Thinking Out Loud

July 2, 2014

Wednesday Link List

hypocrites

A Happy Independence Day to our U.S. readers and a one-day belated Happy Canada Day to readers in the land north of the 49th. On with the linkage…

When not playing one of the 820 Solitaire variants while listening to sermon podcasts, Paul Wilkinson blogs at at Thinking Out Loud, edits the devotional blog Christianity 201, and provides hints of the following week’s link list on Twitter.

February 16, 2014

Mother T. on Prayer

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 3:28 pm

Dan Rather: “When you pray, what do you say to God?”

Mother Teresa: “I don’t say anything. I listen.”

Dan Rather: “Well, okay…when God speaks to you, then, what does He say?”

Mother Teresa: “He doesn’t say anything. He listens. And if you don’t understand that, I can’t explain it to you.

If someone knows a source for this, I’ll print it.

November 25, 2013

What If It’s Not All About You?

Filed under: prayer — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:16 am

Someone else is prayingWhat if?

What if all those times you said you got “an answer to a prayer you haven’t prayed yet;” it wasn’t just that God had met a need before you voiced it, but rather, it was that someone else was praying for you. Someone you know well, or maybe know only superficially. Or someone who knows you, but you don’t know them at all?

What if prayer moves the hand of God more than we, or any theologian ever realized, but we don’t give God the credit because it’s hard for us to believe that out there are people who are the ‘pray-ers'; that out there are people who care about us?

What if people you sometimes are short with, who you sometimes criticize, who you sometimes don’t return their calls, or emails or texts are actually a major, central force in your life through intercession?

What if?

September 25, 2013

Wednesday Link List

angelcowimage

Wednesday List Lynx

Wednesday List Lynx

The links are at the post… They’re off! (A bad mash up of blogging and horse-racing.) (You should never have to explain the humor.)  Click through to read these links at Out of Ur, the blog of Leadership Journal.

  • Why do Christian college and university educations get so expensive? Here’s a detailed explanation from someone who knows.
  • In an effort to emphasize “values not rules,” staff at Moody Bible Institute, and subsidiaries like Moody Publishing can now consume alcohol, but rules remain strict for students.
  • Jon Acuff took the platform he earned blogging at Stuff Christians Life into a job with America’s best known Christian financial planner, Dave Ramsay. Then, suddenly, he announced he’s leaving that job.
  • Video of the Week: Flagrant Regard is back, this time with a wild take on an old hymn that’s actually based on an idea my son came up with. You just might recognize the tune.
  • Essay of the Week: A Reformed blogger wants to show a distinction between those who consider themselves Reformed and the more prevalent perception of what is usually called Calvinism.
  • Too many pastors know the story of George, who frequently gets invited out for an attack lunch.
  • Does your church have a children’s sermon in the middle of the worship time? Perhaps you can learn from a popular AT&T television ad campaign.
  • Some Baptist Churches are abandoning sponsorship of the Boy Scouts, and are instead supporting the newly formed Trail Life USA.
  • Lee Grady thinks it’s good for several reasons that judges chose an Indian-American Miss America.
  • Sometimes the questions people have aren’t the ones we expect. For example this pastor is asked, Why do we say Amen at the end of prayers? (The answer includes a couple of times not to.)
  • Question of the Week: Should sporting events preempt church services?
  • I’d seen this two-minute video before, but appreciated Michael Hyatt’s reminder of The Power of Words.
  • An article I hope you never need but might want to bookmark: How to minister to the parents of a stillborn or miscarried child.
  • For only $777.00 and a new pair of spandex pants, you can attend the first ever fan weekend hosted by the band Stryper.
  • This Eschatology primer not only provides definitions, but suggests which favorite Bible teachers fit into which end-times-view camp.
  • A Tennessee judge rules that a child in that state can keep the name Messiah after all, overturning a lower court decision. (Will his friends call him ‘Messy’?)
  • In what is no doubt an often repeated story in North America, a church in New Brunswick, Canada tells a gay 20-year old he can no longer volunteer in their children’s ministry…
  • …While across the continent, a philosophy professor at Azusa Pacific University is dismissed after he comes out as transgendered.
  • Deep Bible Study Department: For all of you who find this column shallow and superficial, does the “I am the Bread of Life” passage in John 6 have a sacramental application, i.e. to the Lord’s Supper?
  • Two years later, Christianity Today — parent to this Out of Ur blog — wraps up its This is Our City feature with a visit to New York City.
  • Marijuana. That’s what caused the Colorado floods. Just sayin’.
  • Skeptics are somewhat … skeptical about a Charismatic Bible teacher’s claim to have witnessed the restoring of a cheek bone lost in an accident.
  • A Seventh Day Adventist Church in Las Cruces, New Mexico is in trouble with the city for failing to comply with an ordinance requiring churches to have business permits.
  • On both sides of the Atlantic, churches wrestle with how to deal with the situation arising when someone presents a new idea or concept.
  • An Anglican bishop in Wellington, New Zealand challenges high income earners to consider salary cuts.
  • Finally, at my own blogs, a look at worship hand-raising; and, when we say “God spoke to me,” there are different ways this can take place, each with different degrees of fallibility.

