Thinking Out Loud

October 18, 2014

Catch a Falling Star

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I started immersing myself in the Christian blogosphere at least a year before beginning to write my own, so I’m guessing it’s been at least nine years now. During that time I have unfortunately been made aware of the different tribes that exist among my fellow believers, and the degree to which tribal convictions isolate us from each other. While I enjoy the exchange of ideas that can pleasantly take place among those of divergent views, I have also seen firsthand the dismissive attitude that plagues attempts at conversation between people of differing doctrinal positions.

Despite this, there has been another feature of my personal ‘Christian internet story arc’ that involves people of all stripes, and that is the world of Christian publishing. Regardless of rapture views, Bible translation preferences, opinions on predestination, or positions on a variety of gender issues, popularity online usually precedes a book deal.

I have the luxury now of sometimes receiving books unsolicited, but most of the review books I get are things I have specifically requested. For that reason, my library is filled with authors who, at the time, I had enjoyed reading online and wanted to be in a position to promote their published works to others. Always, the books fulfilled expectations since the writing in question was already a known commodity.

Often it is the case that an author’s first book is the best. It says all the things they have most wanted to say. It is often birthed in the heart of the writer before any deal has been signed and there is any sense of deadline. At minimum, the author is offered a two-book deal, and while some authors just keep getting better and better with each new release, with others, the second book now imposes a commitment that must be met, a homework assignment that must be completed.

At the same time, the author is now devoting more of their attention to the book writing and dealing with the enhanced profile that has come with having a title in print. So the blog writing, the thing that brought them to the attention of publishers, often begins to suffer.

In other cases, to paraphrase Andy Warhol, their fifteen months of fame run out, and the attention has turned to newer voices. If they are pastors, their church growth possibly plateaus, if they are musicians, their new album doesn’t generate the same sales.

As a teenager I had one particular nerdy hobby: I would compose my own music charts. Working from the charts of other radio stations with a bias toward the music my friends and I liked, I sat the keyboard weekly and compiled my own Top 40 that was seen by a very select few each week and stored in a number of 3-ring binders. There was no direct benefit to me or anyone else, though I must say that I was faithful to it, just as I try to be faithful here on the blog on a daily basis.

I quickly learned the dynamics of charts. As the “last week” position was typed next to the “this week” ranking, it was obvious that some songs were still gaining traction while others were starting to wane. This of course, was in the days before SoundScan where titles now enter the chart at #1 and then begin a slow descent.

Today, I don’t bother trying to track book sales with the same diligence, though I do compile a chart for the Christian retail store I am involved with at least twice a year. But it is clear that there are always rising stars and falling stars both in micro terms of individual titles and the macro career of certain authors.

As I type this, we’ve watched another development take place in the plummeting of a particular pastor’s influence and credibility. While it saddens many as it should, there are others waiting in the wings to take his place.  Whether you get 15 months of attention, or only Warhol’s 15 minutes, the celebrity hunger in all of us keeps us scanning the horizon for the next big thing.

In Psalm 75 we’re told it is God who doles out promotion, honor, exaltation, lifting up. I don’t know why certain church plants go from zero to ten thousand in two years while others never receive the attention that results from significant metrics. I don’t know why great books languish on the shelves and end up in the remainder bins while others seem to crack the bestseller lists effortlessly.

I also know that within me is a desire to jump on the bandwagon only because sometimes that seems consistent with the idea of coming alongside where the Holy Spirit is moving. But is that always the case, or does human effort dictate what becomes Christian celebrity?

In show business there is saying that “The people you meet on the way up are the people you meet on the way down.” (The original suggests kindness to those people you meet, because of the eventual re-acquaintance.) It’s exciting to watch stars rise, it is sometimes painful to watch them fall. Both are taking place all the time, and sometimes there is a comeback or a second career.

The current chart status of a Christian celebrity is in no way a measure of their spiritual life, but their changing relative influence is part of watching an endlessly shifting landscape.

 

October 3, 2014

The Heart of a Discernment Blogger

Filed under: blogging — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:44 am

Do Not Be Surprised

At least 24 hours after hearing of the death of Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries, it occurred to me that Erin Benz at the blog Do Not Be Surprised would probably have noted his passing, and I was correct. In a ten minute span that followed I clicked around her blog and gained some insight into what motivates her as a blogger.

