Thinking Out Loud

March 29, 2017

Wednesday Link List

What to do with nine year’s worth of T-shirts collected in student ministry? You could make a quilt. Full story at Baptist Press; click image to link.

 

Satellite campus churches are cool, but what if one time you could get everybody together in one place? That’s what Andy Stanley and North Point Community Church did on Sunday night. Six churches. One service. First time in 21 years.

 

Time Magazine cloned one of its own iconic covers causing Sam Allberry to Tweet, “You can’t have one without the other. The more the first is denied, the more the second will disappear.” Click the image for Time’s coverage of its cover.

Welcome to another Wednesday. Not all stories included this week come with endorsement, but they’re things I felt were worth a look.

Thanks for tuning in this week. As always, no animals were injured in the preparation of this week’s link list. Your mileage may vary. Professional driver; closed course. Do not take if you are allergic to Wednesday Links.

The picture is titled, “Destiny.” The artist is unknown. Click the image for a devotional inspired by the painting.

 

Your library as fashion statement: The orange look is in. Absent for photo: The End of Me by Kyle Idleman. Any others you can think of?

March 28, 2017

When You’re Unfit to Serve at Your Church

Today’s post is a continuation of my wife’s guest post yesterday. I promised I would return to some of the issues raised to look at them objectively. So this post is a continuation of that; you really need to read it first.

1. How long does a person attend your church before they are considered for service?

Many years ago, Andy Stanley hired a Fortune 500 survey company to interview people at their church and found that in the first five weeks at NorthPoint, newcomers are already trying to “discern next steps,” and possible areas of active involvement. On the other hand, when 60’s rocker Barry McGuire came to Christ, his pastor suggested the famed composer/singer should take a seat in the back row to grow and nurture his faith — for a full year! Some say that in a small town church, “Once a visitor, always a visitor.” Where’s the balance? Of course, in my wife’s case, she wasn’t exactly a newcomer, which brings us to…

2. When someone who was a former member of your church returns, does their past experience count for anything?

Clearly, some churches expect you to jump through all the hoops as though you’d never been there before. One woman who wrote us off-the-blog put it this way, “It’s when your motives are questioned and you had thought you had enough ‘capital ‘ in years of service to be trusted…” Churches will have “Celebration Sundays” to revel in their glorious past history, but if someone who is part of that history should return, that experience, even if it involved some tough pioneering, isn’t always respected. For my wife to be classed as a “visitor” was simply equestrian feces. Which brings us to…

3. Is someone who has only been part of a church for ten years truly fit to reprimand, discipline or judge someone whose history with that church goes back twenty years?

Part of the problem in the body of Christ is that we really don’t know each other. But it gets even more complicated when people who have given years of service are being judged — or spiritually abused — by people who, despite their convictions otherwise, don’t know all there is to know. (Or worse, have been given short ‘debriefs’ by a departing pastor about individuals in the church, not unlike those student files kept in the school office.) Sometimes, this problem manifests itself where a church member finds themselves being rebuked by someone half their age. There may be Biblical precedent for that, but it’s still unnatural, and can be avoided by appointing a different mediator. Which brings us to…

4. Are the elders in your church really “elder,” or were they chosen by some other standard?

Typically, in many churches today board members are people who are successful at their vocation. Is your insurance business or car dealership doing well? Expect to be asked. Ditto teachers. But some churches really need to bring back the concept of elders and deacons. (See the story in Acts 7 on the choosing of Stephen for the nuances.) Some elders are on the church board for the wrong reasons, like, for example, their wives talked them into it. Some elders truly “represent” the congregation in a democratic sense, while others see themselves as a sub-priestly class of elite members. Again, another comment received in response to the first article; “…as I think you sense, the leadership there is like a team of soldiers walking through enemy territory with the rank and file members and adherents being ‘the enemy!’ It feels as if there are the leaders and then there are the rest of us — the leaders being a select group of others who think alike and run the show.” Which brings us to…

5. What about Church leaders who will look you right in the eye and lie through their teeth? Is that ever justified?

The conversation my wife had seven years ago revealed a number of statements which, at the very least, were absolute non sequiturs. (I’m being polite.) They told her that she was unfit to lead because people in the congregation didn’t know her, yet just three weeks before that, I had to ask four different people to find out the name of the woman who had led worship that week. (See also the footnote to yesterday’s article; turns out they brought in a guest less than a month later.) My wife was baptized there. Our children were dedicated there. Her husband served on paid staff there for four years. And nobody would know her? Maybe what this is all about is really…

6. Is the elders’ board of a church really where the heart of ministry is taking place? Or even in touch with the real ministry happening?

