Thinking Out Loud

October 27, 2014

Central Theme: The Cross

One of my strong beliefs is that instead of shutting down for the weekend, perhaps some blogs and websites should ramp it up a bit. For many people, the days off work are lonely and depressing. For several months awhile ago I actually ran extra posts on the weekend.

This week we ran what I thought was a fairly solid series of posts on Friday (parenting kids in the internet age), Saturday (a massive blogroll), and Sunday (one busy family’s activity log). But the rush to do all that left me crashing in terms of what to run on Monday morning. As I went through the archives, I found what you see below. When all the newsy stories, scandals, book releases, church statistics and leadership advice is done and dispensed with, this is what matters:

“I must die or get somebody to die for me. If the Bible doesn’t teach that it doesn’t teach anything.” ~ Dwight L. Moody
“The heaviest end of the cross lies ever on his shoulders. If he bids us carry a burden he carries it also.” ~ Charles Spurgeon
“Jesus now has many lovers of His heavenly kingdom, but few bearers of His cross.” ~ Thomas a Kempis
“In many respects I find an unresurrected Jesus easier to accept. Easter makes him dangerous. Because of Easter, I have to listen to his extravagant claims and can no longer pick and choose from his sayings. Moreover, Easter means he must be loose out there somewhere.” ~ Philip Yancey
“God proved his love on the cross. When Christ hung, bled and died it was God saying to the world, ‘I love you.’” ~ Billy Graham

August 27, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Wonderful the matchless

You know, that thing where you take a bucket of links and pour them over your head…

So there you have it! Not a single link about the social media story of the week, unless you count the sideways reference in that last item. To submit a link, send it by noon on Monday, except for next week, which is a holiday Monday.

 

August 7, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Darwin - Cats

Is it Wednesday already? Time for another list of links of interest to people like you from blogs and websites great and small. But wait! None of the links below actually work; you need to click through to the Wednesday Link List’s new home at Out of Ur, the blog of Leadership Journal.

  • How about a 19-second video to kick things off? (Apologies to those who clicked!)
  • Frank Viola offers a completely different take on the spiritual life of John Lennon.
  • What did the Pope really say in that in-flight news conference? One writer thinks it’s not exactly what was reported.
  • You thought there were fewer this year and you were right. Stats on why not as many churches are doing VBS.
  • Got the standard 2.3 kids? John Wesley would not approve. I suppose you could call this an article about being procreative.
  • A UK church organist, 68, was walking to a midnight Christmas Eve service as he had done for 40 years when two men, both 22, beat him to death in a motiveless attack. Now, his widow offers a message of forgiveness.
  • Essay of the Month for June (but you may not like it): The atheist daughter of a noted Christian apologist shares her story so far.
  • Related: An Atheism, Theism, Agnosticism, Gnosticism infographic.
  • Essay of the Week: Ten things church worship leaders want the rest of us to understand.
  • Related: What if we looked at our church’s corporate worship time as a spiritual discipline?
  • The year isn’t even over and already we have a winner for the worst reporting of a religious story in 2013.
  • I’ll let Michael Frost Tweet this intro: “The conservative journal Christianity Today makes the case for welcoming same-sex couples to church.”
  • A blog to know about: Jesus I Will Follow You is a tumblr that answers questions from young readers on tough subjects.
  • From my own blog this week: A blog summary on the Presbyterian Church USA’s “In Christ Alone” hymnbook controversy and a look at same sex marriage in the Anglican Church of Canada.
  • It’s easy to deal with what’s appropriate beachwear for women when you’re on a Christian radio show. It’s harder when it’s your own 13-year old daughter.
  • Rob Bell is offering two more of his 2-day conferences in September and October that are already renowned for their lunch break to go surfing.
  • Music to brighten your day: Shine Bright Baby’s song from their new album Dreamers; enjoy Beautiful Love.
  • A link that takes you to more links: An Arizona pastors offers a 6-part blog series on the sins pastors commit including letting their wives manage everything on the homefront.
  • Here’s a March post which is a link to ten articles at the blog “Canon Fodder” by the author of The Question of Canon on — wait for it — ten things you should know about the New Testament canon.
  • In searching through blogs I had bookmarked months earlier, I landed on this very succinct post which I offer for your prayer consideration.
  • Before you hit the FWD button next time, here’s four reasons that Christians need to stop forwarding hoax emails.
  • A historic Roman Catholic Church that is already a shrine to a saint whose legacy is devotion to animals plans to set aside a memorial space for Fido and Fluffy.
  • Your assignment: Write a modern worship chorus utilizing the titles of television soap operas. [Warning: Consumes 4.5 valuable minutes]
  • Finally, a reminder for the end of the week, end of the month, end of the summer, or anytime you need a reminder.

