Thinking Out Loud

May 29, 2023

Visiting Another Church Without Leaving The House

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:14 pm

It was getting later into the week and they’d posted the audio for Sunday’s sermon, but there was no sign of the video. ‘They’ in this case is Bridgetown, the Portland church founded by John Mark Comer over two decades ago. It’s been a weekly routine for us since discovering Comer somewhere around 2013.

I knew that current pastor Tyler Staton was away for a couple of weeks, but I also know that their guest speakers are of high caliber. There’s no such thing as ‘an off week.’ Someone named Pete Hughes was speaking and I figured I’d just hang in there and wait for the video to appear. I’d see the guest, plus any slides that appeared on-screen for the in-person audience.

The video was there by the weekend and the teaching did not disappoint. It was a message about Elijah after the victory on Mount Carmel, and the subsequent slump that set in after that spiritual high. And it was good. Or better than good.

At Bridgetown, the introductions of guest speakers don’t always get included in the sermon link. At one point Hughes indicated that his home church was in London, and that is wife’s name was Bee. So when the sermon ended, I fired up my trusty search engine — actually one I’m trusting less and less — and found a link for KXC, which in a previous generation would have been King’s Cross Church, the KX being a district of redeveloped railway lands in the north part of the British capital city.

By now I was having an immersive experience.

I just started clicking every link the page had to offer. I learned the history of the church, downloaded the entire Apprenticeship Year package (even though I’m not 18-30!), listened to an explanation of their one-year reading of the New Testament, learned about their very small (3 people) accountability small groups; but the best part was watching this 9-minute video which really covers everything they’ve been doing over the past ten years.

KXC’s Bee and Pete Hughes

Seriously, watch the video.

It turned out I wasn’t done yet.

The video mentioned some live worship events they’ve done, so it was off to YouTube. I focused on their three top viewed songs, including the one below, Pull Me Through, linked below, which has been on repeat here to the point I’m driving my family nuts; and Jesus, Name Above All Names, which is not the JNAAN that you think you know.

And that’s how I spent nearly two hours immersed in the KXC experience. It was time well spent. If you know someone who wants a church recommendation in London, this one gets mine.

April 25, 2023

Why The Passion Translation Isn’t on Bible Gateway

This is neither new or newsworthy in 2023, but it is a recurring subject, and having taken the time to write this for a Facebook comment I thought I would share it here as well. The FB post itself was prompted by a recent post by Bill Mounce at Zondervan Academic.

As someone who engages with Bible publishing and Bible marketing, the challenge with The Passion Translation (TPT) is largely not being able to determine where the text ends and the commentary begins. My understanding is that this was the primary reason Bible Gateway removed TPT from the site.

With a study Bible (any one of many) the commentary is clear and separated from the body of the chapters; with the Amplified Bible the definitions or synonyms are set in parenthesis; and with The Voice Bible (which took great stylistic liberty, but remains on Bible Gateway) transitional passages were offset from the text and not connected to the verse numbering system. The Voice added words for flow, but set those in italics, following a precedent set by the KJV.

TPT offered no such distinctions, and that can be problematic in and of itself, before looking at any doctrinal biases or preconceptions the author may have had. Such concerns are of great importance, but they weren’t the driving force for Bible Gateway’s decision, and we know that scholars have found doctrinal bias in, for example the ESV.

TPT creates a different type of Bible for which there is no label, perhaps ’embedded commentary’ works best.

We wrote about Bible Gateway’s decision in February last year. Read that using this link.

April 17, 2023

When it Seems Like God’s on ‘Silent’

A review of God on Mute: Engaging the Silence of Unanswered Prayer by Pete Greig (Zondervan).

I’m still blessed with being able to request books from time to time, but with this one, I made it clear that I might not do a review. This book, on unanswered prayer, was for me; something personal I needed to read right now.

Also, it’s an older book, at least in book review terms, published way back in 2020. Almost ancient. But one author leads to another — if you allow that to take place — and so just as through John Mark Comer we were introduced to Tyler Station, so with Tyler we’ve been introduced to Pete Greig.