Paul Wilkinson is available to speak at your next battleship christening, or if you prefer, follow him on Twitter.

3 months to Christmas

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.

July 3, 2013

Wednesday Link List

lynx 3Today we kick off a new chapter; the link list moves to its new home at Leadership Journal’s Out of Ur website, a ministry of Christianity Today. I’ve been reading Out of Ur since long before I started blogging, so this is a real honor. Here’s a link direct to today’s Wednesday Link List. Please be sure to click through. (They didn’t take the List Lynx pictured at right however, at least not so far…) Also remember it’s just the Wednesday list that’s moving; we’ll be back here tomorrow with the content you’ve come to loathe love here at Thinking Out Loud!

UPDATE: In November, 2013, we updated the July WLL posts here to restore the links. (The first month never had them at all here in any form.) I might periodically go back and update older ones just so we have a record here of the original sources.

June 5, 2013

Wednesday Link List

This is a picture Shane Claiborne posted on Twitter of the community where The Simple Way ministers in Philadelphia: Sprinklers open for cooling on a hot day

This is a picture Shane Claiborne posted on Twitter of the community where The Simple Way ministers in Philadelphia: Sprinklers open for cooling on a hot day

Be sure to read the post which immediately precedes this one, about Calvinist propaganda for kids… And now for another day on the links…

