Thinking Out Loud

April 20, 2019

Technical Difficulties | Focus on the Cross

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

The Challenge

So the idea was that seven of us would sing from the balcony of the historic church to begin the service. No accompaniment. Just fragments of Good Friday related hymns and songs, sung by different combinations of the group. While that was happening, a number of visual images would appear on the screen.

As we began, it was apparent the person who was supposed to have started the slide carousel was distracted. So I chose a section where there was no need for me to be there, and slowly headed down the creaky spiral staircase only to find people waiting in the lobby to get in.

I pushed my way through nonetheless, got her attention, got the slides going, and tried to sneak back up. I arrived in time for my next part with no seconds to spare and started singing, albeit reverting to an earlier version; not as we had more recently rehearsed it…

…Technical challenges like this are frustrating for those of us involved in presenting a program like this, but for the most part, I don’t know that the congregation were very aware. My mind was still debriefing this, and despite having been up since 4:30 AM on Friday, I couldn’t get back to sleep until 1:00 AM last night…

The Songs

The song fragments we chose were beautiful. I’ve reproduced the lyrics below. Hopefully you know some of these.

How Deep The Father’s Love – v2

Behold the Man upon a cross
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

When I Survey – v3 – tune Rockingham 

See from His head His hands His feet
Sorrow and love flow mingled down
Did ever such love and sorrow meet
Or thorns compose so rich a crown

And Can It Be – v2 only 

He left His Father’s throne above
So free so infinite His grace
Emptied Himself of all but love
And bled for Adam’s helpless race

At Calvary – chorus

Mercy there was great and grace was free
Pardon there was multiplied to me
There my burdened soul found liberty
At Calvary

Were You There – v1

Were you there when they crucified my Lord
Were you there when they crucified my Lord
O sometimes it causes me to tremble tremble tremble
Were you there when they crucified my Lord

Calvary Covers It All – chorus 

Calvary covers it all
My past with its sin and stain
My guilt and despair
Jesus took on Him there
And Calvary covers it all

My Jesus I Love Thee – v2 

I love Thee because Thou hast first loved me
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow
If ever I loved Thee my Jesus ’tis now

I Will Serve Thee – chorus

Heartaches broken pieces
Ruined lives are why You died on Calv’ry
Your touch was what I longed for
You have given life to me

There Is A Redeemer – v2  and chorus

Jesus my Redeemer name above all names
Precious Lamb of God Messiah
O for sinners slain

Thank you, O my Father, for giving us your Son
And leaving Your Spirit ’til the work on Earth is done

Amen

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April 18, 2019

Book Review: The Baggage Handler

I am reviewing a fiction title for the first time in many years.

The Baggage Handler actually released a few weeks ago. I had read the book in February — on an airplane appropriately — but never wrote anything at the time because it wasn’t releasing until March 26th. Then, that date simply flew by unnoticed.

The premise: Michael, David and Gillian all pass through the airport on the same day and no, they don’t end up with each other’s luggage. But there is a luggage mix-up to be sure, with varying degrees of consequences. There is a baggage handler, who seems to work two locations at once; the airport itself and the downtown lost-luggage facility.

And the key to the story is in that word baggage. Don’t think luggage or suitcases, rather this is all about the metaphorical baggage we all carry around, a moment of discovery for all three characters in the story when they try to retrieve their belongings.

Not surprisingly then, author David Rawlings describes himself as a writer of “stories for those who want to dive deeper.” (His follow-up, releasing in December is about a couples’ counsellor.)

It must be said that both the cover design and the decision to release the first edition in hardcover leaves the book bearing a striking similarity to similar titles by David Gregory; Dinner with a Perfect Stranger, A Day with a Perfect Stranger, etc. These titles, as well as similar ones by Andy Andrews, ask us to temporarily suspend belief as to plausibility and accept certain plot contrivances in order to learn a greater lesson.

Bouncing back and forth between the three central characters means the book moves along at good pace, and for those who want to “dive deeper” in a book club setting or even on a personal level, there is a short collection of discussion questions breaking the book into five sections.

My personal disappointment with the book was that as a longtime reader of Christian books in general, I kept waiting for God to show up. Somewhere. On a single page, perhaps. After all, Thomas Nelson put their imprint on it.