Pete is the founder of the 24/7 Prayer Network ( defined as, “an international, interdenominational movement of prayer, mission and justice; a non-stop prayer meeting that has continued for every minute of this century so far, in over half the countries on Earth.” It’s based in the UK, and Tyler is the head of the U.S. branch. To talk about 24/7 would be an article in itself, but you can learn more at the link above, or you fully immerse yourself by downloading the Lectio 365 app for your phone.

But we’re getting off course here; back to the book.

God On Mute was originally written in 2007, and what I’m holding in my hand as I type this — which makes for some tricky keyboarding — is actually an updated edition.

The book operates on three levels.

First, the birth of the book is somewhat personal, as Pete’s wife Sammy has suffered with a chronic condition for decades now, which involves seizures, although she is doing better now than when the first edition was written. It’s so much more meaningful when the author can empathize with their readers.

Second, the book uses Holy Week as a motif for our journeys through the times God seems silent. Reading the chapter on Holy Saturday on the day it was actually Holy Saturday made this especially poignant for me.

Third, the book is a teaching on a subject that we all will need from time to time. I got the sense that instead of of just listing principles and steps — although the book does that in places — the author comes alongside those who are grieving the situations where God seems absent. In this book at least, I found a sympathetic voice on what can be a sensitive topic.

There’s also a substantial guided prayer section at the back which I am still reading, but it is very similar in style and pacing to what one finds on the Lectio app.

Finishing the book a few days ago, the status of my prayers is unchanged, but I feel I have a bigger picture. I also did something I’ve never done before with any book, and as I was reading I created an index inside the front cover of some anecdotes and quotations to which I might want to return.

Learn more at

My review of Tyler’s book, Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools is directly related, and to read that you may click here.

Thanks once again to Mark at HarperCollins Christian Publishing Canada for this great resource.


April 4, 2023

Christian Publishing’s Top Titles

Filed under: Christianity, publishing — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:53 am

With the news last week that Stormie Omartian and Harvest House Publishers had received the ECPA Diamond Sales Award for 10 million copies sold of Stormie’s book The Power of a Praying Wife, we decided to see who else has achieved this.

The book joins a very select list of titles to reach this milestone. In addition to a number of Bibles, the books include:

  • Purpose Driven Life – Rick Warren
  • The Shack – Paul Young
  • Prayer of Jabez – Bruce Wilkinson
  • Heaven is for Real – Todd Burpo
  • The Five Love Languages – Gary Chapman
  • Jesus Calling – Sarah Young
  • More than a Carpenter – Josh McDowell
  • The Bible Promise Book (Barbour)

See the complete list at this link.


March 20, 2023

Attempting to Gain Christian Culture by Osmosis

A March 11 article in the Saturday Star (Toronto) was discussing the effect that working from home has had on the workplace, particularly among recent hires who haven’t spent a lot of time in the office or interacting with their co-workers beyond voice calls or Zoom meetings. It’s becoming a problem.

The solutions “involve newer staff coming into the office more often, but not randomly; they’re not going to just pick up the culture and work habits of a company by osmosis, especially given that more experienced staff won’t be coming as often as junior staff.”


I thought of the “seven reasons” I give people who’ve left physical church why they should return. Some have to do with corporate worship, corporate prayer, corporate giving, and communion, which comes from the same root word as community. There is also much being written lately about the psychology of being in a gathering coming under the oral reading of scripture and spoken teaching, as opposed to getting it from an uploaded church service, an audio stream or a podcast.

For the people who have listened my rant on this subject in person, I would need to apologize. I left something out.

The Toronto Star article reminded me that there is an entire church culture that you miss out on when you choose not to gather in person. Things that simply can’t be conveyed through a screen or a speaker. Elements of church life that are entirely experiential.

And, I must confess, you can’t entirely gain this through books, though I give full marks to the people who have delved deep into Christian literature during the past three years of lockdowns and mandates. I wish there were more of you. The Christian bookstores which closed during the past 36 Covid months wish there were more of you. However, as much as I love Christian books, they can’t impart to you the Christian culture of a local congregation; a local assembly.

…I’ve always felt that the Book of Acts could easily be renamed, “What Happened Next;” and a big part of what happened next is the Church. Local churches are not perfect, and if you need something close to a written guarantee, here it is: I promise at some point you will be hurt, let down or disappointed.

But I also promise you that if you stay away entirely you will miss out on so much that we all need right now.


