Thinking Out Loud

January 31, 2013

Christian Bookstore Closings Affect The Broader Community

Filed under: books, music — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:24 am

With electronic devices, the proliferation of online ordering, and a general lack of reading taking place, it’s easy to know the why of what happens when a community loses a Christian bookstore.

But in the process, the community also loses its Christian music store and its Christian DVD store and its Christian greeting card store and its Christian giftware store and its Christian apparel store and its outlet for tickets for Christian events and its church supplies store and its Bible store and its place to meet up with other Christ followers in a non church setting.

Instead: The church community loses a marketplace presence.

Instead: The community at large loses the effects of the church being in that marketplace.

Maybe, even though they don’t own the businesses in question, local churches should be standing side-by-side with the remaining stores and fighting for their survival.

January 30, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Moses Tablets

This week’s linkelele (you pronounce it like ukelele).

  • Kent Shaffer has gone back through ten years’ worth of charts from The Church Report and Outreach Magazine and has compiled a list of 493 churches to watch on the basis of growth, influence, innovation, church planting and sheer size.
  • This is the one not to miss: The principal figures in the Chick-Fil-A /LGBT conflict last year get together at Dan Cathy’s invitation to Shane Windmeyer and Shane ‘comes out’ (in a different way) at Huffington Post to explain why his organization has dropped the boycott of the fast food restaurants. [HT: Kevin]
  • As a pastor, Andy Stanley was impressed with the ‘pastoral’ side of President Obama following the Newtown tragedy. But when he called him the ‘pastor-in-chief’ many people took it out of context
  • Bobby Schuller is the new television pastor for the Hour of Power, but understandably, donations have dropped.
  • Rick Apperson scores an interview with the 29-year old Liberty University vice president Johnnie Moore, author of Dirty God.
  • And now it’s time for … wait for it … a clergy fashion show. What are the hot trends for clergy vestments this spring?
  • Nadia Bolz Weber is somewhat disappointed that snarkyness and sarcasm aren’t spiritual gifts. Dont read this; click the player to get the audio. (Warning: The church’s yoga classes are mentioned in the sermon.)
  • The man who gave the Christian world talking vegetables has relaunched the Jelly Telly website as Club Jelly Telly, a subscription based site with more than 150 hours of video for kids for only $5 per month. They’ve also added all of the content from the What’s In The Bible series… 
  • …And at his blog, Phil Vischer’s weekly (Tuesday) podcast has a special guest, an associate professor at Wheaton College with a specialty in Christian Education who may or may not have given birth to Phil many years prior. (You’ll just have to listen.)
  • Flashback video of the week is from the veteran ‘Rock ‘n Roll Preacher’ from the Jesus Music days; Chuck Girard sings the much more mellow song Lay Your Burden Down.
  • And speaking of the Jesus People days, another veteran, Kelly Willard is still performing, set to do an Orange County coffee house in February.
  • The 15-year-old son of a former Calvary Chapel pastor has been charged in a murder that included the pastor, his wife and three children. 
  • In a video made months earlier, former Mars Hill Bible Church (Grand Rapids) pastor Shane Hipps previews his now-available book Selling Water By The River. A fuller book rundown is available on the Relevant Magazine podcast.
  • Add a link of your own — insert a recent Christian blog story in the comments…
  • Looking for more?  Visit the Friday Link List at fellow Canadian Kevin Martineau’s blog Shooting The Breeze by clicking the icon below for a recent sample.

Favourite-Links-Friday

January 29, 2013

God Requires Ultimate Headship Over Us

I originally wrote what follows a couple of days ago at Christianity 201. While it serves as an introduction to the concluding video, I believe it’s something we all need to consider more.

I am continually fascinated by the concept of scripture as a multi faceted jewel which reveals, refracts and reflects with each slight turn. The geometric properties of a large diamond mean that each face is interconnected directly to several others, which in turn are attached to others. So we find as we read God’s word that many passages are connected to other passages, and that many others, even on their own, offer depths and riches of meaning and application.

