Thinking Out Loud

February 5, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Things I Hate

They left the worship band’s spotlights on during the sermon this week, and my pastor saw his shadow, which meant six more points before the benediction. Here are some links as I try to forget… 

Clicking anything below will take you to PARSE, which has exclusive rights to the mid-week link.

…if you’re new to this whole link list thing, I did a rare Weekend Link List about ten days ago with some reruns from 2011.

January 8, 2014

Wednesday List Link

Amish Vampires in Space

Lloyd the Llink Llist Llama Crashes the Party Exactly One Year After His First Visit Here

Lloyd the Llink Llist Llama makes his annual January visit

The list is back, though there was a link list on Saturday, December 28th at both Out of Ur and Thinking Out Loud you can scroll back to. If you caught that one, then you’re ready to kick off another year of link love. First, about the picture, it’s one of the “winners” — if you can call them that — of the Worst Christian Book Covers for 2013. (Click the link, then work your way to number one.) I don’t know where they found these — though this might help — but the list for 2012 did contain some you might recognize.  The rest of the links here will switch over once Out of Ur goes live with the list.

Thinking Out Loud Media CentralI’d like you to think I oversee the Christian internet in a command center like Christof has in The Truman Show, pictured at right, but in reality, it’s a refurbished PC on a cluttered desk next to the fireplace in the rec room. The fireplace has negative efficiency, however, so it’s not on during the polar vortex deep freeze. Hey, it could be worse…I could be blogging in my underwear in my parents’ basement.

If you clicked over here from Out of Ur; be sure to look around; a lot more happens here than link lists; you never know what you’ll find. (Be on the lookout for a lost reader from Iowa, who was last seen in the archives somewhere in the summer of 2010…)

Christian Artist Pop Cans

January 7, 2014

How to be Rich is not a Book About How to be Rich

How To Be RichOn the one hand, in these televangelist-saturated, prosperity-gospel-promoting times, giving a book the title, How to Be Rich is probably the dumbest thing ever. On the other hand, for anyone familiar with the annual Be Rich campaign at North Point Community Church, the title is absolutely brilliant. In fact, once you get to know the program, and read the book, your church may want to be rich as well, though it is much easier to do as a new church start-up than it is to try to shift the paradigm of how your church presently does local ministry.

So first the title.  It’s taken from I Timothy:

NIV 6:17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.

Next the book. I enjoyed the book. I read it from cover to cover, some sections more than once. But the Be Rich campaign is the real star here, and if the publisher wants me to create some buzz for the book, a better course might be to create some buzz for what North Point does.

The book merely consists of material that author Andy Stanley (yes, I was going to get to that) presents each year as a set up for the campaign itself. It’s a reminder that we’re already rich. In an interview with Jonathan Merritt of Religion News Service, Andy was asked if this was a prosperity book:

It’s actually the opposite of the prosperity gospel. The prosperity message is “Give and it will be given unto you.” This message is, “It has already been given unto us. Now it is our turn to give.” I don’t need to give one to get 10. I live in the United State of America, so I already have my 10.

That interview however didn’t touch on enough of the history of the campaign for my liking, so let me try to fill in some details. In a nutshell, the team at North Point decided that when it came to doing things like food banks, after-school programs, support for young mothers, addiction counseling, etc., the church was determined not to reinvent the wheel. Instead, they purposed to find the people in the Atlanta area who were already doing well at various charitable endeavors and provide them with a funding boost. It wasn’t about ‘let’s start our program,’ but ‘let’s connect with our broader community.’

The next step was to raise the money — we’re now talking millions — in a single weekend.

At this point, I know some of you are thinking, ‘What does this have to do with the presentation of the gospel?’ The balance between social justice ministry and proclamation is never easy, especially for Evangelicals. But in the second phase of Be Rich (the campaign, not the book) the people of North Point pledge to spend hours in service, many times at the very same organizations which have received funding. They don’t want people simply writing a check or swiping a debit card and feel that they’ve done their part. They want people to also get their hands dirty.