  • “If a church tells the Scouts they are no longer welcome to use their facilities a whole bunch of kids, most of whom are not gay, are going to get one clear message: You’re not welcome at church. Fighting the culture war has already hurt the Christian image, as we are much more recognizable for the things we are against.” Before your church has a knee-jerk reaction to the situation, take 90 seconds to read this including the updates in the comments.
  • And speaking of people we make unwelcome in the church, here’s a story like no other: A particularly buxom young woman (i.e. size DD) unravels a sad tale of a lifetime of being marginalized by the local church.
  • Another great, concise (about 12 minutes, I think) sermon by Nadia at House for All Sinners and Saints on Hope. Realistic church motto: “We will disappoint you.” Click this link to the text, then click the internal link to listen, then click back to follow along as you listen. 
  • 30 Churches in Holland, Michigan are covering their individual church signs this week with burlap on which is painted “One Lord, One Church.” This is a movement designed to promote unity between the denominations.
  • The White House has issued a statement pressing the Iranian government for the release of imprisoned pastor Saeed Abedini, but Iran does not recognize his U.S. citizenship
  • Yesterday’s Phil Vischer Podcast was the best so far! Phil and panelists Skye Jethani and Christian Taylor are joined by anthropologist Brian Howell discussing short-term missions.
  • Teapot tempest or major issue? A Methodist pastor refuses to stand for God Bless America. Hours later, The Washington Post has to run a separate article to showcase all the responses the first article got.
  • For the pastor: A different approach to mapping out your fall (and beyond) adult Christian education program
  • Also for pastors: What to teach about tithing? Andy Stanley teaches percentage giving. But as Jeff Mikels points out, some people don’t like that concept.
  • The K-LOVE Fan Awards are out! Guess what? They like Chris Tomlin. Wow, there’s a surprise! See the winners in all nine categories.  
  • If you don’t mind wading through a lot of posts to unearth some classic wit and wisdom — and several bad worship team jokes — there’s always Church Curmudgeon’s Twitter feed.
  • Rob Bell is on the ‘cover’ of Ktizo Magazine, an e-publication built just for tablets.
  • Porn is an issue for women, too.  Maura at the blog Made in His Image shares her struggle and suggests that step one is sharing your struggle with another person.
  • Also at the same blog: Christian women, should you buy that itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polkadot bikini? Rachel says its a matter of exercising God-given responsibility.
  • We mentioned the blog Blessed Economist once at C201, but I’m not sure if we did here. It’s economics — the real thing, not personal finance — from a Christian perspective. Here’s a short piece to whet your appetite, there are some longer case studies there as well.
  • A friend of ours who graduated recently in film studies has posted a 17-minute short film about a band of orphans Fleeing through the wilderness of post-apocalyptic British Columbia in search of food and shelter who take refuge in an abandoned church and face a horrifying choice.
  • Also on video, a group of high school teens at Camp Marshall got together in 2011 to produce a rather artistic video of the hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing that serves as a music video and a camp promotional video
Found at Postsecret, but this post actually isn't very secret; a lot of people express this same sentiment online

Found at Postsecret, but this post actually isn’t very secret; a lot of people express this same sentiment online

May 29, 2013

Wednesday Link List

great-commission-revisted

Wednesday List Lynx

Wednesday List Lynx

Atoning every Wednesday for stealing content the other six days a week; since 2008.

  • Is the Pope Catholic? Pope Francis sure shook things up with a statement this week that was perhaps as traditional as it was radical.
  • Philip Yancey, in The Jesus I Never Knew quotes Walter Wink: “If Jesus had never lived, we never would have been able to invent him.” Here’s a tribute to Wink, an author many of us don’t know, who passed away last year.
  • Huffington Post says Joel Osteen’s extensive use of social media makes him a Digivangelist. Except for those nights when email prayer requests are returned to senders
  • The Roman Catholic Church in Venezuela is running out of wine for mass, and the wafers for communion are facing a price increase. Shortages in the country are affecting everything including toilet paper.
  • There’s been a resolution in the conflict between New York City schools, and religious groups wanting to rent space in schools on weekends.
  • If your statement of faith is crafted with such precision that it really only applies to your church, you might be bound by theological legalism.
  • Brian Zahnd writes, “I have more in common with the Egyptian Muslim who prays five times a day than with the European secularist who never prays.” You are what you pray.
  • Found a great article this week on Genesis 1, which wasn’t written to counter Darwinism, but was written that people might believe
  • The cartoon at the top was sourced at Greg Boyd’s blog, where it is credited to Jay Sidebotham.
  • Here’s a great church snapshot: “…25% of St. Jude’s adults have a PhD. Another 25% have done or have a family member who is doing prison time. PhD’s and prisoners. That is St. Jude’s in a nutshell.”  Read more
  • Sorry to learn of the passing of Chris Daniel, the force behind the Old Christian Music blog, a great source of information about the Christian rock of the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. Someone new may be taking over the site.
  • When your Mormon friend says “Jesus,” and you say “Jesus,” you’re talking about two entirely different people.
  • Nick Vujicic does the impossible and talks about his faith in a stadium rally in Vietnam, a country highly restrictive in terms of religious freedom.
  • A Texas couple are giving away their $4 billion fortune rather than leaving it for their three children.
  • Video clip of the week: Larissa Heatley pays tribute to her grandfather, Dallas Willard.
  • The Christian school at the center of the 4th grade dinosaur test — now ubiquitous online — is dealing with the subsequent publicity
  • Artists to watch: From season 11 of American Idol, Colton Dixon. Here’s a sample from YouTube.
  • As much as 30% of all internet activity may be porn-related; and it seems that it doesn’t matter where your city rates on the religiosity scale.
  • On June 3rd, one of the all-time original Christian bloggers, Tall Skinny Kiwi is preparing to move on to a new social media platform.
  • And lastly, there’s this book

