Thinking Out Loud

January 16, 2019

Wednesday Connect

We’re back with another list of news and opinion pieces and music. Thanks to those of you who send links. We try to use relatively recent items, but sometimes an online article will rejuvenate an older article or video. [Picture, above: See third item below.]

♦ Our lead item this week: Joyce Meyer saying her views on faith and prosperity were out of line? Relevant Magazine: “Joyce Meyer has posted a surprising video on Instagram where she seems to walk back some prosperity gospel and ‘word of faith’ theology.” But then…

♦ …In verifying the story at Relevant Magazine we found this little story with this headline from last March: “Watch Joyce Meyer Make a Strong Biblical Case for Getting Tattoos.” There was no actual video to watch, and this is the article in full: “Well, this is probably not the headline you were expecting to see today. Popular preacher and author Joyce Meyer recently preached a message in which she made the biblical case for getting tattoos, and explained why Christians who use the Bible to argue against them are taking the Scripture out of context. She also said that she is actually thinking about getting a tattoo of her own.”

♦ Equally Ridiculous: ‘If you have a brain, you must choose Calvinism.’ “I viewed this discussion with frustration at the willingness of these men to insult and denigrate the intelligent and theologically minded Christians throughout time who have not found a home in Calvinism.” (To which I add, frustration at how the views of others have been caricatured and misunderstood.) If you are theologically minded and also have low blood pressure, this will raise it. 12½ Minutes of Gospel Coalition preaching to the choir.  (Sample quotation: “It’s hard to imagine young Evangelicals being animated humanly speaking by anyone more than someone like John Piper.”)

🇨🇳 Persecution Watch — China: The [Early Rain Covenant] Church in south-west China has been shuttered and [pastor ]Wang and his wife, Jiang Rong, remain in detention after police arrested more than 100 Early Rain church members in December. Many of those who haven’t been detained are in hiding. Others have been sent away from Chengdu and barred from returning. Some, including Wang’s mother and his young son, are under close surveillance. Wang and his wife are being charged for “inciting subversion”, a crime that carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison…Early Rain is the latest victim of what Chinese Christians and rights activists say is the worst crackdown on religion since the country’s Cultural Revolution, when Mao Zedong’s government vowed to eradicate religion.

📖 This ain’t the theology textbook you’re accustomed to, but it would help you understand many a discussion you’ve possibly overheard. Scot McKnight’s preview of Contemporary Theology: An Introduction – Classical, Evangelical, Philosophical and Global Perspectives (Zondervan) by Kirk R. MacGregor is 50% comprised of the chapter titles, but what a list it is! Included are “a collection of names, movements, and methods that pervade theological and biblical discussions.”

✟ …Also recommended by Scot McKnight, this article: Has someone ever told you they are a theologian? What do they actually do after they arrive at the office and punch the clock? “…By implication then, all those who grapple with the question of God are, in one way or another, theologians. They might be very poor theologians, amateur theologians, professional theologians, perhaps even theologians whose work is widely recognized in the life of the church – but theologians they are…”

♀ On Sunday, Dana Trent invited people to post pictures of women in the pulpit. “Our daughters, nieces, sisters, and neighbors need to see themselves represented in worship spaces. This is what a preacher looks like.” Check out the pictures in the thread.

♦ With the passing of former SBC President Bailey Smith, the words which became a legacy: “It’s interesting to me at great political battles how you have a Protestant to pray and a Catholic to pray and then you have a Jew to pray. With all due respect to those dear people, my friend, God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew. For how in the world can God hear the prayer of a man who says that Jesus Christ is not the true Messiah? It is blasphemy. It may be politically expedient, but no one can pray unless he prays through the name of Jesus Christ.”

📣 “The sermon is generally the most important element of most Protestant church services (most take between 25 and 45 minutes), but there are serious doubts about its effectiveness and Biblical basis.” Check out this very lengthy, very thorough look into how we learn, suggesting that it’s time to reconsider the sermon.

♦ “Science is rational, faith is irrational.” Ever have someone say that to you? “To me, the only answer is to yield the point, but to dispute the assumption. Your friend is attacking you because they are assuming that the word ‘irrational’ implies ‘bad’ — that anything that cannot be rationally explained is, in itself, bad. Yet this is in itself a case of generalizing too far, and our hypothetical challenger would have to agree that there are many non-rational things in the world which are fairly uncontroversially natural and good…”

📖 Releasing February 1st from Eerdman’s: Mere Calvinism. “Learn why the teachings of Calvinism not only matter, but can renew your trust and hope in the gospel!” (Because goodness knows, without it, the gospel is pretty hopeless.)

♦ Apologetics Alley: At the YouTube channel Pints with Jack — obviously set in a bar with equal parts beer and C. S. Lewis — a 5½ min. discussion about the question, “What is the point of Christianity?

✈ Yesterday marked ten years since “the miracle on the Hudson,” where US Airways pilot Chesley Sullenberger pulled off the feat of a lifetime. The spiritual lesson in this is that while we sometimes only have precious seconds to make a decision, we can draw on a lifetime of training and experience.