While there are probably some theological things Erin and I would disagree on, I want to say that I am in total agreement with everything I’ve copied and pasted below. I don’t feel called to do a blog that has the same tenor perhaps, but I have waded in on certain breaking stories, but I’ve also waded out when the stories went mainstream. Similarly, Do Not Be Surprised doesn’t seem to belabor a particular issue.

But first, the name as explained in her very first post:

Strangely, it took me quite awhile to determine what I wanted to call this blog… But then it all just sort of came to me. Not Surprised actually has a dual purpose. Of course, it seemed a natural title considering everything that’s happening in the world. Yes, I’m frustrated and saddened by so much of it, but at the same time, we had ample warning that this was all coming, so why should I be surprised? Then as I was flipping through my Bible, two passages stuck out to me:

1 Peter 4:12 “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” and

1 John 3:13 “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.”

The words “do not be surprised” really stood out to me as I was literally simply flipping through the Word and I thought, “duh, Erin, everyone thinks you’re crazy anyway, why are you surprised? God promised you they would!”

In what is probably a more-frequently read section of her blog, the “About” page, she writes:

As Christians, we are called to “contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). This blog seeks to answer that call.

The truth is everything and God’s truth has been under attack from the beginning. Today, churches and Christian groups and organizations have readily and eagerly compromised the truth of the Gospel. They have done so in favor of gaining numbers, filling pews, and over-filling offering plates. Truth, even the truth of God’s unchanging Word, has become relative, and has become secondary to one’s personal experience or revelation. Those who see this compromise, this denigration of God’s Truth, must stand up and speak out against it. Even our proclamation of the true Gospel of Jesus may be marred if we choose to remain silent in the presence of “doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1) because our silence betrays a subtle acceptance of these lies.

As we contend and stand firmly on Scripture, we will be called divisive, mean, unloving, and perhaps worse. Yet we stand strong nonetheless. And we remember the warnings of Jesus and Paul and others in Scripture:

And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. (Matthew 24:4-5)

“I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.” (Acts 20:29-30)

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

Remembering these warnings, and resting in the grace and strength of Jesus Christ, may every Christian have the courage to earnestly, boldly, unashamedly, contend for the saving faith and salvation in Christ that has been granted unto him.

“Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 3-4)

Part of the problem in the body of Christ is that we don’t really know each other. So when we disagree on doctrines or practices everything becomes very quickly polarized. Like I said at the outset, there are some areas where I am coming from a doctrinal position quite opposite Erin’s but there is no denying either her sincerity or her passion, as in this January 2010 post, Why I Do What I Do:

Discernment ministries, and less formal blogs of the same nature (like this one) oftentimes receive a lot of criticism for speaking the truth in love. Be it negative, even hateful comments on an article, or mean-spirited emails, discernment ministry is not for those who fear confrontation! Since these responses are rarely constructive, but are rather composed of name-calling and weak arguments, I suppose I am blessed to be part of a generation that simply unfriends me on Facebook when they are offended by one of my articles! But so many people ask “why.” Why do I and others choose to be so “mean” or “divisive” toward our Christian brothers and sisters? To be clear, discernment and the consequential boldness to speak the truth is not done in malice, but in love. The answer to why I maintain this blog (and to why I’ll “call a spade a spade” in any conversation) lies in Ezekiel 33:6

But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.

If I saw that your house was burning down, but you were in a far room and were as of yet unaware, would you like me to alert you of the impending danger? Or would you prefer that I stand back and watch the house burn with you inside of it? The same idea applies to what I am doing with this blog: I see a destructive, un-Biblical teaching in the church and instead of sitting back and watching you drown in a sea of apostasy, I am led to boldly speak up for the Truth and stand against the false teaching…

So the question of course that many would ask is, “Fine, but who are you to think that your view is correct?” Or “By what authority do you publish your blog?”

I think Erin partly answered that question this week when she noted the passing of Ken Silva:

On a personal note, having served at one time alongside Ken at Apprising’s sister site, Christian Research Network, I am thankful for the way in which the Lord used Ken in the life of Do Not Be Surprised.

So she brings some practical experience to her writing.

