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 4 helpful articles

Note: if you vote today, let me encourage you to first carefully read all of all four of the following articles, in the order you see them here, and then pray. And for that matter, if you have already voted, do the same.

1. 6 Types of Misinformation to Beware Of on Election Day. (And What to Do if You Spot Them.)

“Be careful of rumors and hoaxes about the voting and polling places. Here are some tips for spotting and avoiding false information.”

2. A Voter’s Guide for Thinking Evangelicals

“Of course you will say, on the basis of these things, now I have no one to vote for! But in fact there is lesser and greater evil, and if you don’t choose the lesser of several evils, you end up permitting the greater evils. Which again, is why we have to vote. Take the car wreck over the train with many passengers wreck every time.”

3. The Calling of Crappy Citizenship

“… the all-important principle of Christian anarchism: rather than championing no government, Christian anarchists advocate a politics so odd, eccentric, and peculiar that it must be incommensurate with all other conventional forms of politics.”

4. What America Owes Frederick Douglass

“… the only weapons most of us have in this historical moment are those Douglass named: our voice, our pen and our vote.”

a prayer for the oppressed & persecuted

 

Great God, Ruler over all, we come before you in the name of the Lord Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Your power is indisputable and all-surpassing. Your rule ever is right and good, just and merciful. All glory, honor, and praise be to you, God!

Without your rule, God, we would be nothing at all, swept away with the wind. And we sadly confess that your rule, we often ignore. Wipe away this weakness in your servants, we pray, and bring your kingdom to completion in the lives of your people. Forgive us, God.

Thank you for every measure of quiet and calm that you have granted humankind. Thank you for working your will of peace through rulers and officials, heads of state and governmental leaders, throughout all the world. Thank you for the many things we take for granted in how we are able to live our everyday lives.

And God, hear our plea for relief to all who live lives that are always greatly burdened and often in upheaval. We pray for all who groan with the rest of creation under the weight of sin, but who also must bear the added weight of affliction for faith, beating for believing, torture for trust, and threatening for obedience to you. Shield those who are in jeopardy now and deliver those who are on the brink of martyrdom. Set the captives free and break the rule of those who rule with little sense of humanity. In it all, God, may witness of you and your supreme rule abound.

Decree it and it will be, God. This we believe and know. Pour out your compassion and bring justice. Sweep away oppression and bring in your kingdom more now than has ever been before.

Amen.

picture Bible commentary

Sign-no-hunting-bullet-holes

Faithful ones have perished from the land; there is no righteous one among humanity. All of them lie in wait for bloodshed; they hunt each other with nets. Their hands are skilled at doing evil. Official and judge alike ask for a bribe; the powerful speak however they like; this is how they conspire. (Micah 7.2-3)

a prayer amidst the killing

 

Father God, my mind is flooded tonight with words and my heart is heavy with them.

ISIS. Massacre. Genocide. Air strikes. War.

In the name of Jesus, I ask that you give wisdom to all this world’s leaders who seek peace.

Confound and confuse, divide and defeat, all who seek the death of innocents.

Shield and deliver the harassed and oppressed, the abused and persecuted.

Protect all who seek to bring relief.

Intervene in this lost world’s ways and stop this cancer of killing. Deliver us from evil.

Amen.

this went thru my mind

 

Bible, contradictions, credibility, & inspiration: Do Contradictions In The Gospels Make Them Untrustworthy?

“What we’re dealing with in the gospels are legit eyewitness testimonies. And you can trust them because of the contractions, not in spite of them.”

Church & ministry: 3 Reasons Why the “Safe” Argument is Killing Churches

“… the next time we sit around a discussion table and someone says, Wouldn’t it be safer . . . . , well, we should ask: 1) is that the view of God we read about in Scripture?; 2) what opportunity and people will be lost by us failing to act; and 3) what opportunity for people to serve, create, and grow spiritually will be missed? If ‘Safety is First,’ then that means our mission is not first. And that, my friends, is why so many churches are not growing. Tradition, safety, keeping the peace–these have become our mission. And that does not reach people for Christ or grow the church.”

Consumption & oppression: 5 Resources About How Our Consumption Affects Others

“… think about how your possessions and your consumption affect people in other countries.”

Dallas Willard: Give ’em Heaven [5 min. video]

“Fourteen-year-old Larissa Heatley, Dallas Willard’s only granddaughter, delivered a personal tribute at his memorial service. She is sharing her message with us today, giving us a sweet, intimate glimpse into their relationship.”

Discipleship, love, ministry, respect & spiritual maturity: A Door Mat Christianity by Les Ferguson, Jr. [essential reading]

“Love your ministers lavishly. Chances are you have no idea what they are sacrificing–sometimes even their own self-esteem. If you like to make jokes at the preacher’s expense about only working one day a week or keeping his moving boxes close to hand or how much money he makes, Stop! Stop now. He may laugh with you, but it takes a toil. Eventually he becomes a doormat whether he wants to acknowledge it or not. Even when he can’t or won’t see it for what it is, his spouse sees it and suffers too. Doormat Christianity is hurtful, destructive, and ultimately damaging to the spirit within. Loving others means saying this is wrong!”

