Thinking Out Loud

December 10, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Filed under: links — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:28 am
I left getting the upper image to the last minute, so you'll have to settle for this picture of watermelon shaped raisin bread. Click the image to watch the instruction video.

I left getting the upper image to the last minute, so you’ll have to settle for this picture of watermelon shaped raisin bread. Click the image to watch the instructional video.

First here are some things from Friday’s PARSE column:

  • It’s a Christmas Miracle – Yes, I know; the rule in journalism is that you usually end with the feel-good story. But this one couldn’t wait: “When a young Filipino girl received a Christmas gift-filled shoebox in 2000, she couldn’t have imagined that one day she would meet the 7-year-old boy from Idaho who packed the box in a small town 7000 miles away. And, she never dreamed that she would marry the American boy, now grown up, 14 years later.” The story even has a letter that was never received. Where do I option the rights to this?
  • The End of Religion – The Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the country’s public broadcaster, seems to be targeting one particular part of its Radio National (RN) schedule for cuts: “RN is the home of specialization at the ABC, and religion has been one of its signature specializations, because of the public broadcaster’s ‘cultural diversity’ charter obligation, and the fact that, often and increasingly, there is a deeper religious or spiritual explanation to what is happening in our world that eludes most, if not all, other mainstream media. Yet religion is a particular target of the ‘reshaping’, with a 40 per cent staff loss compared to 10 per cent in other RN program areas.”
  • What the Evening News Means to the Church – Our ears hear “ISIS captured the city;” but we don’t really know what that means in practical terms. “Since taking over Mosul on June 10, Aina News reports that ISIS has destroyed, occupied, converted to mosques, converted to ISIS headquarters or shuttered all 45 Christian institutions in Mosul.” The list includes Catholic, Orthodox and even a Presbyterian Church.  One goes back to the 8th Century.
  • Losing My Denomination – It wasn’t just sexuality or gender issues that led entire congregations to exit.  “Among the broader, longstanding concerns that convinced departing congregations that they no longer had a home in their denominations that Carthage College researchers found were: ‘Bullying’ tactics by denominational leaders;  a perceived abandonment of foundational principles of Scripture and tradition; and the devaluation of personal faith. ‘The ones that left said reform was not possible,’ said Carthage sociologist Wayne Thompson, study leader.” The study focused on churches exiting the PCUSA and ELCA.
  • Everyone’s Overwhelmed but Nobody’s Whelmed – So also with the idea of privilege. I have a friend who says if you’re going to be poor, it’s better to do it in a poor country. In the West, perspectives get confused. “All my life I’ve heard the term “underprivileged.” It was used when we talked about people in impoverished countries or children who needed assistance with school lunches. I’ve never heard anyone take exception to the term. But for some reason when you bring up the idea there are people who are privileged, folks get real bent out of shape. This seems a little crazy to me since you can’t have people who are underprivileged without having people who are privileged.” Jayson Bradley brings a broad worldview and encourages the church to “break out of our intellectual, theological, and sociological cul-de-sacs.”
  • Exciting Ministry Opportunities for Women – At the Seminary Wives Institute of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, those opportunities include courses in Ministry of Hospitality (including etiquette and menu planning) and Hymn Playing (accompanying the congregation at the pianoforte.) But what if it’s the woman who feels called to ministry leadership and it’s the husband who is the supportive spouse? At the blog Spiritual Sounding Board looking at the SBTS options, writer Julie Anne was simply not amused.
  • Any Excuse for a Party – The NIV Bible was first published in New Testament form in 1973 and in a complete version in 1978. So it’s time already for its 50th anniversary. You do the math. Expect 2015 to contain a greater spotlight on issues in scripture translation, such as this summary of a presentation given by Dr. Douglas Moo, chair of the Committee on Bible Translation on the need to go beyond a “word-for-word” translation philosophy. You can read a live blog at BibleGateway, or a shorter summary at Zondervan. To be fair, it is the 50th anniversary of the commissioning of the project though Wikipedia traces its roots to 1956.
  • Another Christmas in Prison for Saeed – Given the U.S. penchant for attaching all manner of unrelated spending initiatives to a single government bill, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that the situation involving jailed American pastor Saeed Abedini in Iran is now enmeshed with the nuclear talks with that country. His wife, Naghmeh Abedini states, “I am beyond heartbroken… While I have never wanted my husband to be a pawn in these political negotiations, I recognize that his freedom might be tied to our government being able to reach a final deal.  The thought of waiting another seven months for resolution sounds unbearable at this time.” Saeed is part of the nightly prayer list at our home; Fox News recounts the backstory.
  • One for the Road – When someone leaves 3,600 provocative blog comments in 12 months, he has enough profile, right? Someone thought Atheist Max and others like him deserved to be the subject of an interview.