I should also say that as this blog’s Wednesday Link List approaches its Monday night deadline, I always check Erin’s This ‘n That column, a Saturday link list, to see what stories grabbed her attention that week.

So Erin, if you’re reading this and you decide to look around here, you might notice that I am passionate about some individuals and ministries that perhaps you disdain, and I want you to know that is probably matched by an equal amount eye-rolling when I read your blog. But when I read the posts I’ve linked to here, I can’t deny that your online work is born out a desire to see God’s word rightly divided and God’s truth setting people free.

To my readers, I would say that as you get to know the heart of someone, you can agree to disagree on things; and you can determine to celebrate the things that unite us.

September 20, 2014

The Last Post

Filed under: blogging, writing — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:50 am

No, we’re not talking today about the bugle call known as “The Last Post,” although there is a similarity of theme.  Wikipedia reminds us about that song which originally connoted the end of day for soldiers and then crossed over into memorial usage: “In all these countries it has been incorporated into military funerals, where it is played as a final farewell, symbolizing the fact that the duty of the dead soldier is over and that he can rest in peace.”

Neither are we saying this is the last blog post here at Thinking Out Loud, though perhaps some of you were hoping!

Rather, what got me thinking was a Twitter post from Keith Brenton last night:

If I had just one social media post left in my life, to bring joy and wisdom and love to a sad, stupid, hateful world …this wouldn’t be it.

Okay. But what if you had one post left?  In the endless stream of social media history you’ve created on WordPress, on Facebook, on Twitter, on tumblr, on Instagram, on YouTube… and on everything else; what if you had One Final Post. Your own famous last words. The thing everyone would remember you by.

What would it be? 

Note: These words, phrases and sentences are already taken

  • Related: Two years ago I posted the lyrics to a song I wrote as a much younger person. I was basically asking the same question, “What will my life be remembered for?” It’s a fair question to ask yourself periodically.

September 1, 2014

Resting From Our Labors

Filed under: blogging — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:41 am

Here’s what’s going on here as we take a day off…

  • Tomorrow, a review of You and Me Forever co-authored by Francis Chan and Lisa Chan. This book is rich in scripture as it looks at the spiritual nurture of couples as being the most important thing. If your local Christian bookstore doesn’t carry it, tell them it’s only available wholesale through Send the Light Distribution.
  • Slow ChurchI’m currently reading Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus  by Christopher Smith and John Pattison. I don’t usually get InterVarsity Press books to review, so this is a rare delight, especially since I worked for IVP on two occasions (and two locations) in Canada. The book is an analogy to the “slow food” movement, popular in some parts of North America and beyond.  The publisher annotation reads, ” In today’s fast-food world, Christianity can seem outdated or archaic. The temptation becomes to pick up the pace and play the game. But Chris Smith and John Pattison invites us to leave franchise faith behind and enter the kingdom of God, where people know each other well and love one another as Christ loves the church.
  • Because of the holiday, the link list for Wednesday is already done. I appreciate those of you who send suggestions, and for PARSE, Leadership Journal, and Christianity Today for allowing it to reach a wider audience. The only problem is having to make you wait until Wednesday to read it.
  • wordpress_iconsSome of you know that I work in a Christian bookstore. We don’t have a lot of money, and it’s a fairly small town, so our website essentially bounces people to a WordPress blog, that serves the purpose. Last week a woman phoned to say she wanted to order the wall hanging we had advertised. I assured her we don’t do online commerce on our site, but as she described it, I realized that Christian Book Distributors (CBD) was paying WordPress for an advertisement to appear on our store blog. As if they don’t own enough of the market already. And as if this doesn’t raise some ethical questions. Say what you will about Amazon (and we do say things) CBD has been the cause of the demise of local Christian bookstores for more than two decades now; their damage really predates widespread use of the internet. We’re thinking of advertising that we’re now accepting orders from their site to fulfill here. They just have to copy and paste the shopping cart and email it to us, and then delete the cart. We figure what we lose on the deeper discount stuff we’ll make up where their discount isn’t really that great. (Their shipping charges to the frozen north are a flat 25%; which really adds to the price.)
  • Our youngest is back to school today. The Christian university he attends in Ancaster, Ontario supposedly reported a decrease in enrollment for this academic semester, but in three of his course selections, the classes were full. Not enough seats? Probably just profs that don’t want to mark more than a certain number of tests and essays. Really frustrating for us, because I want to help him with book costs but can’t, not knowing if he’s in certain courses or not. #overgrownhighschool  Parents: Really check out the schools your children are considering carefully. Schools: The parents of existing students can be your best advertising, or your worst nightmare.
  • c201bFinally, I just saw the August stats for our companion blog, Christianity 201. It’s truly growing quickly. Devotions and Bible studies are posted daily, including weekends, usually between 5:00 and 6:00 PM EST. (It’s the afternoon blog, this is the morning blog.) Devotional writing that is based in scripture is actually really hard to find, so we’re always looking for people who already have a writing history online who would be willing to submit articles. We also have a regular, weekly contributor now, Canadian pastor Clarke Dixon, whose writing style seemed a good fit for what we’re doing.

