links: this went thru my mind

Here are links to five articles that I’ve found to be interesting and helpful reading.

Achievement, expectations, humility, service, success & the will of God: God’s Not Looking for Heroes

“We don’t all need to be heroes. Jesus is the Hero. The Hero came 2000 years ago. So He’s already the Hero. He’s not looking for heroes, He’s looking for co-laborers. The challenge is, most people want to be co-stars, not co-laborers. If you actually understood what it was to be a co-laborer, you could labor wherever you are.”

America, culture, individualism, materialism, nationalism, patriotism, values & war: American Values Are Not Necessarily Christian Values

“… [there can be] no excuse for conflating country and church. We can appreciate and even respect the nation in which we reside, but we must not forget that our status is as foreigner and exiles. (1 Peter 2:11)”

American Sniper, cinema, deception, distortion, evil, film, movies & payback: Clint Eastwood’s Sniper, and the American Messiah [essential reading]

“This is the problem with the white-hat black-hat narrative of Hollywood: when ‘they’ do what ‘we’ do (though ‘they,’ of course, poor saps, are just not as efficient in their killing as ‘we’ are) it is evil, but when Americans do it, it is heroic. Eastwood’s Kyle insists he is doing what he does because he does not want terrorists in our neighborhoods here. Yet he participates in the invasion of a country that had nothing to do with 9/11; a country who was headed by, no doubt, a despot but a despot who had furthered his hold on power by the support of our own country; and when those people fight back because they don’t want foreign invaders in their streets, it’s ‘evil’ like Eastwood’s Kyle has never yet imagined.”

Anger, bitterness, forgiveness, hatred & resentment: A Holocaust Survivor, Spared From Gas Chamber By Twist Of Fate

“Anger doesn’t get you anyplace. Hate doesn’t get you anyplace.”

Attention span, authority, church, commitment, Facebook & social media: 5 Ways Facebook May be Harming Your Church

“What effect does ‘social media’ technology have on the way we view church? What effect does it have on the way we conceive of life in the body of Christ?”

links: this went thru my mind

Here are links to four articles that I’ve found to be interesting and helpful reading.

Church, expectations & values: Is Your Church Okay With You? [essential reading]

“What if, when it’s all said and done, there’s nothing cool about your church? Would that be okay with you? … If not, maybe it’s not Jesus or his Church that you’re really in love with after all.”

Depression & emotions: Do You Ever Feel Down .. But Don’t Know Why?

“… working with God seems to be somewhat of a conflict. I must continually remind myself to believe in His ability; not in mine. Inadequacy has always been my strong suit so that part is most natural. The friction may be that I’m trying to constantly yield my inadequate self of me to the quite adequate Holy Spirit … within me. I don’t know if you all find this to be a snap. Me? Not so easy.”

Genocide & Holocaust: Photos: Children of Auschwitz Share Stories of Survival

“They are among the survivors of the Auschwitz death camp in southern Poland, which has come to symbolize the horrors of the Holocaust. Tuesday marks the 70th anniversary of that liberation day. These portraits capture 20 survivors, many of whom were children and teenagers during their time at the camp.”

Lust, manhood, objectification, parenting, purity, respect, sex & ‘the talk’: To My Preacher’s Kid, about Becoming a Man

“Brass tacks time, son: If you see a pretty girl, in real life or on Instagram, and from that point on that’s all you can see in them or that’s all you can think of them…that’s YOUR fault son NOT the girl’s fault. I hold you responsible and I’m damn sure your Mother will, too. … You can choose to objectify others or you can choose to treat your neighbors as your self.”

this went thru my mind


Bible interpretation: * It’s Biblically Impossible to Be Biblical; * Beware of Thinking Biblically

* “While ‘biblical’ could technically mean ‘influenced by the Bible,’ it has become a code word for ‘possessing the one and only way to interpret the Bible on a particular issue.’ In our zeal to follow the teachings of scripture, we have sought a definitive, once and for all time way to read a book that has always been a work in progress. … There is no ‘biblical”’ way of doing things. There is only a biblically informed and Spirit-led way of doing things. And that information and leading may evolve and shift over time.”

* “… I’m very cautious about that phrase, about ‘thinking Biblically.’ Not of thinking Biblically, but of using that phrase to legitimatize teachings and opinions that are sometimes terribly wrong.”

Choices & decisions: Never Settle for Second Best with God by Wayne Stiles

“God’s best for us seldom comes immediately. But it’s always worth the wait. How often have we run ahead of the Lord instead of waiting for His best? A lonely believer marries an unbeliever. An eager couple makes a poor financial decision. A family joins a church for its location in spite of its doctrine. Many people fail to see God work in their lives because they fail to wait on Him to supply.”

