Thinking Out Loud

December 11, 2019

Wednesday Connect

Is she playing a Roland or a Yamaha?

Welcome back to another week. This is #83 in this Wednesday Connect series. My goal is to complete 17 more of these, which would bring the total to 100, which when added to the 400 Wednesday Link Lists would mean 500 news and opinion roundups. But there might be weeks we miss, or weeks that are smaller, like this one.

I’ve also noticed there are fewer and fewer people clicking the New Music links. I’ve had some direct email from people who enjoy this feature and I certainly enjoy discovering the songs, but moving forward I’ll try to limit it to a few unique selections.

Again, anytime you’re hungry for more, check out Michael Newnham’s Tuesday Linkathons at Phoenix Preacher, Internet Monk’s Saturday Brunch and Clark Bunch’s Satur-deja-vu; along with the various news sources linked in the sidebar if you’re reading this on a PC or laptop.

Also, on a personal level, I would appreciate prayer for an unusual health condition which reappeared yesterday.

A Methodist church in California has posed a controversial nativity scene and raised an interesting question: “Imagine Joseph and Mary separated at the border and Jesus no older than two taken from his mother and placed behind the fences of a Border Patrol detention center.” In a statement from the minister, Karen Clark Ristine, the church said that after fleeing a tyrant king, Jesus, Mary and Joseph became “the most well-known refugee family in the world.” Source and video report.

The Atlantic profiles Timothy Keller.

■ Essay of the Week: Christians grow best in the manure of criticism.

■ Radical! “A children’s author and poet has written a new book helping young children [in the UK] to accept the body they were born with. Rachel Rooney, who is also a trained special needs teacher, wrote My Body is Me! to counteract the recent “explosion” of books promoting radical gender ideology. She says, ‘It’s impossible to have the ‘wrong’ body. It’s a very worrying message we’re sending to children.'”

■ Eric Metaxas seems unsure whether his latest book is for children, or if it’s for adults.

Q: Why is King David’s “grocery list” in the Bible?
A: It ties in with a verse you know well, and besides, nothing in the Bible is trivia.

■ Who ya gonna call? “Dee Parsons is the sole Wartburg Watcher these days and is in my view the most thorough and indefatigable advocate for those who have been abused in churches or by clergy or church staff.”

■ One promotion; is another to follow? “Cardinal Tagle, 62, the charismatic Archbishop of Manila, a sprawling archdiocese in the Philippines, will take over the 400-year-old Roman Curial office which has responsibility for much of the Church’s work in Africa, Asia and Oceania…it cements Cardinal Tagle as “papabile”, a strong contender to succeed a Pope who turns 83 later this month.

■ I ran this as a separate post on the weekend, but if you missed it, acapella worship artist David Wesley has just released his 4th Virtual Choir project. 176 singers from 34 countries perform A Mighty Fortress is Our God.

■ Chick-fil-A’s new corporate donation policy: “What does all this mean for youth looking to work their first job for a company that truly follows Chick-fil-A’s purpose statement? If the third-largest fast-food restaurant chain in America can’t hold on, is it possible for a business to operate by biblical principles?

Lessons in replacing toilet seals and the Corinthian church.

■ The Harvest Bible Chapel saga: There are major penalties for what is termed ‘excessive compensation.’ Can a person become a millionaire on a pastor’s salary? Living in a world where “tax laws were too lenient on non-profit leadership that permitted excessive compensation.”

■ Sheila Wray Gregoire guests at Spiritual Sounding Board, asking women to help with a survey. “I’m embarking on what I hope will be the largest survey of Christian women’s marital and sexual satisfaction. We’re looking at marriage and sex from a whole lot of angles (if you’ll excuse the pun) to uncover what makes great sex–and what wrecks women’s sex lives.”

■ A federal court in Canada has decided that the Church of Atheism doesn’t qualify as a church, nor qualify for tax exempt status.

■ Though I might not agree doctrinally with all he writes, sometimes compassion compels me. This note by Tim Challies on the death of his father is a reminder how our lives are short and sometimes endings are unexpected.

■ Remembering a powerful evangelist: “Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke is the only person who could walk out into an open field, and a million people would show up time after time.” 

■ New Music: Heartbeat by Elevation Rhythm

■ A lighthearted sermon outline on the comparisons between Santa and Jesus. Who do you think comes out on top?

■ Finally, this rant, in the style of Greta Thunberg:

 

 

December 7, 2019

How Our Family Spent Thanksgiving Day

Filed under: Christianity — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:51 am

What did we do? We participated in the record of this Virtual Choir project with David Wesley. In total, 176 singers from 34 countries. Also, congratulations to David on getting to spend a couple of days in California with the worship people at Saddleback Church.

God’s truth abideth still;
His kingdom is forever.

