Thinking Out Loud

August 31, 2010

Church Fall Season Kickoff

As another season of ministry begins in many of our local churches, I want to repeat a piece I ran here in April ’09; which is actually a pre-Easter article that Pete Wilson wrote which I’ve adapted into a non-seasonal piece.    It seems fitting to remind ourselves of these priorities as the heat of summer gives way to regrouping our forces with a fresh intensity…

Like many of you I’m up to my eyeballs in the details and logistics …  I’m distracted, maybe a little stressed and certainly carrying all kind of concerns. But I just want to issue this challenge to all of us…

Pastors, I pray you’ll preach the hope of Jesus Christ like never before. Preach as if you were there the day it happened and is if this were the last message you are ever going to give!

Worship Leaders, I pray you’ll lead worship with the same awe and amazement as if you just watched the stone roll away. Whether you have lights or no lights, production or no production, may they see the wonder and awe in your eyes and voice that you actually believe what it is you’re singing.

Kids’ Teachers,  I pray you look your kids in the eyes and use every bit of passion, energy, and excitement you have to tell them a story that can and will impact their life forever.

Volunteers, I pray you’ll serve, sing, hand out programs, park cars, turn knobs, and make coffee as if eternities were on the line, because they are!

Worshipers, I pray you’ll open your heart and raise your voice and pour out all you have and all you are in honor of a God who has defeated death so you may have life.

I pray [each] weekend we’ll all drop our cynicism, egos, and agendas and will stand amazed and marvel at the wonder of  a God who has set us free from the penalty and the power of sin

Pete Wilson; senior pastor of Cross Point; Nashville, TN

August 30, 2010

Christians are Judged by the Highest Standard

Filed under: Church — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:58 am

I’m sorry.   Maybe I should have named this blog Ranting Out Loud. But telling Mark’s story yesterday reminded me of Sherry’s story and I find I can’t not record it here online for someone to learn from.   Of course names have been changed.

East Grove Neighborhood Church was serious about church growth.   The new building was the pride and joy of everyone but especially Ron and Yvonne.   Ron was on every committee and every board.    Ron’s contracting company had worked hard to bring the new state-of-the-art auditorium project to completion on time, and did so within a day of the announced date for the first service.

Yvonne was as excited about the new church as her husband, but really wasn’t a people person.   She had her friends in the church to be sure, and wanted to see all the new programs and outreach succeed, but she couldn’t hide her lack of interest in getting to know some of those she perceived as the ‘lesser’ people at the church, such as Sherry.

It’s funny because if you had asked Yvonne, she would have told you how much she believed in the ministry plans of the church, but her actions just couldn’t always line up perfectly with her “on paper” ideals.   Sherry got in the crossfire of that disconnect.

That’s really too bad.   We knew Sherry.   We still keep in touch.  She is a really giving person.  An asset to any church, any place, any time.    The kind of person you want to keep excited about big-picture vision.    It wouldn’t surprise me to learn she’s a 30% tither to God’s Kingdom; and with a job that makes that percentage meaningful, although, you wouldn’t know it by appearances.

Yvonne just never spoke to Sherry, wasn’t too responsive when Sherry spoke to her; and Sherry, for all her wonderful qualities is human after all and over a couple of years allowed it to get to her.   Around that time we got to know her, and shortly after she admitted to us that she wasn’t attending that church anymore.

Both Sherry’s story and Mark’s story from yesterday could be easily dismissed by readers as simply being the tales of two people who were oversensitive.   “These people just need to suck it up;” is what I can hear some of you saying.

But you don’t expect to be ignored when you’re part of a family.   Not for a minute.   The church shouldn’t work that way.   We should demonstrate that we belong to Christ by the love that we have for each other.   Visitors will see that.   Early church history documents that this is how we began.

So East Grove lost Sherry, but of course they kept Ron and Yvonne, whose contracting business hit a downturn about five years ago — two large clients couldn’t pay — and is now a shadow of its former self.   Ron got into a major depression over this and resigned from every committee and stopped a bunch of other church-related activities.

