Thinking Out Loud

October 31, 2011

An Indescribable Universe

I am very thankful to the publishers who saw fit to send me manuscript editions — collector’s items to be sure — of books not yet published; but today I am reviewing a book that is available in two very different editions, however, the manuscript copy I have possibly resembles neither.

This is rather critical, since the book, or more correctly books in question rely heavily on an amazing set of pictures; and I have no idea what the page layout is of each, though I can make some basic assumptions. 

The book(s) under review are titled Indescribable: Encountering the Glory of God in the Beauty of the Universe by Louie Giglio and Matt Redman.  The simpler of the two is a 192-page paperback edition, retailing at $14.99 U.S.  The second, the one you’d really want to own, is the 224-page, full-color hardcover illustrated edition, retailing at $24.99 U.S.

The book(s) take on a subject as big as all the universe, and I believe are based somewhat on the extremely popular Indescribable video which forms part of Passion Talk DVD series, and which EMI-Christian Music Group is offering for a limited time for only $7.99 U.S. in recognition of the book’s release.

The authors had me at the introduction; quoting Paul Hawken:

Ralph Waldo Emerson once asked what we would do if the stars only came out once every thousand years.  No one would sleep that night, of course… We would be ecstatic, delirious, made rapturous by the glory of God.  Instead, the stars come out every night and we watch television.

The book also highlights the subtleties of scripture that we often miss.  In a chapter outlining the behavior of different types of stars, Matt Redman, a worship song composer and worship leader notes:

Literally every place the Hubble Space Telescope has looked, it has found something fantastic. Making one splendor-filled discovery after another, this instrument is turning out to be one of the world’s best worship leaders, introducing us to scenes of such compelling majesty that to bow low before our Maker is the only fitting response.

In I Corinthians we read, “The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another, and the stars and other; and star differs from star in splendor.” (15:41)

There are a number of similar passages where you say to yourself, ‘I’ve never thought about that particular scripture verse that way.’   It’s now easy for me to understand the popularity of the DVD series, and Indescribable in particular.  This is a book that would make an excellent gift for anyone, but could be especially helpful to a skeptic, and especially formative to a younger individual.

October 30, 2011

I am a Bigot

But hopefully I am a bigot in recovery.

When I was 15 I got my first job at a discount department store in Toronto.  When I say, “discount department store,” it was actually a two-level enterprise with multiple locations across the city.  Because my job allowed me to roam the store somewhat freely, I got to meet people in different departments on different floors.

One of them was a girl I was trying to describe to another staff member who needed to contact her regarding some kind of inter-departmental business.  “She’s about 5’6″;” I said; “And skinny, and dark hair which is frizzy, and she usually wears round glasses with dark rims.”

He still couldn’t place her.

“She always works the cash registers by the north exit; or the ones at the mall exit;”  I continued.

Nothing. 

Then I remembered, “Oh yeah, she’s black.”

I think I said “black.”  Or “African American.”  Or whatever the currently appropriate adjectives were needed.

Either way, I was somewhat proud of the fact that in describing her height, her hair, or her glasses; the nature of her race hadn’t quite occurred to me as significant.  Clearly, there was not a racist bone in my body.

Archie Bunker; but sometimes bigotry isn't so overt

But later in my teenage years, I discovered I had a strong aversion to people with red hair.  This was several generations before the animated-sitcom-inspired “Kick a Ginger” campaign; I had simply had a few run-ins with people of the carrot-top persuasion and had formed some generalizations.

Around the same time, I began to have issues with left-handed people.  There was nothing particular sinister about this — sorry, couldn’t resist — I had just had some conflicts with some left-handed people and had started to form some prejudices and biases.

The problem — as if there wasn’t a problem already — was that I actually knew a handful of people who were both red-haired and left-handed.  God help them.

However, I outgrew all this, and today I am glad to report that some of my best friends… well, you get the idea.

The problem is, I’m still a bigot.

For the past decade or so, my bigotry has been directed against people who drive black pickup trucks.  In the area where I live, they are legion, and it doesn’t help that many of them, for the same reason they wanted a black pickup truck in the first place, drive like idiots. Or people fleeing a crime scene. Or both.

