Thinking Out Loud

December 18, 2018

Worship Monopoly: A Fable

I got to know Peter and his family about ten years ago. Honestly, there wasn’t anybody in Rickford County who didn’t know them. His family was gifted musically, and they spread that gift around four churches.

His wife Marta was the organist and music director of the SBC church in the next town. Peter himself played keyboards and led worship at the Assemblies of God church. Their son Justin played guitar and led worship with his wife at the Foursquare church in town, and their daughter was the pianist at the United Methodist church.

“We control the music in four churches;” Peter frequently told me; though I bristled at the use of the word control.

But control was exactly what Peter had in mind for his little dynasty. “I eventually want us to control the worship music selection in the entire region; in the entire Tri-State area.”

“That’s about 50 churches;” I reminded him.

But Peter was undeterred. He sent out emails to the other worship leaders telling them they could “buy their weekly song selection” from his informal organization.

For whatever reason, some took the offer. Whether these worship leaders and music directors were tired of choosing for themselves I do not know. Perhaps they felt Peter’s family offered a degree of expertise beyond their own.

He emailed 52 churches and 13 (one quarter) took the offer. Combined with the four churches already under their family umbrella, they were choosing congregational sung worship songs for 17 churches, a few of which they’d never even visited.

Word started spreading beyond the area and he started getting requests from churches in other states.

“This is really big;” he told me, “We found a need and we filled it.”

I had told Peter that popular worship leader Tim Lonchris was my wife’s second cousin, so when his tour came to our state, Peter asked if I could score us free admission. I did wonder why the guy who was raking in a small worship music stipend for nearly two dozen churches couldn’t afford concert tickets, but I decided to let it go.

In fact, I did better. I got us backstage passes and a chance to meet Tim before the concert.

I started to introduce Tim to Peter, but Peter barged ahead, “My name’s Peter and I control the worship music in 27 churches across the Tri-State area.”

Tim’s brow furrowed slightly. “What do you mean control?”

“We choose the songs for the churches so they don’t have to have to choose them themselves.”

He then thrust a business card into Tim’s hand and then he told Tim how much he enjoyed his music. Then we had to find out where we’d be seated backstage, so we left the dressing room, but as Peter left I circled back.

“Sorry about that;” I said, “Peter’s little operation is probably unique, I’d say.”

“Yes it is;” Tim replied, but then he handed the business card to his road manager adding, “Remind me to follow-up with this guy; we need to look into this.”


December 17, 2018

Choosing a Bible for a Child

Filed under: bible, Christianity, parenting — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:08 am

With Christmas Eve a week away, I thought I’d look at this topic again; however, this is an new article written last week which was published elsewhere.

This hurriedly produced image shows the most popular Kids’ Bible in its two most popular translations, and a graphic Bible which we’ll discuss at the end of the article.

Unless you’re buying it as a family keepsake, very young children will be given a Bible storybook, which gives you three reading options, “Read to;” “Read with;” or “I Can Read.”

However, with an actual full Bible (New Testaments by themselves are hard to find) you’re assuming the child is going to be reading it on their own, if not now, in the very near future.

For the youngest kids, Simplified text versions like the NIrV (notice the little ‘r‘ slipped in there; it stands for New International Readers Version) offer a Grade 3.5 reading level with shorter sentences. (Can’t help you with place names or people names, though!) The International Children’s Bible or ICB is at a Grade 3.9 level. (It’s a cousin to the NCV, New Century Version.)

For kids who are now in Grade 3 or higher (or read well in Grade 2) they can handle a regular NIV, NLT; but with children I would avoid the ESV or NKJV unless there is a strong family/church preference

As the kids get older, there are specialty Bibles for girls and boys; and also the same options as we have for adults: Text-only, Study Bibles, or Devotional Bibles.

There are some great editions for teens, but for tweens, make sure any topical issues introduced in the supplementary readings aren’t too mature.

I’ve also pictured a comic book Bible in the picture above. The Action Bible (product line shown below) and The Picture Bible are better for kids aged 10 and higher. These, and graphic-novel styled Bibles are preferred by boys over girls; and should never be a substitute for a regular Bible.

