Thinking Out Loud

October 20, 2017

Jesus Wants to Talk to You, But He Realizes You’re Busy

Jesus Calling quote

With Halloween fast approaching, a look at the book with the bright orange cover…

I realized today that despite all that’s been written about the format and content* of the popular devotional book Jesus Calling, my chief complaint is that the writings are simply far too short. Heck, I’ve posted things on Twitter that are lengthier than what passes for a daily devotional. If this is devotion, if I were God, I’d be looking for a greater degree of loyalty.

It’s as if Jesus is calling, but he’s in Europe, and it’s a toll call, and he’s run out of Euro coins and can only speak for a minute. Or perhaps he knows that you have a full schedule and he doesn’t want to take too much of your time.

Full disclosure: Sometimes my devotional kick-start is equally short. If I’m running really late, I might just have time to read the key verse at DailyEncouragement.net and the one I get weekdays by email from GreatBigLife.co.uk. But on those very days, I’m heading into an environment that in many ways resembles an eight-hour-long small group meeting. I often wonder how many scripture verses are quoted or alluded to by me or the people I interact with. (I need an intern to follow me and count them, like the student who followed Kramer on that Seinfeld episode.)

But if Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling were my only source of spiritual feeding for an entire day, I think I would be shortchanged.

That’s the part the scares me. That people are buying and using and gifting this book and it becomes a surrogate for real quality time with God.

So again, this is aside from all other doctrinal considerations about this title that have been analyzed to death elsewhere; I just think the book is baby food. Perhaps as Hebrews 5:12 and I Cor 3:2 remind us, maybe much of the Church in North America, Australia and Western Europe just isn’t ready for solid food.

Jesus Calling Collection


*I realize some of you haven’t been in touch with where the doctrinal issues in this book arise. Much of the discussion online has to do with the fact that this book is part of a very small subset of devotional literature where the words on the page appear as a direct message to the reader from God. In other words, the (human) author purports to be writing this as God, speaking in the first person; “I” instead of “He.” Consider Francis Roberts’ Come Away My Beloved, Larry Crabb’s 66 Love Letters, Sheri Rose Shepherd’s His Princess series, Paul Pastor’s The Listening Day and Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling and Jesus Always as examples of this; you’ll also find this type of writing on some blogs.

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October 19, 2017

Hospitality

Most Christians would affirm the Bible teaches that we should “practice hospitality.” A look at various translations of 1 Peter 4:9 shows that only the NLT suggests that this be directed at “those who need a meal or a place to stay;” though it’s unclear why this one version adds those extra words.

However, the NLT rendering raises an interesting consideration; namely the relative socioeconomic status of hosts and guests in each situation.

Peer Hospitality

This is probably what we do most often. Our guests are often people just like us. We invite them, and a few weeks later we’re invited to their place. Perhaps we’re frequent guests in each others’ homes. Maybe their names is Jones and they are the ones others are trying to keep up with. Or maybe you are the Jones family and you want to show off the widescreen TV you just obtained.

But relatively speaking, it’s an even playing field.

Charitable Hospitality

This is what the NLT was getting at, I guess. Where that single mom and her kids could use a break from leftovers. Where you feel like taking a risk and crossing a line and inviting the guy from the soup kitchen over for Thanksgiving.

Jesus has this in mind when he says, “…When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”  (Luke 14: 12-14 NIV)

He’s contrasting the first type of hospitality with the second.

A Third Case

But what if the above situation is reversed? This is a situation that struck me a couple of days ago, and was the reason for writing this.

Several years ago I heard a story about a very wealthy Christian man who along with his wife was invited to the home of the part-time Assistant Pastor and his family. The house was very sparse and not well-heated. There was water on the table, and the meal was somewhat basic.

Was there some other motivation? The wealthy man’s wife told me that she really didn’t know what to make of the invitation; the experience was simply unusual for them. (Yes, I’ll bet it was!)

I know there were times in our life when money was tight but we still tried to entertain. (Now our biggest problem is that the house is a mess!) However, it would have been unusual — that word again — for us to invite a couple from a much higher economic station, although in the very early years of our marriage, I can think of two times we did this more out of naïveté than anything else.

It is very much the opposite of the case Jesus described above, to know that money is tight and bills are due next week and yet someone of means is sitting at your table enjoying a roast beef dinner that represents a great sacrifice on your part.