To me, the mark of what makes a person, what writes their inner programming, what motivates their actions; the mark of these things is the way a person drives a motorized vehicle.  Forget having a resumé or a CV or a page on LinkedIn.  If I am the HR person considering hiring you, all I would need to do is spend 30 minutes as a passenger in your car, van or truck.  (Or whatever class of vehicle a Hummer is, though at this point, I can tell you that you’re not getting the job.)

A guy in our church had a black pickup truck.  That was a difficult one for me to wrap my brain around.  But he got rid of it, solving the problem.  I’m not sure if it changed my relationship with him; rather, I think he’s become a kinder, gentler person for not having it.  But I digress; plus, I think his wife reads this blog.

These people shouldn’t drive the way they do.  The epitomize the selfishness that is at the core of sin. They need deliverance.  And they need to sell the truck.  If it’s absolutely necessary to their work or hobbies, then they at least need to paint it beige, or green or light blue.

But of course, the problem is me.  I am pre-judging people before I’ve even met them; and while my generalizations have statistical backup, I’m not operating according to Rule of Love.

I have triumphed in many ways.  I never got into racial bias.  But I traded my feelings toward the redheads and the backhand-writers for feelings about people who have a thing for having a certain type of machine parked in their driveways.

So, what about you?  Are there some hidden biases and prejudices you find present over things strange or trivial?  Is this an area that you feel God would have you change?

October 29, 2011

Living Creatures: A Halloween Post

While surfing the blogosphere for material appropriate to Christianity 201, I came across the rather lively blog of Carole McDonnell and a particular post she wrote just in time for Halloween.   The line that convinced me we needed to borrow steal feature it here was,

…I figured I’d do something on Living Creatures who terrify. (Honestly, who fears dead stuff? Maybe corpses bring diseases and contamination but other than that…the dead are not particularly troublesome.)

Is that cool or what? Now then, internet etiquette dictates that you actually click over and view this at her blog, but statistically, most of you won’t which means you would miss out on something truly different…


My Halloween Post: Those Awesome Cherubim
Yep, it’s that time of the year again when folks celebrate dead creatures and stuff that terrify. But since hubby and I finished Revelations last week, I figured I’d do something on Living Creatures who terrify. (Honestly, who fears dead stuff? Maybe corpses bring diseases and contamination but other than that…the dead are not particularly troublesome.) And no I’m not gonna talk about demons either. True, they’re living creatures in their own way because they have immortal life. But they are evil. What I want to right about is Terrifying holiness.

With God is terrible majesty! With God is terrifying majesty!

God made many type of creatures, creatures who can live in the three-dimensional world and in other dimensionalities. And he also made the Cherubim. The Cherubim live in heaven…in fact they live in God’s throne room and are never out of the presence of God. God rides on the Cherubim, He is seated above the Cherubim. (Satan himself was the cherubim that covered the throne while the other cherubs surrounded it or were under it. But I digress.)

The weird thing is that as heavenly as Cherubim are, they are weirdly intertwined in human affairs. What their purpose is God alone (and great Bible students) know. They are carved over the mercy seat…which represents their place in heaven. They represent life forms on earth: tame animals, wild animals, humans, and birds. (No fish or creeping thing, but again, I digress.)

So this is what I want to talk about the Cherubim. Now, on earth we have one way of being: we are spirit, body, mind, but we are all in one visible package. Because God is above and beyond the third dimension, God can see our bodies, our minds, and our spirits.  But we humans can only see each other’s bodies. (Okay, if we have a gift we can see into spirits but I digress.)  Back to the Cherubim.

As we see them in the Book of Ezekiel, (the first time I believe in the Bible) we are told they all have one likeness:

The appearance of the wheels and their workings was like the color of beryl, and all four had the same likeness.  The appearance of their workings was, as it were, a wheel in the middle of a wheel. “ (Ezekiel 1:1, 4-5,15-16, NKJV)

That is: they all look alike.

Under each of their four wings I could see human hands. So each of the four beings had four faces and four wings. 9The wings of each living being touched the wings of the beings beside it. Each one moved straight forward in any direction without turning around.

