Thinking Out Loud

March 31, 2012

Music Audience Fragmentation Hits the Summer Festivals

Musically, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

The Top 40 music charts in the 1960s were a bit of a dog’s breakfast.  Folk. British Invasion. Psychedelic Rock. Novelty Songs. Motown. Country Rock.  All of blended into one radio playlist.  One minute the Rolling Stones’ Jumpin’ Jack Flash, the next minute Judy Collins singing Amazing Grace or Napoleon XIV singing They’re Coming To Take Me Away. Next Glen Campbell croons about Galveston, while the DJ cues up The Who’s Magic Bus. Bubblegum groups like the 1910 Fruitgum Company and The Partridge Family sharing the hour with The Yardbirds and The Hollies. Martha Reeves, The Temptations, The Supremes pumping out the Motown sound on the same station that brought you Frank Sinatra singing, ‘I did it my way.’ Yes, really.

But then, along came the 1970s, and while Top 40 persisted on AM, the arrival of FM brought album rock, at the same time the soul stations of Atlanta and Detroit were becoming popular among non-black listeners, just as rock music was developing enough of a back-catalog for the inception of the oldies format.

Today, with music audience fragmentation a fact of life, there are umpteen specialized charts on Billboard and in USAToday, including “contemporary Christian,” but dig a little deeper into the CCM category and you discover cover versions of every other genre available. Which brings us to this news…

That summer festival that is the epitome of musical diversification, Cornerstone, will not be having a main stage this year.  The place will rock as usual, to be sure, but the earthquake will not have an epicenter.  Frontgate Media reports:

…Abandoning a single main stage this year, Cornerstone has moved to three genre-specific stages, making it easier for all styles of music lovers to have an exceptional experience at the world’s most unique Christian music & arts festival.  Scheduled for July 2-7, 2012 in Bushnell, IL, the festival draws attendance from around the world.

For the past 29 years, faith-filled attendees of all ages, styles and denominations have made the pilgrimage to the hills of Western Illinois for this week-long celebration.  They come to be inspired through seminary level classes and discussions, entertained with the best in music and film, spurred to further creativity with visual art, invigorated through sport and competition and to experience spiritual renewal among this diverse gathering of believers that makes the Cornerstone Festival community.

This year, the three new main music stages will have a more genre-specific feel:  

Center Stage (formerly the main stage) will be the home for the pop, rock and indie music fan.  Staged in a large circus tent, the Center Stage will have the atmosphere of a more intimate club setting.  Artists on this stage include reunions of the OC Supertones and Squad Five-O, Eisley, Josh Garrels, and Danielson. Neal Morse (solo artist and member of Spock’s Beard and Transatlantic), will be doing a special 2-hour set.

The Gallery Stage has long been a favorite of Cornerstone veterans. This stage, as always, is designed with the acoustic and folk fans in mind. Artists include Over the Rhine, The Farewell Drifters, Iona, Glenn Kaiser Band, The Choir, The Violet Burning and Ashley Cleveland.

Fans who like music at a louder volume, including metal, punk and hardcore, will be drawn to the impressive lineup at the Underground Stage.  Confirmed artists include The Chariot, Norma Jean, For Today, Flatfoot 56, White Collar Slideshow and War of Ages.

More artists will be announced in the coming weeks on all stages.

But isn’t the image of a summer music festival an image of 30-40,000 people sitting on a cavernous hillside?  Isn’t breaking up the audience a little like breaking up the band?  (No band in particular, it’s a euphemism.) And won’t the sound waves from the various stages crash somewhere in the middle, setting off car alarms in the parking lot?

I guess we’ll have to wait to find out.

Anyway, for all you counter-cultural types out there who want to be first in line at the closest thing North America has to Greenbelt’s fringes, the early access special at the Cornerstone website expires today.

It's hard to capture a festival audience in a single photo, so even though we're talking about Cornerstone, we borrowed this picture from the Creation festival

March 30, 2012

This Song Should Be The Anthem of Local Churches Everywhere

So the other night I was on the website of Christian Copyright Licensing, Inc., the company that tracks the songs being used in local churches’ video or overhead projection.  This organization provides royalties to songwriters commensurate to the size of the church in question, each time that church creates another projection master or data file, and replaces the income lost from the days when songbooks and hymnbooks ruled the market.  If your church’s projected lyrics or homemade songsheets don’t contain a CCLI number either at the beginning or end of each song, question whether the songs are being used legally, since the fines can be hefty.