I doubt that. In fact, if you really want to see corporate life change (aka spiritual formation) take place and they ask you to serve on an administrative board, run as fast you can in the other direction. “Run, Forrest, run!” Just wanting to serve on one of these boards is like wanting to run for public office. And being involved in service is just as political, where you do everything you can to keep your reputation ahead of actual service. And just as in politics, these people will do everything they can to keep people off the stage who might, through raw authenticity and transparency, challenge the carefully developed status quo. People like that are, simply put, a threat. This is not where powerful, fruitful, organic ministry is taking place. Which bring us to…

7. Do people in your church get hurt or wounded or abused?

My wife was told that placing herself in profile ministry meant she was leaving herself open to hurt. Was this an admission on their part that this is a church that hurts people? The church leadership should bear ultimate responsibility for any hurting, wounding or abusing that takes place within their jurisdiction. Furthermore they should be strive to make their church a place of healing; a place of grace. Decisions taken at the board level which are simply leading to further hurt should be considered a worst-case scenario. But this is likely to happen because…

8. Can a church leader be doing “the Lord’s work” and at the same time be about “the Devil’s business?”

Absolutely. People are flawed. They are going to get caught up in what “may seem right,” but actually take perverse delight in stabbing someone and then twisting the knife. Any high school student who has studied Shakespeare knows enough about human nature to know that these personality types are out there. (As Mark Antony says, “These are honorable men.”) It’s all about building their kingdom and especially their desire for power and control. What my wife was subjected to in that hour was simply not of God. So the obvious question is…

9. Why do we keep coming back?

Small(er) towns simply don’t offer people the advantage of packing up and moving to another church. The mix of evangelism, teaching, worship, doctrinal slant, demographic composition; combined with an individual’s history in a place; plus a blind optimism that someday things will improve; all these things sometimes mean that there is literally nowhere else to go. (And trust us, we’ve done the church plant thing, too; it was a great experience; but the plants died or got put on hiatus for other reasons.) Besides, this church is our HOME. Figuratively, those are our kids’ height marks on the back of the door; that’s our kids’ artwork on the refrigerator; not so figuratively, that’s the corner where I prayed with that woman for a dramatic healing; that’s the song my wife taught the congregation just a few years ago; that’s the weekly group that we started.

10. Is it possible that it’s just time to step aside and let another generation have their turn?

If that’s the case, the people working so hard to evict us from active ministry really have only four or five years left themselves. And they are perpetuating a system which will truly come back to haunt them. (‘What goes around…’) But then again, many of the people doing worship service leadership in Canada are much older than their U.S. counterparts. So while a part of me is lamenting my wife’s loss of opportunity to do the thing she loves, and the thing she’s most gifted to do, I’m watching the horizon for that young, unshaven guy with a guitar over his shoulder who is going to bounce this crowd off the stage and, with his peers, bounce this particular collection of elders out of the church boardroom.

I guess that sounds a bit mean spirited, but honestly, things can only get better. Things can only improve. Of course I’ve said that before…

Related post: April 4, 2008 – Growing Deep RootsSometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name… and they’re always glad you came.

Related post: May 1, 2008 – Choosing a Church – This post is where I came up with the phrase, “a place where you can be comfortable being broken.” and the footnote, “When you have true spiritual family in various places, they don’t mind it when you crash!”


March 27, 2017

Loss of Church Leadership Position is Like a Death

It’s now been seven years. Sometimes when you lose a relationship with a church it’s like a death in the family. My wife and I have been through this with respect to one particular church both individually and collectively, but because of our long history with the place, seven years ago she went back for another final run at it, which means that this death for us has been somewhat recurring, much like the plot of The Terminator.