If the child is going to be taking the Bible back and forth from church, you can also buy a Bible case.

The Action Bible product line will help kids engage with the text as never before, however, that being said, it’s never a substitute for a real, text Bible.

December 15, 2018

Denominational Hierarchies: Some Warning Signs

In the Catholic Church, the buck stops at The Vatican. In Evangelical churches, the buck stops with what the Bible says. But many find themselves in a middle ground where great authority is given to the head of the denominational body.

With most Evangelicals, current discussions prompted by Andy Stanley notwithstanding, the final authority for all things doctrinal is what “the Bible says.” The matter of where “the buck stops” is one of two things which separate us from our Roman Catholic friends, the other being the veneration of Mary.

In the Catholic Church, authority rests with the magisterium, ie. The Vatican or The Pope. But Evangelicals can easily fall into a similar mindset by vesting too much authority in what goes on at the denominational head office.

Consider these as warning signs:

  • A photograph of the head of the denomination appears in the church lobby, or perhaps even past heads.
  • Ecclesiastic terms for the denominational leader are used, such as ‘Bishop.’
  • You find the pastor frequently quoting the denominational head in sermons, or re-blogging their material on their own blog.
  • The denomination’s leader has written a book, and that book is available for purchase at all local churches. 
  • The denomination will on occasion produce a short video address by the head of the church, which must be shown in all churches.
  • The national head of your denomination is inaccessible to the common parishioner; unavailable for discussion or forums.
  • Frequently you hear terms like, “We received word from head office;” or “We’ve put in a request to head office;” or “We’re awaiting a decision by our President/Moderator/Bishop.”
  • The church is frequently visited by national and regional leaders who ‘bring greetings’ on behalf of the denomination.
  • There are frequent shifts in denominational policy, organizational structure, or even doctrinal interpretation on secondary beliefs and tenets.
  • Access to information about head office programs, initiatives and decisions is difficult to obtain.
  • You just ‘sense’ things aren’t right, but when you try to speak to your local church pastor or staff, your questions are dismissed.
  • The perceived attitude of invincibility at the national level is reflected at the local church level. Your pastor is never questioned or cannot be challenged.

Those are a few. If these are foreign to your experience, then you’ve been blessed. But if you’ve experienced this, perhaps you can comment, without being too specific, if I’ve omitted anything.

December 14, 2018

Strasbourg: From Someone Who Lives An Hour Away

We’ve linked to or reposted material from Lorne Anderson’s blog Random Thoughts from Lorne several times over the past few years. Lorne is a friend, so I get to ask permission after the fact. Montreal born, raised in Ottawa; Lorne has also lived in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and Liberia, West Africa. Our interest today is because he and his wife are currently living in Germany, not far at all from Tuesday night’s attack just over the border in Strasbourg, France. When I read his article this morning, even though we covered this yesterday, I thought it was worth returning to the topic for one more day. The title below is a link to read it at source.

Terror Too Close To Home

This was as close as media could get on Tuesday night. The sign in English would possibly be something like, ‘Strasbourg: Your Christmas Capital.’ (Photo credit FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP/Getty Images)

by Lorne Anderson

When they are far away, they are just news items we may or may not pay attention to. It is different when they happen in your neighborhood.

Throughout the day Wednesday, people in Canada were forwarding me news stories about the terror attack at the Christmas market in Strasbourg, France. It is only an hour’s drive from our home in Sulzburg; it is conceivably a place we might visit. Indeed, I was in the city on business in October.

News of the attack brought a jumble of thoughts to my mind. As a journalist I was bemused by the coverage I read that described the suspect as having been radicalized in prison. It was supposedly a religious radicalism, though the particular religion wasn’t mentioned.

I get that. The media don’t want to imply that all followers of a certain religion are dangerous, so they omit the name. It was obvious anyway, given that the attacker, since killed by police, was allegedly shouting in Arabic.

