Thinking Out Loud

May 25, 2015

Blogroll Update # 3

This is the third time we’ve done this. Use the comments to add anyone you feel is missing, but make sure first they’re not in one of the previous lists. (Note: These are my personal bookmarks, and are not directly related to what appears in the published blogroll you see here every day.)

Here’s the link to part one. (The really big one.)

Here’s the link to part two. (Just two months ago.)

And here comes part three. (Much shorter)

Bareknuckle Bible | Loving the truth even when it doesn’t feel good
Laughter is a Leap | Let’s hop to it!
AdamMearse.com | Musings, questions, and ideas of a minister/theologian
Millennial Evangelical
The Untenable Position of a Whale
Baptist News Global Perspectives – Conversations that matter
Beautiful Feet
Christian Standard | Archive for Mark A. Taylor
Life’s a Journey
Philosophical Fragments — Timothy Dalrymple
Sincere Son of the Sanctifier | Canoeing up denial river
David Black Online
thehopeforlife | Finding true freedom through Jesus
yes i like paul stanley
KindlingWord | Thoughts to ignite the heart
The Isaiah 53:5 Project | My chief concern is to try to be a humble, earnest Christian
Bedlam Magazine
The Rabbit Room
theologer
Paul’s Ponderings » Thoughts from an imperfect disciple.
Euangelion — A Post-Post-Modern Blog On Scripture, Faith and Following Jesus
For His Renown | That the glory of the Lord might cover the dry land as the waters cover the sea
blog | www.zacharybartels.com
In Focus | The Team Brilliant Blog
By Faith We Understand – the proof of what is unseen
Climbing the Assimilayas
Ponder Anew – Theology in Worship
Deeper Waters – Diving into the ocean of truth
Thimblerig’s Ark
Mark Moore’s Blog | I’m simply an apprentice. . .
AJ Swoboda | Blog
Brady’s Blog
Front Page About – Am I Called?
i already am – Learning 2 Be, Who I Already Am
A Christian Worldview of Fiction
CREATION to ESCHATON | J. Richard Middleton
One Passion One Devotion | know God… make Him known…
The Briefing | challenging convictions, encouraging ministry
HeadHeartHand Blog: Informing Minds. Moving Hearts. Directing Hands.
For Such a Time as This
Blake Mankin

Also, here’s a revised extended news link list, which overlaps on what you see daily in the side margin. If you know someone just starting out in Christian journalism, this list is worth its weight in gold.

FaithWorld | Analysis & Opinion | Reuters.com
Christianity Today Gleanings
Christian News, The Christian Post
Christian News on Christian Today
Faith and Leadership | A learning resource for Christian leaders from Duke Divinity
Christian news, church news, – FaithfulNews
Christian Newswire – Up to the Minute Christian News
Religion News Service | Religion News in Photos, Articles & Video
The Aquila Report —  Reformed and Presbyterian family of churches
Religion Dispatches
Christian News Headlines
RealClearReligion
K-LOVE News Page
News | The Christian Institute
R+R Weekly | Weekly News by Christian Booksellers Association Retailers
OneNewsNow.com – Your News Right Now
World Religion News, Religious Views, Spirituality – HuffPost Religion
GetReligion
RELEVANT Magazine
Spiritual Sounding Board
CBN News – Christian News 24-7 – CBN.com
On Faith: News and opinion on religion and politics – The Washington Post
NRB :: LATEST NEWS
Persecution News of Churches Persecuted & Christian Sufferings
Forum 18 Latest News
WORLD Magazine | Today’s News, Christian Views
Religious News – SRN News
OnFaith
Christian News Network
WND – Faith
BBC Religion & Ethics
Breaking Christian News
ASSIST News Service
Faithit: Change the World. Share What Matters.
TheBlaze – Breaking news and opinion
Holy Post | National Post
The Old Black Church!  (Ann Brock is one of my secret sources!)
Belief – CNN.com
News | LifeSiteNews.com
Premier Christianity
Mission Network News – Mission Network News
On Religion – The UK’s first magazine about faith, religion and society
God Reports
BuzzVine | The Christian Post
Converge MagazineConverge
Baptist News, Opinion, Resources, Inspiration | Baptist Standard
The Journal of Gospel Music –
Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project
Read the Spirit | Spiritual, Interfaith, Cross-Cultural Media
News | The Living Church
News & Events
Rush to Press, news from Christian publishing industry
Ecumenical News.com – Daily Christian, Ecumenical News Online
The Association of Religion Data Archives – U.S. and World Religion Statistics and Data
United Christian News
The College Fix
NEW ADVENT: Home
These Christian Times
Now The End Begins: End Times Bible Prophecy
Christian News Portal, South Africa
Parents As First Educators
Religion Dispatches
Christian Daily
Jewish News & Israel News – JNS.org
ABC Religion & Ethics (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
Faith Feed Magazine
religion | The Africa Report
Religion News Blog
Sports Spectrum – Christian Sports Magazine, Christian Athletes and Profiles, Faith-based Influences
Christian Examiner Newspapers | Christian News, Commentary, Events

