links to 10 items worth your time

1. Now Streaming: The Entire Catalogue of ‘Sesame Street’ Songs

“… new ‘Sesame Street’ music will soon be released on a consistent schedule, for the first time in more than two decades.”

2. I’ll Have Consequences

“… I have no magic formula for dealing with disobedient and unruly children, and certainly in a world where some children’s behavior has been malformed almost from the very start, we should not underplay the difficulties and frustrations parents face. But surely we also want to place the bond between parents and children within that circle of deeply personal relationships.”

3. Why you need a little resistance in your life

“We need the rain and the occasional storm.”

4. Why Did Early Christians Prefer the Codex to the Bookroll

“When we say ‘book’ today, we generally mean a tome of bound pages. Known as the ‘codex,’ this common book form has always (over the past two millennia, anyway) looked the same — like any book on your desk. While the origins of the codex are not sufficiently explained, evidence shows that the preserved early Christian manuscripts are more often codices (plural of codex) than the then-established bookrolls. Why?”

5. Science and Theology: Two Witnesses to Reality

“… we generally have it backwards in how we think the reasoning process works. We tend to think that we work out our conclusions through the process of reasoning about the topic. But the controlled studies show pretty clearly that most of the time we already have a conclusion based on our instincts and that our process of reasoning is employed to justify what we already think. And it’s not like the smarter you are, the more open you are to other possible conclusions. The higher your IQ, the better you are at producing reasons to support your views; you’re no more likely to change your views than people with lower IQs. This might be depressing to those who have an exalted view of the human intellect, but it sure explains the inability for rational discourse to move us closer together, even when the facts are overwhelmingly on one side.”

6. Archaeologists map centuries of history beneath world’s oldest cathedral

“So far, that data has helped create a 3D digital reconstruction of what the basilica would have looked like in the 4th century. And Haynes and his colleagues are also trying to understand what it would have sounded like. Using the laser scans and information from earlier excavations, they created a simple 3D model to reconstruct the acoustics of the original cathedral.”

7. The Costs of the Confederacy

“‘It was like we were not even there,’ she said, as if slavery ‘never happened.'”

8. ‘Prosperity preachers’ like Joel Osteen can cause risky financial behavior, university report says

“The University of Toronto recently released a report saying preaching the ‘prosperity gospel’ — which centers around the belief that material wealth is part of God’s will — can lead to unrealistic optimism and risky financial behavior. The report used Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church as an example of a televangelist who touts this belief.”

9. The 25 Healthiest Foods You Can Buy for $5 or Less

“… cooking your own meals and having snacks on-hand will drastically cut the amount of money you spend on food throughout the week.”

10. The Steward of Middle-earth

“Now, after more than 40 years, at the age of 94, Christopher Tolkien has laid down his editor’s pen, having completed a great labor of quiet, scholastic commitment to his father’s vision [J.R.R. Tolkien]. It is the concluding public act of … the last member of a club that became a pivotal part of 20th-century literature: the Inklings. It is the end of an era.”

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: this went thru my mind

Here are links to six articles that I’ve found to be interesting and helpful reading:

Affirming, communication, freedom, respect, tolerance, welcoming & words: Slippery Words— Tolerance, Respect, Welcoming, Affirming, Freedom

“What of course has happened in our American society is that as the culture has changed, the semantic range of a whole series of words has changed as well.”

American Sniper, cinema, discernment, film, movies, military service, perspective & war: I Was An American Sniper, and Chris Kyle’s War Was Not My War

“Don’t make the mistake of thinking the hit movie captures the truth of the Iraq conflict. I should know. I lived it. … If you really want to be a patriotic American, keep both eyes open and maintain 360 degrees of awareness. Don’t simply watch American Sniper. Read other sources, watch other films about the conflict. Talk to as many veterans as you can, get a full perspective on the war experience and the consequences. Ensure the perceived enemy in your vision is what it seems.”

Bible interpretation, misappropriation, misunderstanding & promises: 2 Ways We Misinterpret God’s Promises [essential reading]

“Over my years of ministry, I’ve discerned a tendency among conservative Christians to assume that anything in Scripture that looks like a promise is in fact something that God promises them.”

Church decline, culture & religion, history, perceptions, time & United States: Religious Decline in America? The Answer Depends on Your Timeframe

“Did the twentieth century see a rise and fall of religiosity within a larger pattern of stability? Or does the late 20th-century religious decline shrink to insignificance when compared with the religious rise since the founding of the nation?”

Church life, generation & peace: 3 Ways to Encourage Peace Between Generations in Denominations

“The fact is, each member within a family has a tendency to find their own style and way in life. But as each individual develops their own unique identity, they should not develop a spirit of pride over the others in the family.”