Truly this is the hardest form of hospitality…

…And yet, this is what people do. Not here. Not in Western Europe or Australia or North America. But in third world countries. When guests comes to a village, a Christian family will invite them into their home (or hut or tent) and share their very last bit of food with them; and they will consider themselves honored to be able to do this.

They would agree with the verse in 1 Peter; we do need to “practice hospitality.”

Yet they are probably reading it completely differently than we do.

 

 

October 18, 2017

Wednesday Link List

Pictured is the Himmerod Abbey in Rhineland, Germany which is set to close after a millennium, a necessity given that the huge facility currently houses only six resident monks. The closure is seen as symptomatic of the decline of religion in Europe. Click image to link to full story.

Not a major news week, but that left us room to probe deeper online for some unique material for your perusal.

Christian Book Distributors is a lean, mean, book-shipping machine, but when things go wrong in their search engine, they go really wrong. Entering their Audio Book listings you’re told there are nearly a quarter of a million, but when you refine by media type, you’re told there’s only 120 CDs.

October 17, 2017

Charts: All-Time Christian Bestsellers

Current lists like this one from August 2017 posted by the Christian Bookseller’s Association are simply a snapshot in a much longer timeline.

I grew up in a world of charts. Music charts at first, but later book and movie charts also. As as subset of the larger entertainment industry, the Christian products industry tracks its bestselling books and music using a ranking system, and Christian authors have been known to bend the rules of ethics to secure a spot on one of the New York Times bestseller lists.

Christian publishing once had more trade magazines than it does at present, and one feature I remember — it might have been the large-format version of Christian Retailing or perhaps it was Christian Bookseller — was a column which would announce each time another Christian title was going “back to press” for a run of another 10,000 or 20,000 or whatever was needed.  A few times they ran lists of the all-time bestsellers.

I was trying to find such a list, but didn’t see anything that had the details or the methodology of what I remember reading. However at the blog of the Steve Laube agency — must reading for every current and prospective author — I discovered a list posted in June, 2016 by Dan Balow.

You need the click the title below for the full introduction and complete list, but for your information, after taking into account The Bible, here’s how some perennial favorites rank.

The Best Selling Christian Books of all Time

  • The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis (1418) – Sales Unknown, but widely regarded as the best-selling Christian title after the Bible.
  • Book of Common Prayer (various editions starting in mid 16th Century) – 300 million (estimated)
  • Pilgrims Progress by John Bunyan (1678) – 250 million
  • Foxe’s Book of Martyrs by John Foxe (1563) – 150 million
  • Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien (1954) – 150 million
  • The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien (1937) – 142 million
  • The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (1950) – 85 million
  • Steps to Christ by Ellen White (1892) – 60 million (estimated)
  • Ben Hur by Lew Wallace (1880) – 50 million
  • The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey (1970) – 35 million
  • In His Steps by Charles Sheldon (1896) – 30 million
  • The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren (2002) – 30 million
  • The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale (1952) – 20 million
  • The Shack by William Paul Young (2007) – 20 million
  • The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri (1320) – 12 million (in last 150+ years)
  • The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman (1995) – 10 million+
  • Jesus Calling by Sarah Young (2004) – 10 million+
  • Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo (2010) – 10 million+
  • More Than A Carpenter by Josh McDowell (1977) – 10 million+
  • The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson (2000) – 10 million+

In this series:

Charts: The Ten Largest Churches in America.

October 16, 2017

Skye Jethani’s State of the Modern Church Address

Those of have heard Skye Jethani speak, be it a sermon, conference message, or podcast conversation, know him to both extremely forthright and wonderfully articulate on matters related to church and culture. He brings this gift to a new book, Immeasurable: Reflections on the Soul of Ministry in the Age of Church, Inc. released last week by Moody Press.

The book is a series of 24 short essays on various aspects of church and ministry leadership; interconnected, but presented such they can be studied in any order. While I have heard him touch on many of these before, as assembled here, much of this material was new to me.