Disrespect & leadershipWhy You Must Confront Seemingly Indispensable but Disrespectful Team Members

“This is the tough stuff of leadership that no one wants to discuss. But it is the necessary stuff. You can’t develop people and take them to the next level unless you are willing to speak into their lives—for their benefit and for your team.”

Extreme faith & legalism: The Little Way and the New Legalism of Radical Christianity

“… St. Thérèse can be an important resource for Protestants struggling with the call to be a “radical Christian” and the resultant shame when our lives seems pretty normal and ordinary.”

Time management: Top 10 Time Savers for the Stuff You’re Too Busy to Do

“We’ve all had days where we feel a little rushed and can’t be bothered with things … Make all those chores easier with these time-saving tips.”

Worship: The Difference between Congregational Worship and a Concert

“… with regard to the main thrust of Christian congregational worship.”

this went thru my mind

 

Banks, money, oppression & payday loans: Major Banks Aid in Payday Loans Banned by States

“While the banks, which include giants like JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo, do not make the loans, they are a critical link for the lenders, enabling the lenders to withdraw payments automatically from borrowers’ bank accounts, even in states where the loans are banned entirely. In some cases, the banks allow lenders to tap checking accounts even after the customers have begged them to stop the withdrawals. “Without the assistance of the banks in processing and sending electronic funds, these lenders simply couldn’t operate,” said Josh Zinner, co-director of the Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project, which works with community groups in New York.”

Corporate worship, judgmentalism & maturity: Thumbs Up? Thumbs Down? by Terry Rush [required reading]

“In ministry, in outreach, in worship, and in study, life is about God being glorified. Too many across the broad range of Christian concepts plop themselves down upon padded pews to judge the hour’s program. Thumbs up? Thumbs down? Yet Jesus didn’t construct a court of judgment. He is building a church that would give Father attentive glory.”

Church names: Should Your Church’s Name Include Its Denomination?

“Churches with denominational references (vs. none) in their name are: Four times more likely to be perceived as ‘formal.’ Three times more likely to be perceived as ‘old-fashioned.’ Almost three times more likely to be perceived as ‘structured and rigid.’ Three times less likely to be perceived as ‘open-minded.’ … The main caveat is age … In general, older Americans are more comfortable with denominational church names than are younger people. People age 65 and older are especially likely to see non-denominational names as the church trying to hide what they believe … and as making them feel uncertain … as well as to see denominational names as welcoming new visitors … and as a church they might consider visiting … On the other hand … Younger adults are also more likely to see non-denominational names as welcoming to new visitors …, as a church for people like them …, or as one they might consider visiting …”

Learning: The Lesson You Never Got Taught in School: How to Learn! [very interesting]

“A paper published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest has evaluated ten techniques for improving learning, ranging from mnemonics to highlighting and came to some surprising conclusions.  … Be aware that everyone has their own style of learning, the evidence suggests that just because a technique works or does not work for other people does not necessarily mean it will or won’t work well for you. If you want to know how to revise or learn most effectively you will still want to experiment on yourself a little with each technique before writing any of them off.”

Marriage: 25 Years of Evangelizing My Husband

“On Sunday mornings I would tear up. If only my husband was sitting next to me at church. If only he would thumb through a Bible. If only he could hear this sermon. From my balcony view, I would glare at the backs of other husbands, arms draped over their wives’ shoulders. Surely these husbands led nightly devotionals, volunteered at Vacation Bible School, and prayed before meals. If only …”

Ministry: A Letter to the Church, from a Pastor by Ron Edmonson

“I’m blessed with so many pastor friends. I have the opportunity, through my blog and personal ministry, to interact with hundreds of pastors every year. After hearing many of their concerns, I decided to write a letter to the church. Obviously, I can’t and won’t attempt to speak for every pastor, but this will represent many.”

Parenting: * Ten Things I Want To Tell Teenage Girls by Kate Conner; * Dear Boys

* “All attention is not equal.  You think you want attention, but you don’t.  You want respect.  All attention is not equal.”

* “You’ve got to wake up in the morning determined to meet your potential head on, to no longer judge your success by the products that they’re peddling, but to judge yourself by standards that have existed since the beginning of the time: Am I going to make excuses or am I going to make something happen? Am I going to make my life count or am I going to waste it?  Am I going to make my life about what I have or about who I am?”

Small groups: Why Small Groups Don’t Fail by Scott Boren

“Small groups work when leaders operate like shepherds. They do the under-ground, consistent, steady work of caring for the sheep. That is hard to promote and measure. It’s different from developing programs in the church which can be seen and measured as we build buildings, develop budget-dependent programs and attract more and more people to a centralized venue. Small group ministry happens without such clear sizzle. But it’s the way people grow and it’s the way that we impact the world with love.”

Time management: Respect Yourself and Take Back Control of Your Calendar

“Your time is your life. So when you surrender control of your calendar to other people, you put them in control of your destiny. Our digital world has broken down the natural boundaries on how and when people can tell you what they think you should be doing.”