links: this went thru my mind

Archaeology, Assyrians, Iraq, Isis, Ninevah & terrorism: ISIS Threatens to Blow Up the Historical Walls of Nineveh

“Residents of the Bab Nergal area of Mosul said ISIS has informed them that it will blow up the walls of Nineveh with the start of operations to liberate Mosul by the Iraqi army. In the last month ISIS has seized the content of the cultural museum in Mosul as well as destroyed Assyrian monuments in the city, which ISIS claims “distort Islam.”

Blessings, communication, humility & witness: The One Things Christians Should Stop Saying [required reading]

“I’ve noticed a trend among Christians, myself included, and it troubles me. Our rote response to material windfalls is to call ourselves blessed. Like the ‘amen’ at the end of a prayer.”

Christianity, faith, government, kingdom & politics: 12 Reasons for Keeping the Kingdom of God Separate from Politics (parts 1 & 2) [essential reading]

“Jesus came to establish a kingdom that was not of this world.”

Evangelism, humility, listening, missions & outreach: Reverse Evangelism

“I really do believe that the Gospel is good news for everyone.  I just don’t think we know how good the news is until we do the hard work of listening and learning about what people’s hopes and dreams are.  And I have noticed that whenever I enter another culture, and understand it, even (or especially) when they don’t believe what I believe, that the Gospel just gets bigger for me.”

Marriage: Study Finds More Reasons to Get and Stay Married

“Social scientists have long known that married people tend to be happier, but they debate whether that is because marriage causes happiness or simply because happier people are more likely to get married. The new paper, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, controlled for pre-marriage happiness levels.

“It concluded that being married makes people happier and more satisfied with their lives than those who remain single – particularly during the most stressful periods, like mid-life crises.”

links: this went thru my mind

Afghanistan, Iraq, ISIS, veterans & war: The Truth About the Wars

“If insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, I think we’re there.”

Church, expectations, inclusion, mission, perceptions & welcome: 3 Ways ‘All Are Welcome’ Is Hurting the Church

“Churches — like individuals — are called to know themselves, their strengths and weaknesses, and discern a clear and specific mission to where Jesus is calling them to act. Many times churches actually do have in mind a particular subset of people with whom they’d like repopulate their congregation. Many times this particular subset looks an awful lot like the current membership of the church, albeit 20-30 years ago. Often, though, neighborhoods and needs have changed. And a vital ministry — perhaps to immigrant workers, to retired folks, to single adults — is forgotten in light of chasing the ever-elusive ‘young families.'”

Corporate worship, hymns, music & singing: My Journey Away from Contemporary Worship Music

“I make this plea to my fellow ministers, do not neglect these milestones from ages past.”

Economics, income inequality & politics: A Change That Isn’t Coming

“…  until the two parties put forward lasting and structural fixes for these problems the pain and outrage are only going to intensify. And as the pain grows the American electorate will continue to lash out blindly and schizophrenically, alternately punishing the party in power and hoping for a change that isn’t coming.”

Joseph Smith, Latter-Day Saints, Mormons & polygamy: It’s Official: Mormon Founder Had Up to 40 Wives

“The biggest bombshell for some in the essays is that Smith married women who were already married, some to men who were Smith’s friends and followers.”

this went thru my mind

 

Change: The Worst of Both Worlds by Rubel Shelly

“The ways of God are always fresh and challenging. When Jesus came to his peers, he was rejected because of the new things of God he said and did. Then or now, those who try to contain the fresh presence of Jesus within the old and familiar forms typically wind up with the worst of both worlds.”

Fellowship & salvation: Christianity: Who Is In and Who Is Out? by Brian Mashburn

“So who’s in? It’s not my call, praise God, it’s His. I admit that in my practice of ‘fellowshipping’ with people, the farther along that I perceive someone to be in their devotion to following Christ, the deeper the fellowship (friendship, partnership, companionship) I invite. But as to the practice of proclaiming definitively and authoritatively to my fellow man who I think I can declare is ‘in’ or ‘out,’ I just can not do it.”

Health care reform: How Doctors Do Harm by Dr. Otis Brawley

“For more than two decades, I have studied disparities in health outcomes and the inconsistencies in how medicine is practiced. I have come to believe that much of the rhetoric for and against health care reform lacks the understanding that the issue involves human beings.”

Leadership: How to Let Go Without Giving In by Dan Rockwell

“You must. Letting go isn’t optional – organizational success demands it. New talent produces new perspective, innovation, fresh vitality, and forward momentum. You can’t. You can’t step away even though you must let go. Bringing on new talent is never exemption from your leadership-responsibility.”

