Thinking Out Loud

April 30, 2011

Eugene Peterson Defends Endorsement of Love Wins

Tucked away in a corner of the blogosphere since mid-March — until CT unearthed it this week — is this little interview with The Message translator Eugene Peterson on the blog Love and Judgment, a blog created to highlight perspectives on the Love Wins controversy.   Since Peterson is a highly respected Hebrew and Greek scholar, his take on Rob Bell’s newest title surprised many.   Here is the link to the article, as well as, below, some highlights:

…I don’t agree with everything Rob Bell says.  But I think they’re worth saying.  I think he puts a voice into the whole evangelical world which, if people will listen to it, will put you on your guard against judging people too quickly, making rapid dogmatic judgments on people.  I don’t like it when people use hell and the wrath of God as weaponry against one another.

I knew that people would jump on me for writing the endorsement.  I wrote the endorsement because I would like people to listen to him.  He may not be right.  But he’s doing something worth doing…

…There’s very little Christ, very little Jesus, in these people who are fighting Rob Bell.


April 29, 2011

Where the Large Screen Holds the Advantage

Even if your life revolves entirely around the small screen, the computer screen, it would take some rather selective reading to not have known about this morning’s royal wedding.  But I suggest that it would be possible to have entirely missed the devastation that weather brought to many U.S. states in the last 48 hours.

The computer has no equivalent of, “We interrupt this program;” or “We interrupt this broadcast.”  Unlike your cell phone, which depending on where you live can broadcast amber alerts in the event of an abducted child, your computer internet connection has no similar features although it might in the future, no capacity — unless you program alerts — to inform you of breaking news.

The events of this week in the U.S. included a period where there were 164 tornadoes in 24 hours.  Some have called it a “hundred year” weather situation; a term also used months ago to describe flooding in Tennessee.  As I wrote yesterday at Christianity 201, God may have promised not to ever flood the whole earth again, but the promise is not explicit concerning hurricanes, tornadoes or localized flooding.

Was God’s promise an across-the-board promise not to use weather to bring judgment, or does it only apply to global flooding?

I’m not even sure that’s the right question.  I’m not sure questions are the right response.  I’m also acutely aware that anything I write here stands the risk or stands the test of being read by family of people who have lost homes, possessions and even loved ones.

Instead, my mind went to the liturgical phrase, kyrie eleison, Lord have mercy.  As I researched this phrase both in religious websites and in blogs, it occurred to me that this is the phrase we can say when there is nothing left to say.  It is the phrase voiced by desperate people in desperate times.

These are troubled times for many people this morning, both those reeling from earlier midwest flooding and those dealing with the loss of entire neighborhoods from this week’s tornadoes.  Lives have been lost and homes and businesses have been destroyed. Christ followers — like everyone else — should be aware of the times, but in order to do so, we have to be careful that our daily internet routine includes some news feeds, or else our awareness of the broader world becomes selective:  Focused on soft news like royal weddings, but missing vital events such as this week’s weather events.  Were you aware of all that took place in the last 48 hours?

We now return you to our regular programming.

April 28, 2011

Remembering David Wilkerson

Filed under: current events — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:50 am

Sorry to learn this morning of the passing yesterday of Times Square Church pastor David Wilkerson, also the founder of Teen Challenge.  David and his wife Gwen were involved in a head-on car crash with a tractor trailer.  He was 79.

Charisma magazine has the story here, which also recalls the beginning of the ministry:

On February 9, 1958, David Wilkerson felt the Spirit prompting him to spend late evenings praying rather than watching the Late Show. Wilkerson obeyed. At the time he was pastoring a rural Assemblies of God in Pennsylvania.

“Two weeks and two days later, during his late night time of prayer, he felt prompted to pick up the February 24, 1958, edition of Life magazine,” Wood explains. “On pages 30-31, he wept as he looked at an ink sketching of seven members of the Dragon Gang on trial for killing 15-year-old polio victim, Michael Farmer. He felt the Spirit say to him, ‘Go and help those boys’.”

Although Wilkerson had never been to New York City, 350 miles away, Wilkerson found himself three days later in a courtroom where the gang members were on trial. As Wood recalls it, the judge tossed Wilkerson out of the courtroom, but photographers captured his photo and he was later recognized by gang members as he witnessed on the street.

“That late night time of prayer opened up the ministry David Wilkerson founded, Teen Challenge,” Wood says. “He obeyed the prompting of the Holy Spirit and every day approximately 24,000 men and women are experiencing the saving and delivering power of Jesus Christ from life-controlling issues in Teen Challenge Centers all around the world.”