There’s no real definition for what makes Christian fiction and I suppose that on the spectrum of books that preach and books ‘written from a Christian perspective;’ this one is in the latter category. At least I hope so.

On the other hand, as someone with much exposure to both Andy Andrews and David Gregory, I see the value in this novel, and already recommended it to someone.

We all have things in our past we need to deal with.

April 17, 2019

Wednesday Connect

The question everyone is asking this special week.

Welcome to a special economy edition of this week’s list. What it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quantity.

■ “In 2016 three jihadist women were arrested for plotting to blow up Notre Dame and last Friday, one of their number–Ines Madani–was sentenced in a French court. Curiously, a fire broke out near the Al Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem at the same time as the Notre Dame blaze.”

Essay of the Week: A Jewish perspective on Monday’s tragic fire: “Nevertheless, we Jews can and should mourn. We mourn, because Notre Dame is a sacred place. Even in a rapidly secularizing world (and even, ironically, in France, the country that gave birth to European secularism), holy places still matter… Notre Dame symbolizes transcendence. To be blunt and obvious: They don’t build places like that anymore. At least, not churches and synagogues. The builders of Notre Dame, along with other sacred places of its genre, intended for both worshippers and mere tourists to understand a central message: You, oh mortal, are small; God is great.”

■ And this quote: “What a terrible yet sufficient reminder that the hope and joy that built this great cathedral did not fall by the flame. It is alive and well.”

■ Meanwhile, a dramatic turnaround in the case of arson involving three historic churches in Louisiana, as the Sheriff Deputy turns in his own son. “Investigators arrested Holden Matthews on Wednesday evening. He was charged Thursday morning with three counts of simple arson of a religious building. The maximum penalty for each count is 15 years in prison.”

■ Pastorless Christians (and Bigfoot and Nessie): The consistent testimony of the New Testament, particularly in the Epistles, is that all true believers have pastors… A Christian should know the name of their pastor(s) and pastors should know the names of their flock. So, while it’s good to listen to solid preaching from afar, it’s impossible to be biblically pastored from a distance. And in the 21st century, you should be able to text your pastor.

■ …and speaking of people whose spiritual diet consists largely of Christian television, “New research out of the University of Toronto’s department of psychology in the Faculty of Arts & Science suggests that exposure to prosperity gospel messaging – thinking God wants you to be wealthy, prosperous and donate money to the church – makes you more likely to show an exaggerated and unrealistic sense of optimism for life and take more financial risks.”

■ Seizing the building, closing the church: “The congregation, True Jesus Church in Anping, had opened a new building in July 2018 that cost around $300,000 U.S. But the Chinese accused the congregation of being in contact with foreign governments. The Chinese plan on converting the building to a nursing home… “

■ …It gets worse with this headline: Chinese City Offers $1,500 USD Reward for Snitching on Christians. “The plan, officially known as the ‘Implementation Plan on the Special Governance of Private Christian Gathering Sites,’ not only created mandatory ‘church-free zones,’ but also required churches to give the names of youth members to the local government…”

■ …But it’s not just Christians that China has in its cross-hairs; it’s Muslims as well. “China hopes to predict which of its peoples will become ‘unsafe’ for the nation, perhaps before they act, and then arrest them accordingly.” They’re using high tech to track people by facial features.

■ “Every year in the United States, about 20 percent of adults live with a diagnosable mental illness. That’s about equal to the total percentage of people diagnosed with cancer, those living with heart disease, people infected with HIV and AIDS, and those afflicted with diabetes—combined!” And yet, “…of those who went to clergy for help, less than 10 percent were referred to a mental health professional who could help with treatment. This is alarming, especially considering that 25 percent of those who seek help in the church have the most serious forms of illness.” 

■ An appropriate defence, on behalf of Christian bloggers everywhere in response to horrible post condemning said writers: “Yes, it was a rant. It was a rant with no proof. In this post I did what [Greg] Gordon should have done. I linked directly to Gordon’s words. Gordon just made a buck of innuendos.”

■ In the UK, The Christian Institute continues to crusade for tighter controls on advertising which “normalizes” betting (particularly sports betting) which can be viewed by children. They would like to see something “similar to those applied in tobacco control.

■ Seasonal apologetics: “The Pharisees hated Jesus. They earnestly believed He was a deceiver, and recalled that Jesus foretold that after three days, He’d rise from the dead (Matt. 27:63). Governor Pilate granted their request to keep the peace and to prevent any uprising. The religious leaders wanted to thwart any idea that Jesus could rise from the dead. To them, this would be a worse deception than Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah.”

