links to 10 items worth your time

1. Advent is Actually Quite Political [essential reading]

“The real question is not whether our churches are political, but whether we’re aware of it. Are we thoughtfully considering the ways that our worship together can counteract the political messages of the world, or does our worship leave our political preferences undisturbed? Are our loyalties and allegiances formed more strongly toward the global church, our risen King, and his coming kingdom or toward a political party, a nation, or a racial category?”

2. Tell Your Children the Real Santa Claus Story

“St. Nicholas and Santa Claus are historically the same man. But unlike the jolly figure who purportedly flies on a sleigh from the North Pole, the saint came originally from the balmy Mediterranean coast. … His birthplace was near the town of Myra, now called Demre, on the southwest coast of modern Turkey. At the time, Christianity was illegal under the Roman empire.”

3. American Center of Oriental Research Photo Archive [a treasure trove of great pics]

“The American Center of Oriental Research (ACOR) in Amman, Jordan … has begun to process, digitize, and make fully accessible (and searchable) online a majority of ACOR’s major institutional and donated photographic holdings. … will better equip American, Jordanian, and international researchers and policy makers to monitor and assess the numerous threats facing heritage sites in the Middle East and especially Jordan.”

4. Ferrell’s Favorite Fotos #1

“What makes these photos ‘my favorites’? It could be because they are rare, meaning that few photographers have been able to visit the site to make a photo. It might be because of their beauty. Perhaps I just like the photo. Maybe it was difficult to get the shot. In the beginning I will try to make selections from various countries within the Bible World.”

5. How the Islamic State group destroyed a mosque but revealed a 3,000-year old palace

“There is a hill in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul called Nabi Yunus. … A monastery was built there in the early Christian period, then, more than 600 years ago, it was converted into a Muslim shrine to the prophet Jonah. In July 2014 this shrine was blown up by the Islamic State (IS) group. … Buried under Nabi Yunus is a palace that was both a residence for Late Assyrian kings and a base for the Assyrian army. It dates back to at least the 7th Century BC.”

6. The 10 toxic psychological traits that make so many people suck [on sin]

“We all have some twisted thinking to overcome.”

7. Why Have We Boiled the Gospel Down to Sin Management?

“… our view of the Gospel has been too narrow. It isn’t some new fad dismissed by claims of cultural accommodations. … Why did we make this move? How did we go from a holistic view of the Gospel as presented in the New Testament itself to a gospel scaled down …?”

8. Rachel, Mary, and the Lament of the World

“The Bible is the Story of God. But that is not the whole ‘story.’ The Bible is the story of God with the world, with creation.”

9. Looking to Share Your Faith? Slow Your Pace

“Moving at such a pace in the modern world — literally and figuratively — forces us to live out a key component of faith-sharing: integrity. Not only will you get to see people around you with great clarity, but they will get to see you with greater clarity as well.”

10. What Do We Know about the Scourging of Jesus?

“It is extremely difficult to find and identify actual scourges because of the perishable materials. Archaeologists must also take great care in accepting older classifications, especially when the artifact was subject to arbitrary additions and restoration attempts by diggers and private collectors.”

quote: our tendencies & God’s kingdom

Our natural tendency is to search for the perfect, for the powerful, for the pure, and so prepare for paradise. But Jesus’ kingdom is about tiny mustard seeds, not big coconuts; it is about the ordinary act of loving God and loving others with a sacred love that transforms.

The kingdom is as ordinary as a mustard seed, and it spreads quietly, as a mustard seed grows quietly.

Scot McKnight

quote: the enthronement of Christ

This is what it looks like, today, when Jesus is running the world. This is, after all, what he told us to expect. The poor in spirit will be making the kingdom of heaven happen. The meek will be taking over the earth, so gently that the powerful won’t notice until it’s too late. The peacemakers will be putting the arms manufacturers out of business. Those who are hungry and thirsty for God’s justice will be analyzing government policy and legal rulings and speaking up on behalf of those at the bottom of the pile. The merciful will be surprising everybody by showing that there is a different way to do human relations other than being judgmental, eager to put everyone else down. ‘You are the light of the world,’ said Jesus. ‘You are the salt of the earth.’ He was announcing a program yet to be completed. He was inviting his hearers, then and now, to join him in making it happen. This is, quite simply, what it looks like when Jesus is enthroned.