 

August 10, 2014

Just Checking In…

When you post every day at a fairly fixed time, and then you take a day off, people do start to wonder… So first, a random graphic from my previously-unused files…

For the word of God is living

 

…followed by a joint-post with Christianity 201 which, ironically was titled “What to Write.”  (The ‘random’ graphic serves as reminder that what we do write is much more powerful when it is saturated with scripture content.)


This morning our speaker opened in prayer quoting Psalm 19:14

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

No pastor, teacher, preacher, author wants to overstep the boundaries of what would be acceptable to God. Many begin Sunday sermons with the prayer, “Hide me behind the cross;” expressing the desire that the cross of Christ be seen first and foremost, not the speaker.

A few days ago, blogger Scott Fillmer quoted from the introduction to The Journals of Jim Elliot.

What is written in these pages I supposed will someday be read by others than myself. For this reason I cannot hope to be absolutely honest in what is herein recorded, for the hypocrisy of this shamming heart will ever he putting on a front and dares not to have written what is actually found in its abysmal depths. Yet, I pray, Lord, that You will make these notations to be as nearly true to fact as is possible so that I may know my own heart and be able to definitely pray regarding my gross, though often unviewed, inconsistencies… these remarks are to be fresh, daily thoughts given from God in meditation on His word.

Elliot had no idea through his martyrdom how many people would want to read his writings. It reminds me of this story:

6While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, 7a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.

8When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. 9“This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”

10Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11The poor you will always have with you,a but you will not always have me. 12When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 13Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Verse 13, which I’ve underlined is interesting because the woman had no idea that what she was doing would continue to be remembered in perpetuity; but also the agency by which we know the passage that we call Matthew 26; the writer of the gospel could not possibly realize the means by which that story would become part of what we call the New Testament canon, which in turn is part of the bestselling book of all time, which we call The Bible. (Today, many print books are remaindered, declared ‘out of print’ after as little as one year.)

Pause for a moment: Imagine creating something that lives on long after you are gone; of leaving a story so significant that becomes part of the core literature for all generations that follow.

I try to both write God-honoring material here [at Christianity 201], and select God-pleasing material here on the days we borrow from other devotional bloggers and authors. But the totality of my computer output on any given day can contain a variety of topics not all of which are enduring or lasting. Just check Thinking Out Loud, and you get a glimpse of some of the controversies that dog the contemporary church, and each Wednesday at that blog we note some of the stranger things that take place in the name of Christianity. Many of these posts have a “best before” or what the Brits call “sell by” date that’s just a few hours after the post has been published. [That's why I created C201; I needed the personal balance.]

Elliot’s wish was that God would, “make these notations to be as nearly true to fact as is possible so that I may know my own heart and be able to definitely pray regarding my gross, though often unviewed, inconsistencies.” He desired to be truthful and he desired to be consistent. The gospel of Matthew strived for accuracy. The woman with the alabaster jar courageously broke with tradition as he broke the jar sacrificially, probably not fully realizing the prophetic significance of her actions.

Truth, consistency, accuracy, courage, sacrifice. This is what pleases and honors God.

June 17, 2014

When Outrage Becomes Fashionable

Last week Leadership Journal — the same organization that publishes my Wednesday Link List — stirred up a hornets’ nest when they published an article by a former youth pastor now serving time in prison for sexually abusing a girl in the youth group.