Much of the bridge burning took place on Thursday, March 4th, 2010 at a meeting my wife was summoned to attend in response to a request to have her volunteer position reinstated. Nearly a full fortnight later, she finally committed her thoughts to writing on her blog. The day after she allowed me to run this at Thinking Out Loud, I came back the next day with what I felt was an objective discussion of some of the other larger issues her meeting raised. That will appear here tomorrow.


By Ruth Wilkinson

I’m reading a book right now called Introverts in The Church by Adam S. McHugh. McHugh is a pastor and a self identified introvert who has struggled with the American-extrovert personality of so much of the Church.

It’s a very cool read for someone like myself. We’ve grown up in the church being told, explicitly and implicitly, that to be introverted is at best a character flaw and at worst a sin.

It’s refreshing to read a book that takes us seriously, as a group of people whose brains are hardwired differently from those of the majority, with strengths and weaknesses, beauty and pitfalls.

Especially after the latest chapter in my adventures with the churchIusedtogoto.

I used to be a volunteer worship team leader there and got fired by a pastor with whom I’d had some philosophical differences. He and I are friends again, both of us now being ex- of the aforementioned church.

But at the time, and since, I’ve mourned the loss of that ministry. Leading worship in a congregation is something I love love love doing. I told someone lately that losing it was like losing a finger. Especially since it ended so abruptly with no chance to say goodbye.

So I took a risk recently. I got in touch with the people at the churchIusedtogoto who are in charge of these things and asked them whether I could come back one time. Just once, to have a chance to stand in that space once more, to lead worship with a bunch of people I care about, and to close the door for myself.

They said they wanted to have a meeting and “discuss this.” Which is never good.

But I said “OK,” and one evening the three of us sat down to “discuss this.”

I wasn’t optimistic. I’ve known enough people who’ve been alienated from churches to know that you just don’t try to go back. You just don’t. Because it hurts.

One time a few years ago, I got a call from a woman who’s the wife of a former pastor of another church in town. Their time there had ended very stressfully and he’d been fired. But she had founded the local chapter of a national prayer group and they were having their annual shindig. Guess where. She couldn’t bring herself to walk into that building alone after what they’d been through and just wanted somebody to go with her. I said sure. She met me in the parking lot and we went in together. Those kinds of forays are tremendously difficult for the wounded.

Lately I’ve heard a couple of preachers say that “You don’t have to forgive a church that hurt you. You have to forgive the particular individuals in the church who hurt you.”

They’re wrong. Completely wrong.

Anyway, my meeting at the churchIusedtogoto was cordial. The answer was no. Or rather, “Maybe someday.”

Maybe someday. These are obviously people who’ve never read Proverbs 13:12.

The condition they set on the “maybe” was this: That there are people at the churchIusedtogoto who don’t know who I am. People who would wonder, if they saw me at the piano, “Who is that?” And their policy is that “We don’t have guest worship leaders.”

That’s it. That’s the reason. Not that I’ve failed morally. Not that I’m a bad example. Not that I’m incompetent or dangerous. Not that I’m a communist, or a heretic, or I dress funny. Just that somebody might not know who I am.

And their solution to this “problem” was that I should attend the church regularly, spend time after the services talking to people, shaking hands, chatting, getting to know folks and to be known.

Then, once I’d built these “relationships”, then “maybe someday.”

As I said, I’m an introvert. I think about things. I use my brain to ask myself questions. People say things and I actually listen, and then give them thought.

I thought about this. And decided it was bumph.

After a few days, I wrote them back. In part:

I respect your answer, and won’t pursue the question anymore, in spite of the fact that I really don’t believe I was asking for much. Just one Sunday.

But your reason for saying no was so absurd. There are people there who don’t know me. You don’t have guest worship leaders.

All through school, children show up in the morning, occasionally to discover that they have a substitute teacher. People turn on the Tonight Show to find that the host is away and there is a guest host. The evening news anchor goes away for a few days and his seat is filled by a guest anchor. Just the other week, you had a guest speaker as churches do all the time.