♦ Here’s a fairly comprehensive weekly spiritual inventory. Sample “#8 Who knows more about God today because of my witness this past week?

🎬 Opening in theaters this MLK weekend: Canal Street featuring music by TobyMac, Social Club Misfits, Hollyn and many others. After being arrested for the murder of a white classmate, a young black man’s father fights in court for his son’s vindication. Watch the trailer or visit the website.

♦ Relational Dynamics: Most of us don’t want criticism and don’t want negative feedback. “I have spent so much of my life carefully calculating what would earn me affirmation, attention, and accolades. I wanted to be highly revered and deeply loved. I did all I could to be the good kid, the smart kid, the capable kid, the best friend, the funniest, the kindest, the holiest, the most responsible… And it worked.”

♂ Combating a culture of toxic masculinity: ICYMI, here’s that Gillette commercial everyone’s talking about.

♦ Parenting Place: When your kids are looking at things online you wish they hadn’t seen. “You know, kids today, they’ve seen modeled that when they have questions, they take it to the internet. So our kids are just doing what we functionally taught them to do over their younger lives. So, that puts a burden, a responsibility on us to monitor what they’re looking for. Because, clearly, looking up body parts in the Encyclopedia Britannica or in the dictionary is going to yield different results than just looking it up on Google.”

♦ Anchorage, Alaska (Huffington Post): “A conservative Christian law firm that once defended an evangelical baker who refused to bake a cake for a gay couple is now representing a Christian charity that refused to let a homeless transgender woman stay in its overnight shelter… The [Hope Center] charity has reportedly refused to provide information about its public funding, which would help determine whether it is a place of public accommodation that could be required to follow the [city’s] anti-discrimination law.

🇮🇱 In Haifa, Israel, a firebomb was hurled at the museum currently displaying the McJesus sculpture by Finnish artist Jani Leinonen. Christians want it take it down, but in an unusual twist, so does the artist.

★ Chris Pratt and fiancée Katherine Schwarzenegger: Apparently the celebrity couple feels living together is okay as long as you’re engaged. Katherine “– whose dad is movie star Arnold – only agreed to move in with A-lister Chris Pratt after he’d popped the question, because co-habiting would be against their strict religious beliefs.” 

♦ After I compile the list, I check out the links Michael and Eric have posted at Phoenix Preacher and see how many we had in common. (Their list goes up on Tuesday.) We had three, and then I saw these:

♦ Remember the ‘Bruce Jenner’ message on the church sign? The pastor who posted it has resigned to stop people leaving the church. 

♦ Podcast of the Week: Chris Fabry discusses self control with Drew Dyck author of Your Future Self Will Thank You.

♫ Part of the Hillsong UNITED 2019 tour, Mack Brock’s song Fresh Wind Fresh Fire borrows from a book title by Jim Cymbala. 

♦ Tweet of the Week: A social media history of philosophy. [See also below.]

♦ Finally, thanks to my son Aaron for discovering the Bible Illustrated videos on YouTube. Here’s the first one he sent me, showing the difference between Roman Catholic Christians and Orthodox Christians.



A brief history of Philosophy


Digging a Little Deeper

From the creator of Thinking Out Loud, check out Christianity 201. Guaranteed distraction-free, faith-focused blogging with fresh posts every day at 5:35 PM EST. www.Christianity201.wordpress.com

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January 15, 2019

It’s Older than Most New Testament Books, But Not Part of the Canon

There are two ways, one of life and one of death, and there is a great difference between the two ways.

~Didache 1:1

While New Testament scholars always knew it existed, it was not until 1873 when a dusty, worn copy was pulled off an Istanbul library shelf by an Archbishop who promptly left it on his desk to attend to other matters, where it sat for months before he finally grasped what it is he had discovered. In fact, the document whose lost text he had discovered was once considered for inclusion in the Biblical canon.

The Didache (pronounced DID-ah-kay) is only about half the length of the Gospel of Mark, but it provides an intimate view of Christian life and Christian community for the early church. There are many books on the subject, but a simple introduction — along with a copy of the complete text — is Tony Jones’ The Teaching of the 12 (Paraclete Press, 2009).

(Random) Highlights:

  • Let your alms sweat in your hands until you know to whom to give them. (1:6)
  • Do not be one who opens his hands to receive, or closes them when it is time to give. (4:5)
  • Do not give orders to your servants when you are angry, for they hope in the same God… (4:10)
  • Your fasts should not be with the hypocrites, for they fast on Mondays and Thursdays. You should fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. (8:1)
  • [Concerning the Eucharist, give thanks this way] “Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills and was gathered together and became one, so let your church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom…” (9:4)
  • Let every apostle who comes to you be received as the Lord. But he must not remain more than one day, or two, if there’s a need. If he stays three days he is a false prophet. (11:4,5)
  • Concerning Baptism, you should baptize this way: After first explaining all things, baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit in flowing water. (7:1, italics added)
  • Hate no one; correct some, pray for others, and some you should love more than your own life. (2:7)

The early Christians were also told to pray the Lord’s Prayer three times daily (8:3) and if they baked bread, to give the first loaf to the prophets (13;5). The translation above is from Tony Jones’ book, and seems to be closest to one online by Charles Hoole.

