Thinking Out Loud

March 17, 2015

Here Come More and More and More Blogs

Filed under: blogging — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:27 am

Back in October I dumped my entire load of bookmarks marked “Blogs” on unsuspecting readers. I’m not sure if anyone in particular really got a whole lot out of that, but now that my computer is definitely dying, I feel the need to preserve some of the newer entries in the cloud, while at the same time appearing to do something altruistic. Please note that this list does not include bloggers who themselves do regular link lists — I have those filed as “Aggregators” — or Christian news sites, which are already listed here in the margin. Oh, and some people are on this list simply because they have new addresses or the ones that appeared previously were incorrect.

Blogs
Philip Yancey | Author, Thinker, Climber
WorshipIdeas.com
Faith | Sue’s Trifles
GetBetterToday.com – Christian News | Inspirational Stories
Nearly Christian – A Christian community devoted to the journey
Blog – The Janet Mefferd Show
Michael May’s Adventureblog
Wineskins.org | Exploring the Heart of Restoration
KATE CONNER
The Blog of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship – intervarsity.org
Faith Archives – Faithreel.com
Power of Change
Ratanak International
The Morning Drive
Christianity 201 (I just snuck this in the list, it was already in the other one)
Blog | Tim Gioia
Blog – Deb Mills
Memes Archives | Catholic Memes
TN PRIME RIB
old time religion by Jim Linderman
Samuel’s Notebook – A Blog of Inklingations
Learning Domestic Discipline: The Blog (please don’t take this one too seriously)
Reflections – AllAboutReflections.org
Blog | KW Redeemer
Home – Ecelectic Contemplations
the Jesus Event | the blog of Tyler M. Tully
Soteriology101
Ken Wytsma
Desperately Wanting To Believe Again | From ashes to new life
Atlas Church
Sketches By Boze | An ongoing exploration of faith, culture, myth, life, art.
Café Seminoid | Inspiring the Aspiring
Archbishop Cranmer
David Santistevan | A Blog For Worship Leaders & Musicians
Then My Youth Said
Hope Stands | Never Without Hope
realsimplefaith
Paul J. Pastor
Tom1st.com
Christian Book Shop Talk (another one of my own)
Life’s a Journey
Ryan Huguley
Worthily Magnify | Helping Worship Leaders Lead Well
Phil Cooke « Engage | Influence | Activate Phil Cooke
Agnusday.org – The Lectionary Comic
Living On Tilt
Church for Men —
Live58
Bible Knowledge Ministries – Bible Teaching Website
ForeWords | Lectionary Musings within the Community of Christ
Tuesdays with Morris | Jason B. Morris
Christian Courier
Stand to Reason Blog
First Things | America’s Most Influential Journal of Religion & Public Life
Road Report by FarmingtonGlenn
The Heidelblog | Recovering the Reformed Confession
Not Ashamed of the Gospel – Share Your Faith
Alex Koo Blog – Staying Christian in a Millennial Generation
ParkingSpace23 – Carrying the tradition of boldly proclaiming the truth
Phil Cooke | Engage • Influence • Transform
subversive1
Strawberry-Rhubarb Theology
Innovate For Jesus | Grow the Church
Lead Small | A small group community
Children’s Ministry Curriculum | Orange 
Karen Zacharias | Karen Zacharias
Worship Tech Roundup | Worship Links
Jonathan Malm | Creator and editor of ChurchStageDesignIdeas.com
David’s Theology – Peering through the Biblical Lens
The Joyful Noiseletter
Home Brewed Christianity
Launch Clarity
Anxious Bench — The Relevance of Religious History for Today
Panorama of a Book Saint
mysteryoffaithblog
Story Time With Haley
In the Line of Fire
Loose Him and Let Him Go | Spreading the Gospel, ‘Bit by Bit’
Dirty Christians | How to serve God in a messy world
Discipline | &mirth.

 

February 24, 2015

Seven Years of Thinking Out Loud

Number 7 Quickview Bible

The first post, February 24, 2008 - We began this journey as a response to comments I was getting from an email newsletter I produced that people “liked the articles.” The first post was titled “Honestly! The world DOES need another blog page!” and consisted of some excerpts from the 2003 book A is for Abductive by Leonard Sweet, Brian McLaren and Jerry Haselmayer. Interesting to look back and consider that aspect of the blog’s beginning alone.

…It appears that God may be more active outside the church than in it. In other words, “inside the church” may not be the best place to share in God’s work, and if we want to be involved in God’s work, we may need to get out more.

…It may be more valid to celebrate this idea of God’s activity outside the church, because perhaps God’s purpose for the church all along has been to equip people to be agents through whom God works in the world.

…It may be helpful for us to distinguish between “church work” (i.e. our work inside the church to keep it going) and “the work of the church” (i.e. the church fulfilling its mission in the world). …The old complaint about 20% of the people doing 80% of the church work in this light may be misguided. If the minority (20%) can do church work, then maybe the majority (80%) can focus on serving God outside the box and boat.