Sherry never invested herself completely in another local church after this, though she remains involved in at least a dozen ministry projects.   Her job requires she works some weekends, and a parachurch ministry that she is involved with requires her — like ourselves — to be somewhat nomadic some Sunday mornings.   But she continues to love and serve God with everything she’s got; and she really does have a lot to give.

Well, that’s the story.   And yesterday you heard a lot of our story, too as well as Mark’s.    In every one of these cases I can’t help but wish things had turned out a little different.   In our own case I wonder what it would be like to have been able to invest twenty years in serving alongside a single faith family.   I wonder if a dynamic youth program might have helped Mark’s boys.   I wonder what all East Grove could have gained from keeping Sherry joyfully serving as part of that church family.    I wonder…

No animals were wounded in the making of today’s blog post, but a number of church attenders were left frustrated, hurt or wounded.

August 29, 2010

Sunday Seriousness

This morning we visited the Pentecostal church in our community.  The week before it was a Catholic church.   Two weeks ago we attended the Christian Reformed Church.

We know people in all these churches.   I could walk up and down each aisle and probably get about half the names right in most of our area churches, including the much larger Baptist church.    Part of it is that through my vocation, I get to interact with the larger Body of Christ.   So I feel that these people are family; I never really feel like a visitor.

But this morning I realized that in truth, these people are extended family.   Each particular congregation has its own personality, and the people with whom I feel most comfortable, the people who perhaps I most identify with, the people who I really want to spend a lot of time with; all those people are at another church, the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church.

The local Alliance church represents family as well, but nuclear family, not extended.   True brothers and sisters about whom I have written before, “We are invested in their lives, and they are invested in ours.”   A place where — as one person defined home: “when you go there they have to take you in.”   (More on that here.)(And here.)

Except for one or two people.

Maybe your family is like this.   A sibling or a parent with whom you just don’t see eye-to-eye and probably never will.   They kinda ruin it for you.  You go away but then you come back.   Maybe you’ve been abused physically or emotionally; but it’s home and damn it (your words, not mine!) you’re going to keep staking your claim.

Some people either don’t realize the damage they’re doing to other people, or they do realize it, and they revel in it.

Which is why we find ourselves in forced exile again.   It hurts my wife too much to go back; it hurts me too much to be away.   (An actual role reversal of how it’s been at previous times; they manage to get to us equally in different ways at different times.)

I met Mark several years ago.   He attended a similar church briefly and thought it would be the ideal spiritual environment for his two teenage sons.   He got involved himself in a midweek program, and, being a guy who has so much to give any local assembly, decided after a couple of weeks  to help stack the chairs when the meeting had ended.

“No, no;” someone quickly grabbed his arm; “That’s not how we do this.   We have an after-school program here and for insurance reasons we can only stack the chairs four chairs high.”

A little nuance  that had been lost on Mark.   But then they added, “Why don’t you just leave this job to someone else.”

Ouch.   A little over-the-top isn’t it?

Mark thought so.   He was a sensitive guy and that was a totally insensitive remark from someone in a respected leadership position.   He started to rethink the whole thing and decided to keep shopping for a church home.   He found one where the leadership team was a little less — for lack of a better term — anal; and where he could use his various gifts and desire to serve.

End of story, right?   Everybody wins, right?

Not exactly.   The new church didn’t have the same youth program for his teenage sons, and while nobody is blaming anybody, the lack of such a program may have contributed to where the boys are right now, which is not a very good place.

The similarities between Mark’s story and our story are huge.   Same kind of people.   Same pathetic mentality.

…I think it was Andy Stanley who said that “nobody has ever been hurt by a church; rather it’s people in the church who hurt people.”

Andy is right.

But sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.

Can’t wait to see where we go to church next week.

August 28, 2010

Saturday Silliness

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CREDITS:   Jesus Fish Catch is from Sacred Sandwich; Why Do I Live Here is an offshoot of the popular site, I Can Has Cheezburger; the World’s Largest Ten Commandments is located in Murphy, North Carolina at Field of the Woods — note the size of the cars in the foreground to get an idea of the perspective here.

