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 17, 2013

Missing Easter Sunday

Apparently James MacDonald isn’t the only one who has issues with preaching about Easter on Easter Sunday morning. I found this in my files from April, 2009:

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. ~Galatians 2:20

golgotha

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I enjoy reading the worship sets that people file at Fred McKinnon’s blog as part of something called The Sunday Setlists. So I looked forward to the recap of what was being presented on Fred’s blog for Easter Sunday in some of the top churches in the U.S., Canada and beyond. I know some worship leaders find the Christmas Carols frustrating — we won’t get into that debate now — but figured anything dealing with suffering, death and resurrection of Christ would represent the best that Christian music (modern and traditional) has to offer.

Some worship directors clearly rose the occasion. In both their comments and their choice of songs it was clear that this high point in the church calendar was also the high point in the worship music cycle of their house of worship.

good-friday1But other worship leaders clearly weren’t going to let something as pedestrian as Easter get in the way of their worship agenda. In fact a couple of churches — as evidenced either in the WL’s writeup or further linking to the church sites — clearly continued with other theme series they were running. At least one did a kind of split service between their current series and Easter, as though the ‘holiday’ was an interjection not unlike making room for a baby dedication or mention that it’s the Sunday closest to Veterans Day.

On April 13th, I wrote the following letter to McKinnon:

I didn’t want to spoil the mood in the Sunday Setlist comments, but it’s amazing to see the difference between the WLs who really focused on the death and resurrection of Christ, and those who simply did the songs that are currently popular, or the songs they were going to do anyway before Easter “got in the way.”

Everybody encourages everyone else in the respective blog comments; there seems little room for critical evaluation here.

The one that really got me was the church that went ahead with a sermon series acknowledging that it had nothing to do with Easter.

As a guy who is being edged out of weekly WL duties — it is a young man’s game — I really wish I was still more active, when I see so much disregard for the central Sunday of the church calendar.

More recently the blog Slice of Laodacia reports that the website Pirate Christian Radio awarded the “Worst Easter Sermon Award” to Joel Osteen. Here’s some highlights:

“Every Christmas Christians whine and complain about secular and atheistic efforts designed to take Christ out of Christmas yet more and more Christian pastors have committed an even worse offense and have removed Jesus Christ and His victorious resurrection from the grave from their Easter sermons,” said Chris Rosebrough. “Far too many pastors have played the role of Judas and have betrayed Jesus. Rather than being paid 30 pieces of silver, these pastors have sold Jesus out for the fame and adulation that accompany having a ‘growing, relevant ‘man-centered’ church’.”

…The sermons Rosebrough picked for this year’s contest included:

  • A sermon that explored the “deep” spiritual lessons of the movie Slumdog Millionaire .
  • A sermon entitled “Beer Babes & Baseball”
  • A sermon entitled “Livin’ Venti” that encouraged people to live life to the fullest.
  • A sermon entitled “You Have Come Back Power”
  • And a sermon entitled “Easter in the Octagon”

This year’s winner of the first ever, Worst Easter Sermon Award went to Joel Osteen’s sermon “You Have Come Back Power”.

Commenting on Osteen’s sermon Rosebrough stated, “Jesus didn’t die and rise again on the cross so that you can have ‘come back power over life’s set backs’. Osteen completely missed the point of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and as a result he missed the entire point of Christianity.”

Said Rosebrough, “I wasn’t surprised that Osteen was the first winner of this award. Osteen is like the Tiger Woods of heresy, he takes false teaching to a whole new level.”

And also a couple of days ago, Stephen Weber on the devotional blog Daily Encouragement writes the second of a two-parter called The Tyranny of the New writes:

…Most churches now want to be identified as contemporary (whatever that really means). Wouldn’t most churches in 1900 or at any other time in history have been contemporary during their age?

My annoyance at the contemporary church is not the embracing of the new, something I feel has been done all through history, but rather the tendency to devalue and disparage the old. Among so many I encounter a snobby attitude toward older music, i.e. hymns or even music written within the past twenty five years.