Try to have your link suggestions in by 6:00 PM on Monday, since we start preparing The Feast of Linkage ahead of time.

At My God Is

April 4, 2013

A Lesson Learned Too Late is Still a Lesson Learned

Was this the one time we disobeyed God? …Okay, maybe there were lots of times…

The time in particular that I’m considering is the time we moved to the city where we now live. It was 22 years ago, and we came with some “push” factors (wanting to get out of our 9th floor apartment in the city of three million) and some “pull” factors (liking the look of the town, as seen from the highway).

Later, I would write a song with an opening sentence that talks about the “pull” factors:

The part of the town that you see from the highway
Is never the part that the people there know.
The smiles and hellos that are so superficial
Filter the feelings we never let show.

When the business we were going to start in this town didn’t happen, we got caught up with the momentum of the “push” factors and decided we would move anyway. We would go into this foreign place and trust God to work out the details for employment and income. Not so smart.

(Tangent/aside: Never move to a town where you plan to raise a family if you don’t know anyone and therefore don’t have your potential babysitters or family supports lined up ahead of time. Ours included teenage girls who were (a) completely inexperienced — “You mean I was supposed to change him?” — with kids, (b) dealing with medical crises, (c) dealing with severe emotional breakdown.)

I think there was some element of God’s leading us to where we moved. We thought we were moving to start a business, but instead, we ended up getting involved with a church that really needed us. I got to write a newspaper column every weekend for ten years which paid for our groceries. My wife got to raise her boys in a house and not the apartment in the big smoke. I got to teach a year at a Christian school. My wife got to start a number of ministry projects which have made a big difference in the lives of people.

But did God just allow us to “make the best of it?” Was there a principle we missed?

I think there was, but I didn’t know the particular chapter and verse at the time. The verse is found in Proverbs 24:2 –

Do your planning and prepare your fields before building your house. (NLT)

First plant your fields; then build your barn. (Message)

Fix your business outside. Get your fields in shape and then build your house. (rough English translation of Louis Segond translation in French)

In other words, get a job, know where your mortgage payments are going to come from. Heck; know where your next dollar is coming from. Settle your career in that place first, then talk about your residence. Don’t move to Dallas, or Lisbon or Sydney without having a job waiting.

But we were young, we were idealistic, we were acting on a mix of faith and foolishness. I think we prayed about it — a bit — but earnestly praying together as a couple hasn’t been our strong suit. If you’re a younger married couple, and the shoe fits, take that as a personal admonition to do better than us when it comes to prayer. Starting now.

Joshua 9:14 — the story of Joshua’s ill-advised treaty with the Gibeonites — makes an even stronger case:

The Israelites … did not inquire of the Lord. (TNIV)

So the men … did not ask counsel from the Lord (ESV)

I really feel that God has journeyed with us and blessed us so many ways. But there have been some uphill battles that I believe trace back to not adhering to a basic scriptural principle. In many ways we’ve lived like monks who have taken a vow of poverty, nonetheless we’ve been blessed with some family circumstances that made it possible for us to live what appears from the outside to be a comfortable lower-middle-class life.

But my advice to people today is always the same: Prepare your work in the fields and then build your house.