 

 

May 24, 2015

Quality of Life

Filed under: Christianity, writing — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:47 am

Essay of the WeekI usually see him at church.

He lives in a house for developmentally challenged adults.

Unlike me, he can’t just get in a car and go somewhere, and yet he truly gets around.

He has no fashion sense, yet neither he is encumbered by having to worry about clothing, its availability, cost, cool factor, and what color goes with what other color.

He isn’t blessed with perhaps all the right social graces, and yet I think he knows when people are taking a general interest in him as opposed to those who are just playing him in a conversation.

He didn’t sweat the income tax deadline. He doesn’t have to worry about renewing his drivers license. I doubt his life is complicated by remembering user names and passwords.

His love for God is a genuine priority in his life.

…So there I am, lying in bed at 4:00 AM one day this past week and suddenly I start thinking about him.

And I started asking myself who has the better quality of life?

If you meet him, he will tell you about an upcoming week he’s going to be spending at a Bible conference. Honestly, given the right speaker that week, I would love to be able to take a week off with my wife and have a place to stay and all meals provided.

But look, already I’ve qualified it. I want it to be a certain type of Bible teacher. He’s not worried about who the guest speaker is. He’s not going to critique the worship team. He’s not about to second guess the lunch menu.

He was recently told that due to staff changes where he lives, he would have to change churches. So he did. Willfully. Peaceably. Not for some doctrinal reason. Not because he didn’t like the percentage of the budget allocated to missions. Not because so-and-so was elected to another three-year term on the church board. Not because he didn’t like the new chairs. The change was made for him, and he just went with it.

At the new church, everybody knows him.

And everybody likes him.

And he likes everybody.

Like I said, I wonder who has the better quality of life?

May 23, 2015

Do We Have a Right to Happiness? — Part Two of Two

You need to click back to yesterday for part one, but knowing a few of you won’t, I’ve begun by repeating the introduction. Thanks again to Martin and Nancy for allowing us to run this. To read the whole thing at their blog, Flagrant Regard, or leave them a direct comment, click the title below.


C.S. Lewis For The 21st Century (2)

Have you ever, on the recommendation of a teacher, book-review website, or a friend, began to read an old book – a classic – only to discover a few pages in, “I just can’t get into this … the language is so archaic!”

Nancy and I thought it would be a challenging exercise to modernize one of our favourite essays from C.S. Lewis found in his compilation of short works, entitled ‘God In The Dock’.

The essay we chose was “We Have No Right To Happiness”. I set out to rework the article in a way that I thought would align closely with C.S. Lewis’ original style, but with a modern spin via sentence structure and word choices.

Nancy read my modernized version and felt that she too could bring some 21st century life to the piece by structuring it more like a blog post.

Below represents each of our individual attempts to present the powerful, highly prophetic message penned by Mr. Lewis that examines humankind’s pathetic attempts to justify that which is unjustifiable – that we have the supposed ‘right’ to be happy in this world.

Please feel free to provide feedback with respect to our efforts to modernize the essay and, more importantly, share with us your reflections on C.S. Lewis’ thoughts re the society-eroding, self-entitlement posturing that so many among us now eat, breathe and sleep in this present day.


We Have No “Right to Happiness” by C.S. Lewis
Adapted from the article of the same name by Nancy Douglas of Flagrant Regard

“Well, I just think everyone has a right to do what makes them happy …”

So said my girlfriend the other day when we were chatting over lattes. Luke had divorced Laura to be with Michelle who had likewise divorced her husband to be with Luke. They were hopelessly, madly, in love and, barring unforeseen health or employment issues, they were set for life in the happiness department. My friend continued giving her opinion that it was abundantly clear that neither Luke nor Michelle had been happy in their marriages. It didn’t matter that they were in love with their exes at the outset – because life happens, time passes, and looks get lost by the wayside. Things had changed.

