Challenging believers in Jesus to think and act based on Bible truth.

Monday Links and Bullets 12.24.12 – Christmas Edition!

Nothing too Christmas-y here, but I hope you have a Merry Christmas.

WEEKLY LINKS

Link of the Week

Don’t blame the stuff.  Jesus wasn’t bothered by it.  Here’s a great, short read that helps you think about the necessity of the first birth and the new birth.

Christian Faith

There’s a part of this article that talks about Ken Ham being one of the main reasons people believe in creationism today.  On a much smaller scale, would anyone say we are the main reason something positive is part of their lives?

Do you need to rest?

I really got a lot out of this, and I agree with most of it.  Here are some things the church should expect looking forward.

Think Critically About Newtown

Here are several articles, some with competing viewpoints.  Have a read and do some honest thinking about your positions.  These have challenged me!

Spiritual Warfare in Newtown.

When it comes to tragedies, watching all the coverage is not a good thing.  I agree with the general tone taken here.

Hollywood is partly to blame. This article focuses on some of the garbage Hollywood is producing.

Here’s a survey that shows Americans are open to a lot of various options for preventing future tragedies.

Finally, here’s an article that says basically none of the things in the previous article will work. This was actually published in the Beacon Journal here in Akron this week.

BULLET THOUGHTS FOR THE WEEK

Christmas

  • It is an amazing, stunning, breath-taking thing that God has come to this earth.  I hope above and beyond any gift given or received that the fact Jesus was born to this earth will overwhelm you in the coming days.
  • I hope and pray that gifts are given and received in the spirit of worship to Jesus Christ our King.
  • I am looking forward to a couple days of downtime.

Sports

  • I am happy Nick Swisher is coming to Cleveland – I really enjoyed watching him play and I think the Yankees will be different without him. What troubles me is that teams are having to go longer on contracts to sign aging players, virtually assuring there will be performance decline by the end of that contract.  
  • I think all sports contracts should be one year, two at the most.  Motivated employees is a great concept!
  • Wow the Browns and Cavs are bad.
  • Posted this last night on FB:  it’s pretty simple truth that if you have a good QB in the NFL, you make the playoffs.  If you don’t, you pretty much don’t.  Most important position in sports!

Personal

  • I am struggling with what happened in Newtown.  It’s just hard to stomach, and I am praying for God’s good purposes to be revealed in time.  I pray He will strengthen the church in Newtown and that desperate hearts will turn to the only real place true healing can be found: Jesus.
  • I made it out with the kids on Christmas Eve to buy one last gift.  Fun!
  • I’m really looking forward to Christmas Eve service tonight.
  • Caramel Macchiato – best powdered cream I’ve found.
  • I am really missing a lot of people this year at Christmas.  It’s been a difficult year of loss and I pray for those missing loved ones.

On my mind #49: Tragedy is not a platform: My thoughts on responding to national tragedies.

I’m not sure I’m calmed down enough to write this.  I’ve not been calm in several of the discussions I’ve been in, and that’s simply because I think a bunch of people are wrong.

Well, I’m sure that sounds arrogant, but I’ll do my best to explain.

Tragedy is not a platform.

The unspeakable tragedy and its consequences that have unfolded over the past week in Newtown are first and foremost that, a tragedy.  But many, even people I love to read and usually agree with, have turned this tragedy into a platform.

The mass loss of life (especially the lives of children) is NO OCCASION to rant about agendas.  I’m foremost against those who have been having discussions about gun control in the past week.  I’m also really against those who fill the airwaves with discussions about how this can be stopped and the never-ending focus on the shooter.  For crying out loud all of the the dead are not buried yet!  These platforms, in my view, are a complete waste of breath, and I’ve paid little attention.

Tragedy is tragedy – think about reality.

Think about the reality of what happened.  The blood of children (children!) was spilled all over an elementary school.  The lives of heroic teachers and administrators were cut short.  Children are without friends and siblings.  Parents face the stark reality that their children will NEVER grow up, and all they have remaining now are pictures and memories.  Christmas trees in Newtown have gifts under them that will never be opened.