10Each had a human face in the front, the face of a lion on the right side, the face of an ox on the left side, and the face of an eagle at the back. 11Each had two pairs of outstretched wings—one pair stretched out to touch the wings of the living beings on either side of it, and the other pair covered its body. 12They went in whatever direction the spirit chose, and they moved straight forward in any direction without turning around.  Ezekiel 1: 8-12

Okay, so we accept this. One being has four faces, feet straight down so they don’t ever turn their face from God, and eyes everywhere just in case…so they don’t miss anything. And then there’s that pesky wheel-within-the-wheel which hints at all kinds of things.

The other thing we have to note is that these Cherubim move about in groups of four. Each four is one entity: a singular entity made up of four sub-entities who all look alike. This is something we can’t even begin to figure out. I mean, on earth a marriage is an entity but the hubby and the woman are not really alike to such an extreme.

Anyway, we accept this…and ponder and ponder. But then what happens when we arrive in Revelation?

In the center and around the throne were four living beings, each covered with eyes, front and back. 7The first of these living beings was like a lion; the second was like an ox; the third had a human face; and the fourth was like an eagle in flight.8Each of these living beings had six wings, and their wings were covered all over with eyes, inside and out. Day after day and night after night they keep on saying,  Rev  4: 6-8

There are two changes here:

The first: the number of wings: two pairs each in Ezekiel’s vision, and 6 wings (not said if they come in pairs) in Revelations.
The second: The cherubim are now separate, kinda. . .and fully themselves but still a unity of four.

They’re still unified but one is fully human with six wings, one is fully a bird (with six wings), one is fully a lion (with six wings) and one is fully an ox (with six wings.

Again, they have all the eyes.  Now if there is any confusion here about these creatures: Ezekiel calls these living creatures “Cherubim” and John calls them “living creatures.”

Ezekiel 10:20 These were the living creatures I had seen beneath the God of Israel by the Kebar River, and I realized that they were cherubim.

Revelation 4:6 Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back.

But, what’s interesting here is how these cherubim are part of each other and a unity. Not a trinity but a Quatrinity (I just invented that word, I think.) On earth we can’t begin to understand beings who are part of each other and who can dismantle and reassemble themselves in different patterns….but wow! this is heaven! A spiritual sphere! A world of dimensionalities we cannot begin to understand. Question: do they really “look” like this? Or is the way they look the only way our human minds with its limited understanding of what a “person” is can understand?

And may I say, these are terrifying. I have never seen a cherubim — especially when it/they is in their one from column a, one from column b, one from column c, one from column d — and yet one-single-entity mode  And know what? I do not want to see them.

In Daniel, the angel Gabriel is often called “The man Gabriel.” He stands before God, in the presence of God. Just like the cherubim are always before God. And honestly, if God wants to send anyone to talk to humans, I think he knows enough of human fear to send someone who looks like one of us: Gabriel.

How terrifying and majestic holiness is! I imagine the eyes of the cherubim, always seeing God and yet possibly seeing all on the earth, seeing through the eyes of all on the earth, seeing the evil being done on the earth.

Yeah, no ghost or demon matches the terrifying majesty of God.

~Carole McDonnell


I hope you agreed that was worth it. Even though you didn’t click over to her blog, why not give Carole a courtesy click now and check out other stuff she’s got there.

Next, you need to see some of the other videos over at John8ThirtyTwo’s YouTube channel.

Carole: I think the word Quadrinity has been used elsewhere, changing the ‘t’ to a ‘d’.

October 28, 2011

Crystal Cathedral Property Sold to Chapman University

In the end, the university bid was the one the Schullers approved.

The board “had to reluctantly vote to accept a plan due to the deadlines required by the court,” Sheila Schuller Coleman, senior pastor of the Crystal Cathedral Congregation, said in the statement.

The story is summarized at the San Fransisco Chronicle.

The church will continue to have the use of some of the buildings, but the Orange County Register reports that the annual Christmas production won’t be happening for 2011.

Crystal Cathedral’s iconic “Glory of Christmas” pageant is unlikely to happen this year with the pending sale of the 40-acre property, even as a dark cloud of uncertainty hangs over the 60-year-old ministry founded by Robert H. Schuller.