So in a post-DaVinci Code climate, where does a document like this fit in?

First of all, we have all we need in the Bible, and no one should feel compelled to read extra-Biblical writings like this, much less those on the periphery such as The Gospel of Thomas.

But for those who want a snapshot of New-Testament life, this document has the recommendation of many respected pastors, though don’t expect a movie anytime soon.

DVD: There is a 6-week curriculum DVD available based on Tony Jones’ book. Here’s some info — and a 2-minute promo video — from Tony’s blog, Theoblogy.

This post first appeared on Jan 26/11 at Christianity 201


When first published at Thinking Out Loud, this article attracted several comments; one that we’ll repeat here as well…

One gentle word of correction is that the Didache does not hail from the age after the apostles, but the age of the apostles. The Didache is actually older than most of the books of the New Testament, especially all the Gospels with the possible exception of Mark. Aaron Milavec who is one of the foremost authorities on it places its date between 50 & 70 AD! Yes that is 15 to 35 years after the resurrection. A dating this early means most of the apostles are still alive. Another authoritative voice is Thomas O.Laughlin, who though not as dogmatic, still takes it around that time. The last of the Apostles, John, was still alive in 98 AD when Trajan came to power. From a scholarly standpoint, this era from the resurrection up to the death of John is roundly considered the “apostolic age” and so documents like the Didache, Barnabas, and the Shepherd of Hermas are generally considered the “apostolic fathers” as compared with the documents of the post apostolic age which is generally considered the Ante-Nicene Fathers. On top of all this, the Didache almost made it into the canon. It was widely used among the Fathers and Origin referred to it as “scripture.” I whole heartedly agree with you that Scripture as we have it is sufficient. But I personally still feel that Didache is in a class by itself. [At this point the comment continued to a podcast link which is no longer valid.]

January 14, 2019

Toilet Seat Covers with Scripture Texts: Bad Taste or Worse?

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:05 pm

I’ve been sitting with this Religion News Service story by Aysha Khan in my files for several days not sure whether to save it for Wednesday’s roundup, or it deserves greater consideration.

It’s just not a story involving Christianity. Click the title below to read the story in full:

Amazon pulls offensive bathmats with Quranic text

(RNS) — After complaints from Muslim advocates, the online retailer Amazon has removed more than 20 product listings that included doormats, bathmats and toilet covers featuring verses from the Quran in Arabic calligraphy.

The products, many of which included the name of God and of the Prophet Muhammad, were not produced or stocked directly by Amazon, but carried by independent retailers selling on Amazon’s platform…

…Muslims treat the Quran with great respect, performing ritual ablution before touching it and often avoiding putting it on the ground or in impure areas — including near feet or below the level of feet. Many will burn any materials containing the Quran or God’s name rather than allowing it to sit in the garbage…

…[The Council on American-Islamic Relations] CAIR has previously campaigned for recalls of other products that would be offensive to Muslim consumers. Back in 1997, Nike recalled a basketball shoe with a design — intended to depict the word “air” written in flaming letters — resembling the Arabic word “Allah.”

Last month, the nonprofit group United Sikhs successfully pushed Amazon to remove toilet covers and bathmats featuring Sikh religious symbols…

I know there are Christian retailers reading this who might, self-righteously say, ‘Yes, but we would never sell bathmats and toilet seat covers;’ but I think this story is a cautionary tale that sometimes what passes for Christian giftware can run the risk of crossing a line.

For example: A welcome mat with a scripture sentiment like “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord,” may seem appropriate, but someone might argue you’re inviting people to wipe their feet on the words of Joshua in the Hebrew scriptures.

Or a store or church might place some extra Bibles in a stack on the floor; whereas the practitioners of other religions would be greatly offended by that.

I think this story is an applicable lesson for us all.

January 11, 2019

When Should Christian Bookstores Pull Authors from Shelves and Online Listings?

Some of you know that when I’m not writing this blog and editing Christianity 201; when I’m not leading or assisting in weekend worship at a local church; when I’m not occasionally speaking at a church; during the rest of the time I am making decisions for our local Christian bookstore.

One of the hardest decisions I made in 2018 was to remove books by Bill Hybels from our shelves. It isn’t that those books don’t contain much truth and that many of them have been personally beneficial to me. It was just that — with shelf space at a premium in our small town store — we didn’t need the distraction.

I didn’t just make the decision, but personally removed the books, title by title, and put them in a box where they remain today. There were more than a dozen titles. Bill was a big influence on me and I have to say doing this really, really hurt, but as long as there were new ongoing developments in the story, I felt we needed to do this.

Christian bookstores have pulled product many times in the past. I got into this business through the Christian music industry first as a broadcaster and then as a performer and later as a vendor of records and cassettes. I once sat in a restaurant in Newport Beach, California and was interviewed for the job of assistant editor of Contemporary Christian Music magazine. My friends called me a ‘walking encyclopedia’ on CCM, and I given about seven seconds of audio, could name just about any song and artist, including that obscure cut at the end of side two.