Skye Jethani’s forté is analysis, and a major part of his analytical toolkit is a knowledge of the broader sweep of modern church history, some of this no doubt afforded by his years serving in various departments of Christianity Today, Inc. and as a local church pastor. While much ink has been spilled over the last 20 years lamenting the state of the modern church in North America, Australia/New Zealand and Western Europe, the words here are more prescriptive; a look at where the church may have lost its way presented alongside healthy doses of routes we might take to get back on track. Each essay ends with two or three “next step” questions or applications.

Some standout chapters for me — many of which were brought to life through some clever analogies — included:

1. Ambition (and motivation; always a good place to start)
3. Wastefulness (versus efficiency which can enslave us)
6. Dramas (there are three playing out in church leadership)
8. Simplicity (versus the complexity we see everywhere else, discussed in chapter 9)
9. Complexity (the longest chapter in the book; Jethani at his best)
10. Redundancy (an interesting approach to the matter of pastoral succession)
12. Illumination (another longer chapter; on sermon expectation and who might preach)
15. Platform (this chapter is gold; a look at how we confer authority in the local church)
16. Celebrity (analysis of the rise of the “Evangelical Industrial Complex”)
18. Consumers (again, I preferred the longer chapters; this one is about church choices; some of the other chapters not listed I would like to have seen fleshed out in greater detail.)

And then there was chapter 24, an even more autobiographical essay which strikes at the heart of ministry from the author’s early experiences as a hospital chaplain. A fitting ending in so many respects.

On a personal level, if I’ve learned nothing else in the last 20 years, I’ve learned that while ecclesiology is by definition the domain of pastors, books about ecclesiology are widely read by a variety of lay-people who who feel a sense of ownership in the local churches in their community. With so much reconstruction taking place in the look, feel and purpose of weekend gatherings; many want to champion these changes while others are fearful of going too far and thereby losing the plot. So while the book is being marketed more as an academic title for Bible college or classroom discussion, I think the finished product is something I would encourage many of my friends to read.

 


Read a short sample from Immeasurable at this link

Related: Skye Jethani on news and media

Related: A review of the 2012 title, With.


Photo: Skye Jethani on the weekly Phil Vischer podcast.


Thanks to Martin Smith at Parasource Distribution & Marketing for a review copy of Immeasurable.

October 15, 2017

Bill Hybels Announces Willow Creek Succession Plans

The team, both current and future (left to right) Steve Carter, Heather Larson, Bill Hybels.

At the first of three weekend services on October 14/15, which was also the celebration of the church’s 42nd anniversary, Willow Creek Community Church senior pastor Bill Hybels announced that one year from now, in October of 2018, the job he has held as Senior Pastor of the iconic church will be divided among two different people.

In a process that began 6½ years ago, Hybels and a team of leaders considered the possibility that his replacement might represent someone from an entirely different nation, given the church’s role in the annual Global Leadership Summit and the contacts it has produced, or possibly an international contact through the Willow Creek Association. He stated the search was essentially world-wide.

In the end however, the baton is being passed not to one, but two different people already serving the church in high profile capacities. An official announcement released on the church website confirms:

Executive Pastor Heather Larson, 42, will step into the role of Lead Pastor over all Willow Creek locations, and current Teaching Pastor Steve Carter, 38, will become Lead Teaching Pastor. Senior Pastor Bill Hybels, who founded the church in 1975, will continue coaching and developing these leaders until he transitions off the church staff in October 2018, at which point he’ll assume the title Founding Pastor.

Larson has been with the church for 19 years in various capacities, launching many new initiatives, and also worked for the American Red Cross. Carter arrived at Willow relatively recently and has held pastoral positions at Mars Hill (Grand Rapids, MI) and Rock Harbor (Fullerton, CA)  and is the author of This Invitation Life (David C. Cook, 2016).  However, before joining Willow five years ago, he had a 15-year mentoring relationship with Hybels.

Hybels detailed that after meeting with a consultant somewhat unfamiliar with the church, the question was asked, “What does Bill do?” After enumerating the work hours and the projects which currently fall under the Senior Pastor’s jurisdiction with the church Elders, the follow-up question was, “Why would we wish this on anyone?” So the decision was made to create two top-level positions.

The announcement continued:

The transition to new leadership will take place gradually over the next year, and Bill will transition off paid staff at Willow Creek Community Church in October 2018. During this transition, Heather and Steve will take steps of increased responsibility within their new job descriptions.

