links: this went thru my mind

Acceptance, evangelism, fellowship, forgiveness, hypocrisy, love, mercy, murder & outreach: He Befriended a Serial Killer, and Opened the Door to God [essential reading]

“Mr. Dahmer left behind confused parents, dozens of distraught relatives of the victims, the traumatized city of Milwaukee — and this white-bearded minister, struggling still at 60 with the sense that he, too, had been condemned, for having the audacity to grant God’s blessings upon the devil.”

Announcements & corporate worship gatherings: Nine Observations about Announcements in Worship Services

“I asked a number of church leaders of congregations of varying sizes about their practices in this area. They pretty much confirmed what I am seeing as well. Here are my nine observations.”

Capital punishment, death penalty, payback & revenge: Don’t Give Tsarnaev Death Penalty [required reading]

“Should we kill Tsarnaev? And the answer, despite the abhorrent nature of the crime, is simple: No, we should not. We are better than that. The fact is that the death penalty isn’t justice, it’s revenge.”

Choices, farming, generations, life, lifestyle, Millenials & priorities: A Young Generation Sees Greener Pastures In Agriculture

“America’s heartland is graying. The average age of a farmer in the U.S. is 58.3 — and that number has been steadily ticking upward for more than 30 years. Overall, fewer young people are choosing a life on the land. But, in some places around the country, like Maine, that trend is reversing. Small agriculture may be getting big again — and there’s new crop of farmers to thank for it.”

ISIS, money, Muslim, power, stereo-typing, terrorism & violence: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: These Terrorist Attacks Are Not About Religion [required reading]

“When the Ku Klux Klan burn a cross in a black family’s yard, prominent Christians aren’t required to explain how these aren’t really Christian acts. Most people already realize that the KKK doesn’t represent Christian teachings. That’s what I and other Muslims long for—the day when these terrorists praising Mohammed or Allah’s name as they debase their actual teachings are instantly recognized as thugs disguising themselves as Muslims. It’s like bank robbers wearing masks of presidents; we don’t really think Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush hit the Bank of America during their down time.”

links: this went thru my mind (on violence)

 

Christians, desensitization & violence: Why Don’t We Find Bloodshed Repugnant Anymore?

“Sociologist Rodney Stark has argued that early Christianity ‘brought a new conception of humanity to a world saturated with capricious cruelty and the vicarious love of death.’ He attributes much of the church’s remarkable growth to the fact that it ‘gave to its converts … nothing less than their humanity.’ A consistent pro-life ethic, by honoring what God honors, makes a powerful witness.”

Christianity, Islam, nonviolence & pacifism: * The Challenge of Malala to the Church; * Malala Yousafzai and the Tradition of Islamic Nonviolence

* “Like Malala, one must be willing to bear witness to the way of love and then say with a giggle, ‘now do what you want.’

“The thought I’m struck with watching this interview is this: if a 14-yr-old girl, raised in a culture that does not look to Christ or the NT for guidance, can see the truth and beauty of this insight, how is it that the vast majority of professing Jesus-followers in the western church today cannot see it, despite the fact that Jesus and the NT so emphatically and so clearly teach it (e.g. Matthew 5:38-48; Luke 6:27-36; Romans 12:14-21)?”

* “Malala’s nonviolence in the face of brutality brings up an important question about Islam. Many people assume that Islam is inherently violent and out to conquer the world. If that’s the case, then how do we explain Malala and the countless other Muslims who have fought for justice through nonviolence?”

Jerusalem, Micah, promises, prophesy & war: Micah 4:1-5 – Hope Despite the Injustices and War [essential reading]

“We invite all nations to enter the kingdom of God, that is, to come learn of God. … We invite all nations to learn war no more. If the kingdom of God, when it has fully come, includes the destruction of weapons of war and the pursuit of peace, then if the church is the presence of the kingdom within the world it must advocate and pursue peace. … We invite all nations to seek peace and prosperity without fear. … The church, if it is the presence of the kingdom in the present, must advocate for the poor, call the nations to peaceful prosperity, and seek to develop strategies that deal with poverty upon the earth. … Micah’s kingdom vision–his new heaven and new earth vision–calls the church to live as if the future has already come, as if the fullness of the kingdom of God has already arrived.”