Driving at the Great Smokey Mountain’s Highway 294 in Murphy, North Carolina may be an uplifting experience for drivers and passengers as it is where the World’s Largest Ten Commandments can be located. A favorite tourist attraction, the Fields of the Wood also houses other world breaking biblical monuments of Golgotha and Joseph’s Tomb. The Fields of the Woods was built in 1945 by the followers of the Church of God of Prophecy, a church that now has more than 700,000 members in 115 countries, led by Ambrose Jessup Tomlinson. The 300 feet-wide tableaux is composed of individual concrete letters 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide of white-painted concrete and is occupying a mountainside.

Here’s another Peanuts column from this blog.

August 27, 2010

I’ve Got A Postsecret

In balance, Post Secret is one of the darker places on the internet.  It’s also a curiosity because it combines online interaction with the necessity of snail-mailing a postcard to an address in Germantown, Maryland.  High tech, meet low tech.  The postcards are handmade, or at the very least, amended versions of commercial products; all containing a confession.  (I suspect some send them in envelopes for privacy and protection of their art mini-masterpieces.)

Most of the overt confessions involve some type of sexual infidelity.  Affairs or affairs of the heart; cheating on a spouse, etc.  Closely following are other transgressions of the ten commandments, including stealing things from a workplace or lying to a friend.   Apparently there is a need to come clean to someone, anyone; a need to have someone to confess to; explainable if the person is of Catholic background, but that doesn’t apply to the majority American respondents.

Not all the secrets at Post Secret involve something that the writer themselves did however.   Unlike other online confessionals, this one also gets a fair degree of mail from people who have simply been hurt.   They may have been someone’s victim, or they may be a victim of circumstances.   Or they might just be expressing an anger or an angst that not all is right either without or within.


A surprising number of the thousands of postcards displayed online each year involve a loss of belief or a loss of faith, such as the one above.  (Many are more blunt, just saying, “I don’t believe in God anymore;” often with the punchline, “I’m a pastor.”)  It’s interesting that while the average person’s ten commandment list would focus on the ‘second tablet’ there are at least some people responding who regard ‘first tablet’ sins — commandments one through four — as equally serious, especially the overarching loss of regard for God Himself.

It is as though this type of confession weighs equally on the heart of the person taking the time to compose the postcard.   There is a disconnect that has taken place between themselves and God, and somehow, they know God is not at fault.  (“If God suddenly seems distant, guess who moved?”)

Of course what is most sadly lacking, especially from a liturgical point of view, is the assurance of pardon.   Ignoring the fact that the confession may have been misdirected — confessing to a stranger or online community of strangers only eases the desire to tell someone — there are no next steps; there is nowhere to begin climbing back to right relationship with either themselves, another party, or God.  Not even a Hail Mary.

Instead, the Post Secret simply squats online for a few days — or longer if it gets picked up in one of the print editions — like a traffic accident that no one is bothering to clean up.

In The Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges says we never see sin correctly unless we see it “as against God.”   In other words, even the casual theft of office supplies is a sin against God.   We don’t fail ourselves, or fail our spouse or boss or relative or neighbor; ultimately we “miss the mark” with God.

But the assurance of pardon is that if we confess our sin, with faithfulness and according to a justice we can’t always comprehend, he will pardon that sin and help us to work out that sin-nature that caused it.

If God had a website confessional; people would walk away feeling new, and cleansed, and whole.

He’s got something better.

Wanna read more?   Here’s a continuation of this discussion at Christianity 201.

The reason Moses always appears holding two Styrofoam flutter boards is that the first four commandments involve sins against God and the second six involve sins against other people; often referred to as ‘first tablet’ and ‘second tablet.’   See, you learned something today about flutter boards.

So far, no link.   I know.   Post Secret contains content that is certain to offend some readers of this blog, but if you’re looking for the link, this is it.

