links: this went thru my mind

Here are links to five articles that I’ve found to be interesting and helpful reading.

Achievement, expectations, humility, service, success & the will of God: God’s Not Looking for Heroes

“We don’t all need to be heroes. Jesus is the Hero. The Hero came 2000 years ago. So He’s already the Hero. He’s not looking for heroes, He’s looking for co-laborers. The challenge is, most people want to be co-stars, not co-laborers. If you actually understood what it was to be a co-laborer, you could labor wherever you are.”

America, culture, individualism, materialism, nationalism, patriotism, values & war: American Values Are Not Necessarily Christian Values

“… [there can be] no excuse for conflating country and church. We can appreciate and even respect the nation in which we reside, but we must not forget that our status is as foreigner and exiles. (1 Peter 2:11)”

American Sniper, cinema, deception, distortion, evil, film, movies & payback: Clint Eastwood’s Sniper, and the American Messiah [essential reading]

“This is the problem with the white-hat black-hat narrative of Hollywood: when ‘they’ do what ‘we’ do (though ‘they,’ of course, poor saps, are just not as efficient in their killing as ‘we’ are) it is evil, but when Americans do it, it is heroic. Eastwood’s Kyle insists he is doing what he does because he does not want terrorists in our neighborhoods here. Yet he participates in the invasion of a country that had nothing to do with 9/11; a country who was headed by, no doubt, a despot but a despot who had furthered his hold on power by the support of our own country; and when those people fight back because they don’t want foreign invaders in their streets, it’s ‘evil’ like Eastwood’s Kyle has never yet imagined.”

Anger, bitterness, forgiveness, hatred & resentment: A Holocaust Survivor, Spared From Gas Chamber By Twist Of Fate

“Anger doesn’t get you anyplace. Hate doesn’t get you anyplace.”

Attention span, authority, church, commitment, Facebook & social media: 5 Ways Facebook May be Harming Your Church

“What effect does ‘social media’ technology have on the way we view church? What effect does it have on the way we conceive of life in the body of Christ?”

links: this went thru my mind

Atrocities, Boko Haram, terrorism & violence: Nigeria’s Forgotten Massacre: 2,000 Slaughtered by Boko Haram, but the West is Failing to Help

“One of Africa’s most senior church leaders has accused the West of ignoring the threat of the militant Islamist group Boko Haram, days after the reported slaughter of up to 2,000 people by the group. Ignatius Kaigama, the Catholic Archbishop of Jos and president of the Nigerian Bishops Conference, spoke as bodies lay strewn on the ground in Baga, in north-east Nigeria, after a surge by Boko Haram fighters who took over the border town earlier this month. He highlighted the stark difference between the West’s willingness to act when 17 people were killed by militants in France and the approach to the slaughter in Africa.

“Estimates of the death toll in Baga and surrounding villages, which were razed by fire, have been put at up to 2,000. Most of the dead were women, children and the elderly who could not flee in time, said Amnesty International, which labelled it the group’s deadliest massacre yet. A further 30,000 people are thought to have fled their homes, 7,500 seeking sanctuary in Chad and the rest adding to Nigeria’s tens of thousands of displaced people.”

Cinema, film, Martin Luther King, Jr., movies & Selma: * David Oyelowo: ‘Selma Was a Spiritual Endeavor For Me’; * The Saints Go Marching On Selma

* “A lot of the people on the set were people of faith—they were either Christians or they’d been raised that way, and so it was very easy to talk about faith. Obviously, we were portraying people of faith, and there were several scenes, especially more difficult ones, where we would all pray together before going into those scenes.”

* “… it is most unfortunate that the editors did all they could to remove the references to Christ and the Gospel from King’s sermons, which are still powerful but end up sounding just like political diatribes for the most part. They don’t reveal the real spiritual core of what motivated King and what resonated in his message in and outside the churches. King was in fact deeply indebted to E. Stanley Jone’s biographical portrayals of Gandhi and his message as well as to the Bible. Fortunately, it is at least clear in the film that he and Malcolm X fundamentally disagreed on things like non-violence …”

Conformity, desensitization,  group dynamics, injustice, kindness & niceness: The Virtue of Not Being Nice

“… those who refuse to adjust to injustice and well-established discriminatory practices will inevitably irritate and annoy the accommodating majority. These people may not be as easy to get along with because they will not be passive and well-adjusted to a misshapen world. And they will care a whole lot less about the irritation they cause or disapproval they experience than they do about the needy people they seek to help. These are the kind of people Jesus calls us to be.”

