links: this went thru my mind

Expectations, preaching & sermons: * Help! I Can’t Find a Church in My Area Where the Sermons Have Any Depth!; * What Not to Expect from Sermons in Your Church

“In my first post in response to this question, I described what I thought was reasonable and fair for a person to expect from the sermons in their local church: that they be original (not pulled off the Internet and dressed up with a bit of local color), biblical (based on a passage carefully worked through), coherent, and challenging.  Now let me share some thoughts about what a person shouldn’t necessarily expect from the sermons in their church, in the hopes that this will help you be more open to some particular churches near you than you might be otherwise.”

Journaling: Why You Should Keep a Journal (and How to Start Yours)

“Here’s why you might want to sit down regularly to jot down your thoughts.”

Kingdom: The Bible Term Most Misused by Christians Today: An Interview With Scot McKnight

“The people of God living under God as king, both in his saving and governing relations, by embodying and obeying the king’s will in the place God calls them to live.”

Parenting & photography: 6 Photography Projects to do With Your Kids

“If you’re looking for a few ideas to begin involving your kids and family in photography more, here are six creative photography projects and ideas to get you started.”

Social media: Using Social Media as a Christ Follower: One Principle and Three Questions

“Take the enjoyment, leave the addiction. Take the communication, leave the isolation. Take the inspiration and leave the jealously.”

links: this went thru my mind


Church decline: To the Dying Church: Maybe Death Is a Blessing

“How very God-like of God to make death the beginning of a blessing.”

Congregational singing, corporate worship, singing & song-leading: The Church Singing

“Why We Sing … Five Qualities of a Congregational Song … Reflections on “What Can Miserable Christians Sing?” … My Congregation Barely Sings; How Can I Help? … Rediscovering Jesus’ Hymnbook.”

Gospel, holy kiss, hospitality & table fellowship: Embodying the Gospel: Two Exemplary Practices

“Against those contemporary patterns of thought that segregate thinking and doing, or “theory” and “practice,” this essay urges that Scripture works with a more integrated and communal understanding of human life, and thus of Christian faith.”

Generations & Millenials: Millennials in Adulthood [required reading]

“The Millennial generation is forging a distinctive path into adulthood. Now ranging in age from 18 to 331, they are relatively unattached to organized politics and religion, linked by social media, burdened by debt, distrustful of people, in no rush to marry— and optimistic about the future. They are also America’s most racially diverse generation. In all of these dimensions, they are different from today’s older generations. And in many, they are also different from older adults back when they were the age Millennials are now.”

One another & unity: The Centrality of the “One Another” Passages for Christian Unity

“This is more than just a list of more things to do. This is about how we see others and our own obligation to be supportive of those around us. This is a call away from self and pride to make a difference in the lives of those around us. If Christian embraced this kind of vision for people and way of life…I am convinced we would make a huge impact on the world.”

Jesus, nonviolence & violence: Jesus Said, “Buy a Sword.” What Did He Mean?

“…  justifying the use of violence by citing this passage [Luke 22.35-38] is as unwarranted as citing the temple cleansing passage to this effect.”

Preaching, sermons & thinking: 2 Big Problems with Overly Simple Sermons [essential reading]

“Here’s the problem: sometimes reality is more complex than our desire for simplicity allows. … When simplicity becomes king, the pulpit is often its kingdom.  I think too many preachers have taken Einstein’s quote to heart. They’ve heard too often that good communication must be simple. So they force everything into that mold, talking about complex issues like poverty, suffering, ethics, and even the gospel, as though these were relatively simple and easy to understand. They’re not, and pretending otherwise sets us up for one of two problems (probably both): we create simpletons [and] we create despisers.

Respect: When You Fail to Show Respect

“I am not suggesting that people needed to be ‘nicer.’ The problem runs far deeper than this.”

this went thru my mind


Children, parenting & technology: * The Bible App for Kids [essential notice; by the Makers of YouVersion]; * 10 Social Networks You Didn’t Know Kids are Using

* “Help your kids fall in love with God’s word.”

* “Hats off to you for paying attention to what your kids are doing online and on their phones …”

Culture & the U.S.: Forget The 50 States; The U.S. Is Really 11 Nations, Author Says

“… Colin Woodard … has studied American voting patterns, demographics and public opinion polls going back to the days of the first settlers, and says that his research shows America is really made up of 11 different nations.”

