links: this went thru my mind


Busyness & the speed of life: What Slowing Down Teaches You That Rushing Never Will

“The mother of a child with Down syndrome joins her daughter’s rebellion against hurried living.”

Christianity, culture & society: A Shocking Conclusion About American Christianity [required reading]

“The only way someone can think most of what goes on in American churches is authentically Christian is not to read the Bible, the church fathers, the reformers, and the great thinkers and evangelists of all denominations. … I am afraid that it is becoming increasingly harder to find the gospel in America. It is either wrapped so tightly in the flag as to be virtually invisible or relegated to a footnote to messages about ‘success in living,’ being nice and including everyone. … How like New Testament and historic Christianity is ours? What have we lost?”

Community & complaining: The Monday Rule [essential reading]

“…  the Monday rule … might be stated this way: ‘If you have concerns or the feel the need to complain, do it Monday (or another day of your choice). Please don’t do it Sunday–or when the church is gathered for worship.’ … One of the greatest services leadership can provide the church is the effective handling of the church’s concerns, which includes the timing of such dealings—not just making sure they are heard. Implementing the Monday rule will do more for your church’s weekend assemblies than nearly anything. … A couple of assumptions can be made reasonably about people who complain chronically on Sundays. First, they lack a sense of the impact of their comments on others—especially staff or those whose spiritual frame of heart impacts others that day. Two, they lack spiritual focus during times that are unique in the practice of the church—and their complaining will spread this across the Body if not checked. Three, they likely do this because of proximity. They want to get it dealt with right then—because it could consume their time and energy to do it another time. So, they’d prefer to use yours on their terms rather than deal with the problem another way.”

Compassion, difficult people, ministry & relationships: People are Such Absolute Jerks (and So Can You)

“I’m convinced that we’ve got to put the oxygen masks on ourselves before we help others.”

Gospel, heaven & salvation: The Gospel Isn’t About Heaven [essential reading]

“The gospel is as much about earth as it is heaven. As much about before death as it is after death. It is the message that Jesus, the one true King, is expanding his reign onto earth. This, after all, is what Jesus called gospel: ‘Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.'” (Mark 1:14-15)

Gratitude, humility, mindfulness & the ordinary: Cherish the Ordinary

“We become bugged by ten things in our day that didn’t pan out as we had wished without noticing we were able, still, to swallow our food, drive our cars, read the paper, hear the radio, and go to the bathroom. … Decide to cherish the ordinary.  Men, women, and children are suffering from a terrible (yet acceptable and unnoticed by the masses) disease called ingratitude for the simplest of gigantic blessings.  Stop complaining, whining, and/or sighing. Treasure right now.”

Honesty, nationalism & the pledge of Allegiance: Why Christians Might Want To Abstain From Reciting “The Pledge Of Allegiance”

“… I think we’re having the wrong discussion on this issue entirely. Instead of a constant cultural debate over the wording of the pledge, I think a better question is: ‘Should a Christian recite the pledge of allegiance at all?'”

Preaching, relevance & teaching: Why So Many Churches Hear So Little of the Bible

“‘It is well and good for the preacher to base his sermon on the Bible, but he better get to something relevant pretty quickly, or we start mentally to check out.’ That stunningly clear sentence reflects one of the most amazing, tragic, and lamentable characteristics of contemporary Christianity: an impatience with the Word of God. …  the tragedy of a church increasingly impatient with and resistant to the reading and preaching of the Bible.”

this went thru my mind


Belonging, connection, self-worth & vulnerability: The Power of Vulnerability [20 min. TED Talk by Brené Brown]

“… the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees.”

Church dropouts, evangelism, outreach & restoration: An Open Letter to the Church: How to Love the Cynics [required reading]

“We left for a hundred different reasons, none less real or important than the other.”

Film: The Bible Series from Mark Burnett and Roma Downey- A Sneak Peak

“… brand new epic Bible Series … starts this Sunday evening on the History Channel (channel 269 on Directv).”

Homeless & homelessness: 10 Ideas For Helping Homeless People

“There is no template, one-size-fits-all plan that works for what we think of as ‘giving a cup of cold water’ to our friends on the street.”

Nationalism: Is the Pledge Good for Our Kids?

“Please stop and consider how we evangelicals have been conditioned not to see any conflict with nationalism and Christian discipleship. Will we allow another generation of our children to be taught that America is the hope of the world, or will we tell them the truth about a King whose Kingdom is not of this world, but is for this world?”

Quotes: Knowing Christ with Dallas Willard and John Ortberg

“In our world, relationships are based on attack and withdrawal. In the love of God, we don’t attack people. We don’t withdraw from them. We accept them.”

Sequester & tax cuts: * Today’s 3 ‘Should-Read’ Stories About The Sequester; * Impact of March 1st Cuts on Middle Class Families, Jobs and Economic Security: Texas [wow!]

“… get ready for “the sequester” — the $85 billion worth of across-the-board cuts in federal spending that would begin to kick in that day if lawmakers don’t strike some sort of deal before then.”

“If sequestration were to take effect, some examples of the impacts on Texas this year alone are …”

this went thru my mind


Church decline: One Observation of Declining Churches by Ron Edmonson

“I’ve worked with a number of churches in decline. One thing I’ve noticed that is fairly consistent among declining churches is what they do once they realize they are in decline. … They dig their heels into the tradition that got them where they are today. They go back to what’s comfortable. They resist any changes in what they’ve done before, hoping to avert future decline.”

College: The Rising Cost of Higher Education [infographic]

“The College Board forecasts that in 15 years, the cost of a four-year college education at a private college will top $400,000 (at the current rate of increases).”