The complete 42nd Anniversary service is available on demand at WillowCreek.tv where the announcement was made in lieu of a sermon.

For many years, Willow was the largest church in the United States and still ranks in the top five. Today, the church meets in six different locations and also has a Spanish congregation, Casa de Luz. The church’s early years, meeting in a theater in Chicago’s northwest suburbs, was a key element to the recent movie The Case for Christ. Past teaching pastors at the church include the movie’s main subject, Lee Strobel as well as John Ortberg and Gene Appel. The church hosts the Global Leadership Summit which is carried by satellite around the world. Bill Hybels’ wife Lynne is a strong social activist and daughter Shauna Niequist is a noted Christian author.

Newly announced leadership team at Willow Creek and their spouses: Heather Larson (2nd from Left) and Steve Carter (right)

 

October 14, 2017

Walking on Eggshells

Filed under: Christianity, guest writer — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:59 am

Guest Essay by Ruth Wilkinson

I have to be very careful, sometimes. Careful who I talk about and how. What’s too private to discuss and what’s OK to share. I use initials that are randomly selected, or mean something to just me. Sometimes I forbear from using he or she, or take creative license, genderwise.

And not only when it’s about something negative. Respecting peoples’ privacy is important, not only because I don’t want to get yelled at or sued or ostracized, but because they’re people, after all, and I like them and care about them.

So this post is something I’ve given some thought to, and even as I’m writing it I’m not sure I’ll put it out there. If you’re reading it, obviously I decided to go for it. Otherwise, it’ll go into the “trying to figure out the world” file.

Our group hosted a ‘meet and greet’ in town for people interested in social and justice issues. We invited a great whack of folks who work for agencies, both government and independent, to come and tell us what they do and why.

Quite a few came, and we had about two hours of information, asking each other questions, explaining our areas of passion and concern and getting to know each other. Very cool.

A few days before the meeting, everybody on the team that planned it got an e-mail (we’re great believers in the Reply-All) from one of the newest members of the team. We’re just getting to know this couple and coming to appreciate their giftings and passions, and to find out how much they have to contribute.

So this e-mail from LA suggested that we should all pray and fast, if possible, on the day before, so we’d be open to whatever God had for us at the meeting. The idea was that maybe God wanted all of these community leaders and servants to get together in one room.

Very cool suggestion, of course. I felt a little badly that I hadn’t come up with it. I thought, after reading the e-mail, that I should have, though my job description as Figurehead is a little vague.

The response to the e-mail was universally positive and some of us said, “Count me in.”

After the meet and greet was over and a few of us were congratulating each other on how well it had gone, one person mentioned the e-mail and said wasn’t that great? How come none of the rest of us thought of it? We’d been planning the meeting for a couple of months and none of the old guard had said, hey, let’s pray.

And I’m like, yeah, really.

The other person said, “I read it and I’m all, yeah, absolutely, completely agree, but I didn’t have a folder to put it in, ya know?”

And I’m like, yeah, totally.

Not because we’d never fasted and prayed before. Not because nobody had suggested anything before.

Because the person who made the suggestion, who had exercised such spiritual vision, showed such leadership, who had reminded us all to pray and depend on God’s leading, is gay.

And for many of us out here, who have been told certain things and taught to see the world through certain lenses, receiving spiritual leadership from someone who is gay is a new thing. We don’t have a folder to put it in.

When I first met this couple, we got together for coffee to talk about what we do and how they might participate.

Around the same time, I ran into someone from a local church who’s been very encouraging and supportive of what we do and I mentioned our new team members.

That person’s response was, “I don’t have a problem with that, as long as they’re not in positions of leadership.”

I responded that we don’t really have that kind of a structure. That we don’t have an authority based org chart.

And, on the ground, we don’t. It’s very hippie-organic. We get together every couple of weeks and talk about what’s happened and what might happen and how we should respond to or proceed with ideas or suggestions or dreams. We function by consensus and it works quite well, since we’re all like-minded. Conflicts are over minor issues or semantics and either resolved quickly, or agreed upon with disagreement.

Everybody has equal opportunity to exercise their gifts, spiritual or practical (except nobody ever asks me to sing. Sigh.) and everybody has the chance to learn from each other and to teach each other out of invaluable experience where to step boldly and where the quicksand is.