I have no idea where the first graphic — the premise of which I’m not sure I agree with — originated; but the comic books below are purported to be real.  For additional wit and wisdom, follow me (please!) on Twitter. And one last time, here’s the link to today’s Wednesday Link List without the Linkectomy.

the-pat-robertson-and-friends-coloring-book-9781891053955Christian Conservative Coloring Book

July 4, 2013

When Faith Doesn’t Stick

Recently, my wife and I have had a number of recurring conversations prompted by comments overheard that among some Christian parents we know that their children have arrived at their late teens or early twenties only to reveal that the Christian faith they were immersed in, for lack of a better phrase, didn’t take.

At that point, I usually shake my head in despair and usually lament the time and energy that was poured into their Christian education would appear to have been entirely ineffective, at least to this point. Specifically, my comments repeatedly run along the lines of:

  • “…all those Sunday school classes…”
  • “…all those nights at youth group…”
  • “…all those weeks at church camp…”

and other variations you can fill in. 

The other day when I was finishing up this litany my wife said something that arrested me in my tracks. Now remember that, (a) she is very wise, and (b) she had the advantage of experiencing multiple repetitions of my soliloquy before issuing a comeback.

So when I said, “…all those years in church…” she said, “Yes, but you don’t know what was said in the car on the way home.”

True.

Or over dinner.

I can’t imagine that any of the parents in question would do anything knowing that it had the least potential of undermining the nurture of their children’s faith, but that’s just the point, isn’t it?

How many kids are destined for a young adulthood (and beyond) without a faith component because we inadvertently did a really crappy job of modeling for them what Christ-following looks like?

You don’t want to think about that.

So parents, be careful what you say in the car ride home on Sunday. Your comments are being picked up by little ears.

Coincidentally, The Pew Research Forum has just released a report on the religious life of Canada, my home and native land. The charts and graphs all speak for themselves — two are reproduced below — but the message is clear that an attrition is taking place in the church as we’ve not seen before. Furthermore, in Canada and the United States, the religious landscape is forever changed because of immigration policy.

Pew Research - Canada - 1

Pew Research - Canada - 2

The results are similar to a study done by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC), called Hemorrhaging Faith, which we reported on here a few months ago. That study looked at four demographic areas: Evangelicals, Mainline Protestants, Roman Catholics in Quebec, and Roman Catholics Outside Quebec; and divided respondents into Engagers, Fence Sitters, Wanderers and Rejecters.

The Pew Study looked only at Protestants and Catholics, as well as respondents from other religions and the rapidly growing category known as “the nones” (not nuns) who check off the “none” box on census and other surveys. Unfortunately in the EFC study, the results for Evangelicals — while showing stronger adherence — did not point to a much brighter future over the long term.

Survey companies like Barna and Pew make money selling reports, and the very nature of the business means that bad news tends to get more attention. So books like David Kinnaman’s unChristian are better known than the counter response found in books like Bradley Wright’s Christians are Hate-Filled Hypocrites: And Other Lies You’ve Been Told reviewed here. People will flock to buy a book on how the sky is falling, but not so much toward one which advises the sky is intact.

But the Pew Research study and the Evangelical Fellowship’s study highlight statistics that are undeniable: Kids are leaving the church in record numbers.

April 24, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Isolated rose

Our opening graphic is from the blog Abandoned to God

** Derek Webb, All Sons and Daughters, Robbie Seay Band, Charlie Hall, Shane & Shane and Shaun Groves are among the 45 artists on #SongsForWest, a fundraising album download for West, Texas with a suggested $10 donation.**

Here’s this weeks links:

  • Opening Link: A pastor and his wife in Watertown, MA are caught in the middle of a shootout in the wake of the Boston bombings. “We were trapped, with active gunfire on three sides of our home.”
  • Here’s another new movie to be aware of, opening in US theaters on Friday: King’s Faith
  • Watch (or listen to) a great sermon by Gary Burge preached midweek at Willow Creek a few weeks ago.  Check out Acts 11:1–18. Once you’re 5 minutes in, I guarantee you’ll want to finish.
  • An journalist who had originally interviewed Megan Phelps-Roper in 2011 before her departure from Westboro Baptist Church offered some additional detail and updates on her story.
  • This one is disturbing. Seems that people serving at Steven Furtick’s Elevation Church are being asked to sign some type of loyalty/confidentiality agreement, with legal consequences if you break the contract. Never criticize your pastor.
  • A Minneapolis preacher is still in the pulpit at age 105. “Noah Smith has no plans to retire — ever. He said he tried that once when he was 90 and it didn’t work out too well.”
  • Here’s how one church kid defines his faith. But if you’re in Christian Education or Youth Ministry, his response is somewhat disappointing
  • By contrast, here’s Greg Koukl at Stand To Reason with a 7-minute video describing an appropriate response to the question, What is Christianity? (He actually gets to it at the 2:40 mark.)
  • For those can’t enough of blogging, here’s the direct link to Faith Village’s Java Juice Blog House which we featured here a few days ago…
  • …And if you’ve got friends investigating Christianity or just starting out, here’s Faith Village’s Square One.
  • Pete Wilson’s Cross Point Church has a daughter church in India which he tries to visit as regularly as possible. Last week he suddenly learned his visa was denied, and he was summoned to India’s embassy in Washington, DC. Now he’s been granted a six-month visa, which isn’t quite the 5-year one he had…
  • …And here’s a 2-minute audio clip on YouTube of Pete discussing people who leave his church, or arrive from somewhere else because they weren’t being fed.
  • After ten years of keeping us aware on several social issue fronts, veteran Christian blogger La Shawn Barber moves on to other platforms. 
  • Your church needs to rethink tithing options in a world where nobody writes checks (or in some countries, cheques) anymore.
  • Our blog discovery of the week is Anabaptistly. Established in Spring 2011, recent activity includes a number of Eugene Peterson quotations like this one.
  • Another blogger notes audience reaction to the movie 42
  • The people who use GodTube sure like music reality show clips from X-Factor or [Name of Country]‘s Got Talent. Here Simon Cowell is led to believe a man is going to impersonate a whole choir.
  • If homeschoolers aren’t already over-represented on social media, now they have their own theme song.
  • Yea! We made another Top 200 Ministry blogs list!
  • More links all week on Twitter.
  • Finally, in our Truth is Stranger Than Fiction department, Jamie The Very Worst Missionary is breaking all her own rules and going on a women’s retreat. Say it isn’t so!

A closing word from Francis Chan:

Francis Chan Quotation

April 17, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Build a Pharisee

Wednesday List Lynx

Wednesday List Lynx

Lots of good stuff this week. Take the time!

Now Go Do It

About the Blogroll:

This blog has a rather interesting link list in the sidebar. Blogs mentioned are chosen because they are (a) faith focused and (b) posting regularly. The doctrinal flavor of the blogs listed is quite varied, but I don’t include blogs that appear to have more “agenda” than content. Some blogs are listed somewhat permanently, some disappear and return a month later. Together, they represent almost one fifth of the bloggers that I have bookmarked in my computer and read regularly. Some of the blogs appearing in the Wednesday link list end up on this page later on, while others have a key post that I feel is worth mentioning, while at the same time I haven’t gotten to know them well enough yet to establish them as a link or imply endorsement. Recommendations are invited.

March 7, 2013

The Edge, Shock Value and Shifting Standards

There are going to be people who think me a little too conservative for not posting the cover of the book referred to in today’s earlier post. Sigh.

no-godIt seems that we live in a time when standards are shifting, and even if your values are less progressive, it never hurts to go for shock value, as in Peter Enns’ article Why I Don’t Believe in God Anymore. Perhaps it’s just that people who blog on the Patheos platform are expected to be more controversial, but the word “God” with the red circle and red slash through it seems a bit over the top.

Peter Enns actually does believe in God, at least in the way most of you think. His article is saying that for him it’s really about trust.

…“Belief” in God connotes–at least as I see it–a set of ideas about God that may, if time allows, eventually make their way to other parts of my being…

…I see a huge difference between “I believe in a God who cares for me” and “I trust God at this particular moment.” The first is a bit safer, an article of faith. The latter is unnerving, risky–because I have let go…

In a way, Enns’ view is at the heart of Christian living. As people approach crossing the line of faith, our great desire is to see them reach that point of belief; but once the line has been crossed, the center of the Lordship of Christ is trusting Him with every area, every department of our lives.