I didn’t fully realize the effect locally until my wife mentioned she passed through two police checkpoints Wednesday on her drive home from a neighbouring town. It was thought the suspect may have crossed from France into Germany.

If the intention of terrorist attacks is to stop people from gathering, they are pretty much a failure. There was a deadly attack on a Christmas market in Berlin two years ago, but that doesn’t stop people from attending them today. I think most of us figure the odds are that there won’t be an attack while we are there.

I don’t know if there is much thought to security at these things, though from the news reports there was a lot of police presence in Strasbourg. Certainly there is none at the small-town markets in my area.

Even the bigger markets I have attended haven’t had much visible security. I don’t recall seeing police last year in Colmar, France or Vienna, Austria, this year. I did see police in Freiburg last month, but they weren’t at the Christmas market itself, rather keeping an eye on a street demonstration a block away. There have been lots of people at every market I attend – and I don’t expect that to change.

My first thoughts though upon hearing news of the attack was not about market crowds but of individuals, people I know here and how they would feel upon hearing the news. Becasue I think the intention of many terrorists, though they may not be able to articulate it, is not to strike fear into the general populace, but to sow a generalized fear of Muslims

In Europe, certainly here in Germany, it seems to me most of Muslims are immigrants and refugees. They don’t speak the local language well, they don’t dress like Europeans, they seem different. Integrating into European society (or any new society) can be challenging at best. When people view you with distrust because of your background, it is much harder. When they stare at you when you walk down the street, when you feel the mistrust when you shop for groceries, you wonder if it is worth it to try and fit in to this new society. You might as well give up – you will never be accepted as a full member of society.

That is the terrorist’s ideal. They don’t want Muslims to become French, or German or Canadian. They want them to remain part of a closed society. They want them to remain in bondage.

How we react to a terrorist attack says a lot about who we are. Are we willing to allow terrorists to set the agenda and convince us that all members of an entire religion are evil, intending our destruction? (Please note, I do think there is a difference between the religion and most of its adherents.)

Think about it. How would Jesus have responded? That is how we should too.


December 13, 2018

Strasbourg Christmas Market Shoppers Weren’t Expecting Bullets

Reports of killing rampages which take place in Europe may seem a world away, but it’s different when you walked those same streets just five months earlier. You have a mental picture which no television news crew can come close to approximating. You remember how those streets fit together. You remember the crush of people when you were there. You try to imagine what you might do or where you would run if the same thing had happened on the day you visited.

Crowd scenes have always been potential threats. For as long as I’ve lived, I’ve been aware of men switching their wallets to their front pockets and women clutching their purses more tightly. But of late we’ve realized that every concert, every sporting match, every trip to the shopping mall is fraught with the possibility of a random act of violence being carried out by someone mentally deranged or having a political agenda.

As we walked the streets of Strasbourg earlier this year, those thoughts are always in the back of your mind, but they are buried deep — very deep — as you take in the sights and sounds and smells. The people at the Christmas market on Tuesday night were no doubt in the same head-space; not expecting anything the second before the bullets could be heard.

The city we saw was beautiful. In the collage above, the upper left corner looks like it’s from a tourism photo. The tour boat came by at the right time and there was a young couple, possibly on their honeymoon, standing next to us who I chose not to photograph. We had crossed the border from Germany an hour earlier and after an unnecessarily long bus ride, had been let loose in this picturesque place that stated so clearly we were now in France.

Christmas Markets are a big deal in Europe. Our friend Lorne has written about them extensively. When you’re in the moment of a scene like the one upper right, you never think of people firing shots into the crowd; you never consider your vulnerability. Your brain doesn’t say, “I could be dead in the next five seconds.”

Which is how it should be. You ought to be able to enjoy an occasion like this in relative security. But that’s not the world we live in.

As of this morning the confirmed death toll is 3, with 13 people injured.

(I’ve included enlarged versions of the two pictures mentioned below.)


December 12, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Again, a most interesting collection. If you missed last week, use the large “Wednesday Connect” logo in the blog’s right margin to link to the whole collection. Images are courtesy of We’ll try to be back next week but family obligations may make that impossible.