The impact of Teen Challenge for me was personally measured each time someone asked me, “Are you related to David Wilkerson;” and I would then inform them of the difference between Wilkinson and Wilkerson.  But I was always glad to do this, since it meant people were aware of the dramatic Teen Challenge story, as outlined in the book and movie, The Cross and The Switchblade.  David would have been 80 in just two weeks.

HT: Jon at Word & Spirit

April 27, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Link suggestions are welcomed.  Use the contact page or simply leave a comment on the previous week’s link list.  Not all suggestions are used right away.

  • Pastors think about things the rest of us probably never consider.  If the “invitation” or “altar call” at the end of the service is a spiritual make-it-or-break-it time, you want to do your best, and while pastors want to be spirit-led, there is a science to these things.  Steven Furtick takes us behind the scenes into his own thought processes on this as he prepared for Easter in a two part discussion on this here and here.  Both videos run about 12:00 total. They spared no expense on their welcome package for seekers, either.
  • And wow! Talk about behind the scenes.  Dan Bouchelle invites us to consider a handful of reasons Why There Are So Many Angry Pastors’ Wives. More things you probably never contemplated.
  • The ABC 20/20 show a few weeks back raised awareness of things done in the name of Christianity in some fringe conservative churches right here in North America. How about a baby getting beaten in the middle of a church service, with the pastor urging on the activity? I’d be most willing to dismiss this story were it not for other online confirmation. Actual quotation from this pastor: “My wife and I have a general goal of making sure that each of our children has his will broken by the time he reaches the age of one year.”
  • Colton Burpo, the central figure of the book Heaven is for Real is a little older now than he appears in the book’s cover shot at right.  USAToday caught up with him having lunch at T.G.I. Fridays and talks with dad Todd about the runaway success of the Thomas Nelson paperback.  BTW, Colton wants to be a musician someday.
  • Lots of stuff in this one that Canadians already knew, but for my American readers, Kevin Platt has a succinct summary of Crandall University’s Sam Reimer’s Five Differences Between Canadian Evangelicals and U.S. Evangelicals.
  • Cathleen Falsani notes the forthcoming movie based on Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller, and suggests some other books that should be, or are being considered as feature films.
  • Just as The Shack brought critiques like Finding God in the Shack (both versions) so Rob Bell’s Love Wins begat Christ Alone by Mike Wittmer.  At least the introduction isn’t invective: “I respect Rob Bell. He wrote Love Wins to start a dialogue about the most important issues of our faith, and this book is my attempt as an evangelical to join that conversation.” Read more about the first of many responses to Bell’s book.
  • And if you can’t get enough of the R.B. debate, here’s a one-hour radio show from England that gets to the heart of the issues.
  • Listen to the Neue Magazine podcast featuring an interview with worship leader Kari Jobe.
  • Speaking of worship music, Daniel Jepsen posts all eleven verses to O, Sacred Head Now Wounded.   (I think it’s eleven, I lost count!)
  • Lets go three-for-three on worship:  Several bloggers have posted this powerful modern worship song, The Man Jesus Christ Laid Death in His Grave by John Mark McMillan; this posting at Vitamin Z has the lyrics, too.
  • In a rather tedious Q & A in the wake of a television interview released at Easter, Franklin Graham discusses politics, and the Obama Presidency in particular.
  • Tim Challies has been digesting a John Temple book, Family Money Matters and offers eight ways we can resist temptations to consumer spending.
  • Congrats to Jon Acuff on three years and 1,000 posts of the sometimes humorous, always thoughtful blog Stuff Christians Like.  Here’s the top ten posts.
  • Can you really preach powerfully and expect people to take you seriously when your standing — in your best suit — in a wading pool?  This guy thought so.

April 26, 2011

Reader Survey: Am I Too Conservative?

I ask the question fully aware that “conservative” is not a label generally applied to me. But I have an online friend who sends me e-mail forwards that are always a little edgy. Which is fine. Laughter is by definition a variant on the emotion of surprise. It’s gotta catch you off guard a little. If you see the punchline coming ahead of time, it’s not necessarily working. But many of his e-mails tend to deal with issues of gender or sexuality, and as often as that’s the case, I see the punchline coming.

Let’s start with this recent one, which followed an exchange with him about the nature of the forwards in question, and where I thought I’d made my wishes clear:

Arrival in Heaven!

All arrivals in heaven have to go through a bureaucratic examination to determine whether admission will be granted. One room has a clerk who inputs computerized records of what each applicant did on his or her last day of life.

The first applicant of the day explains that his last day was not a good one. “I came home early and found my wife lying naked in bed. She claimed she had just gotten out of the shower. Well, her hair was dry and I checked the shower and it was completely dry too. I knew she was into some hanky-panky and I began to look for her lover. I went onto the balcony of our 9th floor apartment and found the SOB clinging to the rail by his finger tips. I was so angry that I began bashing his fingers with a flower pot. He let go and fell, but his fall was broken by some awnings and bushes. On seeing he was still alive I found super human strength to drag our antique cedar chest to the balcony and throw it over. It hit the man and killed him. At this point the stress got to me and I suffered a massive heart attack and died.”