First Anniversary, February 24, 2009 - Noted the day before that the first year I wrote 660 posts, an average of two a day.

I figured I wouldn’t write anything; I’d just use a huge backlog of articles I’d developed in other places for other reasons.    Boy, did I get that one wrong.   As every Israelite knows, the manna doesn’t stay fresh for long.

I also figured I’d read more stuff online, but didn’t realize that other bloggers would spur me on to read more books as well.   Do I get a diploma for doing this?   A little academic credit perhaps?”

Second Anniversary, February 23, 2010 – Had to celebrate a day early because the midweek link list was already becoming a priority.  It was noted that:

Thinking Out Loud began the same week as two other blogs, 22 Words and Stuff Christians Like…

…It’s also interesting to note that — as far as Canada is concerned — each day, I get to speak to six times as many adults than half of all pastors here see on Sunday morning…

Too bad those other two blogs never amounted to anything! My statement of purpose at this point was:

I also want to continue to make this a blog for the ‘spiritual commoner.’   That’s the person who feels he or she has a real contribution to make to the life of their church, Christian fellowship or broader community…

Third Anniversary, February 24, 2011 – Christianity 201 had launched that year…

I remember years ago participating in a discussion about the “emerging” internet where the main concern ran something like this, “How are they ever going to get enough content to keep those websites supplied with fresh material?”

How indeed?

In 2011, a better question might be, “How does one find enough hours in the day to read all the sites they are subscribed to or have bookmarked?” I figure a typical week lands me on about 1,000 different types of internet sites, and I don’t consider myself a heavy online user. Every single person reading this actually has a completely unique internet experience weekly.

Today, this blog enters year four. I have mixed feelings about that. I’m happy that this blog has become a voice albeit in a crowded room of voices all talking at once. I’m continually amazed — and somewhat humbled — that hundreds of you show up here every day, many just to see what’s been posted recently…

…There is much to be thankful for today. I actually oversee seven blogs now, of which the latest, Christianity 201, has arrived on the scene since we celebrated this time last year. It keeps me humbled. Very humbled. While some endeavors in the Christian life remind you how far you’ve come and what you have accomplished, C201 reminds me of how far I’ve got to go.  Jesus set the bar rather high.

A handful of you also read my book industry blog, Christian Book Shop Talk… Yesterday’s post had someone suggesting bookstores are going the way of record shops and video rental stores. Sigh. In that setting, I get to be a voice in an increasingly empty room…

Fourth Anniversary, February 24, 2012 – A rather light and concise post:

I decided to check the blog’s dashboard to see what other meaningful statistic I could parade out before you on this solemn occasion, and I found this:

Akismet has protected your site from 294,600 spam comments already.

I don’t know how that compares with the big boys, but I’m honored just to think that on 294,600 occasions Russian models and manufacturers of imitation European handbags found this particular blog so worth spamming. And while the rest of the blog stats may pale in comparison, just think how quickly they are about to rise now that we’ve used the phrase ‘Russian models.’

Fifth Anniversary, February 24, 2013This one is probably the most interesting and the only one I’ll actually link to here. I listed, in no particular order, ten things I’ve learned in the course of reading and writing Christian blogs. I might re-run this item later in the week, but in the meanwhile, here is the link. There was also a regular anniversary column the day before:

I am really happy that I launched Thinking Out Loud all those years ago. I have met some of the greatest people, been encouraged to read some of the most interesting books, have been kept abreast of some of the most bizarre religious news stories, and mostly, I have been forced to think about things that I might have never considered.

Sixth Anniversary, February 24, 2014 - At this point the Wednesday Link List had become part of what is now called PARSE, the former Out of Ur blog.

I’m also thankful that this summer, Thinking Out Loud gained a greater platform itself by becoming a weekly part of life at Leadership Journal, a division of Christianity Today. I still believe it’s a greater thing to make the news (in a good way, not the weird stories) than it is to simply write the news. But I don’t mind playing scribe if it means I get to choose some things I think are worth noting as part of each week’s passing scene.

I am truly grateful for being able to be in online contact with an organization I have always respected and some people who I was already aware of. Thanks to Skye, Drew, Paul P. and Tim for your encouragement.

…which brings us to Seventh Anniversary, February 24, 2015 

 

7 is the perfect number

I thought of including a screenshot of the first column, but like the McDonald’s logo, not much has changed here visually. 3,094 published columns later, I’m still happy I started this little project.

As blog readership continues to wane as people have so many choices online, I’m pleased to report that Christianity 201 continues to attract new readers. If you ask me which blog I think about first thing in the morning, it really does vary. I enjoy doing both, and while I could have kept both types of articles on a single platform at Thinking Out Loud, I’m glad that separating them forces me to look at both types of writing on a daily basis.