I was visiting with a friend after Easter who attends a self-identified “contemporary” church in our area. He’s my age and has a history in the church. I asked him about the service, “Did you sing some of those great Easter songs like ‘He Lives’ or ‘Christ The Lord Is Risen Today’?” He told me, “Oh no, we just sang new choruses.” I asked if they sang any songs dealing with the Resurrection. He told me they sang an “old” song from 1999 that he thought might have had something to do with the Resurrection! That’s sad!

One of the best memories I have of 2008 is a Good Friday service where the worship was led by a man in his late 60s. He chose mostly modern worship pieces, but the choices were so absolutely, totally focused on the message of the cross. At the time, the choices seemed so self-evident — especially having just come from a similar service in a nearby town — but I grabbed a piece of paper and wrote them all down anyway, trying to preserve this lesson in choosing worship material.

By the way, Weber’s text for his post was:

“This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it'” (Jeremiah 6:16).

christoncross1I think that something key is being lost when worship leaders miss the point. In the church I contributed to most over the past three years, I was solely responsible for the first 35-40 minutes of the service, and then the pastor would speak for 35-40 minutes. That’s a major responsibility. I wasn’t on staff, I wasn’t on the board, but I had the second largest contribution to each person’s Sunday worship experience. Humbling.

Therefore, I wouldn’t dare walk into an Easter Sunday service without being absolutely convinced that this particular date demanded my absolute best. Easter is why we have a church. Easter is why we have a faith. Easter is why we have a hope. Easter is why we have salvation.

Agree?

Update March, 2010: As we approach Easter again I noticed this particular post was getting a lot of traffic. I just want to point out here that The Sunday Setlists — mentioned in the first paragraph — is now part of The Worship Community blog.

Also, if you’re not a regular reader here, I also didn’t want to leave the impression I was giving a blanket endorsement to the Slice of Laodicea blog or to Pirate Radio. I’m just saying that I think in this instance they got it right.

April 3, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Not new, but too good just to link; you have to watch this…

  • Edith Shaeffer, wife of the late Christian philosopher Francis Shaeffer, has died at age 98
  • A member of The Church on the Way in Valencia,CA — and grandson of Jack Hayford, the church’s founder — is now back home uninjured after being kidnapped last week in Mexico.
  • Singer Carrie Underwood and NHL hockey player Mike Fisher discuss their shared faith in Jesus.
  • Know the song “‘Tis a Gift To Be Simple”?  Terry Mattingly says that definitely applies to the new Pope.
  • Yes the Easter story really happened in a real place, and if you want, you can even get the GPS coordinates.
  • And did they play that “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s a-Coming” video at your church this week? Here’s the text for all you aspiring preachers to give it your best shot.
  • And don’t miss this story about church pyrotechnics gone awry. This could have ended very badly.
  • Also at Parchment Pen: Did the author of the Gospel of Mark sleep in the nude?  The public wants to know.
  • Sandy Patti is headlining at Carnegie Hall with the Manhattan Pops Orchestra and the pianist formerly (and still) known simply as Dino.
  • For 32 years, Rick Warren said ‘no’ to the idea of doing a radio show. But then a year ago
  • A friend of ours, Rick Webster, pastor of The Third Space church in Peterborough has written Introducing Jesus — but he doesn’t use the word pastor, preferring Spiritual Wilderness Guide and Community Architect. We don’t normally do this here, but you can order the book online
  • From the artist who brought us the Reimagine song, a cover of Larry Norman’s UFO song.
  • Canadian author and blogger Sheila Wray-Gregoire says that if you are concerned for someone, you need to ask yourself three questions before you say anything.
  • Another Elevation Church high-tech year end summary. Does your church’s annual report look like this?
  • Maybe some cartoonists can illustrate complex issues, but Dave Walker finds himself somewhat lost for ideas in Uganda
  • Okay, Doug Wilson, curiosity was killing me when you wrote Good Friday and the Death of Same Sex Envy. (And then he also discusses pattern recognition, too.)
  • Shauna Niequist is the wife of a Christian musician and daughter of a world famous pastor. And a published author.  But she still deals with jealousy.
  • Money Where Your Mouth Is Department: Michael Kelley offers us two things we can learn from the Veronica Mars movie campaign on Kickstarter.
  • How about another 30-or-so links, all on the subject of apologetics? And don’t miss the first comment. 
  • Blog flashback — one year ago: James MacDonald’s holiness test.
  • The latest addition to our “lost song” collection at YouTube is this original version of God and Man at Table by Craig Smith. 
  • And I didn’t realize until today how much this song and this song sound alike. Guess some classic gospel music or CCM just flies under the copyright radar.

