links: this went thru my mind


Church, comfort, evangelism, familiarity, Millenials  & outreach: Don’t Let Your Comfort Zone Kill Your Church

“… are you willfully blind toward the needs of the young people in your church or toward reaching young people in general?”

Death: When It’s Time to Say Goodbye

“Dying space is sacred space.”

Discussion, social media & the spiral of silence: How Social Media Silences Debate

“The researchers set out to investigate the effect of the Internet on the so-called spiral of silence, a theory that people are less likely to express their views if they believe they differ from those of their friends, family and colleagues. The Internet, many people thought, would do away with that notion because it connects more heterogeneous people and gives even minority voices a bullhorn.

“Instead, the researchers found, the Internet reflects the offline world, where people have always gravitated toward like-minded friends and shied away from expressing divergent opinions. (There is a reason for the old rule to avoid religion or politics at the dinner table.)

“And in some ways, the Internet has deepened that divide. It makes it easy for people to read only news and opinions from people they agree with. In many cases, people don’t even make that choice for themselves.”

Ecology, environment & pollution: Choking the Oceans With Plastic

“I have just returned with a team of scientists from six weeks at sea conducting research in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — one of five major garbage patches drifting in the oceans north and south of the Equator at the latitude of our great terrestrial deserts. Although it was my 10th voyage to the area, I was utterly shocked to see the enormous increase in the quantity of plastic waste since my last trip in 2009.”

Exodus & the movies: Exodus: Gods, Kings, and Evangelical Headcanon

“This Christmas we’re getting another Bible epic film, Exodus: Gods and Kings, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Christian Bale as Moses.”

Modesty: To the Girls In the Pew Ahead of Me

“Thank you for reflecting Christ in the simplest of ways.”

this went thru my mind


Baytown & Mont Belvieu: Chambers Town Center

A look at the plan for the the construction of Chambers Town Center near the intersection of I-10 & Hwy. 146 in Baytown, TX.

Church, idolatry & ministry: When Church Becomes an Idol

“… what does this look like when church itself is the ‘idol’ a pastor is venerating?”

Criticism, listening, preaching, respect, selective hearing & sermons: Sick of Sermons [required reading]

“Chronic critique of sermons is an illness. …  Some sufferers have lived with this condition for so long that they have found ways to manage it: committing to ministries that pull them out of the sermon … venting … or using the sermon-time for completely unrelated spiritual exercises. The long-term prognosis is grave: spiritual malnourishment. The table that God sets for us has two parts, Word and Sacrament, and Christ is the bread of both. But we only get what we’re willing to receive. How can we fight this illness that has us always excusing ourselves from the table during the first course and frequently ruining the appetite of others? I recommend aggressive treatment.”

Discouragement, faith, humility, passion, perseverance, & zeal: Maintaining a Holy Fire When You Feel More Like an Unholy Fizzle

“… because we live in Christ we must wait for him to do the work. This is nearly a mockery to the flesh-driven personality. God, through the Spirit, opens doors and closes others. My exhilaration is when He opens them. My frustration is when none open and I impatiently knock harder.

“How do we maintain a holy fire when some days feel more like an unholy fizzle? Believe God works…and then wait on Him.”

Holiness, OMG, speech, respect & words: Is It OK for a Christian to Drop OMG’s?

“Remember, it is the trademark for the unbeliever to take God’s name in vain …”

Inspiration & interpretation: The Inspiration of Scripture: 2 Timothy 3:16

“In short, I tend not to read 2 Tim 3:16a as an assertion about scripture, but as an identification of which writings the author is talking about.”

Modesty: Modesty: I Don’t Think it Means What You Think it Means

“And so biblical modesty isn’t about managing the sexual impulses of other people; it’s about cultivating humility, propriety and deference within ourselves.”

Parenting: Dear Parents With Young Children [essential reading]

“You are doing something really, really important. I know it’s not easy. I see you with your arms overflowing, and I know you came to church already tired. Parenting is tiring. Really tiring.

“I watch you bounce and sway trying to keep the baby quiet, juggling the infant car seat and the diaper bag as you find a seat. I see you wince as your child cries. I see you anxiously pull things out of your bag of tricks to try to quiet them.