I’ve watched that video* about eight times now, and each time I well up with tears. This model may not import entirely directly to what your church is doing, but you can’t help but want to adapt some of the concepts.

You can’t help but want your church to be rich.

A copy of How To Be Rich: It’s Not What You Have, It’s What You Do With What You Have (Zondervan) was provided by the Canadian division of HarperCollins Christian Publishing.

*If the video isn’t loading go to http://vimeo.com/81844837

December 26, 2013

Rethinking a Sanitized Christmas

Filed under: Christmas — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:45 am

This appeared three years ago as a special article to CNN’s Belief Blog. The authors are well-known to readers here: Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.  This is not the full article, you need to click through to read the remaining two-thirds of the piece.

It’s not all that strange this time of year to see Christians outside in bathrobes, trying to keep a little baby warm in the straw of a cattle trough. (Truth be told, it’s usually a doll; but we get a real donkey from time to time.)

We Christians like to re-enact the birth of Jesus and hear the angels sing again, “Peace on earth, good will toward men.” This is our good news. It feels good when our neighbors pause to listen.

But we rarely tell the whole story. The baby in a manger is cute. The shepherds in their field are quaint. The magi from the east give the whole scene some dignity.

But most of our churches are “seeker sensitive” when it comes to retelling the Christmas story. Our kids don’t dress up like the undocumented workers who do shepherds’ work today. We often fail to mention that Mary was an unwed mother. When we re-create the manger scene, we don’t reproduce the odor. We like to clean the whole thing up a bit. It makes it easier to go home and enjoy Christmas dinner.

As much as both of us love a good meal with our families, we’re pretty sure Jesus didn’t come to initiate a sentimental pause in holiday consumption. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” John’s gospel says. Jesus moved into the neighborhood, and it wasn’t necessarily good for property values.

Christmas reminds us how Jesus interrupts the world as it is to reveal the world as it ought to be. When we pay attention to the story, it exposes our desperate need for a better way. This always makes some people mad.

When King Herod got the news that Jesus had been born in Bethlehem, he issued a national security directive that every boy two and younger should be killed. As we remember this part of the story, we take in the harsh truth that there was and still is a political cost to the incarnation of God’s peaceable love.

[continue reading here]

November 13, 2013

Wednesday Link List

How to Make Thomas Kinkade Paintings Totally Awesome Very few people know this, but the Wednesday Link List is named after Art Linkletter.  The links below will all take you to Out of Ur, where the list officially resides.

The Wednesday Link Letter (see introduction) was written by Paul Wilkinson and recorded before a live audience (Paul’s wife). Read more of his work at his Anglican baptism website, Sprinkling Out Loud, or at Devotional Plagiarism 201, where only the best get borrowed.

November 9, 2013

The Backstory on Social Protest: The Financial Costs

What you’re about to see is purported to be (and I believe is) the actual invoice to the Florida Family Association for hiring an airplane to fly over Orlando and warn area families and tourists that it was “Gay Days” at Walt Disney World. It was obtained from a pro-LGBT website that I won’t link to here. (The URL is available on request.)  It’s dated May 22nd, 2013, and engages services for May 31st and June 1st, and the towing of a banner to read, “Warning: Gay Days at Disney,” in both English and Spanish. (This possibly involved more than one airplane.)

From information gathered at various sites, I do not discount for a minute that some families — the very type of people who visit this blog — would appreciate the warning. One writer described the history and presentation of the “unofficial” days at Disney World on this page. (Read the second article in particular.) I certainly share his concerns.

We need organizations that are willing to stand up for principles and values. Local associations like the one in Florida, and their national counterparts, do well to, at the very least, put the brakes on a society that appears to be in a moral downward spiral.

But they pay a price to do so. Literally. Here is the invoice:

Florida Family Association Disney Protest

Can you read the total?  $16,400.00

Florida Family Association Disney Protest Total

I find myself — albeit like Judas — saying, “This money could have been used to feed the poor.” Well, actually, Mrs. W. said that right away when I read her the invoice amount last night.

