Stories Worth Sharing — February 7, 2015

The logistical nightmare of getting out of Afghanistan

Spin the globe, and you could not have found a more difficult place to leave. They don’t call Afghanistan the “graveyard of empires” for nothing. Many outsiders before us, including the Soviets as well as the British, have found it deceptively easy to enter and almost impossible to leave.

A WWII U-boat at the bottom of a Canadian lake?

Many from Labrador maintain that the recently discovered object is a Nazi sub that according to local folklore slipped into the inlet during the early 1940s and was somehow lost.

5 Man-made things you can see from space (and one you can’t)

Our whole planet looks like nothing more than a dinky blue splotch from Mars’ surface. Still, astronauts traveling in Low Earth Orbit or onboard the International Space Station can see quite a bit using nothing by their naked eyes.

What I Wish I Hadn’t Learned in Sunday School

We have perhaps trained up a generation to know Jesus as a correct answer, instead of an actual person.

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Stories Worth Sharing — January 31, 2015

Inside the new ESPN studio

ESPN’s long-stated mission is to meet sports fans wherever they are. And so the company is embarking on a sweeping mission to expand its dominion beyond cable TV to whatever comes next — even if it’s not sure what that will be.

The search for Australia’s lost hospital ship

HMAS Sydney sank with no survivors in 1941 after a battle with a German raider, the Kormoran, which also sank. The death toll of 645 men made it Australia’s worst naval disaster.

Finding the Sydney had been viewed as an impossible challenge because of the mystery over what had happened in the battle and the depth of the water.

This abandoned airport has been caught in middle of DMZ for 40 years

Once the main airport of Cyprus, Nicosia ceased operations in July 1974, shortly after Turkey invaded and the tarmac became a battlefield. Damage to the planes and buildings, combined with ongoing political instability, prevented the aviation hub from re-opening.

That time when Bart Ehrman and I agreed

My note: In this video, Ehrman argues vigorously for the historicity of Jesus.

 

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Stories Worth Sharing – January 24, 2015

 

Largest photo ever of the Andromeda galaxy

It is the biggest Hubble image ever released and shows over 100 million stars and thousands of star clusters embedded in a section of the galaxy’s pancake-shaped disc stretching across over 40,000 light-years.

Revitalization at the Brooklyn Navy Yard

[The Yard] originally served as a shipyard from 1776 to 1965 and is now an industrial park with thriving manufacturing and commercial activity where over 200 businesses employ more than 5,000 people.

My Note: The museum at the Navy Yard (BLDG 92is phenomenal!

Celebrating MIThenge

Running nearly the entire length of the MIT campus from the East end to the West, the ambling hallway known to students as the “Infinite Corridor” is not only so packed that it has its own informal traffic laws but more spectacularly it is occasionally the site of a phenomenon known as MIThenge.

Learning from the 10 most influential churches of the last 100 years

Looking through these ten historical windows that Elmer Towns has opened for us, we note the various ways that the influence of each church was effective…inward for spiritual growth, upward to God, relational to other believers, and outward to the non-Christian.

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22 Steps You Can Take Now to Improve Your Bible Reading for the Rest of Your Life

Regularly and consistently reading the Bible is a discipline vital for all Christians new and mature alike. It should become a life-long pursuit, so that we can gain a deeper understanding of who God is and how He works in history. As D.A. Carson writes,

The aim is never to become a master of the Word, but to be mastered by it.

The discipline of reading the Bible is also a skill that you can develop over time. If you are a new or young believer in Christ, the habits and skills you pick up now will benefit your Bible reading for years to come.

Here are 22 steps that should help you as you start honing your Bible reading skills:

Discovery

1. Find a reading bible.

Not all Bibles are created equal. Pick a Bible that will limit distractions and help you read more. A reading Bible removes cross references, titles, and verse numbers, leaving you with just the biblical text.

2. Find a reading plan.

A Bible reading plan provides structure to your reading; it also helps you work systematically through the entire Bible. Currently I am using the canonical plan tied in with Jim Hamilton’s book; in the past I have greatly benefited from Professor Horner’s plan (PDF).

3. Pick your translation.

There seems to be an unending number of English Bible translations available; for a new believer, it can be overwhelming. Rather than using several translations, make a long-term commitment to one translation. That way, you will learn the particularities of that translation. One way to pick a translation: find what translation your pastor uses. It always helps if the words he is reading on Sunday match the words in the Bible in front of you.

4. Vary your translation.

While it is important to focus on one translation, it can also help to occasionally read from other translations. By dipping your toes into a less formal version (say The Message or NLT), you can read larger passages at a time. Likewise, by trying out a more formal translation (like KJV or NASB) you might be challenged to concentrate on each word of a verse.

5. Journey down the rabbit’s hole of cross references.

If you have a Bible with cross references, take some time to follow them. These cross references, placed there by the translators and publishers, serve to connect themes, images, quotations, and allusions throughout the text. Pick a cross reference from the passage you are reading, follow it to another verse, and continue tracing these references throughout the Bible. You might be surprised where it will lead.