Missions: Are We Only Interested in Low-Hanging Fruit? by Mark Woodward [required reading]

“… can we as a fellowship see beyond the low-hanging fruit? Can churches of Christ do the hard work in hard places for many, many years? Can we commit to sowing seeds that may not bear fruit for generations?”

Poverty & social justice: * Right to Lawyer Can Be Empty Promise for Poor; * The Good News on Poverty (Yes, There’s Good News) [13 1/2 min. TED talk by Bono]

“Today, many states and counties do not offer lawyers to the poor in major civil disputes, and in some criminal ones as well. Those states that do are finding that more people than ever are qualifying for such help, making it impossible to keep up with the need. The result is that even at a time when many law school graduates are without work, many Americans are without lawyers.”

“Bono ’embraces his inner nerd’ and shares inspiring data that shows the end of poverty is in sight … if we can harness the momentum.”

The Bible mini-series: * Q: What Do Roma Downey and Writers of the Bible Have In Common? A: Neither Sticks to the Script. by Pete Enns; * The Bible—Part Three by Ben Witherington

* “… failure to stick with the biblical script is something we see a lot of in the Bible itself.”

* “The saddest part of all this is twofold: 1) millions were spent on this project filmed overseas with no little time and expense expended, but 2) it could have been soo much better. So much better. I do think they intended well. I have no problem with the selectivity and even with paraphrasing things to get at the spirit of this or that narrative. But they needed to do a better job of listening to whatever scholars were advising them. They have avoided irreverence but are flirting with irrelevance by not doing a better job.”

Values: Topsy-Turvy Values: This is a Heart Issue by John T. Willis

“Which is more important: To spend time with another person or to play games on a new gadget?”

this went thru my mind


Dispensationalism, history, John Hagee, Left Behind & rapture theology: Rapture Theology [required viewing; a 24 min. video; a good summary of the rise & spread of this all too prevalent, and badly mistaken, understanding of Scripture]

“Here’s a really interesting and important history of Rapture theology and the impact it has had on the church in America. It’s 24 minutes long, but well worth your time.”

Elections, politics & voting: * Christians & Politics by Michael J. Gorman; * Values of a Public Faith: A Contribution to a Conversation by Miroslav Volf

* “The dominant religion in the U.S. may well be ‘Americanism.'”

* “In this year of presidential elections, I decided to summarize key values that guide me as I make the decision for whom to cast my vote.”

Texting: Facts About Text Messaging [infographic]

“When someone picks up their phone it’s far more likely they are going to text rather than make a call. And because of this, we’ve grown accustomed to a whole new language text messaging has created. Here are some more facts about text messaging.”

Travel: Travel Tips for Newbies by Geoff Surratt

“I realize how challenging travel can be when I encounter obvious rookies trying to navigate the maze that is airline travel in the 21st century. So here are a few tips to help you travel like a road warrior even if you’re just a weekend newbie.”

the presidential election, prayer & Miroslav Volf


Miroslav Volf has been posting a series of status updates on his Facebook page laying out  (1) “a concern,” (2) a “value,” (3) a “rationale,” (4) the “debate,” and (5) “a question” for this year’s U.S. presidential candidates. If you plan to vote, you should read these posts. If you don’t plan to vote, you should read them to help you as you pray for the leaders of the world’s nations.

These same posts will likely appear in the (free) fall issue of Yale Divinity School’s publication Reflections.

If you’re unfamiliar with Volf, here’s a link to a fine interview of Volf conducted by Krista Tippett back in 2004 that will help you appreciate the man. His thoughts on enemies, forgiveness, nonviolence, and pacifism are particularly insightful and powerful.

rock solid: reflecting on the Ten Commandments

This coming Sunday morning at MoSt Church, most of our English-speaking adult Bible classes (9:00 a.m.) will conclude their study of the Rock Solid: The Ten Commandments with something of a summary of their study of the Ten Commandments. Make good use of the following questions to assist you in your preparation for class.

1. List the Ten Commandments in order. Which ones are easiest for you to remember and which ones are the most difficult?

2. There are over six hundred commands in the OT Law so why do you suppose there are “Ten” Commandments? Why not nine or a dozen? What might be the significance of there being “ten?”

3. The exodus, God’s deliverance of Israel from their bondage in Egypt, preceded God’s giving of the Law to Israel at Mount Sinai (Ex. 20:2; Deut. 5:6). Exodus preceded Sinai; grace always comes before law. Why is law without grace unable to produce people of real character?

4. The first four commandments deal directly with our relationship with God and the last six commandments pertain particularly to our relationship with other people. There are a few statements of explanation or justification, as well as motivation, in the giving of the first four commandments, but with the exception of the case of the fifth commandment, there are no such statements connected with the last six commandments. Why do you suppose this is the case and what difference does it make?

5. All of the Ten Commandments are woven together and are critical to a healthy life together as people of God. Imagine a community where one of the commandments is missing completely (e.g. – all of the commandments are kept except the principle of Sabbath). How might that gap in ethics come to affect the other values in place?

