Thinking Out Loud

September 26, 2014

The Rise of the Anons

Twitter page

Let me begin today by saying you don’t have to be on Twitter to read Twitter feeds. I did this for the longest time before jumping in myself.  (If you’re familiar with these, be sure to read the last paragraph.)

One thing Twitter has brought us is the creation of accounts that either are pretending to be someone well known, or simply represent broad categories, in our case perhaps youth pastors or church secretaries. These anonymous accounts are sometimes called anons.  While anonymous blogs also exist, Twitter seems a medium most suited to this.

We don’t have space today, but in addition to what follows there’s a Fake Mark Driscoll (@NotDriscoll, somewhat dormant the last two weeks) and I couldn’t find the one purporting to be Steven Furtick’s $1.75M house (yes, a house Tweeting) but there is Not Steven Furtick (@FakeFurtick) but again, some of these arise during a period of headlines and then go quiet for awhile.

One such account is Chet Churchpain (@Churchpain) who for some reason uses Rainn Wilson (from The Office) as his image; interesting only because of Rainn’s strong religious views.  Sample:

  • I don’t know if I’d ever have become a Christian if not for that “God Answers Knee-Mail” church sign. So inspirational.
  • So, Hillsong United is not an Australian soccer team?

We devoted a whole article here last year to Church Curmudgeon (@ChrchCurmudgeon), though he’s now gone from 63,000 followers to 72,000. Some of his best pieces lately transform his love for coffee into hymn parodies:

  • Drink up, drink up your coffee Ye soldiers of the bean! Each drop will wake and keep you Sustained by your caffeine!
  • Coffee, coffee, how I’ve drunk you How I’ve brewed you o’er and o’er Coffee, coffee, precious coffee O for beans to brew you more.

though I liked this one, too:

  • As a measure of thanks, I sent Bono some free Gaither tapes.

Bad Church Secretary (@ChurchSecretary) is what its name implies.  Today:

  • When pastors do it all day its called Outreach and Discipleship but when I do it they say its “Slacking on Facebook & making personal calls”
  • You can cover up errors in tweets after they are posted, but as soon as you scroll they show up under the White-Out.

Youth Group Boy (@YouthGroupBoy) is also self-evident, though much of the premise seems to be the boy missing youth group.

  • Don’t tell my ymin “I’m not coming tonight,” instead say “I’m going to try and make it, but I’m not sure.” Give some hope to be crushed later.
  • If there’s one thing I want my youth minister to know it’s how the old youth minister did things.

The other side of this coin is Then My Youth Said (@thenmyyouthsaid):

  • Me: I’m excited, our interns start working on Sunday. #ThenMyYouthSaid: Good, you can finally get back to sleeping in your office all day.
  • Youth praise band paying worship music before Bible study tonight #ThenMyYouthSaid: “We need backup dancers.”

Which brings us to Bible Student Say (@BibleStdntsSay), a Twitter account that remains anonymous by necessity (though we think we know the college in question). These are actual quotations from remarks or essays:

  • “Society tries to integrate science into the Bible, saying that the universe couldn’t be created in 6 days. Genesis turns it on its head.”
  • “Contrary to these beliefs, an atheist believes that the future is controlled by our human people.”

(We need to devote an entire column to this one, and the author really needs to write a book.)

Then last night we met Yael (@YaelHeber), who was taking shots at our Calvinist friends. Actually, I’m not entirely sure she’s anonymous, it could be her real name but the Tweets had the feel of an anon:

  • I tried to be Reformed, but I apparently don’t like to argue enough. My application was rejected.
  • When people tell me they are reformed, I want to ask which prison they were in.

But wait…there’s more.  Part of the fun of playing this game is that many of the anons follow each other, which leads many new discoveries. Click following at the top of their page and… you’ll know what to do…

September 23, 2014

Book Series Review: Biblical Imagination by Michael Card

Michael Card - Biblical Imagination Series - IVP

After reading Mark: The Gospel of Passion, I really trust that a generation or two down the road, when people have moved on past Michael Card’s music, this set of four commentaries on the gospels by the veteran Christian musician will still be read and enjoyed.

