links: this went thru my mind

Here are links to five articles I consider interesting and helpful for thought.

American history, memory, myth & religion: Why 1940s America Wasn’t as Religious as You Think — the Rise and Fall of American Religion

“It’s common for people to believe that religion was always more vibrant in the past. Earlier generations were always more religious than we are, right? Not always. Religiosity can rise and fall just like other things do over time. In fact, America of the 1940s was about as religious as America today.”

Bethlehem, nativity scenes & the birth of Jesus: Bethlehem – the Manger and the Inn

“What actually did a stable look like in the time of Christ?”

Church shopping: ‘It Meets My Needs’ and Other Bad Reasons for Choosing a Church

“If you’re like most, a day is coming when you too will be on the search for a new church to call home. When that day comes, you may want to think twice before using these all-too-common reasons for making your choice.”

God, love, punishment & suffering: Did God Love the Egyptians?

“Did God love the Egyptians when he struck Egypt with plagues? In the larger biblical narrative, the answer is obviously yes. The prophet Isaiah later prophesies about judgments on Egypt (Isa 19:1-17, 22; akin to judgments he also prophesies against Israel); as a result, Egyptians will turn to God and they will become part of God’s people alongside Israel (19:18-25). In the law of Moses, Israelites are forbidden to despise Egyptians, because Israel’s ancestors found refuge in Egypt (Deut 23:7).”

Judging: Fellowship & Judgment

“‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.’ (Luke 6:37) These instructions are more specific iterations of the golden rule (Matthew 7:12), if you think about it.”

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.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Aging: 7 Keys to Aging Well

“No one wants to be that grumpy old man who is always complaining and no one wants to talk to. We want to age well. We want to age gracefully. Aging well is not something that just happens. It is something we must commit to, preferably at a young age.”

Bible interpretation & the OT: Dividing The Word

“We definitely need to know how to correctly handle the Word of God. … But we don’t need to divide the Word, not if it means neglecting inspired words of God.”

Culture, Miley Cyrus, MTV, sexuality & the VMAs: * What We Should Be Talking About When We Talk About Miley Cyrus; * Jesus Loves Miley Cyrus; * Sorry, Miley; * Miley Cyrus, the VMAs, Sex, and Moral Outrage

* “Don’t just stand there pointing out sin, obvious, and dangerous. Get involved. Fight. Help.”

* ” Part of me hates even acknowledging this event by writing about it—we’re giving MTV and Miley exactly what they want. But when people are talking, they’re also listening, and it’s important to think through what our response communicates about who we are. As Christians, when confronted with something offensive, we often condemn it on instinct. We want to make sure everyone knows how strongly we disagree, how completely we disapprove, how far we want to distance ourselves from such behavior. … but if all we do is shame Miley—a 20-year-old girl who grew up extremely privileged, extremely sheltered, and extremely publicly and is now in the process of discovering her adult identity—for her behavior, and bemoan one more nail in the coffin of this world, what are we communicating about a God who loves sinners and offers hope not just from them but to them?”

* “Adults are supposed to protect young people. Adults are supposed to refuse to treat young people like little gods, put them on pedestals, and parade them on stages. But adults do it, anyway, and our culture is just dumb, and just numb, enough to act like it’s perfectly normal. Turns out, as we’ve always known, celebrity messes with people’s heads, particularly the young. … Kids don’t need more kids. They know plenty of them. Kids need adults, actual adults, adults adult enough to reject a culture that is so bored, so dead, that it can only feel alive if given one more jolt, one more shock. And it’s hard to shock, anymore, but Miley hit that mark.”

* “If we are honest, we will admit that Miley isn’t much different than the rest of us. Whether positive or negative, we all crave attention, which is exactly what Miley is getting from us right now. Here we see that scandals are always relational and we are each responsible for our role in them: They create a co-dependent relationship between the offender and the offended. Miley needs our attention and we need her scandals to feel morally superior. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. I hope that Miley and Robin will take responsibility for their actions, but we all need to take responsibility for a culture that breeds these kinds of scandals.”

