Thinking Out Loud

March 31, 2010

Passion Week 4

How Can Anyone Just Walk Away?
All this week, I’m repeating the links to the five-part series I ran last year at this time, “Setting Our Faces Toward Jerusalem.”    This one is a consideration of one of the most beautiful invitation songs, “How Could You Say No?” originally recorded by Julie Miller.  (I hope someone re-posts the original again on YouTube, I had to change the link in the post from last year.)  To read the lyrics and link to the audio, click here.

“Out Like a Lamb” Link Day

Except that I don’t think March rolled “in like a lion;” at least it didn’t here.   And why does this phrase borrow the Biblical “lamb and lion” imagery anyway?

There’s something unsettling in the contrast of having April Fool’s Day directly adjacent to Good Friday.   Perhaps with that in mind, I thought we’d lead off with this picture:

She looks real, doesn’t she.   This “cybernetic human” can act surprised, or angry, or any other emotion you want to program her to express.   Unveiled in Japan on March 16th, you can see more robotics at Boston.com’s Big Picture site.

And then there’s this picture, source unknown, of the “Love Chapter” from I Corinthians expressed as a tattoo:

Not sure which translation this is, but then again, that raises the question:  Are there King James Only tattoo parlors?   If not, someone’s overlooking a major market.

Which brings us to this T-shirt:

But I’m getting distracted; we really should move on to the links:

  • John Piper’s unexpected seven-month leave of absence — starting May 1st — was probably the story of the week in the Christian blogosphere.   How will the multitude of his followers get by without their weekly dose of J.P.’s encyclicals?    Read the official announcement at Desiring God.
  • Speaking of the Pipester, here’s his rant on the whole Emergent church movement, which he figures is due to implode in about six seconds from now, with some additional commentary at Tall Skinny Kiwi.
  • Theological finger-pointing at the Emergents continued over at Harvest Bible Chapel in NW Chicago on a recent Friday night Q&A session with a Moody Professor speaking for the anti-Emergent side while to balance things out they had… nobody.   JR looks at this rather one-sided presentation in this report.
  • Blogger Michael Krahn becomes a guest columnist at Canada’s Christian Week website; suggesting that all that technology has convinced us that we can’t sing.   I wish this article was a bit longer, because there are implications for church worship that might have been considered in a longer piece.    Check it out.
  • And speaking of things from my home and native land, I want to totally show off Canada’s national Christian magazine, FaithToday.   They’ve just started doing digital issues and if your internet connection is up for it, here’s a look at the March/April edition.
  • One of my favorite authors, British humorist Adrian Plass joins with Jeff Lucas — who pastors on both sides of the Atlantic — are joining together for a new book, Seriously Funny. “Made up a letters between the two, ‘Seriously funny’ is an honest look at life, love, book-signings, Christian ‘celebrity’, church…”   Check out the announcement at Christian Today.
  • Here’s a follow-up to yesterday’s piece here on foot washing.   Only this one, from last year, was a drive thru foot washing.    Seriously.
  • With all the interest in the Twilight books and movies, the Christian Post decided it was good time to interview former vampire-genre writer Anne Rice.   Actually, they were promoting the I Am Second testimony website.
  • Mark Sayers — whose DVD The Trouble With Paris was reviewed here — is up something big with this mystery project, Bordertown. You’ll have to sign up for the e-mail announcement.
  • I usually lose patience waiting for their web server to keep up to speed, but for what it’s worth, GodTube is back.   Apparently, like New Coke, the brand switch to Tangle didn’t take.  John Scaddington reports.
  • Described as “a little free-will humor;” the image below is from the blog Mockingbird.

  • Our cartoon this week is from For Heaven’s Sake; reproduced here not because it’s anything you haven’t seen before, but so that you can copy and paste it to that person in your e-mail list who needs a not-so-subtle prod.   Be tactful.   Okay, maybe there’s no way to be tactful and send this out at the same time…

  • Finally, the I Can Has Cheezburger (aka Lolcats) people have a new site, My Food Looks Funny. Maybe if the western world only ate as much as the person did who carved this, there would be enough food for everybody!



March 30, 2010

Passion Week 3

Filed under: Christianity, Religion — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:56 pm
The Best News You’ve Ever Shared
All this week, I’m repeating the links to the five-part series I ran last year at this time, “Setting Our Faces Toward Jerusalem.”    This one is a piece I wrote reflecting on the unique opportunities Good Friday and Easter present for sharing your faith.   To read it, click here.

Foot Washing on Maundy Thursday

2The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 3Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. ~John 13: 2-5 (NIV)

What’s that saying?  “A fanatic is someone who loves Jesus more than you do.”  Today I felt somewhat spiritually outclassed.

