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+ items worth your time

1. On Why I Say ‘Happy Holidays’ by Pete Enns [required reading]

“… when people say “THEY” are taking Christ out of Christmas, who are people talking about? … Once someone thinks you have made them an enemy, the defenses go up. It becomes extremely hard for them to hear anything you have to say as a positive step in the relationship, no matter how well-intentioned it is. And so, Christians are increasingly perceived to be judgmental and intolerant, which is not a helpful moniker when you are trying to convert others to your position.”

2. A Virtual Tour Through the Places of Jesus’ Birth by Wayne Stiles

A 14 min. video.

3. Love and Lament by Richard Beck

“In short, lament psalms are songs sung by people desperately in love with God. The lament psalms aren’t for doubters, the lament psalms are for lovers.”

More on the psalms of lament.

4. Fossils: A Revelation of Beauty

“As a Christian paleontologist, I often reflect on Proverbs 25:2, ‘The glory of God is to keep things hidden; but the glory of kings is to fathom them.’ Studying fossils is literally about fathoming things which were hidden and are coming to light. This is a privilege.”

it is the day after Easter

And the most convincing evidence that Jesus has been raised from the dead is about to go to work. Or school. Or the coffee shop. Or the store.

Because you, believer, are Christ’s most compelling evidence of himself.

You.

You are his compassionate action. His wisdom embodied. His good news fleshed out. His ways on display.

You are a member of the body of Christ.

So, rise up! Rise up, get on your knees, and pray in his name today. Rise up, stand up, and determine to represent him well today. Rise up, walk, and be his wherever he would lead you today. Rise up, lay down, and fall asleep with the calmness of spirit that you lived for him today, that you are firmly in his grasp, and that even death itself has no hold on you.

You are a blood-bought believer in Christ.

For you have been chosen in him. Rescued through him. Adopted because of him. And are inhabited by his Spirit.

You.

You he chose and empowers to make a difference today. Whether it is the change you would have first willed or not. Whether you feel essential or adequate to the task or not. Whether you fully understand your role in it all or not. Whether you live to even see how it matters or not.

For it is not about you. It is about the Christ who is living in you.

So, with the help of his angels, his ministering spirits, roll the stone away today – every day – and let anyone and everyone see the wonder of the empty tomb of Christ in you. The Spirit-filled and fruit-bearing you. The loving and loyal you. The humble and bold you.

That is, the Christ. In. You.

Amen. And amen.

links: this went thru my mind

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

Archaeology, Israel & Jerusalem: Nose Falls Off the Skull of Gordon’s Calvary

“Visitors to the Garden Tomb of Jerusalem are usually shown the “Skull” identified by Charles Gordon as part of the case that this spot may be the authentic site of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. On February 20 the bridge of the skull’s nose collapsed during a storm.”

Churches of Christ & church decline: The 2015 Churches of Christ in the United States

“… the average congregation size has declined … to 124 adherents per congregation. … The Christian Chronicle reports that the same figures reflect a 7.8% decline in membership since 1990, reflecting about 100,443 souls. … The 1990s were a time of plateaued growth … — essentially flat, even though it was a time of rapid population growth. … the rate of decline is accelerating. A lot. … The loss of members, adherents, and congregations is … doubling roughly every 15 to 20 years. … During this same period, the population of the United States has grown … the nation is growing at twice the rate at which the Churches of Christ are declining.”

Distraction, faith & focus: The Wheelchair or the Throne [required reading]

“Our enemy is an expert at distraction. If he can get our eyes off that throne and on the pain and uncertainty of the world, then we are doomed to walk this life in fear and agony. He knows that and he loves every minute of it. … Refuse to focus on what you can see and set your minds on things above. Look away from the evil and drama that saturate our lives and fix your eyes on the King of Glory. Only there will you find healing and hope.”

Documentaries, history, Jesus & media: Finding Jesus: Review of Part One

“… as a docu-drama, I thought this was better than many of them, and I look forward to the remaining five episodes.”

Evangelism, expectations, honesty, hypocrisy, outreach, sensitivity & transparency: Seven Lies Christians Tell [essential reading]

“We mean well, but is the truth really on our lips when we evangelize? … We lie when we claim we are more confident than we really are. … We lie when we claim that unexplainable things are in fact explainable. … We lie when we don’t acknowledge our doubts within the drama of faith. … We lie when we pretend like the Bible doesn’t say some really nasty things when in fact it does. … We lie when we claim we understand other beliefs, faiths and world views. … We lie when we claim that all of our beliefs are a ’10.’ … Finally, and most importantly, we lie (insidious and barbaric lying) when we pretend like we really, really, really love the other person when in fact we don’t.”

links: this went thru my mind

Here are links to five articles that I’ve found to be thought-provoking and helpful reading:

Alliances, Bible interpretation, Israel, politics & war: Why Evangelicals Should Think Twice about Equating Modern Israel with Israel of the Bible

“Ancient Israel was not supposed to have a standing army. They weren’t supposed to stockpile weapons. There were no taxes to fund a permanent military. Israel’s rulers were forbidden from amassing large numbers of horses (Deuteronomy 17:16-17)—which was about as close as you could get to an arms race in the ancient Near East. Israel’s king was not supposed to make foreign military alliances. God stipulated that Israel should remain militarily weak so they would learn to trust him for protection.”

Benevolence, community, evangelism, & outreach: Instead of a Coffee Shop How About a Laundromat?

“… what would be a good third space for a poor neighborhood like the one surrounding our church? A place that would serve the neighborhood but could also be a place where people would spend time talking and forming relationships? My idea has always been for our church to run laundromat.”

Faith & prayer: 11 Brother Lawrence Quotes that Will Challenge How You Practice Faith

“After a dramatic religious conversion, young soldier Nicholas Herman decided to devote his life to following God and learning more about Christ. He joined a monastery and took the name Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection. There, he spent the rest of his life working in a kitchen and repairing his brothers’ sandals. But during his decades of doing seemingly menial jobs, Brother Lawrence discovered a profound truth about having a relationship with God: Experiencing His presence can—and should—happen everywhere.”

God’s character, justice & vengeance: Deconstructing the Bully God – N.T. Wright

“…  love, faced with rejection, overcomes it with yet more love.”

Non-violence & violence: Does the Bible Teach Total Non-Violence? [essential reading]

“If you honestly, carefully, and with an open mind study the following passages, I believe you’ll agree that the teaching against violence for Kingdom people is as clear as any teaching in the Bible could ever be. I’ll break this sampling of passages (the list isn’t at all exhaustive) into three categories, Old Testament, teachings of Jesus and teachings in the rest of the New Testament.”