Image: “World’s Smallest Church” in Drumheller, Alberta, Canada.

March 7, 2023

When Social Media Means Having a Voice at the Table

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:56 am

According to Twitter, today marks 10 years since I signed up for the platform. That’s not nearly as long as many whom I follow, but longer than others. They provided a tweet with a graphic image that I could use to mark the occasion, but it was rather dumb so I passed.

I see Twitter more as an opportunity than anything else. An opportunity to engage with people I really respect. Given the choice between Facebook and Twitter, and told I can only keep one, Facebook would be gone in a heartbeat.

But to fully express my appreciation, we have to go back and talk about email.

Do you ever read the names of other people who are recipients of emails you receive? Today people are more cautious about what is visible, but years ago there was a work-related email that had been forwarded multiple times. I recognized one of the names as the president of a large publishing corporation. I held on to that contact information like I was stewarding something rare and valuable.

About a year later, I took advantage of having his info on file and responded to something that was taking place at the time, something in which I felt that my unique perspective would prove to be helpful. I remember more about that aspect of the communication than the final outcome, but I do recall the feeling of getting past the executive secretary in the outer office, so to speak, and sitting across the desk from the person himself.

With Twitter, I get to do the same on a more regular basis with people who are making a difference in the fields that are important to me; most often related to Christianity and culture. It’s not just through replies — I do that regularly — but in the occasions where the person receives DMs (direct messages) and is someone likely to recognize my name from some past interaction.

Still, I consider myself stewarding valuable potential contact opportunities, and it is not something I ever abuse.

If you try to leave a comment on my blog, after you click you’ll see it says, “Value-added comments only.” I put that in there many years ago, because I was tired of having to approve comments that merely said, “Nice article;” or “Good work.” (At the time, a lot of those were a form of spam anyway.) I wanted to hear from people who were willing to engage with the topic at hand.

In most respects, any time I use direct messaging on Twitter, I try to make absolutely sure that my comment is “value added;” that it contains some additional information that the recipient will find helpful in that moment. It gives me a seat at the conference table; or in board room. It gives me a voice. People, especially if they feel they have any level of expertise on a given subject, just want to be heard.

However, I’ve occasionally used Twitter messaging as a desperate act where other means of communication have failed. Most recently, I’ve encountered people and organizations whose websites don’t contain a contact option; not even a form to fill-in to get in touch. Some people want the communication to be one-way, and they would rather talk than listen. If I absolutely can’t find a back door, I’ll try going through Twitter.

My only regret is that when I saw the slow decline of blogging, I switched many of my creative energies over to Twitter. This was problematic in several ways. First, long-form writing gives more space to really flesh out an idea, and leaves less room for ambiguity and misunderstanding. My early tweets were in the 140-character limit days, and there were no threads. Imagine.

Second, tweets aren’t highly searchable; they aren’t indexed. This is also my issue with podcasting. But podcasting also has the opposite problem when it comes to fleshing out a concept or idea: There is no concision. In a busy world, concision is the communications skill people need. Podcasts just ramble on. I receive updates on a handful of them, but am not subscribed to any. And don’t get me started on photo-based or image-based social media. You are lucky if the person posted a caption.

I keep telling my wife she would enjoy the interaction on Twitter. If anyone says it’s a cesspool of uninformed opinion, I would say it depends on who you follow. You could criticize Reddit for the same reasons, but no one is compelling you to enter any particular conversation. You simply need to be selective, both on the very subreddits you follow, and the threads you choose to examine. I tell my wife she should simply sign up and follow all the people I follow.

Unlike Facebook, I don’t know all the people I follow in Twitter. Sometimes I will just read something insightful that was retweeted, and click over to the original person’s profile page, and decide they are worth following. And I’m more than willing to unfollow if they start down a different path.

I never enjoyed the success on Twitter that I did with blogging. From appearing on three different lists of the “Top 100 Christian Blogs” to having only a mere 600 followers on Twitter is quite a social media decline. It just didn’t work out numerically. But it means I keep the number I follow to scale, again 600.

Sadly, that doesn’t mean I see their every tweet. I have to go looking for some of them periodically and catch up on things I missed. Were it possible, I’d like to exchange some harsh words with the algorithm. And there are far too many advertisements, at least on my phone app.