Choices, consequences, corporate worship & legacy: 15 Worship Decisions We’ll Regret

“Dividing congregations along age and affinity lines. … Eliminating choral expressions in worship. … Worship leader ageism. … Elevating music above Scripture, Prayer and the Lord’s Supper. … Making worship and music exclusively synonymous. … Trying to recreate worship with each new generation. … Ignoring the Christian Calendar and adopting the Hallmark Calendar. … Worshiping like inspiration stopped with the hymnal. … Worshiping like inspiration started with modern worship songs. … Not providing a venue for creatives to express their art as worship. … Allowing songs about God to supersede the Word of God. … Elevating gathered worship above dispersed worship. … Setting aside traditionalism around the world but not across the aisle. … Worshiping out of Nostalgia or Novelty. … Worship services at the expense of worship service.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Church history: In Church Attics, Clues to the Private Life of Early America

“The historians are racing against inexorable church closings, occasional fires, and a more mundane but not uncommon peril: the actual loss of documents, which most often occurs when a church elder dies and no one can remember the whereabouts of historical papers.”

Cohabitation, marriage & Millenials: The Beta Marriage: How Millennials Approach ‘I Do’

“… almost half of millennials (43%, and higher among the youngest subset) said they would support a marriage model that involved a two-year trial — at which point the union could be either formalized or dissolved, no divorce or paperwork required. Thirty-three percent said they’d be open to trying what researchers dubbed the ‘real estate’ approach — marriage licenses granted on a five-, seven-, 10- or 30-year ARM, after which the terms must be renegotiated. And 21% said they’d give the ‘presidential’ method a try, whereby marriage vows last for four years but after eight you can elect to choose a new partner.”

Gaza, Hamas, Israel, Palestinians & war: What’s Really Going on in Israel?

“… why it matters and what we can do about it.”

Hurry, life & spiritual formation: * Don’t Fight the Road; * A Prayer for Sunday; * Less Activity, More Passivity

* “Following the speed limit is FUN. This is counter-intuitive on every level.”

* “Grant me, O Lord, to know what I ought to know,
To love what I ought to love,
To praise what delights thee most,
To value what is precious in thy sight,
To hate what is offensive to thee.
Do not suffer me to judge according to the sight of my eyes,
Nor to pass sentence according
…..to the hearing of the ears of ignorant men;
But to discern with a true judgment
…..between things visible and spiritual,
And above all, always to inquire what is the good pleasure of thy will.”

* “The Bible calls for two things: We face the future waiting and praying.”

Manhood & masculinity: What is Biblical Masculinity?

“As I read the Scriptures I have a difficult time discerning what exactly the Bible says about ‘masculinity.'”

People: First Bible on the Moon Still Sparks Controversy

“There’s no doubt Texas has its own real life Lone Star ‘Forrest Gump’ – a man with humble roots, unexpected achievements and an extraordinary life that changed the world and embedded him in the annals of football, aerospace and religious history.

“Take a former Texas Aggie football player who was a ballistic missile experimenter, who became a Presbyterian missionary and college professor, put him in the wilds of Brazil, liberally add earth satellites and horseback treks among uncivilized Indians, then flavor the whole thing with two American Presidents and the first Bible to land on the moon, and you have the makings of a story on which any fiction writer would love to get his or her hands.

“But the Rev. John Maxwell Stout will tell you it’s all true.”

this went thru mind

 

Israel/Palestine: Challenges in Defining an Israeli-Palestinian Border

“… explore some of the contentious issues that negotiators will face in drawing borders between Israel and a future Palestinian state.”

Kingdom of heaven: Patheos Interview: Heaven on Earth (required reading; Q & A with Josh Graves)

“…  this is about a wedding of all the things of heaven with all the things in earth.”

Non-violence & self-defense: Video Q&A: What if Violence is Necessary to Protect a Loved One? [required viewing; 4 min. video clip of an interview of Greg Boyd]

“… there’s all sorts of things you can do.”

U.S history: * Everything You Know About the 1960s is Wrong by James T. Patterson; The Monster of Monticello by Paul Finkelman

* “As late as 1964, the decade looked like the ’50s.”

* “… while many of his contemporaries, including George Washington, freed their slaves during and after the revolution — inspired, perhaps, by the words of the Declaration — Jefferson did not. Over the subsequent 50 years, a period of extraordinary public service, Jefferson remained the master of Monticello, and a buyer and seller of human beings. Rather than encouraging his countrymen to liberate their slaves, he opposed both private manumission and public emancipation. Even at his death, Jefferson failed to fulfill the promise of his rhetoric: his will emancipated only five slaves, all relatives of his mistress Sally Hemings, and condemned nearly 200 others to the auction block. Even Hemings remained a slave, though her children by Jefferson went free.”

Will of God: What is God’s Will for My Life? by Patrick Mead

“Ready? God’s story is not about plot. It is about character development.”

this went thru my mind

 

Church attendance & sports: Pastors, Stop Complaining About Sunday Morning Sports by Keith Anderson

“… frankly, its a not a bad thing for the Church to stand on its own, apart from cultural props. I don’t want the Church to be dependent on the world to say that Church is important. I want us to say that this is important because of Jesus, the persuasiveness of the Gospel, for its own sake, on its own terms, not because my local Recreation Department says so.”