♦ The man who revived Nietzsche’s ‘God is Dead’ franchise, scientist Thomas Altizer has died.

♦ This week’s most talked about religion story: Sexual predation is a recurring theme in the Independent Fundamentalist churches. Why are so few perpetrators in jail?

♦ …and read more about the reactions to this front-page, 4-part, investigative series which, from a local Texas newspaper is now rocking the Christian world

♦ At the Museum of the Bible, a rare Bible from the 1800s used to educate and convert slaves omitted key verses which would have given them ideas about rebellion or liberation.

♦ Breaking this week: 100 Christians arrested in raids on churches in China

♦ The James MacDonald lawsuit – Collateral Damage: Was Wayne Grudem defamed in the process?

♦ In the UK, concern about making all associations working with children politically correct. “The idea that Scouts, Guides, Cubs, Brownies, Sunday schools, sports teams and cadet forces should be assessed and graded by the Government and its agencies is as unwholesome and unwelcome now as it was then.”

♦ Parenting: A first-hand account with the provocative title, “Don’t Teach Your Children Predestination.”

The latest Harvest Bible Chapel update.

♦ John MacArthur 1998: It is dangerous for the President to have a habit of lying, deception, and hypocrisy.
John MacArthur 2018: Christians should not be concerned about the moral life of the President.
What happened between 1998 and 2018?
He gives the current President a pass, but wouldn’t do that years earlier.

♦ Composed after a summer of violence in Salzburg, Germany, this year we wish Happy Birthday to “Silent Night” which turns 200 this year

♦ Reconstruction: Rebuilding the Utah town made infamous by polygamous pedophile cult leader Warren Jeffs.

♦ Name-it-and-Claim-it, Catholic Edition.

Since the 1950s, when the prosperity gospel was first preached by Pentecostals in America, it has proliferated with astonishing speed across the Christian world, finding a particularly receptive audience in developing countries. Although initially limited to the Pentecostal flock, through a process of osmosis the prosperity gospel has entered the teachings of many Catholic clergymen…In Latin America and much of the Global South, believers typically seek to receive divine blessings by forming contractual relations with sacred figures. For example, grassroots Catholics make a promise or vow to a saint or the Virgin Mary in return for a favour generally involving health, wealth or love.

♦ Instead of being classrooms, churches should be studios. That’s the thought of Brian McLaren in a recent interview.

♦ Getting rid of the accuser: It’s time to kill the Elf on a Shelf. (A parable of sorts.)

♦ TGC has its 11th annual list of the top ten Christian news stories of the year.

♦ Don’t tell Bob the Tomato: The question is whether a Calvinist can truly say “God Loves You” to each and every person they meet.

♦ A Christian high school teacher thought he could avoid the gender problem by not using one altogether in reference to a student. “The West Point School Board voted unanimously 5-0 to fire Peter Vlaming who teaches French.” When you read the article, you might learn two new words, “misgendering” and “deadnaming.”

♦ … Students stage a peaceful walkout in support of that teacher.

♦ Canada Corner (1) The Federal Government has pledged that the “values attestation” which prevented many churches and parachurch organizations from getting summer job funding in 2018 are being re-worded to avoid this year’s debacle. However, not everyone is rejoicing.

♦ Canada Corner (2) Children in Alberta were taken to a Gay Straight Alliance conference and to a facilitator’s home without parental knowledge or consent

♦ Canada Corner (3) At a Christmas Market in Kitchener, Ontario when two presenters who attempted to read the Christmas story — as they had in previous years — the city cut off the audio system.

♦ A plea for balance in the attacks on Christian singer Lauren Daigle

♦ With two-thirds of December still to go, Bible Gateway released its list of the Top 100 Bible Verses according to this year’s searches. 

