Thinking Out Loud

November 30, 2012

I Got Nuthin’

Filed under: blogging, family — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:54 am

Sandwich GenerationDear Readers,

I rarely miss a day here, but today I am finding myself mentally exhausted. The effects of being caught in the sandwich generation — usually defined as having to care for both children and aging parents — is sometimes more than I can bear. I think it’s taking its toll on my mental health. Plus I’m also caught sandwiched between family issues and work issues; the business stress of having to close our other location and not having anyone who can help us with the packing up of stock, the storing of unsold inventory, and the ripping apart and liquidating of store fixtures; not to mention the personal sadness that it’s over.

So keep me and our family in your prayers.

November 29, 2012

Responsibility in the Light of Truth

So there we were walking through the grocery store when I saw a display for 30 cents off those little dessert pies that come in a little cardboard box that I remember from my younger days. I quickly tossed one apple pielet — they’re small so I’m coining a new word right here, right now — and one cherry pielet in our shopping cart.

Not this brand, but you get the idea…

We enjoyed the apple one on Monday night. On Tuesday our evening treat was a square from my wife’s butter tart bar. If you live in the U.S., and do not know that uniquely Canadian experience called a butter tart, you are less likely to know the non-tart version.

Then Wednesday we returned to the second pie — or as I hear they’re now called, pielet — the cherry one.

That was when I discovered these are not the lunchbox treats of my childhood. They look the same. They taste the same. However…

The modern version comes with a twist which appears on the packaging. What we have now that we didn’t have then is nutritional labeling. My beloved treat apparently contains something like 150% of my daily allotment for fat, based on a serving size of one bite.

Okay, it’s closer to 46% based on a serving size of one piece; but this is a guy who generally won’t touch anything if any of the nutritional percentages are in the teens, let alone 46.

Turns out the thing about these confectionery delights that I enjoy so much is trying to kill me. I could have happily eaten several dozen of these in one sitting, but I couldn’t responsibly digest the dessert after digesting the information outlined in the white box on the back of the package.

That’s when it hit me.

To understand this principle is to understand the book of Romans in the Bible. Paul is saying that apart from the law, we don’t know we are missing the mark with God, but once the law is introduced, we suddenly find ourselves confronting a standard or a plumb line by which our lives are measured.

The law wasn’t intended to be God’s final word, but even in an age of grace, the law shows us where we’re falling short. Once we have that knowledge — that truth — we’re responsible for how we live with that information.

…Just as I am now responsible for how I live knowing that those fruit pies just aren’t good for me.

You could say they’re sinful.

November 28, 2012

Wednesday Link List

Some extra graphics this week for your Facebook page or tumblr blog.

  • UPDATE from yesterday’s post here concerning Two-and-a-Half Men actor Angus T. Jones: Journalist Maria Cowell has asked all the right questions in this interview posted at Christianity Today.
  • Christmas songs: How soon should they start and how many should you do? For worship leaders, Jason Hatley offers a programmatic approach to building Christmas music content. (Mainline churches don’t have this problem as tradition pretty well dictates content.)
  • Or you could do this song. (Nobody would ever forget it.)
  • Which reminds me, our 2010 post, Should Audiences Stand for the Hallelujah Chorus still gets a lot of readers and the odd comment. (But you should probably stand for And Can It Be and All Hail The Power, too.)
  • Lots of music-related stuff this week, like Rich Kirkpatrick’s list of questions about worship ministry that weekend service attenders might like answered. (Some of which I hadn’t thought of before.)
  • Of course you can’t please everyone with church music; here’s a classic Perry Noble response from 2007 — five years ago — about loud music in the church.  (He’s running a top ten list from each of the last seven years of blogging.)
  • Or you might prefer Perry’s 2006 post on seven reasons why Jesus wouldn’t qualify as a pastor in most of our churches. (He’d certainly be under review by now.)
  • Mark O. offers some great advice for the parents and youth leaders of middle-school teens on how they see themselves.  (It actually does involve using a mirror.)
  • I’m not sure why I made this a ‘page’ and not a ‘post’ — probably the extreme length of it — but we still get lots of hits on The Eight Things That Destroyed Our Marriage, culled from eight different blog posts by Justin and Trisha Davis. (I think Justin turns up occasionally on Pete Wilson’s Sunday service online feed.)
  • Sometimes the things that turn up in a week of faith-based web-surfing are just bizarre, like this April-released movie, Seventh Gay Adventists. (I think it’s more about gay than the SDA church.)
  • Greg Boyd — a major proponent of what’s called ‘open theology’ — defines the phrase in terms of ‘unrealized possibilities’ in this four minute video.  (But does God know if you’re going to click on this link or not?)
  • Here’s another review of a 2009 book that is proving to be the sleeper title of 2012: The Lost World of Genesis One. (Note to friends and family: Since you can’t get review copies of 3-year-old books, this one is at the top of my Christmas list.)
  • A word of the week for preachers and public speakers: Fermata.  (Hint: It’s a music term.) (HT: Darryl Dash‘s Saturday Link List for pastors.)
  • Ken Ham responds to a website written for teens who need encouragement in living as atheists, including a section on how they can ‘come out’ to their parents. (He encourages parents to have a counter-response.)
  • There’s an app for The War Cry, the Salvation Army magazine that traces its history back to 1879 enters the digital age. (Canadian readers: Ours is a different edition; not sure if it’s online.)
  • Are there people at your church you try to avoid? Just asking. (Maybe I’m the guy everybody else is avoiding.)