And you’d ask me to believe that your congregation is so simple minded that they wouldn’t be able to cope with a guest worship leader. It’s almost funny, if it weren’t pathetic.

I don’t know what you think you’re protecting them from, but if you treat your congregation like simpletons, don’t expect them to challenge themselves.

Not my most diplomatic, but I figured, hell, the bridge is on fire. What have I got to lose?

(Yes, I know I said hell. See above.)

There might be a few things at play in their response.

First, this is a church that had a burst of progressiveness in the 80’s and then just stopped. Since then the leadership has become dominated by policy wonks who seem to be always looking for one more loose end to tie down.

Second, we ‘worship leaders’ have been done a grave disservice over the last couple of decades by being given an exaggerated sense of our own importance. We’re told that we’re ‘leading people into God’s presence’, that we’re ‘temple musicians’ and stuff like that. Rather than that we are just one part of the body of Christ, whose diverse giftings are all of equal value and sacredness.

Which is all another post for another blog.

But reading McHugh’s book has given me the language to better define the vehemence of part of my antipathy to their reasoning.

McHugh points out that, since we introverts usually struggle with social interaction, we find our ways into community by different paths than extroverts and normal people do.

He makes me smile when he describes the hellishness of “unstructured social events”, and writes of a man who leaves church a few minutes before the service ends to avoid “the agony of the fellowship hour”. I love that phrase. It warms the cockles of my contemplative heart.

Those of us who can’t function in the schmooze and chat world of North American evangelicalism connect with their churches through the roles they find to fill. Having a place to step into when you get there is a tremendously valuable thing. It’s a piece of ground from which to meet just one or two people at a time, to find like minded friends and to, yes, build real relationships, not ersatz hi-how-are-you-fine ones.

To insist that one of us has to run the gauntlet of coffee time in order to reach that place, is cruel and unusual punishment. Like telling you that you have to park your car a mile downhill from your house. If you want to go home at the end of the day, you have to sweat for it.

Screw that. Guess I’ll have to make do with one less finger.

Which might be just as well.


To this day, I still get comments from people as to how much they appreciated Ruth’s worship ministry in that church. I may be biased, but it was awesome. Vast song selection. Custom made video clips. Dramatic readings. Times of bold proclamation and times of deep introspection.

Some even go so far to ask if she might consider a reprise of that role. Without going into detail, I tell them to contact the church with that suggestion.

Since the article appeared, the wounds simply have not healed. At the center of this was one particular individual who is otherwise greatly admired and respected by the people of that church. In hindsight — and we’ll get to this tomorrow — what he did at that meeting at night constituted spiritual abuse, not to mention certain aspects where we now know he was lying through his teeth. He continues in a leadership role that leaves me totally mystified.

There was another change of pastoral leadership after this was written and on hearing the full story the new pastor basically said, “He would never do anything like that.” In addition to what we’ve already had to deal with, I’ve now had to suffer the loss of credibility for attempting to defend my wife’s version of the events. 

Finally… saving the best (or worst) for last… Not more than three weeks later they had a guest worship leader. A recording artist who was also doing a worship workshop with them that weekend.  

It had to have already been booked at the time she was told they don’t bring in guests.

March 26, 2017

Should Christians Have Sex on Sunday?

This graphic image goes in a different direction than today’s topic, but I couldn’t resist including it.

This topic occurred to me while listening to a talk radio show last week. They weren’t addressing this specifically, but I decided to see what the internet had to say…

First, although our title says “Sunday” I thought if anyone has an opinion on this, the Seventh Day Adventists may be more schooled than most in the area of “Sabbath” and found this article:

…There are two schools of thought:

1)   The Sabbath is a holy day of rest onto the Lord and one should not engaged in sex on the Sabbath: Those who hold to this view, argue primarily from Isaiah’s warned against finding one’s own pleasure on the Sabbath:
 “If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honorable; and shalt honor him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:”  Isa 58:13 They conclude that Sabbath is not the day for sex because sex is finding one’s own pleasure.

