Christian faith, immigration, justice & mercy: * Immigration and Church – Why It Matters; * 5 Immigration Myths Debunked [essential reading]; * Obama, Daring Congress, Acts to Overhaul Immigration; * 4 Ways (Im)migration Impacts the Mission of the Church [essential reading]

* “…  Christians must agree that we have a responsibility to love and care for the immigrant.”

* ” Here are 5 myths about undocumented immigrants, and why they’re wrong. Myth # 1: They don’t pay taxes. [ Undocumented immigrants are already U.S. taxpayers. Collectively, they paid an estimated $10.6 billion to state and local taxes in 2010 … On average they pay about 6.4% of their income in state and local taxes] …

Myth # 2: They don’t pay into Social Security. [… undocumented immigrants contribute more in payroll taxes than they will ever consume in public benefits. Take Social Security. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), unauthorized immigrants — who are not eligible to receive Social Security benefits — have paid an eye-popping $100 billion into the fund over the past decade. ] …

Myth #3: They drain the system. [Undocumented immigrants do not qualify for welfare, food stamps, Medicaid, and most other public benefits. Most of these programs require proof of legal immigration status and under the 1996 welfare law, even legal immigrants cannot receive these benefits until they have been in the United States for more than five years] …

Myth # 4: They take American jobs. [ The American economy needs immigrant workers. The belief that immigrants take jobs that can otherwise be filled by hard-working Americans has been disputed by an overwhelming number of economic research studies and data. ] …

Myth # 5: It’s just a matter of following the law. […  under current immigration laws, there are very few options for legal immigration, the costs are increasingly prohibitive and the wait for any kind of status can be long and frustrating.]”

* “… Mr. Obama told Americans that deporting millions is ‘not who we are’ and cited Scripture, saying, ‘We shall not oppress a stranger for we know the heart of a stranger — we were strangers once, too.’ … Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law?”

* “While there isn’t space in this blog post to propose and unpack all the issues, I think it’s valuable to examine four ways immigration is impacting the church and its call to share the gospel with all peoples.”

Compassion, love & mercy: Gate A-4

“This can still happen anywhere. Not everything is lost.”

Consumerism & contentment: * The Cult of Contentment [required reading]; * God is Not Santa Claus: How the Consumerist Worldview Affects the Church

* “… I have a modest proposal, instead of fighting to ‘keep Christ in Christmas’ what if we fought to keep the Friday in Black Friday?”

* ” God is not Santa Claus. But we seem to forget that sometimes because we have embraced a worldview called consumerism. In this way of seeing the world, the consumer is at the center, and his or her goal is to find pleasure and avoid pain by consuming things, experiences, and people. Unfortunately, we take this same consumerist worldview to Jesus and his church, but he wants to move us from being consumers to contributors.”

 

links: this went thru my mind

 

Bible & humor: Laughter in the Bible? Absolutely!

“As I study and teach, I find I read the Bible ever more slowly, and as I do, I smile more and more frequently. I listen for its humor. My emotions span sorrow, understanding or joy as I empathize with the characters who cross its pages. I chuckle at many passages, even while acknowledging the sadness they may contain. Consequently, I believe it’s possible to read many verses, stories and even books through the lens of humor, indeed to see portions of the Bible as intended to be very funny. An appropriate response is laughter. I’ve come to this conclusion: Humor is a fundamental sub-theme in both testaments.”

Congregational singing: Lessons from the Churches of Christ

“I am deeply concerned about the long-term viability of the musical heritage of the Church of Christ tradition, and I also think there are lessons to learn about the preservation of musical culture.”

Food & medicine: When Do Chefs And Doctors Buy Generic?

“Pharmacists and doctors are more likely than the general public to buy generic medicine … And chefs are more likely than the general public to buy generic food.”

Gaza, Hamas & Israel: A Letter to Friends Who Want to Understand What is Happening in Gaza [essential reading]

“I want to say a few words to my friends who are not particularly biased one way or the other (and perhaps somewhat uninformed) about what is happening in Gaza. … My heart breaks for the suffering of the Palestinian people. I pray that they get their state soon, and will live peaceably alongside Israel. There will be lots of wounds to mend in this process on both sides. But I don’t blame Israel for the civilian suffering of Palestinians that you see. It is a deliberate tactic of war intended to make you feel exactly what you are feeling: sympathy. I feel sympathy as well, but I know who has the responsibility for this suffering: Hamas.”