■ Seasonal vocabulary: 4½ Words you should know.

■ This isn’t a news item, but I think the popularity of Notre Dame Cathedral was largely owed to the fact it was in Paris, and was already part of a larger set of things to see and do in a tourist-destination city. But if Monday’s fire spurs an interest in cathedrals, the one in Cologne, Germany is worthy of equal interest. Its building began around the same time, but the work was halted in the1470s, where it sat unfinished for nearly 400 years. (We visited it last summer.)

■ If it’s true that many people in leadership are surprised to be there, here’s a 12-point review for those of you in congregational leadership (elders is the usual term) and are wondering how they got there.

🇨🇦 Canada Corner: Shootings in small non-denominational Canadian churches are rare. This one left one man dead.

■ Listicle of the Week (but well worth consideration): 8 Reasons A New Generation is Following the Allure of Liturgy.

■ Listicle of the Week (runner up!): 7 Truths About Marriage You Won’t Hear in Church.

♫ With five albums, Lou Fellingham is much better known in the UK than in North America. Her latest is Our God is For Us from the album Made For You.

♫ Gloria Gaynor, who had a hit song I Will Survive, has signed with Gaither Music Group for an album releasing early summer. (Not to be confused with Gloria Gaither.)

■ Words matter: Google is taking heat for placing the Unplanned movie in the category “Propaganda.” One observer wrote, “Who knew that ‘propaganda’ was a movie genre? Google once again exposing its gross political bias…”

■ You haven’t done it and you’re not likely to. 3 Reasons Christians Cannot Commit the Unforgivable Sin.

■ Congratulations to the Mount Herman Christian Writer’s Conference, which just concluded their 50th anniversary conference.

■ Finally, the last word today goes to Michele Bachmann: ““In my lifetime I have never seen a more biblical president than I have seen in Donald Trump… He is highly biblical and I would say to your listeners [that] we will, in all likelihood, never see a more godly, biblical president again in our lifetime.” [cricket, cricket…]


April 16, 2019

The “We’re Late for Church” App Lets You Delay the Start of the Service

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:34 am

I was staring at the clock on my vehicle’s dashboard and mentally mapping out if I could make it to church comfortably (and self-righteously) on time for the 9:00 AM service. I had four minutes, no valid weather excuse this week, and then two normally red traffic lights decided to cooperate.

I was thinking that it’s too bad there isn’t an app that contacts the church and grants you an extra 30 seconds of grace. The church should always be about grace, right? The app would somehow signal to the tech team to start the countdown clock a half-minute later and then the worship team would start the first song later as well.

The way I figured it, for a medium-sized church, if five people activated the app from their car it would grant a 30-second delay. If ten people did that would buy everyone 60-seconds. (You could have it set for up a two-minute delay if you wished.) But once that 60-second delay has been factored in, this new information appears on the corner of the giant screen in the auditorium, and people sitting there (who arrived on time) who have the app can log in and down-vote those trying for a later start.

Better yet, once you’ve hit the one minute delay mark, those people still on their way and trying to get the airline to delay the flight (so to speak) have their names displayed in that same corner of the screen. That’s right, this app includes shaming. People who are frequently late would be regularly shamed.

The church should always be about grace, and this app allows for it.

Just not anonymously.

April 15, 2019

Serving the Local Church

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:58 am

In the earlier days of his ministry, Rob Bell was invited to speak several times at Willow Creek in NW Chicago. Six of those messages were bound as an audio collection, Rob Bell Teaches at Willow, which I happen to own.

Because Bell’s ministry was founded on a one year exposition of Leviticus, he chose one time to speak about the scapegoat (on which is placed the sins of the people.) Bell asked for, and got a live goat as part of the presentation.

To the best of my knowledge, he did this presentation there on two different occasions. (I say this because I had one on cassette and one on CD, and they’re different.) One was for leaders which was followed by a behind-the-scenes (or Director’s Cut) discussion of his own sermon. He joked that in requesting a goat, it wasn’t really a big deal since Willow probably had a whole department for that sort of thing.

That proposition has stuck with me to this very day: The idea of a megachurch like Willow having a person on staff for live animal procurement.