Gifts & giving: The Gift of Not Giving a Thing [required reading]

“What if nobody gave my boys presents anymore? What if we only gave GIFTS.”

Healthcare: Some Thoughts About the Affordable Care Act

“There is a huge–HUGE–gap in our safety net because health insurance is tied to full-time employment. Too many employers can game the system by hiring people just under full-time, making American workers work two jobs without getting insurance (or related benefits) from either employer. To say nothing of those who aren’t employed or who would like to get private insurance but have preexisting conditions. The fact that you have to go through insurance companies to get healthcare in American is hugely problematic. Too many people are left out of the system. It needs to get fixed.”

Marriage: Are These Enemies of Marriage in Your House?

“Run from these enemies.”

Ministry & parenting: Prodigal Pastor Kids: Fact or Fiction?

“… where does this stereotype of the prodigal pastor kid come from?”

Preaching: * The Weekly Emotional Process of Sermon Preparation … [Amen!]; * When Good Pastors Preach Boring Sermons

* “It goes something like this …”

* “Instead of becoming dissatisfied with our churches and forsaking them to listen to podcasts of our favorite “celebrity” preachers, I would like to suggest a couple of thoughts to consider.”

Simplicity: Simple Living. The Earlier, the Better. [required reading]

“When I was 33 years old, we began giving away all the possessions in our lives that were not absolutely essential to our purpose and goals. Eventually, our family removed over 60% of our earthly possessions. And we couldn’t be happier. We found more time, money, and energy to pursue the things in life most valuable to us: faith, family, and friends. We discovered far greater fulfillment in life pursuing our passions than we had ever discovered pursuing possessions. And now, my only regret is that we didn’t do it sooner—that we wasted so much time, so many years, and so many resources.”

links: this went thru my mind


Books & reading: Books to Have and to Hold

“This may seem like a trivial difference, but that’s not how it feels.”

Brokenness, healing, trauma & understanding: Understanding Trauma – How We Treat the Broken Among Us

“To be broken means that we lack the strength or capacity to manage our circumstances. It means we are truly helpless in the light of the challenges we face. All of us experience this state at one time or another, but the traumatized and mentally ill face it every day.”

Empathy, leadership & power: When Power Goes To Your Head, It May Shut Out Your Heart [required reading]

“Power fundamentally changes how the brain operates.”

End of an era: A Farewell, and Thanks

“It gives me no pleasure to write this, but I am no longer going to be publishing the e-zine New Wineskins. As both a print magazine and later an online e-zine, New Wineskins has had a colorful history over the last 20+ years, but I can no longer continue to publish it.”

Expectations & people: You Get What You Expect [essential reading]

“If we expect something good, it has a way of showing up. If we expect something bad, it too has a way of showing up.”

Grammar & writing: En Dash, Em Dash: What Are They and How To Use Them [really?; we need three different kinds of dashes?]

“What are these dashes you speak of?”

Preaching & sermons: * Sermons are Not for Liking [essential reading]; * Clarification on My Comments About Preaching and Change

* “Sermons are not for liking. There are at least two reasons for this: it dishonors preaching and it dishonors the preacher.”

* “… change in shared practices, involves more than changing our minds about things. This requires deeper, cultural change.”

this went thru my mind


Baytown & Mont Belvieu: Chambers Town Center

A look at the plan for the the construction of Chambers Town Center near the intersection of I-10 & Hwy. 146 in Baytown, TX.

Church, idolatry & ministry: When Church Becomes an Idol

“… what does this look like when church itself is the ‘idol’ a pastor is venerating?”

Criticism, listening, preaching, respect, selective hearing & sermons: Sick of Sermons [required reading]

“Chronic critique of sermons is an illness. …  Some sufferers have lived with this condition for so long that they have found ways to manage it: committing to ministries that pull them out of the sermon … venting … or using the sermon-time for completely unrelated spiritual exercises. The long-term prognosis is grave: spiritual malnourishment. The table that God sets for us has two parts, Word and Sacrament, and Christ is the bread of both. But we only get what we’re willing to receive. How can we fight this illness that has us always excusing ourselves from the table during the first course and frequently ruining the appetite of others? I recommend aggressive treatment.”

Discouragement, faith, humility, passion, perseverance, & zeal: Maintaining a Holy Fire When You Feel More Like an Unholy Fizzle

“… because we live in Christ we must wait for him to do the work. This is nearly a mockery to the flesh-driven personality. God, through the Spirit, opens doors and closes others. My exhilaration is when He opens them. My frustration is when none open and I impatiently knock harder.