2)   Sabbath is a holy day and Marriage is a holy institution therefore sex can be done on the Sabbath: The supporters of this view contend that both the Sabbath and Marriage were instituted by God and as such sex is definately sacred, especially since God only sanctioned sex in the institution of marriage. They further argue that the Apostle Paul gave strong support for sex on the Sabbath when he said: “Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency” 1 Cor 7:5. The argument is that couples are not required to fast and pray every Sabbath. Some even go as far as to say that since Adam and Eve were married on the sixth day, God would not require them to wait that long before consummating their marriage.

Next stop — and the internet is filled with articles that can prove a distraction on this, so be discerning — was an article on whether or not it is appropriate to have sex during Lent. I figured that was timely so after a good explanation of what Lent is, there was a longer answer on whether a couple could have sex during days of fasting:

…I think we often fail to focus on the one time it is permissible to mutually decide not to have sex:  When you have decided to devote yourself to prayer and fasting, for a time, you MAY decide, mutually, to also refrain from sex.  To deprive each other, again, mutually.  This doesn’t mean you can say to your spouse “well, I’m praying and fasting, so no sex”.

So, if you cannot unilaterally decide that you cannot deprive your spouse of sex, but you may unilaterally decide that you, yourself, are going to pray and fast, then by simple logic, it must be that a couple can pray and fast, and still have sex.  So, should Christians have sex while fasting?  It’s up to you, together.  No one gets veto rights.  You have to both agree to not have sex, or else it’s back to business as God intended: frequent and awesome.

But, I want to bring up another point:  I think there is a reason why this is the only acceptable time to decide, together, not to have sex.  I’ve done some fasting in the past.  I once did a 16-day water fast (nothing but water).  The most startling thing I noticed:  I had absolutely no sex drive half way through it.  Seriously, it was gone.  I was shocked.  I’ve never not had a strong sex drive, for as long as I could remember.  In fact, I wrote about it in this post.  I think Paul must have known about this.  Why else say that every other time that you deprive each other, you are leaving them open to temptation, but during prayer AND fasting, it’s okay?  From my perspective, it’s obvious: you’re not as tempted when fasting because your body goes into survival mode.  It’s not interested in sex, it’s more interested in surviving until the next day.

So, in the end, I think you have to decide as a couple. If you are praying AND fasting, have the conversation about what to do with sex.

The article linked in the above excerpt is from Ministry Magazine and offers a lengthy, historical discussion on this topic:

There is no textual evidence to indicate that sex was forbidden on the Sabbath or the Day of Atonement. Rene Gehring argues that in the Hebrew Bible, sexual intercourse within marriage is not ritually defiling at all.

The next stop was a Jewish perspective, sourced at Yahoo Forums:

Under Jewish tradition, sex is advised on the sabbath.

In Jewish law, sex is not considered shameful, sinful or obscene. Sex is not thought of as a necessary evil for the sole purpose of procreation. Although sexual desire comes from the yetzer ra (the evil impulse), it is no more evil than hunger or thirst, which also come from the yetzer ra. Like hunger, thirst or other basic instincts, sexual desire must be controlled and channeled, satisfied at the proper time, place and manner. But when sexual desire is satisfied between a husband and wife at the proper time, out of mutual love and desire, sex is a mitzvah.

Probably the most interesting answer came from Nigeria. I’ll include the question from a pastor’s wife (implied) and the answer that was given:

[Q.] What is your take on a couple having sex before going to church. For instance, I discover my hubby doesn’t like having sex any time we have to go to church or the Saturday before Sunday because he feels it would reduce his anointing. I am not finding this funny at all and it is beginning to look as if I am sent to destroy his ministry by trying to have sex with him. Please what is your take on this matter sir?

[A.] Thanks for your question and the trust you have in us at TheCable to be able to do justice to this issue. I wouldn’t know the paradigm your man is operating with but I have met a number of people with the same beliefs. It is quite common among some religious leaders and it could have been part of the ministerial ethics that they were taught from the Bible school or it could have been borne out of personal revelation.

I tried to get a Catholic perspective, but the site containing the “Sex after Mass” article wasn’t loading, but apparently the sex before going to church is a theme in some marriages; though this question was a bit too graphic to quote here.