Ministers & ministry: Statistics on Pastors by Richard J. Krejcir (thank you, Brad Morrow, for showing me this article)

“After over 18 years of researching pastoral trends and many of us being a pastor, we have found … we are [in] perhaps the single most stressful and frustrating working profession … We found that over 70% of pastors are so stressed out and burned out that they regularly consider leaving the ministry … Thirty-five to forty percent of pastors actually do leave the ministry …”

Open-mindedness: They Were Right (And Wrong) About the Slippery Slope by Rachel Held Evans

“Now, every day is a risk. Now, I have no choice but to cling to faith and hope and love for dear life. Now, I have to keep a very close eye on Jesus, as he leads me through deep valleys and precarious peaks. But the view is better, and, for the first time in a long time, I am fully engaged in my faith. I am alive. I am dependent. I am following Jesus as me—heart and head intact. And they were right. All it took was a question or two to bring me here.”

Parenting: * When Will We Learn? by Mark Stevens; * Sharing Your Faith at Home by Chad Nall

* “Leighton Ford once said, ‘What is the difference between a man who spends every night at the bar and one who spends every night at the church? Nothing, they both lose their kids!'”

* “Having been in youth ministry for nearly 12 years, I’ve had countless opportunities to share the Gospel and my faith with teens. I’ve sat in seminars, conferences, and classes that have equipped me to do so. I’ve listened to experts talk about how to talk to teenagers, how to lead a teen to Christ. I’ve read books on mentoring and asking questions. I’ve loved every opportunity I’ve had. But I’m discovering that it’s a whole different ball game when it comes to my children.”

Personality & suffering: Wired to Suffer: On Theodicy and Personality by Richard Beck

“Theodicy has two sides. There’s an analytical side and an empathic side. … we see people doing one of two things to run from theodicy problems. Hedge on the empathy or hedge on the logical consistency. But what if you’re the sort of person who can’t hedge on either? What if you’re one of those rare individuals who are both very analytical and very empathic? It seems to me, if you are one of these sorts of people, that you’re basically screwed. … It’s a theological nightmare. You can’t turn your mind off. Or your heart. Theologically speaking, I think some of us are just wired to suffer.”

Regrets: Dying Regrets

“A palliative nurse recorded (over several years) the dying bits of wisdom from patients in the last twelve months of their lives. She recently listed the top five regrets. Here are the five.”

Religion: How to Fight the Man by David Brooks

“A few weeks ago, a 22-year-old man named Jefferson Bethke produced a video called ‘Why I Hate Religion, but Love Jesus.’ … The video went viral. … Right away, many older theologians began critiquing Bethke’s statements. A blogger named Kevin DeYoung pointed out, for example, that it is biblically inaccurate to say that Jesus hated religion. In fact, Jesus preached a religious doctrine, prescribed rituals and worshiped in a temple. Bethke responded in a way that was humble, earnest and gracious, and that generally spoke well of his character. He also basically folded. … Bethke watched a panel discussion in which some theologians lamented young people’s disdain of organized religion. ‘Right when I heard that,’ he told The Christian Post, ‘it just convicted me, and God used it as one of those Spirit moments where it’s just, ‘Man, he’s right.’ I realized a lot of my views and treatments of the church were not Scripture-based; they were very experience based.'”

War: Memories of Nine Years at War in Iraq by Shaun Casey

“As I grapple with the legacy of our immoral misadventure in Iraq, the main thing that stands out is the terrible, mind-numbing cost. More than 4,000 U.S. soldiers are dead and 33,000 wounded. An estimated 178,000 suffer traumatic brain injuries, more than 2,000 are amputees, and hundreds have committed suicide. Some estimate more than 1.4 million Iraqis died in the war, which cost more than a trillion dollars.”

this went thru my mind

 

Bible reading: Six Steps for Reading Your Bible

“So, how is it going with your Bible reading for 2012? I know many of you have made the commitment to read through God’s Word this year, and I am proud of you for accepting the challenge. … Here are a few tips for staying the course and completing the process of reading through God’s Word.”

Church contribution: Five Ways to Make Giving Easier to Your Church

“We have to make it easy for people to give!”

House church movement: The Struggle With House Churches

“Despite the assertion from the house church movement that the house church is the normative, biblical model it’s not. House churches are culturally formed models that meet cultural conditions. So far our experience is that the congregational model, a mid to large size community of God’s people, is still the most effective form or model for new churches in America.”