“How do we maintain a holy fire when some days feel more like an unholy fizzle? Believe God works…and then wait on Him.”

Holiness, OMG, speech, respect & words: Is It OK for a Christian to Drop OMG’s?

“Remember, it is the trademark for the unbeliever to take God’s name in vain …”

Inspiration & interpretation: The Inspiration of Scripture: 2 Timothy 3:16

“In short, I tend not to read 2 Tim 3:16a as an assertion about scripture, but as an identification of which writings the author is talking about.”

Modesty: Modesty: I Don’t Think it Means What You Think it Means

“And so biblical modesty isn’t about managing the sexual impulses of other people; it’s about cultivating humility, propriety and deference within ourselves.”

Parenting: Dear Parents With Young Children [essential reading]

“You are doing something really, really important. I know it’s not easy. I see you with your arms overflowing, and I know you came to church already tired. Parenting is tiring. Really tiring.

“I watch you bounce and sway trying to keep the baby quiet, juggling the infant car seat and the diaper bag as you find a seat. I see you wince as your child cries. I see you anxiously pull things out of your bag of tricks to try to quiet them.

“And I see you with your toddler and your preschooler. I watch you cringe when your little girl asks an innocent question in a voice that might not be an inside voice let alone a church whisper.  I hear the exasperation in your voice as you beg your child to just sit, to be quiet as you feel everyone’s eyes on you. Not everyone is looking, but I know it feels that way.

“I know you’re wondering, is this worth it? Why do I bother? I know you often leave church more exhausted than fulfilled. But what you are doing is so important.”

Reading: * Read Your Bible: But How? (Lectio Divina); * Americans’ Reading Habits Over Time

* “I’ve benefited from reading large portions of Scripture–whole narratives, books, and multiple chapters–in one sitting. I’ve also benefited immensely from slowing down and meditatively just reading a few verses at a time. Lectio Divina is a way of reading Scripture that encourages that. It’s reading, as many have said, for transformation and not just information. …

“It goes like this: * 1. Read: What does the passage say? 2. Pray: What is God saying to me through this passage?  (short phrase or single word) 3. Listen: How is God calling me to respond to what he’s saying? 4. Respond: What will I commit to God to do in response?”

* “… the percentage of Americans who read a printed book in the previous 12 months fell from 72% of the population in 2011 to 67% in 2012.”

this went thru my mind


Baptism, children & parenting: Baptism – When are Kids Ready? by Brandon Baker

“Every kid is different and I don’t believe there is a magic baptism age. But I think this is a good starting point for children in the church even if they aren’t asking about baptism.”

Bible interpretation: The Superman Verse – Phil. 4.13 and What It Does Not Mean by Ben Witherington [required reading]

“Here is a rendering of the verse in context. ‘I know a humbled state, and I know also surplus. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of how to be satisfied, even if hungry and being able also to do without. I am able/strong enough [to endure] all things in Him who empowers me.’ What Paul is saying is that no matter what his circumstances, God has given him the strength or ability to endure and be satisfied, even when he must do without, even when he must go hungry.”

Church & the Lord’s Supper: Picture of the Week: Pompeii, House of Sallust, Atrium by Seth M. Rodriquez [required reading]

“In 1 Corinthians 11:17-34, Paul describes an extremely dysfunctional church event. When the church gathered to observe the Lord’s Supper, there were divisions and factions (v. 18-19) due to the fact that people were not sharing food with those who were hungry and were eating before the others arrived (vv. 21, 33-34). What could have possessed them to act in such an unloving way during one of the holiest events in the life of their church?”

Facebook: Scary Facebook Setting You Have to Change Now! by Kim Komando

“All the person has to do is search for any mobile number using the site’s mobile search function. If you have your number on Facebook – or have the Facebook app on your phone – your name will pop up. … When the security researcher went public with this information, Facebook said it’s a feature, not a bug. That means it probably won’t be fixed.”

Humor: Fellowship Triage by Larry Carter

“I love this time when we roam around the auditorium looking for everyone we haven’t seen for a few days. We greet and grin, shake and howdy, and otherwise say ‘Hi’ to a whole bunch of people. There are some rules, though, some stages of the fellowship time. I call it triage. I determine, based on certain criteria, exactly how I’m going to approach each person during this sacred time [fellowship time].”