There are any number of reasons why marriages fail and people get kicked to the curb but it does always seem to be an outworking of someone in the relationship deciding that they have the right to do what makes them happy.

Sadly, Laura committed suicide some months after her marriage dissolved. Of course, Luke was distraught but never showed regret that he had left the marriage. He always maintained they had grown apart and were floundering in the proverbial loveless marriage. When Luke had serendipitously met Michelle, she was like no one he had ever met before and leaving his marriage was, as he saw it, his only chance – his last chance – at real happiness.

I began to think about the idea of having the ‘right’ to be happy.

We live in a world where our happiness and, conversely, our misfortune is often predicated on circumstances beyond our control. That being the case, it seems that to expect – to have a ‘right’ – to be happy doesn’t seem like something that can or should be depended on; any more than we can expect or depend on perfect weather every Saturday in June so that all brides will be smiling. You pick your date, send out your invites, and take your chances.

I believe we can have ‘rights’ as far as what is legislated and guaranteed by the laws of the society we live in. For example, we have the ‘right’ to basic education because, here in Canada, we are given that privilege through taxation and public policy. That is why it is called ‘public’ education.

I can also understand a ‘right’ as it relates to a contractual obligation. If someone hires me to design a logo for them and I design it and charge them $100, then I have the ‘right’ to expect to be paid $100 for my work.

Back to my friend’s statement – “Well, I just think everyone has a right to do what makes them happy …”

What my friend was not saying was that, however you need to find happiness, whatever you need to do to be happy, is not to be held up for criticism or judgement beyond a bit of neighborhood gossip – because nobody knows the ‘whole story’.

The American Declaration of Independence laid down at the outset that one of the basic rights of any American citizen is the right to ‘the pursuit of happiness’. That did not mean that people should be entitled to pursue happiness outside of the law (i.e., through murder, rape, robbery, etc.) – but by lawful means. But this is too broad-based for what my friend meant. My friend is not philosophically deep. She watches The Bachelor and thinks the Tea Party is the party at Witzend in Alice in Wonderland. What she simply and solely mused was that people have the right to be happy when it comes to sex. Her view has been ‘trending’ for some time now and you have to look no further than the plethora of partnering change-ups in Hollywood at large.

There is no room for a counterpoint in today’s society. But, if you could get a word in, the counterpoint would be that, happiness aside, Luke’s leaving Lisa for Michelle was done in direct contravention of their marriage vow. That overarching solemn promise made up of subsets of conditions wherein two people promise that they will never leave each other – no matter what. This promissory social contract is sealed either in a civil ceremony or before God and, in both cases, before witnesses. Happiness is not even figured in to the marriage vow which is one of duty of care for the other – again, no matter what.

Today, our sexual impulses and proclivities have been put on a pedestal of preposterous privilege. And where sexual ‘happiness’ is not the order of the day, heinous acts have occurred. When lack of sexual happiness has been the motive behind murderous and unjust actions, the headlines have still – even in this day and age of post-modernism – spoken loudly and clearly in defense of the innocent. We don’t have to look past Susan Smith and the drowning of her two young sons so that she could pursue a relationship with a local wealthy man to find where the utilitarian doctrine of the ends justifying the means is so egregiously lopsided in favor of the means.

The problem with sex is that it makes more towering promises than any other emotion. All our desires make promises – that new car, that new house, that new job, that next You Tube video with over a million views – but none more so than the promise of sex. To be in love involves the irrational yet irresistible conviction that it will last forever and that our beloved will supply us with deep-rooted, passionate, lifelong sexual happiness. Everything is at stake. If we miss the chance to be in love or, as we are speaking of here, to get back in love, life will not have been worth living. Anything in the way has got to go – and fast. So thought Luke and Michelle. So thought Susan Smith.

But, if we establish a ‘right to (sexual) happiness’ which supersedes all the ordinary rules of behavior, we are chasing after the wind because the object of our behavior (erotic passion) is illusory and wishful. In the movie, The Life of David Gale, in a soliloquy on happiness, the main character portrayed by Kevin Spacey warned, “Be careful what you wish for. Not because you get it, but because you’re doomed not to want it once you do. Living by wants will never make you happy.”