6. Read an entire book in one sitting.

The books of the Bible are each a literary whole—we can do them a disservice by breaking them into chunks. By reading an entire book, you can get the big picture, the author’s argument, or the narrative flow—all of which are harder to see in individual verses. You might think that you don’t have the time to read an entire book in one sitting, but many can be read in under an hour. (ht Desiring God)

Understanding

7. Learn the order of the books.

The Bible contains 66 books and can be a nightmare to navigate if you don’t remember the order of the books. I remember back when tabs were all the rage; nowadays you can just memorize the order of the books in the English Bible so you don’t have to depend on the Table of Contents.

8. Learn the genres of the Bible.

The books of the Bible are written in certain genres, each of which demand reading a certain way. Learn what those genres are, how to identify them, and how to read them properly. Leland Ryken has written some great guides to this—start with Ryken’s Bible Handbook.

9. Learn the storyline of the Bible.

There is a overarching narrative storyline to the Bible—a story that starts in Genesis 1 and concludes in Revelation 22. In between are all the narrative books, containing stories of nations, people, and even a talking donkey! Knowing the flow and major points in this storyline helps you better understand how each story fits. There are plenty of resources that can help you navigate the narrative of the Bible. What’s in the Bible? is some of the best biblical teaching I have heard—and it’s done by puppets! D.A. Carson’s The God Who Is There is a great book tracing the story of God’s work in the Bible. And if a Walk Thru the Bible event is ever in your area, I encourage you to attend.

10. Find a one volume commentary.

There will be times where you can’t figure out what a Bible passage is saying. It is at those times you might want to turn to a commentary—a book written by pastors or scholars that help explain what the text is saying. The NIV Compact Bible Commentary and the New Bible Commentary are two helpful commentaries in this category.

11. Learn the cultural background of the Bible.

The events of the Bible took place thousands of years ago in cultures vastly different than ours today. At times the meaning behind the text can only be gleaned if you know something about the culture in which the text was written. A good background commentary will explain some of the cultural issues and meanings behind the text. Grab one each for the Old Testament and New Testament.

12. Grab a Bible atlas.

Many of the biblical narratives include towns and locations unfamiliar to us today. And if you are merely reading the words on the page, the names can blend into the background. But if you read with a Bible atlas open, the stories can become even more tangible. With a Bible atlas, you can see distances, geological features, and even political entities that might be at play in the story.

Retention

13. Write down your thoughts.

God may be using your Bible reading time to show you some amazing stuff. Don’t lose it, be sure to write it down! Grab a journal or a Bible with wide margins and write down what God is showing you. You can also keep track of prayer requests, praises, and how God is working in your life.

14. Memorize Scripture.

In order to have Scripture truly impact your everyday, you need to have it impressed on your heart. Start memorizing Scripture as soon as possible. It’s like compound interest: the sooner you start, the greater the impact will be later on in life. Use the Fighter Verses website or app (iOS and Android) to memorize one verse per week, or try memorizing extended passages.

15. Remember context is key.

When you stumble upon a verse that is causing you trouble, be sure to look at the verse’s context. Read the paragraph before and after the verse again. Then read the chapter before and after the verse again.

16. Remember who is talking.

Large sections of the Bible are speeches. Many are by God or one of his representatives (prophets). Sometimes they are by God’s people, either to each other or to God. Occassionally they are by the enemies of God. Remember who is the source of the words you are reading, as that will affect how you interpret them.

17. Remember the audience.

In the New Testament, several books are letters to specific churches struggling with specific issues. Keep track of those issues and how the author addresses them.

18. Set up a digital wallpaper.

If you are working on memorizing a passage of Scripture, be sure to put it somewhere you will see it upwards of one hundred times a day: your phone’s lock screen. The Fighter Verses app does a great job of this.

 19. Use a pen.

Be sure to mark up your Bible as you see fit. Circle words. Bracket verses. Underline. Use exclamation points! and even question marks. Note the flow of the argument. All these notes and markings will help you better understand the text.

 20. Listen to the Bible.

There are some great apps that allow you to listen to audio versions of the Bible. This allows you to consume the Bible while in the car, washing dishes, or doing other chores. Pick an audio Bible of your favorite translation; it will help with retention the next time you read that passage.

 21. Get a children’s Bible.

While there are some children’s Bibles that underwhelming in conveying biblical truth, there are a few that provide rich spiritual truth in an accessible manner. The best two that I have found are The Jesus Storybook Bible and The Big Picture Story Bible.

22. Talk about what you are reading.

Don’t keep what you are reading and learning to yourself. Join a small group, a Bible study, or grab someone else and talk about what you are reading. This outside support can encourage you when you are struggling, answer questions, and correct you when you are wrong. Plus, they will learn from you just as you are learning from them.