 

 

December 4, 2019

Wednesday Connect

Nativity Calendar Enhanced 2

This week our lead item and our Essay of the Week are one and the same. Some of its content isn’t new to readers here, but as a curator of various sources, the author exceeds the article’s mandate in a good way.

As to the above image, if your Advent calendar has a nativity scene that looks like this one, something is seriously wrong.

Apparently, as part of its two-year severance deal, we’re still paying the Wednesday List Lynx. Might as well get our money’s worth.

Essay of the Week: Ostensibly, Alex Morris’ piece in Rolling Stone is about the ascendancy of Donald Trump to near God-like status among Evangelicals. It does this, but better serves as a history of Evangelicalism in the U.S. as a dominant political faction that Washington ignores at its peril. Depending on your speed it’s a 10-15 minute read, well-researched, but also personal.

■ What if you couldn’t go home for Thanksgiving, not because you couldn’t get a flight, or because of the driving conditions, but because your family has rejected you for being LGBTQ? First Congregational Church in Beloit, Wisconsin opened their doors to allow a Thanksgiving dinner to take place.

■ Why do kids always seem to follow the religious identity of their parents? And why do some leave? The answer has to do with something called creds. (7-minute video.)

■ Joseph Prince’s church in Singapore recently purchased the shopping mall complex which surrounds their own sanctuary. The price was $296M and the church “has the money on hand.

■ Persecution of Christians in China — The Story Continues: It’s not just Evangelicals, Catholic churches are frequent targets, too.

In late September, local officials ordered the congregation to paint over the sign with the name of the church, replace it with “Follow the Party, Obey the Party, and Be Grateful to the Party,” and display the national flag at the entrance. What has hurt the congregations the most was the removal of a painting of the Virgin Mary with the Christ Child, later discarded into a dark corner of the church. Instead, a portrait of president Xi Jinping was hung in the center of one of the walls, surrounded by propaganda slogans on both sides. A few days later, officials confiscated the keys to the church and locked all its doors and windows. The congregation lost their place of worship.

■ While in Japan last week, Pope Francis “denounced possession of nuclear weapons even for deterrence as ‘immoral.’ He moved beyond the stance of previous popes, and the U.S. bishops in their pastoral letter on nukes in the 1980s, who grudgingly accepted nukes for deterrence as a step towards disarmament. The Pope’s move on nukes resembles his action on capital punishment, which the church previously accepted in theory, but which it now rejects in total. His political theology seems to be an absolutization of idealism. Moral aspirations must now become policy without explanation of implantation or any recognition of consequences. Critics might say it’s one more example of immanentizing the eschaton…” (Immanentizing the eschaton?)

■ Latest Barna: What young adults say is missing from the church. For one thing, their friends aren’t there.

■ A long time ago, in a musical galaxy far away: Before there was O Come, O Come Emmanuel, there was O Radix Iesse.

■ Have you discovered The Accessible Faith Project videos on YouTube? This recent one aims to de-mystify the Pharisees.

■ If you’ve tracked the journey of Anne Marie Miller, you know it’s been eventful. Recently, The Tennesseean told the story of her freak accident which did major facial damage after a Nerf baseball bat slipped out of someone’s hands

■ Centuries before there was The Bible Project, the best visual aids to learning the story of the Bible was either stained glass windows, or what we today call fine art. This week I discovered the masterpieces of Biblical paintings at ArtBible.org

■ Parenting Place: Becoming emotionally dependent on your kids; using your children as an emotional outlet.

■ New Music: ♫ We actually posted a link to a rough version of this a year ago suggesting it could be titled “Away From the Manger.” Refugee King by Liz Vice is all about Jesus and Mary and Joseph and the flight to Egypt.

■ New Music: ♫ Again, the song itself isn’t new, but there’s now a video for Kanye’s Closed on Sunday. As Relevant points out, “no actual fast food makes an appearance.”

■ New Music ♫ Getting closer to new, this one is from May. Actually I recently found Jaisua’s remix of this, and couldn’t remember sharing the original. Gallery – Wind and Waves.

■ New Music: ♫ Living Room Worship – Let Nothing Separate Us. (Technically speaking, this video is Dining Room Worship.)

■ New Music: ♫ The Young Escape – So Alive (lyric video).

■ New Music for Christmas: With her first independent release, this well-known Christian singer rocketed to the top of the iTunes chart on Monday. Nicole Nordeman – What Child Is This/Fragile.

■ New Music for Christmas: The sister of Rachel Held Evans shares a new version of a classic; Amanda Opelt – Joy to the World. (Read the background on this recording.)

■ The people at Our Daily Bread are now offering daily devotional videos. Click here to watch a sample. (Thanks, Clark.)

■ Mary, did you know? As a matter of fact she did. The angel told her. Suggested similar songs that would never fly:
Abraham, did you know, that you would be the father of a nation?…
David, did you know, that someday you, would rule over all of Israel?…
Mary, did you know; or were you just, another clueless female?…
[I didn’t exactly make those up, they’re more or less in the article.]