Anyway, I was scrolling through the top 200 worship songs, and it occurred to me there is a song that really needs to be there; in fact it really needs to be part of the repertoire of every church using modern worship.

Eddie Kirkland is a worship leader at Atlanta’s North Point Community Church, where, just to warn ya, the worship set may seem to some of you more like a rock concert than a Sunday service. But I hope you’ll see past that and enjoy the song.

We want to be a church where freedom reigns
We want to be a people full of grace
We want to be a shelter where the broken find their place
We want to be refuge for the weak
We want to be a light for the world to see
We want to be a love the breaks the walls and fill the streets…

All are welcome here
As we are, as we are
For our God is near every heart

If those sentiments are not the goal of where you attend on Sundays, frankly, I think you’re doing it wrong.

Here’s another version of the song that was used as part of North Point’s Be Rich campaign, where each year, instead of reinventing the charity wheel, NPCC members flood secular social service organizations with money and volunteer hours.   

Watch the song a few times, and then forward the link to today’s blog post — http://wp.me/pfdhA-3en — to the worship leader at your church. 

If a church of any size desires to live up to what this song expresses, there’s nothing stopping that church from changing the world.

Here’s a bonus worship song for today from C201

March 29, 2012

Compassion Tempered With Concern

One of the Church’s biggest failures of the past decade has been our reaction, and over-reaction to the LGBT community, especially to those who — absent the treatment they see their peers receiving — hold on to a faith in the Messiah-ship of Jesus Christ.

On the one hand, there are the usual conservative voices who insist that any gay sympathies constitute an automatic ticket to hell. Frankly, I am curious to see who shows up to picket at their funerals.

On the other hand, there are among the more progressive progressives, certain Christian bloggers who in their compassion have thrown out a lot of the core of the Bible’s ideal for family, procreation and partnership.

And now, to add to our confusion, we discover that Psalm 139,  the scripture used as a major element in the argument against abortion, is used as a rallying cry for gay and lesbian Christians. Regardless of which translation is employed.

Anyway, I’ve already blogged my personal place of balance on this issue, but in thinking about it this week, I’ve realized that my particular choice of words has a bearing on another commonly heard phrase particularly among teenagers who either come out of the closet by choice or who are outed by their classmates.

The phrase is, “It gets better.”

For the bullied, the confused and the lonely, I certainly hope it does. Soon.

But I have to say this, and maybe this can be your response as well, “It gets better, but it doesn’t necessarily get best.”

In other words; I’m there for you.

I understand.

I’m not someone looking at this from the detachment of an outsider; I’ve read your blogs, I’ve looked in to your online discussions. I do get it.

But with all the love in my heart, I just think that ultimately, God has something else in mind which, because He made it, is perfect. 

So yes, it gets better, thought it doesn’t necessarily get best.

This Week at Christianity 201

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:19 am

For some reason I’ve been writing more of the posts at C201 in the last few days, while still keeping up a steady stream of ‘borrowing’ from other devotional blogs.  Here’s a sample:

  • Seasons of Ministry — The life of Jesus divides somewhat evenly into three very different seasons that can also define our Christian journey, our experience at a particular vocational or volunteer ministry, or even a summer of service at Christian camp or retreat center.
  • Citizens of Two Worlds — As aliens and strangers we can often sing, “This world is not my home, I’m just passin’ through;” but the implications of living in two worlds affect us in terms of external situation but also internal struggle.
  • God Must Be Blessing Us, Right? — Just because you see people all around you getting results doesn’t mean their success comes from doing it God’s way. Or that their present success is blocking the possibility of future blessing.
  • Whatever Happened to Text? — Finding things to read on Christian blogs, finding good Christian books, and finding great preacher podcasts gets more difficult when everybody begins with anecdotes and analogies, but nobody begins with scripture text.