But there is also the aspect that many verses are links in a chain, offering part of a whole larger imparting of God’s ways and God’s instructions on a variety of subjects. To fully grasp the mind of God — to see what is called the whole counsel of God — we need to dig deeper.

For example, what is the mark of our work and witness in the world? The first answer we would expect is love.

“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” ~John 13:35 NKJV

But we all know people who, because they are created in God’s image, are very loving people, do good works, are benevolent and charitable; but they have never acknowledged Christ’s deity or given him lordship over their lives.

So we go deeper. The mark of the true Christian is the fruit of the spirit.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!~Gal 5: 22,23 (NLT)

But in addition to growing in love (and joy and peace, etc.) we are to grow in the knowledge of God.

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. ~II Peter 3:18 (ESV)

But clearly there is more, as we see in Paul’s prayer — and expectations — for the Colossian church:

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. ~Col 1: 9-12 (NIV)

(We looked at this passage here.)

But clearly there is another dimension to there being evidence of Christ’s lordship over our lives — our possessions, our thought-lives, our decision making, our priorities and yes, our anxieties) and this is the idea of Christ’s rule and reign in our lives as we work toward becoming more conformed to his image.

I have no specific verse for this because there are so many. Someone once told me that the word Saviour appears 37 times in the KJV, and the word Lord appears over 7,000 times. That Jesus Christ is Lord is among the great themes of the Bible. The sovereignty of God, his ‘King-ship’ and Lordship over all creation is mirrored in the expectation that he will have rule and reign in our individual lives.

But if you want a specific reference, you do no better than the book of Romans which talks about whereas once sin ruled over us, the believer is now ruled by Christ.

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— ~Rom. 6:6 (NIV)

I’ve led this progression of thoughts in this direction for two reasons. One, as you can see below is to introduce the song, Reign in Us by the band Starfield. This song has really been on my mind all week since encountering it again in a weekend service. More importantly, the other reason is that I believe that Christ leading us and captivating all that we think and do is going to impact the world in ways we can’t imagine.

Yes, the world will know we are Christians by our love, but they will also know it because we have submitted all to Christ. I’m not there yet — I have a long way to go — but as I write this, I make this my desire.

For those of you without high speed internet, the video is a static image; this is primarily an audio file that will load in seconds.


You thought of us before the world began to breathe
You knew our names before we came to be
You saw the very day we fall away from you
And how desperately we need to be redeemed

Lord Jesus
Come lead us
We’re desperate for your touch

Oh great and mighty one
With one desire we come
That you would reign that you would reign in us
We’re offering up our lives
A living sacrifice
That you would reign that you would reign in us

Spirit of the living God fall fresh again
Come search our hearts and purify our lives
We need your perfect love we need your discipline
We’re lost unless you guide us with your light

Lord Jesus
Come lead us
We’re desperate for your touch

Oh great and mighty one …

We cry out for your life to revive us cry out
For your love to define us cry out
For your mercy to keep us
Blameless until you return

Oh great and mighty one

So reign please reign in us
Come purify our hearts
We need your touch
Come cleanse us like a flood
And set us out
So the world may know you reign you reign in us

writers: Tim Neufeld, Jon Neufeld, Ben Glover

January 28, 2013

Confronting Salvation Insecurity

At an earlier stage of life, J. D. Greear prayed to receive salvation multiple times and was baptized on four different occasions. In a new book, Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart: How to Know For Sure You Saved (B&H Books) Greear doesn’t speculate on what that means for the statistics of various churches, but he does  confront a problem that is common to many: a lack of assurance that they are truly saved.

A few months ago, I wrote about the ramifications of a faith dependent on an invisible transaction. If only, like one does at the ATM, one had the option of getting a printed receipt. That’s the type of assurance many people crave.

Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart - J. D. GreearIn the book, Greear looks at what constitutes belief and repentance. Though he doesn’t use these words, he wrestles with the question of whether or not salvation is a crisis experience (happens all at once) or a process experience (happens over time) and dismisses the distinction by referring to faith as a posture, with the test question being, “Are you in the posture of repentance now?” One section is subtitled, “Present Posture is Better Proof Than a Past Memory.” He allows the possibility that some may not remember an “exact moment” but know they are submitted to Christ, preempting the need to ‘pray the prayer.’

He is equally sensitive to people on both sides of the Arminian/Calvinist divide over eternal security, approaching difficult anecdotal cases not with the negative language that perhaps some were not saved to begin with, but with a more positive spin that those who are truly repentant do in fact persevere in their faith.

Additionally, he recognizes the uniqueness of each our stories.

C. S. Lewis describes a day in 1951 (after writing The Four Loves and giving the talks that became Mere Christianity) where he passed form “mere intellectual acceptance of, to the realization of, the doctrine that our sins are forgiven.” He did not think of this as his conversion, but he did say that in light of it “what I had previously called ‘belief’ looked absolutely unreal.” After writing one of the all time classics of the Christian faith…     (p. 114)

And he concedes the universality of misgivings.

The Bible time and time again reminds us that no one is immune from doubt, spiritual apathy, and severe temptation. Elijah sank into self-pity and depression right after winning the victory on Mount Carmel. After speaking with God face-to-face, Moses lost his temper and blasphemed God publicly. After establishing the greatest kingdom Israel had ever seen, David committed adultery and murder. After preaching a service in which three thousand were save, Peter fell back into hypocrisy and cowardice. Perhaps God lets his saints struggle that way so that their faith will remain in his grace and not in their righteousness.  (p. 108, emphasis added)

In a way, Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart, while a smaller book, is a somewhat exhaustive treatment of this subject, filled with scripture quotations and quotes from classic and current authors. Packaged in a Prayer of Jabez-sized hardcover at 128 digest-sized pages, its $12.99 U.S. list seems a little pricey, however, I would advise churches to try to track down bulk pricing on this and have giveaway copies at hand for those who are experiencing doubts.

For an additional look at the book, see an excerpt at Christianity 201  Thanks to The A Group for this review copy.

January 27, 2013

The God of Angel Armies Is Always By Your Side

God's Got My Back

Time and time again, scripture records instances where forces came against God’s people bent on their destruction, and the odds against them seemed incredible, but God’s people triumphed. One blogger has created a scripture medley of such instances here.

Be Strong in the Lord

Today I’m featuring the new song Chris Tomlin’s new album, Burning Lights; titled Whom Shall I Fear but also known as God of Angel Armies. (Static images alternative video here.) This is a faith-building song that is really easy to learn. We are not promised protection from every hard thing a fallen world can bring, but when forces arise to destroy us we have the promise that greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. (I John 4:4)

January 26, 2013

Defining Charismatic

Yesterday afternoon, I ran a post at Christianity 201 where the author gave seven reasons why he believes that the gifts of the Holy Spirit have not ceased to operate.

But Michael Patton, ever analytical, had blogged just the day before at Parchment and Pen about six characteristics he believes identifies Charismatic Christians. (He used a lower case ‘c’ but I have chosen to capitalize this where it refers to an admittedly diverse denomination, in the same way some are now arguing that Evangelical needs to be capitalized.)

1. Unusual attention given to the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer

2. The tendency to seek and expect miraculous healings

3. The tendency to seek and expect God’s direct communication (dreams, visions, experiences, personal encounters, etc.)

4. Unusual attention given to the presence of demonic activity in the world

5. Very  expressive worship

6. Belief in the continuation of all the gifts of the Holy Spirit

He spells out each of these, and then describes the entire spectrum of belief as to the gifts of the Spirit, ending up with this chart.  (I do appreciate his calling both extremes as unorthodox; you can tell me that the tongues and interpretation aren’t for today, but don’t try to tell me they never happened!)