It also occurs to me now that perhaps if LifeWay had offered goat rental, they wouldn’t be in the position of having to close all their stores.

For remaining Christian bookstores, it’s not too late. You might have missed out on donkey rentals for Palm Sunday, but there’s still lots of time between now and Christmas to get into sheep rental.  Also, in the summer many churches abdicate the preaching of the gospel in favor of promoting the local football teams, many of which have animal names or mascots. And since churches are also up to their necks in politics, let’s not forget the animal symbols of the two major parties.

Just be sure to pay your sources on time. An overabundance of financial obligations involving live animal rental is the beginning of what brought down The Crystal Cathedral. That’s actually true, look it up.

April 13, 2019

Stories Can’t Change Lives if No One Reads Them

Filed under: books, Christianity, ministry, personal — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:49 am

This “Bible Book Store” serves as a generic stand-in for our own. (I’m surprised Shutterstock doesn’t own this picture by now!)

Each week I work two days at the Christian bookstore that we own. By taking the two day shifts and working without pay I make it possible for the store to remain viable financially in a smaller market. Even so, the store is continuing to lose money. After filing this year’s tax return I fully expect Revenue Canada to tell me I either need to start working more weekly shifts or I need to shut it down.

The primary work that I do is done on my laptop at home. I don’t bring my computer to the store nor is there really a decent place to set it down — the store is that crowded — nor can the store afford Wi-Fi. Some work I do at the store consists of everything from merchandising and receiving shipments to emptying the trash in the washroom.

Business has been slow lately so I often pick up a random book off the shelf, open it somewhere in the middle and start reading. This time the book was Love, Skip, Jump, a 2014 book which Shelene Bryan did for Thomas Nelson.

She’s a good writer. The place where I had landed was a story about her volunteering to organize a community barbecue in a neighborhood in East Los Angeles she had always been told to avoid.

It was a moving story. There are similarities in it to situations that my wife has found herself in over the last decade in terms of ministry to the disadvantaged. At one point I got goosebumps as I was reading. At another point I felt tears welling up. Remember, I was only reading one chapter.

The book is a $4.99 bargain book in our store. It got chosen for stock among the hundreds and hundreds of books which have remainder status each year because the foreword was by Francis Chan who turned out to be Shelene’s pastor at the time. I don’t know that we’ve ever sold any copies.

I’m not sure where all of these books will end up after we close the store but it occurred to me that hers was a story which was moving me to tears but no one in my community might ever read. I thought how sad a situation that was; that such a powerful story is just sitting here for the taking at a reasonable price and yet no one will ever see or hear of it.

I don’t have a happy ending to this, I just think it’s unfortunate that we live in a part of the world where we have such a glut of print resources; instead we spend our time watching cats on YouTube.

Part of the reason I had time to pick up the book off the shelf is that over the winter I’ve had a real sense that we’re not immune from the circumstances affecting Family Christian Stores or LifeWay Christian Stores. Our store is also dying and there is a perfect storm of circumstances contributing to its death.

Amazon didn’t help the situation, but I remain unconvinced that the part of the market that it stole is actually represented by an equal amount of sales of the same types of products. My guess is that what many unsuspecting Christians are buying from them is a dog’s breakfast of doctrinal ideas.

As I write this my seven hour shift at the store is half over. So far I’ve had one customer and she is usually there waiting for me to open every Friday morning. I know the day can turn itself around, but sometimes it’s hard to pray; the reality seems to be so far removed from the desire.

When the kids were young we would have prayer time which would always include, “Please help the store to do well so that we can pay all the bills.” I realize now that’s not really the right goal. Through shrewd management we’ve been able to enter a situation where we actually are able to pay all the bills, but unfortunately cash position in and of itself is not an indicator a profitability.

My new goal would be, “Lord, please help us to be busy in the store so that the many stories contained in those books can be told to more people.”

April 11, 2019

In the Early Days of Merge Tags

Filed under: Christianity, Humor — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:52 am

Merge tags are common now, but there was a time when it was new technology. Imagine gathering the staff in the mail room and pointing out how key paragraphs of the latest fundraiser were personalized for each individual. 