Full disclosure: I obviously haven’t read the entire series of four books, but I believe Mark to be representative of all four of the Biblical Imagination series, published over the course of four years by IVP (InterVarsity Press).

The format is somewhat reminiscent of the Daily Study Bible series by William Barclay. In the case of Mark, there are sixteen chapters and most have at least three subsections, while a few have at least double that. So reading devotionally each subsection a la Barclay, this would give you 63 days of reading, excluding four introductory sections.

But reading an entire chapter at once is most rewarding.  While Card acknowledges one place where the chapter division is rather awkward, he does manage to find beauty in the way Mark arranges his stories from the life of Christ. In chapter five he notes three people are held captive, “one by demons, one by disease and one by death.” In chapter ten, four questions that are put to him by various individuals or groups. And there are some recurring themes, such as the imagery of bread.

Some of this is standard commentary fare, but then this is where the “imagination” part of the series title kicks in and where the heart of Michael Card, the artist, is most evident. For a sample of this, click to this excerpt from the story of The Transfiguration, which I posted yesterday at C201.

The other option is to read the books — and keep them on your bookshelf — as commentaries. It’s in the fulfillment of that objective that I find the enduring quality of his writing.

With each of the four books in the series, completed by this spring’s release of John, there is a companion CD available. Two weeks ago here we looked at the CD which corresponds to the book of Mark. (The books are shown in the graphic above in the order in which they were released between 2011 and 2014.)

I was struck by the readability and practicality of Michael Card’s approach. He goes deep in many places, but it doesn’t frustrate or intimidate the reader, and in the case of Mark, like Mark himself, he moves quickly from scene to scene.

Do I have any complaints? Only that having the one book and CD is causing me to covet the rest of the series!

 


 

Books and CDs were provided to me by the Canadian distributor for InterVarsity Press (IVP) who know where they can send the remaining titles if they so choose!

Michael Card - CD series based on the Gospels

Postscript: Note that the books and CDs each have distinct titles:

John: A Misunderstood Messiah
John: The Gospel of Wisdom
Luke: A World Turned Upside Down
Luke: The Gospel of Amazement
Mark: The Beginning of the Gospel
Mark: The Gospel of Passion
Matthew: The Gospel of Identity
Matthew: The Penultimate Question

September 18, 2014

Evangelism Styles in Conflict

Filed under: evangelism, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:00 am

There’s an audio term, presence, which reflects the degree to which the listener is made to feel that they are right there, experiencing the sound in an intimacy and proximity that makes them part of what they are hearing.

There’s a similar presence to moments like the one in this video. You can feel the tension as the young pastor happens upon the fire-and-brimstone street preacher. So what’s the difference? Some of it is certainly theological, some of it is generational, and some of it seems to be simply the difference between a positive and a negative approach. Six minutes, but a great exercise for those who wish to do the analysis.

September 12, 2014

Picture Worth a Thousand Words

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:21 am

Child Abuse

September 9, 2014

What Goes into a Mind Comes Out in a Life

Spiritual WarfareI’ve been thinking about the story below and how it applies to today’s environment where both men and women struggle with online addiction. Images and ideas flood our minds and although not everyone who looks at pornography fully recreates the scenes they view, often people “act out” in less conscious, less overt ways. That’s why when people go offline, they essentially “detoxify” their minds and they start to live differently.

I thought this story was rather common and assumed everyone had received it as an email at some time or other, but when I tried to find it online, I only got one link. Maybe you need this, or know someone who does.

Let this story stay with you, it applies in so many areas of life.

We are all fighting a battle within ourselves… The illustration goes like this: There is a old Indian chief telling a story about how each of us have two rival dogs, a good dog and a bad dog. Both are always fighting each other. Sometimes it seems like the good dog is winning other times it appears like the bad dog is winning.

One of the tribal members asks, “So, how do you know which one will win?”

To which the chief replies, “It depends which dog you feed.”

“I’ll Take Religious Architecture for $300, Alex”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:37 am

Okay,  we don’t normally do puzzles and games here, but how could I resist when the category was

Religious Buildings

Print this out (or try to do it visually) and remember that the same letter substitutions work for the puzzle as a whole. Apologies to whoever created this, there was no copyright notice in the newspaper that carried it.