“And I see you with your toddler and your preschooler. I watch you cringe when your little girl asks an innocent question in a voice that might not be an inside voice let alone a church whisper.  I hear the exasperation in your voice as you beg your child to just sit, to be quiet as you feel everyone’s eyes on you. Not everyone is looking, but I know it feels that way.

“I know you’re wondering, is this worth it? Why do I bother? I know you often leave church more exhausted than fulfilled. But what you are doing is so important.”

Reading: * Read Your Bible: But How? (Lectio Divina); * Americans’ Reading Habits Over Time

* “I’ve benefited from reading large portions of Scripture–whole narratives, books, and multiple chapters–in one sitting. I’ve also benefited immensely from slowing down and meditatively just reading a few verses at a time. Lectio Divina is a way of reading Scripture that encourages that. It’s reading, as many have said, for transformation and not just information. …

“It goes like this: * 1. Read: What does the passage say? 2. Pray: What is God saying to me through this passage?  (short phrase or single word) 3. Listen: How is God calling me to respond to what he’s saying? 4. Respond: What will I commit to God to do in response?”

* “… the percentage of Americans who read a printed book in the previous 12 months fell from 72% of the population in 2011 to 67% in 2012.”

this went thru my mind


Annihilationism, conditionalism & hell: The Legacy of Edward Fudge & the Future of Conditionalism

“The inaugural Rethinking Hell conference will be held on July 11th-12th, 2014, at the beautiful Lanier Theological Library in Houston, Texas. This will be an historic occasion for the movement of Evangelical Conditionalism/Annihilationism, representing the first gathering of its kind.”

Anxiety, fear & worry: The Dark Doctrine All Churches Hold Dear [required reading]

“How do we become obedient to God’s stark call to refrain from worry?  Stop it.  It is a choice; not a circumstance.  It is obedience; not a mood. To ignore this strong Word from God is indeed to hold a very dark doctrine of rebellion.”

Change & conflict: The Reality of Change and Conflict

“Change invites conflict. You can’t escape that fact. But … avoiding change stifles growth. Which eventually leads to conflict. (Ever been a part of a declining organization…or church?) And … avoiding conflict allows tension to build. Which in the end creates more conflict. (Ever seen what happens when someone is silently angry with you long enough?) Therefore … In my opinion… avoiding conflict or change is impossible.”

Church & witness: Why the Church Can’t Seem to Get Traction in Society

“The reason the church cannot seem to gain traction in this mega-troubled society is we have joined the masses in trying to escape.  Ours is not the call to dodge incoming arrows of rejection; but rather for staying put in pain upon the cross that the hurting may find perfect and ultimate healing.”

Cicadas: The Return of the Cicadas [7 1/2 min. video]

“I’ve been working an a 1-hour documentary on cicadas since 2007 …”

Consumerism & minimalism: Living With Less. A Lot Less.

“Our fondness for stuff affects almost every aspect of our lives. Housing size, for example, has ballooned in the last 60 years. The average size of a new American home in 1950 was 983 square feet; by 2011, the average new home was 2,480 square feet. And those figures don’t provide a full picture. In 1950, an average of 3.37 people lived in each American home; in 2011, that number had shrunk to 2.6 people. This means that we take up more than three times the amount of space per capita than we did 60 years ago. Apparently our supersize homes don’t provide space enough for all our possessions, as is evidenced by our country’s $22 billion personal storage industry.”

Dignity, modesty, respect & swimwear: Jessica Rey – The Evolution of the Swim Suit [9 1/2 min. video; required viewing]

“… he had to hire a stripper to wear it.”

Meaning, significance, and work: God at Work: Not in Vain

“The things we do with our life will find their way, through the resurrecting power of God, into forever. Your work is important, not just because you can contribute to church, but because you get to partner with God! The resurrection of the world means that some of the best ministries, don’t have the word ministry in them!”

Ministry: The Pastor’s Job Description

“Three pastoral acts are so basic, so critical, that they determine the shape of everything else. The acts are praying, reading Scripture, and giving spiritual direction. Besides being basic, these three acts are quiet. They do not call attention to themselves and so are often not attended to. In the clamorous world of pastoral work nobody yells at us to engage in these acts. It is possible to do pastoral work to the satisfaction of the people who judge our competence and pay our salaries without being either diligent or skilled in them. Since almost never does anyone notice whether we do these things or not, and only occasionally does someone ask that we do them, these three acts of ministry suffer widespread neglect.”