Immigration & migrant children: * Q&A: Children at the Border [required reading]; * Most Migrant Children Entering U.S. Are Now With Relatives, Data Show

* “Where are the migrant children coming from? … When did the surge start? … What caused the sudden increase in unaccompanied minors? … Why are the children not deported immediately? … Where are the children crossing the border? … How old are they? Are they mostly boys or girls? … What happens to the children after they are caught? … Where are the shelters? … Where have children been placed after leaving a shelter? … What is being done to address the problem?”

* “Children who are not able to find qualified sponsors are placed in long-term shelters or in foster care. Roughly 10 percent of the unaccompanied minors who have been taken into custody this year have been placed in such care.”

Peace Corp: Peace Corps Volunteers in Their Own Words

“Contrary to popular belief, Peace Corps is less a development organization and more a training ground for cultural sensitivity — global EQ, if you will. I can’t speak with 100 percent certainty that any projects that I undertook changed lives. But I am 100 percent certain that my Peace Corps service shaped me into a better global citizen. It equipped me with the important ability to approach a different culture with humility and respect, to listen, and to understand.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Aliens, culture, faith & immigration: God’s Immigrants [essential reading]

“The total global diaspora numbers about 859 million from 327 distinct people groups. A larger number of those peoples settle in the US than in any other host country, making about 11% of the US population foreign born. … Let us see if we can’t … reclaim the deep resonances and reverence scripture caries for the immigrant.”

Busyness, Christianity, church, faith, over-stimulation, United States: Why It’s Hard to Be Christian in America [essential reading]

“What we need is a community of people who agree to live by a different ethic and rhythm. The Bible has a word for that community. It’s called church. So, let the church be the church.”

Burnout, discouragement, leadership & ministry: * Ten Things Pastors Hate to Admit Publicly [essential reading]; * A Cure for Ministerial Burnout: Contemplative Prayer; * Don’t Make Your Pastor a Statistic?

* “My intention is precisely the opposite. I hope that from this: Churches will pray all the more for their pastors because they understand the challenges; Churches will be doubly grateful for the fact that so many pastors stay in the saddle despite their fears, hurts and frustrations; People in churches will think twice before engaging in things that sink deep into the soul of their leaders.”

* “If, each day, time had been set aside for the spiritual renewal that contemplative praying can provide, there probably would have been the kind of revitalization of mind and spirit that could have maintained their enthusiasm and commitment to ministry.”

* “Consider these figures compiled by the Schaeffer Institute …”

Church, church attendance & expectations: * #1 Reason Why Church Attendance is Down – Really? [required reading]; * Disillusionment With the Church [essential reading]

* “Take me for example, for a number of reasons, I am very close to burnout.  When I hear words like ‘active’, ‘committed’, ‘involvement’, and ‘monitor attendance’, it is going to produce the opposite of the intended effect in me.  If I hear these words from the pulpit on a Sunday morning, I am going to be less likely, not more likely,  to attend the following week.  I am burnt out and you want a larger commitment from me?!?

“Seven years ago, when we searching for a new pastor, our church surveyed our community.  When asked the number one reason why they didn’t attend church, the top two responses could be summarized as:  ‘Too tired’, and ‘not enough time.'”

* “I would contend that many of our disillusions with the church are based upon a wrong ethic. We misunderstand the true nature of fellowship in the gospel community. And therefore, we wrongly apply the ethic of other communities to the church.

“The foundation of our fellowship is not the feelings we have for one another, as important as they may be. Neither is the foundation of our fellowship based upon the fact that we live in the same geographic place, educate our children in the same way, hold similar political views, or are the same ethnicity. No. It is the gospel that is the foundation of our fellowship. Nothing else.”

Israel: * The Pilgrimage: Israel (a 25-part series by Ben Witherington; superb); * Gaza is in the News Again

* “I was fortunate enough to lead a tour to Israel and Turkey for two weeks in May with 29 hearty souls on pilgrimage, and we had a blessed time and a blast as well. It was all good. In the coming weeks I will be sharing some of the pictures and experiences from this trip and we will be talking about.”