The clerk thanked him and sent him on to the next office.

The second applicant said that his last day was his worst. “I was on the roof of an apartment building working on the AC equipment. I stumbled over my tools and toppled off the building. I managed to grab onto the balcony rail of a 9th floor apartment but some idiot came rushing out on the balcony and bashed my hands with a flower pot. I fell but hit some awnings and bushes and survived, but as I looked up I saw a huge chest falling toward me. I tried to crawl out of the way but failed and was hit and killed by the chest.” The clerk couldn’t help but chuckle as he directs the man to the next room.

He is still giggling when his third customer of the day enters. He apologizes and says “I doubt that your last day was as interesting as the fellow in here just before you.”

“I don’t know” replies the man, “picture this, I’m buck naked hiding in this cedar chest…..”

…Still with me here?  Would Jesus laugh at it?  Maybe.  But that’s not the issue for me today.  So I write this short note back, reminding him of our earlier changed that the e-mail clock verifies took place just ten minutes earlier:

You seem to have sent this one just ten minutes after our other exchange.  Hey [name],  I’m starting to worry about you!

This one has nudity, adultery and language (SOB) issues.   There are some other things online that are worth celebrating and sharing, but this isn’t one of them.  Yes it is funny, but it’s funny in the way that U.S. network half-hour sitcoms have to put the humor on the lowest shelf to get a laugh.   I think this one would fall into what the Bible calls the “coarse talk, foolish jesting” category, and not the “whatsoever things are pure…lovely…of good report” category.

Again, I’m no Baptist, but I really feel that any attempt at personal holiness demands that we aim somewhat higher than the world.

Did I overreact?  Here’s his reply:

But like I said at the beginning of that joke, my MUM sent it to me. and she IS a Baptist, mother to a Baptist minister, sister to a United Missionary pastor. Which is why I sent it; to demonstrate that humor of the “Blue” persuasion is universal. I thought that particular joke cute, in a suggestive sense while not being explicit.
Paul, I get that you think that all humor pertaining to man’s basic instinct is “coarse talk, foolish jesting,” but if you think about it, ALL humor is at the expense of someone else. Newfie  jokes, Polish jokes, Red-neck jokes, blonde jokes, Baptist jokes, Catholic jokes,… even when they are clean, they are in a very real sense debasing someone else. 

Maybe we shouldn’t even laugh at the guy slipping on a banana peel, or at me for for falling asleep with a mouth full of coffee and drooling it all over my lap, because joking about it points out our foolishness, and is ” foolish jesting?” Maybe we should all just return to the strict Puritan standard of being so serious about everything we don’t crack a smile at anything at all?

Okay, so my sense of humor offends your sensibilities. Obviously I don’t and can’t live up to your standards.

Am I really Puritanical?  Is it possible to share a story that is genuinely funny that is not at someone’s expense?  Could the joke above still work without the suggestion of adultery?

Feel free to use the comments section including examples of something you think I would, pardon the redundancy, enjoy enjoying.

April 25, 2011

Cremation and Christianity

I would love to tell you that I spent Saturday afternoon in a tour boat, cruising up and down the St. Lawrence, the river that begins around Kingston, Ontario and carries the water from the Great Lakes out to sea; but if I told you that, I would not be telling you the full story.

Instead, we were on the river with about 30 family members to perform the solemn act of casting the ashes of my wife’s step-father to the waters, a request in keeping with his love of all things nautical.  This was the first time either my wife or I had been to a funeral where there was no casket — he actually died a month ago — and I arrived on the boat’s stern a couple of seconds too late to see the committal actually take place, but certainly on time to share the silence and contemplation that followed, along with a few tears.

At this  point, I would normally do my usual thing and kick off a discussion about cremation, but I find myself somewhat lacking an agenda here.  I checked out a few blogs on this topic, which I thought was relevant given that we have spent the last 48 hours thinking about resurrection, which is relevant because Christ’s resurrection foreshadows and in fact paves the way for our future resurrection.

One website concisely sums up the “guilty by association” type of logic with which most Evangelicals approach this topic:

I think one reason why cremation has had some negative baggage among Christians is that years ago atheists and other scoffers would choose cremation as a final insult to the “God” they didn’t believe in. “Take that! Let’s see you reassemble that!” Cremation is also widely practiced among Hindus, and it seemed to have a non-Christian basis.

