- In music news, I don't know if I'm looking forward to something more than Ryan Adams covering Taylor Swift's 1989.
- On Windows 10 & Privacy. It's a bit worrisome.
- Here are some good suggestions for creating a discipleship culture within your church community.
- I love Lego. And these creations are gorgeous. Would love to build something like this someday.
- Curious where it is the most difficult to be a Christian? Here's a list.
One year later, in 1784, Washington theoretically enfolded Muslims into his private world at Mount Vernon. In a letter to a friend seeking a carpenter and bricklayer to help at his Virginia home, he explained that the workers’ beliefs—or lack thereof—mattered not at all: “If they are good workmen, they may be of Asia, Africa, or Europe. They may be Mahometans [Muslims], Jews or Christian of an[y] Sect, or they may be Atheists.” Clearly, Muslims were part of Washington’s understanding of religious pluralism—at least in theory.
Fascinating look at what the Founding Fathers thought of Islam. With all of the anti rhetoric being thrown around, it's nice to consider things like this.
- Greg Boyd on whether or not America is uniquely favored by God. Thoughtful read.
- The Ethical Guide to Growing Your Audience. Lots to think about here if you are trying to grow an audience.
- I found this to be a good followup on the NY Times article on mani-pedi places in NYC. I thought the first sounded a bit off and think this brings some good balance.
- This author recommends NOT praying about the Book of Mormon if an LDS person asks you to. I'd agree from my experience reaching out to those in the LDS church.
Don't Post What You Can't Confirm
You may say, "But what if I can’t tell if the story is fake or not?" I've given you several ways to check the veracity of a story, but if that does not work, there is just one solution: don't post it. If you have not, will not, or cannot confirm a story, do not share it. As Christians, we have a higher standard than even the journalist. We aren’t protecting the reputation of an organization or a website, we bear the name of our King.
If our friends and families cannot trust us with this type of news, many will not listen when we seek to share the good news of the gospel.
I've seen so many fake news articles flying around facebook and other social media venues (and occassionally thru email). It's important that we take the time to source what we are posting. Spreading lies and fake news does nothing but stir people up in unhealthy ways. Read more from Ed Stetzer here.
It's been awhile since I've posted as I've been leading a training program with mostly no internet access. I'm slowly working through news I've missed and have pulled out a few interesting links for your enjoyment.
This made me smile.
Kenya, the country I currently call home recently signed into law a new marriage act as well.
There are some good things about it chiefly:
- It bans marriage under 18.
- It entitles women to the estate in cases of divorce/abandonment.
Both of these items are important. Child marriage has historically been a major issue in parts of Kenya. Our language istructor told of her tribe where she knew of daughters the age of 12 being married off (read: sold for the bride price). Also, women have historically been oppressed and have struggled to gain equal rights under the law. This now adds some protection for them, if it is necessary (and abandonment/divorce can be a major issue).
But it also appeals to local culture in one specific way that is a bit worrisome: it officially legalizes polygamy locally. And actually, not just polygamy, but it gives the husband authority to marry new wives without consulting any other spouses.
For those living in North America, while you stress about marriage legality in the US, please remember the women of Kenya as well and the broken families that policies like this have the potential to create. Polygamy done in this way definitely wrecks havok on the family system.
When I met a group of Iranian church leaders in Sweden their fear was that Muslims would turn to secularism, even to atheism. Many have come to the church, but this requires the church to be a “safe space” for Muslims. The tragedy is that many churches are not welcoming for Muslims. They regard them as the enemy. Recently, in a shameful display in Texas, a group of Christians heckled a Muslim meeting and called on them to leave the country. The harvest in Sweden is partly a result of the church taking a stand for Muslim immigrants and against local nationalist parties. The church in Sweden is a “safe space” for Muslims. Is the evangelical church in America a “safe space” for Muslims?
Long story short: the brutality of ISIS is causing muslims across the globe to reconsider their faith. What will your response be? Read more here.
- I'd agree with this article: DuckDuckGo is the way to search (especially if you care about privacy/security).
- If you are curious about what's going on in Greece (and feel pretty clueless) this is a good starting point.
- Adware/Malware on the mac is becoming a more prevalent issue. Check out Adware Medic to scan your computer and clean things up if you are at all worried.
- It's stories like this that make people so skeptical about charismatic things. "It's OK if we have to fake it a little bit," my mentor told me once, "because people need to see the power of God, and it's OK if we have to fudge things to make that happen."