For those of us who’ve grown up in and, for some, grown out of, trad evangelical church structures, the way we do things is wonderfully freeing and we don’t begin to understand why everybody doesn’t do it this way.

But it means figuring things out on the way. Like what do you do with the things that don’t fit into folders. Things you don’t have any previous definitions for. Like “gay Christian”.

Problem with chucking the folders is that you have no place to stick the labels anymore. They don’t stick to people. Because they’re, well, people.

They have hearts and hopes and they love and they belong or they don’t. Which mostly depends on how other people decide to react to them.

And all of a sudden, all of the theology and interpretation and shoulds and shouldn’ts aren’t so important and all that matters is “Love one another as I have loved you.”

Because all of a sudden, you’re wondering what it’s like to be a gay Christian, on the fringes of the church, and maybe, on the fringes of the gay community and you start to feel deeply glad to be on the fringes of the church, yourself.

Because otherwise, you might not have had the chance to get to know two very cool and lovable people.

And otherwise, who would have reminded us to pray?


©Ruth Wilkinson

October 13, 2017

Pigs in the Parlor

Filed under: books, Christianity, ministry — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:59 am

It’s no secret to people who work in Christian publishing that over the past 40+ years, the number one bestselling Charismatic book title has been Pigs in the Parlor by Frank & Ida Mae Hammond. Published in 1973 by Impact Books, the book may be a few million short of making this list but is well-known among Pentecostals and Charismatics, but little known outside that circle.

With the full title, Pigs in the Parlor: A Practical Guide to Deliverance, there are in fact only two small piglets on the cover, though the title always catches peoples’ attention. Through a series of circumstances, I attended a ‘deliverance’ church for two years in my early 20s and though I then moved on, I don’t in any way minimize that there are times when this type of ministry — along with seasoned practitioners of it — is what is called for.

The Hammonds credit Derek Prince for his influence on this subject. The first chapter opens with two sentences that some would challenge theologically: “Demon spirits and invade and indwell human bodies. It is their objective to do so.” The title premise is explained,

Twenty-five times in the New Testament demons are called “unclean spirits.” The word “unclean is the same word used to designate certain creatures which the Israelites were not to eat. (Acts 10: 11-14) The pig was one of these…

In the 22 successive chapters, various aspects of deliverance are explained. The publisher website highlights some of these:

Frank Hammond presents information on such topics as:
• How demons enter
• When deliverance is needed
• Seven steps in receiving & ministering deliverance
• Seven steps in maintaining deliverance
• Self deliverance
• Demon manifestations
• Binding and loosing
• Practical advice for the deliverance minister
• Answers to commonly asked questions, and more.

The Hammonds also present a categorized list of 53 Demonic Groupings, including various behavior patterns and addictions.

Testimonies of deliverance are presented throughout the book including Pride, Witchcraft, Nervousness, Stubborness, Defiance, Mental Illness and more.

Although I’d seen the book, I’d never taken the time to look closely at a copy until this summer. I didn’t read it all but did check out a few chapters in depth:

6. Seven Ways to Determine the Need for Deliverance
11. Deliverance: Individual and Group; Public and Private
12. Self Deliverance
14. Ministry to Children
15. Binding and Loosing
16. Pros and Cons of Various Techniques and Methods

Most readers here would quickly affirm that this simply isn’t their type of book, but I would challenge dismissing this genre too soon. I think it’s something most non-Charismatic and non-Pentecostal Christians need to at least be aware of; something more of us should have some basic familiarity with.

On a more personal level, it was interesting a few years ago while working at a summer camp how the leadership, when faced with a situation of demonic possession, wasted no time in contacting a Pentecostal pastor who was known for this type of ministry. While it’s entirely possible that in the days leading up to the event some might have stated they don’t believe in the danger of the demonic realm, it was a whole different story when they were confronted with it directly. 

It’s also interesting to note here that manifestations of demonic activity are somewhat foreign to the experience of Christians in North America, but such is not the case in other parts of the world.

Here’s how The Voice Bible colorfully renders Ephesians 6:12

We’re not waging war against enemies of flesh and blood alone. No, this fight is against tyrants, against authorities, against supernatural powers and demon princes that slither in the darkness of this world, and against wicked spiritual armies that lurk about in heavenly places.