Belief Spectrum - Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Read the entire article here.

I think his analysis is good, though his terminology is a bit intense.  Perhaps the charismatics I know are more conservative, or possibly he is envisioning charismatic believers in Africa or South America. I would rephrase his six points this way:

1. A distinct emphasis on the limitless power and work of the Holy Spirit in the world today

2. Expectant, faith-consumed prayer even in the face of great odds and obstacles

3. A belief that God speaks into the hearts and minds of his people through dreams, visions, circumstances and a ‘still small voice’

4. An acknowledgement that the Christian is always embroiled in spiritual warfare

5. Passionate worship

6. Belief in the continuation of all the gifts of the Holy Spirit

The problem with any doctrinal emphasis is that it always takes place at the expense of something else. So if you speak of an “unusual emphasis” on the Holy Spirit, or on demonic activity, are you doing so at the cost of not emphasizing the work of redemption on the cross, or the call to love our neighbors, or the priority of world missions? (Points 1 and 4)  The Charismatics — albeit with a few exceptions — that I know haven’t thrown the baby out with the bath water.

And if you believe that God is still in the business of impressing things on his people (Point 3) that doesn’t mean it is at the expense of not prioritizing the role of scripture. Most of the Charismatics I know have a good working knowledge of scripture.

I did leave one (Point 6) intact.  Good comments on the blog, too; one more time here’s the link.

January 25, 2013

Canada’s Largest City Aims To Crack Down on Churches

Truth be told, it’s probably got a lot to do with the fact they don’t pay taxes.

The City of Toronto — Canada’s largest municipality — is putting forward proposed bylaw changes that have implications for places of worship. The proposed changes have teeth to deal with both present and future churches, synagogues, mosques, etc.

Church OccupancySpecifically:

  • Limitations on purchase and rental of property
  • Greater parking space requirements, while at the same time decreasing the occupancy load of meeting spaces
  • Banning churches from light industrial areas and residential neighborhoods

Previously, we linked to this story as reported October 21st at The Toronto Star.

Next Thursday, January 31st, churches across the Toronto area will converge for an information meeting and prayer rally at The Peoples Church. 

While it’s easy to dismiss this as a Toronto issue, it has implications for other municipalities. Toronto is part of a large urban conglomerate sometimes known as the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) or the Golden Horseshoe (which takes in the neighboring  City of Hamilton). What Toronto does, other cities and towns often copy.

The story is part of larger issue. Where do churches go either when starting from scratch, renovating an existing facility, or in transition and between locations? New York City is a prime example against a backlash against churches meeting in schools which has implications for community centers and other public spaces.  In Toronto, the twofold challenge is that school rental costs have increased by up to 800%.

Often, the increasing regulation burden impacts the ethnic churches, but it is also noted that many of the smaller churches are part of fringe conservative and fringe charismatic sects; and some groups affected by tougher regulations are not Christian.

The rally in Toronto begins at 7:00 PM with a presentation about the issues, followed by a prayer time scheduled to run between 8:00 and 9:30.  For any interested readers in the GTA, the church is located at 374 Sheppard East, just north of Highway 401 and a block west of Bayview.

January 24, 2013

30 Things You Never Knew About C.S. Lewis

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:09 am

I love hyperbole in post titles, but truth be told, you probably knew several of these. This was sourced at the blog Yearn for God, with a tip of the hat to Treading Grain.  Here’s some I had possibly heard but forgotten:

C. S. Lewis3. He never learned to drive.

8. He had dreams of lions. Prior to writing The Chronicles of Narnia he had strange dreams of lions and pictures in his head of a faun carrying parcels.

11. He often addressed Jesus as Aslan in prayer.

13. His conversion to Christianity was not when he wrote in Surprised By Joy: …This was simply his conversion to theism from atheism in 1929. It wasn’t until 1931 that he and his brother went to Whipsnade Zoo. Warren drove the motorcycle while Jack sat in the sidecar! He wrote, “When we set out, I did not believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and when we  reached the zoo, I did.” The evening before this trip, Lewis had a long discussion with Hugo Dyson and J.R.R. Tolkien about Christianity.