John Howard Yoder: A Theologian’s Influence, and Stained Past, Live On

“… John Howard Yoder, America’s most influential pacifist theologian.”

But a Muslim …

 

If anything, the Lord Jesus Christ – the way, the truth, and the life – was, and is …

Candid and clear. Good and gusty. Life-giving and loving. Open and outspoken. Real and relevant.

And so, if Jesus told us Christians here in southeast Texas one of our favorite Bible stories today – and I do mean right here and right now – it would not at all surprise me if he worded it this way …

A southeast Texas Christian stood up to test this one who called himself Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to be right with the Good Lord?”

Jesus replied, “What does it say in the Old Testament? How do you interpret it?”

He responded, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you’ll have life with God.”

But the southeast Texas Christian had an agenda and wanted to prove that he was right, so he said to Jesus, “And who is it exactly that is my neighbor?”

Jesus replied, “A man went down from new Mont Belvieu to the state streets in old Baytown. Along the way he got car-jacked. The crooks made him strip naked, beat him nearly to death, and then left him in shock beside the curb.

Now it just so happened that a church elder was also traveling that way just a minute after the man’s attackers had fled. He saw the injured man, but not wanting to get involved and fearing the attackers were still close-by, sped on, pretending not to notice. Likewise, a moment later, a Christian preacher drove by the man. He too saw the bleeding man, but he didn’t stop either due to the same fears. But a Muslim who was also going down that same street saw the man, was moved with compassion for him, immediately stopped his car and ran over to him. The Muslim bandaged the wounded man’s injuries with what he had on hand, placed the injured man in his own car, took him to the nearest hospital ER, and made sure he was cared for there. The next day, the Muslim went to the hospital’s billing department and gave them two full days’ worth of wages. As he did so he told the people in the billing department, ‘Take care of that man and know that I’m good for backing up whatever he gets billed.’ Now what do you think? Which one of these three was a neighbor to the man who encountered the assailants?”

Then the southeast Texas Christian said, “The one who showed the man mercy, giving him aid.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

May we not compartmentalize any part of our heart or mind, allowing anger, assumption, condemnation, gossip, hate, insinuation, judging, lies, prejudice, presumption, pride, slander, resentment, and/or suspicion to live and rule there.

May we never forget the scandal and offensiveness of the cross, the heart of the gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

May those of us who claim to know it best apply it to ourselves before we think of sharing it with others.

May we not blindly, unthinkingly imitate the ways of the world.

And may we ever love everyone Jesus does. No exceptions.

links: this went thru my mind

 

Afterlife, deception, fraud, heaven & lies: Say It All Together Now: The ‘Proof of Heaven’ Author Made Everything Up

“If he’s willing to fabricate the details, isn’t it at least possible that he’s making up the major points, too?”

Church, parenting & youth: 3 Common Traits of Youth Who Don’t Leave the Church

“What is it that sets apart the kids who stay in the church? Here are just a few observations I have made about such kids, with a few applications for those of us serving in youth ministry.”

Funerals: Do Funeral Homes Charge Too Much for Their Services?

“The following are ten observations that are a combination of experience in the funeral industry and my heart felt intention to meet the needs of the people I serve – needs that often include an economical funeral.”

Gossip: Ways to Stop Gossip

“I have never found gossip to be helpful to the people involved or to the Kingdom of God. I have literally become a hater of gossip because I have seen it destroy so many people! Gossip hurts innocent people who are caught in the middle, it exaggerates the situation, and it keeps the one who did wrong loaded with guilt and frustration, and from experiencing the fullness of God’s grace.”

Healthcare: Diagnosis: Insufficient Outrage

” We could make the system better. We could ensure that everyone has access to the same set of prices, like the Medicare fee schedule. We could end the “fee for service” positive feedback loop — in which doctors and hospitals earn more for every procedure they do, which leads to overtreating patients — and instead have a flat fee. But the incentives will never be perfect. Ultimately, society needs individuals to be guided by ethical standards. And in medical care, those standards are getting pretty darn low.

