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 items worth your time

1. How Loneliness Is Tearing America Apart [essential reading]

“When people have a hole in their life, they often fill it with angry politics. … In the ‘siloed,’ or isolated, worlds of cable television, ideological punditry, campus politics and social media, people find a sense of community in the polarized tribes forming on the left and the right in America. Essentially, people locate their sense of ‘us’ through the contempt peddled about ‘them’ on the other side of the political spectrum.”

2. America’s Epidemic of Empty Churches [essential reading]

“… 6,000 to 10,000 churches die each year in America—and that number will likely grow. Though more than 70 percent of our citizens still claim to be Christian, congregational participation is less central to many Americans’ faith than it once was. Most denominations are declining as a share of the overall population, and donations to congregations have been falling for decades. Meanwhile, religiously unaffiliated Americans, nicknamed the ‘nones,’ are growing as a share of the U.S. population.”

3. The Honest Truth about Honesty and Truth by Ben Witherington

“Our country is suffering not merely from dishonesty. It is suffering from truth decay— an inability to recognize the truth even when it’s slapping them in the face.”

3. My Evangelical Church Is Gaslighting Me, But I Refuse To Fall For It Anymore

“I stopped attending church regularly almost two years ago, but I am more invested in my spiritual life than ever before. Although I’ve lost the majority of my local Christian community, save for a few precious friends, I still cling to the true teachings and example of Jesus to inform my politics and moral code.”

5. Is the Book of Acts Historically Reliable? – an interview of Craig Keener by Alisa Childers

“On today’s podcast, I talk with New Testament scholar Craig Keener about how he came to faith in Christ, and what led him into the world of scholarship. We talk about skeptical claims brought against the reliability of the book of Acts …”

links to 4+ helpful articles

1. When you’re grateful, your brain becomes more charitable [required reading]

“Practicing gratitude shifted the value of giving in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. It changed the exchange rate in the brain. Giving to charity became more valuable than receiving money yourself. After the brain calculates the exchange rate, you get paid in the neural currency of reward, the delivery of neurotransmitters that signal pleasure and goal attainment. So in terms of the brain’s reward response, it really can be true that giving is better than receiving.”

2. Early Benchmarks Show ‘Post-Millennials’ on Track to Be Most Diverse, Best-Educated Generation Yet

“A demographic portrait of today’s 6- to 21-year-olds.”

3. Giving Thanks for Difficult People

“Give thanks for the difficult people in your life. Then, identify what’s in the way of being fully present. Take the time to resolve it, so that you can bring your full humanity, and your full spiritual powers, to bear.”

4. Your Child and Facebook are Not a Good Match

“What is happening with those photos once they’re uploaded?”

5. A Fact-Checker’s Guide to Thanksgiving Politics

“With the holiday on the heels of the midterm elections, sitting out a political food fight may be unavoidable. But it doesn’t have to be inaccurate. Arm yourself with the facts.”

links to 5 helpful articles

1. Why Worship Services are So Boring by Mike Glenn [essential reading]

“They’re bored. I know that. Here’s what else I know – It’s not my fault. And why isn’t it my fault? Aren’t I the one who’s in charge of worship? No, I’m not.”

2. Refugee Politics and a Tale of Two Thanksgivings [essential reading; how quickly we forget … and how slowly we repent]

“One national Gallup poll conducted in May 1975, just one month after the fall of Saigon, found that only 36 per cent of Americans surveyed favored the resettlement of Southeast Asian refugees; 54 per cent of Americans surveyed opposed it. … Even a full decade after the end of the Vietnam War, a plurality of Americans believed that the United States had accepted too many refugees.”

3. How religious groups voted in the midterm elections

“White evangelical or born-again Christians backed Republican candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives at about the same rate they did in 2014.”

4. Let Your Internet Yes Be Your Real-Life Yes: The Problem with Online Persona

“The persona allows us to say and do whatever it is our desired audience desires, whatever it takes in fact to maintain the persona and — fingers crossed — turn the persona into a brand. Meanwhile, the person shrinks, and his or her soul along with it.”

5. Homelessness, Step by Step

“… homelessness step by step through the eyes of several families, over the final months of last year.”

links to 5 helpful articles

1. What is the Gospel? [essential reading]

“Christ crucified for sinners is the divine ‘plan’ of salvation.”

2. The Courage and Folly of a War That Left Indelible Scars

“Seconds before an armistice formally ended World War I on Nov. 11, 1918, Pvt. Henry Nicholas Gunther, an American soldier from Baltimore, mounted a final, one-man charge against a German machine-gun nest in northeastern France. The German gunners … tried to wave him away, but he ran on, only to perish in a burst of heavy automatic fire — the last soldier of any nationality to die in the conflict — at 10.59 a.m. local time. One minute later, under the terms of an armistice signed about six hours earlier, the so-called Great War, the ‘war to end all wars,’ was over, and the world was an altered place.”

3. If There’s No Church Growth Guarantee, Does It Even Matter What We Do?

“What matters is not how many people are sitting in our building on a Sunday, but how well they’re living on mission as a result of having been with us.”

4. Love Your Political Frenemies

“I still ache over the anguish of some and the bigotry of others, but this prayer discipline has chipped away at the parts of me tempted to reduce, write off, or wage war on some of those at the table. It has helped me surrender my personal agenda to Christ’s agenda—quite distinct from promoting my own agenda in the name of Christ. Prayer has helped me become better at discerning when to speak and when to be silent, what I should say and how I should say it. It has enabled me to break free of the tribal patterns of the world.”

5. In 1868, Two Nations Made a Treaty, the U.S. Broke It and Plains Indian Tribes are Still Seeking Justice

“… when gold was found in the Black Hills, the United States reneged on the agreement, redrawing the boundaries of the treaty, and confining the Sioux people — traditionally nomadic hunters — to a farming lifestyle on the reservation. It was a blatant abrogation that has been at the center of legal debate ever since.”

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.”

quote: on elections & temptations

Nine Election-Year Temptations

1. To try to use God as an instrument for achieving our own ends rather than humbly serving God as instruments for fulfilling his purposes.

2. To offer simplistic nostrums for problems that are extremely complex and for issues that are inescapably ambiguous.

3. To argue that only one position on a multifaceted matter is biblically-mandated, when actually there may be several viable approaches.

4. To equate personal piety with legislative and administrative competence, refusing to admit that spirituality is not the same as statecraft.

5. To identify our insights and programs with the truth and will of God – absolutizing the relative, dogmatically declaring, ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ as if we knew exactly the divine mind – and refusing to admit that the policies we advocate for healing society’s ills are at best the fallible prescriptions of finite minds.

6. To refuse to compromise, even on matters that do not involve moral principles, forgetting that politics, as the art of doing the possible, requires give and take.

7. To forget that our country is not a covenant nation standing in a unique relationship to God, but a pluralistic, secular society where justice for all faiths must be maintained.

8. To fall back on sub-Christian means to achieve our ends: forsaking the claims of honesty, fairness, and courtesy; scathingly caricaturing an opponent; failing to state a rival policy position accurately and fully; stereotyping a person who disagrees with us; employing questionable fund-raising techniques.

9. To believe the siren of voices of demagogues and fanatics, not critically analyzing deceptive rhetoric.”

Vernon Grounds