■ Many are cold but few are frozen: In Antarctica, “It just so happens that the southernmost chapel (of any religion) is a Catholic chapel at the Argentinian Belgrano II Base (still over 800 miles from the south pole). And it has a unique attribute: it is carved out of pure ice

■ There are a number of “favorite books of the year” lists I won’t link to, but Russell Moore’s is always colorful.

■ It’s one of the shortest Ten Minute Bible Hour videos, but Matt uncovers a chapel in Wall Drugs in Wall, South Dakota. (See image below.)

■ Liberty University students were visiting Denmark to try to learn why the country is so happy. (I don’t make these up; honestly.)

■ And then, there’s the Christian college student who came out as gay during a lip-sync contest. The school, George Fox College, “holds that God intended sexual relations to be reserved for a marriage relationship between a man and a woman.” But student Reid Arthur won the contest, and is giving the $500 prize to an LGBTQ organization.

■ Donations wanted: Humanists UK is looking for crowdfunding donations so they keep a campaign going to shut down faith-based schools. (Where do I find these things? It was this article.)

■ Advent Calendars: The Associated Press reports, “Among rituals associated with the Advent is keeping an Advent calendar. Some reusable versions begin on Dec. 1, and many include windows, doors or pockets to reveal a poem, portion of the Christmas story or a small gift. It’s the latter aspect of Advent calendars that has gone completely bonkers in recent years, offering dog treats, bath bombs, socks, booze and even a limited-edition behemoth stuffed with pricey treasures from Tiffany & Co.” Check out what’s on offer this year.

■ Finally, I hate when this happens: “Mrs. Martens of Saskatoon has been checked in a rehab facility this week after it was discovered that she has been doing nothing but eating popcorn and watching terribly-acted predictable Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel for the past couple weeks.”

The Chapel at Wall Drug. See video link above.


■ In case you missed it: Brant Hansen’s song for Black Friday.

 


■ Bonus item from our archives, on how to configure your worship team on stage:

The Last Word on Modern Worship

 

 

December 3, 2019

Review: Urban Legends of the Old Testament

Filed under: Christianity, reviews — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:01 am

See the book pictured here? I haven’t. I’ve never read a single page, and I’ve never held a copy in my hand. In fact, I have never received a review book from that publisher.

So what am I doing here purporting to review the book? What’s more, not just reviewing, but I want to strongly recommend this one.

It just so happened that really recently, I happened upon a copy of the previous volume, Urban Legends of the New Testament, 40 Common Misconceptions by David Croteau.

The title grabbed me right away, but it didn’t win me over as much as I was hooked by two other factors.

First, the imprint on the back said the book was published by B&H Academic, but this title had a genuine accessibility to it that suggested it would be appreciated by more than just students and scholars. This one is also listed as an academic title, but the treatment of each ‘myth’ is short and largely non-technical, and the retail price of $14.99 US is far less than the usual academic tome.

Second, the table of contents was a varied mix of “myths” I had seen debunked before, and some that were new to me. Three kings at the manger? C’mon, everybody knows that one. But Grace meaning unmerited favor? What’s wrong with that?

This time around there’s a co-author (or co-myth-buster), Gary E. Yates. I’m reproducing a table of contents for Urban Legends of the Old Testament that I found online in the hope that you’ll be drawn to read this as much as I was with the first. God has promised you a prosperous future? I think readers here are onside with me on that myth. But you’re telling me the high priest didn’t have a rope tied around his ankle on the Day of Atonement?

Mrs. Clymer, my Grade Two Sunday School teacher is not going to be happy about that one.


B&H Publishing (Broadman and Holman) did not send me a review copy of this book, nor would I expect one, given my outspoken views concerning their sister company LifeWay. We’ve agreed to disagree.


Because it’s in my files already, here’s the cover image for the first book I mentioned above. I expect they’ll brand these two books and give the first a cover more similar to the second.

December 2, 2019

Currently, The Echo Chamber is Set at Eleven

Filed under: Christianity, current events — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 2:38 pm

Two weeks ago there was an item in the link list (Wednesday Connect) that has come up several times since in conversation. Here’s how it ran two weeks ago:

■ Transgender Issues (2): …but this young person, after making the full transition, is left with nothing but regret. “I surrounded myself in an echo chamber that supported and validated my poor decisions, because the others were also, unfortunately, stuck in that pit, too.”

There’s a line in there I kept coming back to and this is the fuller context:

He started seeing the doctor a week after his 15th birthday, and from how he describes the next years of his teens, I’d say going to the clinic didn’t improve his life.