Newtown, Connecticut will always be associated with one evil man.  Real human beings went into the school and carried out the bodies of twenty children who were shot – many of them multiple times according to reports.  Real human beings will endure those experiences over and over in their minds.  Real human beings heard gunshots and protected the children who survived.  Real human beings responded and heard the bullet that took the cowardly gunman’s life.  Tragedy is tragedy – and because of that, the lives of those in Newtown are utterly re-shaped beyond the imagination of anyone who wasn’t there.

President Obama did a good job, but . . . 

I think our president has natural gifts of displaying compassion.  His speech Sunday night to those grieving in an auditorium was full of love for hurting people.  I’ll never be in that specific spot, but I do wish he simply would have called the nation into mourning.  Instead of even hinting at policy change, I think he should have challenged the American people to hurt – together.  We should have been challenged to cancel activities, wear black, gather as communities, pray, and mourn, at least for a week so we could focus together on the burial of the dead.  He should have asked those already yapping about political issues to stop out of respect for the dead.  At the very least I wish he would have put the focus solely on the victims (both dead and living), and how those attempting to move on need our support in grief.

And so we’re divided, and narcissistic.

My biggest concerns are not about gun control, mental health, Adam Lanza, arming educators, video game violence, or other things people are flapping their jaws about in regards to why this happened.  My concern is that we are narcissistic.  My concern is that we will take to social media to prove a point or promote an agenda – and trample both on the grief of the living and the honor of the dead while climbing the steps to our platform.  And that concern is spiritual.

The only conversation that really matters . . . 

is the gospel conversation.  The gospel — you remember that, right?  The good news? That Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners?  The only hope of man in difficult in dark times?  The only hope of Newtown?  The gospel is ultimately others centered.  That was the ultimate thrust of Jesus’ life.  And so, the narcissism of promoting our agenda in the immediate wake of tragedy is completely me centered.

If you’re a Christian, how much have you prayed for the spiritual healing of Newtown, the churches and leaders performing these funerals, and the eternal destiny of grieving parents?  If you’re a Christian, how much have you searched Scripture for truth that informs, or sought out Christian blogs and articles that help you think about Christ, the gospel, and the presence of evil? If the answer to these questions is: “not as much as I’ve watched the news, listened to gun control debates, and fed my mind with secular solutions to evil”, then I strongly encourage you to divorce your politics from your faith and learn how to put humanity first.

We should . . . 

Continue to grieve.  We should continue to pray diligently for those affected by this massive local and national loss.  We should be careful talking about policy moving forward.  If prompted, we should find a way to send a care package, a letter, a card, or some way to encourage the families in Newtown.  And then we should do it again 3 months and 6 months from now.  We should commit to pray for weeks, months, years. When this event leaves the news, it will barely be beginning to sink into the hearts and minds of those affected.  The road of grief for these families is not measured in terms of length of media coverage.  It will likely be until they go to their own graves.

We should pray as churches, smaller fellowships, families, and individuals.  We should cry.  We should cry privately, and we should cry out to God in the absence of answers.  We should ask that God will help us show an ability to trust in His sovereignty and knowledge, and that from shore to shore His grace and truth would fill this land in effective displays of compassion, unity, and concern for the loss of life experienced one week ago.

Friday Link Highlight 12.21.12 – When mothers are afraid of their children.

This week’s highest clicked link from Monday’s post:

When mothers are afraid of their children.

A few thoughts:

1. Mental illness is NOT the only factor in mass shootings.

Enough said.  There is no one pinpoint factor.  We need to get over that.

2. The kind of mental illness described here is scary, and most of us don’t know what to do about it.

The fact that law enforcement told her that she needs to have her son charged with a crime in order to contain him is difficult to read.  Is this really our best option?