As time permits, those experienced at long-term relationships know that erotic passion can sometimes last a good long time but that it will most certainly wane. For those relationships that continue long after erotic passion has waned, it is not because of the promises made at the outset. It is because the two people have found true love and contentment outside of the sex act, and have otherwise strived to make their relationship both mutually beneficial and sustainable.

In a few years, it is likely that Luke will leave Michelle to fulfill another last chance at sexual happiness. Or she him. And, again, my friend will say that she believes they have a right to be happy. That is, if her husband, Chris, doesn’t decide in the meantime that he has a right to be happy with that bubbly new hire in the Corporate Marketing Department. That could change her perspective.

For the here and now, the ‘right to happiness’ is predominantly the dominion of the sexual impulse. But, what if this ‘feel good’ principle creeps into other areas of our lives to the point where every impulse in every person has the ‘right’ to be indulged?

I hear the ticking of the doomsday clock …

————————————————————-

For the original article and other incredible essays and thoughts from C.S. Lewis, you can purchase “God In The Dock” at your local Christian book seller or online via any number of online book retailers.

May 22, 2015

Do We Have a Right to Happiness? — Part One of Two

I’ll keep my intro short so you can get right into this. Thanks to Martin and Nancy for allowing me to reproduce this here, but if you want to send them some link love — or not have to wait until tomorrow for part two — click the link in the title below. Comments here are open, but to communicate with the authors directly, use the link below as well.


C.S. Lewis For The 21st Century

Have you ever, on the recommendation of a teacher, book-review website, or a friend, began to read an old book – a classic – only to discover a few pages in, “I just can’t get into this … the language is so archaic!”

C. S. LewisNancy and I thought it would be a challenging exercise to modernize one of our favorite essays from C.S. Lewis found in his compilation of short works, entitled ‘God In The Dock’.

The essay we chose was “We Have No Right To Happiness”. I set out to rework the article in a way that I thought would align closely with C.S. Lewis’ original style, but with a modern spin via sentence structure and word choices.

Nancy read my modernized version and felt that she too could bring some 21st century life to the piece by structuring it more like a blog post.  (Click the link above to read today, or wait until tomorrow’s post for part two.)

Below represents each of our individual attempts to present the powerful, highly prophetic message penned by Mr. Lewis that examines humankind’s pathetic attempts to justify that which is unjustifiable – that we have the supposed ‘right’ to be happy in this world.

Please feel free to provide feedback with respect to our efforts to modernize the essay and, more importantly, share with us your reflections on C.S. Lewis’ thoughts re the society-eroding, self-entitlement posturing that so many among us now eat, breathe and sleep in this present day.

We Have No “Right to Happiness” by C.S. Lewis
Paraphrased by Martin Douglas of Flagrant Regard

“After all,” said my friend Clare, “they had a right to happiness.”

We were discussing something that once happened in our own neighborhood. Mr. A, had deserted Mrs. A and got his divorce in order to marry Mrs. B, who had likewise gotten her divorce in order to marry Mr. A. And there was clearly no doubt that Mr. A and Mrs. B were very much in love with each other. It was equally clear that they were not happy with their former partners. If the newly formed couple continued to be in love and if nothing failed with respect to their health or financial security, they might expect to be very happy.

Mrs. B had adored her husband at the beginning, but then he was severely injured in the war. It was said that he had lost his virility and had also lost his job. Life with him was no longer what Mrs. B had bargained for.

Poor Mrs. A, too. She had lost her looks was no longer her vivaciousness self. It might have been true what some had said – that she had become worn down by having and raising Mr. A’s children and nursing him through a long illness that overshadowed the early years of their married life. But please don’t think that Mr. A was the sort of man who nonchalantly threw a wife away like the peel of an orange he’d sucked dry. Her suicide was a terrible shock to him. We all knew this, for he told us so himself. “But what could I do?” he said. “A man has a right to happiness. I had to take my one chance when it came.”

I went away thinking about the concept of a ‘right to happiness’. At first, this sounds to me as odd as a ‘right to good luck’. I believe (whatever any particular brand of moralists have to say) that for the most part our happiness or misery hangs on circumstances outside all human control. A right to happiness doesn’t, for me, make much more sense than a right to be six feet tall, or to have a millionaire for your father, or to have good weather show up whenever you want to have a picnic.