Culture, demographics, race & segregation: Racial Segregation in America

“The map displays the population distribution, using the 2010 census data, of every person in America broken down by ethnicity. The map has 308,745,538 dots, each representing a single person. Caucasians are blue dots, African-Americans are green dots, Hispanics are orange dots, Asians are red dots, and other groups are brown dots. From a bird’s eye view this is what America looks like …”

Gossip: The End of Gossip [required reading]

“Leadership is relational. Plans and programs shrivel compared to the relationships you create, nurture, or tolerate. Organizations are only as strong as the relationships that hold them together. Gossip weakens and destroys relationships. Gossip is about power. Those without power, gossip to get power. Manipulation, twisting truths, and speculation are symptoms of feeling powerless.”

I Have a Dream, March on Washington, MLK, politics & racism: * Has Dr. King’s Dream Come True?; * Something Was Missing From The March On Washington Anniversary [required reading]

* “For many, Dr. King’s dream has come true. Unfortunately for many more, the dream has not come true. …  May we be a people who rise up and carry on Dr. King’s dream and make those crooked places straight for the glory of the Lord and the good of His people. All His people.”

* “…  the absence of any prominent past or present Republican official in a speaking role at the commemoration …

“So instead of a bipartisan celebration of one of the 20th century’s greatest speeches and one of the most significant demonstrations in U.S. history, the event sometimes took on the feel of a Democratic National Convention. It seemed like just one more stop on the polarization express.”

Gospel, justice & mercy: A Better Story: How Our Understanding of Justice is Radically Re-defined by the Gospel [essential reading]

“The tragic irony is that inflicting violence and harm in the name of justice does not in fact stop violence at all; it perpetuates it.”

Introverts: 23 Signs You’re Secretly An Introvert [apparently someone took a long stroll around the inside of my head, took a lot of pictures along the way, and then, summarizing their observations, wrote this article about me, because except for #11 and #17, they ID’ed me perfectly]

“Think you can spot an introvert in a crowd? Think again. … ‘Introversion is a basic temperament, so the social aspect — which is what people focus on — is really a small part of being an introvert,’ Dr. Marti Olsen Laney, psychotherapist and author of The Introvert Advantage, said in a Mensa discussion. ‘It affects everything in your life.'”

Narcissism & self: Being True to Yourself is Living a Lie [essential reading]

“Disney doctrine can be summed up in a simple phrase: Be true to yourself. If you live according to this maxim, all your dreams will come true. … Now, I’m not a Disney hater, and I enjoy watching good movies with my kids and passing on these memorable stories. Still, there are two assumptions behind the Disney formula that we ought to be aware of: * You are what you feel. * Embrace what you feel no matter what others say. …

“Here’s where Christianity opposes the ‘follow your heart’ mentality of much of the Western world. … The truly courageous are those who crucify the self the world tells us to be true to. And then we are raised with Christ to become the person God always intended us to be.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Bible classes, children & Sunday School: I Wonder If Sunday School Is Destroying Our Kids

“Here is how we destroy the gospel message. Look at almost any Sunday school curriculum. You’ll find …”

Church membership: I Am a Church Member by Thom Rainer

“I will be a functioning church member: The church is a unified body made up of many parts. All parts must function in their role or the church becomes weak. I will be a unifying church member: Unity is every church members’ responsibility. Gossip and unforgiveness break down unity. I will not let my church be about my preferences and desires: Church membership is about servanthood. I will pray for my church leaders: Without ongoing prayer for leaders by church members, our churches will not be healthy. I will lead my family to be healthy church members: Show your children and spouse how to love the church unconditionally. I will treasure church membership as a gift: When we view membership as a gift, our sense of entitlement fades.”

Culture & society: How the Last Decade Changed American Life

“One of the greatest self-perception changes over the past decade is in how Americans see themselves in relation to others. For all the technological advances in the past decade, the desire for human connectedness remains. Ten years ago, slightly over one out of 10 Americans self-identified as lonely. Today, that number has doubled—a paradoxical reality in the full swing of the social media age.”