6. By means of the Ten Commandments, God deliberately planted his values in his people, Israel. What is wrong with allowing people to “discover their own values?”

7. Augustine once wrote: “We do not walk to God with the feet of the body, nor would wings, if we had them, carry us there. But we go to God by the affections of our soul.” How would you say the practice of the Ten Commandments shapes the affections of our soul for God? That is to say, how is it that a person who practices the Ten Commandments is opening themselves up to a better understanding and deeper relationship with God?

8. While the Ten Commandments are obeyed by individuals, they were given to a community, Israel. How is living in community with others who share these same values critical to the development and reinforcement of the Ten Commandments? In other words, why do we need each other in order to live out the Ten Commandments?

9. What are some ways you might be able to work God’s ten teachings in the Ten Commandments into your everyday conversations with your friends?

10. What is the best thing you have personally gleaned from this study of the Ten Commandments?

this went thru my mind

Action: That’s what should arise from our adoption of Christ’s values. But how far do we go with that? Peter Rollins’ post I Believe in Child Labour, Sweatshops and Torture will make you think … and perhaps even act.

Apocrypha: You’ve known for years that some Christian groups “have extra books in their Bible.” You’ve wondered about that, but have never bothered to read about such to know what’s up with that. Bobby Valentine’s post entitled The Apocrypha: Reading Between the Testaments is your chance to learn.

Archaeology: Imagine excavating an ancient building and discovering that it was a museum. A place very old housing things even older. If that sounds interesting to you, then you’d enjoy Alasdair’s Wilkins’ post entitled The Story Behind the World’s Oldest Museum, Built by a Babylonian Princess 2,500 years Ago.

Bible: * First, did you notice the Snapshot in the Tuesday, May 24 print edition of USA Today? The question posed by a LifeWay Research survey to 1,004 adult Americans back in March of this year was quite simple: “How often do you read the Bible?” The results? “At least once a month” – 53%. “Rarely” – 22%. “Never” – 24%. “Don’t know” – 1%. Now, when 47% of Americans at best “rarely” read their Bible, I have to wonder: (a) why does anyone at all think the United States is “a Christian nation” and (b) if the results would have been vastly different if the same question had been posed only to “church going” folks? Or do I really want to know? * Second: N.T. Wright on Bible translation. Need I say more? Good stuff. Need a sample? “When people ask me which version of the Bible they should use, I have for many years told them that I don’t much mind as long as they always have at least two open on the desk. … The finest translations are still, basically, a matter of trying to play a Beethoven symphony on a mouth-organ.” Read Lost and Found in Translation: From 1611 to 2011.

Civil religion: It’s Memorial Day weekend and the 4th of July will be here before we know it. All of which puts to the fore the subject of civil religion. A number of fine, thoughtful posts on the subject appeared this week and Avoiding Civil Religion (Four Conversations) has links to several of them. Definitely required reading, especially the series by Dan Martin.

Disasters: * Storms and tornadoes of late have ravished a number of states recently, Alabama, Missouri, Oklahoma, and more. It affects us all, even in ways we may not recognize. And that’s what Kurt Willems’ fine post The Natural Disaster of Empathy Overload is about. * How do you talk with your children about such tragedies? Dale Hudson’s series entitled Talking to Children About Disaster should be a part of your reading. Here are links to part one and part two of that series.

Gospel: Tim Woodroof is starting a series entitled Packing the Gospel and I eagerly anticipate reading what he has to say.

Hell: No matter your take on things, I dare say you will never see the Bible’s teaching on hell as you did before once you read Edward Fudge‘s book The Fire That Consumes. The third edition of this marvelous, deep study has just been released. If you’re interested, ask me about how you can purchase an inscribed copy.

Judging: I preached on such just this past Sunday morning and Trey Morgan’s post entitled Guilty of Being Too Merciful serves as a good adjunct to that sermon. More than once I’ve had the very same experience as described in this article. Well said, brother.

Marriage: Married Couples Are No Longer a Majority says the headlines. The thinking of many Millenials is only a part, but still a part, of the reason why.

Reading: Read this list of the top twenty most well-read cities in the United States and notice where they fall on the map. Not much in the South and not at all in Texas. Hmmm. And here’s some good advice for people like me: Advice for Slow Readers.

Social networking: This CNN report entitled 10 fascinating Facebook facts and what they say about us and Toni Birdsong’s post entitled 10 Things We Wish Pastors Would “Get” About Social Media should be read together.

World religions: The subject of other religions will be our focus one night in our upcoming Wednesday night Summer Series at MoSt Church (The Reason for God). If you’d like to get a jump on that subject, you’d do well to note Ed Stetzer’s interview of Irving Hexham on Understanding World Religions.