On Wednesday, Crystal Cathedral Ministries’ board announced their decision to “reluctantly endorse” Chapman University as the preferred buyer over the highest bidder, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange. Chapman is offering $50 million for the campus and options to continue the ministry on the property and buy back core church buildings in five years. The university plans to start a satellite campus there which will offer health science courses.

Even the Wall Street Journal followed this epic tale.

In the suit, filed Sept. 30, the creditors insist that claims filed in the bankruptcy case—related to everything from employee salaries to alleged copyright infringement—should be bumped back in the line to be repaid. Most of the 10 defendants targeted in the suit are related to the Schullers by blood or marriage.

“R. H. Schuller used his control and influence to cause the debtor to enter into the above-described agreements that benefitted himself and his family, to the detriment of the creditors of the debtor and in breach of his fiduciary obligations to the debtor,” the creditors said, referencing deals that governed everything from compensation for a Schuller son-in-law charged with executing the church’s “Glory of Christmas” pageant to the transition that installed Robert H. Schuller’s son as senior minister for a time…

Though the founders continue to do battle with the creditors regarding their claims, they seem to be on board with the recent turn in the case. Even though their first-choice ending for the proceedings—raising enough money for Crystal Cathedral to remain in control of the entire campus—didn’t materialize, the couple are now set to “embrace Chapman,” according to a statement released Wednesday.

“If Chapman emerges as the owner of the Crystal Cathedral campus, we will welcome the future students and faculty with all that our positive faith has to offer,” Robert H. Schuller said, adding that the board’s decision to tap Chapman as the preferred buyer “took weeks of deliberation and prayer.”

End of story?  Methinks not.  The drama, which has been faithfully recorded on this blog — type “Crystal Cathedral” into the search field at the top of the sidebar — is really a multi-dimensional story involving:

  • overspending, bad management
  • a family feud gone very public
  • the lack of substance, or spiritual shallowness of the Cathedral’s core message
  • the traditional vs. contemporary (and Mainline vs. Charismatic) music wars involving congregational and choir (performance) music
  • the untold story of the Cathedral’s thriving Hispanic church

…and much, much more; though for some, the middle one, the relentless self-help message of possibility-thinking that overshadowed more profound Biblical teaching, was the Achilles Heel that eventually caused the ministry organization to come undone.

No, this story is a continuing drama.

Stay tuned.

October 27, 2011

Harold Camping Resigns from Family Radio

Dear Mr. Camping,

I was just getting ready to retire myself — for the night, that is — when I caught this post over at the blog Bene Diction, and learned of your decision to step down.  While I haven’t agreed with you on everything lately, I applaud your realization that perhaps it is time to hand the reins over to the next generation, and your decision to act on that realization sooner than later.  I wish you all the best in whatever remaining years God grants you.

Sincerely,

Paul Wilkinson.


More details at this Christian Post story.

Now then, if I may, a few other notes to others…


Dear Pat Robertson,

I have always greatly respected you ever since reading your early biography Shout it from the Housetops as a much younger Christian.  You don’t know this, but one night while you were still in the old Spratley Street Channel 27 studios, I was in your office and sat in your chair; and the next day was privileged to watch The 700 Club from the control room.  You’ve played a big role in my life and taught me much about both faith and media.

But like the letter above, I’m wondering if perhaps it’s time to step back from the microphone and the camera and allow God to work through others.  Remember that story in Shout It… where you were doing a telethon and God told you to, “Get out of the way”?  Well, perhaps we’ve reached a similar juncture.  Many of your recent pronouncements have been unusual to say the least, and I suspect even some of your staff are concerned.  You built a great broadcasting network and a great university, and you’ll always have my respect for that.  I just want to see the story end well.

Sincerely,

Paul Wilkinson.


Dear Jack Van Impe,

You have been relentless in your pursuit of relevant television ministry, especially where the prophetic writings of scripture intersect with the pages of the local newspaper.  Your awareness of current events coupled with your Bible knowledge have given you a unique voice among Evangelicals.

