Tag Archives: Fun

My Picks for Thursday 1-14-2016

Just some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing…

Trevin Wax has recently written posts that analyzed the underlying philosophy of Taylor Swift’s music video for “Out of the Woods,” and one about Stephen Colbert’s definition of faithfulness. I thought both were excellent and insightful, but many Christians have trouble with these kinds of social commentary. This article helps explain why it’s important…

From Stephen Colbert to Taylor Swift:
4 Reasons I Write Cultural Commentary
Trevin Wax
word with dice on white background- culture“Whenever I write about the worldview of a cultural icon or a cultural artifact, I brace myself. The ensuing comment streams and Facebook conversations almost always devolve into debates over whether such cultural analysis should happen in the first place…

Too many Christians assume that analyzing cultural products is simply a way of saying “safe” or “unsafe,” “bad” or “good,” “acceptable” or “banned.” Not so. When done well, cultural analysis helps you ask the right questions, see the narrative in light of the gospel, and look for what can be affirmed and what should be challenged.

That’s why I plan on doing more cultural commentary in the future, not less.”


This is an excellent comparison which I may borrow sometime…

Jesus is NOT Your #1 PriorityMichael Kelley
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“Jesus is not the top of the list; He’s the center of the wheel…

Jesus is not your number 1 priority; He is instead the Lord who gives shape, definition, and meaning to everything else.”


We Christ-followers need to do better at this part of being pro-life…

Abortion Kills Two HeartsRussell Moore
“If being pro-life means anything, it means having a word not just for those walking toward the abortion clinic, but also for those walking out of it. We must have something to say when we see in our churches those women and men whose throbbing consciences are crying out against them. What do we tell them?…

How much of the abortion clinic’s charm would be disarmed if our churches offered grace, friendship, and support rather than rumor, whisper, and scandal?

Abortion kills. It kills a human being, a child made in the image of God. But it also kills the conscience. “I have come,” Jesus declared, “that they may have life.” Let’s proclaim his grace—for the unborn as well as the twice-born.”


No, regardless of what some may think, the U.S. isn’t on the list. However, I prayerfully note that India (where I have friends in ministry) has moved up(?) to 17th…

The Top 50 Countries Where It’s Now Hardest To Be a ChristianSarah Eekhoff Zylstra
North Korea Gets Competition: The Top 50 Countries Where It's Now Hardest To Be a Christian“The annual list studies pressures on private, family, community, national, and church areas of life, plus levels of violence, in order to rank the top 50 countries where “Christians face the most persecution.” [Full list below.]

“Open Doors USA predicted that while Christians faced the worst persecution in modern history in 2014, the worst was yet to come,” the organization stated. “The prediction was sadly fulfilled in 2015—the persecution of Christians increased on every continent.”

More than 7,000 Christians were killed for their faith last year, up drastically from 4,344 in 2014 and 2,123 in 2013. Those numbers don’t include North Korea or parts of Iraq and Syria, where accurate numbers are hard to obtain, Open Doors said. All three of those countries are among the WWL’s top five persecutors.

In addition, 2,400 churches were damaged or attacked worldwide, more than twice the number in 2014.”


 Boy, ain’t THAT the truth!
http://bizarro.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/bz-panel-01-05-16.jpg
Source: Bizarro

My Picks for Wednesday 1-13-2016

Just some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing…

This is Jamie Brown’s response to a very interesting study I shared here. I encourage everyone involved in leading people in worship to think think deeply about these things…

Feed My Sheep:
My Response to the “Waning of the ‘Worship Wars’”

Jamie Brown
1“This is the question that every single pastor and worship leader needs to ask themselves. Moving forward, if the results of the National Congregations Study are right and worship in the 21st century will be marked by informality, contemporary music style, and movement away from the expressions of the past (all of which happens every century, by the way), we have to decide if the congregation’s engagement in worship is integral or incidental.”


The Not-So-Quiet Quiet TimeColin Smith
quiet time
“In the past, what Evangelicals meant when they talked about having a quiet time was a regular time of Bible reading and prayer. Christians, rightly, through the centuries, believed that God speaks to us through the Bible and that we speak to him through prayer.

But as large parts of the church have drifted away from the Scriptures, many people have latched onto the idea that we can listen to God simply by being quiet.

It has become common among Christians to think that listening to God means being quiet and listening to our own hearts. But here’s the problem with that:

God says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Isaiah 55:8).”