Extermination of the Canaanites, genocide, God, holy war, OT & war: The Hope of Holy War

“… the Old Testament war stories then are subversions of the mentality of holy war.”

Faith, misconceptions & public education: Public Schools Aren’t the Enemy

“It’s time to repair the relationship between public education and the Christian community.”

links: this went thru my mind

Church attendance, commitment, culture, time & trends: The Most Important Trend of Church Trends in 2015 and What to Do About It [essential reading]

“Specifically, in the last 2 years, I have see one common thread become a common rope. It’s presence is now ubiquitous; every church I talk with mentions this problem when we discuss the Local Predicament in our Kingdom Concept work. (challenges and opportunities expressed in the local culture). I have never seen a problem discussed this commonly amidst a diversity of church sizes and denominational affiliations. What is the one trend? Your Most Committed People Will Attend Worship Services Less Frequently than Ever in 2015.”

Caricature, hatred, Islam, Muslims & stereotyping: How Not to Kill a Muslim [essential reading]

“The chief issue of Muslim-Christian tension in the United States is lack of relationship. Because many white middle/upper-middle class Christian citizens do not have meaningful relationships with a single Muslim, we are left to fill in the gaps of experience with stereo-types, caricature, and exaggeration.”

Cinema, Exodus, film & movies: Three Takeaways from ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’

“Whatever one might think about the explicit divergences from the biblical story (e.g., the conversation at the burning bush is too limited in the movie, the omission of the opening confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh, absence of Pharaoh-Moses interaction about the plagues, etc.), the story is told to make a point(s) for contemporary audiences. I heard several points, but here are my major takeaways. 1. Israel wrestles with God. … 2. Jewish Holocaust Relived. … 3. Not by Israel’s sword, but by the Lord’s right hand.”

Conversion, conviction, discipleship, gospel, kingdom & transformation: Have You Taken a Gospel Immunization Shot? [essential reading]

“Why does being ‘Christian’ in America make so little difference in so many people’s lives, when the kingdom movement revealed in the New Testament revolutionized people’s lives? … people give their mental assent to certain beliefs and are thereby ushered into a ‘kingdom’ that looks almost identical to the earthly kingdom they were supposed to be called out of. They can keep all their cultural assumptions, and, apart from avoiding certain behaviors that are singled out as the deal-breaker sins, their lives can continue on just as before. “All who are invested in the kingdom Jesus inaugurated in this world must find all of this deeply disturbing. … It’s as if they are a husband or wife who has security in their marital pledge rather than in the quality of the relationship he or she pledged to have. Many people today resist the need to cultivate an actual marriage-like relationship with Christ because they find their security in their past pledge.”

Desensitization, humanity, killing, military, violence & war: The Images Used to Teach Soldiers to Kill

“In my project Targets I look at the present day. I visited 30 countries to document the appearance of the targets with which soldiers today are conditioned to shoot, or as one trainer said: ‘They are supposed to learn to hit, not shoot.’ Another said, ‘It sounds cruel, but you have to learn to kill automatically in order to function.’ “How is he represented today – the enemy that soldiers are later expected to kill? Is he an abstract figure? Does he have a face, and if so, what kind? Has the image of the enemy changed?”

Ministry: Joe’s 10 Iron-clad Rules for Success in Ministry (some of which need more ironing than others)

“So, you’re new in the ministry?  And you want to get this right, of course. You have definitely come to the right place, friend.  Pull up a chair and get ready to take notes.”

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

Here are several links I found to be interesting and helpful.

Choices, decisions, discernment, intuition, morality, rationalization & thinking: Your Mind is a Spin Machine

“… usually, the rider is the servant to the elephant.”

Cinema, faith, film, forgiveness, hatred, movies, torture & war: The Power of Forgiveness [essential reading]

“How does a man forgive what is seemingly unforgivable? In search of the answer, I began a seven-year journey through his life, a journey that culminated in my book Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.”

Feast of Dedication, Feast of Lights, Hanukkah, Jesus & Jerusalem: * Jesus Visited Jerusalem During Hanukkah; * Hanukkah: When Jesus Claimed to be God

* “The Gospel of John records more visits to Jerusalem by Jesus than any other of the Gospels. John is the only one to record the visit during the Feast of Dedication.”

* “Today, some say Jesus never claimed to be God. But His words during that Hanukkah left little doubt.”