Now, I get that a ‘right’ is a freedom guaranteed me by the laws of the society I live in, therefore I have a right to travel along the public roads because society gives me that freedom (that’s what we mean by calling the roads “public.”)

I can also understand a ‘right’ as a claim guaranteed me by the laws, and as it correlates to an obligation on someone else’s part. If I had a right to receive $100 from you, this is another way of saying that you have a duty to pay me $100. If the laws allow Mr. A to desert his wife and seduce his neighbor’s wife, then, by definition, Mr. A has a legal right to do so, and we need not bring in talk of ‘happiness’.

But of course that was not what my friend meant. She meant that Mr. A had not only a legal but a moral right to act as he did. In other words, Clare is (or would be if she thought it through) a classical moralist after the style of Thomas Aquinas, Grotius, Hooker and Locke.

She believes that behind the laws of the state there is a Natural Law. I agree with her and I hold this conception to be common knowledge in all civilizations. Without it, the actual laws of the state become an absolute. They cannot be criticized because there is no norm against which they should be judged. The ancestry of Clare’s maxim, “They have a right to happiness,” is high-minded in nature. In words that are cherished by all civilized souls (but especially by Americans), it has been laid down that one of the rights of man or woman is a right to “the pursuit of happiness.” And now we get to the real point.

Just what did the writers of that grandiose declaration mean? We’re quite sure what they did not mean. They did not mean that everyone was entitled to pursue happiness by any and every means including, say, murder, rape, robbery, treason and fraud. No society could be built on such a basis. They meant “to pursue happiness by all lawful means”; that is, by all means which the Law of Nature eternally sanctions and which the laws of the nation shall sanction.

Yet here is where I disagree with my friend: I don’t think it’s obvious that people have some sort of unlimited “right to happiness”, as she has suggested.

For one thing, I believe that when Clare says “happiness,” she means simply and solely “sexual happiness”, partly because people like Clare never use the word “happiness” in any other sense. But also because I never heard Clare talk about the “right” to any other kind of happiness. With respect to her political views, Clare, being rather leftist in her approach, would have thought it scandalous if anyone defended the actions of a ruthless financial tycoon on the grounds that his happiness consisted in making money and he was pursuing his happiness. I also never heard her (a serious non-drinker herself) excuse an alcoholic because he was ‘happy’ when he was drunk.

Clare is, in fact, simply doing what I think the whole western world seems to have been doing for the last forty-odd years. When I was a kid, all the progressive people were saying, “Why all this prudishness? Let’s treat sex just as we treat all our other impulses.” I was simple-minded enough to believe they meant what they said. I have since discovered that they meant exactly the opposite. They meant that sex was to be treated as no other impulse in our nature has ever been treated by civilized people. All the others, we admit, have to be restrained.

For instance, absolute obedience to instinct for self-preservation is considered cowardice. An ever-increasing desire to collect things will have us in the grip of greed. Even sleep, normally a welcomed respite, must be resisted if you’re a officer on guard duty. But every unkindness and breach of faith seems to be condoned provided that your object is to have “four bare legs in a bed.” It is like having a moral standard where stealing fruit is wrong except if you steal nectarines. And if you protest against this view? You are usually met with rhetoric about the legitimacy, beauty and sanctity of “sex”. You get accused of harboring some Puritanical prejudice against it – that you view sex as something disreputable or shameful. (I vehemently deny being guilty of such a charge: Venus, Aphrodite, Our Lady of Cyprus – I never breathed a word against you!)

If I object to kids stealing nectarines, must I then be thought of as someone who disapproves of nectarines in general? Or even of kids in general? It might be the stealing I disapprove of, you figure?

The real situation is skillfully concealed by saying that the question of Mr. A’s “right” to desert his wife is one of “sexual morality.” If I may continue with the fruit analogy, robbing an orchard is not an offense against some special morality called “fruit morality.” It is an offense against honesty. Likewise, Mr. A’s action is an offense against good faith (to solemn promises), against gratitude (toward one to whom he was deeply indebted) and against common humanity.

Our sexual impulses are thus being thrust into a position of preposterous privilege. The sexual motive is taken to condone all sorts of behavior which, if it had any other outcome in view, would be condemned as merciless, treacherous and unjust.

Now though I see no good reason for giving sex this privilege, I think I see a strong cause, and it is this: the nature of a strong erotic passion, which is completely distinct from any heat-of-the-moment, fleeting appetite, makes more towering promises than any other emotion.