“Too many of us have passively accepted the situation as being beyond our control. Medical care in America could use a dose of moral outrage. It would be best for all if it was self-administered.”

Islam, Jesus, Koran, Muslim & Qur’an: Jesus in the Qur’an: Christology Outside Theology

“Here are some things I learned about the Jesus of the Qur’an … Qur’an affirms Jesus identity as a servant, but in doing so it disqualifies him as being “Son of God” because the nature of a servant’s status is unfit for the divine. Jesus could never be the Son, because he is the servant. … Jesus’ death is denied. His death was only apparent. It is believed to be a false story created by the disciples. …  Jesus is a messenger and teacher who prepares the way for Muhammad, he announces the coming of Muhammad. … Jesus’ spirituality is “other worldly” and eschatological. As such it is seen as incomplete or insufficient. Muhammad provides the realism.”

this went thru my mind

 

Anarchy, civility, control, leadership, power, relationships & spiritual warfare: CSC Paper: “It Should Not Be So Among You” (Previously “On Anarchism and Assholes”)

“In 2004 [Dr. Bob] Sutton proposed and wrote up what he called the “No Asshole Rule” as a “Breakthrough Idea” in the annual edition on that topic for The Harvard Business Review. Basically, the “No Asshole Rule” states that a company would do well to attend to and address the behavior of mean, nasty, selfish, egomanical, and rude persons in the workplace. After publishing his idea in the Review Sutton was overwhelmed with feedback from people around the globe telling him stories of the toll assholes exact in the workplace. He also received confirmation that companies who had implemented a version of the “No Asshole Rule” had experienced not only a boost in their corporate culture but to their bottom line as well.”

Anger, frustration, listening & worry: How to Listen When Someone Is Venting [essential reading]

“The way to listen when someone is venting is to ask them the following three questions …”

Change, church, ministry, evangelism, outreach & tradition: * 3 Things Churches Love That Kill Outreach [essential reading]; * Why Small Churches Are the Next Big Thing

* “1. Too many churches love past culture more than their current context. … 2. Too many churches love their comfort more than their mission. … 3. Too many churches love their traditions more than their children.”

* “”There’s no shortage of studies bemoaning the next generation’s exodus from the Church. Yet while some have written off Millennials’ spiritually, this is a mistake—for the Church and for the Millennials. In the face of this reality, a new opportunity is emerging. … Why? Because, as the first generation with a majority born and raised outside traditional marriage, genuine relationships and intimate worship—what small churches do best—will matter more to them than it did to their parents. But this opportunity comes with one, big condition: Millennials won’t give up quality to gain intimacy. And they shouldn’t have to.”

Culture: Lego Faces are Getting More Pissed Off, Study Says

“The study leaves us with an open question about what sort of impact the growth in conflict-based Lego characters might have on children’s play. The authors also acknowledge that this trend might be necessary for the toy company to maintain its place in the market and meet customer demand. The children that grow up with Lego today will remember not only smileys, but also anger and fear in the Minifigures’ faces,” reads the conclusion. It does recommend that toy designers take care in creating expressions and test the effect of the designs on children. What do you think? Are Lego toys becoming too negative?”

Discipleship & politics: 10 Political Things You Can’t Do While Following Jesus

“…  this is not a complete list but it’s a pretty good place to start.”

Elders & leadershipThe Problem With Elders (parts 1 & 2)

“I have listened to literally thousands of members, hundreds of elders, and hundreds of ministers in the last ten years and many of them have the same complaints/issues … Perhaps it’s time we talked about elders. The problem is … where to start?”

Grief & healing: * 5 Signs That Your Grief is Healthy; * Megan’s Hands

* “When do we know we are grieving well?  And when do we know our grief is becoming potentially destructive?  Walking through grief is a balancing act between allowing yourself to mourn in healthy ways and not allowing grief to take over your life making you unhealthy in mind, body and spirit.  But the question is “How do you know when your grief is being constructive and healing and not destructive and causing you further trauma?” Here are some suggestions on when you know grief is good and when you know grief might be causing you problems …”

* “… the dam broke and I was close to drowning from the depression, the doubt, and the grief. Fast forward many years to today.”

