links to 5 helpful posts

1. It’s Getting Harder to Talk About God by Jonathan Merritt

“A paltry 7 percent of Americans say they talk about spiritual matters regularly. But, here’s the real shocker: Practicing Christians who attend church regularly aren’t faring much better. A mere 13 percent had a spiritual conversation around once a week.”

2. American’s Spend $70 Billion on Pets, and That Money Could Do More Good

“This year alone, pet spending in the U.S. is estimated to exceed $72 billion, which is more than the combined GDP of the 39 poorest countries in the world.”

3. The Point of the Book of Job by Greg Boyd

“… our original job description – a job description God is yet calling on us to fulfill – involves very little knowing but a great deal of loving. Our limited domain of responsibility is primarily to love God and others as we are ourselves filled with God’s love. Hence the Bible repeatedly calls on us to love and refrain from judgment (Mt 7:1-5; Rom 2:1-5; Jame 4:11-12).”

4. Eugene Peterson Enters Hospice Care

“… Peterson is a ‘shepherd’s shepherd’ …”

5. A First Glimpse of Our Magnificent Earth, Seen from the Moon [30 min. video]

“The first people to view our planet from the moon were transformed by the experience. In this film, they tell their story.”

links: this went thru my mind

Cinema, film & movies: The Uneven ‘Inspiration’ of Unbroken

Unbroken‘s Zamperini is brave, kind, stoic and tremendously longsuffering, but without his complex relationship with God, these are just words ripped from a motivational poster; pretty melodies with no real rhythm. … The phrase ‘the inspiring true story’ was made for just such a tale as Unbroken, and the film deserves to be seen. But it deserves a fuller, richer conversation as well. Few Americans have ever lived such an inspiring tale, from beginning to end. It’s just a shame that biopic glosses over the latter.”

Cuba & missions: Cuban Ministry

“Although no one knows at this point how the new relationship will work out, there is optimism among the ordinary citizens, [Tim] Archer said, based on conversations with people in Cuba. ‘They’re just out of their minds happy,’ said Archer, who is coordinator of Spanish-speaking ministries for the Herald of Truth. … Archer has made 18 trips to Cuba since 2006, the year he started work for the Herald of Truth, an evangelistic radio ministry started in 1952 by Church of Christ congregations in Abilene.”

Depression, discouragement & self-pity: How to Break the Bondage of Self-Pity

“The way to break the bondage of self-pity is to quit measuring how self is being treated.”

Google, Internet & search: 11 Google Tricks That Will Change the Way You Search

“Use quotes to search for an exact phrase. … Use an asterisk within quotes to specify unknown or variable words. … Use the minus sign to eliminate results containing certain words. … Search websites for keywords. … Search news archives going back to the mid-1880s. … Compare foods using vs.’ … Filter search results for recipes. … Use ‘DEFINE:’ to learn the meaning of words—slang included. … Tilt your screen by searching ’tilt.’ … Play Atari Breakout by searching it on Google Images. … Search images using images. … Press the mic icon on Google’s search bar, and say ‘flip a coin’ or ‘heads or tails’. … Press the mic icon on Google’s search bar, and say ‘give me a love quote’ or ‘I love you.’ …”

Greed, income inequality, money & wealth: What the 1% Don’t Want You to Know [essential reading]

“We’re seeing inequalities that will be transferred across generations. We are becoming very much the kind of society we imagined we’re nothing like.”

links: this went thru my mind

Bible study, books, interpretation, preaching, reading & sermon preparation: A Cautionary Word to Pastors About Internet Resources [especially wise advice for all, and insightful for understanding the needs of ministers]

“… there is a reason a lot of the resources online that have to do with the Bible are free. There is some truth to the old dictum ‘you get what you pay for.’ Some of the resources are simply junk, some are so badly out of date and out of touch with the current ministry scene that they are hardly useful, and some of them are so arcane it requires scholarly help to make good use of them. And this brings me to the second point.

“There is a need for critical judgment to select useful online resources that may indeed help one’s ministry. Critical judgment about not only technical scholarly works, but about mid-level works can only be developed over time and with good guidance. … I would stress, for the good of your soul as well as the good of your ministry, that you need to read good books, and I mean read them at a depth level, not superficially cherry picking this quote or that quote …

“What feeds good teaching and good preaching is continuing to feed your head with good resources, and to study them in some depth. You need to set aside more than an hour or two a week for such study and preparation, and the main thing you should do during that time is just read—- not outline sermons or lessons, but read…… read….. read.”