I love this well-marked Bible; it’s my current desktop theme.

November 27, 2012

Two-And-A-Half Men Actor Says, “Don’t Watch”

The entertainment press today is all over the story of Angus T. Jones, who gets more than a third-of-a-million U.S. dollars per episode to play Jake on the Chuck Lorre series Two-And-A-Half Men; a role he’s no longer comfortable with. Yes, this is the same show that once starred Charlie Sheen until he appeared to either go off his meds or take too many. Probably the latter. But Jones’ rant is calm, collected and rational. And his command of scripture is both impressive and authoritative.

I’ve seen some press coverage of Angus Jones over the past year and he’s always portrayed as a very refined, decent young man whose mom sometimes accompanies his studio appearances, to the point where I once questioned out loud what he was doing acting on that particular show. Entertainment Tonight’s coverage of remarks he made recently seem to link him to a Seventh Day Adventist church, which is confirmed in an update to his Wikipedia listing.

But the blog specializing in mainstream coverage or religious stories, Get Religion, notes that the interview containing the “Don’t watch” message was posted to YouTube by Forerunner Christian Church, whose webpage advertises upcoming meetings with two names known to charismatics as well as some readers here, Mike Bickle and singer Misty Edwards.  But did Get Religion get it wrong? The show he was interviewed on is called The Forerunner Chronicles.  Similar name.  It is clearly an SDA-friendly site — see the about page — and outwardly bears no resemblance to the church GR linked to; however, the SDA denomination says that the website and the program host aren’t part of their body.

Jones is not scheduled for the next two episodes, which were scheduled well in advance of what’s taken place.

The video itself is rather strange, cutting from an extreme close up at the 0:22 mark mid-sentence to a wide two-shot where he suddenly wearing glasses; with more of this weirdness at 4:53.  I’ve never seen anything like that before.

But I digress.

It’s wonderful to see the young actor take a stand. The show, like so many other prime time sitcoms, is filth. As far as I can remember, I’ve never got much past the five-minute mark on the handful of times I’ve watched.

“You can’t be a God-fearing person and be on a show like that;” he concludes. So wither his contract? Will Chuck Lorre release him from the show? How can you have two-and-a-half without the half? Here’s some wisdom from Chuck posted on the latest vanity card — the production slide that appears for one second at the end of his programs:

I’ve been told that if you change your mind, you change the world – or at least the way you experience it. Let’s take a moment to examine that. The presumption is, if you thought the world was a hostile, ugly place filled with awful people doing awful things, that is what you’d see. Your mind would naturally seek out confirmation for its preconceived ideas (e.g., if you’re intent on buying a red car, as you go about your day you’ll see lots of red cars). If, however, you were able to sincerely change your mind and see that we are all God in drag, that we are the conscious aspects of a perfect universe which had to create us so we could bear witness and stand in awe before its loving magnificence, then that is the soul-shaking reality you’d be greeted with each and every moment of each and every day. In other words, it is entirely our choice as to what kind of world we live in. With a simple decision, we can suffer in the darkness or play in the light. We can be angry, frightened and enslaved, or loving, joyous and free.