I know someone who hasn’t crossed that line yet, but I know the ‘gay’ question is going to come up at some point and when it does I’m going to say, “Look, I want to let you in our playbook. Right now our concern for you is about believing, but for those of us on the inside, the fundamental question is: Can God be trusted? Can we see that out of good, better and best, He does indeed have a best for each of us, an ideal which represents His highest intentions?”

Trusting God has having our ultimate highest good in mind is a better way of framing difficult questions. It’s possible to look at people in an adulterous relationship and say, “I know you expect me to say what’s wrong with what you’re doing, but I want to ask you, ‘What’s right about what you’re doing? What do you derive from this that makes it worth the various inconveniences?’” I believe you could equally ask, “What’s right about your incestuous relationship that makes it worth the effort of keeping the secret?” or “What’s right about your gay relationship that makes it worth the separation from your family?”

It’s not rhetorical.  You’re going to get some answers in most cases. What makes it good. And then it’s easy to say, “I believe God’s intention was beyond good, beyond better. I believe God had a best, but we’re afraid of fully trusting Him.”

However, it’s important not to let this much more compassionate, much more sympathetic approach not undermine the idea of trusting God for the best. It’s vital that in the process, we don’t take scissors to scripture and excise the passages we think don’t fit.

Which brings us to United Methodist pastor Dave Barnhart’s article How Being a Pastor Changed My Thinking on Homosexuality. This piece has received a lot of attention online and is emblematic of what happens when theological convictions are transferred to real people engaged in real living in a real world.

Most people who have wrestled with this issue have come to recognize the personal disconnect that takes place when the convictions we would write on a list shatter in the face of people who have been damaged by dogma. No one reading scripture thoroughly can help but be caught in the middle of God’s holiness and judgment versus God’s compassion toward those who ‘miss the mark’ of His greatest standards.

The article says,

Being a pastor is more about being willing to be led by God and changed by the people I meet than issuing infallible decrees from a pulpit, more about admitting I’m wrong and sharing my frailty than pretending I know God’s will on a given subject. One friend describes preaching as a “homiletical wager,” and I’ve come to believe that pastoring, presuming to be a spiritual leader, is bit like gambling with God, where the stakes are very high but I’m betting the game is rigged toward grace.

So again, the title is edgy, it certainly goes for shock value, but has the writer really changed his view on the standards that God holds up for us, or has he simply come to see those standards in the light of mercy, come to a desire to confront the way The Church attempts to mete out its version of upholding God’s best?

Conservatives and traditionalists may feel the spiritual sky is falling, but I prefer to think of the present spiritual climate more in terms of a shaking. Too many people wrote things in ink that they should have written in pencil, or even chalk. But a massive rethink of terminology or approach doesn’t mean that we’ve completely tossed all our formerly held convictions.

As pendula swing wildly, the place of balance, the place of rest, is ultimately somewhere in the middle.

September 7, 2012

Redefining “The Written Word”

The picture above is of a scripture selection my eldest son chose to write out by hand almost a year ago and post on his bedroom wall. It’s remarkable for two reasons, the first being that a few years earlier his efforts at cursive writing would never have produced anything so legible, the second being the love that he has for the Word of God, evidenced by the time he spends in scripture each day.

Writing out Bible passages by hand has become somewhat archaic in a world of word processing. But it’s just one of a number of subtle changes taking place within Western society in terms of our relationship with the printed word:

  • Many of us leave our Bibles at home on Sundays, finding it more convenient to use Bibles provided at weekend services
  • Many choose to use Bible apps on their smart phones instead of following from a print text
  • Many have their devotional and Bible study time driving to work using a devotional on CD or listening to a preacher on the car radio
  • Scripture memorization has become less commonplace in our children’s and youth ministry programs
  • People like myself often ‘absorb’ scripture throughout the day through online articles and blogs but don’t directly read anything at source
  • Our worship music is ‘vertical’ which can derive from psalms and similar passages, but is therefore less reliant on the ‘Scripture in Song’ type of choruses that were based more directly on a wider spectrum of scripture passages
  • The giving out of tracts has died as a practice; many of these began with scripture and contained several Bible passages
  • The reading of Christian books has diminished in a screen-saturated world
  • Scripture plaques, often seen in the living rooms and kitchens of homes have been deemed inadequate in a world of interior decorating and replaced by “inspirational” wall art with single word admonitions like “dream,” “believe,” “hope,” etc.
  • Where once people would add a scripture verse by hand to a greeting card, today we purchase Christian cards with a verse already included

Combine all these, and the handwriting my son did might seem rather quaint. But I’ll bet that taking the time to do this means he knows this passage well.