When Amy Grant and Sandy Patti went through divorce, many stores pulled product. Oddly enough, those divorces are still in their past, but their music is back on the shelves. Divorce became more widely accepted among Evangelicals. I would argue that the whole LGBT thing in the church is where divorce was a couple of generations back. And I expect that, as in the case of Ray Boltz or Jennifer Knapp, stores still actively pull product when an artist comes out.

Why all this today? Because I’m staring at the shelves under “M” for James MacDonald. Christian radio stations are rapidly dropping his program (see Wednesday’s column) and James is trying to control the situation by announcing the shutdown of Walk in the Word’s broadcast division. There are calls for him to resign. Unlike those who were divorced, or Hybels’ flirtatiousness, the issue with MacDonald seems to be money and the control of money. It’s definitely his Achilles Heel.

Once again, those books contain much truth. James MacDonald is a great communicator and his writing includes a constant, unabashed call to repentance. He has served many people well in that area of his life. But at this point, I wonder if those books are also going to prove to be a distraction.

This isn’t about judgment. It’s about a shortage of shelf space, and a host of new, upcoming, younger authors who deserve to be heard. Some of those will prove themselves as the leading Christian voices to their generation. The cream rises to the top. By their fruit they will be known. Some will disappear off the scene within five years. Again, it’s not about judgment.

It’s also too easy for stores just to keep ordering key names; somewhat akin to living in a county — as I do — where every time there’s an election, people simply vote for the incumbents. So Max Lucado, Tim Keller, Mark Batterson, Lee Strobel, Stormie Omartian, John Bevere, Joyce Meyer, Neil Anderson, etc.; are always assured their latest title will get picked up at the local store level.

And honestly, if the sales reps came around with new titles by Hybels and MacDonald there are store owners who simply aren’t investing time keeping up online and would simply order those titles unwittingly.

The best analogy I ever heard was when a local pastor called my wife and I “gatekeepers.” I never thought of our role that way, but it’s a responsibility that needs to be taken very seriously. Conversely, pastors need to guard who they quote in sermons. They can easily grant authority and credibility to an author whose life doesn’t line up with their teachings.

Chances are, at the end of today, James MacDonald will still be on our shelves, but we’ll monitor the situation closely before making a knee-jerk reaction. Prayer helps as well!

January 9, 2019

Wednesday Connect

So here’s a question for you: Why do the authors so intent on helping me solve my financial problems only publish their books in hardcover?

Just a reminder that this blog uses cookies to keep the writer awake after 11:00 PM. Here’s your week’s worth of items culled from a variety of sources.

♦ An old format meets today’s technology in a Bible commentary in pictures: “The Visual Commentary on Scripture (VCS) [is] a freely accessible online publication that provides theological commentary on the Bible in dialogue with works of art. It helps its users to (re)discover the Bible in new ways through the illuminating interaction of artworks, scriptural texts, and commissioned commentaries. Each section of the VCS is a virtual exhibition comprising a biblical passage, three art works, and their associated commentaries. The curator of each exhibition selects artworks that they consider will open up the biblical texts for interpretation, and/or offer new perspectives on themes the texts address.”

✎ Essay of the Week: What ‘values’ are we trying to hold on to? “Conservatives, by their very nature want to conserve the values of the past. But the past wasn’t entirely Christian, you know? The past wasn’t a good time to be a woman or an Aboriginal or an immigrant or LGBTIQ. It wasn’t a good time to be an old-growth forest or a river. In fact, for very different reasons, it wasn’t even all that good to be a white male either.”

James MacDonald’s decision to shut down the broadcast component of Walk in the Word is our Story of the Week.

📻 After months of personal controversy, James MacDonald surprises his staff with the decision to shutter the broadcast sector of Walk in the Word. Julie Roys was anonymously sent a recording of the staff meeting.

In a surprise announcement to staff on Wednesday, MacDonald said he had decided to remove Walk in the Word from all “traditional” broadcast mediums and exclusively focus on digital delivery, like podcasts. MacDonald said the reason for the change was primarily pragmatic. “Traditional broadcast is a dying thing,” MacDonald said in a live announcement to staff

📻 …Dee Parsons believes the ‘radio is a dying medium’ argument by MacDonald takes the focus away from the controversial lawsuit and the issues which sparked it…

♦ …Breaking — Harvest drops the lawsuit; text of message to the congregation

♦ … Response from the defendants.

♦ Also from Julie Roys: Is it just about terminology? Or is there more? Beth Moore’s assertion that “reading the Bible isn’t the same as spending time with God‘ has sparked a firestorm, not dissimilar from Andy Stanley’s late last year… 

♦…Speaking of Andy, this week he asked the musical question, ‘Why do we worry about posting The Ten Commandments in public buildings and not want to post excerpts from The Sermon on the Mount?

📊 Survey says: A Barna study shows that half of all pastors had — and responded to — another calling before getting the call to a vocational ministry career.