Well that clears up everything.


10:30 PM — UNFOLDING STORY UPDATE: Angus has moved into damage-control mode with a somewhat qualified and somewhat limited apology concerning his remarks. More at MSNBC. Meanwhile Charlie Sheen declares the show is “cursed.” More here.

WED. 2:00 PM – FURTHER UPDATE: Journalist Maria Cowell has asked all the right questions in this interview posted at Christianity Today.

When Your Heart Breaks Unexpectedly

Filed under: blogging — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:20 am

The world of blogging takes you inside the lives of dozens of people you might otherwise get to meet. You share their joys but also their sorrows.

When Tony Morgan posted this story about a friend who died unexpectedly, I read the story and looked at the picture of this guy’s kids and his wife and was just totally broken.

I spent at least an hour on Tuesday night trying to decide what would be today’s post here at Thinking Out Loud, and in the end kept coming back to Tony’s friend.

Rejoice with those who rejoice. Suffer with those who suffer. We are one worldwide family.

November 26, 2012

No Women Bishops in the C. of E., For Now

There are probably more female clergy in the Church of England and its north American counterparts — The Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church in the U.S. — than in many other Protestant denominations. But a glass ceiling formally exists preventing women from rising to the rank of bishop (literally ‘overseer’ in scripture).

Superficial media reports suggested that the recent attempt to change the rules failed because the two-thirds majority required for change wasn’t attained, but that’s an oversimplification of how the vote took place.

In fact, what was required was a two-thirds majority in each of the three “houses” that are represented at the annual conference: Bishops, clergy and laity.

The bishops themselves — by definition all male — were actually the least opposed to the idea. If it were just an overall popular vote needed to carry the resolution for change, their overwhelming majority support would have been enough to reach the two-thirds needed.

The clergy weren’t so overwhelming but also supported the need for change.

It was — and this is the under reported part of the story — in the “house” consisting of lay people appointed to the General Synod where the two-thirds majority failed.

The House of Bishops voted 44 in favour, with three against and two recorded abstentions. In the House of Clergy, 148 voted in favour, 45 against and there were no abstentions.

But in the House of Laity, 74 voted against, compared to 132 in favour with no abstentions.      ~ BreakingNews.ie

Honestly, I would have expected the three votes to be the other way around; the rank and file pushing for a more progressive situation, and the powers that be wanting to maintain the status quo. But what do I know about Anglicans?

At least one traditionalist, who ought to be happy with the outcome, is still upset that the vote happened.

And the Huffington Post, never wanting to miss out on sensationalism said the church “faces growing pressure to rip up its rulebook to allow the ordination of women bishops.”

The newly appointed archbishop feels it’s just a matter of time, and expects to consecrate a female bishop during his term of office.

November 25, 2012

Rob Bell Alive and Well in Orange County, CA

Filed under: media, ministry — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:07 am

In my part of the world, when reporters for mainstream media venture into stories of Christian interest, they tend to get it wrong. How refreshing to read Kalefa Sanneh’s profile of Rob Bell and find all the right words used in all the right places. You couldn’t ask for more insider understanding, regardless of Sanneh’s perspective which, for the record, is not known to me.

The lengthy article in the November 26th issue of New Yorker is not available online if you’re not a subscriber; like me you need to venture to the proverbial newsstand to get a copy. Some of the profile covers what is old ground for most readers here: The history of Mars Hill Bible Church (Grand Rapids, MI) and the fallout from the book Love Wins.

There was some newer information, however.

Bell was reported to be working with Lost producer Carlton Cuse on a faith-oriented project called Stronger, for which ABC-TV had purchased rights. However, they failed to get approval to move to the next stage, shooting the pilot episode. Currently, they are working on a faith-themed talk show and have already done some tapings in Los Angeles.

There’s also some good coverage of CraftLab, a mini-conference Bell put together for a small group of 50 pastors in a motel conference room overlooking the Pacific Ocean, complete with surprise guests, surfing breaks and communion. Reading between the lines of the article, one senses that perhaps Bell misses pastoral ministry.

…Rob Bell is 42-years young, and while he may have fallen off the radar of a few over past months, he is not exactly down for the count; in fact, one suspects that anyone who bid him ‘farewell’ might have been a bit premature.

