Persecuted, persevering, praising

This post, on Christianity in the Middle East, is a few months late. Hopefully, the content here shall still be relevant and fuel for prayer:

The Lost History of Global Christianity – A 37-minute address on the historical expansion of Christianity eastwards. Foe example, did you know that there was a bishop in Tibet before there ever was one in central Germany?

Religious freedom for Mideast Christians: Yesterday and today

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The Persecuted Church: How to see and how to pray – A 1-hour talk by a journalist who’s worshipped with the persecuted, yet praising, saints.

Remember the prisoners, as though you were in prison with them, and the mistreated, as though you yourselves were suffering bodily.
Hebrews 13:3

Gospel-sharing strangers

When I was in  high school, I spent not a few Sunday afternoons on what we called ‘hospital visit’. 20-30 of us from our girls-only boarding school (founded by Scottish Presbyterian missionaries) would make the 20-30 minute walk to the nearby hospital (founded by the same missionaries) where we’d sing for patients before sharing the gospel with them one-on-one. In the years since, I’ve wondered how effective that approach was, but I trust the Lord used our imperfect efforts to save some.

Which brings me to a couple of articles I read months ago (I am really good at procrastinating)  that both touched on the fruit borne from evangelistic encounters with strangers. Be encouraged by the greatness of God:

Praying for people (including yourself)

My diligence in collecting blogworthy material far exceeds my blog output. With this post, I partially offload the contents of one of my Evernote tags (I love Evernote!)  in the hope that something here will bless you—and those you pray for:

Pastors & preachers

Family & yourself

Possible strangers

A concentrated course on the New Testament canon

Here’s a profitable way to spend 3 hours of your time: listen to these three lectures by Michael Kruger:

  • Origin of the canon (length 46:04)
  • Date of the canon (length 50:18)
  • Contenders for the canon (length 46:09)

I strongly suggest listening when you’re mentally alert as he packs things in very tight.

Regular readers of this blog may know I’ve read some extracanonical material (Maccabbees, the Protoevangelium of James, the Patristics). I was especially helped by Dr Kruger’s comments in the third lecture on these and similar material.

The Q&A session (length 28:40) is excellent, not only because the questions are good, but also because the questioners used a microphone 😉

To take in the same material at your own pace drop by Dr Kruger’s blog, Canon Fodder, and read the posts in the series 10 Misconceptions about the NT Canon and 10 basic facts about the NT Canon that every Christian should memorise.

That hoarding habit

I dislike throwing things away. It’s a good thing that I’ve moved so much in the recent past (6 times in 12 years), or else I’d have a lot more stuff of questionable utility.

This phenomenon is called the endowment effect, and it describes how something becomes more valuable to us simply because it belongs to us (or because we imagine it belongs to us). Incidentally, the endowment effect extends to non-physical things, for example, wanting to click on every link shared in your social media.

If this topic intrigues you, read Why we love to hoard… and how you can overcome it.

(And, yes, I’m aware of the irony that I just offered you a link to click on 🙂 )

Struggle is the friend of learning

What do you do when faced with a new or unfamiliar task that turns out to be more challenging than you first thought? Do you dig in your heels, roll up your sleeves, grit your teeth, [insert your favourite idiom here] and stick with it until it bows to your superior might? Or do you find some more pleasant way of spending your time?

The second half of last week was one of mental struggle for me as I tried to figure out (a) how to get a piece of software to do what I wanted it to do, and (b) why it wasn’t doing what I expected it to do. To add to my frustration, I had a deadline looming. Good thing for me I’d read these articles, and knew to not to discount my struggling:

  • A Really Hard Test Really Helps Learning – “When we struggle to learn something, and fail, the moment we finally get the answer it imprints itself more deeply on our mind than it would have had struggle and failure not preceded it.”
  • Why Floundering is Good – “The more you struggle and even fail while you’re trying to master new information, the better you’re likely to recall and apply that information later.”
  • Struggle for Smarts? – “For the most part in American culture, intellectual struggle in schoolchildren is seen as an indicator of weakness, while in Eastern cultures it is not only tolerated but is often used to measure emotional strength.”

The thought that comes to my mind is whether this struggle is a product of the fall. Will the inhabitants of the new heavens and new earth have new intellects that will grasp everything at the first? Or will there still be learning curves? Or will there be nothing left to learn? I can only wonder…

How to read lots of books

It’s the fourth week of January, which means that not a few New Year’s resolutions are suffering from severe neglect. I long ago resolved not to make any resolutions, but to cultivate good and beneficial habits regardless of the time of year. Obviously, that isn’t a guarantee for success. For example I wish I could put myself out as an example for the title of this post…

Halfway through last year, I got all fired up over how reading for fifteen minutes a day could translate to 15 books a year. Since last week I’ve been taking advantage  of the increased traffic during my morning commute to read long form material, and that’s the closest I’ve got to my goal (and no, I’m not the one driving 🙂 ).

Think you don’t have time to read? Here are some practical pointers. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to read old books and keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through your mind. And finally, I understand that in some life stages, reading oodles of books just isn’t possible.

Pssssst! Want a free study Bible?

Yes, completely free.

You may be wondering what the catch is. As far as I can tell, it’s that the Faithlife Study Bible will probably never be available in print. It can be downloaded onto your iPad, iPhone or Android device, or accessed online at Bible.Faithlife.com.

I’ve had the Faithlife app for a little over 6 months now, though I used it more frequently back when I led Bible studies. Faithlife is aimed at a non-scholarly audience and its greatest selling point (pun intended) is its social aspect, which I haven’t had a chance to use. You can set up public or private groups  and share Bible verses, notes, reading plans, etc. amongst the members.

What I have used are the notes, maps and infographics that come with the study Bible. The package also includes photos and videos. The former I haven’t spent much time on and the latter have, in my experience, never worked.

Despite those glitches, I think it’s an excellent resource to have. So go on and get yourself one of the 2.5 million copies that are being given away!