♦ Coming to a comic book store near you: “Marvel and DC Comics… tend to shy away from actually depicting real religious figures like God and Satan. Usually, they’ll create a loose analogy … to steer clear of controversy, but evidently DC is throwing caution to the wind with their newest superhero, someone you might already be familiar with… That’s right: Jesus Christ is coming to the rescue in an upcoming series called The Second Coming, from DC imprint Vertigo.” …

♦ …Another article describes it: “Second Coming… sees the son of God return to modern-day Earth (because God hopes Jesus will learn a lesson in godliness from the almighty superhero Sun-Man), only for Christ to discover that the message of his gospel has become horrifically twisted in the years since his crucifixion.” (Possibly no argument there.)

♦ Devotional of the Week: By no less than Rez Band (Resurrection Band) guitarist Glenn Kaiser “riffing” (his word) on Paul’s words in Philippians 3.

♦ What’s your sign? “The names we call our churches have long provided a window into our souls, to borrow an irresistible cliché.”

Flippin, Ark., is home, somewhat irreverently, to Flippin Christian Church, Flippin Baptist Church, Flippin Church of God, and is not far from a Bar None Cowboy Church. Versions of the last also exist in Oklahoma, Texas, and Iowa. If Internet lore is to be believed, the South has played host not only to Hell Hole Swamp Baptist Church (South Caro­lina) and Waterproof Baptist Church (Louisiana) but to the First Church of the Last Chance World on Fire Revival and Military Academy (Florida) as well.  …continue reading at National Review

♦ In the Twitterverse: January is a time for “best books” lists, but this short Twitter thread gives a very short “best Bibles” list with reasons for each of the three choice. (Maybe not the three you’re expecting, but if you’re open to change in a new year, this might help.)

♦ Parenting / Student Ministry: The article’s title is “Stop Telling Girls to ‘Save Themselves.'” Sample: “The body that never had sex is better than the body that didn’t – at least according to purity culture. The problem? Virginity is not same as purity. Virginity is physical; purity is spiritual. God has commanded us to save sex for marriage because His design is for our protection and honor. So in a sense, virginity – not having sex prior to marriage – can be a form of purity, but only in the physical sense. Virginity is simply a biological status – not a status of the heart… When we focus on virginity as the only manifestation of purity, we also negate the value of Christ’s redemption.”

♀ Women’s Workshop: From Laurie Pawlik author of the book, Going Forward When You Can’t Go Back (releasing next week from Bethany House) this article about Six female Bible characters who, in different ways, said ‘yes’ to God. Sample: “… I noticed that these 6 female heroes of the Bible—our Biblical sisters—didn’t waste time wrestling with ‘Why me?’ Instead, they threw themselves into ‘Yes, Lord.'”

♦ Life and Leadership: 10 Questions to ask yourself, the answers to which will make for a fruitful 2019

♦ Bonus article for website visitors: Eight simple ways each of us can be missional in our everyday living.

🇨🇦 Canada Corner: The controversial “attestation” in the federal government’s summer job grant program has been removed for 2019. (Having to agree to the statement prevented many churches and Christian organizations from receiving the grant last year.) The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada reports on the changes in this 6-page .pdf article.

♦ Quotation of the Week: “We do not need ‘gender whisperers’ in our schools. Let kids be kids.” — Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison, criticizing a program in his country that could see children dressing up in opposite-sex clothing in order to explore gender fluidity…

♦ … Meanwhile in the UK, an event we reported previously, The Drag Queen Story Time is going ahead despite the report that “65 per cent of over 2,600 respondents find the event ‘inappropriate’.”

♦ The subject of the book The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven, Alex Malarkey has refiled charges against the publisher, Tyndale House, for “for appropriation, publicity given to private life, and financial exploitation of a person with a disability.”

♦ Unexpected: Gospel themes in the reboot of Mary Poppins.

The children often can’t believe what Mary Poppins proposes. But she says with a grin, “Everything is possible, even the impossible.” Did not Jesus say something similar? … But, just as Narnia doesn’t give a full exposition of faith or every attribute of Christ, enough is in Mary Poppins Returns to pique curiosity, to whet the appetite, to possibly plant a seed that Christians can water… there are echoes that can be tied to the gospel for those who seek to help people understand how longings in culture are connected to ultimate realities… There are many other allusions to the gospel and biblical truths in Mary Poppins Returns, not least of which is the fact that with the coming of this savior from heaven (as with Christ in His first coming) light emerges, miracles are performed, realms are opened, broken hearts are restored, a family is healed, faith is kindled, “childlikeness” is sparked, love grows, a thief and a liar is judged, and hope awakens.

♦ Changing standards? Are we allowed to use term ‘badass’ in a Christian book title? Eerdman’s did. Burying White Privilege: Resurrecting a Badass Christianity.

♫ The title song from the new Passion album, Follow You Anywhere. There’s a one month gap between the release of the album online (available now) and the physical CD (early February).

This link is only available to premium subscribers.

♦ For all you Church History buffs, The Theological Comedy Awards. “Example #1: St. Sebastian. If you’ve ever been to a renaissance or medieval art museum, you’ve probably seen a statue or painting of Sebastian pin-cushioned with arrows. He was a Christian Roman soldier in the third century who was caught converting other soldiers to the faith, and sentenced to death by arrows. Today, no joke, he is the patron of, among other things, archery.”

Okay, I was kidding about the premium subscription thing.