But lately, you’ve been somewhat seduced by the writings of Noah Hutchings, who I guess is also trying to stay attuned to what’s going on in the world, but has lately focused his attacks on other Christian pastors, writers, organizations and ministries.  You know, we need to be discerning to some extent, but we can’t spend valuable television airtime attacking each other, especially in a public forum.  You’ve run a good race, but perhaps it might be time to step down before it all ends badly.

Sincerely,

Paul Wilkinson.


Dear Fred Phelps,

By now you’ve seen the above three letters, and you’re probably thinking that I’m going to advise you that perhaps it’s time to step down as well, right?  But really, step down from what?  Your ‘organization’ consists of only a handful of mostly family members, and truly gives new meaning to the term, ‘a tempest in a teapot.’

While you are semi-skilled at getting media attention — which says more about the need of print and electronic news organizations for the sensational than it does about the content of your message — the scope of your ‘tribe’ represents such an infinitesimal percentage of Christians in the United States that it’s amazing that even the most news-hungry reporters still bother sending a film crew.  You’ve had more than your fifteen minutes of fame, and every American with either a television or a newspaper subscription knows who you think God hates.  It’s too bad you never considered using your immense media platform to actually preach the gospel; the story that begins with, “For God so loved the world…”

Sincerely,

Paul Wilkinson.

October 26, 2011

Wednesday Link List

So what’s your take-away from today’s cartoon?  It’s from the book God is Dog Spelled Backwards by Julia Cmaeron and Elizabeth Cameron; not for sale at your local Christian bookstore.

  • The Seattle Mars Hill church (Mark Driscoll) decided to go after other Mars Hills churches to try to protect its brand.  But then the church realized its reaction was a little over the top.
  • Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter becomes the latest Christian author, signing a two-book deal with Zondervan.
  • The Occupy London protesters forced the closing of St. Paul’s Cathedral mostly due to fire concerns.
  • Speaking of the UK, a man there writes on his Facebook page that he believes marriage is meant to be between a man and a woman, and next thing you know he’s demoted at work with a 40% pay cut.
  • If you have an iTunes account, you can click this link for an interview with Steve Carr, the founder of the non-profit Flannel film company that produced Rob Bell’s NOOMA videos and Francis Chan’s BASIC series.
  • Paul Crouch, Jr. has left the family business, aka The Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) to “pursue other work.”  The departure was rather sudden.
  • Americans can donate to missions at the left click of a mouse; but as the U.S. dollar slides against foreign currencies, overseas mission projects are hurting for funding.
  • In one of his best pieces to date, Trevin Wax imagines a somewhat ideal media interview with a pastor on the homosexual debate.
  • Lots of rumblings from the Calvary Chapel churches over the visits of the ever-controversial Jerry Boykin to various CCs, mostly because of Boykin’s Jesuit connections.  While this website looks somewhat sensationalist, it does contain a lot of documentation,  perhaps this one boils it down more concisely.
  • Josh Wiley collects 22 Awesome C. S. Lewis Quotations.
  • Comedian Tim Hawkins has Three Requests for Worship Pastors.
  • October 31st: JesusWeen.  Seriously. Someone came up with this.  To non-Christians it’s a bit of joke.  To Christians it’s somewhat unnecessary.
  • October 31st: Hell Houses.  Russell D. Moore has seven reasons why Judgment Houses or Hell Houses miss the mark.
  • It took presidential hopeful Michelle Bachman only a few days to note that presidential hopeful Herman Cain’s “999″ economic program is simply “666″ upside down.  She remarked, “The devil is in the details.” Jeremy Myers examines 666.
  • Just in time for Reformation Sunday: Zac Hicks’ worship song including the five “solas” Sola fide (pronounced “FEE-deh”) – faith alone; Sola gratia (pronounced “GRAT-see-ah”) – grace alone; Solus Christus (pronounced “KREE-stoos”) – Christ alone; Sola scriptura (pronounced “skrip-TOO-rah”) – Scripture alone; Soli Deo gloria (pronounced “DEH-o GLOH-ree-ah”) – to God alone be the glory. (Don’t forget to roll the r’s.)  Click the audio player in this link.
  • Insert your link here.  Seen something online this week that I missed?  Add your suggestion to the comments.  Note that not all links will posted; anything commercial or inappropriate won’t be accepted.
  • With apologies to Margaret Fishback Powers, I thought we’d end with an “almost” version of Footprints.