And here are some things from today’s PARSE column:

  • The Why of Church Social Media – Why you need to work harder to connect people to your church: “Back in the day, back in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, whatever, you would have multiple touchpoints each week with the people from your church.  They’d come on Sunday morning, they would possibly come on Sunday night, they would come on Wednesday, and then there might be one more event during the week that they would come to.  So you would have four touchpoints to get information to them, to announce things to them.  Whereas now, if they’re in the demographic where I am here in Phoenix, we’re lucky to get families to show up to a Sunday morning twice a month.  And so we look at social to make up the difference.” A 48-min podcast that’s worth the time investment.
  • On Having Teacher’s Pets – Jesus built into a select group of twelve, and of those, gave extra attention to three key team members. Most of us have an ideal of being open to everyone. “The most effective leaders play favorites. They don’t treat everyone the same; won’t give access to everybody; spend very little time with low performers or problem people. Most of us want to do the opposite. We long to treat everyone the same; give access to everyone who asks; spend much of our time trying to help problem people or low performers because, well, it’s the right thing to do.” Three ways to play favorites effectively.
  • Preaching Your Way Through 2015 – What does the new year look like in terms of sermon series? Maybe facing a new calendar year leaves you wishing your church used the Common Lectionary. Here’s one perspective: “To be honest, I’ve never thought about my process. Since this is another area about which the Bible is quiet, there is room for many different approaches. What I realized in thinking through my process is that my preaching calendar is the result of answering five questions.”
  • Word-for-Word Narrated Gospels on Netflix – Unlike The Visual Bible which only covered Matthew and John, the creators of The Lumo Project are promoting the availability of all four gospels in different translations and languages, as well as distribution of all four feature-length films through Netflix. But one reviewer notes, “The entire film is simply narrated. Yes. The actors are “playing out” the scenes being described but they are not the ones speaking the dialogue. And maybe it’s just me, but I find that an incredibly dull way to present the dynamic and rich story which is found in scripture. I’m going to assume the decision to have a narrator read the entire thing is down to offering three available “versions” of the movie. Personally, I’d have rather they pick one and allow the actors to bring these words to life. Basically, The Lumo Project: Gospel of John is a really expensive version of a passion play.”
  • Reinventing Christian Television – You know the drill: You buy time on Christian networks or you buy time on local stations on Sunday mornings. For Andy Stanley, a lot depends on what you mean by Sunday morning, as they are on in 13 NBC selected markets after Saturday Night Live. This past weekend, instead of sermon material, they broadcast a live interview with Tindell Baldwin, author of Popular (Tyndale). In her words, “I wrote a goodbye letter to God letting him know I wouldn’t be needing his services anymore.” As Andy explains, “Rather than bury her embarrassing past, she would leverage it for the next generation.” Watch the Dec. 7th episode, a perfect use of an ideal time slot.
  • What’s in a Name? – A complaint to the city of Piedmont, Alabama sent by the Freedom From Religion Foundation meant the end of the ‘Keep Christ in Christmas Parade,’ but only insofar as it was the parade’s name. “The title of the parade was changed back to the City of Piedmont Christmas Parade by city officials. Residents of the city decided to exercise their freedom of religion and speech Thursday night during the parade with their signs that read ‘Keep Christ in Christmas’. ‘This anti-religious group that started all this stuff, I really believe this has backfired on them,’ [Piedmont Mayor] Baker told WJSU. ‘What has happened now is the city of Piedmont…has rallied. They have caused our parade to be bigger and better with more emphasis placed on Christianity.'”
  • The Miracle Crusade Continues – I didn’t realize people were still tracking with Benny Hinn. One writer decided to check out his New York event. “From the musician to his audience to the very God he claims to represent, Hinn exerts control over it all. He orders his pianist to play a certain way, and tells him to stop and switch it up when he wants a different mood. He tells his audience how to worship and how much money to give him.” On the other hand, “But, as you look around the room and see men and women worshiping God with abandon, you realize something. Maybe these people, who trust and believe Hinn, are actually having authentic experiences with Jesus, despite the man guiding them. Maybe these people are actually finding genuine faith in a place that is otherwise tinged by deceit.”
  • Repent! The End is Near! – What was once the domain of fear-mongerers born out of religious zeal, is now the province of secularists. “Today, it’s secularists who predict the end of the world with absolute certainty. If we don’t turn from our environmental sins, global warming will consume the earth in a fiery apocalypse. Just as the priests of old laid out their scrolls, today’s prophets of doom point to their computer models and tell us with absolute certainty that our planet is toast unless we turn aside from our pleasures (i.e. driving, affordable electricity, economical foods) and live an austere life of sacrifice.” Author David Murrow on the works-based religion of secularism.
  • Christmas Scenes Breaking a Commandment – Are Nativity images depicting Jesus not a violation of the second commandment? “I am compelled to avoid all images of Christ. From the statues of Jesus on people’s vehicle dashboards to illustrations on covers of theological books (which I wrap in brown paper), images of Jesus are embedded in even our culture at large… Because what I want is not less Jesus in my life, but more… I am not taking Christ out of my life. Instead, I am making room for more of him.” Reading this article may be the end of every Bible story book in your home.
  • Shameless Promotion of Personal Friends – David Wesley’s album Basement Praise is an a cappella collection of multi-track, layered vocals known to his 21,000 YouTube followers, and makes a great cross-generational gift.