Finally, I really wanted to end today with a thing that Brant Hansen posted to his Facebook page on January 4th, but after trying to follow the instructions for embedding FB videos, I don’t think my version of WordPress supports it. So I decided instead to end with something by James Cary, whose book The Sacred Art of Joking releases this March.

 

January 8, 2019

Melding the Church Categories

Last year the academic books division of InterVarsity Press (IVP) released a title which intrigued me.  Gordon T. Smith is the President of Ambrose University in Calgary. Evangelical, Sacramental, Pentecostal: Why the Church Should Be All Three struck me as an ecclesiastic and doctrinal equivalent to what the late Robert Webber was trying to move us toward; the idea of blended worship. The idea is to move from a polarized, either/or approach to incorporating the best from different traditions.

At least I think that’s what it’s about. I don’t, after many attempts, get review books from IVP, be they academic or otherwise. (I’ll admit a lack of full qualification to review scholarly titles, but at 160 pages, I’d be willing to look up the big words!) For that reason, I’ll default to the publisher’s summary:

Evangelical. Sacramental. Pentecostal. Christian communities tend to identify with one of these labels over the other two. Evangelical churches emphasize the importance of Scripture and preaching. Sacramental churches emphasize the importance of the eucharistic table. And pentecostal churches emphasize the immediate presence and power of the Holy Spirit. But must we choose between them? Could the church be all three?

Drawing on his reading of the New Testament, the witness of Christian history, and years of experience in Christian ministry and leadership, Gordon T. Smith argues that the church not only can be all three, but in fact must be all three in order to truly be the church. As the church navigates the unique global challenges of pluralism, secularism, and fundamentalism, the need for an integrated vision of the community as evangelical, sacramental, and pentecostal becomes ever more pressing. If Jesus and the apostles saw no tension between these characteristics, why should we?

I mention the book now only because today is the release day for another book that I think offers a similar challenge and has a similar title.

Andrew Wilson is teaching pastor of King’s Church in London, part of the Newfrontiers network of churches. His book is titled: Spirit and Sacrament: An Invitation to Eucharismatic Worship (Zondervan). Full marks for the adjective — eucharismatic — which I’d never heard before. (Google produced 5,700 results, but the first page results were all for this book.)

Even though it’s only 140 pages, because the book just arrived late yesterday afternoon, I’ll again refer to the publisher summary:

Spirit and Sacrament by pastor and author Andrew Wilson is an impassioned call to join together two traditions that are frequently and unnecessarily kept separate. It is an invitation to pursue the best of both worlds in worship, the Eucharistic and the charismatic, with the grace of God at the center.

Wilson envisions church services in which healing testimonies and prayers of confession coexist, the congregation sings When I Survey the Wondrous Cross followed by Happy Day, and creeds move the soul while singing moves the body. He imagines a worship service that could come out of the book of Acts: Young men see visions, old men dream dreams, sons and daughters prophesy, and they all come together to the same Table and go on their way rejoicing.

Two sentences from the précis of both books:

  • “..the church not only can be all three, but in fact must be all three in order to truly be the church.” 
  • “…an impassioned call to join together two traditions that are frequently and unnecessarily kept separate. It is an invitation to pursue the best of both worlds in worship.”

Hopefully people are listening.


Read an excerpt from Andrew Wilson’s book at this link.

 

 

January 7, 2019

Blogroll Update #10

My last update was in May. Some of these are simply updates, and some were in my computer under other categories. I have more Christian blogs bookmarked in my computer than anyone else in a three blog radius. (Seriously, there a couple thousand.) The list which appears on the blogroll in the right margin of the blog is always being updated.

Blogs
Daily Devotional from Popular Christian Television & Video Ministries Online
PCPJ | Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice
Summit Life with J.D. Greear
Blog – Best Faith Based Movies
Thomas L Horrocks – Home
salternlite – The Gospel in All of Life
Best Faith Based Movies – Entertian Educate and Inspire
Salvage Unlimited – Because No Life Is Unsalvageable
Blog – Eric Geiger
Blog | Canadian Bible Society
Blog – Muddy Shoes
Having Two Legs – The blog of Toby J. Sumpter, Pastor at Christ Church in Moscow, ID
Out of the Ordinary
Becoming Less | “He must become greater; I must become less.” John 3:30
So What Faith — Greg Smith
Generation Next
Posts – the Way?
theburninglampdotcom | “You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning” Psalm 18:28
Ramblings on the Way
Alastair’s Adversaria | flotsam, jetsam, messages in bottles
Blogs – Life, Hope & Truth
Before The Cross | Glorifying God by Sharing the Love of Christ
Laughing in Disbelief –
covered in His dust
JoshuaReich.org | inspiring people to be more than they are
John Wesley Reid
It’s About Christ and His People
Bible Gateway Blog – News and reflections from BibleGateway.com
Naked Emperor Blog | Musing on media, tech and culture
Beautiful Christian Life
Byron Spradlin – Artists In Ministry & Missions
Dr. Claude Mariottini – Professor of Old Testament
Another Red Letter Day
My Morning Meal | Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! (Psalm 34:8)
Experimental Theology
jeffreyoungblood | Thoughts from a blessed man
Thir.st
Overthinking Christian
Don’t Ask The Fish
Warren Throckmorton – new address
Encouraging and Challenging Content for those In Ministry
Kurt Willems | Theology Curator
Death • Fathom Mag
Letter & Liturgy – Christian Reviews of Ideas and Culture
The Cripplegate | for a new generation of non-conformists
Christian Creative Writers’ Collective
The Beautiful Spirit – Encouragement Through God’s Word
Pastor Brad Russell – Musings of a Husband, Father and Pastor
Joshua’s Outpost – Be a warrior in your faith
Christian Blogs and Sermons – Delivered By Grace
Home – GoThereFor.com
More Than Cake