Birth of Christ, genealogy of Jesus & the birth narratives: An Amazing Genealogy of Jesus Infographic (and What It Means for XMas)

“The infographic represents both Matthew and Luke’s genealogies, showing the legal emphasis (in Matthew) meant to prove Jesus’s royal Israelite bloodline, and the biological emphasis (in Luke) traditionally linked to the family genealogy in Mary’s home. The ‘big names’ are given larger placement, with often humorous bits of info. Just a quick scan reveals how diverse, even scandalous, this genealogy really is – including kings and killers, prophets and prostitutes.”

Collection, contribution, donations, electronic giving, mobile giving, money & offering: A Case for Church Mobile Donation

“We are coming close to the time whereby a church not being able to accept online donations would be as bad as a church not being able to accept a check.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, nonviolence & pacifism: No, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Didn’t Try To Kill Adolph Hitler

“… there is no evidence that [Bonhoeffer] was actively involved in planning or attempting to assassinate Hitler– a basic fact accepted by the academy but seemingly missing from common internet discussions on Bonhoeffer.”

Prayer: When We Talk With God

“Surely one of the grandest transfers God has made in my life would be that of prayer.”

links: this went thru my mind

Action, application, relevance, theology & thinking: 4 Ways Theology Is Practical for Everyday Life [required reading]

“Teach theology long enough and you’ll face countless forms of the same basic question: What does this have to do with real life? Will it affect the way we do ministry, how we share the gospel, or what we do every day? How is it relevant to the problems and challenges the average person faces? You know, is it practical? And the deep suspicion lying behind such questions is that most theology is rather impractical. “

Church attendance, corporate worship, duty, sacrament & worship: The Lord’s Day as a Sacrament [required reading]

“So here’s the crazy thing. I’ve found my way back to seeing the wisdom of church as duty. But less as a duty and more as a sacrament.”

Courtesy, etiquette, manners & respect: Church Conference Etiquette

“… here’s a rundown of some folks you’ll find at every conference and hopefully how not to become one.”

Income inequality, money, poverty & wealth: 40 Years Of Income Inequality In America, In Graphs

“Hover over each line to identify household income, and click through to see the percentage growth over the past 40 years.”

Ministry & the preacher’s wife: Behind the Smile: 6 Things Every Church Needs to Know About the Preacher’s Wife

“I want to love you. Please don’t make it harder. … I wish you saw the man I see.”

links: this went thru my mind

Accountability & responsibility: The Difference Between Accountability and Responsibility

“Accountability … making, keeping, and managing agreements and expectations. … Responsibility … the feeling of ownership.”

ADHD, children, medicine & public schools: Why So Many kids Can’t Sit Still in School Today

“In the following post, Angela Hanscom, a pediatric occupational therapist … suggests … another reason more children are being diagnosed with ADHD, whether or not they really have it: the amount of time kids are forced to sit while they are in school.”

Community, inclusion, isolation, loneliness, relationships & violence: Sandy Hook Dad on What You Can Do Right Now to Help Prevent Violence

“… we should … do what we can to foster empathy; to create a world where no one feels invisible and ignored — least of all those who disproportionately fall victim to our collective failure to care enough to act.”

Discipleship, obedience & salvation: * Disciple; * Christ is Lord: What Does It Mean?

* “When Jesus describes discipleship, he does so in stunningly simple terms: teaching, obeying, and trusting.”

* “It’d be a pretty sick marriage if one spouse were to ask the other spouse, ‘What’s the minimal level I can be committed to my marriage vows without you divorcing me?’ Well, this is basically what we’re doing when we ask, ‘How submitted do I have to be to the Lord to be saved?'”

Evangelism & outreach: The Great Commission Means Sharing Christ’s Story, Not Yours

“We’re all about ‘sharing our testimonies’ and ‘telling our stories’ and recounting our ‘spiritual journey.’ … But there’s a subtle danger lurking here. Because of our emphasis on conversion stories and testimonies, we can unintentionally make people think that evangelism is the same thing as sharing your experience. We interpret The Great Commission’s ‘Go make disciples’ as ‘Go tell your story.’ They are not the same thing.”

Faith, military service, pacifism, unity & war: Christians Going to War

“The purpose of this blog is NOT to take a position, but to make a VERY IMPORTANT point. I have never heard a church to DIVIDE over the WAR ISSUE. Somehow we argue our points, and then continue to study and pray and work TOGETHER. But ironically we DIVIDE over many other questions. This does not make sense. At the very least, we need to be consistent. Through the centuries, the war issue has been important for some, and not for others. Human beings cannot agree on any issue. But Christians should love one another and love all people even when we disagree.”

Marriage: 5 Important Questions to Ask Before You Tie the Knot

“1. Does this person have integrity? … 2. Do I Respect This Person? … 3. Can I Continue to Respect and Love This Person if Their Most Annoying Habit or Significant Weakness Never Changes? … 4. Does This Person Deeply Love God? … 5. Does This Person Encourage Me in Word and in Action?”