 

G P J N X D

G P K E G P

A Q C T K X

J C P E J A

N J O Q L J

Y X A N D X

G Q U S X U Y

W J C B D B G J

G J Y P X L E J D

A Q U J C Y X E F

C F U J O Q O K X

 

 

September 6, 2014

Christian Mom Kicks Gay Son Out of the House

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:11 am

The video linked in today’s post today’s language and subject matter that may not be appropriate for all readers. Read the description before you decide whether or not to listen.

I decided not to embed the video in question in today’s post, but you are free to click through to watch it as nearly 6 million people have as of this writing. It’s disturbing on a number of levels.

It starts out with ‘Mom’ telling ‘Son’ that he has made a choice that goes against the Word of God. Yes, she is, by all appearances what you call a ‘fine upstanding Christian woman.’ He states that being gay is not a choice. She tells him quite plainly that he has to leave. He says he will pack his things and be gone.

The video — an audio file really — runs about 5:00 and for the first half, things are being dealt with rather calmly. Then it all goes south.

My wife listened to this and noted that “one’s true personality is revealed in anger.” The rest of this is rather hard to listen to. If you have blood pressure issues, just skip the video entirely. The ‘Mom’ in the second half of the video becomes a totally different person. Which one is the real her?

But there’s more to this story. His friends posted a page at GoFundMe.com to help the boy get $2,000 in living expenses having been kicked out. Instead, the page raised nearly $94,000.

That reminded so much of a story Jesus told to help some people understand who is a real neighbor to someone in need.  There’s more compassion and caring coming from the people who reached in their wallets than there is from the ‘religious’ parent who is more concerned with heaping condemnation.

In saying this, I’m not trying to make a statement, or suggest that I am extremely gay-friendly. I do believe God has a “best,” and that’s His highest intention for humankind. But being right on the subject may not be terribly important if the response isn’t Christ-like.

If I lack love I am like a “clanging symbol.” This morning, Chip Ingram explained on his radio show that this was actually the Apostle Paul making a reference to pagans who would use a gong or symbol to wake up their gods. He’s telling the Corinthians that if they have not love, they are no better than their pagan neighbors.

I’ve often heard it said that what is key in life is not what happens to us, but how we react to it. For the capital ‘C’ Church, what matters most is not where we land the plane on the issue of homosexuality, but rather, the nature of our response.

Again, to repeat, the key questions are:

  • What best reveals the real me, the times I give a steady, level response, or the things I say in anger?
  • Who is the example of living like Jesus, the ones who condemn, or the ones who reach in their pocket to help a homeless boy?
  • What matters most, a church’s stand on a particular social issue, or the way in which they approach those their stance most impacts?

 

 

September 2, 2014

Francis and Lisa Chan on Marriage that Matters

A few days ago I was asked to recommend a marriage book for a couple who are not presently following Christ, but would understand the book was purchased in a Christian bookstore. Given the broad application of the advice it contains, I recommended Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs, with The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman as a second choice.

You and Me Forever - Francis ChanIn many respects, You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity would not be for the couple in question. The reason? This is spiritually hardcore; a book for the fully devoted follower, or the person (or couple) that desires to move things spiritually to the next level.

As the full title indicates, this is a book about looking at your marriage through the lens of eternity, or to put it another way, looking at the present with eternity in view. Francis leads the teaching, but Lisa weighs in with an identified, substantial contribution to each chapter.

I’m sure there are other reviews of this book out there, and there will be more, but I’m going to go out on limb here: I’m not sure this is a book about marriage at all. (Perhaps I just like to be provocative.) Rather, I think this is a book about making Jesus Christ Lord over every detail in your life that happens to come packaged disguised as a marriage book!

If you know the ministry of Francis Chan, you know what I’m getting at. Spiritually intense. That’s a good thing, by the way; I need that, you need that.

The challenge is that a marriage — especially a really, really good marriage — can be just the thing that actually separates you from God. Your children — especially your really good looking and super-intelligent kids – can stand between you and God. The book advocates a life that is totally sold out to Christ first and foremost; not “How to have a happy marriage.”

But as scripture promises, if you do that, “all these things will be added unto you.”