God’s Cleaning His House…the ChurchD. A. Horton
God’s Cleaning His House…the Church“God is cleaning house in the American Church. Through current events dealing with ethnicity, race, and systemic oppression, He is exposing our dirty laundry (the systemic segregation in our churches, interpersonal networks, and theological formation) because He loves us.

Specifically, in Evangelicalism, polarized interpretations of publicized crisis moments are being put on display for the world to see. They’re watching our dismissive, hateful, and pithy interactions online and attributing our sinfulness as outcomes of the gospel we claim to share a common view on.

Although things are bleak and challenging, we, as a movement, are not without hope…

It is for this reason I want to challenge us to employ three practices that will put us on track to steward the timeless message of the gospel during the muddled times we inhabit.”


I wrote a plea along these lines to my fellow Christ-followers about this several weeks ago…

The “Other Side” Is Not DumbSean Blanda
Sharing links that mock a caricature of the Other Side isn’t signaling that we’re somehow more informed. It signals that we’d rather be smug assholes than consider alternative views. It signals that we’d much rather show our friends that we’re like them, than try to understand those who are not.

It’s impossible to consider yourself a curious person and participate in social media in this way. We cannot consider ourselves “empathetic” only to turn around and belittle those that don’t agree with us.

On Twitter and Facebook this means we prioritize by sharing stuff that will garner approval of our peers over stuff that’s actually, you know, true. We share stuff that ignores wider realities, selectively shares information, or is just an outright falsehood. The misinformation is so rampant that the Washington Post stopped publishing its internet fact-checking column because people didn’t seem to care if stuff was true…

Institutional distrust is so high right now, and cognitive bias so strong always, that the people who fall for hoax news stories are frequently only interested in consuming information that conforms with their views — even when it’s demonstrably fake.”


The shocking truth behind most selfies…
http://bizarro.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Bizarro-01-10-16-WEB.jpg
Source: Bizarro – Click image for a larger version.

 

 

My Picks for Tuesday 1-12-2016

Just some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing…

Having been a staff member at three different churches over 35 years I can name people on either end of this spectrum…

Two Opposite Errors Committed by Church Staff
Eric Geiger
Little_country_church_Cedar_Valley_near_Winona,_MN
“I have seen two polar opposite errors from those who lead a ministry in a local church.

1. Being overly focused on your area

Some staff make decisions for their ministry area without much or any regard for the whole. They identify with what they are leading, but not with the church as a whole. They want to mooch from the resources, the people, and the support of the church without contributing to the whole. The staff members care only about their team, and not the overall team to which they belong. They may be perceived as highly effective but are equally as divisive.

2. Being overly focused on the whole

There are some staff that want to speak into every church-wide decision, that are constantly evaluating the whole, and that are obsessed with every interaction and every word senior leaders mutter. Instead of executing their areas of responsibility well, these staff members act as internal consultants for everyone else.”


I also know people on both ends of this spectrum. Both are prideful and both can damage community…

2 Kinds of Pride that Crush Biblical Community
Michael Kelley
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“Whether we refuse to carry another’s burdens or whether we refuse to have ours born, the root is the same: I’m too good for this.”


This is great! Please don’t miss this excellent column. Why is it always so “shocking” when Christian institutions of higher learning are discovered being Christian?

Let Wheaton and other Christian colleges be Christian
Timothy Larsen
Capture“The media does not go into coverage overdrive every time a monk is disciplined for allegedly breaking his vows. Is it not time that journalists just accepted the fact that Wheaton College is an evangelical Protestant covenant community of higher education and stopped being “shocked, shocked” every time a case arises regarding what the standards of faithfulness are or ought to be in this community?”


Reader’s digest…
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Source: Wrong Hands

My Picks for Thursday 1-7-2016

Just some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing…

Do you believe in common grace?Ray Ortlundjpg17897_“Now and then a commenter asks why I post music videos that are not devoted to God.  Most inquiries are courteous.  A few are not.  In any case, here is my answer.

I  believe in common grace.  John Calvin taught me that it is God who lavishes giftedness on his human race.  We may therefore enjoy it wherever we encounter it, with gratitude to God

…One thing I love about the gospel is its promise of the new heaven and new earth.  In eternity, God will not delete all the culture-creating we’ve done throughout human history; he will redeem it.”


A lot of statistical information to consider here…

The Waning of the ‘Worship Wars’Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra
The Waning of the 'Worship Wars'“More evidence that the worship wars are fading: holding multiple services in order to accommodate different worship styles is less common, according to NCS…When congregations do have more than one service, they’re less likely to separate them by traditional and contemporary worship styles.”