Clutter, giving, possessions, minimalism & stuff: * It’s Time to Say Goodbye to All That Stuff by Jane E. Brody [required reading]; * 7 Creative Ways to Give Back This Christmas by Marcus Goodyear

* “Make three piles (or bins) of stuff: Keep, Donate, Discard. (Avoid my mistake of making a fourth pile called Undecided that you simply wind up moving to another part of the house.) Get rid of the Discard and Donate piles as soon as possible. Keep only those things that have a realistic ‘home’ in your home.”

* ” Begin to give out of your excess … take your food donation to a person—not a bin … count your clothes … cash in your loose change … give opportunities … sell something you own for charity … throw a gift card giver house party.”

Reading: One of My Goals Next Year is to Read the Apocrypha–Here’s Why [I plan to do this myself in 2013; care to join me?]

“David deSilva offers three reasons ‘Christians of all denominations’ should read the Apocrypha. (1) The books of the Apocrypha provide important windows into the world of Second Temple Judaism, catching us up, as it were, on a wide range of developments between the return from exile and the rebuilding of the Temple in 515 BCE and the birth of Jesus and the movement formed in his name. … (2) Second, many of the books of the Apocrypha contain valuable resources available to, and used by, Jesus and his earliest disciples and apostles. … (3) Third, the Apocrypha are rich in devotional insight, ethical admonition, and spiritually formative guidance–to such an extent that the majority of the world’s Christians include them among their sacred Scriptures.”

United States history: * Mine Wars: Forgotten History [part 1] by Peter Mead [required reading]; * American Empire: A Very Brief History of Our Imperialism by Bobby Valentine

* “We tend to forget our history quickly … Did you know that veterans of World War One were not given the benefits they were promised upon enlistment? Did you know that the government ignored them, denied them medical care or pensions? Did you know that many, many thousands of them built a tent city outside of Washington, DC because they had nowhere else to live? And did you know that the US government sent in troops with cavalry and machine guns and even planes with bombs to drive them out? That was only eighty years ago. Or did you know that a Methodist minister with a military commission slaughtered men, women, and children in Eastern Colorado and, although many tried to bring him to justice, the courts and government officials refused to punish him? There are lots of periods of history we would rather forget but they are real and they helped make the world in which we live. And many of these events — such as the murder of hundreds of veterans outside DC, happened less than one hundred years ago. And close to that same time, people in West Virginia rose up against outsiders who had poisoned their land, starved their children to death (literally), and shot down their fathers who dared to complain. These were the Mine Wars and they will be the subject of this next set of blogs.”

* “Perhaps the most powerful myth is that America – the United States – is a peace loving country and has only reluctantly either gone to war or used its military might with great hesitation and never has imposed its will on sovereign states in an imperialistic fashion.  This is a gross misrepresentation of our history but one that is unbelievably believed even by folks who should know better. We learn what might be called the Great Wars version of American military power presented in most public high schools. … But this is only the tip of the iceberg above the water.”

this went thru my mind

 

Attack ads, critics & hate: Jesus and Paul Under Fire & The 2012 USA Presidential Election by Frank Viola [required reading]

“… why do politicians spend obscene amounts of money on ads which attack their opponents – most often falsely? Because they work. In general, people are gullible and will believe whatever they hear or read without checking the facts or going to the sources themselves. … his got me thinking. What’s happening in the political world right now in the USA has been going on in the “religious” world for over 2,000 years. Consider the misrepresentations and false accusations leveled at Jesus during His earthly days, thousands of years before the Internet and cable news …”

Evangelicals, history & politics: Pro-Life, Pro-Left ‘Moral Minority’ by David R. Swartz [a book review]

“So why did the evangelical left seem to dissolve into irrelevance? Swartz argues that evangelicals’ mass enlistment in the conservative Republicanism of the “culture wars” was not the inevitable consequence of doctrine or history: Jesus did not leave behind a clear party platform. But while members of the Christian right set aside doctrinal differences to rally around a shared cultural agenda, the left fell victim to internal identity politics and theological disputes.”

Logic, discussion & reasoning: Making An Argument the “Christian” Way? by Kurt Willems [required reading]

“… if we want to discover more truth. Here are my suggestion of arguing styles to be wary of.”

Migration & US population: American Migration [very interesting!]

“Close to 40 million Americans move from one home to another every year. Click anywhere on the map below: blue counties send more migrants to the selected county than they take; red counties take more than they send.”

Movies: Hollywood’s New Bible Stories

“The studios are increasingly reliant on source material with a built-in audience, something the Bible—the best-selling book in history—certainly has. And like the comic-book superheroes that movie companies have relied on for the past decade, biblical stories are easily recognizable to both domestic and the all-important foreign audiences. What’s more, they’re free: Studios don’t need to pay expensive licensing fees to adapt stories and characters already in the public domain.”

Non-Christians & perceptions: Seven Common Comments Non-Christians Make About Christians by Thom Rainer

“Over the past several years, my research teams and I have interviewed thousands of unchurched non-Christians. Among the more interesting insights I gleaned were those where the interviewees shared with me their perspectives of Christians. In this article, I group the seven most common types of comments in order of frequency. I then follow that representative statement with a direct quote from a non-Christian.”