♦ A Nebraska principal has solved all her problems by basically banning Christmas completely. Included in the forbidden list:

  • Christmas trees
  • Carols
  • Candy canes
  • Elf on the Shelf (that’s Christmas-related)
  • Sending a Scholastic book that is a Christmas book (that’s Christmas-related)
  • Making a Christmas ornament as a gift (this assumes that the family has a Christmas
    tree, which assumes they celebrate Christmas. I challenge the thought of “Well they can
    just hang it somewhere else”)
  • Red/Green items (traditional Christmas colors)
  • Reindeer
  • Christmas videos/movies and characters from Christmas movies

♦ Chance the Rapper is taking a sabbatical for Bible Study. “Now, he’s planning to take some time to get to know the God he’s rapped about…”  

♦ Finally, this could be the best gift you give them this season:


December 11, 2018

Spontaneous Sharing in the Weekend Worship Service

I usually don’t re-post or co-post material from Christianity 201 here unless it’s one of my original pieces. In today’s case, the second half of the article is from another writer, but the subject matter is so central to my story and my values, I was surprised to see that I hadn’t covered it here more in the past 10½ years. I’m running the article as it appeared there a few days ago.

1 Corinthians 14:26 (NET) What should you do then, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each one has a song, has a lesson, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all these things be done for the strengthening of the church.

1 Corinthains 12:4 (The Voice) Now there are many kinds of grace gifts, but they are all from the same Spirit. 5 There are many different ways to serve, but they’re all directed by the same Lord. 6 There are many amazing working gifts in the church, but it is the same God who energizes them all in all who have the gifts. 7a Each believer has received a gift that manifests the Spirit’s power and presence

This first verse above (from chapter 14) has resulted in many different expressions of spontaneous interjections to any given worship service. I’ve seen it expressed in the Brethren style of worship where there are often long silences before the next person will stand up and share something which blessed them through the week. I’ve seen it happen in the Pentecostal style of worship where people will suddenly start speaking in tongues and as soon as they are seated, someone else will suddenly offer the interpretation.

My favorite was an interdenominational meeting* which wasn’t entirely different from the apparent spontaneity of the Pentecostal service but seemed to also imply the preparation which might have gone into the Brethren service. The thing that made it different is that before speaking, people would first define the gift they were about to bring.

The people would simply jump to their feet — not unlike the figures in the arcade game Whack-a-Mole — and announce:

“I have a word of prophecy!”

“I have a Psalm!”

“I have a teaching!”

or whatever; followed by the short message itself. If my description sounds irreverent, you need to know this also a group that could be brought to complete silence for minutes at a time in what I later referred to as “a holy hush.”

I wrote about this experience briefly in 2008. At the time I noted that with each participant clearly defining what it is they were going to say, nobody could jump up and say, “I have a cute story about my dog.” It was also not the time for prayer requests. It was a time for using spiritual gifts to build up the body.

Their motto was: “Everyone Gives, Everyone Receives.”

That should be the motto of every church…

…I realize writing this that lay participation in the service is perhaps quite uncommon where you worship. It certainly doesn’t fly in a megachurch environment, or where a church has bought into the idea that the people in the seats are an audience or spectators. I got thinking about this after reading an article by Ned Berube at the blog Lionshead Café. The article was titled, Thoughts on Evangelical Corporate Worship.

He first describes the worship pattern for a church where two friends attend:

Because they are quite clear that every believer is inhabited by the Holy Spirit and consequently hearing the word of the Lord hopefully on a very regular basis, they make room explicitly for individual members to share what the Lord may have put on their heart. Two or three may share for 5-10 minutes before an elder speaks for 30-40 minutes on a prepared text. The others might be more spontaneous or thought through earlier in the week. The value of this is apparent-the whole congregation is “on call” for sharing the word of God and they are quite clear that they are part of a gifted body of believers that are to bring forth God’s word to God’s people. They are central to the Liturgy (Greek liturgia– the work of the people). And it derives very clearly from Paul’s exhortations to the Corinthians in chapter 14 of the first letter: “When you come together, you all have a lesson, a revelation, a tongue etc”). They were led to believe that every time they came together they could expect the presence of the Spirit who would use the whole body of gifted believers to minister to the whole body.