“From then on,” he says, “I slowly detached from everything until I was just staying home, playing video games, and going on the internet all day. I stopped reading, drawing, riding my bicycle. I surrounded myself in an echo chamber that supported and validated my poor decisions, because the others were also, unfortunately, stuck in that pit, too.”

A month after his 18th birthday, Nathaniel had what’s euphemistically called “bottom surgery.” For a male like Nathaniel, that means refashioning the male genitalia into a pseudo-vagina. He suffered some complications that required a second surgery a few months later, and he had facial surgery to further feminize his appearance.

Nine months later, he says:

Now that I’m all healed from the surgeries, I regret them. The result of the bottom surgery looks like a Frankenstein hack job at best, and that got me thinking critically about myself. I had turned myself into a plastic-surgery facsimile of a woman, but I knew I still wasn’t one. I became (and to an extent, still feel) deeply depressed.

The unpopular truth, which Nathaniel unfortunately learned the hard way at a young age, is a man is not a woman and can’t ever become a woman, even with surgically refashioned genitals and feminizing facial surgery.

Nathaniel is a bright young man who never had the benefit of sound, effective counseling, which would have prevented this horrible mistake from happening. He will deal with it for the rest of his life.

No one will help this young man to detransition. The so-called “informed-consent clinic” (as if a teenager can give informed consent) washed their hands of him. The reckless ideology claims another life.

(emphasis added)

Right now, the echo chamber is turned up all the way. It’s easy to make decisions when the only websites you visit and counselors you meet are affirming of a particular choice. Unfortunately, they don’t reflect the bigger picture.

We do this in other areas of life as well. We visit the websites which support our political views or our theological perspective.

Personally, I can’t imagine a world where the only input we’re getting is from people who simply look like us and talk like us.

 

November 28, 2019

Archives: Thanksgiving Images

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:33 am

Happy Thanksgiving to our readers in the United States.

red-meat-comic

Lancast Amish Fires of Autumn

 

Mayflower's competition

It's All In How You Look at It

 

November 27, 2019

Wednesday Connect



Biblical Disaster

So yes, last week I forgot to write this introduction, which is the part that’s visible on Facebook and Twitter, so… here we are! This week I mined our own archives for some graphic images. I’m not sure I was as diligent about attribution back then, but you can play click-the-pix and see if it takes you anywhere.

■ A pastor of a church respected for their charity and community involvement didn’t realize the impact some comments related to gender would have last month.

Normally, such a sermon would not only be expected in an evangelical church, but would be accepted as consistent with Scripture and biology. Nothing unusual so far… But they crossed a trip wire. The current culture rejects civil discourse, rational discussions, and honest evaluations of biological and scientific evidence accepted by many doctors which state that gender tampering can be harmful for children and, for that matter, adults…But this is the reality that many churches will likely be facing in the coming years. As this issue begins to divide families, communities, and churches, some will begin to separate themselves from organized religion and reject Christianity as a whole.

■ C. S. Lewis’ last words: “In his last published piece, an essay for the Saturday Evening Post entitled ‘We Have No Right to Happiness,’ Lewis combats the then-growing, now-prevalent notion that personal happiness, and particular sexual happiness, should be allowed to govern our moral standards…” And unpublished, “As was his practice, the accomplished scholar and famous author took the time, even while literally on his deathbed, to graciously and warmly encourage a child he had never met.”

■ It’s not just Evangelicals: “The former head administrator of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America was arrested Monday on charges he embezzled over half a million dollars from the organization even as the church ran out of money trying to build a shrine to replace a church crushed in the Sept. 11 attacks.”

■ The future of weekend worship:

In January, Hillsong released what’s believed to be the first 360-degree virtual reality (VR) worship music video…Now imagine watching this video in 3D, wearing a VR headset. The musicians appear to be right in front of you – so close you can reach out and almost touch them. As you move your head you are surrounded by a vast army of three dimensional worshippers – hands uplifted, swaying in time with the music… And with that, church is now available as a completely autonomous experience. Christians can have the world’s best preaching and worship piped directly into their eyes and ears without ever having to interact with another human being. Technology allows us to create the illusion of Christian community without the challenges it presents.

■ Pastors who go down the rabbit trails of telling intimate details about their marriages are probably the reason why the conservatives say you should just exegete the text. In this example, the pastor may not have been sensitive to the people hearing the sermon and the variety of home situations from which they come and, an hour later, to which they return. “So, to cap it up, pastors and church leaders, please preach as if one in three women have or will experience domestic violence.”

■ Best headline this week: “Mr. Rogers Was a Televangelist to Toddlers.” Sample: “He probably would have cringed away from that kind of title, but that is totally what he was doing. He was telling people that they are loved and I am confident that that was at the heart of his theology, that God loves us just the way we are. So if you look at the true meaning of evangelism, sharing the good news of the Gospel, he was trying to offer the good news all the time.”  Also…

■ …In this 9-minute podcast, Joanne Rogers, the widow of Fred Rogers, discusses the movie Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.His thing was reconciliation.”