Money & saving: 27 Ways to Trick Yourself Into Saving Money

“Think you can’t save? Think again. Sure, it seems like there’s not much wiggle room in your budget, due to the rising costs of basic necessities — but that’s all the more reason to have a slush fund. Fortunately, there are plenty of painless ways to siphon cash from even a fixed income.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Criticism & critics: How to Receive Criticism: 3 Ways to Avoid Feeling Attacked by Criticism

“You’re bound to face criticism of some form. The question is: how will you deal with it?”

Christianity, Democrats, identity in Christ, kingdom, nationalism, partisan politics, political parties & Republicans: * In Christ: Neither Democrat Nor Republican [essential reading]; * The Politics of Worship: Who Do You Serve?

* “… Christians would do much better to identify themselves from the point of their baptism rather than some political reality that belongs to the old dying world (or anything else belonging to this dying world).”

* “American Christians thus assume that capitalism, democracy, individualism, wealth, freedom and opportunity are Christian virtues passed down by Jesus himself. But the Gospel of Christ refuses this marriage of empire and Kingdom, realizing the Christian ‘we’ and the American ‘we’ are not synonymous.”

Contribution, giving, offering & money: Five Reasons to Keep Bringing Up Money

“… some reasons why the church should talk about money and ask for it consistently.”

Ministry: Nine Secrets Your Pastor’s Wife Wishes You Knew

“What if we just asked our pastor’s wife to candidly, honestly, even anonymously share some of their secrets? What if we invited them to share their hearts and tell us what they wished the church knew?”

Poor & poverty: Who are the Poor?

“What follows is not to be read as a listing of stereotypes.  Rather, these descriptions get at characteristics that various low-income persons exhibit.  I’ve encountered thousands of people over the last two decades here in Dallas who come to mind as I lay out this list.”

Rape & violence: The Bible’s Attitude to Rape [77 min. video]

“To give away the plot, Athas argues that: Rape is not condoned. Rape is equated with murder. The perpetrator is held responsible. The victim should not be blamed. The welfare of the victim is of the utmost importance. … this is one of the best OT presentations I’ve seen.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Archaeology, history & Syria: Among the Wounded in Syria’s War: Ancient History

“The situation now is absolutely terrible there. … They come with jackhammers. That means everything is destroyed.”

Church atmosphere & environment: * What’s the Habitat? [essential reading]; * The Church is a Zoo; * The Dark Side of Small [essential reading]

* “Here’s an important question to ask regularly: ‘Who does well here?’ Don’t just ask, ‘who attends here currently?’ Ask, ‘Who thrives here?’ Ask it in the present tense rather than, ‘Who has survived here over the years?'”

* “… if God is bringing people different than those you thought He would bring, rejoice that He’s drawing any of His children to your church at all.”

* “I have often praised smaller churches. … But I am not wholly idealistic and naïve. Wherever there are human beings trying to make it through life together, there are problems. It matters not whether the setting is large or small. Every community of people faces challenges which, if not handled with wisdom, grace, and love, will threaten its health and perhaps even its existence.”

Crimea, Ukraine & Russia: The 160-Year Christian History Behind What’s Happening in Ukraine

“It would be pleasant to think that the U.S. and Europe are taking these religious factors into full account as they calculate their response to the present crisis in Crimea and Ukraine. Pleasant, but unlikely.”

Encouragement, leadership & ministry: Minister Search: You Have More to Offer Than You Might Think

“Church leaders often underestimate what they have to offer a prospective minister.  They have much value to offer a minister and I’m not talking about money. … Church leaders need to spend time thinking about what they have to offer that is of value. … Church leaders who will form a hedge of protection around a young minister really have something of value to offer. … Church leaders who will show a genuine interest in the lives of their ministers and families definitely have something valuable to offer.”

Happiness, money, possessions & stuff: Why Buying Stuff Won’t Make You Happy (and One Thing That Might)

“The pursuit and purchase of physical possessions will never fully satisfy our desire for happiness. It may result in temporary joy for some, but the happiness found in buying a new item rarely lasts longer than a few days. Researchers even have a phrase for this temporary fulfillment: retail therapy.”

History & the United States: Watch the United States Grow Before Your Eyes

“On March 4, 1789, the U.S. Constitution took effect, forming a nation of 13 colonies and a whole heck of a lot of unorganized territory. On August 21, 1959, Congress admitted Hawaii as the 50th state. … [see] this handy gif of all the steps it took to get us from point A to point B.”

The South: These 9 Maps Should Absolutely Outrage Southerners

“… there are lots of things to love about the South. It’s clean and quiet. There’s delicious food, good people and often amazing weather. But that’s exactly why it makes us so sad to think about all the ways in which the region is struggling today.”