Finding Forgiveness After My AbortionGarrett Kell
One of the events the Lord used to awaken me was the abortion. Through his Word, he showed me I wasn’t the good person I thought I was. Rather, I was a person so in love with myself that I agreed to end my own child’s life in order to keep my life going in the direction I wanted.

But this is where the gospel shines light into the darkness with rays of life-giving hope. Isaiah 53:4 says of Jesus: “He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” God’s Son stepped down from his throne of glory to enter into our world of perversion and absorb the punishment we deserved. He was pierced for my transgressions so I could be guiltless. He was crushed for my sins so I wouldn’t stand condemned. He was punished so I could know peace with God.

So today, when I look back to what I did, I may still feel grief, but there is a comfort the Father of mercies gives in the midst of it. Not a comfort that says, “It’s okay, don’t feel bad,” but rather, “Do not fear, it is forgiven.”


I thought this next article was pretty insightful. Something worth pondering. Warning: It contains a little rough language which I felt was completely unnecessary.

You probably know to ask yourself, “What do I want?” Here’s a way better questionMark Manson
“If I ask you, ‘What do you want out of life?’ and you say something like, ‘I want to be happy and have a great family and a job I like,’ it’s so ubiquitous that it doesn’t even mean anything.

A more interesting question, a question that perhaps you’ve never considered before, is what pain do you want in your life? What are you willing to struggle for? Because that seems to be a greater determinant of how our lives turn out.”

 “Sometimes I ask people, ‘How do you choose to suffer?’ These people tilt their heads and look at me like I have twelve noses. But I ask because that tells me far more about you than your desires and fantasies. Because you have to choose something. You can’t have a pain-free life. It can’t all be roses and unicorns. And ultimately that’s the hard question that matters. Pleasure is an easy question. And pretty much all of us have similar answers. The more interesting question is the pain. What is the pain that you want to sustain?
That answer will actually get you somewhere. It’s the question that can change your life. It’s what makes me me and you you. It’s what defines us and separates us and ultimately brings us together.”

Source: Bizarro

My Picks for Wednesday 1-6-2016

Just some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing…

Yeah, I’ve thought about it, but I never have. Here are some good reasons why…

Seven Reasons Not to Play the LotteryJohn Piper
Seven Reasons Not to Play the Lottery“Americans now spend more than $70 billion dollars annually on lotteries. That’s more than the combined spending on books, video games, and movie and sporting-event tickets. Lotteries are legal in 43 states.

“That’s more than $230 for every man, woman, and child in those states — or $300 for each adult,” reports The Atlantic.

I agree with the report that this is a great shame on our nation. From time to time, the Powerball or Mega Millions lotteries rise to unusually high numbers and get fresh attention in the news (tonight’s and tomorrow’s drawings are announced as $140 million and $400 million).

Here are seven reasons, among others, I have often rehearsed to make the case that you should not gamble with your money in this way.”


This is fairly lengthy but I believe it has a lot to say…

Across the Race DivideKevin DeYoung
“It may seem uncouth for a white pastor to write about another white man’s experience with African American communities. I understand that posts like this are fraught with danger. But the alternative–for white evangelicals to refuse to think critically and refuse to speak about race-related issues, hardly seems like a healthy option. Caution, yes. Difference, yes. Complete silence, less helpful.”


I become very weary of all the misleading and, so often, false alarmist material circulated by people who should know better…

Facts About Obama’s Gun GrabMarty Duren
Obama conference“If Obama’s goal is gun confiscation or disarming Americans he’s the most inept fascist dictator ever.

There is a major problem for followers of Jesus, and it is not a gun-grab. For seven years we’ve heard the warnings, and for seven years they’ve been erroneous. One pastor screamed on Facebook before the president even spoke:

THEY’RE COMING FOR THE GUNS. WAKE UP AMERICA. OUR OWN PRESIDENT SEEKS TO DESTROY US.

Such nonsense has no place among those who follow the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and lies should be repented of. You don’t have to agree with or like the use of Executive Orders, but tell the truth about what these actually do.”


Pretty cool…

This is what the entire universe looks like in one image
Kelly Dickerson
“Pablo Carlos Budassi managed to do it by combining logarithmic maps of the universe from Princeton and images from NASA. He created the image below that shows the observable universe in one disc.” (Click on the image below for a MUCH larger view.)

entire observable universe logarithmic illustration
Click on the image for a MUCH larger view.