October 25, 2011

For Halloween, Nothing is More Scary Than Licensing

Be afraid, be very afraid!

By this time next week Halloween will be over for another year and the orange lights will be taken down.  I recently received a Children’s book catalog from Random House, and they devoted 14 pages to Halloween and only 9 pages to Christmas; and only three books for Christmas were of the kind that some readers of this blog would approve.  But just in time for the candy munchers, Veggie Tales released the costume you see at left, a reminder that nothing succeeds like excess.  Of course, in the Christian product environment, this is nothing new; I could picture a teen girl wearing the Soul Surfer T-shirt below, but not sure how or why someone would come to purchase the Heaven is For Real shirt. 

With only 60 days to December 25th, let the Christmas licensing begin!


October 24, 2011

First, The Bible Wars; Then, The Music Wars; Next…

Collectively, churches and changes don’t go well together.  Whether it’s change in the way people dress for worship; the addition of multiple service times and Saturday night services; replacing the choir with a worship team; or the preacher switching from the NASB to The Message; we tend, as a group, to be very uncomfortable with the transitions. 

In Evangelical circles, the ongoing tension is often expressed as, “The Bible Wars,” or “The Music Wars.”  Like the weather, everyone has an opinion on these topics, and some people simply vote with their feet and move on.

For Roman Catholics, the parish system dictates where your primary place of worship is located.  Catholics actually led the rest of us in the switch to contemporary music, with the folk masses of the early 1960s, so it’s not a prime breeding ground for music battles.  Their scripture readings form a smaller part of a much larger liturgy, and use the NAB (New American Bible), NRSV, Jerusalem Bible and even the Catholic edition of the Good News Bible allows some flexibility.

In fact, the NAB went through a revision this year; a revision somewhat ignored by the rest of the Christian community, and totally overshadowed by the release of the 2011 edition of the NIV.  But it was not without controversy especially over — you can pause and make a guess here — the use of inclusive language.   So now we hear the NABRE (revised edition) is “approved for private use and study.  It will not be used in the mass. “

While we wait for that story to sort itself out, comes word this week that changes are coming to The Missal, a book which really has a larger place in the structure of the mass than the Bible itself.   What might be called “focus groups” are getting together across the USA to “test drive” the new order of service, as USAToday Religion reports:

…They [are] preparing for a revised text of the Mass that will take effect on Nov. 27, the first Sunday of the liturgical season of Advent and of the church year.

The revisions reflect a new translation for the English-speaking world of the Roman Missal, the official Latin-language set of worship documents. It includes words and instructions for conducting the Mass, the central act of Catholic worship, in which priests bless and distribute bread and wine as essentially the body and blood of Jesus.

Virtually every prayer and proclamation in the Mass is undergoing at least some revision, marking the biggest change in worship for American Catholics since they began having Masses in English rather than Latin after the reformist Second Vatican Council of the 1960s.

Much of the debate within the church is over whether the changes, ordered by the Vatican to achieve more literal translations from the Latin, are good or bad.

Proponents say the new version is a more precise reflection of the original Latin. They say it is richer in its poetry, more reverent in its references to God and fuller in its allusions to the Bible and church creeds.

Critics say the Vatican dismissed years of work by scholars who had been working for the bishops of English-speaking countries. They call the new version rigidly literal — difficult for priests to recite and lay people to understand.

It contains technical theological terms — such as Jesus being “consubstantial” with the Father, replacing the current phrase “one in being,” and “oblation,” replacing the term “offering.”

But for many Catholics, such discussions haven’t even registered.