I would probably put the greatest weight on the first two responses, but unless I was completely out to lunch with search terms, I was surprised there weren’t one or two more articles on this subject. Feel free to mention something in the comments, I might amend the article later. (See also yesterday’s post here for something possibly somewhat related.)

So a general answer today would be, yes.  


Update: After posting this and re-reading the responses I collected, I was surprised that given the preponderance of Christian marriage resources, there was so little mainstream Evangelical answers on this question. Perhaps this just isn’t a concern, or perhaps I didn’t dig deep enough.

March 25, 2017

Are You Going to Church Tomorrow?

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:34 am

Back in the day, not going to church wasn’t an option. Unless you were ill, you went. End of discussion.

These days shift work and sports often keep adults and kids respectively away from weekend services. But surely such a lax attitude doesn’t exist in more conservative denominations, right?

Actually, I’ve been doing some research into a particular aspect of Amish life, which has meant reading a number of articles which deal with related topics. On one of the articles at Exploring Amish Country, I was a little surprised to read this:

In the Amish culture, the word “church” doesn’t refer to a building, but to the people in the congregation. Since in most sects there is no church building, services are held in individual homes on a rotating basis. This limits the size of the church district to the number of members that can fit in a home, usually thirty to forty households.

Your church services are held every other Sunday. The “off” Sundays are spent visiting or taking it easy. You look forward to these social times along with the occasional wedding, barn raising or other frolics.    (emphasis added)

So we have a trade-off here: A three hour service, but only bi-weekly. Would you choose that option?


Related articles:

 

March 24, 2017

Keeping Up the Infield Chatter

Filed under: Christianity, family, marriage — Tags: — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:06 am

Not growing up playing a lot of sandlot baseball, and not having friends like Charlie Brown and Lucy, I didn’t get to hear the phrase, “Keep up the infield chatter;” until I watched the Peanuts specials on TV. The phrase refers to encouragement yelled to a pitcher or batter on your own team such as,

  • “You can do it, ______”
  • “Knock it out of the park”
  • “Easy out! Easy out!”

And probably many similar things that I wouldn’t know about.

In marriage, we’re often told that communication is the number one factor determine the success or failure of the relationship. Having a wife who is very much a natural introvert, and is therefore very reticent or taciturn, I have over the many years we’ve been together often encouraged her to “Keep up the infield chatter;” but not in the baseball sense used above.

Rather, I think in marriage communication comes in two forms:

  1. Deeper, meaningful conversation
  2. Relaying everyday common information.

Here’s what I mean by the former:

  • hopes, dreams, aspirations
  • creating holiday plans
  • spiritual conversations; Bible topics
  • political, economic or environmental ideologies
  • things intimate (conversations that could never be shared outside the marriage)

You get the idea. In contrast we have the second type of communication:

  • who we’re ordering the pizza from
  • where we put the postage stamps
  • a rattle we’ve noticed in the minivan’s front end
  • the concert that’s been cancelled
  • noting that we’ve run out of milk

These are important, but they’re important in a different way. The dinner decision has to be made. The stamps have to be found to mail a payment. The van needs to be looked at. The concert things means we have an extra night free but we need to make sure we get a refund. And at some point really soon, someone’s going to want to glass of milk.

Failing to mention any of these is serious. It’s the everyday stuff of running a household and managing family life. True, it’s not fodder for high-level, philosophical, concept-based discussion. (Though it could be: “Why do we have a minivan?”) However, if you subtract it, the fallout from communication that didn’t happen is potentially more damaging than not sharing your dreams, ideal holiday, Bible doctrine perspective, etc.

At times like this I can’t help but be drawn back to the “little foxes that eat the vines.” That’s a Bible metaphor for the little things that can do serious damage.

Failing to communicate is one of those. The solution is keeping the lines of communication open; keeping up the infield chatter however you define it.

 

 

March 23, 2017

Attack in London: Longing for a Place of Safety

Filed under: Christianity, current events — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:00 am

Yesterday’s attack in London, England was a reminder that such things can happen anytime, any place, without warning. To avoid such an event, you would need to avoid all public places, which would mean pretty much locking yourself in your own house. Even there, nothing is guaranteed.