Life in Christ: Converting from Christianity to Christ

“When I was young, I decided to convert from my self-centered life to the religious life. Since then, I have been converting from the religious life to Christ’s way of life. There is a difference. A huge one.”

Meditation: Resist “Swish and Spit” Devotions

“What did you read yesterday? No, not what chapter, but what did you read? What from God’s Word got a hold of you to produce a response? Did anything evoke conviction or delight? Did something particular from your reading explode in your heart with thanksgiving?

“Hopefully the answer is yes. But too often the answer is, ‘Wait. Hold on. …I can’t remember.’

“This reminds me of childhood trips to the dentist. Do you recall after the dentist put that horrific fluoride treatment in your mouth? He then would spray in a bunch of water that you would lean over and (try to) spit in the small circular sink next to your head.

“Sadly too many of us have a ‘swish and spit’ devotional life. We grab a little Bible reading, swish it around in the morning, then spit it out on the way out the door. The treasures from the Word don’t get swallowed and digested but rather spit out quickly.

“How do you combat dental chair devotions? One word: meditation.”

Millennial generation: How to Lead Millenials

“A good friend asked me the other day my thoughts on how to lead the millennial generation, basically those born after 1980. We gather thousands of leaders who fit this category on an annual basis, and most of our Catalyst staff are under the age of 30.”

Nationalism: The Nazis and Christianity: Is History Repeating Itself?

“For now, I just want to point this out for two reasons. First, this is, in my judgment, the biggest problem facing Christianity in America. Secondly, I also want to stress the need for teaching the Bible, as well as Christian theology and church history among churches. We can learn from what happened in Germany that both nationalism as well as biblical, theological, and historical ignorance are cancers to the Christian faith as well as cancers to society.”

Possessions: Don’t Just Declutter, De-own

“… organizing our stuff (without removing it) has some other major shortcomings that are rarely considered …”

Reversal: Black Church Wins Klan Shop Ruling

“After a lengthy legal battle between a black South Carolina church and members of the Ku Klux Klan, a judge has ruled that the church owns a building where KKK robes and T-shirts are sold.”

Success: The Dangerous Side of Success

“An article out of the business section of this week’s Wall Street Journal, ‘Kodak Teeters on the Brink,’ tells the painful story of Kodak. After thirteen highly successful decades, the film and camera company is on the ropes. It is preparing to seek bankruptcy protection. … There’s much the church can learn from all of this, for church cultures are prone to the same thing—to achieve some success and then become satisfied, content, turning insular, rigid—oblivious to the warning Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, who once said: ‘When the rate of change inside an organization is slower than the rate of change outside of an organization, the end of the organization is in sight.'”

United States of America: America Shall Not Be Exceptional

“We had it right in 1998 when we published these words to the United Nations: “Torture is prohibited by law throughout the United States. It is categorically denounced as a matter of policy and as a tool of state authority. Every act constituting torture under the Convention constitutes a criminal offense under the law of the United States. No official of the Government, federal, state or local, civilian or military, is authorized to commit or to instruct anyone else to commit torture. Nor may any official condone or tolerate torture in any form. No exceptional circumstances may be invoked as a justification of torture.”

War in Iraq: The Forgotten Wages of War

“As is our habit, the discussion focused on the costs to America in blood and treasure, the false premises of the war and the continuing challenges of instability in the region. What happened to Iraqis was largely ignored. … We rarely question that wars cause extensive damage, but our view of America’s wars has been blind to one specific aspect of destruction: the human toll of those who live in war zones.”

Wonder: How to Stay Astonished in Five Simple Steps

“I know…we’re too busy to be astonished. … So here’s five simple things to turn up your astonishment on any given day.”

this went thru my mind

 

American history & religion: The Faith (and Doubts) of Our Fathers

“Academic historians are bemused at times by the inquiries they get from people with no previous interest in the nation’s beginnings: what did America’s creators really believe? Jill Lepore, a Harvard professor who deconstructs the uses and abuses of the past, is wary of would-be historians with an agenda. For her, the founders’ genius lay in their willingness to cast doubt on fixed ways of thinking inherited from the past. So to make them final arbiters is to traduce their spirit. Nor, indeed, were the fathers of one mind. They did not spend their time producing pearls of unanimously agreed wisdom. They quarrelled bitterly. Indeed, if something about this period still resonates in modern politics, it may be the fathers’ disputes, and the subtle points each side brought to bear.”