The news a few weeks ago that Elon Musk might shutter Twitter was cause for personal alarm. It wasn’t that I was afraid of losing content; of losing memories. It was more a regret that I hadn’t stayed more faithful to my blog, Thinking Out Loud. However antiquated blogging may appear, it’s still the best option of writing something which leaves a permanent record.

In the meantime, I get to interact with the up-to-the-moment thoughts of leaders, creators and observers working in the disciplines and organizations I truly value.

February 27, 2023

The Jesus Revolution: Seeing My Story on the Screen

Because I actually wrote about the film The Jesus Revolution prior to it hitting the theaters, I was surprised when a blog reader asked me if I was going to write a response to actually seeing it.

A response? My response was emotional. Even though the film was the story of evangelist and Pastor Greg Laurie, and even though the film was the story of Pastor Chuck Smith, and even though the film was the story of hippie evangelist Lonnie Frisbee … it was my story they were telling on the big screen.

I’m where I am today and do what I do because of what happened in those years in Orange County, California. I even got to meet several of the people portrayed in the movie in real life in many visits to the area, and at one point was interviewed for the job of Assistant Editor of Contemporary Christian Music magazine. To say I was immersed in all this would be serious understatement.

I’ve only experienced sensory overload a few times in my life. (For comparison purposes, one was at the New Year’s Eve fireworks at Epcot in Disney World.) But in the only thing that held me back on Saturday was an abundance of respect for the other patrons at the cinema. Otherwise, I wanted to wail. Those events shaped my life. Dang! It hit me hard!

And, I am not alone. I’m hearing this deep, gut response — or hints of it, since we’re guys, right? — from other people. Powerful. Impactful.

My wife is on staff at a local church, and lately I’ve been trying to be supportive at another nearby church in our community. I went back to the former church on Sunday for a special service they were having, and the pastor spontaneously decided to open the service with a song by the group LoveSong which is titled Two Hands, which he’d heard the day before at the theater.

It’s not the first time he’s played guitar in church. Probably closer to the thousandth if you count all the churches he has ministered in. But as I reminded him after lunch, the very fact that he was able to stand in church holding a guitar — a few Catholic folk masses notwithstanding — traces back to the revolution described in the film.

In other words, it wasn’t just the time the hippies came to church, but it was the time the guitars came to church. And it wasn’t just that, but it was also the time casual dress came to church.

And it was the time revival came to church. People turned to Christ. Which is the point, after all. The Jesus Revolution — the actual events, not the film — is considered the last great outpouring in modern church history. How could I watch that play out onscreen and not be overcome by the emotion of it all.

What would I say in more of a review sense?

They captured the times well. The addition of the reporter for TIME Magazine as a tertiary character was brilliant. The people were believable. The other components that make a film more than just ‘good’ were there in the right places. I would watch the whole thing again.

Driving back, my wife pointed out that though both the Christian and mainstream music of the day was represented, Chuck Smith’s pre-revolution church wasn’t shown as having any music at all. I’m sure there was old church piano or organ hiding somewhere, but we didn’t see or hear it. (It’s like there wasn’t any music at all in those years!)

And that is also, I believe, just the point. While people underwent spiritual transformation and became Christ followers, a pivotal part of the revolution was expressed in music, just as music was a central component earlier this month at Asbury University.

That music revolution reverberates in the capital “C” Church today in the forms of Contemporary Christian Music, and in Modern Worship.

As someone who participates regularly in both, how can I not be overwhelmed with thanks to those who led the way?

Special heartfelt thanks to the people behind for arranging for us to see the movie. Faith Films provides marketing and publicity support for Christian productions screening in Canada and is part of Graf-Martin Communications.

February 20, 2023

5 Decades Apart: The Jesus Revolution and the Asbury Revival

I’m not a conspiracy kinda guy, so I don’t for a minute believe that the producers of The Jesus Revolution, releasing this weekend in theatres, were in any way involved in the revival which broke out on February 8th in Wilmore, Kentucky at Asbury University.

But it’s an interesting convergence; it’s excellent timing

The Jesus Revolution was the cover story in TIME Magazine in June, 1971. Explo ’72, the first major Christian festival, happened in the year it’s named after. But if we stretch a bit, we could say that by 1973, The Jesus People, Jesus Music and The Jesus Movement really started to intensify.