For people who have had to deal with any kind of sexual abuse, this article struck a lot nerves, but not in the way you might think. Rather, there was a groundswell of feeling that the language in the piece elevated the author beyond what he deserves, that it appeared to be prescriptive at a time the author should not be giving advice, and that it somewhat soft-pedaled what took place using words like affair or relationship when the legal system would clearly define it as rape.

To publish or not to publishThat Leadership Journal is a division of Christianity Today, Inc. only added to the controversy.

I became aware of this taking place on Twitter — where readers seized the hashtag #takedownthatpost — and followed it early on in real time since I now have more than a passing interest in what happens at LJ and CT. Later Tweets revealed that several Leadership Journal staffers were away at the time, but eventually a three-paragraph disclaimer was added to the beginning of the story, and then, about a day later, the six-page post was removed entirely with an apology.

I think, at that point, removing the article was the only sensible thing to do.

Rather, what concerns me is something I felt while all this was going on, namely that being outraged by this particular article became a Twitter trend. People, some of whom I am quite sure have never paid LJ any attention prior to this, simply joined the bandwagon because that was the correct thing to do.Again, I don’t want to minimize the seriousness of the subject the article discussed. I merely want to make an observation here that for a few days last week, moral outrage became fashionable.

protest signSocial media has the potential to raise issues that are important, but when objection to a particular piece becomes trendy, I have to wonder if the outrage stems from deeply held convictions or if the the publication that is the subject of the outrage is simply being bullied into trashing the piece. As a regular reader of the weekly column by the Public Editor of Canada’s largest newspaper, I know that “You should never have published that article,” is an oft-heard refrain.

The article had it its issues. But as I pointed out in another blog post last week, the rule caveat lector always applies: “Let the reader beware;” or more literally, “be wary.” The author wrote what he felt about the whole issue, and yes, perhaps he is in denial about some aspects of what he did. Then again, maybe he simply wanted to write something that presented himself well.

The other question is one of the appropriateness of the forum the author was given. No doubt some felt that anything in the CT family simply gave the article too much profile; but the outrage that followed would only add to the website traffic.

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So…we have guest posts here sometimes. Would I have printed the article?

I think I would have been attracted by the idea that a convicted felon — incarcerated for something he did while on staff of a local church — would want to use my blog to tell his story. The inside nature of the story, or the exclusive release of the story would probably temper my desire to do some careful editing; and communication for the purpose of making changes might have been difficult.

Faced with objection and outrage, I might at first dig in my heels; and then I probably would start thinking about damage control after several days; basically exactly what CT did.

The situation would only complicate if I were working with a skeleton staff during summer holidays.

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The writer wanted to do something that would be redemptive for other student pastors who are vulnerable to temptation.

Instead we ended up with something that was prescriptive for editors faced with the temptation to run a story which perhaps should have stayed in the closet.

 

 

April 7, 2014

Top Canadian Christian Blogs

Filed under: blogging, Uncategorized — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:07 am
In 1964, this was one of three finalists to become the new flag of Canada

In 1964, this was one of three finalists to become the new flag of Canada

With a nearly 75% U.S. readership, I tend to cloak my Canadian origins, but I thought today we’d celebrate a few people who also experience spell-check issues every time they use words like honour and colour. (After a year of fighting it, I converted this blog over to U.S. spellings.)  Ahead of time, apologies for anyone I left out:..

Top Ten

Ann Voskamp – A Holy Experience — From the moment you click through and the music starts playing on your speakers, you know you’re in a different place. Probably the greater appeal is to women, as is Ann’s bestselling book, One Thousand Gifts (Zondervan).

Tim Challies — The blog’s tag line is, “Informing the Reforming;” so you get the idea as to the target audience. I would tend to think at this point, Tim has become a prisoner of the blog’s success; it has got to have become a full time job. Still, the success is deserved and has spun off a book publishing company.

David Hayward – Naked Pastor — To say this blog is ‘edgy’ would be an understatement. David writes from Canada’s “east end” and is also a cartoonist who sells prints of his daily panels as well as larger pieces. Tag line: “Graffiti artist on the walls of religion.”

Jamie Arpin-Ricci – Missional — Urban church planter, IVP author (Cost of Community) and co-director of YWAM Winnipeg, Jamie is a few months shy of seven years of blogging. Tag line: “Conversations about Christ and Community.” 