 

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 or Wednesday Connect)

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) 

The link to part eight (October 2017)

The link to part nine (May, 2018; included an updated list of Christian news sources)

 

January 6, 2019

The Church Today Viewed Through the Lens of Tomorrow

I have strongly come to believe that if Jesus Christ’s second coming does not otherwise interrupt the trajectory of Evangelicalism in North America, Australia/New Zealand and Western Europe, that something like the following will be written about us in the not-so-distant future:

They allowed music to be an all-important feature of their gatherings to the point where it became a dominant factor in shaping their view of God and His ways and attracting people to their churches. They did so at the expense of songs of testimony, songs of proclamation, songs of commitment, songs of assurance, songs narrating the history of God’s people, and songs after the pattern of the Psalter which reiterate passages from the scriptures.

They created a generation with an incomplete picture of the work of the Church and the purposes of God; trading this to sing platitudes often distant from their hearts.

…At least that’s my opinion.

January 3, 2019

Worlds Colliding

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:43 am

There’s a classic Seinfeld episode where the character of George, played by Jason Alexander, is concerned that people he knows from one context are invading an entirely separate context. “Worlds Are Colliding!” he announces to anyone who might care.

Seinfeld was a big hit, but was produced at a time when our social media was unknown. Today, I wonder the degree to which George would obtain separate accounts for his “worlds.”


You can imagine my surprise when Leonard, a cousin I hadn’t seen in nearly six years showed up at my workplace. When I say “at my workplace,” I literally mean at my desk. He told the receptionist that I was expecting him and without stopping, pointed down a hallway and said, “His office is this way, right?” to which she could do no more than nod.

I was in a conversation with Jake, who manages our marketing about why our East Coast sales are down and Leonard, without even introducing himself, proceeded to tell Jake that all our marketing in New England is being placed in the wrong media. Jake extended his hand and said, “And you are???” but Leonard just kept talking. Embarrassment doesn’t even begin to describe how I was feeling…

…That evening, Brian, who plays bass guitar on our church worship team unexpectedly walked into our condo tenants’ association meeting and sat next to me with a big grin. The meeting isn’t restricted to voting members so Brian was wearing a name tag that simply said “Visitor.”

“What are you doing here?” I asked.

He said that I had posted online that I was off to a residents’ meeting in our building and since I had told the world what I was doing, I seemed to be asking for company. He even told the association’s Vice President at the door that I had invited him. I like Brian and I would be willing to go for coffee at a moment’s notice, but I didn’t see what he was going to get out of our 45-minute discussion to change two of our bylaws and discuss parking problems. When we reached the latter, his hand suddenly shot up and he started describing the parking problems at his building on the other side of town.

Like Seinfeld‘s George, I was succeeding in keeping my worlds separate. But suddenly the walls were crumbling. In the case of Leonard, I had to use some tough love. My workplace isn’t a family reunion. In the case of Brian, I tackled the problem at the opposite end and got our condo Vice President to be a little more restrictive when random visitors show up at meetings.

For my part, I tried to analyze how much of my life I was sharing with whom. Should my cousins know where I work? Certainly. Why not? Should they know we have marketing issues along the Atlantic seaboard? No. Not at all. Should my worship team members know I’m the Treasurer of our condo board? Hopefully it sets an example of how we should be involved in our communities; how we need to be salt and light. Should they show up at business meetings? No. That’s ridiculous.

Fortunately some of my social media interactions take place on closed pages. But I also believe in transparency. I don’t want to have to block certain people from certain parts of my world. I don’t want to be perceived as having secrets.

But Leonard, I swear if you ever start giving marketing advice to my boss again, I will give him my blessing to call security. And Brian, next time you want to drop over, let’s make it my living room instead of the common area meeting room, okay?


► So how about you? Has social media meant that worlds that might have previously had a buffer zone of separation are now open-access to everyone? Do you have trouble keeping your life compartmentalized? Or is this not necessarily a priority objective?

 

January 2, 2019

Wednesday Connect

see story below for link

Welcome to Wednesday Connect #42. We’re back with more news and opinion pieces we hope you didn’t see elsewhere. Also, there was a list last week, so if you missed it, click this link.

♦ During a six-month period in 2008, three members of a well-known Evangelical family quietly left the staff of James MacDonald’s Harvest Bible Chapel. In December, one of them decided to break years of silence.