Pigs in the Parlor is a book with a funny title, but spiritual warfare is no laughing matter.

October 12, 2017

Blogroll Update #8

This is actually one of the best supplements I’ve ever done simply because it contains updated links to some longtime favorites of mine, some great writers that we use at Christianity 201, and some things I discovered simply had never appeared here before.  This time around I’ve listed previous blogrolls at the bottom! There’s probably well over a thousand in there, maybe more.

Blogs
Biblical Proof | Speaking where the bible speaks, and silent where the bible is silent.
5 Minutes in Church History – A Weekly Christian Podcast with Stephen Nichols
Ramblings on the Way
Better Bible Teachers – Elementary Sunday School Lessons for Teachers
Blog — 100 Movements
Home – A Clear Lens – Theology, Worldview, Apologetics
Apologetics Archives – A Clear Lens
Craig Greenfield
More Than Cake
Home – Communicate Jesus
The Things Unseen
Christian Food Movement – discipleship + sustainability + health + justice
The Reagan Review | Ministry, Books & Reviews by Pastor Jimmy R. Reagan
Rob Jacobs – “CROSS”-Pollination
The Missing Peace – … what we’re all looking for
WARNING! Sleep Talking Zone
National Association of Evangelicals | Influence For Good
Blog | Hot, Holy & Humorous | Sex & Marriage, by God’s Design
Sierra White
Church and Culture
Lady Shepherd – the story of my life
Trey and Lea Morgan | Stronger Marriage Workshops
Jamie the Very Worst Missionary
Blog posts – Passionately His
the gospel side | A bridge builder masquerades as a provocateur.
Mockingbird
Mike Frost
Light in the Darkness
KindlingWord | Thoughts to ignite the heart
The Stream
Blog – Jayson D. Bradley
catholichipster | Weblog
THE RIVER WALK | Daily Thoughts and Meditations
WestWord | Reflections from a Christian Perspective.
as i learn to walk
Blog Archives – DashHouse

The link to part one. (October, 2014…six years worth of links to that point)

The link to part two. (St. Patrick’s Day, 2015)

The link to part three. (May, 2015, also included my news sources to that point)

The link to part four. (August, 2015, included blog aggregators and people who do things similar to the Wednesday Link List)

The link to part five. (August, 2016, a full year later)

The link to a mini update. (Just five weeks after part five the file was getting full again)

The link to part six. (January 2017)

The link to part seven (June 2017)

October 11, 2017

Wednesday Link List

It’s not a spoof movie poster, it’s a book, a real one, releasing in January from Harvest House Publishers.

Well, you knew this was just a matter of time, right? Christian Fidget Spinners — or as they prefer, Faith Spinners — from Swanson.

Because nothing better introduces the kids to the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation better than a 3-inch plastic mini Martin.

The original introduction here was an apology for a shorter list this week, but that soon changed. Remember, every time you click a link an angel gets its wings. For an even better deal on today’s links, use Promo Code WLL#379.