Benevolence: How Charity Can Be Toxic, Just in Time for Christmas (how to avoid destroying dignity). This is required reading.

“Dignity is given to us by our creator. We hold a whole theology of community and mutual supportedness, bearing one another’s burdens and concerns. One-way giving creates toxic relationships where one has the resources, the other has the need. Do recipients at clothes closets and food pantries become a part of your church? Often, they’re not participants in our community. How do we create respectful, honest, caring, and mutually supportive relationships?”

Christmas season: The Immigrant Days of Christmas

“I noticed this Christmas season, for the first time, that not only were Mary and Joseph forced to migrate under Rome’s census; not only was the Incarnate God born into a humiliating space — but, as they fled to Egypt, they never registered in Bethlehem with the census. A dream, an angel, told the migrant father to gather his family and run from the authorities. Unaccounted for in the empire, baby Jesus’ first movement in this world was a government-evading trek through the desert by night.”

Church: Learning to Read the Gospel Again: How to address our anxiety about losing the next generation

“”So what do we do? Perhaps the answer is much simpler, and more ‘old-fashioned,’ than we think: Maybe we ought to be teaching churchgoers to read the gospel. The first thing Muslim children learn about Christians is one of the last things Christians learn about themselves: we are a ‘people of the Book.’ Perhaps we ought to ask how to make this observation from the Qur’an true, once more, among those who fellowship around the Bible. How can we form ourselves as a people of the Book?”

Coffee With Jesus: If you’re not reading Coffee With Jesus, you’re missing out.

Compassion: Why Christians Shoot Their Wounded

“You’d think our individual brokenness would cause us, especially those of us who call ourselves christians, to heed the question of Jesus when he asks, ‘Who among us can cast the first stone?’ or in the context of this post, ‘take the first shot.’ “But the desire to attribute people’s behavior to innate character rather than to local context runs deep. In fact, psychologists have a name for this behavior: It’s called ‘the fundamental attribution error.'”

Contribution: How to Fill the Offering Plate

“Nurturing cheerful givers is more challenging than ever during an economic downturn. New research provides important insights that could boost the financial and spiritual health of congregations. Take our quiz to test your knowledge of church giving trends.”

Facebook: Facebook Bible: Everything You Need to Know About Facebook

“… expert analysis on the latest Facebook developments, helpful tips, tricks and how-tos, and the latest updates on privacy, Facebook apps and more.”

Gifts for children: Great Christmas Gifts For Your Kids

“Still trying to decide what to get your kids this year for Christmas? How about getting them something that will last a lifetime?”

Global Christianity: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Christian Population

“The number of Christians around the world has more than tripled in the last 100 years, from about 600 million in 1910 to more than 2 billion in 2010. But the world’s overall population also has risen rapidly, from an estimated 1.8 billion in 1910 to 6.9 billion in 2010. As a result, Christians make up about the same portion of the world’s population today (32%) as they did a century ago (35%).”

Iraq: In Iraq, Abandoning Our Friends

“And so our policy in the final weeks of this war is as simple as it is shameful: submit your paperwork and wait. If you can survive the next 18 months, maybe we’ll let you in.”

Leadership: How to Create the Kind of Team Unity That Drives Results

“… it is up to you, as the leader, to create this alignment. It doesn’t just happen.”

Peacemakers: 10 Things to Say to Keep the Peace

“The holidays, with all their extended-family gatherings, can be a verbal minefield. You’re either dodging nosy questions from some tactless relative over dinner (‘Still dieting then?’) or taking out the stress of all that extra cooking and shopping on those dearest to you (‘Do I have to do everything around here?’). It doesn’t have to be that bad. Use these 10 go-to phrases to defuse potentially volatile conversations and help you get through the coming weeks―and the months and years to follow―in harmony.”

Poverty: Map of the Day: America’s Poverty Belt

“Immediately apparent is a broad ‘Poverty Belt’ – states where more than three in ten people live in high poverty areas – stretching from West Virginia through Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas.”

Senior adults: A Senior Moment

“Contrary to rosy propaganda, 85 is not the new 65. The elder population boom will affect everyone, and the church has an important role to play. In understanding the situation and what areas need improvement, congregations learn that they too benefit when they are involved in supporting the frail elderly.”

Social networking: How to Think about Social Networking in Churches

“Social networking reminds us of our intrinsic sociality, but constantly moves us closer to the point where sociality no longer requires our bodies to be fully human.”

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.”