And several other stories tracked this week:

Paul's Missionary Trip Route - Theologygrams



  1. If you plan to take a supportive role in the ministry as your wife enters seminary, you are probably not Southern Baptist.

    Comment by Clark Bunch — December 10, 2014 @ 8:28 am

    • It’s a chicken and egg situation; I wouldn’t think you would want to choose an SBC school if those are your family and theological dynamics.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — December 10, 2014 @ 12:14 pm

  2. When I saw the statement about wrapping theology books in brown paper (Megan Hill at Her-meneutics) it had a familiar ring to it. I worked backwards and found it linked from the Internet Monk. Here is Mike Mercer’s response from Saturday Ramblings on iMonk:

    Oh Megan. You wrap your theological books in brown paper?
    Talk about sucking all the joy out of life. The problem with this puritanical God you serve is that he is disembodied, ethereal, a complete figment of your mind. He is a God who only knows how to use words and who expects people to live between their ears. He is too pure to engage the real world. In other words, he bears no relation to the God revealed in the Bible, in the book of nature, in the image of God we humans bear, or in the One who became flesh and dwelt among us.

    Comment by Clark Bunch — December 10, 2014 @ 8:53 am

    • I found the piece thought-provoking, but I’m not sure if Megan would be the type of person I’d want to hang around with. It’s certainly on some level of legalism. I think we have to look at what God’s intention was with the second commandment, and we don’t have to look far, since Moses’ return from the mountain was greeted with the people giving their adoration to Cow-God. So at its most simple level, the 2nd is an extension of the 1st. But it’s also saying, ‘Don’t even think about going that route, about trying to create something tangible to worship a God who is Spirit, who doesn’t dwell in a temple made by human hands.’ (Like the allusion to a few scriptures there? That’s why they pay me the big bucks.)

      I think that today we tend to see the verse in Protestant-versus-Catholic terms as a prohibition against statuary, but Art History is filled with religious images; I think of Michelangelo showing God’s hand and finger reaching out, and I find that inspiring, not a violation of a commandment. Or take Warner Sallman’s famous “Head of Christ” painting, which, whatever its liabilities, gives a face to a Jesus that many see as simply myth. I think Sallman’s painting is in many ways incarnational.

      Most comments to the article were not supportive, but this one summed it up for me:

      Hmmm…So, how do you keep from this unspeakable sin when reading the text. If it mentions Jesus, what do you imagine in your mind’s eye?

      To sum up this article: “You have heard it said, “Create no images of your Lord, but I say unto you, if you imagine an image of Him in your heart, you have already committed sin.”

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — December 10, 2014 @ 12:30 pm

  3. Regarding the pastor who won’t pray for a woman: I took a look through his website and noticed that he is a pastor at a church in Canada. I assume he is/was a ‘called and ordained’ servant of The Lord. If so, ‘called and ordained’ to do what? Keep a facebook page filled with post after post? He’s posted at least 15 articles on his (commerce driven?) website in the eight days since. Write books? Reading numerous books for critiquing? There’s no doubt the woman was very forward to ask him (twice) to pray for her each day for six months and, yes, she ought to contact her own church (and maybe she did) but even if he deems not in his wheelhouse to pray for her more than once, I can’t see it as a big deal to add her to the church prayer list so some one else might help her through her burden. I’m sure he was theologically correct and I re-read the article and the one phrase that stood out above the rest was “she hung up”. I agree with him that she made the mistake to call him a second time a week later.

    Comment by Janis Vitolins — December 11, 2014 @ 11:42 am

    • His response may seem a bit harsh, but situations like this are never easy, and churches do get cold calls like this from people they don’t know.

      There’s also the larger question: If a person has more contacts, more people in their network, puts out the word in more places, does that change the odds that they will get a favorable reply to their prayer request? I personally can’t see that it works that way, otherwise it puts the person with a phone or a computer at a bit of an advantage. Still, their desperation may compel them to make the phone calls or send the emails.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — December 11, 2014 @ 11:54 am

      • I read a lot of Skye Jethani’s works especially WITH, as well as others, and agree that God isn’t a vending machine or that He responds with good crops to virgins being thrown into volcanos. I suspect that she might see God that way because it’s a prevalent notion, especially in a commercially dependent nation, and she’s overwhelmed by the media. And if not, she might be relying on Scripture that “the prayers of a righteous man avails much”. I don’t know what’s in either of their hearts so am not allowed to judge by that but I can see that he must be very busy with social media just based on the amount of content he produces. Personally, there isn’t anything he writes, that I see, that’s so important or life-changing that it couldn’t be posted after observing a sabbath day, which ever day that might be for him.
        Anyway, thanks for the weekly links. Keep it up!

        Comment by Janis Vitolins — December 11, 2014 @ 12:57 pm

  4. Actually, I don’t think Tim Challies posts on Sunday, though he may on occasion schedule posts the day before. Feel free to engage conversation at his blog as well as here, I haven’t seen the follow-up comments he got to that particular story, but his readers are many, so I suspect there were some.

    Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — December 11, 2014 @ 1:11 pm

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