November 24, 2012

Discoveries of the Week

Filed under: books, links, music — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:07 am

People to keep your eye on; these are discoveries for your week, I already knew they were there.

Writing: Tyler Blanski

An advance copy of When Donkeys Talk arrived in the mail last month from Zondervan unsolicited. I was familiar with Tyler Blanski, and you’ll find his blog is linked in the sidebar of this one; but I set the book aside until this week. It doesn’t release until 60 days from now, so a full review would be a bit premature, but suffice it to say I’m impressed.

When Donkeys Talk contains everything but the kitchen sink; and there are a couple of cooking scenes, so maybe I can’t say that. Blanski may describe himself as a humble house painter, but there’s a lot going on in this guy’s head, much of it overlaid with his background in medieval studies.  Oh wait, I’m doing the review now…

Let’s just say that Tyler Blanski is the new Donald Miller; although phrases like that I’m sure leave people wondering what happened to the old Donald Miller. But you get the idea, right?

Oh, and with a number of references to Christmas, I’m at a loss to understand why this is releasing after Dec 25th, but it’s scheduled for the third week in January.

Music: All Sons and Daughters

Trying to describe this group wouldn’t be fair. Lots of great vocal harmonies combine with lyrics of exhortation and occasional hymn covers.  Wikipedia:

All Sons & Daughters is an American Christian Worship-Acoustic-Folk duo originating from Franklin, Tennessee.They have released one studio album, so far, under the label Integrity Music, which their debut album is called Season One. The duo of Leslie Anne Jordan on vocals and guitar and David Alan Leonard on vocals and piano are the worship leaders at Journey Church in Franklin, which is a non-denominational church…They released three EP’s, which were Brokenness Aside: EP No. 1, Prone To Wander: A Collection of Hymns EP and Reason To Sing: EP…

Although they have many videos on YouTube, the ones that impressed me the most were recorded for Relevant Magazine, such as this version of Wake Up.

Reporting: Todd Rhoades

One of my oft-repeated lines is that it’s a far better thing to make the news than to be content with simply writing the news. While this blog delves into current events and breaking news occasionally, I believe that if you’re going to deal with current issues, you’d better do it well and Todd Rhoades does.

Of Todd Rhoades’ blog — once known as Monday Morning Insight, but now publishing more frequently — all I can say is that if you like the type of things we cover at Thinking Out Loud, you’ll love ToddRhoades.com  Someday I’m going to run a Wednesday Link List that’s just his links, just to see if anyone notices.

This little publishing history kinda sums him up; I’d encourage pastors and church leaders especially to bookmark the blog.

Devotionals: High Calling Reflections

Knowing the dedication needed to produce daily devotional content as intimately as I do from writing C201, I have a great deal of admiration for the team at The High Calling Blog: Reflections.

I like that the material goes beyond the superficial; there are also prayers and challenging questions. Another one to bookmark.

 

 

November 23, 2012

A Great Message: It Just Isn’t Christian

Phil Vischer posted this on his blog nearly a week ago. I knew that it needed to be featured here with more than just a link, but as I looked through for a cutoff point and considered the actual click statistics, I realized that what I needed to do was reblog the whole thing. But as I remind my readers at C201, it would be a nice courtesy if you were to click over to his blog; the link is in the title below.

“Lord, make me popular.”

by Phil Vischer

I listened this morning to a TV sermon from a popular TV preacher.

“Sermon” may be the wrong term.  It was a motivational talk about the power of positive thinking.  It could have been given by Mary Lou Retton to a ballroom full of industrial lubricant salespeople.  There were biblical references, but they were for the purpose of illustration, not exposition.  Christ had nothing to do with the message.  Positive life change comes from replacing negative messages with positive ones.  The preacher inadvertently almost quoted exactly Stuart Smalley from Saturday Night Live – “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough…”

It was a helpful message.  People applauded.  They were encouraged.  What it wasn’t, was Christian.  It wasn’t Christianity.  Life change in Christianity doesn’t come from positive thinking.  It doesn’t come from thinking more highly of yourself.  Or replacing negative messages with positive ones.  It comes from dying to yourself and being reborn in Christ.  A new creation.