* “Gaza is mentioned several times in the Old Testament. Here is a summary of these references.”

Listening, preaching & sermons: How to Get More from a Sermon [essential reading]

“Let’s talk about people who do not get full value from the sermons they hear.

“These people may be taking SERMON-BLOCKERS. When the pastor gets up to preach, they … nitpick him … plan the week ahead … shift into neutral and become passive. … send their mind off on a mini-vacation. … listen with their ears but not their hearts … do not bring faith to what they are hearing.

“These people may hear thousands of sermons, but they do not benefit from them because they are resisting them, not listening to them, and not believing them. Such people are literally wasting their time by coming to church.”

Learning, online & reading: Being a Better Online Reader

“… we don’t read the same way online as we do on paper.”

Population density & the United States: Half of the United States Lives in These Counties

“… half of the United States population is clustered in just the 146 biggest counties out of over 3000.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Art, cinema, Hollywood & movies: Why are So Many Christians Afraid of Hollywood Bible Movies? [required reading

“Art is about seeing beyond what’s on the surface and into what’s deep in the heart of people and the nature of the universe. That’s a scary idea to someone who’s surrendered their willingness to be thoughtful, willing and discerning in the name of piety.”

Border security, children, compassion & immigration: * 14 Facts That Help Explain America’s Child-Migrant Crisis [required reading]; * The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly: League City’s City Council’s Resolution Banning Undocumented Children from Entering League City [essential listening]

* “The flow of unaccompanied immigrant children across the US-Mexico border — mostly from Central America — is continuing to gain attention as a humanitarian crisis. So here are 14 things you need to know to get a handle on what is actually going on along the border right now; what process the US has in place to deal with unaccompanied kids and families; and what the government wants to do now.”

* “… those people would come to church on Sunday and have blistered ears when I got done with them. … If you claim to be a Christian and you go out of your way to actually be a bad Christian there’s a special place for you and it isn’t League City! You go out of your way to say you don’t want these children who are in this horrible circumstance and that you will do nothing to help them?! I just think that it is incredible.” [listen to 28.29-34.30 on the recording; spot-on!]

Children, conversion, faith & parenting: Comfort for Christian Parents of Unconverted Children

“Although salvation is the work of God and not something that we can do for our child, there is hope. Consider the following …”

Education, teachers and teaching: A Declaration for Teachers

“… we, the teachers of this nation, appealing to the good judgment of all who care for posterity and the future of our children, solemnly publish and declare that teacher leadership ought to be the foundation upon which education lies.”

Family, parenting, priorities & time: Finding Family Time in a Busier Than Ever World

“There isn’t one moment to spare when you’re intentional in raising a busy family. Not one moment. You can find the balance. It is hard. There’s nothing more rewarding.”

Government, homosexuality, Jesus, laws & politics: Three Reasons It Doesn’t Matter What We Think About Homosexuality

“… as a Christian, I am not called to be a policy maker for others. I follow Jesus, a man who recoiled when the devil offered him the reigns of every nation on earth, who disappeared any time his crowds tried to make him a ruler, and who in no uncertain terms told one of the few government officials he ever met that his kingdom is ‘not of this world.’ I fear we Christians who believe defending rights and patriotism are virtues above selflessness and grace have tragically missed the message of the very savior whose name we bear.”

iPhone: 21 iPhone Tricks You Didn’t Know

“Be an iPhone ninja with these 21 awesome tricks.”

Movies & reviews: Boyhood

“You need to know this about Boyhood going in: the star, Ellar Coltrane, was cast in the film in 2002 when he was six years old, and he—along with co-stars Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, and Linklater’s daughter Lorelei—proceeded to shoot the film periodically over the next twelve years, the characters’ ages keeping pace roughly with the actors’ real ages. Just stop for a second and think about that: this film was in production for twelve years.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Church, consumerism & mega-churches: How Churches Became Cruise Ships

“Today, half of all churchgoers in the United States attend the largest 10 percent of churches. What rarely gets reported, however, is that on average 50 smaller churches close their doors every week in the U.S. The church-as-destination model hasn’t advanced the church in America, it has consolidated it.”