August 26, 2010

The Cultization of Calvinism

It happened again yesterday.

My son got a package in the mail from the Christian camp where he did a four-week leadership training course, containing a magazine and other resources.

John Piper was on the cover of the magazine, there were advertisements for Crossway Books and the ESV Study Bible, a couple of references to Mark Driscoll, a reference to the Together for the Gospel conference.  And many such clues that this was not really a mainstream Christian publication.

I’m okay with that.   I told him he should make an effort to read every article.   I’m glad the camp took the time and expense to send it to him, along with an encouraging personal letter from the two directors of his leadership course.   We actually worshiped in a Christian Reformed Church just two weeks ago.

But it was another reminder how there are different clusters of people, belief and thought; and how, just as Calvinists of previous generations were somewhat segregated by Dutch ethnicity, today New Calvinism has emerged as a dominant (especially online) cluster.

Some of you probably like the word cluster over the word cult, but in fact, any identifiable group fits the dictionary definition; the problem is that we’ve tended to use it in the last 30 years or so as an abbreviation of false cult, which is another matter entirely, usually involving unique books and writings considered to be divine, and often the presence of private compounds and Kool-Aid.   However, of the eight definitions of cult at dictionary.com, only #6 indicates “a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader.”

The decision by the largest online Christian book distributor to set up a separate site just for people of Reformed doctrine is another example of this.  The company has massive buying power, and has a large share of the Christian book business, but surveys revealed it was seeing only a trickle of commerce from Calvinists because they preferred to buy from their own sites, where presumably materials are carefully filtered.   The larger company had no choice than to do that filtering.

But this is something that neither Charismatics nor Catholics have ever propelled them to do.    The Charismatic and Pentecostal world — as any visit to the Elijah List site will confirm — has its own authors and a large supply of its own worship music, distinct from the mainstream worship we hear on Christian radio.

But Calvinists are readers, and as the blogosphere indicates, many are also writers, though a good percentage of the bloggers employ more of a ‘cut and paste’ approach to content generation.   (With, I might add, a great overlap into another emerging subgroup, the Academics.   American prosperity has permitted large numbers of U.S. Christians to enjoy advanced and continuing education, but much of the writing, as Acts 18:15 and 2 Tim 2:14 reminds us can consist of quarreling about words which leads to strife.   See also this post.)   On the other hand, other brands (or cults!) of Christianity tend to be more about about doing which is why the internet has, just as one example, a critical shortage of Salvation Army bloggers, as I noted in back in May ’08.

But because of the fragmentation taking place, I suggested to the senior editor of Christian Retailing magazine that instead of just having Charismatic and Catholic specialty bestseller charts, they should also have a Calvinist or Reformed specialty list each month as well.   Really, if they’re going to do the former two, they might as well do the latter.    But what if he takes my advice?

The result would be distinctively Reformed shelves in Christian bookstores (which probably already exist in some) where Calvinists could browse the shelves untainted by titles which disagree with their views.   And what is the result of that?

The larger picture is that it takes Reformed people and Reformed literature out of mainstream Evangelicalism, and takes mainstream Evangelicalism out of the Reformed sphere of awareness.   It increases compartmentalization; a kind way of saying it advances what I’ve termed here the cultization of Calvinism, which, I would think from God’s perspective at least, is rather sad.

What is, in a discussion like this, the better part?

I believe one of the healthiest dynamics of Evangelicalism has been the cross-pollination that takes place through inter-denominational dialog (Br. – dialogue) and worship.    Instead of conferences where only one theological brand is raised, we need to encourage events in which a variety of voices are heard.   Instead of bloggers posting blogrolls where they are afraid to list someone who is outside their faith family, we need to be familiar with the much wider Christian blogosphere.    Instead of encouraging Christian young people to only read certain authors and one or two particular Bible translations, we need to encourage them to study the wider compendium of Christian thought.

Basically, we need to avoid situations where our personal preferences lead to being cut off from the larger, worldwide Body of Christ.