Money, personal finances & savings: The Conversation You’re Not Having, But Should Probably Start by Joshua Becker

“* 50% of Americans have less than one month of savings saved for emergencies. * One in four Americans has no savings at all. * More than 30% of households earning over $100K still live paycheck to paycheck. * Among indebted households, the average amount of credit card debt tops $15,000. * The average U.S. household debt is 136 percent of household income. * 57% of households do not have a budget. * Almost half of Americans die with less than $10,000 in assets. * In one survey, money more than sex, children or in-laws—was the most common conflict for American couples.”

Preaching: When You Preach a Lousy Sermon by Justin Buzzard

“… we must always remember that God doesn’t need a good sermon to do his work. I felt my sermon was terrible, not at all up to my standards, but I still preached the text/the gospel, I still got on base. And, God still used the sermon. That’s always amazing to me, to hear that people were still deeply helped by my lousy sermon.”

Work: “All-Consuming” Work, parts 1 & 2

“God says to us you don’t need more time to serve and worship me – you just need to realise that all time is for serving and worshipping me.”

50 things I once believed (1)


Would you care to engage in a simple exercise that’s a bit humiliating and humbling, all at the same time?

What? You’re not sure you want to go there? Not to worry. Rest assured you will profit from this experience if you’ll only approach it with honesty and absolute transparency, following it up with deep reflection and prayer.

Everyone on-board now? Good; let’s do it! Here’s the exercise:

Make a list of fifty things you once believed were true in regard to faith, but now no longer believe.

Yes, there are a few rules for this exercise. Here they are:

1. Reach back over the span of your entire life, not merely listing beliefs you’ve held recently.

2. List the beliefs you held that aren’t just “safe” to admit. Go for broke and let it all hang out. Who do you think you’ll surprise? God?

3. Don’t just string up “little fish” here. Put the big fish in the cooler, too.

4. Resist the urge to cull out the beliefs you held for only a relatively short period of time. If you firmly believed it, no matter for how long, it’s a candidate for the list.

Now since I try not to ever encourage you to do anything I wouldn’t be willing to first do myself, here’s my list of 50 things I once believed in regard to faith, but no longer believe, appearing here in no particular order.

(Man alive this is embarrassing, but hey, I promised you this would be humiliating! I did tell you I no longer believe these things, right?!)

1. The only way God’s Holy Spirit works in the life of a Christian is through the word of God.

2. It is forbidden by God for a Christian to ever divorce another Christian except for the reason of sexual adultery.

3. Warfare, while being a sad, lamentable state of affairs, is essentially a “non-religious issue” for being a Christian nation, we only pursue “just wars” and engage in war in such a way as God himself would unquestionably approve.

4. The only “real” English Bible translations are the KJV or ASV 1901.

5. To read or study the religious writings or messages of authors or speakers outside of the Churches of Christ is to pollute your mind and to endanger your soul.

6. It is my responsibility as a Christian to spend a significant portion of my time serving as something like a “brotherhood policeman,” watching for wrongdoers within my church heritage and publicly calling them out on their sin.

7. The Old Testament doesn’t have much of anything to offer to Christians today, having been replaced by the New Testament.

8. The Gospels are something akin to “secondary” literature compared to the importance of the Book of Acts and the epistles.

9. Audible prayer must be concluded with the statement of the phrase “in the name of Jesus;” just saying “Amen” won’t get the job done.

10. The totality of Christ’s church essentially consists of the folks who gather together on Sundays with a sign in the front of their building that reads “Church of Christ,” and only a small portion of them, to boot.

11. It is wrong to associate in any fashion, including prayer – except for the sake of attempting to make correction – with any religious teacher who is not a member of the Church of Christ.

12. The United States of America is “special” in the eyes of God compared to all other nations.

13. Virtually perfect attendance of church assemblies and stellar knowledge of the Bible are the two chief keys to becoming, and the true measure of, a faithful, growing Christian.

14. The acts I engage in during Sunday morning church assemblies are far more important to God than anything else I engage in during any of the other hours in a given week.

15. To die while in the act of sinning is a guaranteed ticket straight to hell, bar none.

16. A genuine Christian is to be about maximizing the number of Christian friends and acquaintances they have and minimizing the number of relationships they have with those who are not Christians.

17. All people who go to hell are literally, ceaselessly roasted alive in fire forever, tortured eternally by the decree of the living, loving God, be they Hitler or your golden-hearted, absolutely selfless, non-Christian neighbor.