Lorna Dueck — The host of Context With Lorna Dueck on television and frequent contributor to national newspapers and magazines writes about cultural, political and social issues from a Christian perspective.

Bene D. & Rick Hiebert – Bene Diction Blogs On — Canada’s foremost investigative blog serves as watchdog, keeping an eye on Christian ministry organizations. I know somebody who knows who Bene is, but he’s definitely not talking.

Sarah Bessey — Representing Canada’s “west end;” through her connections with people like Nadia Bolz-Weber, Rachel Held-Evans and Jamie Wright, Sarah is rapidly gaining readers, not to mention her book Jesus Feminist (Howard Books).

Paul Wilkinson – Thinking Out Loud and Christianity 201 — Well thank you, don’t mind if I do…  Splitting up my daily writing into two very different platforms was both risky and a lot of hard work, but I’m honored (with no “u”) to be here.

Darryl Dash – DashHouse — The Toronto church planter writes articles of interest to other pastors and church leaders and is a featured writer at Christian Week, a Canadian Christian magazine. He wouldn’t mind me saying that his demographics skew Reformed.

Carey Nieuwhof – Carey is the lead pastor of Connexus, a dual-site church in the North Point Ministries family, basied in Barrie, Ontario which is about 45 minutes north of Toronto. His articles, mostly written to pastors and leaders often appear on other websites as well.

Kevin Rogers – Orphan Age — Kevin is a chaplain, musician, and pastor of a Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada church in Sarnia, Ontario; which is on the other side of the border from Port Huron, Michigan, north of Detroit. He writes devotionals, mostly and his blog was recently featured in the PAOC magazine, Pentecostal Testimony.

Worth Noting

Some writers don’t pull the same numbers but are worthy of being on this list and do have a national (and international) following.  

John Stackhouse – He’s best described on his Twitter feed: “Theologian, historian, ethicist, public scholar, preacher, musician and crime fighter.” A professor at Regent College in Vancouver, BC, John is well-known to academics, but appeals to a much wider readership.

Rick Apperson – Just a Thought — Rick and his wife live in Smithers, British Columbia, in the central part of the province east of Prince Rupert. A pastor and YWAM-er, he has been blogging faithful for years and manages to score some great interviews with top authors for his “Five Questions With” series.

Diane Lindstrom – Nice One Nana — (formerly Overflow) I mentioned Diane already here in our blog review on March 30th. She writes from a small town northeast of the Greater Toronto Area, is a great storyteller, embeds some great music videos, and hopes to have a book published soon.

Emily Wierenga — Emily writes from Alberta in western Canada, has two books on eating disorders and a third book coming this summer. She writes about marriage and family issues as well as adoption.

Jeff Loach – Passionately His — Somehow Jeff got bumped from my radar lately, he should have been on our list of writers with substance a few weeks ago. (See link below.) A Presbyterian pastor in a town about 30 minutes northwest of Toronto, Jeff has been blogging since 2008, and has taught at Tyndale Seminary. 

Chris Vacher – Chris from Canada — Chris writes about all things related to worship leadership. You’ll have to forgive him if there’s been less activity on the blog lately, as his family recently relocated east of Toronto where he’s now directing music at C4 Church (Carruther’s Creek) in Ajax.

Sheila Wray Gregoire – To Love, Honor and Vacuum — With a syndicated newspaper column and books published with Kregel and Zondervan, Sheila is a popular speaker on the Girls Night Our events which tour across Canada. She lives in Eastern Ontario, and I have no idea why her blog doesn’t make the top traffic lists, as I suspect she does have many readers. 

Christian Book Shop Talk – Another one of my projects, this is a trade blog for Canadian Christian bookstore owners, managers and staff, but you don’t need a password to read!

Writer Collective

Canadian Writers Who Are Christians — Online since 2007, this blog features new content almost every day, by people who are members of The Word Guild, a collective for Canadian Christian writers. 

Did I miss anyone? Feel free to leave a comment, or if you live in the land of the chosen frozen, mention your own blog.

Related reading: Substance Consistently (Mar. 30/14) — A list of blogs I try to check more frequently out of the more than 600 I keep bookmarks for.