March 28, 2012

Wednesday Link List

  • Okay, so the guy who sold you the insurance coverage that looks after your pet dog or cat after the rapture wasn’t actually planning on doing anything after you vacated the planet.  Bart Centre, who lives in New Hampshire, came clean after the state Insurance Department delivered a subpoena because he appeared to be engaged in “unauthorized business of insurance” through his Eternal Earth-Bound Pets business. Just don’t tell Fido and Fluffy.
  • Equally ridiculous is the story where a Pentecostal church staged a fake raid on its youth group — to illustrate the conditions faced by persecuted church people  in the third world — and now face felony charges.  Be sure to catch the video where the pastor states he would do it again.
  • Jamie Wright may call herself “the very worst missionary;” but when it comes to the liabilities of short term mission projects, she really gets it. The “Hugs for Jesus” people who showed up in her part of the world had no clue what to do if anyone wanted follow-up. In baseball, a connection of bat and ball without follow-through is called a ‘bunt.’ Short term missionaries are bunting where they could be hitting home runs.
  • Not a Christian website, but does it count if a Christian told me about it?  Just kidding; anyway, enjoy Ten Lessons Parents Could Learn from the Pilgrims at NetNanny.
  • Got 36 minutes to hear a great sermon? I’ve dropped by Joe Boyd’s blog before but never heard him preach; but the idea of Jesus being blind got me curious. When was Jesus ever blind; literally or figuratively? This was videoed while he guested at another church, and his style is somewhat laid back but the content is excellent.
  • Your Sunday morning service was a communion service.  And after that there was a fellowship lunch.  Which one was closer to being the real sacrament?  Before you get nervous about that question, read what Deacon Hall has to say.
  • At age 103, Rev. Grover C. Simpson, pastor of St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Marked Tree, Arkansas is thinking it might be time to consider retirement. Well, closer to 103½ actually.
  • Brandon Hatmaker on serving the poor: “I’d consider it more a success if I spent an hour with a homeless guy and he never mentioned church, what he does wrong, or what he doesn’t do right. I know, sounds weird. But, I’d rather him talk about his story, his family, what happened that landed him on the streets. That would be an indicator to me that he’s not performing for me. And that maybe, just maybe, I really cared about his story. And that just possibly, my God might care as well.” Read more.
  • The post at Rightly Dividing is really short, but the comments add a lot of value to the question: Does anyone die “prematurely?” Does anyone die “before their time?”
  • Occam’s razor is not the latest personal care product for men. Maybe this will help. Anyway, at Glenn Peoples blog, loved this line: “…that this was one of those instances where a scientist had gone crashing headlong through a philosophical issue and made a bit of a hash of it.”
  • Two of the cathedrals destroyed in New Zealand’s earthquake may not have survived structurally, but according to one writer, “Increasingly, they had morphed into tourist temples…They were increasingly irrelevant to ordinary Cantabrians as vital centres of worship.”
  • As if we didn’t exhaust this topic yesterday, there’s always the website devoted to the forthcoming movie, Jesus Don’t Let Me Die Before I’ve Had Sex. The movie which just raise $32K in its Kickstarter campaign, will be “a feature-length documentary examining the teachings of the evangelical church on sex and exploring the undercurrent of idealism that leaves many lay members feeling frustrated and confused.”
  • Speaking of edgy movies, some people have seen the Blue Like Jazz movie already and have posted reviews; a lengthy review by Mike Cosper and a shorter one by Tiffany Owens at World Magazine.
  • And speaking of sex, Joy Eggerichs is the daughter of Dr. Emmerson Eggerichs who wrote the huge marriage book, Love and Respect. She blogs at Love And Respect Now, and offers this explanation as to why a rapidly growing number of women are watching porn.
  • No specific link, but if you head over to Timmy Brister’s blog, you should be able to catch the letter “Z” as he concludes his “Gospel Alphabet” series.
  • In Tennessee, when they say “community hymn sing,” it involves Michael W. Smith, Randy Travis, Committed, Marcia Ware, a 150-voice choir and full symphony orchestra. But you get to sing along with the projected lyrics.
  • If you go to Andy Stanley’s church, North Point Community, you know the worship time resembles a rock concert; hence a warning in your church bulletin: “This service contains flashing lights which may cause problems for people with photosensitive epilepsy.”  (Warning from me: .pdf file takes awhile to load.)
  • Can’t get enough links? There’s always Brian D.’s blog.
  • Today’s closing cartoon-type-thing is from Naked Pastor. David’s blog may seem irreverent at times, but tell me this is any different from what’s going on in many of the Psalms.

 

March 27, 2012

Mark Driscoll Can Be Blunt, Rachel Held Evans Can’t

Warning: Today’s post uses a word that is that a heart of this week’s major Evangelical controversy.