Then there was Cobb’s Chicken Take Out. Someone keyed in their donation to The Old Time Gospel Hour under the name, “Chicken Take O. Cobbs.” And why not? The last name needs to be last, right?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this classic letter from the computerized fundraising department of Jerry Falwell’s television ministry lately because letters with merge tags have the same lack of authenticity now as they had then. The technology wasn’t all that complex and never needed much advancement, and the application science never improved.

Years ago, blogger and rabid U2 afficiando Dave Wainscott at the blog Holy Heteroclite was kind enough to post it to the internet for all to read (or, at least, the first page of it, as reproduced by the Witternburg Door at the time):

If anybody knows the whereabouts online of the complete letter in a text format, I’ll substitute it for the image.

April 10, 2019

Wednesday Connect

Birds of a feather
Host conferences together. (2018)
Ed Stetzer quickly cuts a check to pay back Harvest Bible Chapel for a 1971 Volkswagen Beetle purchased with church funds for him by James MacDonald (see second item in the list)

While I do promise to deliver stories that you haven’t seen in the past seven days, I will admit that I am guilty of repeating some key sources here rather frequently. That’s because there are some websites and bloggers which simply never fail to deliver good material. They are always on my weekly shortlist. 

The stories in this list are carefully curated. So to our friends at The Christian Post, stop psychoanalyzing bloggers or painting us all with the same brush. Stick to writing the news. The image below is pinned to the account of @Tim_Good. It looks about right.

■ New Denom: On March 27th, a group of Anabapt-ish pastors and leaders met in Alexandria, Virginia to begin a more formal association of churches that will be known as The Jesus Collective. Watch the 3-minute promotional video.

■ Ed Stetzer is the latest individual whose name is entwined in the web of deception affiliated with the Harvest Bible Chapel/James MacDonald story. At issue is a classic 1971 Volkswagen convertible. “Harvest Attorney Christopher Nudo…confirmed that Walk in the Word had purchased the car for Stetzer last spring and that in March, Stetzer had reimbursed the ministry for the full amount of the car, just under $13,000. Nudo said the money for the car had come out of a Walk in the Word reserve account and added that he was 95% sure that former Harvest CFO Scott Milholland had cut the check. Nudo said two other people at Harvest almost certainly would have known about the purchase of the car with Walk in the Word funds—James MacDonald and his assistant, Sharon Kostal, who no longer works for the church…Though Stetzer’s car may be the only reported incidence of MacDonald gifting a big-ticket item to someone outside the church, several sources told me that MacDonald had a regular practice of giving large gifts with the church’s money to people inside Harvest…”

■ Significant: Ted Cruz is on the warpath after Yale Law School caved to pressure from pro-LGBT students when a lawyer from a Christian law firm was schedule to speak: “In his capacity as chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, [Cruz] intends to investigate the extent and nature of Yale’s discrimination against their own Christian and conservative students, continue gathering information from various sources within Yale Law, from faculty to students, and possibly hold a hearing to determine whether their rights are being violated by Yale, an institution which receives federal funds and is clearly prohibited from this sort of action.”

■ “One Sunday I was looking for a song I really like by Elevation Worship and I realized the lead singer was wearing a pair of Yeezy 750s. They’re pretty rare, they resell for 800 bucks or so. I thought I knew about church-type salaries — my wife works for a church — and so I was like, ‘This does not compute. How is this guy wearing these kicks?'” Who needs real estate listings when there’s enough excess to be found in the shoes worn by celebrity pastors

■ Looking at a rapidly growing church brand, C3. “C3 has refashioned religion as a trendy lifestyle brand. But when your version of Christianity says that the Bible is the literal word of God, the devil is real, we’re all spiritually lost, premarital sex is a sin, and gay marriage is definitely a sin, it can make the branding part a wee bit complicated… C3 is a distinctly 21st-century manifestation of a church, aesthetically engineered to be as appealing as possible to young people, then packaged for global reproducibility online and off.” (If the name is new to you consider that in 2005 — remember that’s 14 years ago — “an Australian business magazine reported that its global revenue was believed to be over $100 million. At the time, C3 had only 100 churches.”)

■ Parenting/KidMin: An article on captivating the wonder and imagination of children contains a few quotations from Phil Vischer: “We’ve found that superficial teaching leads to superficial Christians…” “Kids can learn more than we think. Adults can learn less than we would hope. We consistently underestimate what kids are capable of learning and overestimate what adults will learn. Kids still ask questions; grown ups stop asking questions.” The author doesn’t say, but doesn’t this imply something breaks down when adults are teaching Children about God?