Paul Wilkinson

August 25, 2010

Wednesday Link List

I was scrolling back through previous link lists, and I do miss the more creative titles.  I’d forgotten about “(B)link and You’ll Miss It.”   That was gold.   I’m available for copywriting your next brochure, and for children’s birthday parties.

  • Our upper and lower cartoons this week are from a source I only recently discovered.   Steve Wall is a Canadian living in British Columbia and his comic series is titled Trees of the Field.
  • Continuing our Canadian theme, this week CNN’s belief blog picked up on a self-published book by Calgary pastor of New Hope Church, John Van Sloten with the creative title The Day Metallica Came to Church. Also tracked down more information on his church website.
  • One more item of Canadian interest:  This week — nearly four months later — Christianity Today picked up on the Christians Horizons case involving lifestyle requirements for employees.   [You can read my version here,  as well as my original 2008 report.]
  • Take the scenes from the family-friendly movie Mary Poppins and re-edit them so it looks like a horror film.   Then, take the faux-movie-trailer and use it as an analogy for how some people re-edit Christianity to suit their purposes.   Check out this article by Dan Kimball.    [HT: Scott Shirley]
  • There’s much talk these days about “earning the right to be heard,” and needing to get to know someone before you can “speak into their life.”  But Dan Phillips contends that if he meets someone who is not a follower of Christ, there are fifteen things he already knows about them.
  • Here’s a t-shirt design (at right) I found on a tumblr blog, Churchy Design.   The shirt, of course, is called King of Kings.
  • OK.  I know some of you want to dig into something a little lengthier.  Here’s a piece from Catholic World Report on the implications of the current shortage of organs for organ transplantation.   It involves biomedical ethics, including our definition of death.
  • In another longer piece, Chaplain Mike at Internet Monk traces the life journey of the pioneer of the blended worship concept aka Ancient-Future worship, Robert Webber.
  • For most readers of this blog, the phrase “Prodigal God” refers to a book by Tim Keller.   But it’s also the name of a musical by Brian Doerksen featuring guests including Ron Kenoly and Colin Janz.   Find out more about the double-CD releasing October 12th, and enjoy listening to a preview of five songs.
  • A Sunday School teacher walks into a Christian bookstore looking to buy some novelty items like pencils or stickers for her young class.   But the clerk suggests that’s not what they need.
  • Theology professor Roger Olsen says that for his students — not to mention other theologians — the issue of Biblical inerrancy is as much a stumbling block as anything else.  He prefers to use a different word that’s close, but better suited.
  • Darrin Patrick calls them “bans.”  Neither boys nor men.   They play a lot of video games and watch a lot of pornography.   Their need to learn how to be men is, in his terms, a cultural crisis.   Read more at Resurgence.   [HT: Dwight Wagner]
  • Darryl Dash provides a pastor’s perspective on visiting other churches while on sabbatical.   Only this time they embedded themselves as a family in a single church-home-away-from-home.
  • Darryl also had a link in his weekly Saturday list this week to Justin Taylor’s piece which is an “interview” with the Apostle Paul to try to bring a different form to Paul’s discussion of the law in Romans 7.
  • Simon Sweetman takes the proverbial discussion of “Christian” music as a genre to the streets with a blog post at the award-winning New Zealand news site, Stuff.nz.
  • Here’s that other comic from Trees of the Field (click on either image to link) …That’s it for this week; today marks only 4 months to Christmas, so I’m off to do my shopping!

August 24, 2010

Seeking the Symbolism: Our Visit to a Catholic Church

On Sunday, for the fourth or fifth time, we visited a small church which is a breakaway group from the local Roman Catholic church.    The split from Rome was, I believe, over the issue of the ordination of women priests, but I believe there were some other issues; many of which the congregants of this church have perhaps forgotten.   The service uses the same lectionary readings as other Catholic churches in Canada follow, but there are also some variations in other places.