Of course, more than writing scripture on the doorframes and gates of our houses, God desires for us to write his words on our heart. But how we do this if we don’t know the passages and precepts in the first place? God is revealed to us first and foremost in scripture; this is the primary revelation of God in our times.

So here’s the challenge. Take a passage and write it out by hand today. I did this a few weeks ago with Titus 3: 3-8 or you might consider Colossians 1: 9-14 or the Galatians passage above, or a passage of your choosing. (Those are just two that I’ve done myself, so I’m not asking you to do anything I haven’t done.)

And then allow the words to be written on your heart.

July 14, 2012

Manipulating Scripture

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

I am sure that some people will read today’s title and assume this to be a discussion of how to force scripture to say something it isn’t saying; to use a Bible verse as a proof text in order to make some point; or simply do a terrible job of interpretation.

But I am thinking of manipulate in the sense of

to handle, manage, or use, especially with skill, in some process of treatment or performance [Dictionary.com]

If it is true that in Old Testament times, scripture was regarded as a jewel or precious stone — one that reflected and refracted the light in infinite ways depending on how it was held — then we ought to approach scripture with similar expectations.

A few weeks ago I was focusing on the verse that, in the old KJV reads, “Thou wilt keep in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee.”  I couldn’t help but notice there were several four-letter words there: Thou, wilt, keep, mind, thee.  I got to wondering if I could compose the whole text with words of four letters. This has nothing to do with whatever some of you are associating with “four letter words,” and in fact, I did another verse that week with five letter words, but can’t recall now what it was.  Anyway, I came up with:

Thou
will
give
them
pure
calm
when
they
keep
body,
mind,
soul
firm
with
thee.

Nothing particularly profound there, and I did take the liberty of adding ‘body’ and ‘soul’ to what was originally just ‘mind.’  (And I’m normally not a ‘Thee’ and ‘Thou’ person!)

But I can’t say how much this little exercise, and a few others, kept me focused on that scripture, brought related scriptures to memory, and crowded out other thoughts which would have brought me down instead of lifting me up.

Is this too far outside the definition of “meditating on scripture” for you? Or does this fit the idea of figuratively holding the verse in your hand and watching the light (the truth) reflect and refract in different ways?


Read another related thought-life post here from a few weeks ago: You Control This Moment.

June 1, 2012

A Pair of Paired Links

Sometimes you have a hunch about a book, even though it’s not one that you’ll ever read yourself.  Obviously, I don’t fit the demographic for The V Society: The True Story of Rebel-Virgin Girls by Adele Berry, but I ordered a couple of copies of this book for our store.  I think it will work well with late high school and college aged females who enjoy Rob Bell or Brian McLaren; people who are looking for something edgy and might also read Rachel Held Evans, who I reviewed here a week ago.

So I was interested when a few days ago I found a promotional trailer for the book.  (You can also watch the video the book’s website.)

Only two videos had been posted on that account, so I got curious as to the other one.  It’s actually a 89-second montage showing the actual printing of the V Society.  In a world where the future of print books is being questioned, this film footage could serve as an historical document some day.

-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-

One of the recommended videos on YouTube yesterday was an author interview with Alex Bellos, author of  Here’s Looking at Euclid: From Counting Ants to Games of Chance – An Awe-Inspiring Journey Through the World of Numbers — published in the UK as The Adventures of Alex in Numberland — and I noticed down the sidebar a link from the same uploader to a video about the number 666

But that, in turn, took me to a YouTube channel under the name Bibledex. I decided to watch the one that deals with the “double donkey” problem in Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem in Matthew’s gospel, as it relates to the prophecy in Zachariah 9:9. How can you ride two animals at once?

The eight minute video is interesting because there are two people, one of whom particularly represents the approach of those steeped in higher criticism or textual criticism who seems to radiate an aura of skepticism that would be foreign to many of my readers here.  For that reason, it’s worth having some exposure to this type of discussion.

-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-

Made some interesting finds online?  The Wednesday link list is prepared late on Monday afternoon; use the contact page to reach me.

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