■ We’re really quite different, aren’t we? “I joined a homegroup (Bible Study or life group) two years ago and as time passes, more and more of each member’s character is coming forward. It dawned on me the other day that we honestly do not have anything in common. No one does the same job or has the same friends or enjoys the same hobbies. No one would have met if it wasn’t for the homegroup. The only thing in common is our love for Jesus.

■ Declining Denominations: Yes, the Anglican Church of Canada is hurting. It’s the second fastest decline of any groups in the worldwide Anglican communion. What’s the worst? Buried in the story, one discovers it’s The Episcopal Church in the U.S.

■ Persecution, U.K. style: He was arrested for praying outside an abortion clinic. It violates “a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) that prevents people committing ‘any act of approval/disapproval’ outside the clinic, including ‘prayer’.”

■ Persecution, U.S. style: He was actually speaking rather softly but for that he got attacked in the head with high heels. “…No one did anything to help but look at this old man bleed.”

■ Also at Premiere Christianity, a response to the Catholic columnist in The Daily Telegraph who thinks it’s Christians who should boycott Christmas.

■ Ministry Occupation Options: Chaplaincy. “Each ‘call out’ is another walk with someone through their worst day…Those situations leave us realizing our inability to comfort at a depth that only God can reach. Christians have the promise of supernatural comfort from the Holy Spirit (John 14:26-27), but seldom do we know the spiritual condition of anyone on scene. Standing over a body is no time to make assuming statements about someone’s life, character or destiny…”

■ Going Deeper: A long-form essay exposing the literary brilliance of the creation account. “The biblical narrative is absolutely brilliant literature. However, it is more than that. Amazingly, it presents the basics of a complete worldview. It provides the nature and source of existence.”

■ I guess I hadn’t listened closely enough to the Eric Metaxas Podcast to realize that he was very much inside the Jerry Falwell, Franklin Graham, pro-Trump camp. On the November 21st broadcast, both Metaxas and Graham affirmed that anyone opposed to Trump is demonic.

■ A statement from TobyMac and wife Amanda following the funeral of their son: “…We’ve been encouraging ourselves to stand on this….the place of death is actually where all that we believe is most significant. That God has the power to do what he promised, defeat death and give life to anyone who believes. So from the valley of the shadow of death we pray a flood of thankfulness will rise this week…”

■ Things she’d like to hear: Six questions to ask your pastor’s spouse.

■ Parenting Place: When his 13-year old daughter left a list of doctrinal and theological questions on his pillow, he realized that apologetics begins at home.

■ Remember that 5-year-old who got tossed over the railing from the third floor of Mall of America? He’s back in school. He still faces some challenges, but he’s got a testimony: “He tells people all the time when they get hurt, ‘don’t worry, I fell off a cliff, but Angels caught me and Jesus loves me, so I’m ok and you will be too!‘”

■ Our changing culture: It’s not just washroom/restrooms; now it’s the fitting rooms where you try on clothing. Two of the iconic clothing and department stores in the U.K. now say, “As an inclusive business, our policy states that customers are welcome to use whichever fitting room makes them feel the most comfortable.”

■ Finally, song parody band Apologetix has found a way to worm their way into your Sunday morning (or Saturday night) church service with their very own service time countdown videos of which this is one:



Digging a Little Deeper

From the creator of Thinking Out Loud, check out Christianity 201. Guaranteed distraction-free faith blogging with fresh posts every day. www.Christianity201.wordpress.com

November 26, 2019

Review: The Faith of Queen Elizabeth

Filed under: books, Christianity, reviews — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:59 am

Maybe it’s because of the type of reading I normally do, but for some reason, I was expecting something closer to the theology of Queen Elizabeth. Where does she stand on the burning doctrinal questions that so preoccupy and usually divide people here on the blogs, on Twitter, and on the Internet in general?

The Faith of Queen Elizabeth by Dudley Delffs is not that type of book. Furthermore, I would argue that the book’s title offers a promise which in some respects, remains undelivered. Yes, the woman is absolutely extraordinary and she makes no attempts to conceal that she attributes much of her inner strength to her trust in God, and how that source is available to all of us, regardless of our socioeconomic station in life.

But it was only in the ninth (out of ten) chapter that the author provided anything close to window into her prayer and devotional life, and the spiritual inheritance she received from her mother, and grandmother before her.

For someone like myself, who doesn’t read a lot in the genre, the book provided some much appreciated historical context for the nearly 70 years which have formed her reign. In fairness, a look at her faith is inseparable from the larger narrative of her biography, and a look at her life story is inseparable from her faith.