Encryption protects our data. It protects our data when it's sitting on our computers and in data centers, and it protects it when it's being transmitted around the Internet. It protects our conversations, whether video, voice, or text. It protects our privacy. It protects our anonymity. And sometimes, it protects our lives.
This protection is important for everyone. It's easy to see how encryption protects journalists, human rights defenders, and political activists in authoritarian countries. But encryption protects the rest of us as well. It protects our data from criminals. It protects it from competitors, neighbors, and family members. It protects it from malicious attackers, and it protects it from accidents.
This is important. If we only use encryption when we're working with important data, then encryption signals that data's importance. If only dissidents use encryption in a country, that country's authorities have an easy way of identifying them. But if everyone uses it all of the time, encryption ceases to be a signal. No one can distinguish simple chatting from deeply private conversation. The government can't tell the dissidents from the rest of the population. Every time you use encryption, you're protecting someone who needs to use it to stay alive.
Read the rest of what Bruce Schneier says here.
I couldn't agree more. Encryption is something we all should care about. Privacy is somethiing we should all be cognizant to. There are people the world over whose life depends on it definitely but it should still matter just as much to you if yours doesn't. There are lots of tools to help facilitate this and lots of things you can be doing. I'll begin writing soon about some of these tools and some of these ways. For your sake (and the safety of others) please consider it thoughtfully.
- Did you know last Sunday was World Refugee Day? I think we all knew about Father's Day. But not Refugee Day. And this with 1 in 122 people being either a refugee, internally displaced or seeking asylum. It's a huge issue and one that should capture our attentions.
- Apple put out a free Swift development course. Check it out!
- New Free App Alert: Slidebox for easy sorting of your photo library. I'll be checking it out.
- The amazing story of someone leaving Scientology. Don't get involved with that group. Seriously.
- Good reminder when you need to be careful with your cellular data usage: common data hogs you can limit.
- This is a great overview of writing apps for the Mac. Their conclusion is spot on, and both Ulysses & Scrivener are worth taking a look at if you spend a lot of time writing.
We all have those shows that we can watch over and over again. Far from being a mind-numbing exercise one University of Buffalo study has shown that watching your favorite reruns can actually restore your mental energy.
The theory relates to the idea that self-control and willpower are limited resources that we use up when we work on important projects rather than play Destiny with our friends online.
“With enough time, these mental resources will return,” says Jaye Derrick, lead researcher of the UB study. “However, there may be ways to more quickly restore them.”
Derrick says that re-watching loved TV shows and movies can restore our mental energy and willpower because we find comfort in our surrogate relationships with our favorite characters.
I've done this for years and my wife thinks I'm crazy. Now though? Scientific proof I might be on to something...
And that's how unicorns got into the bible.
But more modern translations, knowing more about the re'em, tend to go with "wild ox" over "unicorn."
Interesting look over at Experimental Theology regarding the KJV Bible and translation issues in the original text that led to an extinct version of cattle being translated as unicorn.
It's issues like these that make me wonder how or why anyone would be KJV Only.
Due to a variety of circumstances, mbjones.net has transitioned a bit. Work related "stuff" has transitioned to catalyze.in. This will be primarily for blogging and faith related talk. I'll back fill over time with old content as I'm able as well. Hope you enjoy the new site (those that might follow).
- I found This to be a good article on launching a blog. It’s crazy detailed (and may be a bit much for some people) but there is a lot of good info within. So - far all of you who have asked me about this over the past few months: look to this article first.
- Mission Drift is something I’ve processed in various contexts over the past few months. This article looks at it in the context of church. It applies more broadly though. Perhaps one of the most helpful bits? ”Say no to some very good things.”
- In business/corporation/organizational news, do you know how to end your emails? What’s best? ”Nothing. Don’t sign off at all. With the rise of Slack and other office chatting software, e-mail has begun functioning more like instant messaging anyway.” Say thanks if you are thanking someone but other wise, you don’t really need anything (and it more often than not it can be inappropriate to use something). From here: “You’re Ending Your Emails Wrong”
- 6 Core Needs in the Workplace. A pretty interesting read.
I find the prosperity gospel to be most objectionable. The idea that God wants us to be self absorbed — focused on our own health, wealth and western ideals of prosperity — has done more to harm the kingdom of God than build it up. It also directly contradicts Biblical, particularly New Testament, notions of kingdom living.