So anyway, there’s my wife, sitting in church a couple of weeks ago, and the speaker is doing a two-week series on Song of Solomon and he explains that a particular phrase is referring to “her lady bits.”

I was attending another church, where the pastor was pursuing a much safer study of Matthew 5, a particular teaching of Jesus which doesn’t contain any need to use the phrase, “her lady bits;” nor the V-word which my wife informs me showed up in the sermon also.

“I’m so glad I was not there for that;” I told my wife.

“Are you kidding;” she replied; “I wouldn’t have missed this for the world!”

I guess you had to be there. Or maybe not.

The V-word, which, we might as well be clear, is ‘vagina,’ also comes up in the manuscript for Rachel Held Evans new book, My Year of Biblical Womanhood; to be published, in theory anyway, by Thomas Nelson.

It actually appears twice in the text, and I’ve read both occurrences from a fringe website that claimed to be authoritative on this matter.

The publisher, Thomas Nelson, still intoxicated by the success of recent hits like Jesus Calling and Heaven is For Real, is now enjoying some additional press from this, and is hedging on the direction that Rachel should go. She can leave the words in, but have that adversely affect sales, or she can take out the offending (but not exactly slang) terms.

Earlier in the month she wrote:

They won’t let me use the word “vagina” in my book because we have to sell it to Christian bookstores, which apparently have a thing against vaginas. I make a big scene about it and say that if Christian bookstores stuck to their own ridiculous standards, they wouldn’t be able carry the freaking Bible. I tell everyone that I’m going to fight it out of principle, but I cave within a few days because I want Christian bookstores to carry the sanitized version of my book because I want to make a lot of money, because we’ve needed a new roof on our house for four years now, and because I really want a Mac so I can fit in at the mega-churches. I feel like such a fraud.

Then, last week, this:

I want to make it clear that it is not my editors at Thomas Nelson who are insisting that I take out the word “vagina.” I can stick to my guns, keep “vagina” in, and I suspect Thomas Nelson will still publish the book. The problem, as I understand it, is that Christian bookstores probably won’t carry it, and Thomas Nelson sells a lot of books to Christian bookstores.

So, as sad as it is, we have a business decision to make. Do we risk losing a bunch of potential sales in order to keep the word “vagina” in this context? Or do we decide to choose our battles and let it go?  And do I risk alienating myself from the Thomas Nelson team—which has been great so far—because I refuse to cooperate with Christian retailing, their area of expertise?

Blogger Tony Jones weighed in:

The problems with this are too numerous to enumerate. Among them:

  1. Many Christian (read, conservative evangelical) bookstores won’t stock her book anyway, because they’ll consider it “feminist.”
  2. Even if they do, they won’t sell many copies.
  3. Wait, there are still Christian bookstores?
  4. Wait, there are still bookstores?

Ha ha! Tony! Funny guy! But I agree with point #1, RHE is probably already too edgy for the conservative stores at issue.

But as I wrote at Christian Book Shop Talk, I’m not sure that its right for Thomas Nelson or Rachel or anyone else to presume on what bookstores are or are not going to carry.

…[I]t’s nice to think that the brick-and-mortar retail side of Christian book distribution still carries some weight. Guess we’re not dead yet.

But I also think they’ve been extremely presumptuous as to how prudish we really are.

Because the truth of the matter, is that this isn’t about you and me, the owners of independent bookstores and small chains; this is about LifeWay, because it’s LifeWay — or perhaps even more accurately, Baptists — who are going to raise the roof over this word.

Again, I’m not sure that this is about “Christian bookstores” as opposed to “a Christian bookstore chain.”

And as Rachel herself pointed out, this isn’t the first time:

In Ian Cron’s fantastic book, Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me, which was also published by Thomas Nelson, he writes this: “Did I mention that it’s cold? You have no idea how far a man’s testicles can recede into his body until you have jumped into the Dorset Qarry…My testicles were very, very angry.”

And in To Own a Dragon, the ever-talented Donald Miller writes, “I felt as though all the men in the world secretly met in some warehouse late at night to talk about man things, to have secret handshakes, to discuss how great it was to have a penis and what an easy thing it was to operate…”

Which brings us to Chaplain Mike at Internet Monk, who really puts this in perspective reminding us of that other rather blunt book which came out just a few weeks ago, Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll.