14. He did not affirm the inerrancy of Scripture. To be clear, he highly regarded the Bible and its authority. He read the Bible constantly (Authorized Version). But he would not have used the same language about the Bible as evangelicals do today.

21. A Grief Observed was originally published under the pseudonym N. W. Clerk. Lewis wrote this work after Joy died in 1960. Many who read the book sent Lewis copies hoping it would help him in his plight!

Anyway, you can click the link for all 30, but this is the one that intrigued me:

25. He wrote to Kathy Keller. Kathy Keller is Tim Keller’s wife [author of The Reason for God and Prodigal God and pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City]. She wrote to Lewis when she was 12. There are four letters from him to her in Letters To Children and volume three of Letters of C.S. Lewis.

January 23, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Christmas production at  First Baptist Church in Curitiba, Brazil as seen at Church Stage Design Blog.

Christmas production at First Baptist Church in Curitiba, Brazil as seen at Church Stage Design Ideas Blog. That’s one huge choir.

It all begins with a design template that looks like this.

It all begins with a design template that looks like this.

Lloyd the Llink Llist Llama Crashes the Party Exactly One Year After His First Visit Here

Lloyd the Llink Llist Llama crashes the party exactly one year after his first visit here

For the last couple of weeks there has been a weekend link list here. Some of the most interesting articles this month have been listed in those two editions.  So be sure to check them out.

  • I never know for sure when I check out new blogs if the writer is on our side or not, especially when the first post I see looks like this one at Loon Watchman.
  • Deans at other schools are fighting the possibility of accreditation for what would be Canada’s first Christian law school at Trinity Western. 
  • Why swear an oath on one Bible when you can swear an oath on two?  A writer at Think Christian notes: “What I like about these [Bible] selections is the way they point to public and private figures who influence or inspire President Obama, and whose faith probably all shape the way he approaches his faith and his work.”
  • You’ve heard of the dog who shows up for daily for a church service its late owner regularly attended. If not Fr. Z blogs the story, but notes that the dog’s appearance at the altar risks affecting the church’s ‘sacral character.’ 
  • Sometimes it’s hard to become a Christian knowing that, if you do, someone is going to starve to death. Here’s a dilemma for missiologists.
  • Don’t miss this one: J. R. Briggs gets an inspiring lesson on grace when he has to ask his 6-year-old son for forgiveness.
  • Tyler Braun notes that summing up the gospel as “Jesus Loves Me” is too me-centered, unless we include spreading that love as part of the gospel mandate. 
  • Zac Hicks has an interesting article about the role of Worship Pastor as Emotional Shepherd and the dangers of manipulating the congregation.
  • A central Pennsylvania Wesleyan church officially opens a $4M expansion including a fitness center, jungle gym, café restaurant and Christian bookstore.
  • So what exactly does it mean when you find a dead bird on the steps leading to your workplace?  Especially when you’re looking for more than, ““A dead bird on the step means either a cat loves you and has brought you an offering of food, or it means a bird flew into the window/door and killed itself…” 
  • By now you’ve probably had occasion to look up a favorite TV show, movie or actor at IBDb, but did you now there’s now a Christian Film Data Base (CFDb)? The site also has a blog that’s updated daily with reviews and interviews.
  • I’m writing this listening to an at least five year old song by Starfield – Reign In Us. Just clicked replay for the fourth time. 
  • And news last week that Jason Dunn from Hawk Nelson has a solo album releasing in May.
  • Meanwhile at American Idol auditions in Chicago Curtis Finch, Jr. impresses the judges with a brief gospel performance.
  • For church leaders and pastors, Dave Kraft’s website, Leadership from the Heart is must reading. Here’s a piece outlining three temptations that can undo you and your leadership
  • And here’s more good leadership advice from 9Marks on counseling people who haven’t crossed the line of faith.
  • Looking for a career in ministry? Check out ChurchJobs.tv
  • I suspect that Christian bands like Sidewalk Prophets love it when bloggers take one of their songs and use it as springboard for a devotional piece; like the writer at Journey of a God-Follower does with their song, He Loves Us Anyway.
  • Not So 31 is the name of a blog based on a reference to “the Proverbs 31 woman.” She does a lot of book reviews and book excerpts in particular, including some recent ones by Steven Furtick and Chris and Kerry Shook.
  • We linked to this picture — one of my favorite images of 2012 — late last year but never included it. Until today.  It was taken by Andreas Solaro for the Getty wire service and is captioned: Pope Benedict XVI caresses a lion cub as thousands of participants in the “Pilgrimage to Rome” festival – circus professionals, carnival people, street artists, pavement artists, bands and folk groups – gather at the Vatican on Dec. 1, 2012.  We think the Pope should have a few kittycats running around the Vatican the way the Queen has her Corgis at Buckingham.