If you read widely on the Christian internet, you know that the definition of evangelical is currently under the microscope, but I want to keep the writing at Thinking Out Loud somewhat mainstream evangelical as I believe that the voices from the margins tend to dominate. That said however, those voices have much to contribute.

There’s an adage that “even a stopped clock is wrong twice a day,” and I feel that instead of looking for the thing to criticize, we ought to look for the little gems — the nuggets of gold — where writers we might otherwise disagree with actually do get it right. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of grace online, even among Christians. This always saddens me.

I think that’s why doing the link list is so much fun. Again, I am forced to read the widest variety of Christian news and opinion pieces from a vast field of writers I might not otherwise consider. I may disagree totally with what they wrote Thursday and Saturday, but if they make some good points on Friday, I want to be able to celebrate that.

I’d like to think that I am capable of sitting down for coffee with any writer who has trusted in the atoning work of Christ on Calvary for salvation. I do know that some of them might not want to reciprocate that. That is unfortunate and I believe grieves the Holy Spirit.

In conclusion, I guess I’m just grateful for what this writing platform had done for my own Christian growth and understanding of the Church, the body of Christ. I’m also thankful for the books it compels me to read which enhance my understanding of God and His ways. And last, I’m thankful for you, the faithful readers whose page views and link clicks demonstrate a shared interest in these things.

Thinking Out Loud: Matters of Faith Because Faith Matters

Year 8 begins tomorrow with the Wednesday Link List

 

 

 

 

February 3, 2015

We Need a New Search Engine

Filed under: blogging, technology — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:05 am

I don’t usually write about the tech side of my work, but I am increasingly convinced that we need someone out there to generate an entirely new search algorithm. I’m tired of being directed to news stories from 2002, sites that have been shut down or superseded, or an endless litany of sponsored sites trying to sell me things it thinks are related (so the search engine can report back that their ad had X number of views.)

But I’ve also done some additional thinking and have decided part of the problem is us. We want our search results now and we pay more and more for increased internet speed so we won’t be kept waiting.

Ask yourself, is it better to get 166,000 results in .03 seconds that are wrong or is it better to wait 30 seconds and get 8 results that are exactly what you’re looking for.

The bigger they are, the harder they fall.  I think it’s ironic that a company like Google has totally mastered the art of spying on us and knowing our every online move and all of our consumer preferences, but continues, day-after-day, to be a giant failure at the thing they set out to be in the first place: A search engine.

The future of the internet is indeed search. The company that builds a better mousetrap — and there most certainly will be one someday — will be heralded as the most significant enterprise to come along since the invention of computers and the internet themselves.

January 20, 2015

Today, You Get a Snow Day

Filed under: blogging, character — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:18 am

I had a post all set to run here.

I spent an hour formatting it.

It was all cut-and-paste from a heated exchange I had online with someone. I figured after spending all that time writing all those words, it might be instructive for people to see what online intimidation looks like. To see someone’s true colors when they’re commenting on a forum that they can safely be sure no one sees.

But if I post it, I want it to be at the right time.

For that, you need the the extra perspective that comes with a few extra days.

And maybe a little bit of research.

And I don’t want to be guilty of the same attitude I see in him.

So enjoy your day off…there’s some good devotionals at Christianity 201.

January 1, 2015

LifeWay, the SBC, #the15, and God

#the15As I mentioned yesterday, the latest “tempest in a Tweet-pot” involves a group calling themselves #the15, who have expressed outrage on Twitter against the retail arm of LifeWay, a Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) publishing empire, because they sell so many things in their store of which #the15 does not approve, while at the same time claiming to operate by the highest standards. One blogger noted the company even sells a book by a self-professed mystic and Universalist.

In one corner, we have #the15. [Update] In an earlier version of this article, I mis-characterized them as ones whose Calvinism compels them to the most rigorous study of scripture which translates in the real world to acting as judge and jury on every published work, be it written by a blogger or national author. Like the Pharisees of old, they set the bar so high that very few obtain their seal of approval. Jesus said of such people,

They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. (Matthew 23:4)

Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.  (Luke 11:46)

[Update] After more careful study, I realized I had fallen under a misconception created by Ed Stetzer, and that the original #the15 were desiring to see the retail chain do a better job of being gatekeepers of what people see, than the usual Calvinist judge-and-jury situation which is more common. 

The problem of course, is what gets in and what’s excluded?

The debate has been going on for days now, with members of #the15 and those who align with them taking Route 15 highway signs as their Twitter profile picture.

Some of the books that LifeWay sells are easy targets, such as Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. None of us who work in and around this industry saw the controversy going in, but it’s now quite clear the title is theologically problematic. In the little independent store I oversee, the title will be taken off display tomorrow, though remaining copies will be sold as requested. I’ve emailed our staff over the holiday, and the consensus is that we’ve got to act responsibly in light of what is now so plain.