Top Bible Sales 2012

March 27, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Forgivenall

Our opening image this week apparently dates back to the mid ’90s and was sourced on a Dutch website whose name translates approximately as End Time Space. Click the image to link.

Several possible links for this week were important enough to become their own posts here. Be sure to check back at topics covered since Thursday.

  • First, please consider following my Twitter feed; not because of my great wisdom, but because I’m following some other really cool people. 
  • The radio host of “Canada’s most listened-to spiritual talkback show,” Drew Marshall takes to television this weekend. 
  • Is the Pope Catholic?  This blogger dares to ask: Is the Pope born again
  • Here’s a good breakdown of pastor blogs fitting into ten (or eleven!) categories. Actually, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
  • Just in time for Passover, the Maccabeats are back.
  • If you or someone you know has been involved in a marital affair, here’s a reminder to skip the what questions and look at the why questions.
  • This week the Dictionary of Christianese defines Godincidences. (They’re like God Winks.)
  • This has been around for awhile, but if you haven’t watched this timely 3-minute video, check out Peter Rollins’ I Deny The Resurrection
  • A Canadian Mennonite pastor is dealing with a couple of strange baptism requests: “They don’t know much about Jesus, but they want to come to him, to sign up to follow, even though they don’t have much of an idea what they are getting into.”
  • One hundred and eleven podcasts later, and you can still listen to episodes of A Christian and An Atheist.
  • Here’s a good analysis on how the church should multiply (real growth) instead of simply poaching (transfer growth) from other churches.
  • And on that same blog we found a link to a piece on how tradition(s) can trump what Jesus explicitly taught
  • Know a single who is saving their first kiss? You might identify with this video trailer, but trailer for what? (Found at TWW.)
  • Russell Moore is asked whether or not reading fiction is a waste of time. He answers that fiction can  “awaken parts of us that we have calloused over.”
  • And congrats to Russell on his new title with the SBC.
  • Pete Wilson and Cross Point Church have invaded downtown Nashville. Their new church building opened this past Sunday.
  • For gay Christians, the F-word is fear.  Read this two part post starting with the article and then, especially the author’s story.
  • Pastors’ Corner: Five sources of ministry distractions, including Platform Jacking and Funny Money.
  • If you’re thinking of being in Vancouver, British Columbia from July 29 to August 2, 2013, you could sign up for this business ethics course.
  • When you are trying to make it as a writer, a rejection letter can be crushing, and create a need to reaffirm your calling.

preaching-to-choir_from fritzcartoons-dot-com

May 13, 2012

Classic Christian Music Song

While assembling things for my own little YouTube upload project, we discovered one of the songs I most wanted to include was already online, and we’d determined only to do songs that didn’t exist anywhere else.  I might still make an exception for this one, but I wanted to share it with you today in this tribute video form.  The band is Scarlet Red; the song is simply titled Why.

It wasn’t long before I saw the painful truth before my eyes
All my sin had brought a price to pay,
and I knew it was for me that Jesus died.


I truly love this song, and I hope you enjoy listening to it, perhaps even more than once.

April 5, 2012

What Would You Do If You Were Going to Die on Friday?

Filed under: Jesus — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:53 am

From the blog of Michael Kelley

What Would You Do If You Knew You Would Die on Friday?

- Speak honestly about what angers you (Matthew 23:1-36).

- Provide perspective to those around you (Matthew 24).

- Reflect on what really matters (Matthew 25).