Children, parenting & technology: * 9 Most Dangerous Apps for Kids; * Five Ways to Mess Up Your Kids [required reading]

* “New apps are constantly being created, so it’s important to monitor what your child downloads. Being aware of the online tricks predators use will help you know what to look for …”

* “… it is possible to parent in such a way as to make it difficult for them to grow up, mature, and live as Christ-followers. The following are some ways to mess up your kids …”

Discouragement & ministry: Seven Ways to Hurt Your Pastor

“… they are real people who can really be hurt. The pastors I spoke with this past week shared with me seven common themes of the things that hurt them the most. So, if you really want to hurt your pastor, follow these guidelines carefully.”

Hispanics, immigrants & jobs: Latino Jobs Growth Driven by U.S. Born

“For the first time in nearly two decades, immigrants do not account for the majority of Hispanic workers in the United States. Meanwhile, most of the job gains made by Hispanics during the economic recovery from the Great Recession of 2007-09 have gone to U.S.-born workers …”

Small groups: Two Common Misuses of Small Group Ministry

“Small groups are actually best as a context for the ‘one anothers.’ Whether your church is big or small, you need some kind of system where people can show and be shown the kind of love the Bible commands the church to show. They often pop up in the New Testament as ‘one anothers,’ and this is what small groups are best for.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Children, education, handwriting & learning: What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades

“Children not only learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, but they also remain better able to generate ideas and retain information. In other words, it’s not just what we write that matters — but how.”

Church attendance: Worship Service Release Form [this is great!]

“It’s better than a hall pass and obliterates guilt with a quick signature.”

Hispanics, immigration & poverty: An American Life, Lived in Shadows [required reading]

“He grabs a bag of bean and cheese sandwiches on wheat bread and heads to his truck, which is just a few years old. Despite the fact that money is tight, nice cars and cellphones are important. ‘If you have a nice car, they treat you well,’ he says, referring to the police. ‘If you drive an old, ugly car, they stop you and arrest you.'”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Bible interpretation: My Problem With the Bible [essential reading]

“I have a problem with the Bible, but all is not lost. I just need to read it standing on my head. I need to change my perspective. If I can accept that the Bible is trying to lift up those who are unlike me, then perhaps I can read the Bible right.”

Church, language, race & worship: 5 Reasons People Avoid Visiting A Bilingual Service

“I still have people tell me: ‘I would visit the bilingual service, but I’m not bilingual.’ Explanations about how one only needs to know either one of the two languages used seem to fall on deaf ears.”

Discipleship, generosity, giving, minimalist, possessions & selflessness: 5 Practices Toward A More Radical Christian Life [essential reading]

“The older I get the more convinced I become that as rich Americans, you and I are at a tremendous disadvantage to experiencing the depths of the Kingdom Jesus came to inaugurate. … While I’ve traveled to more than 40 countries and spent nearly 8 years living outside the US, it has been my time in India (and more specifically my time in the slums and brothel areas) that has most motivated me to rid myself of American materialism so that I’m free to embrace the Kingdom Jesus spoke of.”

Free will & God: Open Theism Simplified

“Why would Open Theists think that God knows the future as partly composed of possibilities, and not only a future of settled facts in the mind of God?”

Immigration, love & racism: If People Excluded “Illegal Immigrants”, We Wouldn’t Have Jesus

“Under God’s law, Ruth was an ‘illegal’ and to be excluded– but thankfully, she was not. A man named Boaz comes along and becomes the hero of the story by ignoring a law that was ultimately unloving. Boaz marries Ruth, and they have a family. Like Jesus demonstrated by healing on the Sabbath, Boaz realized that it’s better to love than to obey the law. … We only have Jesus because someone loved an ‘illegal’ immigrant.”

Means & provision: If God Will Provide, Why Are My Means So Meager?

“Without a trust that God will provide, it will seem we work harder and get less.”

Tithing: * There’s More to Tithing Than 10%; * Tithing for New Covenant Believers–Yes or No?; * Why I Tithe – Part 1

* “Even if you give 10 percent faithfully, it doesn’t mean you’ll come away with the right perspective about the other 90 percent.”

* “God is pleased when our giving reflects our love for Him regardless of the percentage or amount.”

* “While I respect and understand differing perspectives. I believe the Bible teaches we are to offer God the first-fruits of our income. Gross, not net.”