Why is this an issue, especially with all the triumphalistic chest-thumping lately in the Christian industrial complex about how courageous Mark and Grace Driscoll were to answer questions about various sexual practices with graphic detail in their book?

Oh sorry, I forgot. Mark is a man’s man, and the LEADER™ of a megachurch. He and his church are controversial. He swears for effect because he’s CUTTING EDGE™ and trying to reach hard core unbelievers. Driscoll is ANOINTED™. He’s MISSIONAL™ and he’s got satellite campuses and he goes on shows like The View and stands up for THE FAITH™ by saying that homosexuals need to REPENT™ and that sex is only for married heterosexuals and that wives should SUBMIT™ to their husband’s leadership in the bedroom and every other area of life.

Mark Driscoll is the Christian bookseller’s dream… There’s not an ounce of thoughtfulness, nuance, or mystery about him. It’s either blackest black or whitest white, expressed in monosyllabic, in your face, turn or burn PREACHIN’™. He can say vagina or penis or oral sex or anal sex or any word or phrase he likes because he is a Reformission Rev in pagan freakin’ Seattle and he is REACHING THE LOST™.

But Rachel, well, she has a vagina and it would be shameful for her to talk about it or even use the word in public. She’s not a pastor or LEADER™ (God forbid!).

140 people have signed a petition at Am*zon to have the word put back into the manuscript.  

Karen Spears Zacharias writes:

I suppose when they signed contract with Rachel it never occurred to the publisher that she would have the balls to talk about her vagina in a book about womanhood, heh? But then I suppose Thomas Nelson wouldn’t use the word balls either, heh?…

…And theologians argue over why people today don’t find the Church relevant to their lives. Perhaps the answer to that question could be found in the books Christians refuse to print, sell, buy and read.

Sometimes it seems that all Christians publishers really want us “good Christian” women to write about are Amish Vampires.

Suzannah at the blog So Much Shouting writes:

Yes, this is a ridiculous conversation to be having in 2012.  But I believe that it is symptomatic of a fear within the church of bodies and sexuality–especially female sexuality.

Are we not a people who worship an Incarnate God and believe that our own bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made?

Blogger Allison Buzard writes:

The big question I’m getting at is this: Church, are we willing to redeem our culture’s view on sex and sexuality?

It’s possible, but we have to get over our own awkwardness.  And it’s critical that we do because here’s the reality: There are lots of folks sitting in our church pews every week who are having sex.  Some of them attend your junior high youth group.  Some of them are in your college ministry.  Some of them are in your senior ministry.  Some of them are married.  Some of them are single.  But trust you me, sex is happening amongst your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and we out to be talking about it.

And then — if you haven’t had your fill of this already — there’s the Nazarene discussion forum, Naznet, which, if you really want to consider this further, has a number of comments which reflect the variety of views on this subject.  (Note to self: Visit this site again sometime soon.) 

Conclusion:

We live in a time when battle lines are being drawn between conservative Christians and progressive Christians.  I usually find myself standing somewhere in between, trying to build a bridge between both groups; trying to maintain doctrinal orthodoxy while at the same time recognizing that this ain’t 1949 or 1953 or 1961. It’s 2012 already.The world changed in-between; the world changed last year; the world changed last week.

We need to be mindful of the duality as we interact with the broader culture; as we live between two worlds; as we exist as aliens and strangers, having citizenship in another country; but having to live, eat, breathe, work and play in a world that’s not our permanent home. (See graphic below.)

To that end, we need authors and publishers who will translate our message into the vernacular of the day, or even the hour. We need books and book distribution networks that will illustrate Christian worldview in a way that people can understand. 

In the end, the books we create should, at times, make us uncomfortable.

UPDATE: MAY 10, 2012:

Another author, Karen Spears Zacharias faced similar resistance to explicit content and released her true story highlighting the impact of child abuse, A Silence of Mockingbirds through MacAdam Cage Publishing — in hardcover at US$ 25 — your local store can order it through Ingram using 9781596923751

March 26, 2012

What a Worship Leader Learned from Aristotle

Bob Kauflin is somewhat of a worship guru in certain circles. His blog, Worship Matters, is probably in the top five blogs for those who lead modern worship in weekend services.  He recently wrote:

What I Learned from Aristotle about Leading Congregational Worship

Specifically, I haven’t learned anything from Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) about leading congregational worship that I didn’t learn first in Scripture.