- Have dinner with friends (Matthew 26:26-30).

- Let those around know how much you love them (John 13:1-20).

- Comfort your friends with hope (John 14).

- Pray (Matthew 26:36-46).

April 22, 2011

Delivered from Death

When you’re in your teens or twenties, or even thirties, you may not think much about death.  With the passing of time comes the reality that the death rate is 100%, and with that comes much uncertainty.

Some of the uncertainty is fueled by all the knowledge we have.  Every night I watch ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, sometimes flipping over to NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.  There are various health stories on the news to be sure, but it’s the commercials that do me in.  Every week brings a new “condition” — usually described by an acronym — and when you listen to the long disclaimer, the potential side effects of the “cures” seems to make them rather dubious remedies.

In other words, I’m not becoming a hypochondriac — well, maybe I little — but I am becoming too aware of the things in our fearfully and wonderfully made bodies that can break down.

Last week, on one of the blogs, someone wrote about being so medically phobic, he breaks out into a sweat when his wife trims the cat’s nails.  And I think it was one of the Christian bloggers.

Fear and anxiety should not be part of the life of the Christian.  While the communion elements were being passed this morning at the Good Friday service and everyone else was breathing a quick prayer of confession for having downplayed their income on their 2010 tax return, or looking at pornography last night until the wee hours; I was seeking forgiveness for fear and anxiety.

Every year, I write something to the effect that, for those of us who’ve been around for awhile and have had our share of Christmases and Easters, we should look for something new in the Easter story or Christmas story that we didn’t know was there before.  For me, this year, in several of the messages I’ve heard in church or downloaded, it’s been this theme that in Christ’s resurrection we’re not only delivered from death, but delivered from the fear of death.

This quote from yesterday’s post at Christianity 201 — which I encourage you to read — best describes the perspective every Christ follower should have:

…Christ Himself [became] the instrument by which the Father would — for all time — make death not a wall … but a door.

Also recommended: He Took The Nails – at Christianity 201

April 21, 2011

Robin Mark: The Wonder of Your Cross

Judas’ Betrayal versus Peter’s Denial

Judas.

Peter.

Who screwed up most?

Does it matter?

This week I’ve been reading a classic, The First Easter, by Peter Marshall.  It’s written in a style that actually reminds me so much of Rob Bell’s writing.  I’ve been reading out loud as part of our family Bible study, and I’ve divided into seven sections of about twenty pages each.  Last night was the middle part, which seemed to portray clearly great remorse on Judas’ part.

I have sinned in that I have betrayed innocent blood… Jesus of Nazareth.  He had done nothing amiss.

In a piece at the CNN Belief blog, Craig Gross discusses this topic in great detail.  He describes asking his Facebook network if they believe Judas is in heaven or hell today?  The first response is dogmatic.

Judas is in hell today.  He’s been there for 2,000 years and he’ll be there forever.

Craig is not impressed.  He notes how convinced everyone is that their view is correct.  As if it matters.   I know there have been times in my life where I denied the Savior.  Maybe not as overt as Peter.  And I’m sure if I look there have been times where, by some mis-step, some mis-statement, some inflection or even laughter, I have betrayed the cause of Christ.   Perhaps not with the same historical significance, but then, who is to say?  Craig reminds me:

It is easier to debate these issues and make speculations about others than it is to actually look at ourselves in the mirror. It is always easier to think someone else is worse off then we are.

I guess my greater concern is how all of this puts the focus on the wrong person.  Judas or Peter are not what this weekend is all about.  It’s all about Jesus.  It always has been.   It’s a time to gaze deep into the eyes of the suffering Christ and through His pain, see Him reflecting back lavish amounts of love.  To me.  To you.

Allow nothing to take the focus off where it belongs.  It was our sin — just as bad or worse than Peter’s or Judas’ — that put Jesus on the cross, but He willingly allowed this to give us a future and a hope.

Allow the love of Jesus Christ to overwhelm you in the next 96 hours as we remember His death, and His triumph over death.

October 3, 2010

The Cross of Christ: Our Central Theme

“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
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