Boy, ain’t it the truth…
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Source: Off the Mark

My Picks for Tuesday 1-5-2016

Just some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing…

Why ‘the evangelical voter’ doesn’t mean anything
Trevin Wax
A "Vote Here" sign on display in front of Westwood City Hall on Nov. 4, 2014, in Westwood, Kan. Religion News Service photo by Sally Morrow
“So, what does this mean for predicting what evangelicals will do at the voting booth? That question needs further clarification. What kind of evangelical are we talking about? White evangelicals vote differently than black evangelicals. Older evangelicals have different worries and concerns than younger evangelicals.

When politicians or reporters treat the evangelical movement as a monolithic, reliable voting bloc, they are most likely taking one segment of evangelicals (usually, “white” and “older”) and defining the whole movement.

For example, Franklin Graham’s recent decision to leave the Republican Party and declare himself an independent does not mean “the evangelical vote” is somehow up for grabs this year.”


I’m Thinking It OverAlan Jacobs
Alexander_P/Shutterstock
“The internet is…a mugger, but what it demands is not my money but my attention and my reaction, and it wants them right now. And “I’m thinking it over” isn’t an acceptable response.

…a great many people are going off half-cocked on [the firing of Professor Larycia Hawkins from Wheaton College]; and what those emails I got remind me is that going off half-cocked is now widely perceived as a virtue, and the disinclination to do so as a vice. Moreover, that poorly informed and probably inflammatory statement of Your Incontrovertibly Correct Position must be on the internet — and according to my first protestor either directly on or accessible to Twitter — or it doesn’t count towards your treasury of merit.

I want to suggest some alternative ways of thinking about these matters, and related ones…”


We Are Getting CloserErik Raymond
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“Think about this truth: with the turn of the calendar from 2015 to 2016 we are that much closer to dwelling in the everlasting kingdom of Christ!”


The Prophet Who Didn’t SeeMichael Kelly
download“Remarkably, though, the text does not say that Elisha also saw the army of the Lord. We assume he did because how else would he know about this massive force aligned against his enemies? Perhaps he did see those flaming chariots… but then again, perhaps he did not.

Perhaps the man of God did not need to. This is the essence of faith, is it not? To look into the most dire of circumstances and know the Lord still reigns? Even though every sense tells us the opposite is true?

Yes. Maybe he didn’t see. Because maybe he didn’t need to.”


Is this sign necessary?

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My Picks for Monday 1-4-2016

Just some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing…

Dangerous ResolutionsPeter Mead
design 4“How easily I fall into the trap of decorating my life with Jesus.  I don’t wear Christian jewelry or Christian t-shirts so much, but perhaps I sometimes just decorate my busy life with Christian ornaments…

How easy it is to have “a righteousness of my own that comes from” . . . what I do.  I can make all sorts of effort to live a moral life, to learn and grow for the sake of ministry, to be a good steward of my life, my resources and my opportunities, but to do all of this with my eyes looking in the wrong direction.  I can be looking at myself, building my resume, or looking at the needs around me, and yet not be truly looking at Christ himself, my one great goal.”


Warning: Sarcasm ahead…

Worship Leader Resolutions: 2016Jamie Brown
1
“Happy 2016, worship leaders!

It’s a new year, full of new potential, new opportunities, new emails from that one person in your congregation (you know who I’m talking about), and new songs that will be old and forgotten by 2017.

I will be adopting these worship leader new year’s resolutions in the months ahead, and I (cue the octave jump) STRONGLY RECOMMEND YOU DO THE SAME…”


No sarcasm here. If you are a worship leader who thinks deeply about what you do, this is for you…

Can We Sing Too Much About the Cross?Bob Kauflin
Can We Sing Too Much About the Cross?
“But people still ask, “Can we sing about the cross too much?” My short answer is no. At least, not if we’re going to be in line with heavenly worship.

But we can sing about the cross in the wrong ways. Here are four I’ve encountered…”


This is also an important question for church members, no?

Who is Us?Seth Godin

“When you build a tribe or a movement, you’re asking people to join you.

To become, “one of us.”

That means, though, you need to be really clear who ‘us’ is. Not just who am I joining, but what does it mean to be one of you?”

 


http://bizarro.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/bz-panel-01-01-16.jpg
Source: Bizarro

My Picks for Wednesday 12-23-2015

Just some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing…

The Cost and Beauty of MarriageDarryl Dash

“There’s suffering in this thing called marriage, but there’s more joy than you can imagine. Somehow they exist together.”