Here’s a thought:

Christian mass communicators often resort to self-help motivation over actual Christian teaching because it is easier to communicate, and, in fact, it gets results.  People’s lives ARE improved – on a mass scale.  There wouldn’t be a self-help industry if self-help didn’t work.  There wouldn’t be an Oprah if self-help didn’t work.

The problem is, what they’re teaching isn’t Christianity.  Even when sprinkled liberally with Bible references.  Christianity starts with dying to one’s self, not thinking more positive thoughts about one’s self.  But that’s harder to teach through mass media.  It is not a particularly appealing message.  It’s countercultural.  And it doesn’t initially sound like what we want.  We want to achieve our dreams – not die to them.  Not give them up.  We want to “increase,” not “decrease.”  We don’t actually want to follow Jesus.  We want Jesus to follow us – to pick up after us – clean up our messes with his Jesus superpowers.

We want Jesus to make our dreams come true.  And if that means we have to be better people, well, we’ll give it a try.  But it’s about us.  Our goals.  Our dreams.  Our lives.

The most discouraging thing about this sermon was that Jesus was only mentioned once, and it was a misapplied reference to Jesus’ baptism as an example of God being pleased with us even before we’ve done anything amazing.  Just like God was “pleased” with Jesus even before he had done any miracles.

This preacher has robbed Christianity of the power of God, and replaced it with the power of positive thinking.  Which is, quite frankly, a much more appealing message.  You can get something without giving up too much.  Sure, you need to work on your vices.  But that’s just common sense.  But there is no need to let go of the idolatry of “me.”  I can still come first.  The good me.  The me I’ve always wanted to be.  Me, me, me.  I can get God’s blessing, while still focusing on me.

We miss one thing, though.  Putting ourselves first is sin.  Clinging to our dreams and goals is sin.  Rebellion against God.  So the power of positive thinking can improve our lives, but it can’t redeem us.  We’re still enemies of God.  We’re still fallen.  Broken.  Slaves to sin.

Our preaching has become limited to what is easily and appealingly communicated on a mass scale.  And the reality of taking up your cross and dying to yourself is NOT easily and appealingly communicated on a mass scale.  If it didn’t work on a mass scale for Jesus, how do we expect it to work on a mass scale for us?

Jesus had the most followers when he was giving people what they wanted – “signs and wonders.”  Then he got down to teaching – to laying out the gospel.  And people said, “This is difficult teaching!”  And suddenly the crowds started wandering away.  ”Um… More signs and wonders, please?”

Why do we think the difficult message of the gospel will work better for us than it did for Jesus?  Even more vitally, why do we think we need to HELP Jesus appeal to a wider audience by CHANGING his message?

Jesus asks us to preach the gospel.  To make disciples.  Nowhere – not once – does he say, “And you are going to have HUGE success!”  Not once.  He actually says the world “will hate you as they hate me.”

If that’s the case, perhaps massive success should make us concerned.  Perhaps we’re preaching “signs and wonders” – easy answers.  Telling people what they want to hear, that your life can still be about you.  That Jesus wants to clean up after you.  Make your marriage work, give you healthy kids.  A good job.

This is not what Jesus preached.  And the more he preached, the fewer followers he had.

Don’t take the easy way out.  We want everyone to be a Christian, so we try to make the Christian message as appealing as possible.  Like political candidates “spinning” their message to attract followers. We want to be popular.  We want Jesus to be popular.  We completely ignore the fact that Jesus was NOT popular, and neither were his followers.

Jesus asks us to make disciples.  He doesn’t promise us great success in that endeavor.  It isn’t about results.  It’s about obedience.

Get ready to have a very unpopular TV show.

November 22, 2012

Great Christmas Song

Filed under: Christmas, music, parenting — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:43 am

Yes, I know it’s Thanksgiving day in the U.S., but we had ours in October; and besides, I don’t have a great Thanksgiving song to post.

And now a word from our sponsor. Sort of. Searchlight Books makes it possible for me to have the time to do this blogging thing, and this song is part of Searchlight’s YouTube channel of classic Christian songs on vinyl that aren’t posted elsewhere on YT. I’m adding this one to the blog because we literally tore the house apart for weeks trying to find this. Somebody needs to do an updated version of this ballad for Christmas 2013.

BTW, 25 years since this was recorded; Sam Rowland is still in ministry with Youth For Christ / Youth Unlimited in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; where today, it’s also not Thanksgiving.

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