But in his day, Aristotle sought to help speakers be more persuasive by identifying three crucial areas to keep in mind. He called them logos, ethos, and pathos.

Briefly, logos is seeking to persuade through truth. Aristotle was concerned that the speakers of his day, the sophists, focused too much on flowery language and not enough on actual content.

Ethos has to do with the character of the person speaking. Aristotle recognized that listeners tend to be influenced most by people whose character they trust.

Pathos refers to the ability to stir the emotions of your listeners. Important truths are often presented with no apparent response in the hearer. Airline attendants experience that every time they review the flight safety procedures before takeoff.

When I lead people to worship God in song, I’m seeking to persuade them that Jesus is more worthy of worship than money, possessions, sex, power, relationships, or anything else we idolize. While our trust is ultimately in the Holy Spirit to do that work in people’s hearts, the Spirit uses means. And three of those means are logos, ethos, and pathos.

…there’s more to the article…continue reading (click here)

Bob is a veteran in today’s modern worship movement; but his article applies to so much more than just worship. In preaching, in blogging, in small group ministry and even in conversation with friends, we need to have:

  • solid content that informs and edifies
  • a life that earns the right to be heard; authenticity, transparency
  • passion, passion and more passion

March 25, 2012

Inspiration Network CEO Pay Tops $2.5M US

In the part of the world where I live, they’ve just published the 2011 edition of the “sunshine list.” Basically, it requires that the compensation package for anyone working in the public sector totaling $100K or more has to be made public. Each year’s announcement is usually followed by the predictable amount of outrage, but each year the list gets longer.

So I was somewhat distressed to see this story in the Charlotte (NC) Observer:

Inspiration Networks, a nonprofit Christian broadcaster based near Charlotte, paid chief executive David Cerullo nearly $2.5 million in total compensation in 2010, newly released IRS returns show.

His pay increase since 2008: 47 percent.

Operating from a 92-acre campus in Indian Land, S.C, the cable television network has become one of the world’s largest Christian broadcasters, bringing religious programming to more than 120 countries.

With a budget of more than $95 million, it has raised much of its money by telling viewers that God brings financial favor to those who donate. Televangelists tell viewers to expect miracles if they send money.

A 2009 Charlotte Observer investigation found that Cerullo was the best paid leader of any religious charity tracked by watchdog groups…

Continue reading here.

One of the challenges that we face living in the Christian bubble involves interacting with a larger world where the concept of “right and wrong” has vanished off the radar. Yet here is a Christian organization with a situation that so clearly flashes “wrong.”  Their defense?

His pay is determined largely by an independent committee that studies executive compensation at “similar organizations” – including cable television networks, media companies and national ministries – and then makes a recommendation to Inspiration’s board of directors, the network said.

But many philanthropy experts say it’s unfair to compare salaries in nonprofit organizations with those in the for-profit world. That’s because nonprofits get substantial tax breaks – a form of public subsidy. In exchange, they’re expected to keep salaries at reasonable levels.

Ken Berger, president of Charity Navigator, said that he considers it “outrageous” for a nonprofit of Inspiration’s size to provide a $2.5 million compensation package, no matter what the organization’s pay studies say.

“You can manipulate the studies to put a good face on something that defies common sense, which is what we’re talking about here,” said Berger, whose group evaluates nonprofits.

Even religious nonprofits with far bigger budgets pay their leaders less than Cerullo, the Observer found. The Christian Broadcasting Network, founded by Pat Robertson, has a budget that’s nearly three times as large. Its CEO got total compensation of $383,000 in 2010.

This story also feeds those who feel religious charities and churches should pay their share of property taxes. And who can argue that with executive compensation of this degree, INSP is nothing more than a business?  The ministry relocated from Charlotte to Lancaster County. “I’d love to tax them at market value, for the county’s sake,” said Smith, the deputy assessor. “In the long run, it would help every taxpaying citizen in Lancaster County.”

In addition to David Cerullo’s pay package, the article goes on to state that according to 2010 tax returns:

  • Wife Barbara got $191,000
  • Daughter Becky got $195,000
  • Son Ben got $188,000

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

As someone I know once said referring to a similar situation a few years ago, “Do these people get to heaven or are they exempted because they’ve experienced it already?”

And all these salaries are paid through the donations of people naively sending in their monthly donations of $10 or $20, which they can ill-afford; people who will never hear how much the ministry boss takes home.