■ The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) holds a Special Consultative Status with the United Nations. “Influencing a nation to modify its behavior or change its laws is difficult. Yet that is what we seek to do…Churches have been opened after being shut down because of our persuasive and persistent appeals. Pastors and missionaries have been set free through our personal intervention with a senior government leader. Proposed legislation to curtail religious freedom was not passed, after our personal mediation, and pastors in a closed country felt emboldened and secure to speak up against discrimination because they knew their voice was being relayed in Geneva.”

■ Testimony: “A couple of days after we buried our stillborn baby, God spoke to my wife. It was Krista’s first time returning to the grave after we’d buried Avery. As the van rolled up to the cemetery gate, a song started playing on the radio. Krista sat in the vehicle and listened as the artist declared that God does not abandon us in our sorrow. As she began to cry, the lyrics went on to assure her that God holds our tears. She hadn’t been asking God to speak to her. God’s voice came unexpectedly.” (From the 2019 Thomas Nelson book, Simply Spirit Filled by Andrew K. Gabriel.)

■ It was interesting to see this Christian Post article with Mike Huckabee, which doesn’t use the word ‘transgender’ and then compare it to The Friendly Atheist’s summary of it which lays all the problem of Christianity at the feet of transgendered people. (In fact, I would argue that for balance, you really must read both.)

■ One of the best known missions stories, through which Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Peter Fleming, and Roger Youderian became household names, is revisited in an Oxford University Press volume few of us can afford. The publisher of God in the Rainforest notes that this story of “Protestant missionary work among the Waorani came to be one of the missions most celebrated by Evangelicals and most severely criticized by anthropologists and others who accused missionaries of destroying the indigenous culture.” A career missionary reviewed the book and notes that i “seeks to tell the story of the Waorani from the standpoint of the people themselves, rather than explaining their lives through the eyes of others. They are presented as people with a complex and self-consistent society, in which violence is endemic. Far from being irrational savages, they come across as people like us, albeit living in a situation very unlike our own.”

■ The Early Church knew how to react when violence was the world’s default response.  This article is an exhaustive collection of some classic writings, such as Justin the Martyr: “We who formerly hated and murdered one another now live together and share the same table. We pray for our enemies and try to win those who hate us.” In a world of violence and terrorism, has the church lost the way of Shalom?

■ A 9-year old boy who died in 1964 had an unusual grasp of human suffering and the suffering of Christ. Pope Francis has decreed Nelson Santana to be recognized as a Saint.

■ Media Watch: The movie After, which opens Friday, has been called a 50 Shades of Gray for teens and tweens.

■ Provocative Headline of the Week: “Should busy pastors spend time and energy in the ‘dumpster fire’ of life in social media?

■ Hebrews 11: The Women-in-Ministry Edition. Your translation may vary.

■ Provocative Statement of the Week: “Instead of church planters, we need church closers.” The writer continues, “Yeah, I know, it sounds awful. But think about it. Those of you who regularly attend church, how many other churches do you pass on your way to your own? I can’t even count, but it’s probably 50. The reality is that most of those can’t even afford to maintain their buildings. They can’t pay their pastor fairly. They are already on the brink of locking their doors for good. Even if they try to deny it, the end is near. Instead of closing as a last resort, let’s be proactive.

🎬 The movie First Reformed: “Ethan Hawke stars as the troubled and reclusive Reverend Ernst Toller. Reeling from the death of his son, Toller is in something of a long, dark night of the soul. He has fewer congregants than tourists passing through his sleepy Dutch Reformed Church. His quiet, collared demeanor couldn’t be more out of place in the bombastic megachurch that helps keep his ministry afloat. His journal is full of searching and scrawling and longing. So when Mary comes to him with her husband’s demand she abort lest their daughter grow up in the ash heap of a world destroyed by climate change, Toller has true and genuine purpose. Maybe for the first time in years.”

■ Israel, David and the cultural artifact known FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out.

■ After two years in a Turkish prison, Wheaton College alumnus Andrew Brunson and his wife Norene (also a graduate of Wheaton) will speak at the school’s commencement for graduate students in May.

■ Remember that nun who threw that great pitch at the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018? Well, Mary Jo Sobieck has now got her own Topps Baseball trading card.