 


As usual, even though we would prefer it otherwise, the answer to this question is too long for a bumper sticker. While you may or may not agree with everything he says in this article, John Piper does a good job of outlining several strands of thought on the question…

Should Christians Be Encouraged to Arm Themselves?
John Piper
Should Christians Be Encouraged to Arm Themselves?“The issue is not primarily about when and if a Christian may ever use force in self-defense, or the defense of one’s family or friends. There are significant situational ambiguities in the answer to that question. The issue is about the whole tenor and focus and demeanor and heart-attitude of the Christian life. Does it accord with the New Testament to encourage the attitude that says, “I have the power to kill you in my pocket, so don’t mess with me”? My answer is, No.

Here are nine considerations that lead me to this conclusion…”


Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?
Albert Mohler
“Hard times come with hard questions, and our cultural context exerts enormous pressure on Christians to affirm common ground at the expense of theological differences. But the cost of getting this question wrong is the loss of the Gospel. Christians affirm the image of God in every single human being and we must obey Christ as we love all people everywhere as our neighbor. Love of neighbor also demands that we tell our neighbor the truth concerning Christ as the only way to truly know the Father.

We must also understand that the most basic issue is the one Jesus answered with absolute clarity. One cannot deny the Son and truly worship the Father. There is no question that the Muslim is our neighbor, but there is no way to remain faithful to Scripture and the gospel and then claim that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.”


And now a little something fun to lighten the mood…

When Christmas Carols Lead us AstrayBarnabas Piper
Christmas decorations
“Just because it’s cold outside does not give a man the right to ply a woman with drinks and force her to stay longer.”

 


An Instagram miracle…
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Source: Off the Mark

My Picks for Tuesday 12-22-2015

Just some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing…

Dear God, I Don’t Want to Serve You This Way
Jeanne Harrison

“I imagined myself holding out a Christmas gift to God, only it wasn’t the present He wanted. It was the present I wanted to give Him, like buying your husband a weed wacker when he asked for golf clubs. Really, it was a gift for myself. Let me honor You by becoming a world-famous author! How about that? Let me do something big and impressive in my church. Let me put this college degree to use . . . You will be so glorified, I promise!


Jay Pathak on “Speaking of Jesus”Steve Cuss
Jay-_twitter“I’m amazed at the great lengths we go to to make people weird in the way they share their life with Jesus.” Jay talked about being a waiter at a restaurant when someone left him a ‘tract’ as a tip. “Why would you do this?” he asked the customer. The customer replied, “I don’t know, our pastor gave it to us….we have 20 of these and we have to get rid of them!” Clearly the people were in some version of an “evangelism class.” The goal of the class is getting people to share their belief in Jesus, but it actually pushed people away from following God because of how weird and unnatural this makes us.

But following Jesus is supposed to make us more human, more empathetic, so why do we do weird things when we’re representing Jesus, rather than be more human toward people?

So here are the 4 things I do:
1. Share the life you actually have with Jesus, not a bunch of facts about Jesus.
2. Never, ever, ever, under any circumstances, argue with someone.
3. When you love someone, you sacrifice money and time for them.
4. When you talk about life with God, just talk about Jesus.

Read the article for more explanation on each point.


Don’t just make your guests at church feel welcome. Surprise them!

Nine Surprises in Worship Services That Made Guests Return
Thom Rainer
Nine-Surprises-in-Worship-Services-That-Made-Guests-Return“In a recent Twitter survey, I asked respondents to share with me a singular event that impressed them in a church worship service. In fact, most of the respondents said they were “delighted” or “surprised,” and that the one event made them desire to return to the church. I am appreciative for all the responses. A pattern developed around nine factors. Here are some representative quotes around each of the issues…”


The NextSeth Godin
“Two hundred years ago, we had great-great-greats who lived in the dark, without much in the way of healthcare, commerce or opportunity.

Today, we complain that the MRI was chilly, or that the wifi on the transatlantic plane wasn’t fast enough or that there’s nothing new going on at the mall.

It’s human nature to recalibrate. But maybe it’s worth fighting that off, for an hour or even a day.

The world around us is uneven, unfair and yes, absolutely, over-the-top amazing.

Boring is an attitude, not the truth.

Possibility is where you decide it is.”


Holidays with loved ones…
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Click image for larger version.