I spoke with someone and asked what their church was doing for Holy Week.   They told me that their church was doing a service on Thursday, as well as Good Friday.

Thursday is called Maundy Thursday.    The theological page Theopedia doesn’t cover it for some strange reason, but the regular Wikipedia site offers two explanations for the name, of which I give you the first:

Foot washing in Singapore, 2008

According to a common theory, the English word Maundy in that name for the day is derived through Middle English, and Old French mandé, from the Latin mandatum, the first word of the phrase “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos” (“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you”), the statement by Jesus in the Gospel of John (13:34) by which Jesus explained to the Apostles the significance of his action of washing their feet. The phrase is used as the antiphon sung during the “Mandatum” ceremony of the washing of the feet, which may be held during Mass or at another time as a separate event, during which a priest or bishop (representing Christ) ceremonially washes the feet of others, typically 12 persons chosen as a cross-section of the community.

As an aside, if you’re into church hopping, this is the day for you:

The tradition of visiting seven churches on Holy Thursday is an ancient practice, probably originating in Rome, where early pilgrims visited the seven pilgrim churches as penance.

Anyway, this church is having a foot washing as part of their Thursday service, and I was told, “Come and join us and we will wash your feet.”

I’ve never said that to anyone.   And I’ve never washed anyone’s feet.   I’m not totally comfortable with doing this or having it done for me.  But the Biblical mandate to do this is quite clear. I feel like my spiritual pilgrimage is somewhat incomplete, like the person who has never been to Israel (or Wheaton, Illinois; the one time Evangelical equivalent, now displaced by Colorado Springs or Nashville; I’m not sure which.)

14Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. ~John 13: 14-17 (NIV)

Does anyone see a loophole here?   An opt-out clause?  A reason why this doesn’t apply in the current dispensation?

I don’t.

March 29, 2010

Passion Week 2

Filed under: Jesus — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:47 pm
A Tale of Two Gardens
All this week, I’m repeating the links to the five-part series I ran last year at this time, “Setting Our Faces Toward Jerusalem.”    This one is a short meditation by Trevin Wax from 2007 contrasting Eden and Gethsemane.   To read this part of the series, click here.

Stuff Christians Like: The Epic Novel

Back on January 17th, I promised I’d return to reviewing Stuff Christians Like once the book actually hit the shelves, which I realized on the weekend is now.   This puts me in a rather precarious situation, since my last book review here was Flanders’ Book of Faith. I promise my next review will be all 38 volumes of The Early Church Fathers.   Nonetheless…


“Christianity is in an ‘imitative’ mode.”

So said Larry Norman when we sat down together at midnight in a California recording studio.   He was thinking more about the arts 25 years ago when he noted that.   We tend to borrow forms and concepts from the world and then ‘Christianize’ them.

That was the original premise of the blog, Stuff Christians Like.   Author Jon Acuff — he goes by the more formal Jonathan on the cover — will tell you how the blog borrowed its title from Christian Landers’ Stuff White People Like and then went on for the past two years to become a Top 5 Christian blog listing all the other ways we Christianize things from the broader culture.

But the book version — Stuff Christians Like – is really so much more than that.   It’s the kind of book that comes around every generation or so that totally nails it when it comes to spoofing Christian living in general and church life in particular.   Unlike a number of other books that have recently taken on this challenge, Stuff Christians Like is written by someone within the Evangelical culture, although to my recollection, the book never actually uses that E-word.

Somewhere in our house is a copy of the book Games Christians Play by Judi Culbertson and Patti Bard, published by Harper & Row in either 1967 or 1973, depending on what online source you check.   It is a hilarious title and the time-specific references are overshadowed by the authors ability to get at the underlying motivation for why we do the things we do.  I’ve always wanted to see someone do a modern version of this title, and found it interesting that Harper & Row became HarperCollins which owns Zondervan which published Stuff Christians Like, which continues the tradition.

As I noted in January, the paperback version of SCL is considerably different from the blog, with much new material added, and themes contained on the blog mashed up in concise way.   But at over 200 pages, there is a lot of content to read here, something you don’t always get in books that are shelved among the ‘humor’ genre titles at the Christian bookstore, such as the Youth Specialties title from the 1980s, 101 Things To Do During a Dull Sermon by Tim Sims and Dan Pagoda, recently re-released.   Rather, SCL is funny, but in a ‘makes-you-think’ kind of way.

There are three strengths that Stuff Christians Like has that I want to mention.

Timing.   This book is hitting the stores as North America pulls out of a couple of years of recession, mortgage failures, job losses, etc.    We could use a laugh right now, and there’s never much in the way of competition in the ‘humor’ genre of Christian publishing.