I was reminded this once again while reading on a plane. I started reading Luke but before jumping into the text, I asked for God to highlight simple things that I’d missed before. One of those dealt specifically with our false notions of prosperity and kingdom living. It comes specifically from Luke 5 and is the story of Jesus and the fishermen.
3 He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then Jesus sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing! But at your word I will lower the nets.” 6 When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets started to tear. 7 So they motioned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they were about to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” 9 For Peter and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, Zebedee’s sons, who were Simon’s business partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” 11 So when they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
Here is something amazing. Jesus is traveling with these fisherman and teaches some from their boat. What exactly — we don’t know. We could probably guess a little bit — it seems that often Jesus taught about what the kingdom of God is like, through parables and stories and simple truths, like in the sermons on the mount and plains. He often spoke of an alternative lifestyle — one lived in a subversive opposition to the dominant culture.
And so here are these fishermen. They first recognized that in Jesus, there was someone worth listening to. Even though they had been out fishing all night with nothing to show for their hard work, they were willing to take Jesus at His word. When He said, ”Lower your nets” they did, and to their amazement caught more fish than they likely had ever seen at one given time. They even had to call another boat over to hold all of the excess. For these fishermen, this likely represented an enormous wealth such that they didn’t often come across.
For us in the states, more often than not it seems that this would have been the end of the story. God is supposed to bless us with wealth beyond measure. It’s an expectation to live and walk in. And sadly this satisfies us. So often we leave it at that (wealth accumulation as outward sign of blessing) and ignore the greater truth of what abundance and wealth truly is.
Thankfully though for Simon Peter and his business partners, this wasn’t a sufficient end to the story. They are amazed at the wealth but more amazed with Jesus. Jesus’ abundance immediately draws attention to their deficiency. But not the deficiency of their pocketbooks — the deficiency of their hearts.
And what they did next is truly amazing. As soon as they got to shore they left all of that new found wealth behind (as well as everything else that they had) to follow Jesus. The wealth truly didn’t matter a single bit when contrasted with Jesus (the source of all our life). Worldly wealth pales in comparison with the wealth of a heart filled with His kingdom.
1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God. 1:2 The Word was with God in the beginning. 1:3 All things were created by him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. 1:4 In him was life, and the life was the light of mankind. 1:5 And the light shines on in the darkness, but the darkness has not mastered it.
1:14 Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory – the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father.
1:18 No one has ever seen God. The only one, himself God, who is in closest fellowship with the Father, has made God known.
John 1:1-5; 14; 18
It’s Christmas time and generally in church we talk about the birth of Jesus and all that surrounded it. I want to do that here too, but from a slightly different angle; this is something that kind of has to be done if you are using John as your primary Christmas text. You see, John starts out with a completely different Christmas story than Matthew or Luke. Instead of the details of the events surrounding the Nativity scene (including wise men and shepherds and a baby in a manger) we get a wholly different view of Jesus and His entrance into the world. In much the same way Genesis 1 poetically describes GOD imaginatively creating this world, here in John we are given a picture of GOD imaginatively entering into it.
The first few verses of John make is abundantly clear who Jesus is — He is the Word — the LOGOS — who has always been with GOD and who actually is GOD. Not only that — it is by this WORD that all things, all of us, everything we see — hear — feel — were created.
The parallel of these first few verses with Genesis is also quite important (and intriguing). In these verses, we have a deconstruction of the creation event, giving more details to the original story and hinting that something new and different is happening. We immediately come to find the power in GOD’s words at the beginning of time, “Let there be light!” This power is the move of Jesus into our world and it connects immediately what was (creation and history pre-Jesus) with what will be (Jesus bodily arriving as the inaugural event of the coming Kingdom of God).
This is important to keep in mind; we see throughout the Old Testament GOD’s desire to be in relation with people. He walks and talks with Adam and Eve in the garden. He covenants with Abraham. He wrestles with Jacob. He divinely intervenes upon hearing the cries of His oppressed people in Egypt. He fights on their side against the Godless. He identifies one of our heart’s (David’s) with His own. He loves them enough to send messengers to direct their footpaths back to Him. GOD desires a people to call His own, who number as the stars in the sky, and live righteous and just lives before Him.