But there are others I feel are being unfairly criticized like Mark Batterson’s The Circle Maker. In the book, Batterson borrows a story from Jewish antiquity about Honi The Circle Maker and propelling that story into a challenge to all of us “draw circles around” the thing or group of things that constitute our greatest needs or righteous desires. Admittedly, it’s not the analogy I would have chosen. But rather than meet with Mark and get to know him and what drives him, the analogy was just a little too outside the scope of conservatives, even though Jesus’ own story of Lazarus and the Rich Man contains elements of the afterlife which may or not be the case. (Commentators always point this out, that Jesus wasn’t indicating that people in Heaven and Hell can communicate with each other.)

Furthermore, now that he is branded, these same conservatives would be unlikely to touch Batterson’s new work, The Grave Robber, which is an excellent study of the miracles in John’s gospel.  (Actually, of all the stuff in the market, I’m amazed the DC pastor would be lumped in with Sarah Young and that he’s become such a target. I would dare these critics to check out the newer book, published by David C. Cook.)

In another corner, are those who are quick to jump on #the15 bandwagon and side with them in this, but this is more a vote against LifeWay than a vote for condemning books.

Still another group consists of people wanting to be identified as Calvinists who do not support #the15.

And finally, in the last corner, we have LifeWay itself. I have written about them before, and don’t wish to burden regular readers here with repetition, so you can simply check out these posts:

For them, it’s all about money. And more money. Regular commenter here and fellow blogger Clark Bunch replied yesterday:

LifeWay exists for one purpose only and that’s to sell you stuff. Any volunteer VBS director that has ever ordered materials knows that as well as anybody. A box of 15 paper whatevers are easily divided into “selling units” that cost 3X what you could get them for at Dollar Tree.

Heaven is for Real is a book they sell at LifeWay Christian *gasp* Bookstore. LifeWay is not a group of seminary professors or a board of trustees. It’s Southern Baptist Walmart. Our church uses LifeWay Sunday School literature for all age groups. Thom Rainer writes good stuff. But LifeWay should NOT be and I don’t believe claims to be in a position to say “this is what you should believe and teach others.” If you are a Calvinist, non-Calvinist or don’t know the difference, you can walk into their store and buy what you want.

If that’s all it is, a Baptist WalMart, then so be it. Let them stock whatever people are curious to read and throw in The Catechism of the Catholic Church and The Book of Mormon while you’re at it.

In our store in 2012, for several months we had a section captioned, “Heretics Corner – Because every bookstore should have one.” It was my place to include people whose orthopraxy makes others uncomfortable, though we do not stock popular liberal theologians like Marcus Borg or Shelby Spong because they undermine the rest of what we carry. And that’s an important distinction. I wanted to allow other voices to be heard even if I disagree with some aspects: Matthew Paul Turner, Rachel Held Evans, Nadia Bolz-Webber and even Peter Rollins, despite the lack of a third name.

That’s the part of this story that’s so confusing. I find myself agreeing the book censors because I view LifeWay’s hypocrisy as the greater sin. But I don’t support a very narrow judgmental attitude where only a few books get in. I am always reminded of the Life cereal commercial where the kids say, “We’ll get Mikey to try it; he hates everything.”   I wish all the energy that goes into condemnation was being used to celebrate the good things that God is doing through a whole new generation of leaders and writers instead of mistrusting them. (Life Cereal, LifeWay…I’m sure there’s a punchline there just waiting…) And I’m sure God can use the little boy’s story in Heaven is for Real despite my misgivings, just as he used Left Behind to propel people into a study of the end times, even though it’s not my personal eschatological cup of tea.

So today’s discussion, for me at least, blurs the normal battle lines.

Either way, it’s the online story that ended 2014 and as of the morning of 2015 was still going strong on Twitter.

I’d write more, but I have to prepare my Rob Bell text for this afternoon’s Christianity 201 devotional. That’s right, Rob Bell. He wrote about The Good Samaritan and despite others’ misgivings about the direction he’s been heading, I couldn’t find anything wrong with it. Yes, in 2015 the lines are quite blurred.


Read more about one of #the15 protagonists here.

[Update] It gets worse: read more about him at this story.  This guy is a menace.

December 4, 2014

Post #3000 — Reflections on Writing

Filed under: blogging, internet, writing — Tags: — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:33 am
Yes, that averages to less than two comments per item, and bloggers at all levels of engagement report that comments are in decline.

Yes, that averages to less than two comments per item, and bloggers at all levels of engagement report that comments are in decline.

You write a short email to a friend dealing with a specific topic when it occurs to you that you know someone else who might be interested in the same topic.

You copy them in and then you add a name of someone who lives outside your state, and realize you need to clarify some local references.

You then think of someone with whom you have had this conversation before, but they are an older person and you need to explain a tech reference.