Insight.   The book is partly autobiographical, and Jon Acuff is both a really funny guy and the son of a pastor.   He may attend a megachurch, but apparently it doesn’t stop him from being signed up — “voluntold” — to help with the dishes after a church banquet.  There’s an “everyman” quality to his writing so you might argue that anyone could have written this book, tough I doubt anyone could do it as well.

Fearless.   A lot of Jon’s blog readers are younger; in their teens, twenties or thirties and therefore a lot of them are single.    I thought at one point single readers might wince at the section on ‘the gift of singleness,’ but as an author, Jon isn’t afraid to take risks, or say what everybody else is thinking but afraid to say.

But there’s one giant feature about this book I saved for last.   It’s not overt, in fact it’s buried in a phrase about two-thirds of the way through, where he mentions, “I’m the token Christian at work.”

Think about it…  Given the number of Christian books out there published by theologians, seminary professors, pastors and John Maxwell, it isn’t all that often that you come across a book by someone whose nine-to-five gig is the same of yours; who is living out life in a cubicle, or on the shop floor or behind the cash register just like you are.

To this reader, that’s Stuff Christians Like‘s main asset.   It’s a book about you and me written by someone who is so eerily similar to you and me that it resonates fully.  The book’s major sections deal with God, the Bible, prayer, family life, church, witnessing, etc., but also a section called “My Bad” which is an honest, transparent look at ways we mess up.   The theme in “My Bad” returns with five or six short articles at the end of the book that indicate there’s a lot more depth to this author;  I really hope it’s a clue to what future Jon Acuff books might contain.

Buy this book.   Jon’s wife and two daughters need to eat more than just Skittles.  If you’re not a reader of the SCL blog, click here and bookmark the site, which is updated daily.

March 28, 2010

Passion Week 1

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:40 pm
When I Survey
All this week, I’m repeating the links to the five-part series I ran last year at this time, “Setting Our Faces Toward Jerusalem.”    This one is a short meditation inspired by the hymn, “When I Survey,” from a blog which no longer exists.   To read part one, click here.

Sneaking Into The Movie Without Paying

Fortunately, only a handful of this blog’s readers are people I know locally, and of those, only a very small percentage would know my whereabouts this morning.   So with that in mind…

Dear Pastor;

It was good to visit your church again this morning.   Palm Sunday is always a special day in the church calendar, and you really nailed it with that sermon.

But I gotta be totally honest, the service — for me at least — got off to a rather pathetic start.

I thought the idea of opening the service with the Worship House Media film clip of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry was a great way to focus our thoughts.   Then I noticed the bottom corner of the screen:  FOR PREVIEW ONLY.   You hadn’t downloaded the video, which implies you hadn’t purchased the rights to use it at all.

What kind of example was that setting?  Especially for your internet savvy youth who would figure out exactly what was going on?   I mean they call them copyright laws for a reason, and if you’re breaking a law you’re committing a crime, right?

What kind of pastor commits a crime on a Sunday morning in full view of the 150 people in the congregation?   Come to think of it, I didn’t see any copyright notices on any of the choruses we sang this morning either.   Is this just a general contempt for copyright laws specifically, or all law in general?

Or was it the fact Worship House Media wanted $20 for a 1:52 clip?   I’ll admit that twenty bucks for a less-than-two-minute video does seem a bit steep.  I’d be shopping elsewhere.   But it’s their call.   Or you could just not use it.

I keep thinking that the Israelites were supposed to offer an unblemished lamb in sacrifice, and that this element of worship — streaming online off the preview site — was somewhat tainted; somewhat blemished.

I’m sorry, but I don’t think God can receive that particular act of worship.

March 27, 2010

Sometimes You Just Know

Part One — The Apocrypha

There are a number of reasons why the Apocrypha doesn’t appear in the majority of Bibles that will be sold today.   The issues of canonicity (it’s a word now!) are varied and complex, and have more to do with authorship and authenticity.

But after reading almost every chapter and verse several years ago, I sensed there was a different “tenor” to those books.   That’s subjective on my part, and I know that by applying the same criteria, others have rejected the book of Esther or Song of Solomon, while still others will be quick to remind us all that the original edition of the 1611 King James Bible actually contained these extra books, something KJV-only advocates are not quick to mention.

But sometimes you just know.   It just doesn’t feel right.   I think that’s the application of the gift of discernment.    There is much accuracy in the books of I and II Maccabees.   There is much wisdom in the book of Sirach.  But these things are true of a host of extra-Biblical writings, not to mention the contribution of contemporary authors.

Part II — God Calling

I’m all for devotional readings to start or end the day — I include a link on this blog’s sidebar to Daily Encouragement in case you missed this morning — but I’m not sure that it should be one’s entire source of spiritual input for the day.