Which puts it 50 years prior to the events of this month.

Back to the present: On February 8th, a chapel service started at Asbury which didn’t end until it was suspended for 11 hours on February 16th in order to work out “sustainability” details. Those overnight breaks have continued. Wilmore, Kentucky has a population of only 6,000, and well over 20,000 people have been drawn to the campus to experience the event at its ground zero, with lines to get in the main building, or other facilities carrying the event on closed-circuit stretching half a mile. Town officials have had to close access to the town and post signs stating “Revival Over Capacity.”

Today it’s back on, and contrary to most of the early days of the event when they were trying to contain it somewhat, it is available to stream live.

The first two days — before the media heard about it — the chapel service was a mix of music and times of personal confession, prayer and testimony. The confession element is a recurring theme in recorded revivals throughout church history.

But much of the event since has been music-driven. Listening last night was basically hearing a worship music soundtrack of a generation. There have been no sermons. No special guests. No introductions. No extravagance. No unusual manifestations.

That last distinction is important. There has been nothing that would characterize this as a charismatic outpouring. Nothing of what John Wimber would have called “signs and wonders.”

Asbury is a non-denominational school, but identifies as part of the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition. By February 13th, the event had spread to other schools.

The Jesus Revolution of the 1970s was also largely music-driven, but Contemporary Christian Music (or simply CCM as it became known) wasn’t the industry it is today and didn’t have the same marketing machinery. Spinoff events — Jesus ’75, the Fishnet festivals, the Creation festivals, etc. — advertised guest speakers front and center. Today, you have to dig deep into the advertising to find the speakers or seminar-leaders list, the musicians totally dominate the event, and are the main attraction for attendees.

But the early days were very grassroots, homespun and organic; not dissimilar to what’s going on in Kentucky et al as I type this. I can tell you, with absolute assurance, that you would not be reading this article were it not for how the wake of the Jesus Movement impacted me and nurtured my growing (and sometimes shaky) faith.

In many ways, my own life has consisted entirely of wanting to share the water from the well I found, whether that be sharing the music as an itinerant youth minister with a traveling video show, a coffee-house performer wholly dependent on the condition of the pianos at the church or venue, a seller of Jesus Music record albums, and later, a champion of Christian books and authors through promoting sales and writing reviews for various publications.

“Part one of the gospel is ‘taste and see;'” I was taught, and “Part two of the gospel is go and tell.'” My sphere of influence never reached far beyond my small corner of the world, but occasionally, especially through my writing, and the early iterations of this blog and its two year spinoff with Christianity Today, I was able to tell the stories of Christian musicians making a difference and using their art to point people to Jesus.

Music is a powerful force. And Christianity is “a singing faith.” The two verses of scripture that speak of “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” cause those to arise in one case out of the overflow of God’s word “dwelling in you richly” as the King James puts it, and in the other case out of being “filled with the Spirit.” Either way, it produces a song.

Of course, The Jesus Revolution is more than just a story of music. I haven’t seen the film as I write this, but it’s partly about a pastor who was willing to risk all to bring the love of Jesus to a new generation. It was in many ways radical for its time, until you think of all the social change that was taking place 1966-1969 in the wider world. The changes in fashion and hairstyles, the introduction of hallucinogenic drugs, the Vietnam war protests, the ‘Summer of love.’

All those things teed-up the conditions for Christian youth to find a voice; to find a response.

Asbury University is very different. Although the event is far from organized the college is going to great lengths not to associate it in any way with anything business or politically oriented. Some people arrived with shofars (the ram horns used in Hebrew and Messianic praise) and they were asked to restrain the use of them because people would conflate the event with the January 6th riot at the Capitol building in Washington. Fox News was politely asked not to come, and complied. Their lead reporter said, “…They’re doing something so right, so beautiful, so true that media coverage can’t enhance it and can only detract from it…God bless them for turning us down.”