18. Submitting to baptism for any reason other than expressly “for the forgiveness of sins” (or for any group of reasons and motivations that did not specifically include “the forgiveness of sins”) was most likely nothing more than getting wet and “doesn’t count.”

19. Everything depicted in the book of Revelation concerns the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

20. Christ’s true church had, for all practical purposes, ceased to exist between about 100 A.D. and 1800 A.D.

21. Every human being on planet earth had heard the gospel preached to them before the last of Christ’s apostles died.

22. Zero miracles have been worked in the world since the death of the last person upon which the apostles laid their hands.

23. The Roman Catholic Pope is the anti-Christ spoken of in John’s writings and the “man of lawlessness” mentioned by the apostle Paul.

24. Involvement in religious associations (such as a ministerial alliance or a church softball league) is a sign of serious compromise of Christian conviction.

25. It is wrong for a woman to pass a communion tray while standing up.

26. For a church to construct or own facilities for any purpose other than its own Bible classes, worship gatherings, and church meals is a serious misunderstanding of the purpose of the church.

27. Any view other than the days of creation (as mentioned in Genesis 1-2) being literal twenty-four periods of time is heresy.

28. It is wrong to contribute money to a church in any other fashion, or on any other day of the week, than by depositing it in the offering plate on a Sunday.

29. It is sinful for a Christian to engage in dancing of any kind in any context, just as it is wrong for a Christian to ever drink any alcohol at any time, period.

30. For a sermon to not include a direct appeal (or “invitation”) for those yet to believe to do so, to repent, and to submit to baptism, is wholly unacceptable.

31. The number of Bible verses a teacher or preacher quotes, or at least references by citation, is the second most important criteria by which the quality of a message is to be judged.

32. It is possible for all Christians everywhere to see all things alike in terms of faith.

33. Fasting is not a helpful spiritual discipline for Christians today and anyone who would suggest otherwise should be regarded with suspicion since “fasting is not a command of the New Testament.”

34. It is wrong for a Christian to wear jewelry or furnish their home with decorations depicting the cross.

35. It is wickedness for a Christian to happily listen to – much less directly participate in by singing along with – spiritual songs, psalms, hymns, or any other genre of music, that is accompanied by instrumental music.

36. The church of Christ and the kingdom of God are synonyms for the same thing, one not being anything more or less than the other.

37. It is simply not possible for anyone who has never even heard of Jesus Christ to have the slightest chance of salvation, God deliberately limiting any extension of his mercy only to those who have heard of his Son.

38. In all instances, the marriage of a Christian to someone who is not a Christian, is a marriage not fully recognized by God.

39. It is unoffensive for a nation’s patriotic symbols to be displayed in a house of worship.

40. Applause, the lifting up of hands, swaying or moving in rhythm with songs, or saying anything other than the word “Amen” – be it by man or woman, young or old – is to be avoided and frowned upon if you are a part of the audience in a worship gathering for such is unbecoming of worship offered to God.

41. Singing in a worship gathering other than congregational singing (be it a solo, a duet, a choir, etc.) is sin.

42. “The unforgivable sin” is suicide.

43. Providence is a fabrication of the mind, all human matters being solely, and strictly, the result of chance or choice.

44. God has never heard a prayer from someone he hasn’t already saved.

45. Going to a movie with a rating other than G or PG is a shameful sin, and even watching those with a rating of PG is suspect.

46. It is simply inconceivable to call yourself a Christian and vote any other way than straight-ticket Republican.

47. To remove life support, once begun and deemed necessary, is actually murder, in virtually any and all situations.

48. Heaven is a place with streets of real gold.

49. Virtually nothing is a matter subject to individual conscience for virtually all things are matters of faith (cf. #32 above ).

50. Grace is something best not talked about, for it is a “behind the scenes” teaching of Scripture, easily misunderstood, and not really relevant to everyday Christian living.

Well, by now you must either be thinking, “You’re mighty dumb, Dave!” or “What cult did you crawl out of, Smith?”

While I won’t try to argue the observation or the question, I will gladly share with you why I’m sharing this list with you … but, you’ll have to read tomorrow’s post to get it.

And I’m going to ask you to make your own list of things you used to believe in terms of faith before you read it. That’s right, you’ve got homework to do so go to it. If you hit a wall, ask someone who has known you a long time, and known you well. I’m sure they’ll help you remember a few things!