Again, you’re encouraged to read Ames Alexander’s article at The Observer (click here)

March 24, 2012

A New Kind of Bible Translation

B. J. Stockman

Tucked away in Wednesday’s link list was a reference to something produced by B. J. Stockman that appeared at Vitamin Z while Zach was off for a week.  Stockman called the concept “Preaching to Yourself” and it involved taking a chapter of an epistle and re-interpreting it in the first person, so that instead of it being Paul writing to a first century church, it’s me making a declaration to live out the things Paul is teaching. You might want to pause here and read his introduction to the first chapter.

I had already posted the link when I decided to share it in our family Bible study evening that night using the section of chapter three I had posted at Christianity 201, and also reading the original text from my NIV Study Bible. What amazed me was how this reconstruction of the text served as commentary; how much it brought the text to life. 

Anyway, Zach managed to stay away long enough for B. J. to get five of the six chapters posted, and I thought I would allow you to look at Galatians chapter five in parallel.

ORIGINAL TEXT – NIV
Freedom in Christ

 1It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

 2 Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4 You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

 7 You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? 8 That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. 9 “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” 10 I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty. 11 Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. 12 As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!

Life by the Spirit

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

 16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

 19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.


FIRST PERSON


  • Jesus set me free.  Therefore I will not submit to any “yokes” of slavery that are add-on’s to the Gospel no matter how spiritual they may seem.  My freedom hinges on Jesus’ work—nothing else.  (5:1)
  • I will stand firm in the Gospel.  My right-standing before God is due to Jesus not something that I do or don’t do.  I stand firm in Christ not self.  I know that love for the Gospel will breed humble Christ-confidence not prideful self-confidence in my life.  (5:1)
  • I recognize that if I receive something else besides Jesus, like circumcision, to increase my spiritual standing before God Jesus is no benefit to me.  The benefits of the Gospel come from Jesus alone. (5:2)
  • When I receive religious traditions and law as well as the person of Jesus, I place myself under obligation to keep the whole law.  In light of this, I trust Jesus and thus reject everything else as a means to finding favor with God. (5:3)
  • I know that seeking justification from law is falling from grace.  Falling from grace isn’t so much a direct rejection of Jesus, but an indirect acceptance of anything else besides Jesus to make me right with God.  If I treat Jesus as only a piece of God’s saving work, I sever myself from Jesus.   Therefore I will seek to sever all those things from my life which disconnect me from Jesus even if others think those same things connect me to Jesus. (5:4)
  • I wait for the hope of righteousness through the Holy Spirit and by faith.  Righteousness comes from the work of the Spirit not through my works. (5:5)
  • I believe that faith works through love.  Faith is not empty.  Faith is filled with love.  Therefore by faith I believe that Jesus alone means everything, and that religious traditions like uncircumcision or circumcision mean nothing. (5:6)
  • I desire to run my race well, and I believe that I run best not by adding things to the truth of the Gospel, but by trusting the truth of the Gospel.  I will train myself daily with the Gospel believing Jesus’ work on my behalf.  I will begin my days not doing work for Jesus but trusting Jesus’ work for me. (5:7)
  • God calls me to Jesus—not Jesus plus something or someone else.  God loves persuading people to the sufficiency of his Son not to self-sufficiency.  (5:8)
  • I know that my life and the church as a whole can become filled with leaven—filled with things other than Jesus.  Since leaven spreads quickly I will seek to be on guard against any particles of the leaven of legalism and law-living in my life and the community of faith that I am a part of.  (5:9)
  • I recognize that false teachers who sneak into the community of faith and preach another Jesus or in addition to Jesus will come under judgment.  (5:10)
  • I believe that the cross is a stumbling block.  It is offensive.  I will not be surprised then when moralists are offended by the radical grace of Jesus, nor will I be surprised when false teachers attempt to undermine the centrality of the cross of Jesus in the church.  (5:11)
  • Paul uses harsh language when speaking of false teachers.  He wishes that those who advocate circumcision along with Jesus as a means to salvation would go all the way and castrate themselves.  Therefore I will not be soft on false teachers who know better.  (5:12)
  • I will use sarcasm for the sake of the Gospel to reveal the foolishness of false teaching.  Sarcasm is not to reveal my cleverness but to point people to Jesus.  (5:12)
  • My freedom in Christ is not a freedom to sin.  Therefore I resist tendencies to turn the radical grace of God into license.  Instead Gospel-freedom moves me to serve and love others, not serve and indulge myself.  (5:13)
  • Since the Law is fulfilled in loving my neighbor as myself—I will love Jesus and love other people.  Radical grace emboldens me to love radically not sin radically.  (5:14)
  • I will not engage in biting and devouring other people through my self-centered words and actions, but will seek to build up the church.  (5:15)
  • By faith I will walk by the Spirit so that I do not carry out the desires of the flesh.  I will not fight flesh with flesh, but flesh with Spirit.   (5:16)
  • I know life is war and that an inner conflict of flesh versus Spirit wages within me, and within those in the church.  Therefore I will seek to live by the Spirit, and will strive to be patient with others and forgiving toward others knowing that perfection will not be achieved till Jesus returns.  (5:17)
  • Because of Jesus I am not under the law, but led by the Spirit.  I will avoid living a life led by law, and pursue the Holy Spirit’s work in my life.  (5:18)
  • I will seek to kill the following sins in my life: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and other things similar to these.  I take the warning of Paul against these things seriously, and will not play with sin.  I know that playing around with particular sins end in practicing and being addicted to the same sins.  At times I will examine myself and ask the opinion of others to see that I am not engaging in these sinful deeds.  (5:19-21)
  • I know that those who practice and live consistently in these sinful lifestyles will not inherit the kingdom of God.   I will not lift my noses at others who engage in these things, but will live soberly knowing that I too could become entangled in them.   Also, I will not be controlled by my past when I have engaged in these things (even if the past means yesterday), but I now ask Jesus to forgive me and ask for the Holy Spirit to enable me to kill my sin and bear the fruit of the Spirit. (5:19-23)
  • I desire and ask the Holy Spirit to produce the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in my life.  I know that these aren’t fruits plural but fruit singular, and that I am called to walk in all of them not just some of them.  I will not settle with my current level of maturity, but desire growth in the Spirit. (5:22-23)
  • Because I have died with Jesus, I have died to the flesh and these sinful passions and desires.  Therefore I will live and act like I am dead to them, because I really have died to them.  I don’t kill sin in order to die to sin and in order to be alive to Jesus.  I kill sin because I’m dead to sin and alive to Jesus.  (5:24)
  • Because I live by the Spirit due to the person and work of Jesus I will walk by the Spirit.  I know that this is not passive, but an active pursuit.  Therefore I ask God for help and for more of the Spirit’s work in my life.  I desire continual fillings of the Spirit so that I am empowered to walk filled with the Spirit.  (5:25)
  • I know the Spirit hates boasting, and challenging, and envying my brothers and sisters in Christ.  Therefore I will strive to boast in others successes, encourage others in their faith, and rejoice when others are blessed.  I believe that the Holy Spirit works supernaturally, but sometimes the great work of the Spirit is found in the “simple” things like an encouraging word or holding one’s tongue.  (5:26)