Deacons & deaconesses: #359 – Deacons, Ministers, or …? by Patrick Mead [required reading]

“Rather than use made up words like ‘deacon’ and made up words formed from made up words (!) like ‘deaconesses’ it would seem to make more sense to use the Biblical concept and call both of them ‘ministers’ or ‘servants.'”

Doubt: What Christians Can Learn From A Bible-Belt Pastor Who Became An Atheist Leader

“The problem of personal evil and suffering was a huge factor in his de-conversion.”

Food: 40% of U.S. Food Wasted, Report Says

“The report points out waste in all areas of the U.S. food supply chain, from field to plate, from farms to warehouses, from buffets to school cafeterias.”

Learning: Ministry Inside.90 by Jim Martin

“The following are five suggestions for learning from ‘masters.'”

Productivity: What Successful People Do With The First Hour Of Their Work Day

“…  many successful people schedule themselves a kind of grown-up home room every day. You should too. The first hour of the workday goes a bit differently …”

Sharing faith: Ten Questions to Diagnose the Evangelistic Health of Your Church by Thom Rainer

“In my work with churches across America, I often ask a series of questions that help me assist the church to become more evangelistically focused. Recently, I took time to write down the questions I ask most often. Look at these ten questions to get at least some hints of the evangelistic health of your own church.”

The Pledge of Allegiance: A Restless Patriotism by Richard Beck [required reading]

“I’m a mess when it comes to the Pledge of Allegiance. Sometimes I say it. Sometimes I don’t. Social context generally determines what I do, with the main criterion being not wanting to embarrass anyone or make anyone feel uncomfortable. I also struggle with not saying the Pledge as I don’t want to be taken as being ungrateful or dismissive of those who have made sacrifices for everything I enjoy in America. So I’m trying to walk this line between being socially appropriate, respectful to others (particularly to those who have lost loved ones in war), deeply grateful, and yet holding onto the belief that the Pledge of Allegiance is inherently idolatrous. That’s a tough line to walk and I don’t walk it well or very consistently.”

this went thru my mind

Change: Have you pretty much believed what you’ve always believed across the years? That’s not me. My perspective on a host of issues, frivolous and fundamental, has shifted in time.

On no small number of profound matters, this is nothing short of embarrassing, even humiliating. Once upon a time I thought church-going folks were either misguided or missing out. Now I’ve been a Christian and a preaching minister for decades. For a number of years I believed – dare I say it out loud? – that “if you weren’t a member of the “Church of Christ” (and I do mean “the ones with the sign out front”) you didn’t have a chance. Now I cringe at that thought. And those are just two examples. The list is long and the subjects not insignificant. Bible translation. Marriage. Divorce. Remarriage. Ecology and environmental issues. Politics. The work of the Holy Spirit. War. Spiritual disciplines. The role of women in the church. Poverty. Etc.

However, of all the topics that have received an overhaul in my head in recent years, few have taken as sharp a turn as my understanding of nationalism and patriotism. I grew up where Mennonite communities are not unknown (south central Oklahoma). But, in my ignorance, I thought Mennonites were just some folks with some weird beliefs. Now in recent years I find myself persuaded they were far ahead of me in regard to a more healthy perspective of Christ’s kingdom and human government, allegiance and patriotism, discipleship and nationalism.

I used to belt out our national anthem and didn’t give a second thought (or even a first thought?) to saying the Pledge of Allegiance. However, now I hear a Mennonite pastor, Mark Schloneger, articulating precisely why I can no longer bring myself to sing the Star Spangled Banner. He said it well in his piece entitled Why I Don’t Sing the ‘Star Spangled Banner. The comments made on his article are, as you would expect, all over the map. I long and pray for the day when all Christians everywhere say and live with conviction:

“… we recognize only one Christian nation, the church, the holy nation that is bound together by a living faith in Jesus rather than by man-made, blood-soaked borders.”

But let’s approach this topic from a different angle. Most of us would agree that racism is a horrid evil. Surely a huge part of its horror is in the fact that most of its expression is so subtle that many don’t even realize when they’re being racist. It’s the like the person who cluelessly says “Some of my best friends are black.” I would say the same insidiousness we see in racism is true of nationalism. It’s extremely subtle in it’s appearance and effects, ironically even when the actions are overt, such as the placement of a flag or national colors on church grounds or in the church building. Or by means of bumper stickers that read “God Bless America.” If we’ll be honest, we know what many folks mean when they say that; something close to “God Bless America Most.” Karen Spears Zacharias’ post entitled God Does Not Love America addresses this matter well. In it she rightly says:

“We Americans have long-held the belief that we are God’s BFF’s. Next to Israel, of course … I know it’s a hard truth to consider that as a nation, God is no more devoted to America than he is to Afghanistan or Argentina, but it’s time for America to grow up and get over her sibling rivalry.”

Grow up, indeed. Change is what growing up is about. We would sooner rewrite history to suit our understanding of things than deal with all of the true facts of history. It matters not how many around us proudly wave our nation’s flag (or the flag of any nation) and say with “God and country” with synonymous passion. What does matter is whether we are growing up in Him to the point that God is our all. “No one can serve two masters” and there are not two thrones in heaven, one for Christ and one for country.

I say this not with arrogance, but with humility: we all must choose this day whom we will serve, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. There is no other. And we can only do what we believe is right by God’s word and our conscience. The challenge is to let those matters be the basis for our actions rather than tradition, enthusiasm, ignorance, or popular tide. And the call is to not idolize the matters that divide people, but to serve only Him in whom people can alone be truly united.

“… we recognize only one Christian nation, the church, the holy nation that is bound together by a living faith in Jesus rather than by man-made, blood-soaked borders.”