Q & A: clothing & church gatherings

Q. I’m truly put out with the way some folks dress for church. They wear jeans and t-shirts. They don’t wear a tie or even a coat. Dresses are almost unheard of now. Don’t you think people ought to dress their best for God when they’re in church? They dress better for weddings than they do to be in God’s house. I think we need to hear more about this, too. How about it?

A. The question is candid, clear, and sincere. I’ll do my best to reply in kind. Let must confess straight off, however, that somehow through the years I’ve missed the text that says the more uncomfortable you are and the more you sweat, the more inherently pleasing you are to God and the easier it is to keep your mind on worshiping him. It likely precedes the passage that talks about how Jesus regularly gave the “what for” to the prostitutes regarding their choice of clothing, but then again, I’ve missed that one, too. Be that as it may, with the Scripture I am familiar with firmly in mind, three thoughts surface.

1. Dress up is for dolls, not the Deity. “Dress your best for God” is the best you’ve got? It might sound like good theory, but how does it play out in the real world? Not so good. Playing dress-up is no biggie for the rich, but it’s a back-breaker for the poor; their best can’t compare with what the rich wear when they’re gone fishing.

How does “dress your best for God” play out with Scripture? Not so good. We’re reminded that human beings look on the outward appearance of a person for indications of value or worth, while God thinks very differently. Is God impressed by fine clothes or jewelry? No, but he is quite sensitive to our considering others before ourselves. We give our best to God not so much by what we wear, but by the way we’re sensitive to not wear on each other’s nerves. Consequently, we must not dress in such a way that the differences between social classes are accentuated. We are a part of the “church of Christ,” not the “church of crass.”

Or are we actually more concerned with keeping those subtle, and some not so subtle, distinctions in place? First Corinthians and James’ letter, anyone? You’d think the ink was still wet on the words of Paul and James for these issues are just as much alive today as they ever were in the church … or perhaps even more so since we live in the wealthiest nation in history. We’re not to be about subtly, perhaps even unconsciously, filtering out the poor or keeping them “in their place.” We are to be about deliberately breaking down needless, worldly barriers that separate humanity. We’re to be one in Christ (Gal. 3:28). We’re to be about deferring to the needs of others. How about Romans 12 and 14? The onus is on the well-to-do to consider others before themselves, not on the poor to do the impossible.

2. Restrictive clothing should be restricted. What does that mean? It means whatever restricts the truest expression of the character of the living God should be relegated to the recycle bin. Free your mind to think afresh about these things. Here are three springboards:

a. If a church’s clothing guidelines (written or unwritten) restrict a believer’s ready identification with the congregation (such as expecting the preacher to wear a suit and tie when he’s virtually the only person in the building who wears such anymore), then the guidelines need to be revised. Clothing shouldn’t separate people with symbols of role or rank. That’s for the army, but not God’s army.

b. The habitual wearing of attire that is highly suggestive, provocative, showy or ritzy will surely restrict the ability of some others to think on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, etc. Consequently, it should be recognized for what it is, clothing that restricts a believer’s expression of our Lord’s use of restraint in his life. If you’ve got it, don’t flaunt it. If you don’t have it, don’t try to fake it.

c. Clothing that restricts believers from thinking outside of an “us and them” mentality should be relegated to the trash heap. Questions? See 1. above.

3. Brothers and sisters should wear clothing that binds. We are not our own; we were bought with a price and have been added together to the family of God. So then, believers should dress in such a way that reflects, not distracts, from, that fact. When we come together as a church, part of our worship to God is to express our “boundness in Christ” in every way possible. As Christ-followers, it should be our joy to choose to dress in such a way as to assist in bringing the body of Christ together, not in making some sort of blatant statement about our own body, personal abilities, gifts, or attainments. Try to wear clothing that helps bind Christ’s body together. This is the best way you can dress your best for God.

We would all do well to ask ourselves some honest questions. Here are five for starters:

a. “Does my clothing draw attention to me or does it help others stay focused on the Christ within me?”

b. “Would I be caught dead wearing this in the presence of the holy, living God who is quite well aware of what sort of messages my clothes send every day of my life?”

c. “Does my attire contribute to the encouragement or discouragement of my brothers and sisters?”

d. “What does my concern for what I see others wear say about me?”

e. “Is my perspective based on Scripture or rooted only in routine or tradition?”