 

 

 

March 30, 2014

Substance Consistently

Filed under: blogging, links — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:45 am

Christian Blog Connection

Here are a few of my favorite go-to Christian websites/blogs when I’m looking for something solid to read, in no particular order. If my computer tech guy said I had to reduce the eight hundred or so bookmarks in my computer to a smaller list, these would be on it:

  • David Murray, Head Heart Hand — The author of Jesus on Every Page always has something I want to read.
  • Karl Vaters, New Small Church — A niche blog to be sure, but always interesting content regardless of your church size.
  • Michael Patton et al, Parchment and Pen — Always deep but never boring; I’ve been a reader since long before I started my own blog.
  • The late Michael Spencer, Chaplain Mike, Daniel Jepsen, Mike Bell, Internet Monk — Probably on your list, too; the conscience of the Christian blogosphere.
  • Greg Boyd, ReKnew — In the deep recesses of our car trunk are dozens of sermon download discs on the book of Luke from Woodland Hills church; we’re long-term fans.
  • Phil Vischer, Phil Vischer — Oh my! 95 Podcasts and I’ve never missed one. Maybe I need to get a life. The end of Western civilization as we know it.
  • Nadia Bolz-Weber, The Sarcastic Lutheran — As with Phil (above) I don’t think we’ve ever missed a sermon, but easier in this case, since they run 10-12 minutes.
  • Jamie Wright, The Very Worst Missionary — Jamie elevated mediocrity to an art form; she is definitely a work in progress and that’s what I love about the blog.
  • Russell D. Moore, Moore to the Point — Yes, I read Boyd, Bolz-Weber and Wright, but I also read “Dr. Moore” on faith and ethics, now also a weekly podcast.
  • Clark Bunch, The Master’s Table — I consider Clark an online friend and we’ve written posts for each other in the past.
  • Bene D. & Rick Hiebert — Bene Diction Blogs On — Another online friend, the blog is one of very few in Canada that engages in investigative writing. But who is Bene D.?
  • Diane Lindstrom, Overflow — This one has more of a women’s vibe, but Diane is another Canadian writer who writes consistently and writes well.
  • anonymous, Church Curmudgeon — The blog that doesn’t exist, but should. My favorite Twitter feed is both insightful and hilarious, all at the same time.
  • Stephen & Brooksyne Weber, Daily Encouragement — In a category all its own, my day usually begins with this devotional blog from the heart of Amish country.

That’s where I am at today. This list is radically different from what I would have written a year ago. I appreciate the different people who speak into my life. Apologies to those of you who aren’t listed here; some of you need to post more often. 

Update: Okay, I know, I forgot Scot McKnight at Jesus Creed.

Feel free to nominate your favorite in the comments!

March 9, 2014

The Possession of Ideas, Part 2

The corollary to yesterday’s discussion is that if I do choose to copyright my blog writing here, I am basically saying this is mineI wrote this, I created it, it was my talents and my gifts that went into creating it.

I’m glad the Biblical writers didn’t feel that way. If you believe in plenary inspiration — that God birthed ideas within them but they stylized it and added their individual touch to the writing — then even if you hold that “all Scripture is inspired” (which I do) you could still make a case that they could copyright the particular words used.

copyright 2But some would argue that even if you say, “This came entirely from God and I shouldn’t really take any credit for it;” if you want your writing to reach the greatest number of people, then you’ve got to put somebody’s name underneath the title.

That’s essentially the case with Jesus Calling. I don’t want to get into the larger debate on that book, because it’s been done elsewhere  (with 100+ comments) but if, like the classic God Calling, the “authors” feel that this book is the equivalent to Dictation Theory in Biblical inspiration, realistically, nobody’s name should appear on the cover. I wonder if “by Jesus” or “by God” would sell more or fewer copies than “by Sarah Young.”

You can however engage the commercial marketplace and at the same time take no money (or very little) for your wares. Keith Green is a name that some of the younger generation don’t know, but Keith basically said that if anyone couldn’t afford his records or cassettes, he would send them copies free of charge. It was radical at the time — and would be even more so today — and Keith took ribbing that perhaps he was also going to ship stereo systems to people who had nothing on which to play the music.