  • If the Resurrection were a lie, how long would it take for the disciples to crack? Watergate conspirator Chuck Colson knows better than most: “Do you know how long it took for each of us to break? Under threat of prison, we started pointing fingers at each other in less than a week. Are you going to try to convince me that a bunch of untrained fishermen maintained their story, unbroken, to the end, as each was tortured and executed? Not a chance.” J.D. Greear quotes Colson writing about how Christianity got started.
  • Essay of the Week: Artificial Intelligence (AI) “machines could become objects of worship in and of themselves… The machines could…develop their own sects or entirely new religions… [S]ome branches of Christianity will try to convert machines with strong artificial intelligence to follow their God. ” 
  • Provocative Headline of the Week: Survey Finds Most American Christians Are Actually Heretics. It begins: “Evangelical writer Eric Metaxas remarked on BreakPoint last week that if Americans took a theology exam, their only hope of passing would be if God graded on a curve. He’s right. In knowing both the content of the Bible and the doctrinal foundations of Christianity, we Americans aren’t just at the bottom of our class. We are…a nation of heretics.”
  • Happy Ending: After 92 days in captivity in Egypt, a 16-year old Christian girl is released back to her family. A former kidnapper says she is just one of many
  • Churches in Santa Rose, California are stepping up to help victims of a tragic fire that has destroyed 1,500 structures and left an entire community homeless.
  • Breaking Religious News: CBS tracks down the guy who designed the Papyrus font.
  • Joining the list of one-man Bible translation project writers is David Bentley Hart. Scot McKnight writes “Hart has a desire to make the reader as uncomfortable as he can and that is because he thinks the NT itself — those early Christians and their view of wealth — were extremists, which aligns rather well with Hart’s extremist approach to translation. On this Hart is himself just lopsided, delightfully so at times, but lopsided nonetheless.” Read all about The New Testament: A Translation.
  • Driscoll and Plagiarism: Maybe he just can’t not do it
  • Wider World: In a country [Kenya] where 83 percent is Christian with Evangelicals in a majority, this coming re-election matters.
  • ♫ Possibly the best thing you’ll hear and this week: Some of Christian music’s best get together to honor a song; The Joy of Jesus featuring the late Rich Mullins
  • ♫ …The female vocalist on the above song has just released one of her own. Ellie Holcomb sings He Will.
  • ♫ The worship team at Willow Creek South Barrington has released a collection of new songs. This one will make you smile, especially if you grew up singing “I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy” in Sunday School. This one is a little different. (Song begins after introduction, link contains full worship set.)
  • Princeton’s Evangelical Christian student fellowship is dropping the word Evangelical from its name. Are other organizations likely to follow?
  • Devotional Moment: Popular women’s author Karen Ehman wrote this as “Go Find Your Old Self” but in a way it’s just a fresh take on “Return to your first love.”
  • Pastor Place: Sermon sharpening and sermon shortening. (But not the type of shortening you add to Christmas baking.)
  • Someone else is working on a Bible edition without verse numbers, starting with the gospels. 
  • Best Headline: How Did Luther Become a Lutheran? “In the months after posting his Theses, he was lecturing on the Letter to the Hebrews. He came to see the nature and significance of Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice on the cross.”
  • “He causes his sun to rise…and sends rain.”
    “Look at the birds of the air.”
    “See how the flowers of the field grow.”
    “Every good tree bears good fruit.”
    The words of Jesus frequently contained allusions to nature.
  • Technology Time: “We may be the last generation that can remember life before;” says the engineer who developed the ‘Like’ button.
  • Resource Room: A interview with the creators of various resources available free at Harmony.Bible
  • Worship Workshop: Sure, it’s advertising, but the ten reasons for switching to Church Presentation Software are compelling.
  • Missions Moment: We’ve linked before to articles like this about “Third Culture Kids” (formerly Missionary Kids) but it’s something on which we need to be reminded. “When you first meet Third Culture Kids, be aware that answering ‘Where are you from?’ can be difficult because ‘home’ is a relative word for us.” 
  • Another One: This time it’s the pastor of a satellite church who also happens to be the son of the pastor of a prominent Alabama megachurch, though the nature of the transgression is unknown.
  • Canada Corner: Answers in Genesis is setting up shop in Canada; not just a Canadian web-store, but they’re presumably incorporating a Canadian charity here and have hired a General Manager.
  • Catholic Corner: On Saturday (14th) “In 21,570 public places from coast to coast, lay Catholics associated with America Needs Fatima will hold Public Square Rosary Rallies.” 
  • ♫ New Music: Deliverer by Audrey Assad, as she gets ready to release her first original album in 4 years.
  • Thoughts and Prayers, the video game: “Visitors to the game’s microsite are greeted with what appears to be 1980s-style arcade game, which begins with the somewhat sarcastic message: ‘America faces an epidemic of mass shootings. It’s up to you to stop them… with the power of your thoughts and prayers.'”  An article at Christian Today goes on to say, “The point of Thoughts & Prayers is that this is a game that nobody wins – not even the satirists.”
  • Bono Boo-Boo? “Under Canon Law, non-Catholics are forbidden from receiving communion except in exceptional circumstances as the ritual is considered a sacred statement of faith. U2’s frontman caught by the camera in Bogata, Columbia.
  • Bee of the Week: Many a truth is spoken in jest. How many churches do you drive by each weekend to get to yours?

After 24 hours in Cornwall, Ontario we realized upon leaving that we could have chosen to stay at the Elect Inn. Total depravity on our part, I guess.

 

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