My best advice: Get two or three copies of the physical book; one for both of you to read either individually or together, and one or two additional copies to share with couples in your sphere of influence. (Click the book image above for more details.)

This book has the power to really shake things up.


If your local Christian bookstore doesn’t have You and Me Forever, let them know it’s available to stores wholesale exclusively through Send the Light Distribution.

August 31, 2014

Night Out With The Girls

With the kids now older and facing high-school homework after supper instead of the early bedtimes of former years, Patricia donned an light jacket before heading out for her weekly Wednesday night coffee shop ritual with Julie and Deanne. Well, almost weekly; there were frequent cancellations in the past three years, but they tried to meet as frequently as possible.

Short Stories“So when are we leaving?” her husband Rick asked.

“What do you mean we?” she responded.

“I thought it might be fun to crash your little group; as an observer or like those war reporters who are embedded with a platoon. Unless, of course it’s me you talk about every week.”

“No, we tend to talk about church, and politics, and raising kids.”

“So is there room for an extra body?”

“You’re serious?”

“Absolutely.”

Patricia texted the other two, “What do u feel about Rick joining us 2night?”

Julie didn’t answer, but Deanne texted, “Sure Y not?”

And so for an hour, Rick sat with the women and talked about church, and politics and raising kids.

On the way home, Patricia said, “You’re not going to want to do this every week are you?”

“No; it was a one-off thing.”

“So Rick, I know you, what was this about really?”

“Honestly?”

“Yeah.”

“Honestly? I didn’t want to be home for a full hour with the computer. When you go out, it never ends well.”

- = – = – = – = – = – = – = – = -

Isn’t it ironic that the very technology that offers you the option of reading Christian blogs like this one, downloading sermons, looking up Bible verses online, etc., also offers both men and women the ease and convenience of experiencing sexual temptation like we’ve never known before.

Knowing as I do the various search terms that will find you all manner of websites, I can honestly say that every time I approach the machine — and I do business online all day long, plus prepare three blogs — I am reminded that each visit represents a choice: Choose things that will strengthen spiritually, or choose things that will do spiritual harm.

Like the goaltender in a hockey game, we can’t always block every “thought shot” that is fired toward us, but I believe we can exercise self control on a minute-by-minute or even second-by-second basis. I am always reminded that:

You have this moment.

You may not have won an hour ago, and you might slip an hour from now, but you have this moment to make the individual choice that affects this moment.

Right now, it’s a rainy day as I type this. It was a weather cancellation nearly a decade ago that found me with idle time typing a random phrase into a search engine that led to a random chapter in the middle of an online erotic novel. That’s right, it was text, not pictures. It wasn’t pictures for quite some time.

Idle hands. The entire universe-wide-web at my disposal.

Even today, I admit that search engines permit all manner of random thoughts to be explored online with varying results. I often find myself like the guy who loves to join his buddies on fishing expeditions, but actually hates the taste of fish. It’s about finding the fish, but not necessarily enjoying or consuming the fish.

I suppose it’s different for everyone.

- = – = – = – = – = – = – = – = -

I think it’s interesting that Genesis 2:9 tells us that the original source of temptation — the fruit of a tree in Eden — was found in the middle of the garden. Not off to one side. Not hidden behind other trees.

In the middle.

For men men — and women — reading this, your tree is right in the middle of the family room or living room; or it’s a laptop that is in the middle of wherever you find yourself.

Maybe your tree and my tree are different, but the result is the same: Temptation never disappears.

I looked at this a different way a year ago at Christianity 201. There’s a link to a song, and a specific point (about 70 seconds) in the song you can fast-forward to.

I’ve found it to be helpful.

Feel free to share what works for you.

You have this moment.

Luke 11 23

Luke 11:34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy,your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness. 35 See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. 36 Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you.”

Although the original writers were not Christians, I do so much appreciate the musical Godspell because despite some glaring liberties, much of it stays true to the Bible text. In a song, “Learn Your Lessons Well,” there is a spoken portion that uses an adaptation of the text above from Luke 11, which is paralleled in Matthew 6: 21-23.