Pope Benedict XVI - With Very Large Cat

January 22, 2013

You Know, Just the Other Day I Was Saying to My Therapist…

Filed under: ministry — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:32 am

Therapy for Healthy People

I never quote here from the NIrV, the simplified (children’s) version of the NIV, but somehow it seemed appropriate today:

  1. Matthew 9:12
    Jesus heard that. So he said, “Those who are healthy don’t need a doctor. Sick people do.
  2. Mark 2:17
    Jesus heard that. So he said to them, “Those who are healthy don’t need a doctor. Sick people do. I have not come to get those who think they are right with God to follow me. I have come to get sinners to follow me.”
  3. Luke 5:31
    Jesus answered them, “Those who are healthy don’t need a doctor. Sick people do.

I grew up in a culture where only people who had mental or emotional problems sought professional counseling.  Anyone in my elementary or high school who admitted to having an appointment with a psychologist would be treated like a leper.

Recently, however, I’ve been listening to sermons and podcasts and reading books by respected Christian authors who freely admit regular — usually weekly — visits with a counselor, including pastors of some of the very largest American churches.

The stigma of the past just isn’t there now.

I’m not sure if this has more to do with the level of detachment we feel in modern society and therefore simply need someone to talk to, or if it has more to do with the possibility we’re more messed up than previous generations.  (I was reminded of an item we linked to here on Saturday, about pastors no longer doing house visits, and wondered if there was a connection between this and our need to visit freestanding counseling clinics.)

Chuck DeGroat and Johnny LaLonde looked into this recently at Q blog.  Rather than take the easy way out and advocate for therapy as a preventative strategy, they suggested that we’re all messed up one way or another.

Good therapy is challenging and costly, because it exposes both the depths of your woundedness and the extent of your sinful self-sabotage…

When we go to therapy, we admit—at some level—that we don’t have life figured out, that blind spots erode our sense of vision for ourselves and others, that our motives are mixed. To say, “I’m in therapy” takes courage, because we’re admitting we don’t have it all together. And that is a rare admission these days…

We may spend years avoiding our pain, avoiding our stories, avoiding our subtle forms of self-sabotage and relational sabotage. But when they catch up to us, therapy is one way God uses to awaken us…

A few days later LaLonde returned to the blog with some practical steps for people to take in selecting a counselor. He admits that some offer quick fixes, and that with others, it takes a few weeks to feel comfortable sharing your inner self with that person.

But probably the best thing articles like this accomplish is to remove the longstanding stigma associating therapy with severe mental illness.

So then what do we do with our opening? Well, either Jesus was wrong, or perhaps we’re all just a little more messed up than we think. After all, in context Jesus is Himself the doctor and for all the various types of emotional, social, mental and spiritual wholeness we need; more than anything else, we needed a Savior.

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