N.T. Wright

chiasm: Matthew’s Gospel

It is well known that the substance of Matthew’s Gospel alternates between two types of material: narrative and discourse. What often goes unnoticed (due to modern, Western, linear thinking) is the relationships all of these narrative and sermon sections share with each other. However, when these relationships are noted, our eyes are opened and it becomes apparent that what Matthew is emphasizing (by means of chiasm), in this, his handbook/manual on discipleship, is what King Jesus says his kingdom is like and how it is received/rejected.

Read Matthew 13.1-53 and envision it as the summit of thought in Matthew’s Gospel … and that we shouldn’t be surprised that many reject the King and his kingdom (Matthew 13.54-58).

Chiasm-Matthew

Credit: I failed to note the source in my notes, and so I will have to look, but I’m thinking perhaps I got this from Larry Chouinard’s helpful Amazon link on Matthew’s Gospel. I’ll check and update this post sometime this week.

links to 4 helpful articles

Note: if you vote today, let me encourage you to first carefully read all of all four of the following articles, in the order you see them here, and then pray. And for that matter, if you have already voted, do the same.

1. 6 Types of Misinformation to Beware Of on Election Day. (And What to Do if You Spot Them.)

“Be careful of rumors and hoaxes about the voting and polling places. Here are some tips for spotting and avoiding false information.”

2. A Voter’s Guide for Thinking Evangelicals

“Of course you will say, on the basis of these things, now I have no one to vote for! But in fact there is lesser and greater evil, and if you don’t choose the lesser of several evils, you end up permitting the greater evils. Which again, is why we have to vote. Take the car wreck over the train with many passengers wreck every time.”

3. The Calling of Crappy Citizenship

“… the all-important principle of Christian anarchism: rather than championing no government, Christian anarchists advocate a politics so odd, eccentric, and peculiar that it must be incommensurate with all other conventional forms of politics.”

4. What America Owes Frederick Douglass

“… the only weapons most of us have in this historical moment are those Douglass named: our voice, our pen and our vote.”

links: this went thru my mind

Brain, health, mental disorders, mental health, & technology: NetBrain: Your Gadgets Could Be Giving You Psychological Problems

“The greatest factor in whether or not someone exhibits NetBrain/iDisorder symptoms is whether or not they own a smartphone.”

Brotherly love, love, Muslims, terror & violence: Loving our Neighbor in an Age of Terror [essential reading]

“I had an interesting conversation with my son last night about the terrible violence in Paris. Among other things we talked about the increase of anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe and here in the United States. Life will be increasingly difficult for average Muslims who are law-abiding and peace-loving citizens of France, other European countries, and the U. S. … There is much that should be said and done in response to this act of evil. Certainly those nearer to the horror are able to help those affected. But where I live, embodying loyalty to Jesus may involve being watchful of how such events can stir up emotions that confuse and perhaps diminish our fundamental loyalty to King Jesus and thus to love our neighbors as ourselves.”

Church, kingdom & the Sermon on the Mount: God Promised Me a Kingdom and All I Got Was This Lousy Church

“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a nation created in the midst of other nations. The other nations are under oppressive rule by illegitimate, even demonic powers. … The church is a colony of heaven on earth.”

Ecology & faith: The Old Testament Isn’t ‘Green’ … Or Is It? [required reading]

“Both radical ‘green’ and radical consumption narratives are at odds with the Old Testament view of the relationship between humans and God’s good creation. The fatalistic narrative that the earth is cursed and we must live with the curse is also at odds with the Old Testament. The people are always called to choose between obedience and blessing or disobedience and cursing. We can and should strive for righteousness and proper wise keeping of God’s creation. Wisdom is the key – always bearing in mind the role that human embrace of evil can play in our perceptions. What does it mean to fill the earth and subdue it? What is the mandate given to humans?”

Happiness & peace: Why “Having a Peace About It” is a Terrible Reason for a Christian to Make a Decision (parts 1 & 2) [essential reading]

“I can’t count the number of times a Christian has said to me that “they have a peace” about a certain decision and therefore plan to move forward. Sometimes they make this decision despite obvious signs that their decision is unwise and not in conformity with the guidance of Scripture. In these cases, a person tends to simply slap a kind of divine mandate on top of what they want to do anyway. When friends or family members try to refute their decision, they simply reply that there is to be no argument because ‘God told them’ or ‘God gave them a peace.’ One example of this kind of mindset can be found on popular Pentecostal writer and speaker Joyce Meyer’s website.”

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.”