No doubt all our desires make promises, but not so impressively. To be in love involves the almost irresistible conviction that one will go on being in love until one dies, and that possession of our beloved will supply us with not just merely frequent ecstasies, but settled, fruitful, deep-rooted, lifelong happiness. Hence, all seem to be at stake. If we miss this chance we shall have lived in vain. At the mere thought of such a doom we sink into fathomless depths of self-pity.

Unfortunately these promises are often found to be quite unfounded. Every experienced adult knows this to be the case with regard to all erotic passions (except the one he/she is feeling at the moment). We discount the world-without-end pretentiousness of our friends’ romantic liaisons easily enough. We know that such things sometimes last and sometimes don’t. When they do last, it is not because they promised at the outset to make it last. When two people achieve enduring happiness, this is not solely because they are great lovers but because they are also – I must put it crudely – good people; controlled, loyal, fair-minded, mutually adaptable people.

If we establish a “right to (sexual) happiness” that supersedes all the ordinary rules of behavior, we do so not because of what our passion shows itself to be in experience, but because of what it professes to be while we are in the grip of it.

So while the bad behavior is real and works miseries and personal ruin, the happiness which was the object of the behavior turns out again and again to be illusory.

Everyone (except Mr. A and Mrs. B) knows that Mr. A, in a year or so, may have the same reason for deserting his new wife as he did for deserting his old one. He will again feel that all is at stake. He will again see himself as the great lover, and his pity for himself will exclude all pity for the (current) woman.

Two final points remain:

1. A society in which marital infidelity is tolerated must always be in the long run a society adverse to women. Whatever a few songs composed by men and/or satirical offerings might say to the contrary, women are more naturally monogamous than men; it is a biological necessity. Where promiscuity prevails, they will therefore always be more often the victims than the culprits; domestic happiness is more necessary to them than to us. And the quality by which they most easily hold a man – their beauty – decreases every year after they’ve reached maturity, but this does not happen to those qualities of personality we find in women. In the cut-throat promiscuity war that rages on, women are at a double disadvantage – they play for higher stakes and are also more likely to lose. I have no sympathy with moralists who frown at the increasing lewdness of female provocativeness. These are signs of desperate competition and fill me with pity.

2. Secondly, though the “right to happiness” is claimed chiefly for the sexual impulse, it seems to me impossible that the matter will remain there. Once such a fatal principle is condoned in that department (our sexual natures) it will sooner or later seep through into our whole lives. We therefore advance toward a society where not only each person but every impulse in each person claims no-holds-barred permissions. And at that time, though our technological skill may help us survive a little longer, our civilization will have died at heart, and will – don’t even dare add the word “unfortunately” – be swept away.

May 21, 2015

In Case of Rapture, Or Long Weekend, This Church will be Closed

North Point Closing

When we were given a midweek tour of Buckhead Church a few years ago, the thing that struck me was that there was a large infrastructure that was really only used for a few hours each week. The entrepreneur in me was trying to think of ways to leverage the facility to see greater exposure, so the idea of taking one week — no, make that two weeks — off each year is in my thinking, somewhat counterproductive.

But that’s exactly what the North Point family of churches in Atlanta’s north suburbs is doing this weekend; taking their cue from an already entrenched shutdown that occurs annually between Christmas and New Year’s, the church will be completely closed over the Memorial Day weekend, in anticipation of a major summer kickoff on May 31st.

Now, I’m not criticizing here, I’m just posing the question. I am a fairly rabid fan of Andy Stanley. I greatly respect and admire his ability to re-frame the Gospel in totally fresh ways. But let’s give this some context.

We live at a time when people are taking an extremely casual approach to church attendance. Families with children have already sacrificed weekly continuity on the altar of getting their kids into team sports: Soccer, baseball, three-pitch, t-ball, gymnastics, swim teams, etc. What hasn’t been destroyed by athletics has been decimated by dads working weekend shifts or moms working retail Sunday openings.

These days, if you can get a family out to church 26 out of 52 Sundays, you’re doing well.

So why chop that down to only 50 Sundays? Why create even the most subtle suggestion that taking time off church is perfectly acceptable?