A national survey released in August found that three-quarters of Roman Catholics are unaware of the changes to come.

continue reading the story at USAToday

Other highlights from the article:

  • [Michael] Diebold sees the revisions as showing “symbolically where Rome is headed” — away from a cooperative vision of church as the “people of God” toward one defined by its hierarchy.
  • Others worry about how young people — whom Catholic and other churches are already struggling to retain — will react.
  • The Rev. Joseph Fowler, a retired priest, said the phrasing is “going to be very foreign” to people.
  • The vocabulary is “not the language of the street, it’s not the language I may pray on my own,” [Archdiocese worship director Judy Butler] said. But it reflects the current Vatican emphasis on using a “sacred vernacular” — which people recognize as devotional language.
  • “If any priest picks up that Missal on that first Sunday and has not read it out loud, he’ll be in over his head,” said the Rev. Paul Scaglione, pastor at St. Barnabas.

So for non-Catholics, how does this affect you?

I think that for the most part, Protestants and Evangelicals have done a decent job of surviving the Bible wars and music wars, but not so good a job at “refreshing” the liturgy.  We still tend to lapse into dated and awkward phrases at time, and the repeating of the ‘words of institution’ at The Lord’s Supper or Communion could easily be refreshed since they are straight out of I Cor 11 and the other translations already exist.

While mainline Protestant churches focus more on liturgy, Evangelicals focus on the sermon, and this is another area where help is needed.  One Atlanta pastor is known as “one of America’s top communicators;” but I wonder if the issue is not the number of people in the pulpit on Sunday morning who simply aren’t good communicators, or are perhaps really bad communicators.

The Roman Catholic church is working to address a badly needed change; but it’s insistence on a “sacred vernacular” that is difficult to grasp may signal change that is moving in the wrong direction.

Some excellent articles on the new missal can be found at Catholic San Francisco:

Again, from a non-Catholic perspective, it would be great to see so much thought and consideration being poured into the words spoken during our worship services, especially given the Evangelical penchant to speak extemporaneously, or as one pastor told me years ago, “to wing it.” Winging it simply doesn’t respect people’s time, intelligent or the place of things sacred.

October 23, 2011

Sunday Seriousness: Rich Text

Each year multiplied thousands of new Christian books are published, and even though the last few years have been rough on publishers, self-publishing and online publishing mean that there has been a net increase in the number of new titles annually.

‘Rich text’ is a computer term referring to fonts, colors, sizes, and decorations that involve more complex HTML code, but I’m using the term here to denote authors whose text is rich in meaning, Bible background and practical application.  You see, in those multiplied thousands of new titles, there is a lot of fluff that gets issued each year, resulting in little more than the elimination of hundreds of trees used to make the paper. 

You should be constantly hungry for, and seeking out, rich text.  Here are some suggestions of authors that should be on everyone’s book list.

Classic Authors:

  • Andrew Murray
  • A. W. Tozer
  • Oswald Chambers
  • Watchman Nee
  • C. S. Lewis (apologetics titles)

Contemporary Authors:

  • Philip Yancey
  • Randy Alcorn
  • Henri Nouwen
  • Gene Edwards
  • Warren Wiersbe

Recently Published Bestsellers:

  • Radical by David Platt
  • Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman
  • The Well by Mark Hall
  • Crazy Love by Francis Chan
  • Sun Stand Still by Steven Furtick

So, who would you add to the list?

October 22, 2011

Saturday Silliness: How to Tell if You’re a Megachurch

Carlos Whitaker at Ragamuffin Soul, a definite insider on this issue, nails it with this checklist:

  • You might be a megachurch is your green room looks nicer that 95% of your attendees living rooms.
  • You might be a megachurch if you film sermon video illustrations on location in other countries.
  • You might be a megachurch if people take celebrity pictures of the pastor during his sermon.
  • You might be a megachurch if you have more people on staff to run a Sunday than American Idol has on staff to run a Wednesday.
  • You might be a megachurch if kids throw a tantrum when the moving lights aren’t working in their Sunday School.
  • You might be a megachurch if your pastor has had more work done than most of the women in your church.
  • You might be a megachurch if your worship department has not one single ugly person in it.
  • You might be a megachurch if your pastors security detail mimics the Secret Service.
  • You might be a megachurch if there are more police officers directing traffic into your parking lot than manning the streets of your neighborhood on a Sunday morning.

Thanks, Carlos.  Now then, click over to his blog and read the additional definitions his readers came up with…    No, really, you must read the comments.

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