Israel & Palestine: What God May Be Up to In the Land of the Bible

“Regarding day-to-day life in Israel and the West Bank …”

Ministry: Ministry Fence Posts (parts 1 & 2)

“Without properly set and upheld boundaries, individuals will more likely experience exhaustion of both body and spirit.”

this went thru my mind

 

Affliction, faith, loss, pain, & suffering: There Really Is A Reason – 12 Benefits Of Afflictions

“God doesn’t afflict us or allow us to be afflicted for no reason. … in God’s plan, afflictions have great benefit to us, as painful as they are at times.  If we keep these benefits in mind when we suffer, they can help us endure joyfully.”

Archaeology: Roads of Arabia Exhibition: Update

“Here is the schedule for upcoming shows of the exhibition … The Museum of Fine Arts – Houston, TX – December 22, 2013 – March 9, 2014.”

Busyness & leadership: Busy is Killing Leadership

“If you’re not careful busyness will quietly take over your life without you even being aware of it.”

Children & Uganda: Launching Reunite Uganda in the US! [essential reading; the work of one of MoSt Church’s own: Darby Priest]

“Help us get Ugandan children out of orphanages and back to their families.”

Church, fear, ministry & the work of God: Francis Chan: Are You ‘Protecting’ Your Church from a Movement of God?  [10 min. video clip; required viewing]

“… it blew my mind that an older man would come alongside of me and believe in me.”

Church & intergenerational ministry: Congregations as Families of Faith: Beyond Age-Level Ministries

“…  research has continued to show that intergenerational relationships are like glue that makes faith sticky for young people. Age-level ministries are still important to create a community of peers for children, youth, and adults to belong to. But if we hope to make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world, then we must develop intergenerational ministries that model the faith for our children and youth, and support our families as they seek to follow Christ. The research tells us that we need to be doing church differently.”

Communication, culture, demographics, social media, & society: Just Who Uses Social Media? A Demographic Breakdown

“You think you know social? How about who uses it? Well, you might not know it as well as you would have guessed. A new study from the Pew Research Center and Docstoc shed some light on just who uses social and on what platforms. Some of the findings seem in line with what you would probably guess, but others were surprising.”

Distribution of wealth: A Rise in Wealth for the Wealthy; Declines for the Lower 93%

“During the first two years of the nation’s economic recovery, the mean net worth of households in the upper 7% of the wealth distribution rose by an estimated 28%, while the mean net worth of households in the lower 93% dropped by 4%, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of newly released Census Bureau data.”

Employment, faith, jobs, & work: Why Tim Keller Wants You to Stay in That Job You Hate

“‘I hate my job. It’s not just like I don’t have a lot of power—I really can’t stand what I have to do every day.’ How would you pastor someone in that situation?”

Expectations & introverts: 7 False Assumptions Made About Introverts by Ron Edmonson

“There are a lot of false assumptions made when someone is introverted. Here are 7 false assumptions made of me as an introvert …”

Church finances, collection, contribution, electronic giving, & offering: What the Decline in Check Writing Will Mean for Your Church

“If we do not change our process for collecting the offering we will see our offerings decline. The reason is simple. The harder we make it for people to give the less likely they will give.”

Ego, Facebook, photography, pride, & vanity: Snap Judgments: Our Societal Obsession With Taking Pictures [required reading]

“Each day, we upload more than 5.2 million photos to Instragram and 100 million to Facebook, with no signs of slowing down our snapping and sharing. … In a sense, this is totally natural. Photographs speak to the age-old custom of physically marking spaces and moments in thanksgiving and remembrance. … The danger of using photos as markers is that images appeal to our vanity. We become quickly obsessed with accumulating experiences, capturing them in photos, and publicly displaying our photos as trophies. If we aren’t careful, our Facebook pages and blogs can become trophy cases of our own accomplishments: Me, on a church mission trip, lumped in with a group of smiling ethnic children.”