The question arises then, how deep can a journalist investigate when royal protocol dictates the inevitability of high levels of privacy? Sections of the book rely heavily on anecdotes concerning the information-gathering process for the book. There is the conversation with the unnamed woman in the coffee shop and the anonymous man on the train. I love the personal factor at work here, but one hesitates when writing a book of this nature to make the story about one’s self.

Other sections of the book rely on quotations from films and Netflix series about the Queen. I found myself several times asking if I am reading something which purports to be based on actual events, or if its inclusion in the book is for comparative purposes, or just speculation. Delffs made several trips for research, though it did appear at times that the book could have easily been written at the local library.

And then there was the head of an organization I contacted to tell him that their charity is mentioned in one pivotal scene. He was aware of the book and said that it is not a charity for which the Queen is a patron. Which left me confused. Why was she at the event? Why not adopt the charity? I went back to the original sentence and found it rather ambiguous.*

So am I giving this a thumbs down?

Far from it. I think this is one of those bridge titles you could give someone who is perhaps a royalist or monarchist or simply has an interest in all things British, but is unlikely to pick up another Christian title. While the book is not at all faith-focused on every page, and neither might they describe it as the best biography of the Queen they’ve ever read, The Faith of Queen Elizabeth does point to how a personal faith in Jesus Christ is a central part of her life.


The Faith of Queen Elizabeth: The Poise, Grace and Quiet Strength Behind the Crown | 224 pages with extensive photographs | Zondervan Publishing | hardcover in U.S.; hardcover and international paperback edition elsewhere | December 3 release

*The advance reading copy I received does not permit quotations, as the final text may vary.

November 20, 2019

Wednesday Connect

Consider this your personal, engraved invitation from Kanye. For details, see story below.

■ Breaking/Ongoing: Churches and Chaplains are jumping in to help as brush fires ravage the north coast of New South Wales, Australia. 

“The sort of thing they do is mainly about comfort. They have an enormous amount of conversations with people who have gone home and found that there is no home, that they’ve lost their property.

“They’ll go out with people as they go back to their homes and talk to them about the reality of what they have just witnessed or help them to comprehend it and work out what’s next – being part of the process.”

■ Worth Noting: Michael Frost observes that the Evangelical establishment is quick to commend Francis Chan and condemn Jory Micah. “…Holding a different view to Jory doesn’t justify the cruel, hurtful, belittling things people were writing to her.”

■ The pope institutes a new sin category: Ecological sins.

■ Yikes !! Buried in the second-to-last paragraph article of this article on Mormonism, “Mormon missionaries… have publicly praised Wycliffe Bible Translators for opening their translation courses to them, thus assisting in their own translating of the Book of Mormon.” Really? Well, that was worth the price of admission. (Any WBT-supporters out there want to reconsider?)

■ Is Chick-fil-A softening its policy or making an exception? Todd Starnes recently tweeted that the company will be supporting this charity

■ …but you’re probably more aware of the story this week that the fast food chicken outlet will stop its support to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Salvation Army.

■ Even as a friend of ours is traveling India and Nepal and sending back some amazing photographs, it’s easy to forget that this is a region quite hostile to Christianity; at least until I’m reminded of detained Tennessee pastor Bryan Nerren who has “always known the danger” of ministry there. CT reports, “The danger of Nerren’s mission work stems from the fact proselytizing has been illegal in Nepal since 2017.” Despite the challenges, the area is experiencing spiritual revival.

■ Bible translation is no big deal, right? Not exactly; consider trying to translate the word for sin

…In Cameroon, the Bible was originally translated in a few languages, one of them being Ewondo. Different churches/denominations adopted these languages, and so I have been told that in the Catholic church they used (and some still use) Ewondo as a “church language.” My experience is that most people do not understand Ewondo well, so it is sort of like Latin mass. Since the word nsɛm has been used in the churches, people have gotten used to it and many now associate it as the Kwakum word for ‘sin’.

As we have talked about the issue, several people (though not the majority) have said that we are supposed to be translating into Kwakum, not Ewondo. And if they have a perfectly good word for ‘sin’ in Kwakum, why would you use a borrowed Ewondo word? But of course, that raises the question: Is sɛmbu really a Kwakum word for ‘sin’?

So, I went out and did a survey with two men (one who says nsɛm and one who says sɛmbu). We went to a total of 10 villages and talked to 48 people…This is how we spent two hours of our translation time last Friday. On top of that I spent probably around 10 hours surveying. This is all for one word!

■ MacArthur on MacArthur: Did he make nice, offer a clarification, or dig the hole deeper? You decide: “If women are in charge, we’re in trouble. And if you look carefully at our nation, you would have to agree that it’s childish, young, inexperienced, ignorant women who are ascending into power. When you overthrow the divine order, the results are always disastrous.”

■ Transgender Issues (1): On the issue of kids wanting to transition, a specialist says, “I’m of the opinion that this is a psychiatric problem and it should be approached psychiatrically rather than physically…”

■ Transgender Issues (2): …but this young person, after making the full transition, is left with nothing but regret. “I surrounded myself in an echo chamber that supported and validated my poor decisions, because the others were also, unfortunately, stuck in that pit, too.”