Early on Brent Williamson wrote:

Nobody was in charge. There was no known leader. There was no known worship team. There was several different people who spoke and you could tell they weren’t in charge.
They rotated the singers and musicians every two hours or so.
There was a guitar, piano, and beat box. That was it.
They asked if you need to talk to someone to please take it into the lobby or outside.
No fancy lighting. Wood seats without cushion. Stained glass windows. The floor was concrete. There was NO words on a screen to sing from. No offerings.

I saw puddles of tears on the concrete. It was a wave of the Spirit that hit certain people at different times.
The altar was full non stop with people weeping and also worshiping at it too.
The Spirit of God was making the altar call.

Mark Swayze wrote:

So who are these college worship leaders at the Asbury Outpouring? Who sits on the “Worship Steward” team?
You will never know.
They are a nameless and faceless generation.
They are rebelling against the celebrity culture infiltrating the church.

Sarah Thomas Baldwin wrote:

Most of the people coming have no idea that their usher navigating the wheelchair through the rain has a Ph.D. and their prayer minister is a retired seminary professor. Most of the people don’t know how huge numbers of you have set aside your jobs, your family time, and your sleep to show up and direct people, check bags, and sometimes set aside your preference in musical style to be up late into the night in prayer. Many of you could preach and teach as you have done around the world and on the Asbury campuses. Yet you are so humble to take out the trash and stand out in the cold to get people inside. You have offered to do what you can and it has been loaves and fishes. We will never be the same.

Humility is a value that resonates with me. The 1970s comparison would be early Jesus Music musicians selling homemade albums out of the back of cars or their VW Microbus. Again, this was long before the CCM marketing machines emerged. The musical epicenter of the movement in southern California was relocated to Nashville, the heart of the music business.

Perhaps this is a cautionary tale for the people in Wilmore.

The Asbury participants however, seem to have managed to produce something that cannot be capitalized on; cannot be easily exploited. I’m sure there will be books on top of countless articles online. Maybe 50 years from now people will buy theater tickets for ‘The Asbury Revolution.’

We’ll have to see what it becomes.

In the meantime, find out everything you can about what’s going on a Asbury and where it leads.

Then, this weekend, watch the film and experience a youth revival that is still making a difference.

Some of the quotations were sourced from the Facebook feed of Regent University’s Dr. Ewen Butler who teaches on Revival and Church History. The picture is from a short article by Craig Keener which appeared on Julie Roys’ website, click here to read. Other information gleaned from the Twitter hashtag, #AsburyRevival and there are some excellent, detailed articles linked there. Thanks also to David Spencer.

For the trailer for The Jesus Revolution film, click here. Kelsey Grammer (Cheers, Frasier) plays Rev. Chuck Smith. That alone is worth the price of the ticket! For the sometimes parallel history of CCM and today’s modern worship, check out this article posted here in 2008. 

Writing, borrowing or compiling a fresh devotional each and every day for 12 years means that our sister blog (and now primary project) Christianity 201 has a huge back-catalog of devotionals on many subjects. For our February 21st piece, I went though every single article that covered the idea of revival, and highlighted several of them in a single piece. Click this link to read “On the Subject of Revival”


February 19, 2023

Spiritual Armchair Quarterbacks Critique Football Game Ads

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:27 am

A week ago in the United States eyes were glued to the biggest (American-style) football game of the year. In addition to the game itself, attention is focused on the half-time entertainment, and the creative advertisements which are broadcast throughout the game.

One (two, actually) of those advertisements was from a group trying to raise awareness of the person of Jesus through a campaign called “He gets us.” A 30-second advertisement cost $7 million (USD) to air not including production costs and many of the adverts the organization has produced are 60-seconds long.

While you would expect the world at large might not be thrilled to have their big game party interrupted by an evangelistic appeal, there was also notable criticism from other Christians. That seems to go against the principles of Romans 14. Particularly verse 4:

Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval. (NLT)

We do this a lot.

It’s easier to sit back in the comfort of our own homes and offer micro-analysis and critique than it is to summon the energy to be part of a large-scale effort to try to do something significant to advance the Kingdom of God. The capital “C” Church is no different than the world: Everyone’s a critic.

What about the theme of the advertising?

A couple of generations past, a similar campaign appeared on billboards and bumper stickers simply stating, “I Found It.” I can’t remember how the dynamics of follow-up or next steps worked with that one, as there was no internet. But today, that campaign might get mired in the controversy of, “Did I find God or did He find me?”