Grace: God at Work: Common Grace by Jonathan Storment [required reading]

“The bad guy in the Christian story isn’t someone, it’s the broken reality that Jesus calls sin. And because of common grace we can see God working through people outside of our tribe, our immediate community, or our faith. We can see the image of God in everyone.”

Hope, immigration, mercy, North Korea, pain, & suffering: Hyeonseo Lee: My Escape from North Korea [12 min. video clip; required viewing]

“… one day, in 1995, my Mom brought home a letter from a coworker’s sister. It read, ‘When you read this, all five family members will not exist in this world, because we haven’t eaten in the past two weeks. We are lying on the floor together, and our bodies are so week, we are ready to die.'”

Ministry, relationships, & time management: How Does a Pastor Interact With Those Who Seek to Monopolize His Time on Sunday?

“It is one of the great dilemmas every Sunday for the pastor.  Who do I speak with and for how long?  Most pastors stand at a doorway after the morning service to greet those who are leaving.  Others stay down front inviting folks to come and speak with the pastor to ask questions about the sermon.  It is a constant juggling match that most pastors feel they fail at most of the time. What adds to the madness is the person who aggressively hunts the pastor down after the service and feels entitled to his undivided attention for a long time.”

Worship: Your Worship Service is B-O-R-I-N-G!

“There’s a reason your church isn’t more creative. … most churches are boring because of The Olive Garden Problem.”

Americanism, culture, & politics: A Political Rant Born From a Deeper Theological Conviction than “Americanism”

“I’ve seen several posts on social media advocating a picture as a “way forward” in terms of political policy. It looks like this … What I want to do is interact with these ideas as a Christian who takes Scripture seriously and who is more committed to the kingdom of God than to a specific country/government. I intend to provide a ‘play by play’ through each of the statements …”

 

this went thru my mind

 

Chronic illness & encouragement: Talking to Someone With a Chronic Illness

“Here are some tips to keep in mind when talking to a friend living with an invisible illness.”

Comments & words: Hurtado’s Rules for Fruitful Comments on Blogs

“… with two years experience at this … I want to set some ground-rules …”

Culture: Average US Neighborhood [required reading]

“The above Infographic … depicts statistics of the average American neighborhood of 100 people.”

Culture, idolatry & the United States: America’s Two Golden Calves by Paul Smith [required reading]

“Militarism and capitalism. The two golden calves of Americanism. If you doubt my analysis, simply try to remove one or both of these idols from any political campaign. See how far you get.”

Image of God: So What Does the Image Mean? by Marc Cortez

“…  the image is basically about ‘representation.’ In other words, human beings represent God because (for some reason) he’s decided to manifest his glorious presence in creation through us.”

Leadership: 20 Commitments that Enhance Leadership by Dan Rockwell

“Commitments are decisions you don’t reconsider. Top leadership commitments include …”

30 days with the Human One (8)

 

Is Jesus just a bit too “common” for you? Is the truly Human One too human for your taste?

Don’t answer too quickly.

Jesus once said:

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon.” Yet the Human One came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunk, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” But wisdom is proved to be right by her works. (Matthew 11:18-19 CEB)

Jesus refers to himself as “the Human One” and with whom, we might ask, did he spend his humanity? Apparently he spent enough time with “tax collectors and sinners” that such got noticed and got tagged for it. Understand who we’re talking about Jesus hanging with here. The despised of society. The cultural outcasts. The misfits and square pegs.

I’ve been a Christian now since my teen years. Thirty-six years this coming February to be exact. What that means is that the overwhelming majority of my connections in life are with fellow long-time Christians. I have to go out of my way, far from my comfort zone, to spend any significant time with “tax collectors and sinners.”

Do I? Do you?

News flash: the Human One still hangs with the “tax collectors and sinners” today. And if I want to spend time with the Human One, I simply must spend some time with the “tax collectors and sinners.”

Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus may your common love for all, uncommonly good, flow freely through me to others. All others, I pray. Amen.