links: this went thru my mind

Here are links to five items I consider to be interesting and helpful.

Being wrong, fallibility, humility, mistakes & pride: On Being Wrong [18 min. TED talk video]

“Most of us will do anything to avoid being wrong. But what if we’re wrong about that? ‘Wrongologist’ Kathryn Schulz makes a compelling case for not just admitting but embracing our fallibility.”

Birth of Christ & Christmas: The Nonsense of Christmas (parts 1, 2 & 3) by Ben Witherington

“Risking the possibility that I might be called Scrooge, I am going to muster up my courage and hope that it might be useful to do some demythologizing of Christmas.”

Deception, lies & torture: Senate Torture Report Faults C.I.A. for Brutality and Deceit

“In exhaustive detail, the report gives a macabre accounting of some of the grisliest techniques that the C.I.A. used to torture and imprison terrorism suspects. … The torture of prisoners at times was so extreme that some C.I.A. personnel tried to put a halt to the techniques, but were told by senior agency officials to continue the interrogation sessions.”

Morality & sin: Sin is Not a Moral Problem [essential reading]

“The habits of our culture are to think of sin in moral terms. It is simple, takes very little effort, and agrees with what everyone around you thinks. But it is theologically incorrect. … the capture of the Church’s theology by moralism is a true captivity and not an expression of the Orthodox mind.

“So how do we think of right and wrong, of spiritual growth, of salvation itself if sin is not a moral problem? We do not ignore our false choices and disordered passions (habits of behavior). But we see them as symptoms, as manifestations of a deeper process at work. The smell of a corpse is not the real problem and treating the smell is not at all the same thing as resurrection.

“The work of Christ is the work of resurrection. Our life in Christ is not a matter of moral improvement – it is life from the dead. We are buried into His death – and it is a real death – complete with all that death means. But His death was not unto corruption. He destroyed corruption. Our Baptism into Christ’s death is a Baptism into incorruption, the healing of the fundamental break in our communion with God.”

Unchurched & the United States: 10 Facts About America’s Churchless

“In the past decade, more people in the U.S. have become churchless than live in Australia or Canada. … The vast majority of America’s churchless have attended a church. … Unchurched adults are more likely to be white.”

links: this went thru my mind

Divorce: The Divorce Surge is Over, But the Myth Lives On

“Despite hand-wringing about the institution of marriage, marriages in this country are stronger today than they have been in a long time. The divorce rate peaked in the 1970s and early 1980s and has been declining for the three decades since. About 70 percent of marriages that began in the 1990s reached their 15th anniversary (excluding those in which a spouse died), up from about 65 percent of those that began in the 1970s and 1980s. Those who married in the 2000s are so far divorcing at even lower rates. If current trends continue, nearly two-thirds of marriages will never involve a divorce …”

Economics, the middle class & wages: This is Why the Middle Class Can’t Get Ahead

“When’s the last time you worked overtime? How about the last time you worked overtime and got paid for it? If you’re in the middle class, probably not recently. Only Americans who make less than $23,660 a year are automatically eligible for time-and-a-half pay after working 40 hours a week. Today, that’s only 11 percent of salaried workers. It didn’t used to be this way …”

Noise, quiet & silence: We Need More Silence in Our Lives [essential reading]

“Face it. We are afraid of what will happen if we turn off all the noise.”

Pride, self & self-righteousness: Our Moral Compass Is Turned Toward Self-Righteousness [essential reading]

“…  what if we’re so used to seeing self-righteousness on the right that we’re blinded to the self-righteousness of the left? And what if we are so good at smelling self-righteousness in others that we miss the stench coming from ourselves?”

Youth ministry: Youth Ministry and Culture

“The Youth Ministry Initiative recently posted a series of videos from their Summer of Study program. The Center’s Skip Masback interviews participating scholars on the topic of culture and youth ministry.”

it’s a good day not to gloat

gloat (glōt); verb; to feel or express great, often malicious, pleasure or self-satisfaction.