■ Clear and Loud: What Joshua Harris is doing now.

■ Only 10 Presidents in 133 years: A year after the controversy surrounding J. Paul Nyquist, Mark Jobe is installed as the new sheriff at Moody Bible Institute.

■ Congratulations: D.W. is 103 and Willie is 100. The Charlotte, North Carolina couple has been married 82 years. “They do make it to church every Sunday, in the front pew at Mayfield Memorial Baptist… All they have is love for each other and God.”

■ This isn’t exactly current, but for years I tried to find the album so that I could post this to my own YouTube channel. Apparently, someone got this online last fall. It’s Christian author and one-time cutting-edge CCM performer in the UK, Sheila Walsh singing with UK 80s rocker Alvin Stardust.

■ This is so 1997: A priest in Northern Poland burned Harry Potter books. However, now he’s apologizing in case anyone took it the wrong way. (How do you misinterpret a book burning?)

🎬 Don’t forget the animated version of Pilgrim’s Progress is in theaters for only two days, April 18th and 20th.

■ Just a week after being banned by a Texas airport, Chick-fil-A has been banned from opening at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. A spokesperson for the restaurants said, “Recent coverage about Chick-fil-A continues to drive an inaccurate narrative about our brand. We do not have a political or social agenda or discriminate against any group. More than 145,000 people from different backgrounds and beliefs represent the Chick-fil-A brand…We embrace all people, regardless of religion, race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.”

■ A Pastor’s alleged affair has left him dead, his wife injured, and another woman facing murder charges.

■ Reddit of the Week: “Are you a Christian?” It’s like asking, “Are you Chinese?” There are many different ways of interpreting the question, and many differences which would be involved in determining how someone might answer.

♫ Looks like the people at Bethel Worship have discovered some Christian music that existed before theirs.

♫ Months after its release, the song from Canada’s Dan Bremnes, Wherever I Go, is breaking into the U.S market.

■ American Jesus: “It has finally happened. After nearly a decade of futility, Jesus has finally won the tournament that bears his name. I would say Shane Claiborne put up a valiant fight, but Jesus smelled the blood in the water. He finally made it to the championship match and he wasn’t going to miss his shot. He threw all that humility and first shall be last stuff to the wind and laid down a 99% to 1% beating that would make even Satan himself shake in his boots.”

■ “On this coming Easter, many will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus by going to church and having a family dinner. A group in the Philippines has a more literal interpretation of the holiday.Numerous Filipino Catholics will be crucifying and beating themselves in the same way that Jesus was punished by the Romans. At least seven will have nails driven through their hands and several will cut their backs and beat themselves in order to represent the pain felt by Jesus during the crucifixion.” The Roman Catholic church does not recognize the practice nor does it encourage trying this at home.

■ Finally: If you had some weirdness in your denominational history, would you not want to hush it up? The Church of England might. Consider: “He lived quite openly with his mistress, and his love of eating and drinking to excess was common knowledge. [Thomas] Patten would deliberately preach long and dull sermons that would continue until someone in the congregation held up a lemon – a sign that they would buy the Vicar his drinks for the evening.”  Or how about, “Ian Henry Gaunt Graham-Orlebar discerned that it was his particular ministry to live a life that was self-consciously retro… A keen equestrian since his boyhood, [he] decided that, in homage to the dignified clergy of old, he would conduct all visits on horseback.” But we saved the best for the last…

[This guy deserves his own paragraph.] …Reverend Robert Stephen Hawker was a profoundly weird individual. As Curate at Bude, he decided that he had a joint calling; not only to be a Priest, but also a mermaid. In order to live out this vocation, he fashioned a wig out of seaweed and, naked apart from an oilskin wrapped around his legs, rowed out to a rock in Bude harbour one evening, sat on it and began to sing…He kept a sizeable menagerie, including ten cats (who would follow him to church and routinely made up the majority of his congregation). However, he reacted with fury when he saw one catching a mouse on a Sunday and publicly excommunicated it in front of his other animals.” And we didn’t even get to the parish pig.


Our ministry of database corrections: A different reason why misgendering should be a crime! We find some stupid error like this at @Christianbook every few days. Sometimes we tell them, sometimes we shrug our shoulders. They really should get to know their authors better. Especially Templeton Prize winning authors.