Not being a regular attender, I don’t know if there’s room in North Point’s church culture for dissension, but I would rate this as one of their less-smart moves. I really feel for singles in this, people who don’t have family traditions on the long weekend, and especially, people who look for the fellowship of that weekly worship gathering as a boost for the rest of their week. Honestly, I get depressed as hell just thinking about people losing that sense of connection, to the point where I can’t imagine having to live it.

Obviously, some people, who place a sense of propriety on weekly church attendance will take the opportunity to visit another church. Some may stay home and watch an alternative presentation the church will offer at North Point Online. Some people, planning a visit to Atlanta for this weekend that includes a North Point visit, simply will not get the memo.

For this and other reasons, I have to say a resounding “No!”

What about you?

 

 

May 20, 2015

Wednesday Link List

Poor signage or a creatively named new outreach for Teen Challenge?

Poor signage or a creatively named new outreach for Teen Challenge?

Okay, hands up everyone who remembers the Bible story about The Horn of the Llamas?

Okay, hands up everyone who remembers the Bible story about The Horn of the Llamas?

Witty introduction, not in the Advance Reader Copy, to appear here in print edition.

in case of fire

Tomorrow on the blog: In Case of Rapture, Or Long Weekend, This Church will be Closed — a look at a major megachurch that already takes one weekend off in the winter, now doing the same in late Spring. (Title similarity to the graphic above was pure coincidence.) 

Video of the Week: This reminded me so much of Boney M who did Rivers of Babylon, though this sounds more like Rasputin.

May 19, 2015

The Blogging and Congregational Outreach Analogy: 3 Types of Churches

Filed under: Christianity, Church — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:09 am

I met Glenn Schaeffer years ago when he was a pastor in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada; and for many years his very colorful blog, Go and Make has been linked here. These thoughts really resonated and I wanted to make sure you had a chance to think this over!

3 types of churches You Find It … Hyperlinked … Embedded … What is the Tendency of Your Congregation?

I have been blogging for a few years. As I compose articles I find there are times when, either for the press of time or simply out of sheer laziness, I simply mention a resource and hope the reader will take the initiative and find it online. (This is not my usual practice!) There are times I will hyperlink to a resource so with a simple click of the mouse the reader will be taken to the website.  Other times, I embed the material right into the blog so that the reader simply scrolls down … clicks and watches what has been embedded into the blog.

I can’t help but see a parallel with congregations and their attitude toward their mission to the lost people in their community. Some congregations have the attitude that, “We’ve let people of this community know we are here. We have built our building, erected a sign and we have a website.  Now, it’s up the people of this community to find us.”

Other congregations “hyperlink” to their community.  Vacation Bible Schools, community workshops, worship services in local senior centers, brochure distributions, radio ads, preschools, “block parties” and home Bible studies make it easier for people in their community to find them.

Other congregations “embed” themselves into the social fabric of their community.   Member’s volunteer in a variety of community organizations … foster friendships with their unchurched friends or coworkers … develop relationships with seniors in senior care homes … invite immigrants into their homes to introduce them to western cultural practices … develop working partnerships with local organizations in their community or the neighborhood around their church building.  The people of the community encounter members of “embedded” congregations almost everywhere.  “Embedded congregations” don’t wait for people to find them … they find the people and serve them … love them and tell them about Christ!

What is the tendency of your congregation?

 

 

May 18, 2015

Praying Like Opposite George

Filed under: prayer — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:57 am

This jumps you into the middle of an article by Benjamin L. Corey at the blog Formerly Fundie, where he takes a fresh look at prayer. If it whets your appetite for more, click the link at the bottom.

Opposite GeorgeTake a season being Opposite George with your prayer life.

My favorite Seinfeld was the Opposite George episode  (which became a chapter in Christian Outsiders) where George started using his opposite instinct to make life choices. I’ve found this “opposite instinct” to actually be helpful for prayer life. Have you been approaching prayer in the same way since your childhood? Try doing the opposite for a season.

If you grew up in a highly structured, liturgical culture, try getting rid of all of the canned prayers you’re used to, and just talk to God from your heart. Or, if you grew up completely unstructured and find that’s not helpful right now, try adding structure to your prayer by trying either of the following: using a prayer book and praying prayers written in the book, or pick a Psalm and pray that particular verse as a personal prayer. If neither of those options ring your bell, you could even write out your own “life prayer” to ritualistically pray each morning. The key here is to try something different.