■ What if? Dealing with the fears churches have of inter-generational worship. “Just a willingness to be a little uncomfortable in order to grow, to learn, to experience something that may seem new to us, but is actually the way things were for centuries.” 

■ Canada Corner 🇨🇦 : Facing extinction, “‘Projections from our data indicate that there will be no members, attenders or givers in the Anglican Church of Canada by approximately 2040,’ said the Rev. Neil Elliot…” The historic denomination is a counterpart to the Episcopal church in the U.S. “Membership in the Anglican Church fell from a high of 1.3 million in 1961 in membership to 357,123 in 2017.” (But wait, didn’t we hear this before, ten years ago?)

Christmas Music: Joshua Aaron sings “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” in English & Hebrew Live at the Tower of David. 

■  Christmas Music: The group Switch performs Joy (as in the carol you know that starts with that word.) Love this version.

■ Church Leadership: Spotting arrogance in younger leaders with these seven signs. Sample: “All of the influencers in your life are your peers.

■ More Leadership Lessons: Dealing with ‘The 7-year itch,” in Missions and Ministry which actually happens in the 5-10-year window. Here are five steps when you are approaching ‘rusting out.’

■ Unreached People Group? — Recognizing the ministry needs of those dealing with sexual brokenness.

■ All I Want for Christmas: The Hallmark Channel is tapping into the longings of the human heart. “If you’ve seen one of these movies, you’ve seen them all…Still, what these movies lack in Emmy Awards, they make up for in something that those creating and distributing edgier flicks would kill for: millions and millions of viewers.

■ Back to Website Basics: Forget trying to be cool. You’ve only got 15 seconds. Where the heck is your church and what time does it start?

■ It’s a science test, and for your church-raised children, the right answers go against everything they believe. If they’re in Ohio, not to worry. They can go against the science on the basis of religious beliefs.

■ New Bible translation: PEV aka Plain English Version, “designed for Indigenous Australians whose mother tongue is an Aboriginal language.”

Mark 9:5-6
NIV: ‘Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)’
PEV: ’Peter, James and John were very frightened and they didn’t know what to say, but Peter talked anyway. He said to Jesus, ”Teacher, this is great! We must put up special bush shades; one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah!“’
Eph. 2:8a
NIV: ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God’
PEV: ‘God is really good to you. You believed in Jesus and God saved you. You did not do anything good but God saved you anyway. It did not cost you anything ’
2 Thes.2:12
NIV: ‘we had … been insulted in Philippi’
PEV: ‘Philippi people got really cheeky to us’

■ Provocative Headline of the Week: Dave Ramsey Pulled Out a Gun in a Staff Meeting. Well at least that was heard in a deposition in a recent court case. It references a 2014 incident which is fleshed out more in this story.

■ Provocative Devotional Title of the Week: I Am Done Praying With You.

“At one worship service of another church, the worship leader who wrapped his music set said a prayer, then the next person to go up to give announcements closed with a prayer so the next person could lead us in the confessional prayer, then the pastor opened and closed his sermon with a prayer, and the final guy “prayed us out.” While I am all for prayer, I am not for perfunctory prayer that is really just a socially acceptable way to wrap things up (or move musicians around on a stage).”

■ Shopping List (1): Got young grandchildren? Paul Tautges has four picture books you need to know about… or…

■ Shopping List (2): …If they’re just slightly older, these Bible story books and Bibles from a director of NextGen ministries.

■ Confused about the whole gender pronoun thing? The Quakers worked some of this out a few centuries ago.

■ And then this story: “Kanye West revealed his first ever opera, Nebuchadnezzar, will be performed at the Hollywood Bowl next week.” Out of all the people in the Bible, why this one? “Self-described as a recent convert and not a theologian, West understands that Nebuchadnezzar suffered from bipolar. West has the same illness and the artist explained how others have used it as a reason to cut him down and de-platform him.” 

■ New Music ♫ (rap): Dillon Chase – Paradise. “I’m heading for paradise / I’m ready for the afterlife / Tell me is this over yet / ‘Cause I know what happens next;” fun, escapist theology! 

■ New Music ♫ (acoustic): Okay, this is a coincidence. This (different) song has the same title. Coby James – Paradise

■ New Music ♫ (contemporary): If I’m reading this right, it was recorded in a cave. Matthew West – The God Who Stays.

■ Creative Sermonizing : “Brian Zahnd is a pastor and preacher in Missouri, and a very big music fan. He has done sermons using a song’s poetry as a springboard to a message of hope for years now. Recently, he did a sermon like this using Jimi Hendrix’s cover of Bob Dylan’s All Along The Watchtower… I had never heard any connection to the language in the Book of Isaiah. Zahnd does an awesome job with it. (Link includes both the song and the sermon.)