Next he describes another church which he started himself:

A good 15-20 minutes was separated for “Sharing” from the congregation. We tried to have a 90 minute service but more often it was closer to 2 hours. Sometimes a bit beyond. And I’m sure that the length eliminated a few folks. Maybe a lot! But our thinking was built on what we perceived as a dearth of spiritual impartation by the body to each other. And many complained and thought that could be better met by a system of small groups. In fact, one couple that visited thought our service was more like a big small group, which they meant largely as a critique, but we felt that the trade-offs were worth it.

There’s one more paragraph I want to get to from Ned’s article — I realize I took most of the space myself today — but before doing so, I don’t want you to miss his description of Simon:

I would consider Simon the most skilled worship leader I have met in the world. The first time I watched and heard him lead worship was an amazing personal event. Simon is very small of stature and he took his guitar and turned his back to the congregation/audience and proceeded to lead us in music that was rich toward the Person of God and circumvented most of the “how I am feeling about God” lyrics that have dominated so much of modern evangelical worship.

Talk about avoiding a personality-driven church!

The timing on this is interesting because just this week, I remember reading someone saying that in a really well-run small-group, it’s not apparent who is in charge of the meeting. My personal longing would be to experience this in our weekend worship as well, on a more regular basis. (‘Who’s in charge? God’s in charge.’)

I’ll let Ned have the last word:

If we do not provide a venue for the general sharing of the body in a worship service or small group, we run the risk of creating an elite that alone can speak the word of the Lord. And that is not to dismiss gifted preachers who should indeed be handling the bulk of preaching and teaching, but there must be a place for the larger body to bring their unique perspective into the mix of a worship service. And as I share these sentiments, I am also personally aware of pastors and friends who would consider these thoughts anathema. And there are decent reasons for so thinking. There are a lot of ways for this to go off the rails. But if there is sufficient teaching and healthy leadership during the worship service that can be minimized. We did this for 18 years at Christ Community Church with far more blessing than weird off-key expressions.

…read the full article at this link.

*The meeting I referred to took place in Toronto under the name Reach Out. “Everyone Gives, Everyone Receives.”


December 10, 2018

Thoughts on the Popularity of DNA Testing

This weekend we were discussing the popularity of DNA testing sites like (or in Canada) and (the latter’s name referring to the 23 pairs of chromosomes in normal cells) which, along with a handful of other similar companies can provide a profile based on the DNA sample you send. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, it involves mailing your spit — the preferred term is saliva — to a testing site where you are then supplied with fairly specific information about your ethnic roots. A broader term to describe the services of such companies would be genealogy testing.

Not all that surprising is that Ancestry website’s roots lie in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a quasi-Christian religion which has specialized in genealogical research owing to a belief in something called “baptism for the dead;” a form of proxy baptism for departed relatives carried out in the Church’s temples on behalf of people who did not have the opportunity to receive the rite (or ordinance) in life. The more detailed version of their belief is that the departed can then accept or reject the rite carried out on their behalf, as in, ‘I know you drove 300 miles to the nearest temple so I could get into the Kingdom of God, but I think I’ll continue to try my odds as an atheist.’

Without getting into details about the nature of the reports people received, I wanted to share here three reasons why I think the tests resonate with people outside of the CofJCofLDS.


I think that people today want to know who they are.

It’s interesting to consider as we approach the Christmas season that the genealogies at the beginning of The Gospels often create many yawns as the text are read, not to mention the dread of being chosen to do such a reading and having to navigate the pronunciation of all those names. But the people in Biblical times knew their family history just as sure as you know several dozen user names and passwords today. They would even recognize areas where we’re told the texts we have contain shortcuts or deviations from the standard form; as well as the scandal of inclusions like Rahab. Seriously, Rahab? Not in my family tree, please.

If you have a child who has memorized the Periodic Table of Elements; it’s the same type of crowning achievement to be able to go back generation after generation without mistakes. (‘Morris was the son of Franklin, who was the son of Percival, who was the son of Ira, who was the son of August…’)

Today, we have so many children who were adopted. Children of divorce. Children who were supplied false information. Many people aren’t entirely sure who their fathers and mothers are, let alone any history dating prior to those parents.