Looking back to John, and its parallels to our beginnings, it’s GOD as written word that first comes to the Israelites in the form of the law. This didn’t have the desired affect of creating a nation centered around GOD, living righteously and justly before Him. It certainly produced knowledge of sin (Romans 3:20-25) but not life and the people He desired.
His people continued to live selfish lives centered on themselves, missing entirely the spirit of the WORD of GOD for its letter. GOD in WORD only and not flesh was not having the desired affect. Something else had to be done. The mission of GOD, carried out through His WORD acted out via His people was not sufficient.
And this is the part we get back to one of the most excited verses in John (at least to my ears). John continues on with his narrative of the creation event saying that the WORD became flesh. GOD, in the person of Jesus, was moving into our neighborhood. We were finally able to see the glory of GOD with our own eyes. No longer was His presence restricted to a temple or His WORD to a confining — not freeing — law.
This truly was (and still is) a radical change. John tells us that know one ever before had truly seen GOD; in the past people have glimpsed His glory but no one has truly seen Him. The shadow we’d known was coming into clear focus in the person of Jesus — God made flesh.
It’s so exciting to think that in doing this GOD changed the course of history forever. GOD’s mission had a new central expression: incarnation — becoming flesh — moving in with us — being one of us.
A natural question that stems from this is “How does the incarnation — God becoming flesh — affect the ministry of Jesus?” It’s easy for me to say that incarnation is a new expression but if it doesn’t have any affect than it really shouldn’t matter to us. There are two specific affects, thought, that build upon each other and are worth exploring now.
The first affect of the incarnation on the ministry of Jesus is that it made GOD Radically present among His people. No longer did He have to speak through priests and prophets. No longer was His presence confined to one room of a temple. He was actually one of them, living how they lived and doing what they did. For the first 30 years of His life in fact, He blended into the culture.
The second affect builds from the first one. Because Jesus was radically present, He was able to clearly speak directly to the needs of the people. This isn’t to say that before Jesus, GOD didn’t know their needs and didn’t intervene on their behalf or make Himself known; the OT is rife with examples of God meeting the needs of His people. Rather, the lack of distance and religion, and the creation of a relationship, allowed Jesus to directly speak into the hearts of people. No longer was approaching GOD a systematic, religious act but an actually encounter with a living, breathing person that spoke and acted and talked as one of them. The people who believed knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that GOD in Jesus was seeing the deficiency of their lives, specifically where they lacked HIM, and Jesus could directly fill them with His life.
So why should the incarnation and its affect on the ministry of Jesus matter to us? Primarily because Jesus demands incarnation of His follower. John 17:18 says, “Just as you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.” This is in a prayer of Jesus to His Father about His disciples in which He goes on to include all that believe in Him throughout the ages.
And this might seem scary and hard. We aren’t GOD and we aren’t magically going to be born into a new culture. So how do we go about incarnational mission? Their are some keys to this which lay in an important passage of Paul but first it’s important to discuss the starting point.
To that end, it starts with God and His work in us, of course. John 20:21 reiterates that His people are to be sent people, living in the world as Jesus lived in the Jewish world. It goes on to say that Jesus breathed onto them and they received the Holy Spirit. God is forever our only source for anything we do, particular for that which is done in accordance with His mission. His Holy Spirit, living within us is a must and the source of any “power”, “ability”, “wisdom”, or “knowledge” that we may have.
And Paul goes on to lay out how Jesus did it and how we can follow Him in it:
You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, 2:6 who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, 2:7 but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. 2:8 He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross! 2:9 As a result God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 2:10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow – in heaven and on earth and under the earth – 2:11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
It starts with an emptying of ourselves. We must be willing to give up all that we are and take on all that Jesus was, sharing in His emptying of Himself to become human. This means getting rid of our own modes of classification. It ceases to be an us/them thing, becoming only us. It ceases to be about our culture versus theirs, instead letting Jesus bleed into the cracks of theirs. Economics no longer matter. Skill or intelligences ceases to be a deal. Even Gender ceases to be a big issue. Incarnation levels the playing field so that God can meet people wherever they are at.
It also means an attitude of service. Paul says Jesus took on the form of a slave and the gospels detail clearly His service to those all around Him. He washed His disciples feet, healed the sick, forgave sins and fed miraculous amounts of food to extremely large crowds. Everything He did and everything He shared was done in an attitude of service to the people He was born into and loved.