You have a friend overseas who might want in on the discussion, but you’ve used a word here and there that means something different where they live.

You copy your father-in-law in on the email, but realize you’ve used a word that he finds too edgy and so you rewrite that sentence.

…You now have an email that started out going to one person, but now you’re sending it to twelve, and while what you have is probably more polished and objectively better, it’s nothing like the email you started to write.

In a sense, that’s blogging. Unless you use a password-protected site, or password-required posts — all possible with WordPress — there’s no such thing as narrow-casting. You’re broadcasting to the whole world, everyone who wants to read, everyone who wants to leave a comment, and all the people misdirected to your site because the same word can have many different meanings.

Tuesday night I forwarded a link to a page about guitarists to five people I know who are guitarists. Using the ‘reply all’ function, there was a brief interaction even though the people don’t know each other.

It occurred to me later that it might have been beneficial for them to leave their comments on the site itself. Engagement and community in the blogosphere ain’t what it was. Perhaps the drive to ‘write on someone’s wall’ isn’t the same as it was in the early days of the Internet.

As I write this, I can think of one Christian blogsite where there a great deal of engagement, almost a continuous party going on in the comments by people who have the common denominator of having survived one particular type of oppressive church environment. But I can also think of another one that is, if anything, a victim of its own success because there are so many comments that need to be moderated from a much wider swath of readers, so much administration, and so great expectations for more quality content each day.

Tempted as I am to say, ‘But readers here have no such expectations,’ I am grateful for the number of people who stop by here and allow Thinking Out Loud to enjoy enough traffic to land on a few Top 200 or Top 300 Christian blog lists, but not enough where it becomes an idol.

In Kenneth Taylor’s original edition of The Living Bible, Proverbs 27:17 reads, “A friendly discussion is as stimulating as the sparks that fly when iron strikes iron.” The second part of the verse is also translated, “one person sharpens the wits of another;” in the NRSV and “a person sharpens the character of his friend” in The Voice. Several translations talk about a person “sharpening the countenance” of another which the CEB modernizes to “so friends sharpen each other’s faces.”

I can’t exactly apply the verse about people “dwelling together in unity,” because there is a lot of disagreement online, even among Christian writers. (Or is that especially among Christian writers?) But even there, I feel there is much to be gained in the discourse.

To my fellow online writers: I am richer for having gotten to know all of you.  To readers here, thanks for your interest, and a special thanks to those of you who visit the devotional/study blog I curate, Christianity 201.

So on then, to post 3,001.

October 25, 2014

Peeking Inside Paul’s Computer: Christian Blog List

Okay, you need to be a Christian blog nerd to appreciate this, but I thought today I’d give you an inside look at my computer; specifically, all the Christian blogs that I have bookmarked there.  The blogroll you see in the right margin of Thinking Out Loud is just a small part of a bigger picture.  So here they are in no particular order, except that the first 40 or so are kinda on speed-dial — remember that Seinfeld episode? — and the bottom 40 or so have been added more recently. But otherwise, there’s no predictable pattern.  If you see anything here that’s not a blog, or a link that’s become corrupted, let me know. Also note that missing in this list are several blogs that I consider more as news sites, a handful of Patheos blogs, and also missing (because they’re in another directory) are about 30 blogs that do things similar to the Wednesday Link List. Have fun!