March 6, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Jesus is the Light of the World

Regular readers will know this already, but I’ve never quite come out and said it: I find it somewhat snobbish when bloggers publish link lists where anything older than 2-3 days is considered obsolete. A true link sleuth will unearth some great material and won’t be concerned if the post is dated 30 days ago. If it was true then…

  • Essay of the week: Church Planting in Montreal. A somewhat typical couple has been living together for ten years but has never gotten close to having any kind of spiritual discussion. And that’s just one challenge. The Quebecois version of Hybels’ “unchurched Harry” is quite different from “Harry” in the rest of North America. 
  • Runner up: Remember that feeling when you were young and you came home from school only to find nobody home and you immediately thought everybody had been raptured?  Well, it happens to not-so-young college students, too.
  • Okay, so that video about how to write a worship song wasn’t the first time Jordan at BlimeyCow waded into Christian music criticism. Or church camp. And different types of churches
  • While everyone else on Sunday night was watching The Bible miniseries on History, one blogger was putting the final period on his review even as the credits rolled. I guess that way you get to say, “First!”  (The cable channel show beat all the big networks in the ratings.)
  • If you know people whose Christian faith is characterized by what they are against, may I suggest you copy and paste this article and email it to them.
  • For people who don’t know how to use a “table of contents” in a book, The Alpha Bible presents the Bible books in… well you know.
  • Given the success of The Book of Mormon, a Broadway production by The Foursquare Church denomination on the life of Aimee Semple McPherson probably seemed like a good idea at the time
  • The idea of gospel tracts probably seems somewhat archaic to most readers here, but the concision of these short presentations actual suits present attention spans. Now 31 Good News tracts are available on audio.  
  • Matt Hafer comes out of church leadership hibernation with five ways for pastors to tell if people are truly on board.
  • I know I often link you over to Christianity 201, but I really want you all, if nothing else, to catch this video.
  • In some ways connected to a link we had here last week, a Christianity Today women’s blog suggests a little bit of Christianese is OK.
  • As someone whose entire wardrobe was purchased at Goodwill and Salvation Army stores, this is scary: Pat Robertson allows the possibility that those shirts and sweaters could have demonic spirits attached. (That’s why Pat buys professionally tailored suits, I guess.)
  • Once we know the name of the new Pope, the new Pope has to choose a name. Past Pope picks included these. (You remember Pope Urban, right?) 
  • How is it possible that this great song by the Wheaton College Gospel Choir has had less than 2,500 views in two years?  If this don’t bring a smile to your face, your mouth is broken. Watch, copy the link and share.
  • Jon Acuff finds himself in a prayer meeting with someone who gives a whole new meaning to the phrase too much information
  • If you missed it January, Shaun Groves shares songwriting secrets for worship composers. But ultimately, “I think worship writers have parted with standard songwriting practices because they’re creating with the live experience in mind. So their priorities are much different from those of a traditional songwriter.”
  • The people at Thomas Nelson flatly refused us a review copy of this, but I’ll be nice and tell you about it anyway. Jesus: A Theography is a new book by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola combining theology and biography with –[free review time expired]
  • …Mind you, that was already better than this guy’s review. “After a while, I finally put the book down and said enough.” (When you accept a free book you do agree to finish reading it.)
  • Remember Anne Jackson? Well she’s still kicking around, still writing, and apparently this Friday is a special day
  • Nadia Bolz-Weber, the Lutheran with attitude, shares her struggle preparing to preach on The Parable of the Vineyard. (Open the audio link in a new tab, then click back to follow the text; the whole sermon is about ten minutes.) Actual quote: “…you’d think that I’d totally remember a parable where poop is mentioned.”
  • Meanwhile Steve McCoy’s kids, age 12 and 14, are taking sermon notes while he preaches.
  • On our fifth birthday, we introduced you to Derek the Cleric. We had a tough time that day choosing between two cartoons and thought we’d stretch the written permission we received to do just one more.

Derek The Cleric - Powerpoint

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