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.”

links to 5 helpful articles

1. 8 Signs Your Christianity Is Too Comfortable [essential reading]

“There’s absolutely no friction between your Christianity and your partisan politics. … There are no paradoxes, tensions, or unresolved questions. … Your friends and coworkers are surprised to learn you’re a churchgoing Christian. … You never think about or even remember the Sunday sermon on Monday. … No one at your church ever annoys you. … You never feel challenged, only affirmed. … You’ve never had to have a ‘truth-in-love’ conversation with a fellow Christian. … No one in your church could comment on any area of growth they’ve seen in you.”

2. What mass shootings do to those not shot: Social consequences of mass gun violence

“There is evidence of distress, anxiety, or even PTSD symptoms among people who were not directly exposed to a disaster, but were exposed to the news … Fear, the coming unknown (is there another shooting, are other co-conspirators involved?) and reduced faith in our perceived safety may all play a role in this.”

3. World War I: the birth of plastic surgery and modern anesthesia

“Many of the injured (16%) had injuries affecting the face, over a third of which were categorized as ‘severe.’ … Nobody won the … war but the medical services. The increase in knowledge was the sole determinable gain for mankind in a devastating catastrophe.”

4. Hell … and How to Get There

“The gospel is not a perverse theological system in which good people are tortured by God for eternity. Christians must stop suggesting anything like that! … Using hell as a means of scaring people into Christianity may also drive them out of Christianity when they become a little more thoughtful.”

5. Macron Hopes WWI Ceremonies Warn of Nationalism’s Dangers. Is Anyone Listening?

“Each stop made the same solemn point: Nationalism kills. It is a message Mr. Macron hopes will not be lost on the dozens of world leaders who will descend on France this weekend to commemorate the 1918 Armistice. But it is not clear anyone is listening.”

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

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

Aggression, American Sniper, Chris Kyle, cinema, distortion, film, miscommunication, myth, nationalism, patriotism & war: Why I Refuse to See ‘American Sniper’ [essential reading]

“When you have experienced firsthand the multitude of ways war wreaks havoc on families, you have little tolerance for the mythmaking that war always seems to invoke. Not to mention the patriotic, almost nationalistic fervor that accompanies a flag-draped coffin.”

Alexander the Great, Amphipolis, archaeology & Greece: Amphipolis Excavation: Discoveries in Alexander the Great-Era Tomb Dazzle the World

“… since August 2014 … the Ministry of Culture has been gradually releasing to the public the incredible archaeological finds that have been uncovered in what is the largest tomb ever found in Greece. … It has been popularly speculated that the Amphipolis Tomb was built for one of Alexander’s generals or family members—perhaps his mother, Olympias, or his wife, Roxanne. After Alexander’s death, his generals fought over control of the Macedonian Empire, which stretched from the Balkans to what’s now Pakistan and northwest India. Alexander’s mother, wife, son and half-brother were murdered during this time—most near Amphipolis. It’s still not clear for whom the magnificent tomb was built and why the five individuals were buried in the tomb.”

Disabilities & Social Security: Social Security’s Christmas Present: Benefit Cuts for Millions of Disabled Workers

“The fact that benefits need to be cut or taxes raised, or both, to keep Social Security solvent does not justify treating the disabled like second class citizens.”

God, free will & the hardening of hearts: God Hardens Hearts – What Does That Mean?

“God justly responds to people’s wickedness by strengthening their resolve against him. In every instance where Scripture speaks of God hardening someone, it’s an act of judgment in response to decisions these people had already made. God simply ensures that these rebels will do what their own evil hearts desire and not alter course for ulterior motives. But it’s altogether unwarranted to suppose that God unilaterally hardens people’s hearts against himself in the first place—all the while pretending to offer them the hope of salvation! When God decides to harden someone’s heart, we can be assured that God wishes it didn’t have to be that way.”