 

April 8, 2019

Credit Where Credit is Due

Filed under: Christianity, evangelism, ministry, testimony — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:04 am

This dog also led Kevin to Jesus. Source Café Press.

It’s always interesting when people you know from a fairly fixed context show up at a funeral for someone you knew from a fairly different fixed context.

“How did you know Kevin;” I asked.

“Actually, I led him to the Lord.” It happened in the town park, apparently.

Later in the funeral service itself, a speaker who had been previously scheduled got up to pay tribute to Kevin and explained how he met him at his apartment through a mutual friend, and as they talked about different things, he led him to the Savior.

After the service was over, a woman who I’ve known for years explained how she had led Kevin to to the Lord on a bus in which they were both travelling.

I wanted to ask her if she’d even been listening to the man who had spoken one of the tributes, but decided not to go there. I’ve run into her since and she certainly affirms her version of things.

My wife said later that Kevin had a ministry to people who had the gift of evangelism.

(Think about it.)

I have no doubt now as to Kevin’s eternal state. He certainly met the Lord on many occasions and accepted him as Lord on an equal number.

I mean why would anyone lie about a story like that?

 

April 6, 2019

Press ‘D’ for Depression

Filed under: blogging, Christianity, health, personal, weather, writing — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:00 am

The result of an image search for depression: This one seemed to sum it up best.

I haven’t been writing much here these last few weeks. The ideas come — sometimes I don’t write them down — and the computer beckons, but I either don’t write, or prioritize other writing, such as our devotional blog which continues to grow.

I’ve never been diagnosed with clinical depression. I’m still fairly certain that the textbook definition, which you can read about here, is not applicable. If those symptoms do apply however, be sure to seek help.

In my life depression has always been circumstantial. Change the circumstances, I’ve told myself (and God) and my outlook on life will change along with it.

As a result, I’ve tended to be judgmental or dismissive of those whose depression, not otherwise diagnosed as genetic, or chemical, or the result of family history, seems to be circumstantial like mine.

So you can imagine my response to Seasonal Affective Disorder, the acronym for which is, quite appropriately, SAD.

‘Spring is coming,’ I will say to myself and others, ‘Just a few more weeks and we’ll be basking in sunshine.’

But then this winter never ended. Spring never seemed to arrive. We changed to Daylight Saving Time but the environment missed the memo.

As I write this, on April 6th, a warmer day is forecast for my part of Ontario, but there are still clumps of ice by my front door (which is in shade) and at the end of my driveway. I can see some neighbors houses with some packed snow (caused by snow ploughing) which hasn’t fully melted.

There was no January thaw this year.

Our week in the Caribbean was literally over far too soon.

And no matter what scientists tell you, living in Canada as we do, we are convinced that 0°C is definitely much colder than 32°F.

Furthermore, we’re not compelled by family traditions or a hyper business-driven economy to be on the road when common sense dictates otherwise. Americans simply risk limb and life to get the family — or the packages — where they need to be. Canadians stay home where it’s safe and pour another bowl of chicken soup.

No wonder I feel sad. Correction: No wonder I feel SAD.

Then last week I got sick. Like many of our friends, we held our heads high saying, “I haven’t been sick all winter.” But then, as March was giving way to April, our bodies simply ran out of immunity before the weather ran out of cruelty. (“Forget this” was my immune system’s exact words.) After directing my physician yesterday to issue a more powerful degree of opioids [Note: This could foreshadow another column in about three months*] I finally got a few good hours of sleep last night.

Sleep is good. Sleep is needful. Sleep also wards of depression.

When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

So yes, like the guy in the John 5 story, I wish to get well. I want a sunny day, chasing the clouds away. I want to be walking on sunshine. I want joy, I want fun, I want seasons in the sun. (See, the codeine isn’t affecting me at all.)

I want a week of this (about 93°F for you non-metric laggards; 0 mm of rainfall is very approximately 0 inches of rainfall):

If the drugs don’t work, I may be forced to try chocolate.


*The opioid crisis is real. So why doesn’t my computer’s spell-check know the word? How can so many systems in my computer be updating so often, but the machine’s basic dictionary not know a word defining an urgent medical crisis in the First World? Anyway, I didn’t want anyone to think I was treating this lightly. If you know someone still taking the pills, or cough syrup, or whatever; long after the illness has left, they have a problem and need to seek help.

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