…continue reading Rediscovering Prayer When Your Prayer Life is Dead

May 17, 2015

The Worst Word

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:15 am

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The scene is etched rather clearly in my memory. We were driving on the freeway heading to a Christian conference grounds for a week of spiritual retreat. My parents were in the front of the car, and I was occupying a middle seat in the back, affording me a clear view of everything from the front window.

It was then I saw the word, spray-painted in black on the side of the bridge; a four-letter, one syllable word beginning with the sixth letter of the alphabet.

[Pausing while people count.]

With my mastery of Hooked on Phonics kicking in full steam, I blurted the word out.

The lecture kicked in immediately. “That is the worst word;” I was told. Now that I knew that, I was given a warning that using that word again would result in my mouth washed out with soap. Or worse.

“What word is that?” I asked.

Okay, I didn’t ask that.

As years went by I started to wonder if that word really is the worst word, especially now that it turns up occasionally in Christian books, purely for provocation of course. Maybe we’re all becoming desensitized.

As I matured, I decided that to name a particular word worse than others was somewhat arbitrary. If anything, I think that hearing God’s name or the name of Jesus misused probably grates on me to a much greater degree.

Blasphemy is clearly the worst.

But so are words of hate. Hate speech can be racist rhetoric, or it can be the over-reaction of internet trolls speaking out against people who disagree with their pet doctrine or favorite Bible translation, or people who simply don’t use the same terminology as they do to express the gospel.

I still think the use of the F-word represents a lack of refinement. It is clearly still considered substandard English. However, it doesn’t raise my blood pressure as much as the aforementioned alternatives.

Do you agree?


May 16, 2015

My Life Growing Up in Europe

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:48 am

I did not grow up in Europe.

The topic last night was, “Imagine how your life would be different if you had grown up on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.”

I passionately told my wife, “You would have lived in a different type of housing, eaten different foods, been exposed a greater variety of languages, gone through a very different school system.”

She smiled and continued watching her online murder mystery. In fairness, she had a long day at work. As for me, I could smell the different air, see the sun casting shadows at angles I’ve never experienced from trees that don’t grow here.

What prompted all this was I tuned in to Delicast.com last night and selected a radio station from the Netherlands, Toppers van Toen. They play music of the 60s, 70s and 80s. Maybe a little too middle-of-the-road for my liking. Not my version of the 60s or the 80s. Tomorrow night I’ll pick a different station.

Meanwhile, here’s what was going on as I listened:

03:43:52 Unit Gloria Our Father
03:41:04 FRIDA BOCCARA Cent Mille Chansons
03:38:02 Bee Gees First of May
03:33:23 Barry White Never Never Gonna Give Ya Up
03:31:04 Billy J Kramer & The Dakotas Bad To Me
03:28:42 Royal Guardsmen Snoopy Vs The Red Baron
03:25:36 Stevie Wonder You Are The Sunshine Of My Life
03:20:38 Whitney Houston Didn’t We Almost Have It All
03:14:54 Gerard Lenorman Voici Les Clés
03:11:15 Don McLean Vincent
03:07:37 Jose Feliciano Che Sara
03:04:45 Tina Charles Dance Little Lady Dance
03:01:34 Long John Baldry Let The Heartaches Begin
02:59:00 Dusty Springfield You Don’t Have To Say You Love
02:55:46 Golden Earings Dong Dong Diki Digi Dong
02:51:14 Rod Stewart Ain’t Love A Bitch
02:47:12 Tina Turner Two People
02:42:16 Classics Wings Of An Eagle
02:38:35 Move Blackberry Way
02:36:13 Luman Bob Let’s Think About Living
02:33:10 Chicory Tip Good Grief Christina
02:30:12 Four Tops Bernadette
02:27:48 The Hollies Listen To Me
02:23:42 Billy Ocean Suddenly
02:17:52 John Miles Music

No, I don’t know why Frida is in all caps.

For some of us, for whom travel is simply not an option, this is a way to immerse yourself in a foreign space; to at least mentally board that plane and enjoy that European vacation. But not a hotel holiday, or even a bus tour; but rather, an immersion into the life of a local village perhaps, or a one week stay at the house of a cousin you don’t have where you settle in to watch the hometown breakfast television show and comment how the electrical plugs are not like the ones back in the States.

…So yeah; about that first song; well, listen for yourself…

Now aren’t you glad you tuned in?

There are hundreds of stations on Delicast sortable by country or genre. I encourage you to take the trip.

You can be back home for dinner.

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