I think that most of us felt that Harvest was the biggest thing, humanly speaking, that we would all ever be a part of – travelling to cool places; being invited to speak at conferences full of people who actually wanted to really listen to you; hobnobbing with famous people; making six figures as a 32-year-old worship leader… these are all things that are understandably hard to want to give up. They’re the kinds of things that condition you to not rock the boat. Who would be crazy enough to purposely flush an incredibly prosperous career or dare to try and go against the powerful, unspoken Christian cultural ethic of never “speaking poorly” about your church or pastor?

♦ This would be the equivalent of Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Kelly Conway both quitting the same day, only it wasn’t in the President’s office, but across the ocean at The Vatican, where the Pope’s official spokesman and his deputy resigned.

♦ 2018 was an Urbana year and videos of all the teaching sessions from this year’s conference are already posted at Urbana.org. (The Inter-Varsity sponsored event convenes every two years.)

♦ This might be controversial where you live:  People visiting the new Doha’s new Sidra women’s and children’s hospital in Qatar are welcomed by 14 huge bronze sculptures that graphically chart the growth of a baby, from conception to birth, ending with a 14-metre (46ft) statue of a newborn. There are other reports on this available, but this video shows all 14 sculptures.

♦ A Gallup poll shows the rating given clergy in terms of honesty and ethics continues to decline.

♦ Didn’t get this in time to include last week, but highly worth the reading: Why more American Muslims celebrated Christmas this year.

♦ Everybody sing! ♫ “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…” ♫ which is also the newly-announced title of the movie about Mr. Rogers starring Tom Hanks. Relevant Magazine also noted, “He was a Presbyterian minister with a divinity degree, and he viewed his work as a children’s show host in pastoral terms. ‘The space between the TV screen and whoever is watching is very holy ground,’ he said once, and he took that belief seriously.”

♦ Twist of Circumstances: In Egypt, two Christians were killed by a policeman who had been assigned to guard their church…

♦ …meanwhile, violence against Christians by majority Muslims in Uganda is quickly escalating.

♦ For Christmas this year, Philip Yancey looked into accounts of the appearance of angels in the gospels.

♦ Philosophy Department: For those of you who like to go deeper, a revised “Correspondence Theory” of truth.

♦ It’s not too late to change your family devotion time to more of a family worship time, and roommates can do this as well. “…It has had a powerful impact on our lives. My wife and I often comment on how our personal faith has been strengthened, and our kids eagerly expect ‘Bible time’ each morning. They actually complain on the occasional days when we miss our time together due to life’s hiccups….Christian housemates, empty nesters, and married couples without children could consider committing to a regular household devotional gathering like this. Even engaged couples might want to think about beginning so they can get in the habit early. I wish we had!…” Their model includes singing together.

♦ Jesus accepted people as they were. No one was required to fill in a statement of faith before hanging out with him. He didn’t put people in boxes except insofar as he would categorize them in terms of how they responded to him and his message.

♦ This article is four months old, but it’s message is important: “…But there’s one thing I don’t like about online dating sites. The very first thing a user sees is a photograph. Whether on a website or at a co-ed party, many will instantly eliminate ninety percent of potentially great partners on the basis of looks and body type alone.”

♦ A popular California pastor, Craig Jultila suffered a heart attack and died during a snowboarding trip. He was 53.

♦ Ohio upheld the veto of a “heartbeat” test for abortion bans, but the fight is not over and the tide could change with a new government in 2019.

♦ Franklin Graham was banned from Facebook for 24 hours, not for something he posted recently, but for an item he posted in 2016

♦ Parents continue to pull their kids out of the centuries old Boy Scouts of America in favor of a faith-based organization, Trail Life USA. “In 2015 the group announced it would begin allowing openly gay and lesbian leaders. Eighteen months later, the Boy Scouts opened ranks to girls who self-identify as boys. Girls started joining Cub Scouts earlier this year and will be able to join the traditional scouting program for 11- to 17-year-olds, to be renamed Scouts BSA…” Meanwhile, at Trail Life, volunteers must adhere to a statement of faith.

♦ Can you identify the source of this quotation? Answer below

In the seventeenth chapter of St. Luke, it is written that the kingdom of God is within man, not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! You, the people, have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then in the name of democracy, let us use that power. Let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give youth a future and old age a security.

♦ The recent season of Doctor Who, along with all the other changes it brought, seemed to make a greater allowance for the faith of its characters.

♫ A purple-haired Lauren Daigle performs You Say on Good Morning America.  

Chris Tomlin is again taking the show on the road…to Israel

♫ …or you could Kevin Max, TobyMac,The Newsboys, John Crist, Ryan Stevenson, Mandisa and others sailing on the Jesus Freak Cruise.

♦ There’s a classical music parody composer, Peter Shickele who once worked “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” into a ostensibly classical piece, but I never considered doing the Jeopardy theme during the offering

♦ 90 years after it was stolen, a statue of the baby Jesus was returned to a New Jersey church.

♦ Finally, if you’re like me, all the stores were sold out of Nativitalk, so I’m bookmarking this as a reminder to shop early next year.


The quotation is from the Charlie Chaplin movie The Great Dictator. You can read it in full here, and also hear portions of it on the live version of the song “A Head Full of Dreams” by Coldplay.

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