So DNA testing is a step down that path. Which brings us to…


Ethnicity is only one component of identity. A love for a certain branch of the arts or a certain sport would be another. There are those who identify in terms of their political leanings or their faith. There are yet others whose primary identification is in terms of where they reside now.

But knowing ethnic roots gives one identification in terms of a nation or tribe. Being Navajo, or Italian, or Norse gives one a potential community with which to connect. (The websites also potentially provide means of making those connections more specific, including connecting people with lost siblings.)

Of course, knowing such things also has a certain caché, which brings us to…


This Christmas, many people will find a DNA testing kit gift-wrapped under the tree. At a list price of $99 (though frequently on sale) this type of gift is a luxurious, First World indulgence.

The same people who need to know their DNA are the same ones who also need to know their Myers-Briggs type (mine is ASAP) or their Enneagram number. In a previous century the Astrological Sign would suffice for some people. (I don’t believe in Astrology, but then again, we Geminis are naturally skeptical.)

DNA testing is the latest rage. Some will see it as a diversion, but others are heavily invested in the results. If those findings differ from anything you ever believed about yourself up until that point in time, I can imagine the results could go as far as to be life-altering.


Update: I decided not to discuss the health factor for the reason outlined in a reply to a comment, but I do encourage you to read the response from @George whose story says it better than I would have.

Appendix 1 – Who Am I by Petula Clark.

Appendix 2 – Who Am I by Casting Crowns

Appendix 3 – The I Am Poster

December 8, 2018

Bucket List Checkmark: Inside a Mormon Church

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:24 am

Our town’s local congregation of Latter Day Saints meets in a building not quite as elaborate as this one in Salt Lake City. [image: Wikipedia]

Last week we visited a display of Christmas creches from all over the world at a local Anglican Church. While there, someone mentioned a similar display coming up this weekend at the Mormon Church. Immediately, my eyes lit up!

It’s not that I’m a huge fan of Christmas-themed folk art; rather, I’ve always been watching for an opportunity to see inside their building — penetrate the fortress — without having to go to a 3-hour Sunday morning service.

As we pulled in the parking lot, my wife said, “This is giving me the creeps.”

It kept giving her the creeps the whole time — less than an hour — until it was time to leave. I decided to drop in on a Friday night children’s ministry thing going on at my own church to give her a chance to cleanse her spiritual palette.

It’s not that we haven’t done this sort of thing before. We’ve visited a Hare Krishna temple, a Buddhist Mandir, and two Muslim mosques. I wrote about how that came about in this article.

And it’s not that she’s spiritually discerning and I’m not. I remember quite clearly, as a 21-year old, the spiritual oppression the minute a friend and I drove into Las Vegas, Nevada. (I also have the advantage of having done the one-hour tour of Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah when I was 14. In 60-minutes, they managed to shatter a lifetime of Sunday School, but fortunately I was able to put the pieces back together when I got home.)

But something about this one — possibly the fact that much of the doctrine of Latter Day Saints is a blatant hijacking of Christianity — was getting to her. The terminology is the same, but the words end up meaning entirely different things. Can you say ‘deception?’

I texted our sons — who had shared some of our above-mentioned building visits in the past — to say I’d finally been inside an LDS church. My oldest texted back, “Did you buy the underwear?”

In the lobby when we arrived, we met a woman who said she was a lapsed Mormon. “Not very observant,” is how she put it. She said she visits the place where we were, but often goes to the Presbyterian Church or the United Church. (The United Church of Canada is an ultra-liberal mainline denomination.) She didn’t seem to see any difference; her attitude was that they’re all good.

I went into ‘teacher’ mode and tried to educate her on a few things, all the while remembering that we hadn’t come to evangelize Mormons inside their own building. (They’re actually in process of trying to ditch the ‘Mormon’ handle, but I suspect they’re stuck with it forever.)