Keith GreenKeith Green would have loved blogging — he’d have about ten of them — and would be fighting hard for the open source blogosphere we talked about yesterday,  and also almost exactly two years ago. (The post then was triggered by an irate blogger at C201 as well, so we’re running one complaint every 700+ articles, which isn’t bad.) In fact, Keith would argue for open source thinking in a variety of Christian media and art.

Bottom line: We have to be careful about holding too tightly to the things of this world including possessions that are tangible and those which are intangible such as intellectual property.

March 8, 2014

The Possession of Ideas

The Bible has a lot to say about the accumulation of wealth and the hoarding of possessions. Probably the classic statement of scripture on the matter is,

NASB Matt. 6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal…

or

MSG Matt. 6:19-21 “Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.

The Bible doesn’t say, ‘Don’t have any treasure whatsoever.’ True, when Jesus sent his disciples out he told them to travel light, advice that extends through all of life:

NLT Matt. 10:9 “Don’t take any money in your money belts—no gold, silver, or even copper coins. 10 Don’t carry a traveler’s bag with a change of clothes and sandals or even a walking stick.

But in everyday life, the Bibles teaching presuppose you will have a home or a donkey or bread that you may or may not choose to give your neighbor when he comes knocking late at night.

CopyrightThis week it occurred to me that at the time the Bible was written, one thing that we can possess that they didn’t was intellectual property. There was no Copyright Act; no Letters Patent. Did Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph the Carpenter have a special way of doing a table that would cause him great consternation if Murray the Carpenter down the road started copying the idea? You get the feeling that everything was open source.

The whole premise of the sister blog to this one, Christianity 201, is that we search the internet for sources of daily Bible exposition and discussion. Unlike the Wednesday Link List, where some people click and some people just read the list, I think it’s important that these devotional meditations get seen in full, and statistics bear out the reality that most people don’t click through.

Most of the bloggers are thrilled that their work is being recognized. C201 doesn’t have quite the readership of Thinking Out Loud, but it possibly represents ten times as much as some of the writers see on their own pages. We get notes of appreciation, and a handful of readers also thank us regularly for putting them onto reading a particular writer.

So this week when, for the second time in about 1,450 posts someone strenuously objected to their material being reproduced in full — don’t look for it, it’s been removed — I started thinking about the whole intellectual property issue in the light of Jesus’ teachings.

I think it’s interesting that in the prior verse of Matthew 10, Jesus makes the often-quoted statement, “Freely you have received, now freely give.”

Personally, there’s nothing on this blog that isn’t up for grabs, provided it’s cited properly and quoted properly and being used non-commercially. Like this article? Help yourself.  Yes, I have been paid to write and could thereby consider myself a professional writer; but this is only a blog and it’s vital not to get too caught up in your own sense of self-importance; and I say that not out the spirit of someone who is loaded with wealth, but as a person who has had no specific fixed income for 19 years.

I also thought it was interesting that the person who was so upset about the use of his material on other than his own website was complaining about a particular article that was about 50% scripture quotations. More than 50%, I believe. Oh, the irony. I can just hear Jesus saying, ‘Uh, could you just link to my words in the Bible rather than print them out on your own website?’

That said, I am consciously aware that a double standard exists in the Christian blogosphere. We both permit and excuse the copying of text, but there is far less grace for poachers of cartoons and photographs. (I guess a picture really is worth a thousand words.) If you take what belongs to them, it’s like trying to wrestle a t-bone from a pit-bull.

In the early days of this blog, the weekly link list included cartoons from Baptist Press. Not any more. Baptists can be very litigious, which is too bad, because the cartoons were worthy of an audience beyond a single denomination. Everybody loses, but that’s the Baptist way, I guess.

Words are cheaper however. I respect intellectual property rights in general, but hey, guys, it’s only a blog.

I really think when the writer is a little older, they will look back and see the foolishness of trying to hang on to what really isn’t yours to begin with.

Think About It: Some things simply didn’t exist when the Bible was written, such as smoking cigarettes or driving over the speed limit. It’s the same with intellectual property. We have to appeal to the timeless, grand themes of scripture to make behavioral determinations.

There is a Part Two to this which appeared the next day.


Irony: The copyright symbol used today was already in my computer before I worried about such things…

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