At dinner last night we spoke about travel. You could go to Europe and try to avoid the major cities, but those are the cities that have the airports, and could you really go to France and skip Paris? I suppose your plane could land there and then you could quickly aim for a smaller destination. But the last terrorist activity there happened in Nice, not Paris. Nowhere is there a guarantee of peace and quiet.

Could you go to England, but skip Tower Bridge, Big Ben and the Parliament Buildings? It would be difficult, especially if you’ve never been there before. My friend Lorne Anderson wrote on his blog this morning,

When the images flashed into the TV screen, minutes after it happened, my initial reaction was “I was just there a month ago!” I was in London on business and while there had a private tour of Parliament…

…As soon as I heard the news, I sent an email to the staffer who showed me around Westminster last month. No rely, but news reports said those in the building had been grouped into a central location while police secured the area. I presume he didn’t have access…

Lorne was just there. He has a personal contact there. It’s that close. One degree of separation.

England’s Prime Minister Theresa May assured her people that today (Thursday) would be ‘business as usual.’ We visited Washington, DC not once but twice after 9/11, walking around by the White House and Capitol Building and taking their underground transit system many times. The first time, I naively asked someone in charge of the Metro if we would be safe.

“Right now;” he said, “This is the safest place in the world.”

The idea behind that is that the days, weeks, months after a terrorist attack, everyone is on high alert.

Reports this morning say the attacker was born in England. The Guardian reported,

The attacker behind the terrorist rampage at the gates of the Houses of Parliament was a British-born man previously known to MI5 due to concerns over violent extremism, the prime minister has said.

Not a refugee, in case you’re wondering.

The article continues,

The police and security services monitor about 3,000 Britons, mainly Islamists, whom they regard as potentially capable of domestic terrorism. Of these, about 500 are the subject of active investigations and only a limited number become the targets of physical surveillance. The Guardian understands the attacker was not one of them. He was regarded as posing so little threat that he did not even make the list of 3,000.

Lorne, who works in Canada’s Parliament Buildings concludes:

We live in uncertain times. Those of us who work in government know about the risks involved in our work, but you cannot live in fear. You go about your day to day activities expecting them to be normal. When the exceptional does happen, you deal with it. Dull and boring is what you hope for – you don’t want to wind up on the TV news.

So where is it safe? The sacred texts of Christianity constantly remind us that our place of rest is found in God alone; in Christ alone. It’s not a specific physical location, but our security and hope are found in proximity to Him.

Otherwise, we’re never going to find it anywhere on this planet. Especially not now.

 

March 22, 2017

Wednesday Link List

The Original Wednesday List Lynx

Welcome to this week’s list and thanks to the usual suspects for your suggestions.

This week we caught up with David Hayward aka Naked Pastor… this really speaks for itself:

Finally, when it comes to Christian music tours, what’s in a name? Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction:

March 21, 2017

C. S. Lewis’s Greatest Hits

C. S. Lewis certainly belongs in any list of the Top 10 Christian writers of the 20th Century, but for many his thoughts are more easily digested in sound bites rather than the reading of complete works. I was a little surprised when, with 2017’s season of Lent well underway I was offered an opportunity to review Preparing For Easter: Fifty Devotional Readings from C. S. Lewis, but I wasn’t about to turn down a chance to reconsider Lewis’ brilliance in a different format.

Really, the seasonal title of the book is unfortunate, a better one might be C. S. Lewis’s Greatest Hits, though the book is not limited to his apologetics but introduction makes clear that, “being a leading Christian defender of the faith would not be the only reason to explain Lewis’s posthumous popularity… [He] was also a pioneering explainer of the Christian life itself… Lewis’s apologetics are so powerful precisely because many find his vision of the Christian life so compelling and inspiring. It is this later role of Lewis’s, as a visionary prophet for how to follow Christ today, that this collection is concerned with.”

It’s also helpful to take the more more familiar passages; the Lewis-isms which have become soundbites, such as,

  • Aim at Heaven you will get earth ‘thrown in’: am at earth and you will get neither
  • If I find in my self a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.
  • The dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship…There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.
  • I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

and read these, at least partially, in their fuller original context.