Some of the books available are published by general-market publishers and simply contain the odd Bible verse here and there.   Others are simply too short.   And then there’s God Calling, written by “The Two Listeners” and edited by A. J. Russell.

This book came out of the Oxford Group (don’t Google ‘Oxford Movement,’ that’s different) which also was the ground zero for the Alcoholics Anonymous program.    The unknown authors ‘received’ the book through a process called ‘automatic writing,’ sitting with pads of paper in a room and waiting for God to speak to them.

Several years ago it’s origins were reconsidered in an article in the Christian bookstore trade magazine Christian Retailing which resulted in many such stores pulling it off the shelf.    Others don’t have a problem with it however, and two Christian publishing giants, Baker Books and Barbour Publishing, each continue distribution to this day.

If you negate the book’s orthodoxy on the basis of automatic writing alone, you’re also negating every prophetic word ever published by Charismatics, the “Footprints” poem and the book and video of The Father’s Love Letter. (And yes, there are some reading this who are quite prepared to do this.)

But God Calling presents other challenges as well, and if someone can find one or two good critiques online, I’d be happy to post them here and in my book industry blog.

There is a huge sometimes-you-just-know factor at play here.

Part III — 66 Love Letters

Applying all the above discussion to a new book by respected Christian author Larry Crabb, 66 Love Letters, (Thomas Nelson) it’s hard to see a difference.    The book is based on major themes from each of the 66 books in the core Biblical canon, but again written in the first person as though from God.

I haven’t read the book, but I subscribed by e-mail to the Lenten reflections based on 40 of the 66 chapters.   After negotiating the first few, I found myself skimming the remainder or filing them away for future reference if I ever wanted to consider those major themes.

It’s a personal thing; I just find there’s a danger in putting words in God’s mouth in a format like this.    I’m not questioning the theology or the doctrine contained in Crabb’s writing, and it’s not about him in particular.  And I am in no way dispensational when it comes to “Thus Saith the Lord” prophetic messages from persons having that gift, if it’s truly God speaking.

It just doesn’t feel right; it just doesn’t resonate with my personality or with my spirit; and it brings me back to the same position:  Sometimes you just know.

March 26, 2010

Modern Worship Issues: Too Repetitive

Anytime someone tells you today’s modern worship choruses are too repetitive, take another look at the gospel music of the mid twentieth century, like this classic.

Jesus is my Savior, I shall not be moved;
In His love and favor, I shall not be moved,
Just like a tree planted by the waters,
I shall not be moved.
I shall not be, I shall not be moved;
I shall not be, I shall not be moved;
Just like a tree planted by the waters,
Lord, I shall not be moved.
In my Christ abiding, I shall not be moved;
In His love I’m hiding, I shall not be moved,
Just like a tree planted by the waters,
I shall not be moved.
I shall not be, I shall not be moved;
I shall not be, I shall not be moved;
Just like a tree planted by the waters,
Lord, I shall not be moved.
Trusting him forever, I shall not be moved;
He will fail me never, I shall not be moved,
Just like a tree planted by the waters,
I shall not be moved.
I shall not be, I shall not be moved;
I shall not be, I shall not be moved;
Just like a tree  planted by the waters,
Lord, I shall not be moved.
On His word I’m feeding, I shall not be moved;
He’s the One that’s leading, I shall not be moved,
Just like a tree planted by the waters,
I shall not be moved.
I shall not be, I shall not be moved;
I shall not be, I shall not be moved;
Just like a tree planted by the waters,
Lord, I shall not be moved.

Video link (closest to what I remember)
Video link (Unitarian choral rendition)
Video link (early Motown feel)
Video link (instrumental family group*)
Video link (country gospel – different lyrics)

*If you think it’s repetitive with the vocals this instrumental is worse; but sadly this is the state of much of the North American church music I grew up with.   [UK/Aust/NZ readers please skip this one, okay?]

Historical note:  While what I say about mid-20th century hymns is true, this one has its roots in a Negro Spiritual probably from the 19th century.

Scriptural basis for this song:  Psalm 1: 3-4 (I went with King James here to not break the mood) and a variety of  “shall not be moved” texts like Proverbs 12 and Psalm 62.
And now for today’s bonus item:

Coming Soon to a DVD Player Near You
Praise Band – The Movie

Tradition and new ideas clash when Community Crossroads Church hires energetic Matt Young as the new worship leader. He assembles a talented group of young musicians who really rock as they praise God! But some in the congregation cling to their roots and resist change. Can the band unite the dwindling flock before it’s too late? Approx. 105 minutes.  Includes deleted scenes.  (Publisher marketing)

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