In an updated Broadway cast recording of the song posted on YouTube, this formerly spoken word passage was set to music. It almost doesn’t fit the rest of the song, it is so hauntingly beautiful; the section runs from 1:16 to 2:24. (I’d love to see this recorded as a separate entity.)

the lamp of the body is the eye,
if your eye is bad
your whole body will be darkness
and if darkness is all around
your soul will be doubly unbright
but if your eye is sound
your whole body will be filled with light
your whole body will be filled with light
your whole body will be filled with light

Sitting at a computer — where else? — as I type this, the temptation to look at the internet’s dark side is always there. However, keeping this little song snippet in my mind has served on many occasions to prevent me from going down that road. And the phrase “doubly unbright” while grammatically questionable, has a way of sticking in your head. 

…Continue reading the rest of the article here

August 30, 2014

Methodology for Music Ministry

Yesterday we looked at some very superficial reasons which draw people into the larger music business with a hope that church musicians can understand their own music-personality type. Today we want to stay somewhat shallow in looking at the raw practicalities of drafting the music for Sunday morning.

treble clefFinding the recipe

If you look at a recipe, it’s always divided into two sections. First you have a list of ingredients, and then you have the instructions as to how you wish to use them. Worship planning is very similar. There’s a list of songs you want to use, but how do you blend and mix them? Perhaps there’s a song that is going to occur at the beginning and the end of the service. Possibly two songs might play off each other (i.e. How Great Thou Art and How Great is Our God). Some might stand alone, while others might combine into medleys.

Ingredients are key

You want to choose your ingredients carefully. Just as in baking, some elements might conflict. Some choices might be too spicy. Others might be too bland. In a salad, you go for color and music is no different. A seasoned worship leader will have about 5,000 songs in their head at any one time. Unless you get to plan a worship night, you’re probably only going to do about five songs. You have 4,995 songs to leave out.

What people are hungry for

Your job is to give people the means by which they can respond to God for his greatness and goodness, his holiness and majesty, his love and compassion; just to name a few. The songs should resonate with young and old, and therein lies a challenge. With different strains of ingredients (classic hymns, 20th century gospel hymns, Maranatha! Music, Vineyard, modern worship leaders, modern hymns, soaking music, Hillsong, UK-based songs, etc.) you can appeal to different demographics, or you can choose to present a more musically-unified selection. If you want to see a younger demographic, you also have to skew your choices to people who perhaps aren’t there yet. That’s risky, but some churches do this.

Appetizer or main course?

Some Evangelicals see the worship time as preparing the hearts of people for the teaching of the word. Some Evangelicals see the praise time more liturgically as valid on its own. I personally lean more to the second position. Still you want to know what the sermon topic is so your two selections don’t conflict.

Toppings

A worship time will be rather uneventful if it is just straight singing. You want to intersperse related quotations, read one of the verses before or after singing it, include quotations, or even do a “story behind the song” type of introduction. Many leaders default to Psalms, but some congregants tune them out. But there are exceptions; last week in our church the readings were all from the same Psalm and the songs chosen around that.

A shared meal

One of the values of corporate worship is that there are things we can do together that we can’t do alone (i.e. just listening or singing along with an album or Christian radio station at home.) The music should somewhat exploit the congregational dynamics. There should be some lively songs (by whatever parameter you measure that in your style of church) and there should be some songs where the beauty of blended voices can be both heard and felt.

When people like the recipe, don’t take credit

It’s very humble to say, “God gave me these songs this week;” but better to deflect the credit to the creators of the songs, or best, God Himself. “This is a new song, written by a musician who God is really using to stir us to deeper worship.” Or, “This song really focuses on God’s knowledge and wisdom and helps us consider how the ways of the Lord are so much beyond anything we could understand.” With opening statements like that it takes the focus away from you; you’re seen rather as a hunter and gatherer of worship that’s already out there.

We’re part of a much larger banquet

Occasionally, I would remind our congregation of the vast number of churches that were joining us in worship across our city, across our denomination, and in our nation; and then I would remind them that in North America, we occupy a place at the end of the timezones, joining a worship service that has been taking place around the world that weekend. Just thinking about that now, I am reminded of its potential to reshape how we approach worship.

So those are the superficial factors. But there are also some very spiritual considerations. That would make a great third part to this weekend series, but Laura covered that for us so well six weeks ago, I’m going to invite you to simply click here.

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