This response, from an unnamed pastor, dealt directly with the story at hand:

Those who have been buried at sea have perhaps eventually become food for marine animals and their DNA spread all over creation.   Neither burial nor cremation really preserves the body in any permanent way.

So a respectful ceremony acknowledging the meaning of death and the hope of resurrection can be done for a burial and for a cremation and God will be honored.  I am personally planning on being cremated as a way of saving expense for my family and with a full acknowledgment that it will take just as much of a miracle to resurrect my body as it will for the person buried at sea.  God is able to accomplish this.

Fr. Dwight Longnecker, in a sermon transcript that tries to be all things to all people, does make an interesting and timely point at the end of his “covering all the bases” message:

…Our bodies fall into the ground and die to bring forth the resurrection body. And as the flower grows from the seed, but looks nothing like it, so it may be with our resurrection bodies. They are derived from these mortal bodies, but thrive and are alive with a new kind of life that has grown out of the old.

If the resurrection of Jesus Christ is anything to go by, then this seems to be precisely what does happen. He rose from the dead, but they didn’t recognize him at first.

I’m really not doing this topic justice however — perhaps many of you see this as rather peripheral issue — and that’s why I’m hoping all of you will pick up this theme in the comments.  Perhaps this site best explains why we don’t see more discussion on this. 

One day our bodies — whether buried or cremated — will be resurrected and restored. This hope is not increased or decreased by the form of the funeral and thus the question of cremation or burial is not of ultimate consequence.

Is it your desire to be buried or cremated?  Why? Does cremation run into conflict with Christian doctrines?  Are there any Jewish readers stopping by who want to explain their unique teaching on this?

April 24, 2011

How Could You Say No To This Man

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 2:33 pm

This is one of my favorite Easter/Communion songs, though there currently isn’t an original Julie Miller version on YouTube.  This cover is quite faithful to the album version.  It’s been a couple of decades since this released, and I now see that this song combines the “irresistible grace” of Calvinism with the possibility of Arminian free will. How can a person be confronted with the unmistakable authentic love of Jesus Christ and walk away?

April 23, 2011

Stuck in Saturday: Pete Wilson

I remember reading this section when I read Pete Wilson’s book Plan B, and so when Pete blogged it this weekend, I knew it was the perfect post for Saturday here as well.  The following is just a preview; you’ll have to click this link to read the whole article in context, which I hope you’ll do right now.

It was Friday, remember, when Jesus was crucified.  But the paralyzing hopelessness the disciples experienced continued to intensify as they moved into Saturday.

I think it’s interesting that we don’t talk a lot about Saturday in the church.  We spend a lot of time talking about Good Friday, which of course we should.  This is the day redemption happened through the shedding of Christ’s blood.  It’s a very important day.

Nobody would argue that Easter Sunday is a day of celebration.  We celebrate that Jesus conquered death so that we can have life.  It doesn’t get any better than Easter Sunday.

But we don’t hear a lot about Saturday do we?

Click here to pick up this section in context.

April 22, 2011

Delivered from Death

When you’re in your teens or twenties, or even thirties, you may not think much about death.  With the passing of time comes the reality that the death rate is 100%, and with that comes much uncertainty.

Some of the uncertainty is fueled by all the knowledge we have.  Every night I watch ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, sometimes flipping over to NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.  There are various health stories on the news to be sure, but it’s the commercials that do me in.  Every week brings a new “condition” — usually described by an acronym — and when you listen to the long disclaimer, the potential side effects of the “cures” seems to make them rather dubious remedies.

In other words, I’m not becoming a hypochondriac — well, maybe I little — but I am becoming too aware of the things in our fearfully and wonderfully made bodies that can break down.

Last week, on one of the blogs, someone wrote about being so medically phobic, he breaks out into a sweat when his wife trims the cat’s nails.  And I think it was one of the Christian bloggers.

Fear and anxiety should not be part of the life of the Christian.  While the communion elements were being passed this morning at the Good Friday service and everyone else was breathing a quick prayer of confession for having downplayed their income on their 2010 tax return, or looking at pornography last night until the wee hours; I was seeking forgiveness for fear and anxiety.

Every year, I write something to the effect that, for those of us who’ve been around for awhile and have had our share of Christmases and Easters, we should look for something new in the Easter story or Christmas story that we didn’t know was there before.  For me, this year, in several of the messages I’ve heard in church or downloaded, it’s been this theme that in Christ’s resurrection we’re not only delivered from death, but delivered from the fear of death.

This quote from yesterday’s post at Christianity 201 — which I encourage you to read — best describes the perspective every Christ follower should have:

…Christ Himself [became] the instrument by which the Father would — for all time — make death not a wall … but a door.

Also recommended: He Took The Nails – at Christianity 201

April 21, 2011

Robin Mark: The Wonder of Your Cross

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