He was also obedient to the point of death on a cross. Obedience characterized His mission. John says obedience starts with the Son doing as the Father does (5:19;30) and that Jesus did what pleased the Father (8:28). It goes that we should do the same. And it’s got to be something we are so sold out in that we are willing to even, as Jesus did, give our lives to it.
And there we have an admittedly brief look at the incarnational mission of Jesus and how we are called to participate in it. It leaves me with a few questions worth reflecting on:
For starters it’s worth asking, “am I obeying Jesus and walking in His mission?” It’s not just something that people are called to do by moving overseas. In most cases, at least at the beginning of our walks with Jesus, we don’t need any other calling than that Jesus said “do it”. There are people and groups and cultures all around us that need Jesus and need someone to actually be Him where they are at. Think of your workplace. Or your school. The cool, local coffee shop. Perhaps the local homeless shelter or the street or apartment complex you live in. We are surrounded by people everyday that need Jesus’ love just as much as you do.
If you are walking in His mission, is there a group of people you are particularly called to? It could be someplace or community you find yourself regularly involved in now.
And finally, if so how are you (or how could you be) incarnating Jesus into the lives of these people?
I thought I might share a thought for the day that starts with a question. In Jesus, were you given a spirit of fear? Or were you given something entirely different — a Spirit of power? Of love? Of self-control? This is an extremely important question which should greatly shape how we walk out our days. I’m hoping the answer is obvious. If not — turn no further than Paul’s second letter to Timothy. The first chapter opens with an exhortation to Timothy to remember the gift that we possess in the Lord —
For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.
2 Timothy 1:7
This begs me ask the followup question: Why do so many Jesus followers, fearing we are on the verge of the worst (either the end times specifically or national judgement due to the politics in Washington or some other imminent apocalypse) live like the former when we should be living like the latter? It’s disquieting hearing all of the talk that we as Christians should be readying ourselves for some sort of doom, or to head to the caves and across the borders in defeat or to buy up guns and such for the coming wars, whenever or whatever they might be. It seems to be rooted in an unholy fear — a fear that perhaps Christ’s death really wasn’t enough for us and the rest of the world, that perhaps our fate really wasn’t decided on Calvary as we might have supposed. Or at least that’s the impression we leave people with.
Where does this come from? I read the scriptures, spend time meditating on the person of Jesus and what He has accomplished and ushered in to this world and can’t find this fear or response in any of it. Were Jesus not in the picture, we might have something to fear but because Jesus is in the picture, the worst that evil can do is no match. Paul’s letter to Timothy says not 3 verses from his answer to the first question that Jesus has broken the power of death.
…He has broken the power of death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel!
2 Timothy 1:10
In John’s first letter it says that Jesus’ once and for all destroyed the works of the devil (that’s why He came into this world!). And again it shines through — in Jesus there isn’t anything anymore to fear. Honestly, I think some of the fear is wrapped up in how we individualistically view the cross. The reductionist tendency to see Jesus’ death as solely affecting the individual makes us miss the bigger picture — we are definitely a part of it but Christ’s death and subsequent resurrection brought victory decisively over all evil, once and for all. That should mean nothing to fear.
And it should flow from all of this, I hope, that rather then trying to escape when the going gets tough we should live in the realization that we are the tough (empowered by a Holy Spirit unlike anything in this world) and that we should get going, not away but into the thick of it, making Jesus’ kingdom known and available, here and now, for those who desperately need it. It saddens me to hear the Gospel cheapened into some sort of an escape plan when it, by it’s very nature, has the ability to radically change the world around us. I think it rather foolish of us to think that the time we live in is somehow so radically different from those times throughout history. Considering the Christian experience under pagan Roman rule is one early example of how easy we have it in light of what could be. And the kingdom of God exploded in that time period. Withdrawal, escape, rebellion, violence and other such ideas antithetical to living out the kingdom as its ambassadors wasn’t the modus operandi but living out the Word — Jesus and His life — was. It changed the world once; it’s foolish to think that it couldn’t again.
I started by mentioning that I wanted to share a thought for the day. Really this is a thought for our time and all time. It’s something to take with us wherever God takes us. It’s something to cling to. If the power of the Cross can transform our hellish lives into heavenly bodies then no matter how bad the world around might look we should walk in confidence knowing that the war is done and over and that one day, even if not today, the Kingdom will reign.