Stuff Fundies Like
Marketing Christian Books
Hear the Voice Blog
Without Wax
The Tony Jones Blog
ToddRhoades.com | Pastors and Church Leader News and Opinion
Phil Vischer
internetmonk.com
Blog |Philip Yancey
On Faith & Culture | Jonathan Merritt’s blog at Religion News Service
Parchment and Pen | Making Theology Accessible
Blog – ReKnew
Red Letter Christians – What if Jesus Really Meant What He Said?
The Master’s Table
blog.worship.com
NewSmallChurch.com
SKYEBOX » the weblog of Skye Jethani
Jon Acuff — Author | Speaker | Awesome
The Wartburg Watch
FBC Jax Watchdog
FaithVillage | MOVE YOUR FAITH HERE
holy heteroclite:
holy heteroclite
Bene Diction Blogs On
Beliefs of the Heart
The blog of Matthew Paul Turner
Rachel Held Evans | Rachel’s Blog Articles
Darrell Creswell’s Blog
Lorna Dueck: Her thoughts on world issues from a Christian Perspective
Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove —
Passionately His
churchrelevance.com
ThinkChristian.net – Blogging about the intersection of faith and culture
Another Red Letter Day
onehandclapping —
LeadingSmart
Trey Morgan.net
Refine Us | To remove impurities from something…
Blog In My Own Eye
Jamie the Very Worst Missionary
Blog and Mablog
Reclaiming the Mission :: The Weblog of David Fitch
THE ORPHAN AGE
Brad Lomenick
One Passion One Devotion
Eric Metaxas » Blog
Kouya Chronicle
The Thinklings
rob bell
Red-Letter Believers
Cindy by the Sea
IVP – Andy Unedited
Lifestream Blog
Bruxy | The web site
The Heart Of The Matter
Donald Miller’s Blog — Best-Selling Author Of Books, And Stuff
Shaun Groves
Reformed Arminian Blog
Cold Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace – Christian Apologetics
learning my lines. . .
David Kenney – Reciprocal Ecclesiology in a Pseudo Post-Modern Malaise.
Karen Spears Zacharias
The Bible and Culture — A One-Stop Shop for All Things Biblical and Christian
Pastor Steven Furtick
The Church of No People
City of God -
Soulfari
BadCatholic
Revitalize Your Church
Cain’s Wife Answer
Digging a lot
LarkNews.com
Quantum Tea – UK God Blogs
Glocal Christianity
Theophilus Monk’s Christian Faith & Theology Weblog
the Jesus Manifesto
Prodigal Magazine
Faith Blogs
http://catchjohnfischer.wordpress.com/
Losing My Religion
jonnybaker
A Living Alternative Our Missional Pilgrimage
Kruse Kronicle
Soiled Wings
300 words a day
Homebrewed Christianity
Zac Hicks – Worship. Church. Theology. Culture. – Zac Hicks Blog
My World
Will Mancini
CBMW » Gender Blog
http://jennicatron.tv/
TheWorshipCommunity.Com – Worship Leader Resources, Articles, Forums
Rumblings
Activate CFPL – Blog
Clarion: Journal of Spirituality and Justice
http://5ptsalt.com/
Sand in the Gears
Jesus Creed
American Jesus
Daily Christian Quotations
Semicolon | Books we must have though we lack bread.
God Is My Constant
Growing in Faith
reboot christianity
Mockingbird
The Bible and Culture
Calvinistic Cartoons
The Bible Hunter
Church and Family Cartoons by Tim Walburg
Simply Church: A House Church Perspective
Searching for grace
Strengthened by Grace
Journey of Worship | Thoughts and experiences on the journey of worship
Cake Or Death (Christian Church cartoons by Alex Baker)
People of the Second Chance | Overthrow Judgment. Liberate Love.
More Christ
Murray’s Musings
Till He Comes | Bringing Scripture and Theology to Life
God Discussion | For Seekers Who Don’t Go To Church
whyismarko — life, faith, youth ministry, emerging church, leadership, whimsy
Zombies. Theology. Whatever | Pastor Matt
http://goandmake.ca/
Faith In The Journey
I’m Waiting
Newgenesis Resurrection Ministries
Right Wing Watch
Living Proof Ministries Blog
Blog | Zondervan Author Mark Buchanan
jeff mikels
Musings by Robert
A Joyful Noise
Big Ear Creations
America’s Next Top Mommy
Dan White Jr.
Practical Faith
God Speaks I Listen
5:21 | Life & Gospel Reflections
the blue fish project (dave bish)
Wayne Stiles
Based on a True Story | Nathan Colquhoun
http://dbts.edu/blog/
Tall Monastic Guy
Gay Christian Movement Watch
JANELLE KEITH
Blue Letter Bible: The Blog | the official blog of blueletterbible.org
Straight-Friendly
Truthinator’s Blog
Glory to God for All Things
Mike King
The Radical.net Blog
Coming Out Christian — Conversations about being Christian and gay in America
RenaissanceNow | Ubi Caritas et Amor, Deus Ibi Est
Chilly Chilton | Christian | Husband | Father | Mentor | Pastor | Friend | Detroit
Jesus, I will follow you.
The Domain for Truth
A Deeper Story | Tales of Christ and Culture
FROM LEE IN TENNESSEE
the gospel side | The ruminations of a kyriarchist.
The King’s Presence
extraecclesiam…
The Journeyman’s Files
Bob Hostetler’s Prayer Blog
Created to Give God Glory
Looking Through the Windshield
The Prodigal Thought | Pointing prodigal thoughts towards the truth.
Sometimes a Light – Blog
Sue’ s considered trifles
ISTORIA MINISTRIES BLOG
Ralph Howe Blogs
connexions
Reflections | The High Calling
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October 18, 2014

Catch a Falling Star

image 1017

 

I started immersing myself in the Christian blogosphere at least a year before beginning to write my own, so I’m guessing it’s been at least nine years now. During that time I have unfortunately been made aware of the different tribes that exist among my fellow believers, and the degree to which tribal convictions isolate us from each other. While I enjoy the exchange of ideas that can pleasantly take place among those of divergent views, I have also seen firsthand the dismissive attitude that plagues attempts at conversation between people of differing doctrinal positions.