■ Finally, with a previous ruling overturned, a Kentucky man will now be able to go ahead with his vanity license plates proclaiming himself to be God. (Pictured below)

 

 

 

November 18, 2019

Earning a Living from Child Sponsorships

I had a discussion on the weekend in which the name of particular regional music artist was mentioned in reference to the issue of high-profile charities having an outrageous percentage of their income going to fundraising and administration.

It was in some respects a continuation of a conversation we’d had in the summer concerning another singer who is largely in the same situation, but I’ll write the next paragraph as though it applies to the one, though it applies to many, many more than this, and possibly quite a few where you live if you’re in Canada or the U.S.

This artist has never written a popular song. Never had a hit album. Never toured much except in connection with the charity. Has only done television with ministries which tend to also invite (and perhaps only invite) musicians who do this same charity circuit.

But apparently he is able to make a comfortable living doing this. Heck, my wife and I, who have much more realistic expectations — we still have the same sofa set in our living room after 32+ years, sitting on the same worn-out carpeting — would have really appreciated the same level of performance and income opportunities back in the day.

This pastor said there is an army of people who either speak or sing who can earn $100 for just a passing mention of a certain charity.

“Can I mention [name of charity]?” he was asked.

His answer was skillful.

“Certainly, as long as you tell people you’re being paid to mention them.”

We looked at this issue before in terms of the commissions paid to these musicians for setting up a child sponsorship booth in the lobby outside their full concerts. It was the similar to the deal that Family Christian Stores had, as outlined in a 2015 article in the Detroit Free Press:

Family Christian has also benefited from customers who sign up to sponsor a third-party group called World Vision, which provides food, clothing and shelter to impoverished children throughout the world.

The chain solicits sponsorships from its customers and receives a $150 fee from World Vision for each customer who signs up and pays the monthly fee, according to records obtained by the Free Press. Family Christian receives another $35 if the customer signs up for automatic payments.

That prompted me to do some math:

The sponsor is paying World Vision $35 per month per child. That means that for the first 5.28 months, the organization has yet to break even. It’s really into the 6th month that the sponsor’s donation is free and clear, but of course there are also overhead costs in that $35 that we don’t know. 

The person I spoke with yesterday had different, perhaps older numbers in terms of the monthly donation, but shocking in terms of what happens beyond the artist being paid a bounty for each sponsorship brought in.

“Out of a $22 monthly fee;” he told me, “The child is seeing about $1.”

He also told me stories of being on a board for one such organization which thought nothing of flying everyone first class to Europe, staying in five star hotels, and eating at the most luxurious restaurants. When his eyes were opened, he quickly resigned. It’s seems almost sinful. No, delete the word ‘almost,’ there is a definite corruption associated with this, which only multiplies when you consider the socioeconomic level of some who are giving quite sacrificially.

If people only knew…

…I want to end this with something redemptive.

The context of our conversation wasn’t, ‘Let’s bash some major charities,’ but was about what I call the second tier of Christian organizations available to support. (Our recent series on four of Canada’s best charity secrets contained two which are able to issue receipts, and of the others, the orphanage is in such dire need I would hope some in the U.S. would want to give irrespective of tax advantages.)

These organizations are easily located by asking someone ‘in the know’ if they can help you find people who are doing effective ministry, either on the domestic front or overseas, who don’t have a lot of profile.

Your money doesn’t have to be squandered on opulent offices, insane overhead costs, and commissions to concert artists.

It can be given to meet real needs. One of the organizations I profiled has its entire staff working in a corner of another charity at second-hand workstations sitting on used office chairs. Another is based in someone’s house in middle class suburbia.

I have no less confidence in them because they don’t appear successful. Success in feeding and clothing and housing the poor has a much different metric.

Give wisely.


In an article from October, 2015, we looked at three indicators that can be warning signs of a charity which has grown too fat:

I’m not sure that people in the Early Church or especially the Persecuted Church would worry about the “Too Low” category; they would rejoice that you had a location to work from; that you had some paid staff. But that’s what I wrote at the time.


I attended a fund-raising event a week ago which had the same familiar-looking child pictures and profiles spread out on a table, but instead, they were asking you to take one and pray for the child in question.

How refreshing.


Can’t take the time to investigate which organizations would fit comfortably into that second-tier category I mentioned? There are foundations out there which exist to support these charities. They’ve already done due diligence. I have contact info for one in Canada, and I’m sure there are many in the U.S. I hope to write about this at some point in the future.


Here in Canada organizations must file a tax return for the organization. These are public and are posted online. In the U.S., some organizations are incorporated as “churches” and the same level of transparency is not required. While having these details doesn’t tell the whole story, it will give you an idea of the scope of the organization.

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