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Stories Worth Sharing – January 17, 2015

Before Google there was the New York Public Library

“In a world pre-Google, librarians weren’t just Wikipedia, they were people’s Craiglist, Pinterest, Etsy, and Instagram all rolled into one.”

Winchester rifle leans up against tree for 132 years

Although staff have no idea how the rifle ended up there, “it looked like someone propped it up there, sat down to have their lunch and got up to walk off without it,” Andler said.

The Town without WIFI

The residents of Green Bank, West Virginia, can’t use cell phones, wi-fi, or other kinds of modern technology due to a high-tech government telescope. Recently, this ban has made the town a magnet for technophobes, and the locals aren’t thrilled to have them.

Refuting Dan Brown, Newsweek, and the question of canon

There’s an even stronger historical indicator, however, that by the time Constantine reigned the books of the New Testament were near universally understood.

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Stories Worth Sharing – January 10, 2015

 

The Year in Cinematically-Pimped Religion

It’s as if a Hollywood host of execs all of made the same resolution for 2014: cash in on God and people who believe in God.

Donald Whitney on Bible Intake

What I don’t do is wake up and say, “Am I going to read the Bible today?” That decision was made half a century ago.

Is this where Jesus was put on trial?

The excavations include what may be the foundations of the palace of King Herod. It was here, many scholars and archaeologists believe, that the Roman governor Pontius Pilate put Jesus on trial.

Templeton Foundation provides grant for training pastors in science

Responding to a real or perceived gap between science and faith, 10 U.S. seminaries will receive a combined $1.5 million in grants to include science in their curricula

 

 

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Win My Favorite Books from 2014

Here’s a great way to start your 2015 off right: by winning some of my favorite books from 2014!

I read some great books in the last calendar year. These books were practical and greatly helpful in my life and in my ministry. Since these books helped me out so much in 2014, I wanted to share them with you.

The winner of this contest will receive the following 9 books:

The contest for these books ends Saturday, January 10 at 5 pm EST. To enter, simply sign up for the new A Greater Story email list. Don’t worry, I won’t spam you; you can expect to receive one email at the most per week.

 

Enter the book contest now!

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Stories Worth Sharing – December 26, 2014

If the first 72 times didn’t work: Another attempt at a Nicaraguan Canal

Even at today’s groundbreaking, there are far more questions than answers. Nicaraguans still don’t know the exact route of the canal will take, which properties are marked for expropriation, or where displaced farmers will be relocated. No one knows how much the canal costs, or who’s paying for it (the $50 billion figured was pulled from thin air — previous figures have ranged from $17 – 40 billion).

Old-Fashioned Innovation: How rocking chairs have improved airports

“We didn’t realize how popular they were ’til we went to remove the exhibit,” Gentry says. “We went to remove the rocking chairs and we got such a public outcry that we said, ‘Wow, we need to keep these here,’ and we expanded them.”

What famous paintings reveal about pollution

A masterfully painted sunset can be more than just great art. It also holds valuable information about what Earth’s atmosphere was like hundreds of years ago.

Holy Bones of Pittsburgh: The largest—and largely forgotten—collection of relics outside the Vatican

Yet almost no one—not American Catholics and not even residents of Troy Hill—know much about the chapel and its reliquary, or how such a massive collection wound up in a little German immigrant neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

 

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Stories Worth Sharing — December 19, 2014

The drama of moving a small Alaskan village

Looking at the long-term reality facing the island, Shishmaref’s residents voted to pack up and move the town elsewhere. Twelve years later, they’re still here.

Andrew Luck compliments those who sack him

The Indianapolis Colts quarterback is mild-mannered and often complimentary, which aimed at someone trying to knock your head off, can be quite disarming — and effective.

The crazy adventure of a Christmas tree

Your tree has a complicated backstory, one that includes daredevil helicopter pilots, 18-hour days battling Oregon sleet and, of course, the fickle hibernation habits of squirrels.

How to use the back of a napkin to prove to a Jehovah’s Witness that Jesus is God

This technique is so simple you should be able to sketch it out on a napkin from memory the next time someone knocks on your door. Remember, you don’t have to master every counter-argument to every verse thrown at you. All you need is one unequivocal textual proof to make your case. Here it is. It comes from the Gospel of John.

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Stories Worth Sharing – December 13, 2014

Who did it, and where did it come from?

11. UPS is picky about socks

The company has a strict dress code to which drivers must adhere: Shoes must be shined, shirts must be pressed, and don’t even think about wearing shorts without buying the UPS-brand socks.

As Schmitt cut these pages out with an X-Acto knife, he began to see them as an endangered form of communication. “The world around me was radically changing and shifting toward digital,” he says. “I just sort of came to this realization that wow, we’re losing something really amazing. I couldn’t picture a digital equivalent.”

May I make two requests? Continue to love me, but remember that you cannot be more merciful than God.

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