Despite this, there has been another feature of my personal ‘Christian internet story arc’ that involves people of all stripes, and that is the world of Christian publishing. Regardless of rapture views, Bible translation preferences, opinions on predestination, or positions on a variety of gender issues, popularity online usually precedes a book deal.

I have the luxury now of sometimes receiving books unsolicited, but most of the review books I get are things I have specifically requested. For that reason, my library is filled with authors who, at the time, I had enjoyed reading online and wanted to be in a position to promote their published works to others. Always, the books fulfilled expectations since the writing in question was already a known commodity.

Often it is the case that an author’s first book is the best. It says all the things they have most wanted to say. It is often birthed in the heart of the writer before any deal has been signed and there is any sense of deadline. At minimum, the author is offered a two-book deal, and while some authors just keep getting better and better with each new release, with others, the second book now imposes a commitment that must be met, a homework assignment that must be completed.

At the same time, the author is now devoting more of their attention to the book writing and dealing with the enhanced profile that has come with having a title in print. So the blog writing, the thing that brought them to the attention of publishers, often begins to suffer.

In other cases, to paraphrase Andy Warhol, their fifteen months of fame run out, and the attention has turned to newer voices. If they are pastors, their church growth possibly plateaus, if they are musicians, their new album doesn’t generate the same sales.

As a teenager I had one particular nerdy hobby: I would compose my own music charts. Working from the charts of other radio stations with a bias toward the music my friends and I liked, I sat the keyboard weekly and compiled my own Top 40 that was seen by a very select few each week and stored in a number of 3-ring binders. There was no direct benefit to me or anyone else, though I must say that I was faithful to it, just as I try to be faithful here on the blog on a daily basis.

I quickly learned the dynamics of charts. As the “last week” position was typed next to the “this week” ranking, it was obvious that some songs were still gaining traction while others were starting to wane. This of course, was in the days before SoundScan where titles now enter the chart at #1 and then begin a slow descent.

Today, I don’t bother trying to track book sales with the same diligence, though I do compile a chart for the Christian retail store I am involved with at least twice a year. But it is clear that there are always rising stars and falling stars both in micro terms of individual titles and the macro career of certain authors.

As I type this, we’ve watched another development take place in the plummeting of a particular pastor’s influence and credibility. While it saddens many as it should, there are others waiting in the wings to take his place.  Whether you get 15 months of attention, or only Warhol’s 15 minutes, the celebrity hunger in all of us keeps us scanning the horizon for the next big thing.

In Psalm 75 we’re told it is God who doles out promotion, honor, exaltation, lifting up. I don’t know why certain church plants go from zero to ten thousand in two years while others never receive the attention that results from significant metrics. I don’t know why great books languish on the shelves and end up in the remainder bins while others seem to crack the bestseller lists effortlessly.

I also know that within me is a desire to jump on the bandwagon only because sometimes that seems consistent with the idea of coming alongside where the Holy Spirit is moving. But is that always the case, or does human effort dictate what becomes Christian celebrity?

In show business there is saying that “The people you meet on the way up are the people you meet on the way down.” (The original suggests kindness to those people you meet, because of the eventual re-acquaintance.) It’s exciting to watch stars rise, it is sometimes painful to watch them fall. Both are taking place all the time, and sometimes there is a comeback or a second career.

The current chart status of a Christian celebrity is in no way a measure of their spiritual life, but their changing relative influence is part of watching an endlessly shifting landscape.

 

October 3, 2014

The Heart of a Discernment Blogger

Filed under: blogging — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:44 am

Do Not Be Surprised

At least 24 hours after hearing of the death of Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries, it occurred to me that Erin Benz at the blog Do Not Be Surprised would probably have noted his passing, and I was correct. In a ten minute span that followed I clicked around her blog and gained some insight into what motivates her as a blogger.

While there are probably some theological things Erin and I would disagree on, I want to say that I am in total agreement with everything I’ve copied and pasted below. I don’t feel called to do a blog that has the same tenor perhaps, but I have waded in on certain breaking stories, but I’ve also waded out when the stories went mainstream. Similarly, Do Not Be Surprised doesn’t seem to belabor a particular issue.

But first, the name as explained in her very first post:

Strangely, it took me quite awhile to determine what I wanted to call this blog… But then it all just sort of came to me. Not Surprised actually has a dual purpose. Of course, it seemed a natural title considering everything that’s happening in the world. Yes, I’m frustrated and saddened by so much of it, but at the same time, we had ample warning that this was all coming, so why should I be surprised? Then as I was flipping through my Bible, two passages stuck out to me:

1 Peter 4:12 “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” and

1 John 3:13 “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.”

The words “do not be surprised” really stood out to me as I was literally simply flipping through the Word and I thought, “duh, Erin, everyone thinks you’re crazy anyway, why are you surprised? God promised you they would!”

In what is probably a more-frequently read section of her blog, the “About” page, she writes:

As Christians, we are called to “contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). This blog seeks to answer that call.