The building itself? Typical church construction of the early 1990s. If there were any secret rooms, they weren’t about to show them to us. Even though this was a Friday night, informal Christmas gathering, many of the men were wearing suits and ties. There had been a short service beforehand, and as we listened to the last 10 minutes of it from the lobby, the language was extremely formal.

The creche display was beautiful and whimsical. There was a Veggie Tales nativity scene. Nobody was taking pictures, however. One large nativity in the center of the room reminded my wife of the one in the store window in the Mr. Bean Christmas movie.

One man greeted us and we stayed in the display area about ten minutes while I asked him questions. Mostly ecclesiology-related things; nothing too doctrinal. Ruth stayed absolutely silent. She had, I presume, no questions.

By the time we arrived in the room where they serving refreshments, it looked like they were all out of coffee.


December 7, 2018

Joyce Meyer on Women Teaching Men

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:46 am

I’m not exactly a Joyce Meyer fan. But a few days ago I picked up a re-released edition of The Confident Woman Devotional and turned to December 1st to see a sample of her writing. In a few short words, she was discussing the subject of a woman (i.e. herself) teaching men.

I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt and she how she responds.

I Corinthians 14:35
If they wish to inquire about something, they are to ask their own husbands at home; for it is dishonorable for a woman to speak in the church.

Part of the problem in Corinth was that women may have been usurping authority over men, which is a wrongful attitude that some women who teach or preach can develop. They may think their position allows them to exercise authority over people. I cannot be responsible for what other women do, but as for me, I can honestly say that when I teach God’s word, I don’t see myself exercising authority over men or women. I used the gift of communication that God has given me to fulfill the call on my life to teach.

I want to help people understand God’s word so they can easily apply it to their daily lives. When I hold a public meeting, I believe I have authority over that meeting and that I am responsible to keep order, but I have never felt like I was taking authority over people. it is difficult to know exactly what was going on when Paul wrote this letter, but we cannot take this verse to mean that women were forever forbidden to speak in church. We must look at all of the other scriptures that clearly indicates that God regularly used women.

Lord I’m not interested in having authority over any other person, but I do want the confidence that comes from having me authority of your word working in and through my life. Amen.

Reading this I see three different hierarchical levels being presented:

Chairing a Meeting: As she states, the person “at the front of the room” is often there to chair the meeting, or as she terms it, “keep order.” When I attend a function, I expect I would defer to the chairperson and not speak out of turn. I must admit, I am unaware of any riots taking place when Joyce Meyer has been speaking, so it appears she does this well.

Teaching: This is the word on which the discussion most often hinges. Joyce claims she was given both a gift and a calling to fulfill. While her primary audience is women, there are often men present. She is teaching them. So the question comes down to — as it always does — whether Paul’s words in the Corinthians passage quoted were rules or principles. A rule can apply to (a) a specific subset of people, (b) or those in a particular place, (c) or at a unique time in history. A principle applies to all people in all places at all times. That’s fuel for another discussion. Please don’t get into the Pauline discussion in the comments or emails.

Authority: This is the main point I want to make today. Many of us would conflate teaching with authority, but clearly, in Joyce’s mind this is not the case. She says clearly, “I teach God’s Word”  but then notes, “I never felt like I was having authority over people.” (emphases added)

Here’s a possible breakdown of that concept. (Forgive me for putting word’s in Joyce’s mouth.)

Statement A — God’s word teaches people shouldn’t manufacture idols or bow down and worship them.
Statement B — I think you are wrong in making idols and bowing down to worship them.

or being more specific,

Statement A — God’s original law to Israel included showing honor and respect to parents.
Statement B — You really need to phone your Mother more often.

I think you see the difference.

I’m not trying to defend Joyce Meyer here — remember, I’m not a huge fan — I’m stating that to her way of thinking, teaching is not exercising authority. She might say, ‘I’m not telling you what to do, but here’s what scripture says on this issue…’

I’m not expecting agreement with her on this. I think the pre-established positions we bring to the table as to what Paul is saying in the Corinthians passage is going to bias our thinking one way or another.

I do give her full marks for raising the issue and responding.



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