A few takeaways about the process itself:

  • You can do this. Yes, you. Great Bible study motivator.
  • Your small group, Sunday School class, youth group can do this.
  • You can repeat this process with the same book months or years later and get new results.
  • Some of you are familiar with a practice of ‘praying the scriptures’ and this can be seen as a variant on that.
  • Be sure to read the introduction mentioned above to learn more about the process.

About the author (from B. J.’s blog, 5:21)

B.J. lives on the redwood coast of California with his beautiful wife Kate, daughter Grace, and son Adoniram. He has a passion for leading people deeper into the gospel of grace in Jesus and the glory of God. He graduated from Bethany University with a B.A. in Biblical & Theological Studies, has studied at Fuller Theological Seminary, serves pastors around the nation through Docent Research Group, and has a real day job too.

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit (vs 25)

March 23, 2012

Microblogging Friday

Heard a couple of interesting quotes from The Elephant Room II at James MacDonald’s blog; here’s the first one:

T. D. Jakes on the need for the church to be more integrated:

“When you write the books you read, your truth will always be distorted.”

Second quote from ER II

I think it was Crawford Lorrits on the need for us to stop obsessing on the finer points of doctrine when we’re supposed to be evangelizing:

“When someone is drowning, don’t describe the features of the rescue boat.”

from David Platt quotations at GoodReads.com

“We are settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves.”
Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream

More microblogging this week at this entry at C201 blog

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