So what about the idea that God “gets us?”

I especially like this translation of Hebrews 4:15:

Our High Priest is not one who cannot feel sympathy for our weaknesses. On the contrary, we have a High Priest who was tempted in every way that we are, but did not sin. (GNT)

This is the very essence of incarnation. I like how this translation “fleshes out” the passage of God the Son “putting on flesh” in Philippians 2:6-8:

although He existed in the form and unchanging essence of God [as One with Him, possessing the fullness of all the divine attributes—the entire nature of deity], did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped or asserted [as if He did not already possess it, or was afraid of losing it]; but emptied Himself [without renouncing or diminishing His deity, but only temporarily giving up the outward expression of divine equality and His rightful dignity] by assuming the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men [He became completely human but was without sin, being fully God and fully man]. After He was found in [terms of His] outward appearance as a man [for a divinely-appointed time], He humbled Himself [still further] by becoming obedient [to the Father] to the point of death, even death on a cross.  (AMP)

How do you read that? I would say, “He gets us” is an understatement. It’s the difference between sympathy and empathy. He doesn’t just “get us” but through the incarnation has “been us.”

If you were in the middle of a rough stage in life, wouldn’t you want someone who understands? Who has felt your pain?

Which brings us to the cost.

The money spent to run those advertisements in the big game was just a small part of a $100 million (USD) investment. This begs the question, “What is the cost of a soul?” Or better, what do we know from scripture about putting price tags on someone else’s “offering?” Matthew 26: 7-9 tells us that Jesus was at Simon the Leper’s home.

While he was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume and poured it over his head. The disciples were indignant when they saw this. “What a waste!” they said. “It could have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.”  (NLT)

But Jesus doesn’t accept that line of argument.

But Jesus, aware of this, replied, “Why criticize this woman for doing such a good thing to me? You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me… I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.”
(v10-11 13, NLT)

As if to underscore the point, Matthew’s next words detail the effort by Judas to get paid as an informer to help the chief priests optimize the time and place of Jesus’ arrest. Money, again! Yikes! Money gets in the way of everything. The discussion of money gets in the way of everything.

I’ve never met the people who created those advertisements and purchased the required airtime. They don’t go to my church. They aren’t people I follow on social media. I don’t know their hearts at all. But I believe their intention is clear. I really like how this translation covers the last few words of Luke 9:39:

John said to Jesus, “Master, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he isn’t in our group.” (NLT)

He wasn’t part of their group. So many problems happen in the modern church because we don’t know each other.

Jesus has already hinted at the inclusionary answer to their dilemma in the preceding verse (“whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me“) and does so directly in the verse that follows.

But Jesus said, “Don’t stop him! Anyone who is not against you is for you.” (50).

Mark’s gospel adds more detail:

“Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.” (9:39,40 NIV)

I’m thankful that even as we debate the motives and nuances of someone else’s ministry efforts, God still loves us.

He gets us.

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February 18, 2023

Grammy Awards Meaningless to Christian Music Fans

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:12 am

Periodically this blog emerges from its cocoon when something happens that would have been relevant to readers during the twelve years when we posted fresh content every day.

This year’s Grammy Awards nominees in the Gospel category noted the artists Christian music fans know and love, but none of that was reflected in the list of winners.

In the past we tracked the results with great interest. But downloading, streaming services, and today’s emphasis on the “single” instead of albums, means that over the past months you’ve watched the music departments at any remaining Christian bookstores (and many Christian-owned online sites) greatly contract in size. But there’s another good reason for not running the complete listings here.

Despite nominations in the five gospel categories by people such as Phil Wickham, King and Country, Chris Tomlin, Elevation Worship, Anne Wilson, Tobymac, Gaither Vocal Band and Keith and Kristyn Getty; the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences presented FOUR of the awards to a collaboration project by Maverick City Music with Kirk Franklin. To add insult to injury, the other award went to the Tennessee State University Marching Band. (Yes, really!)

So really, the awards this year were completely meaningless. People in the Academy vote for names they recognize; not on the basis of the artists’ connections to the constituency for whom they record. Better to wait for the Dove Awards or the K•LOVE Fan Awards. The Gospel category Grammy awards are a complete waste of time.

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