This isn’t about gay pride or Disney. Please don’t leave comments in that vein. This is just about having a peek behind the scenes, and realizing it takes a whole of money to stage this kind of protest. Truth be told, $16K is probably a drop in the bucket compared to what is spent on national events or having Christian organizations (like the National Association of Evangelicals in the U.S. or the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada) lobbying to protect or enhance Judeo-Christian values concerning health, education, social justice, etc. in Washington or Ottawa. (Or London, Frankfort, Paris, et al.)

When you tick the box on the form and say, “I want my voice to be heard;” and enclose a check or provide your VISA or MasterCard info online, you are expecting the organization in question to incur expenses on your behalf.

That reflect your values.  And mine.

Hopefully this is not entirely without result. Hopefully a few families that felt their children (and themselves) would be negatively impacted by what they might see at Disney World that day were able to put off their visit into the following week, and genuinely appreciated the warning.

I agree with that.

But I agree with what Mrs. W. and others might say, i.e. that $16K would go a long way to providing groceries or medicine for the poor in Greater Orlando, of which I’m certain there are many.

What do you think?

September 2, 2013

Years Later, The Revolution is Still Irresistible

I mentioned earlier that this summer, instead of reading the books the publishing machine thinks I should be reviewing, I’m choosing things in remainder bins and re-reading some things on my shelf that cry out for a fresh glance.

Irresistible RevolutionShane Claiborne’s Irresistible Revolution fit nicely into that category. Not needing to meet a deadline, I read this almost devotionally over a period of about 15 days while I had other titles on the go. The book was published in 2006; the first of Shane’s books I reviewed here was the 2008 Jesus for President.

There’s a scene toward the end of the book where Shane describes crashing the Republican National Convention where, one-time, for the sake of expediency, he claims the title of prophet. He states clearly this is not something that one would readily say about themselves, perhaps especially if they were a true prophet.

But nonetheless, there is something different about Irresistible Revolution, a different tenor or tone if you will, whereupon I have to say that Shane Claiborne speaks with a prophetic voice. This book is a challenge to us as The capital ‘C’ Church, as members of local churches, and as individuals to embrace the social justice mandate given to us by Jesus.

However, despite the force of the message, the book also speaks with an almost off-hand, casual East Tennessee southern accent. I’ve mentioned earlier that with YouTube and online media, we have the opportunity to hear authors speak, and then to read their books with their voices ringing in our ears. Shane’s approach is, for lack of a better word, friendly; while his intentions are fierce.

While ultimately God may not call all of us to travel to India, or Iraq, or risk arrest or imprisonment for the sake of the poor and underprivileged; the mandate remains nonetheless. (For more on risking arrest, read this recent story of Shane’s fellow Iraq-traveler, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.)

A few months ago, I mentioned the exhaustive treatment social justice is given in Ken Wytsma’s Pursuing Justice. If that book is the modern textbook on social justice, its seeds were planted years earlier in the testimony of people like Shane Claiborne.

I encourage you to read both. If you don’t have a social conscience, you will. If you don’t think the ministry of the church involves anything other than proclamation of the gospel, you will.

Irresistible Revolution, 368 pages, paperback, Zondervan 2006

Read more about Shane’s community, The Simple Way.

July 31, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Bible for Christmas

We scan the internet so you don’t have to!

Got a suggestion for a link here? Contact me through Thinking Out Loud before 6 PM Eastern on Mondays.

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 12, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Texting While Driving - Reverend Fun

Copyright © 2011 The Zondervan Corporation

Wednesday List Lynx -- two, actually

Wednesday List Lynx — two, actually

Time for another round of Christian blog and news links for the whole family. In the past we would often begin and end here with cartoons, but the whole question of fair use gets muddy sometimes, especially when humor meets illustration. I’ve studied the permissions statements of some of these and can’t reconcile what I read with what seems to be ubiquitous online. So we decided to run one, since it’s been awhile. Click the image to visit Reverend Run’s site.

I Once Was Lost Golf Ball Don’t forget to get your link suggestions in by 6:00 PM, Mondays, EST; and as always, for breaking links, you can follow me on Twitter. Look for @PaulW1lk1nson (change the letter i to a number 1).

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