Leisure, technology, time & work: Speed Kills: Has Technology Destroyed Leisure

“… the fact that we welcome progress, increased convenience and the sheer excitement of speed in different forms—are so deeply entangled with detrimental effects (the stress and feelings of disaffection that come with living a mediated life, the actual physical danger of speed in some cases) that the phenomenon is interesting to analyze but difficult to address.”

links: this went thru my mind

Church, gratitude & thankfulness: * Gratitude & Justice;  * Cultivating Gratitude in Our Communities

* “Gratitude is perhaps the most important way we practice recognizing the “enough” all around us. If “lack” is the root of injustice, then gratitude is at root of justice. How can we hoard what isn’t ours? … And if everything we have is a gift from God, how can we not share those gifts, even with our enemies (see Matthew 5:43-45, 48)? Gratitude can help us move from dissatisfaction, fear, and narcissism to satisfaction, trust, and a deeper appreciation of the interconnectedness of all things. It frees us up to live in the present and to accept each moment and every circumstance as a gift.”

* ” … we tend to focus more on what we don’t have, what we can’t do, and where we fall short. We often define and appraise our faith communities the same way.  What is absent can obscure what is present. This happens when we focus more on needs than assets … Rather than emphasizing what’s not there, the church should focus on what is. The work of the church is, in part, to help people discern their gifts, provide opportunities for people to publicly praise God for them, and support them as they exercise those gifts—’re-gifting’ them for God’s glory.”

Christian faith, civil religion, culture, nationalism, narcissism & Thanksgiving: Appreciation Day [essential reading]

“Appreciative folks value their stuff, but never acknowledge its true source.”

Dogs & learning: How Dogs Understand What We Say

“Tell all the emotional things to the dog in his left ear … For commands that you want a dog to get clearly and precisely, tell them in right ear.”

History, humility, memory, Native Americans & remembrance: Never Forget

“A people with our history should practice humility and exercise sensitivity far beyond what comes natural for most of us.”

links: this went thru my mind

Benevolence, compassion, grace, judging & need: Wasted Grace [essential reading]

“How do you help healthy beggars on the road you cannot know?”

Existence of God: Is God a Hoax?

“Is God real? Or, is this a figment of man’s needy imagination?”

Gossip & prayer requests: Gossip & Prayer Requests [essential reading]

“At what point do those prayer requests become sinful gossip? … It’s complicated. … Here is a mental checklist that I have developed for managing prayer requests in a careful, godly manner. Before you pass on that request, make sure to check your facts, your role, your audience, and your heart.”

Human life, martyrdom, nationalism, pacifism & respect: Blood Trumps Everything: Why the Church Needs Her Martyrs

“My point in all this is that debates about things like nationalism or pacifism aren’t simply abstract theological discussions. These debates need to, but often fail to, take into consideration the sacred element of human blood. These debates need to reckon with the face that blood is the most sacred thing we know, more sacred, even, than God. Emotionally, where this argument will be won or lost, blood will trump theology. Always. And this is why the church needs her martyrs.”

Sexuality & virginity: When Guys Found Out I’m a Virgin

“When it comes to my decision to stay a virgin until marriage — to hold out for that one-time-only chance to fully connect with and know and love another person — I want to make sure it’s the right man. Until then, bring on the squirmy no-sex chat.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Americanism, exceptionalism, idolatry, nationalism & the U.S.: Huckabee and the Heresy of Americanism [required reading]

“Americanism is a heresy; in certain respects it is simply idolatrous. Jesus, not James Madison, brought in the ‘new order of the ages.’”

Church attendance & church statistics: Stop Taking Attendance

“In every church that I have ever visited or served there has been an emphasis on the number of people that attend the morning worship services. After years in the ministry, I have come to the conclusion that the church needs to stop taking attendance — immediately.”

Free will & God: God Does Not Always Get What He Wants

“… God does not always get what he wants for he gave people free will. God created us with the capacity to receive and reflect his love back to him and to each other as well as toward the animal kingdom and the earth. But because we’re talking about love, God couldn’t pre-program us to cooperate with God’s plan. We have the capacity to thwart God’s will, within limits. And when we do, it breaks God’s heart.”

ISIS: A 13-Year-Old Witness to ISIS’ Beheadings, Crucifixion in Syria

“‘[They told me] if you prevent Mohammed from coming to the camp, we will cut off your head,’ his father …”

Time & work: Who’s in the Office? – The American Workday In One Graph

“… the government conducts an annual study called the that tracks how people spend their days.”