  • Did your guy or gal win in the elections yesterday?
  • Did you get your way with the results from yesterday’s voting?
  • Did that co-worker who has been talkin’ political smack for weeks get squashed by the stats last night?
  • Do you feel a hint of self-righteous vindication and self-satisfaction welling up?
  • Do you have a bit of an ache within you for the coming weeks to pass quickly so you can watch those you helped lift up get to work their will?

Then remember: this verse could very well be the passage of Scripture you need most today and could be the one most immediately relevant to your living life as God would have it:

“You should not gloat over your brother in the day of his misfortune … nor boast so much in the day of their trouble.” (Obadiah 12)

Go and see what this means. For it is certainly the way of our Lord for us.

“… you should treat people in the same way that you want people to treat you; this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7.12)

guest post: it is better that he say


The following is a guest post by a good friend and brother of mine, Brock Paulk, who serves as the preaching minister with the Heritage Church of Christ in Keller, TX. Enjoy!

These are also proverbs of Solomon, copied by the men of Hezekiah, king of Judah: It is the glory of God to hide something and the glory of kings to discover something. Like the high heavens and the depths of the earth, so the mind of a king is unsearchable. Remove the dross from the silver, and a vessel will come out for the refiner. Remove the wicked from the king’s presence, and his throne will be established in righteousness. Don’t exalt yourself in the presence of the king, or stand in the place of important people, because it is better that he say to you, “Come up here” than to be demoted before a ruler. (Proverbs 25.1-7)

Have you ever been asked to describe your most embarrassing moment? It’s not a question you’re likely eager to answer in front of people you don’t know well.

We’ve all had moments we wish we could take back. Maybe you had a wardrobe malfunction, or maybe one of your kids repeated something in public that you wish they hadn’t heard you say at home. When I was in college helping to produce a welcome-to-campus event for the incoming freshman class, I ungracefully tripped, running at full speed, in front of 1500 new students and many of my school friends. Some impression I made!

It’s embarrassing to think about how much effort most of us go through to avoid being embarrassed, isn’t it? I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I’m overly-compulsive about double-checking my pants zipper before I go on stage at our church to preach or make an announcement. In our culture, a lot of energy and money is spent on primping, grooming, trimming, preparing, and concealing in order to avoid embarrassment.

So the wisdom presented in Proverbs 25:1-7 seems practical, even for those of us to don’t often find ourselves in the presence of “royalty.” The passage reminds us – kings are ordained leaders, tasked with seeking Godly wisdom to direct the affairs of the kingdom in righteousness. And when you appear before the king and choose where to stand in the royal court, remember the relative importance of your position and choose accordingly so that you won’t be embarrassed.

… it is better that he say to you, “Come up here,” than to be demoted before a ruler.

Demotion is embarrassing. Demotion takes the wind out of your sails…it makes you look around and see who’s watching in the hopes that nobody else noticed.

When the opinion that matters is that of the earthly king, whose glory is different than God’s (v.1), a servant can garner promotion simply by standing in a strategic place.

But honor looks different for a follower of Christ.

After reading Proverbs 25:1-7, it’s an easy jump to think about Jesus’ instruction from Luke 14:7-14. Jesus offers similar wisdom here – when you’re invited to a feast, remember your position and choose your seat accordingly so that you won’t be embarrassed.

… go and sit in the least important place. When your host approaches you, he will say, ‘Friend, move up here to a better seat.’ Then you will be honored …

Of course, the temptation is to use the advice from these two passages to try to work the system, intentionally and visibly demoting ourselves in an attempt to garner compliments and accolades.

But Jesus takes a longer view into the future. When he says, “those who humble themselves will be exalted,” he’s not just explaining how to get a better dinner seat. Jesus is concerned with teaching his servants not to pursue rewards from humans, but to pursue honor “at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:14)

In God’s economy, it’s not the humble seat that deserves honor, but the humble heart. When the opinion that matters is that of our Heavenly Father, we please him by emptying ourselves, emptying ourselves and becoming obedient (Philippians 2:6-8), just like Jesus.

The question for us becomes, “Which king do we serve?” If it’s the honor of humans that we desire, we can manipulate our way to promotion. If it’s the honor of the Kings of kings, we must give our honor away.