The truth is everything and God’s truth has been under attack from the beginning. Today, churches and Christian groups and organizations have readily and eagerly compromised the truth of the Gospel. They have done so in favor of gaining numbers, filling pews, and over-filling offering plates. Truth, even the truth of God’s unchanging Word, has become relative, and has become secondary to one’s personal experience or revelation. Those who see this compromise, this denigration of God’s Truth, must stand up and speak out against it. Even our proclamation of the true Gospel of Jesus may be marred if we choose to remain silent in the presence of “doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1) because our silence betrays a subtle acceptance of these lies.

As we contend and stand firmly on Scripture, we will be called divisive, mean, unloving, and perhaps worse. Yet we stand strong nonetheless. And we remember the warnings of Jesus and Paul and others in Scripture:

And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. (Matthew 24:4-5)

“I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.” (Acts 20:29-30)

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

Remembering these warnings, and resting in the grace and strength of Jesus Christ, may every Christian have the courage to earnestly, boldly, unashamedly, contend for the saving faith and salvation in Christ that has been granted unto him.

“Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 3-4)

Part of the problem in the body of Christ is that we don’t really know each other. So when we disagree on doctrines or practices everything becomes very quickly polarized. Like I said at the outset, there are some areas where I am coming from a doctrinal position quite opposite Erin’s but there is no denying either her sincerity or her passion, as in this January 2010 post, Why I Do What I Do:

Discernment ministries, and less formal blogs of the same nature (like this one) oftentimes receive a lot of criticism for speaking the truth in love. Be it negative, even hateful comments on an article, or mean-spirited emails, discernment ministry is not for those who fear confrontation! Since these responses are rarely constructive, but are rather composed of name-calling and weak arguments, I suppose I am blessed to be part of a generation that simply unfriends me on Facebook when they are offended by one of my articles! But so many people ask “why.” Why do I and others choose to be so “mean” or “divisive” toward our Christian brothers and sisters? To be clear, discernment and the consequential boldness to speak the truth is not done in malice, but in love. The answer to why I maintain this blog (and to why I’ll “call a spade a spade” in any conversation) lies in Ezekiel 33:6

But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.

If I saw that your house was burning down, but you were in a far room and were as of yet unaware, would you like me to alert you of the impending danger? Or would you prefer that I stand back and watch the house burn with you inside of it? The same idea applies to what I am doing with this blog: I see a destructive, un-Biblical teaching in the church and instead of sitting back and watching you drown in a sea of apostasy, I am led to boldly speak up for the Truth and stand against the false teaching…

So the question of course that many would ask is, “Fine, but who are you to think that your view is correct?” Or “By what authority do you publish your blog?”

I think Erin partly answered that question this week when she noted the passing of Ken Silva:

On a personal note, having served at one time alongside Ken at Apprising’s sister site, Christian Research Network, I am thankful for the way in which the Lord used Ken in the life of Do Not Be Surprised.

So she brings some practical experience to her writing.

I should also say that as this blog’s Wednesday Link List approaches its Monday night deadline, I always check Erin’s This ‘n That column, a Saturday link list, to see what stories grabbed her attention that week.

So Erin, if you’re reading this and you decide to look around here, you might notice that I am passionate about some individuals and ministries that perhaps you disdain, and I want you to know that is probably matched by an equal amount eye-rolling when I read your blog. But when I read the posts I’ve linked to here, I can’t deny that your online work is born out a desire to see God’s word rightly divided and God’s truth setting people free.

To my readers, I would say that as you get to know the heart of someone, you can agree to disagree on things; and you can determine to celebrate the things that unite us.

September 20, 2014

The Last Post

Filed under: blogging, writing — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:50 am

No, we’re not talking today about the bugle call known as “The Last Post,” although there is a similarity of theme.  Wikipedia reminds us about that song which originally connoted the end of day for soldiers and then crossed over into memorial usage: “In all these countries it has been incorporated into military funerals, where it is played as a final farewell, symbolizing the fact that the duty of the dead soldier is over and that he can rest in peace.”

Neither are we saying this is the last blog post here at Thinking Out Loud, though perhaps some of you were hoping!

Rather, what got me thinking was a Twitter post from Keith Brenton last night:

If I had just one social media post left in my life, to bring joy and wisdom and love to a sad, stupid, hateful world …this wouldn’t be it.

Okay. But what if you had one post left?  In the endless stream of social media history you’ve created on WordPress, on Facebook, on Twitter, on tumblr, on Instagram, on YouTube… and on everything else; what if you had One Final Post. Your own famous last words. The thing everyone would remember you by.

What would it be? 

Note: These words, phrases and sentences are already taken

  • Related: Two years ago I posted the lyrics to a song I wrote as a much younger person. I was basically asking the same question, “What will my life be remembered for?” It’s a fair question to ask yourself periodically.
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