3. The burning question: what do we do in situations like this?

Yikes.  I don’t know.  I’m not sure the article knows.  There has to be more than institutions and medications.  But it is very difficult to read about and difficult to even make an educated guess at what to do.  So, on this one, I’ll do a lot of listening, and less talking.  Anyone I should listen to?

Have a great weekend.

Monday Links and Bullets – 12.17.12

Another week begins.  A crazy, difficult, heart-breaking but at the same time joy filling week has passed.  Articles I want to share (links) and my own thoughts (bullets).  Enjoy and be challenged!

WEEKLY LINKS

LINK OF THE WEEK

Here’s a good article on Newtown.  More later about this horrific tragedy, but for now a good article to challenge your thinking should help.

NEWTOWN

One other article about something in this tragedy (and others) that really sticks out.  Please read this as it highlights things we may not think of if we’re not dealing with severe mental illness.

CHRISTIAN FAITH

This short read will help you understand why I really respect John Piper.  He is challenging and very well put together in the way he communicates.

PARENTING

When parents take back Facebook.

Parents fear long term consequences of online usage by their kids.

SPORTS

At the high school level, I am opposed to this.

BULLET THOUGHTS FOR THE WEEK

FAITH

  • I think the main conversation Christians should be having regarding Newtown is about the Gospel.
  • I am filled with joy and won’t change the life I’m called to live because of perceived or real fear.  I do not fear anyone who can harm me physically or kill this physical body.
  • Had a conversation at breakfast this morning about maximizing Christmas.  How will you use this season to be acutely aware of the need around you and respond?
  • Who do you know who needs encouraged today?

PERSONAL

  • Julie and I are both off today.  It’s been good to get caught up on some stuff around the house, do some shopping, and plan some service and encouragement.
  • I am anxious to begin thinking about 2013 and the opportunities it will hold both personally and as a church body.
  • I have lots of thoughts about Newtown that I will probably flesh out in a blog post this week, but my main concern is this: I don’t think our society knows how put people first.
  • Do you have the ability to think critically?  What do you think that means?  Are you able to respect others you disagree with?  Things I’m wrestling with . . .

SPORTS

  • Hey Browns: Don’t keep Shurmur.  He’s a terrible coach.  It’s probably good the Browns lost so there’s no temptation to keep this guy.
  • I am getting the urge to run or work out or at least do something to burn some calories.
  • Indians: sign Nick Swisher.  Yankees: sign Michael Bourn and trade Granderson.

Friday Link Highlight – 12.14.12. Why aren’t we calling it the royal fetus?

Here is the link that drew the most interest from my post on Monday:

Why aren’t we calling it the royal fetus?

1. The point of this article is, generally, true.

I can’t say it’s true in every case.  But think about how this is all being perceived.  I unsuspectingly turned on the Today Show one morning early last week and this was blowing up all over the place.  Why? Because William and Kate WANT their child.  What would the Today show say if William and Kate decided to abort (kill, murder, hack it to pieces and suck it out through a tube) the baby seven months later?

2. Can anyone deny there is a double standard?

Why is abortion somehow okay if the pregnancy isn’t wanted?  Why can’t we clearly say we want to be in control of life, and that control revolves around whether we want the child or not?  In order to be consistent, we’d have to cover the news like this: Duchess Kate has a fetus and we will be overjoyed when that life begins at its birth.  Further, we’d have to wonder why a nurse would take her life over a prank call about a mass of tissue.  Anyone else see the hypocrisy here?

3. In God’s eyes, all children are wanted.

All children are wanted.  It’s amazing how good things can come when someone commits their situation to God.  Mary did that in a pregnancy with a lot of complications.  I’ve read some powerful stories recently about even rape victims keeping their babies (not fetuses) and God doing amazing things through those situations.  God knows our lives; we are uniquely created in our mother’s wombs, and known by Him even then.  This is true – whether we admit it and believe it or not.  This is true – whether we are wanted by our parents or not.

Have a great weekend everyone!