The group averages between thirty and fifty people, and we return occasionally to offer encouragement; but also because, of the 37 churches and home churches I’ve visited in our area, they are the most friendly and the most welcoming.    (And their worship band is probably one of the best, also; especially considering their involvement in the liturgy.)

This time around we arrived late and were seated closer to the front and I found myself noticing things I would have missed before.   The symbols on the stole the pastor was wearing.    His kissing of the altar table at the beginning and end of the service.   A reference to the table containing water and wine, representing the humanity and divinity of Christ.

On a Sunday that many Christians worshiped in ‘neutral’ auditoriums devoid of icons and physical actions of worship (and in a few cases, equally devoid of depth or mystery) I couldn’t help but think that this is the extra dimension of worship some say they miss, and others say is going to make a comeback.  (Though possibly minus the kissing of objects, unless their origins are Greek Orthodox.)

Also, this is worship style where the emphasis is not on the sermon.  Although I’ve heard a couple of great messages in this church, my Evangelical friends would consider the one on Sunday to be sermon-lite.   So the other forms of the service matter more in this context.

After the service I grabbed a notebook and made four quick observations, written in the form of questions:

  1. What is taking place? In today’s mega-churches you wouldn’t necessarily catch all the things I caught sitting just a few feet away.   And there were others I missed, forgot, or haven’t listed here.  Are people as trained today to have the same attention to detail as when some of these forms were instituted?
  2. What is the significance of what is taking place? The wine and water on the table were explained.   Other things are perhaps already known to this congregation.   But what of the people who miss the memo?  Or visitors like us?   Perhaps the reason some people don’t connect with the more liturgical churches is that nobody has explained the backstory behind the ‘sacred actions’ of worship.
  3. How much of this registers with people? To what extent do people connect the dots between the physical actions of the priest or pastor and their person worship taking place among those gathered?   I suppose much of this hinges on whether or not the leader is there on behalf of the people or if he is modeling a pattern of worship for them to follow in the hearts.  How do their acts of worship on the platform, stage or chancel become my acts of worship?
  4. What difference does that make? How does this permeate the next 167 hours of my week until we meet again next Sunday?   For example, how does a consideration of Christ’s combined humanity and divinity infuse my thoughts of what it means to be a Christ-follower throughout the week?  Is there a practical application?  This is where the discussion of ‘relevance’ meets formal liturgy.

But I think you could apply all of this to Evangelical and Charismatic churches as well:

  1. What’s taking place?
  2. Why?  Why do this?  Why those particular songs or prayers?
  3. Is the answer to #2 obvious to the congregation?
  4. How does this service make a difference in peoples’ lives?

August 23, 2010

Stuart Townend – British Worship Leader & Songwriter

He co-wrote In Christ Alone with Keith and Kristen Getty.

Beyond that, Stuart Townend is perhaps better known in Canada where, despite its 5/4 time signature, How Deep The Father’s Love For Us is currently the 15th most used worship selection according to Christian Copyright Licensing (CCLI).   All the more so in England, where Christ Alone ranks first, and How Deep ranks third.

For my mostly U.S. blog readership, if you have some familiarity with the worship scene in the U.K., you could fairly draw a comparisons between Stuart and Graham Kendrick, though many Americans would still be at a loss since, other than Shine Jesus Shine, very little of Graham’s music has made it stateside, either.

Which is really too bad.  This is worship with a richness and depth that commands your heart’s attention and doesn’t let you walk away without knowing what type of music you’ve experienced.

What we have instead in North America is a worship agenda very much driven by Christian music execs in Nashville, and wannabe bands who think they have to fit a certain mold in order to achieve success.  (Yeah, worship and success in the same sentence; go figure.)  We need to distance ourselves from that sometimes, even if takes several thousand miles of ocean to do the distancing.

Churches in the U.K. don’t bow the knee to Nashville so much.   So we find a number of writers in Great Britain producing something just a little mellower that thereby satisfies the needs of more seasoned church members who want something new and fresh (see Isaiah 42:10) but still like a good melodic tune with a form that doesn’t contain too many melodic exceptions.   (That’s my term for various bridges, codas, irregular rhythms, or other variations on the musical form.  My belief is that the people can deal with only one exception per song.) (More on the contrast between UK and US worship in this post.)