Israel, roads, the ascent to Jerusalem & travel: New Video: The Modern Ascent to Jerusalem

“Bill Schlegel, author of the Satellite Bible Atlas, has just posted a video showing the ascent to Jerusalem from the Shephelah. The 6-minute video uses drone footage to show the modern highway’s route and the new construction. In antiquity, travelers followed the natural routes along the ridges. Today when we deviate from those ridges, we spend billions to destroy the landscape in the construction of passes, bridges, and tunnels.”

Prison system & teens: End Solitary Confinement for Teenagers

“That the practice is widespread remains a disturbing indicator of how poorly we treat the hundreds of thousands of minors arrested each year in the United States.”

links: this went thru my mind

Here are links to some reading I consider interesting and helpful.

Church, ministry & obstacles: Ten Ways We Get in the Way of God Building His Church

“When things don’t go well at church, is it possible that we are getting in God’s way?”

Church growth & martyrdom: Sorry, Tertullian

“‘The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church’ … early church theologian Tertullian argued … [However] church growth is ‘not strongly’ correlated with either governmental or societal persecution. However, Christianity ‘tends loosely’ to change more rapidly (grow or shrink) when governmental restriction is high, and stays relatively stable when such pressure is low.”

Cinema, film & movies: Do We Really Need Christian Film?

“What surprises me is that the church has all but ignored, and even villified, this art form. We sit around debating the usefulness of film, bemoaning the latest Hollywood faith-based effort, madly citing Marshall McLuhan with the worst of proof-texting, wondering why we don’t see the likes of Bach, Handel, John Bunyan or C. S. Lewis making powerful, intelligent films. Maybe in the next ten to twenty years a Christian filmmaker will come along and show us what powerful Christian film can be.”

Humanity, inhumanity & violence: Why are We So Mired in Violence?

“… we can’t relate to each other the way God intends unless we’re in relationship with God himself the way he intends.”

Faith & torture: * Christians & Torture; * You Cannot Be a Christian and Support Torture

* “Torture is the arrogance of the mighty. … The cross of Christ reveals what God thinks of torture: it is not the way of God. God turned torture into new life by resurrection and overcoming torture.”

* “… to be a Christian absolutely requires you to reject the use of torture. … Any thoughtful person, no matter their religion or non-religion, knows that you cannot support torturing people and still claim to be a follower of the one who commanded his disciples to love their enemies. The only way around this is to invent a false Jesus who supports the use of torture. (The Biblical term for this invented false Jesus is ‘antichrist.’)

“Those who argue for the use of torture do so because they are convinced it is pragmatic for national security. But Christians are not called to be pragmatists or even safe. Christians are called by Jesus to imitate a God who is kind and merciful to the wicked.”

sum of the sermon: it comes down to a simple choice, really

 

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another … If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. (Hebrews 10.23-27)

Andy and Red were up against it; they had their backs to the wall. They’d recently learned that one of their best friends, Brooks, had killed himself. Hopeless, he had hung himself.

And though neither Andy or Red ever mentioned the word, hope is what they were talking about. Specifically, what a person does – and does not do – as a result of having hope, or not having it, in their life.

The difference between them was that though both were imprisoned, only one of them was imprisoned in mind. As Andy saw it, the only thing keeping him from freedom was made out of stone. Red? He was so shackled the only thing left for him was to find the will to use a rope. Just like Brooks.

But Andy? Andy had hope. And so, he scratched his way out through stone walls and filth. How he perceived his future powerfully impacted what he chose to do with his present. He chose to hope, and so he chose to do. And so, stone walls wouldn’t – couldn’t – contain him.

“It comes down to a simple choice, really: get busy living or get busy dying!”

You probably recall that scene from the movie The Shawshank Redemption. This month is that movie’s twentieth anniversary (hard to believe, isn’t it). And so, let me ask you …

What do you believe? About your future? About hope? And what you’re to be about in the here and now?

Do you have hope? Vibrant, living hope? A hope you simply cannot leave behind? A hope that spurs you on to do what you can with today? For your own blessing and the blessing of others?

If you know Jesus Christ – truly know him – you don’t merely have hope. You know him as your hope. He is your hope. He is your all. Every day. He is what gives your life meaning.

You could no more turn your back on him and walk away from him than Andy Dufresne could have given up his dream to live in a place with no memory of all wrong and his daily toil to get there.

Know this kind of hope; come to know Jesus Christ. Know him as your Lord – as your daily hope – and he will be your Savior. Take on his mind and ways, and he will become your way to freedom. In this life, and in the one beyond. For no walls, made of stone or perception, can restrain him. Or you in your life with him.

Choose him. Choose life. Every day of your life. For today. For the sake of your future. For him.

It will make all the difference in your life. And in the lives of many a Red Redding.

Get busy living.