When we gather together as a church, all things should be done to the end of building up the body of Christ, and that includes the choices we make in what we wear and how we perceive others, despite what they do or do not wear. Dress in such a way that the cords of fellowship are cinched all the more tightly, not stretched and frazzled.

this went thru my mind

Archaeology: Graffiti is not a new thing. Archaeologists Unscramble Ancient Graffiti in Israel is fascinating to me.

ChurchHow’s Your Church Doing? by John Ortberg.

Church conflict: Amen, Joe McKeever. Curing a Church Conflict Before It Starts.

Church music: A Variety of Religious Composition by Lawrence Mumford.

Drinking: If you’d like to see some of the latest statistics on drunk driving, check out this infographic.

Environment: Eugene Peterson never fails to give me good food for thought. This interview of Eugene Peterson and Peter Harris (The Joyful Environmentalists) is good stuff.

Humor: I’ll never forget the day my friend Brent Franks introduced me to the V-neck T-shirt, the memory of which makes Jon Acuff’s post V-Neck Syndrome all the funnier to me. Don’t stop there; read his more serious post entitled Complaining.

Islam: Joshua Graves’ brief post Crescent and Cross is required reading. The second paragraph is spot-on and needed to be said. While on Joshua’s site, also read his excellent, brief post entitled What About You?

Note-taking: Want some guidance as to how to take good notes during a sermon? Peter Mead offers some solid advice I bet you’ve never heard before. It was new to me. If You Must Take Notes.

Parenting: N.T. Wright is one of my favorite Bible scholars, actually my very favorite outside of the heritage of Churches of Christ. His 3 1/2 minute video entitled Look At Jesus captures him, at his best, answering a crucial question the way I would hope to answer it, but of course, I could never express it nearly so well as he does here. Enjoy, be moved deep within, and share. Here’s the link:

Regret: If you had a great deal of experience in closely working with the dying, you would hear their life regrets verbalized. What do you suppose the dying tend to regret most about their life? A post by Wade Hodges steered me toward a piece by Bonnie Ware entitled Regrets of the Dying will tell you. Serious food for thought.

Sexuality: Let’s not pretend that lust is always someone else’s problem or that it’s all on the woman. Dan Martin does us all a good service by speaking clearly, candidly, and kindly regarding lust and clothing in his post entitled To My Younger Sisters

Vocabulary: Did you notice how Dan Martin, in the preceding entry, is at pains not to miscommunicate? The words we choose to use make a difference. Words that communicated well twenty years ago can convey something entirely different, perhaps even undesirable, today. This is especially tricky ground for those of us who have some gray hair for we’ve grown accustomed to certain words and they work well for us. However, by using what works well for our mind, rather than deliberately starting with others in mind, we, at best, miscommunicate. Sometimes we even build walls unwittingly by our poor choice of words. An example: “committee” sounds like a “neutral” or even “constructive” word to those in their 60’s, but is virtually a guaranteed turn-off to those under age 35. Kem Meyer’s six-year old post In Other Words succinctly captures one church’s attempt to be deliberate in updating the language it uses. Good stuff. Adopt the list.

this went thru my mind

Church attendance & being visitor-friendly: (1) There Once Was a World by Peter L. Steinke and (2) It’s In the Details: 8 Surprising Reasons Why People Aren’t Coming Back by Greg Atkinson.

Contentment: Transparency: U.S. of Unhappy Campers (infographic) is enough to make you a bit unhappy.

Expectations: Tony Schwartz’s article entitled “We’re In a New Energy Crisis. This One is Personal” in the Harvard Business Review is required reading.

Inspiring: People Are Awesome: Fifth Grader Donates $300 Life Savings to Stop Teacher Layoffs.

Modesty: “Why Do We Let Them Dress Like That?” appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

Prayer: (1) On prayer: fourteen theses and (2) Why Do Muslims Pray Five Times Daily?

Theodicy: (1) N.T. Wright on tsunamis and problem of evil (1 hour video, worth every minute), (2) Adam Hamilton’s Japan’s Earthquake and the Will of God, and (3) Shane Raynor’s post entitled Is Adam Hamilton Right About God and Japan?

Writing: How to Write 1,000 Words by Scott Berkun: the essay and the 5 min. time-lapse video.