What I’m trying to say here is, American Christians, you need someone like Stuart Townend.   Someone who can blow in like a breath of fresh air into the present worship scene as a reminder that things don’t always have to look a certain way in order to provide worship connection to our creator God.

And now you have that opportunity.

Under pressure from people like me — they call it whining actually — Kingsway Music U.S. has not only released Stuart’s full length album, There Is a Hope, but has included the full DVD recording as a bonus.  (There’s even more to the story, they’ve also opened up a full North American branch of Kingsway Music to broaden the music pipeline between the U.K. and North America.)

For my Canadian readers, if you enjoy the music of Robin Mark or you enjoyed the Today DVD by Brian Doerksen, you will want to add this CD/DVD to your worship collection.

What you’ll find is a live recording of 14 of Stuart Townend’s songs from a concert in Ireland; though strangely, it’s more like a collection of individual video cuts as there is no spoken patter anywhere.   The emphasis is on the songs themselves, and the atmosphere is worshipful to the point there is often no applause as a song concludes.

But this isn’t just a laid-back worship collection you buy for your grandmother.   The band contains some tight performances by players who handle a variety of instruments including valve trombone, flugel horn, Uillean pipes, violin, and the usual rhythm instruments and backup singers.   (Steve Hindalong’s name appears in the credits, though I didn’t spy him on the video.)   There are also guest vocal appearances by Kelly Minter and Aaron Keyes.

I first heard of this album, and started pressing for a release of the DVD here, through this song, Behold the Lamb (Communion Song).     (Again, for my Canadian readers, very reminiscent of Robin Mark’s The Wonder of Your Cross.)   You can never have enough cross-centered worship songs.   I’ve also embedded the opening song from the DVD, Across the Lands at my devotional blog, Christianity 201.

I can’t recommend this enough.  Find a Christian bookstore and purchase a physical copy (not a download) of the whole album, so that you get the whole DVD as well.  Then turn off the mobile phone and the computer, take the other phone off the hook, and enjoy an hour of worship in your own home like no other you’ve had before.

August 22, 2010

Christianity as Defined to a First Century Pagan

I had this all formatted to go on Christianity 201 later today, but decided I really needed to share it with the larger Thinking Out Loud readership.   Feel free to copy and paste the third paragraph (along with the explanation below it) as an e-mail forward to someone.

“Christians are not distinguished from the rest of humanity by country, language, or custom. For nowhere do they live in cities of their own, nor do they speak some unusual dialect, nor do they practice an eccentric lifestyle….While they live in both Greek and barbarian cities, as each one’s lot was cast, and follow the local customs in dress and food and other aspects of life, at the same time they demonstrate the remarkable and admittedly unusual character of their own citizenship.

They live in their own countries, but only as aliens; they participate in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners. Every foreign country is their fatherland, and every fatherland is foreign. They marry like everyone else, and have children, but they do not expose their offspring. They share their food but not their wives. They are `in the flesh,’ but do not live `according to the flesh.’ They live on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established laws; indeed in their private lives they transcend the laws.

They love everyone, and by everyone they are persecuted. They are unknown, yet they are condemned; they are put to death, yet they are brought to life. They are poor, yet they make many rich; they are in need of everything, yet they abound in everything. They are dishonored, yet they are glorified in their dishonor; they are slandered, yet they are vindicated. They are cursed, yet they bless; they are insulted, yet they offer respect. When they do good, they are punished as evildoers; when they are punished, they rejoice as though brought to life….Those who hate them are unable to give a reason for their hostility…”

~From The Epistle to Diognetus, a little known piece of early Christian literature written to a high-ranking pagan, Diognetus. You can read the post where I found it at Scott Shirley’s blog, which also links you to a longer article about the Epistle and more excerpts from the text.

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