Love & Islam: Hard Teaching: Amid Fear and Division, What Does it Mean to Love Our Muslim Neighbors? [essential reading]

“I don’t call Amir Arain my brother in the faith, but that doesn’t make him any less my neighbor. According to Jesus, everyone is a neighbor, and there’s no one who’s not my neighbor. Yes, I disagree with Amir on the precise meaning of Jesus’ life. Because of this — not in spite of — I believe that the real test of my disagreement with Amir is in the depth of my commitment to love Amir as Jesus has loved both of us. It’s easy for me to love my brothers and sisters in the faith. Jesus wants to know if I know how to love my neighbors.”

Ministry: * 7 Most Frustrating Things Pastors Experience; * 7 Most Exciting Things a Pastor Experiences

* “What do you think are some of the most frustrating things that pastors experience?”

* “Here are 7 most exciting things pastors experience …”

N.T. Wright: Ask N.T. Wright …(response)

“Wright is the author of over 100 books, including the popular Surprised by Hope and Simply Christian. [He] … is currently Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at St. Mary’s College, University of St. Andrews in Scotland.”

Singing, songs & corporate worship: Ten Questions to Ask of a Song’s Lyrics

“… here are ten questions to ask about the words of any song that you’re considering including in corporate worship.”

this went thru my mind

 

Anger, envy, Facebook & jealousy: Envy & Jealousy on Facebook – What New Research Has Revealed

“Several new studies have revealed that Facebook makes countless people feel bad about themselves leading to anger and hate against other people. Why? Because of envy and jealousy.”

Christianity & Islam: Worshiping Jesus in the Mosque

“Can people from other religious traditions genuinely follow Jesus without becoming ‘Christians’? The question is a point of much dispute within today’s missions world. Those who follow Jesus yet don’t formally express Christian faith are said to belong to insider movements. And no insider movement has received more attention than Muslims who embrace Christ yet stay within their Islamic community.”

Listening: Who’s Listening?

“Everything that Jesus did on earth was intentional, and the foundation of his ministry was listening to and responding to people’s desire to be understood, to be known by God. How do you think uneducated fishermen felt when Jesus (a teacher) asked them to follow him? What kind of effect do you think Jesus’ invitation to follow him had on Zacchaeus, a tax collector (the scum of the earth)? How do you think women felt when Jesus invited them to follow him, in a culture where only men followed rabbis? How do you think the bleeding woman felt when Jesus stopped everything he was doing to listen to her—and then to heal her?”

Prayer: Eugene Peterson on Prayer as Basic to the Christian Life

“Prayer is basic because it provides the primary language for everything that takes place on the way of Jesus. If we go to a shopping mall in North America, we speak English to get what we want. If we go to a restaurant in France, we speak French to order our meal. If we travel in Greece, we speak Greek to find our way to the Acropolis. And if we decide to become Christians and follow Jesus, we pray.”

this went thru my mind

 

Control, influence & life: It’s a Wonderful Life, If … by Dan Bouchelle [required reading]

“Love does not seek to control others.”

Church: What You Don’t Like About Your Church (And why that’s good) by Daniel Darling [required reading]

“I often say to people … ‘I don’t like everything in our church. And this is good, because if everything here was geared to what I like, it would be great for me, but not-so-great for the other members.’ And so it is with you.”

Christmas: * How December 25 Became Christmas by Andrew McGowan; * Separating Fact from Fiction in the Nativity Story – Christmas Myths Exposed by Frank Viola

* “How did December 25 come to be associated with Jesus’ birthday?”

* “If you’ve ever heard the Christmas story retold or watched it dramatized on film, you may not have realized how many myths were added to the story found in the Gospels. In this piece, I address some of them.”

Muslim: Why So Many Muslims Are Angry at the West by Frank Bellizzi

“Every semester, I teach a freshmen-level course at Amarillo College titled “Introduction to World Religions.” It’s the toughest teaching assignment I have.”

Near Death Experiences (NDE): NDEs and Heaven

“The near death experience as a foreshadowing of Heaven is a beautiful theory perhaps, but wrong.”