But there is also the more obscure, the sections in the various Letters… collections which I have never perused. I would have liked more of these, such as his take on pacifism — a view he describes as “recent and local” — as well as his picture of heaven:

The symbols under which heaven is presented to us are (a) a dinner party, (b) a wedding, (c) a city, and (d) a concert.

Equally helpful to me were the sections in books I had read previously but had somehow simply missed, which in these shorter, daily readings — most run four pages in a digest-sized volume — are brought into clearer focus, such as the excerpt I ran on Friday.

Not every word that Lewis wrote is gospel. Some of his ideas were his own opinions and perhaps a few were somewhat fanciful. But such is the nature of his writing. I don’t always get Song of Solomon, either, but it’s in the same volume that offers me the gospel of Luke or the epistle to the Romans.  Many passages are highly personal to Lewis, or perhaps the reader.

Some people feel guilty about their anxieties and regard them as a defect of faith. I don’t agree at all. They afflictions, not sins. Like all afflictions, they are, if we can so take them, our share in the Passion of Christ. (194)

Included with each of the 50 readings are references to selected scripture passages which enhance the devotional experience. The volume ends with a reading for Easter Sunday. Again, to repeat what I said earlier, this really ought to be a non-seasonal product. In the meantime however, it will well serve people charged with preparing material for the central season of the Christian year, or latecomers like myself who were able to binge-read it in several sittings.


HarperOne; 2017 hardcover; 214 pages; 17.99 US; 9780062641649. Material is suitable and helpful for all Christian traditions. Compiled by Zachry Kincaid. Thanks to Nadea Mina for a review copy.

More info at CSLewis.com

 

March 20, 2017

Over-Consumption of Internet Media

Whether it’s Facebook or internet pørn, it’s really easy to spend sections of your day staring at your device, be it phone, tablet, laptop or desktop. There are general principles from scripture I think we do well to remember; these can give us guidance regardless of which type of addiction you’re dealing with.

5 General Principles to Guide Potential Online Addiction

click image to orderSelf-Control

It’s one of the fruit of the Spirit so it deserved to be listed first. We each have this in varying degrees, though some have noticeably less than others, and all of us have times when we wish we’d exercised more. At the slightest impulse that you’ve spent to long on Facebook (or whatever) you need to close the browser and walk away from the screen. (Translations use either temperance or self-control when listing these fruit in Galatians 5, but the Wycliffe uses continence, the opposite of which is…well you know.) (See what I mean? Better self control would have left that alone!)

Mind, Thoughts and Heart

As we’ve written a number of posts here concerning out thought life, let’s just say that it is so important to guard our minds, guard our thoughts and thereby guard and protect our hearts. (See especially this post and the section dealing with our media diet.) We’re told in scripture to take captive the stray thoughts which can do damage. Previous generations contended with this in terms of television and theater. We have such a greater barrage of ideas and philosophies being thrown at us online.

The Stewardship of Our Time

In an increasingly hectic world, time is a precious commodity. We’re given 24 hours each day, no more, no less; and what we do with those is a large measure of our character. (For my article on “redeeming the time,” read this post at C201.) A good measure of this is to realize the things that you might have done, could have done, or should have done in the time you spent on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter… or worse.

Shifting Values

Without getting into specific social issues that face us currently, all of us have felt the pressure to capitulate to the larger culture, or even to the values shift happening in the capital-C Church. Isaiah 5:20 (NLT) reads, “What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter.” I can honestly say I have felt the pressure to change my mind on some issues because of internet exposure. On some of the issues, I think readers here would be comfortable, but on others I have realized the need for a reset and re-calibration. Be careful to know why if you sense your worldview shifting.

Misdirected Worship

This may seem a little strong for some readers here, but the things that occupy our time online are really the things we ascribe worth to, and that’s the heart of the word worship. I mentioned internet pørn at the outset, and it’s easy to think terms of people spending hours staring at photographic images, but even those cute cat videos could amount to a case as described in Romans 1:25 (NLT): “…So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself who is worthy of eternal praise!”


David Murray’s outline on media consumption from the book The Happy Christian.

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