Thinking Out Loud

April 16, 2015

Going Off Course

Filed under: cults — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:30 am

img 041615Yesterday I was looking at a bit of the history of the Children of God cult, also known as The Family. I’m not including a link here because parts of the story simply are not edifying. Like many Made-in-America cults (and some in Western Europe) the thing that is often highlighted is a very liberal view of appropriate sexual behavior.

Sometimes these organizations begin around the distinctive doctrines of a very small-c, charismatic leader. But other times there is a drift away from Christian orthodoxy that happens bit by bit, year over year. (It’s also possible for an organization that has drifted to have a reformation and return to orthodoxy, as happened with the core membership of The Worldwide Church of God.)

Here’s an analogy. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. If I decide to visit my neighbor across the road and two houses down, and I line myself up from my front door to his front door, and I am in fact 5% off, I will still make it to his door. Five percent isn’t much when you’re only taking about a hundred steps. But if I am a rocket scientist, aiming toward the Moon, and I am out even 1% on my calculations, I could easily be wrong as to where the Moon is going to be on the day I need to begin orbit.

So it could be argued that some organizations move, over time, into false cult status. The adjective false before cult was common in previous generations because, by definition, any separated group could be considered a cult; today the word has shifted and the false — plus the implications of wrong teaching, authoritarian leaders, separation from society, etc. — is assumed. Did they start out 1% or 5% off course or did something happen that bent the straight line they were on? It’s interesting that a tendency, disposition or inclination is called a “bent.”

Christian bloggers and watchdog ministries are very quick to point out the perceived error of everyone else (but themselves) but we don’t have many mechanisms in The Church that would be considered preventative. You don’t know someone is sick until they exhibit symptoms, but maybe we should have a ‘blood test’ that would tell us if someone is going off the rails.

However, it can also be argued that bank tellers know how to recognize authentic currency not by looking at counterfeit bills, but carefully studying real ones. Spending time immersed in the weekend teaching and mid-week Bible studies connected to mainstream Christian churches is sufficient to keep us all on the right path.

April 15, 2015

Wednesday Link List

Hear See Post

Featured Stories

Churches Without Buildings – “Church attendance and construction boomed in North America during a time when having your own building was expected. For churches, businesses and families. In my parents’ era, owning real estate was a sign of success, status and stability. So churches that wanted to be seen as reliable and successful bought buildings. Often before there was a congregation to fill them. When someone started their own business, they would leave their house to sit in a building behind a desk all day long – even if every aspect of that business could have been done from their house. The brick-and-mortar building meant reliability and permanence… Brick-and-mortar may not be dead, but it is on life-support… The church should be leading the way in this idea… We already lose more churches every year from inability to pay the mortgage than from any other factor.”  Speaking of buildings…

The Ecology of Worship Gatherings – Every so often I find an article that is a few months old that should not have been missed. Such is the case here on the physical space we use for worship: “The very spatial mediums we use to communicate those messages shape and architect us in powerful ways. In fact, as a medium, the literal physical spaces we use may actually subvert the very messages we are preaching. What if the arrangement of spaces are actually speaking louder than what we are saying in our sermons? Ecology is the branch of biology that looks at how organisms relate to one another, and to their physical surroundings. If we apply this field of study to our worship gatherings… The premise of an Ecology of Gathering is that the non-living components dynamically interact and stimulate the living components (biotic), creating a living spiritual climate. This climate communicates a message, and over time, this climate controlled message trains us into a certain way of thinking and behaving.”

Pew Research on Religious Growth to 2050 – “In the United States, Christians will decline from more than three-quarters of the population in 2010 to two-thirds in 2050, and Judaism will no longer be the largest non-Christian religion. Muslims will be more numerous in the U.S. than people who identify as Jewish on the basis of religion…” As to the world as a whole, “by 2050 there will be near parity between Muslims (2.8 billion, or 30% of the population) and Christians (2.9 billion, or 31%), possibly for the first time in history.” The Nones continue to grow also: “At the same time, however, the unaffiliated are expected to continue to increase as a share of the population in much of Europe and North America. In the United States, for example, the unaffiliated are projected to grow from an estimated 16% of the total population (including children) in 2010 to 26% in 2050.” There is much more to the report, presented in text, graphs and tables.

Getting Your Hands Dirty – “I was speaking, learning, teaching, and advocating for mentoring without actually doing it. In anthropology, there are two types of field research: Etic and EmicEtic researchers make their observations from outside the culture. Emic researchers get up-close to local customs, traditions, and beliefs. Our temptation is to stay on the outside. To be Etic but not Emic. To attend endless conferences, read endless books, buy endless t-shirts. To dump cold water on our heads, take a selfie and hashtag it. To be about the latest ideas, like those on Mars Hill, to be waiting to see something new, like the newest post or picture online. Ideas, when used this way, can be very self-indulgent. All the while, we remain outside the issue, and quite possibly, outside of our own story. But the great ideas – love, justice, intimacy, reconciliation – require something of us.”

CBS Profile of Crossmaker Runs 22 Years Later – On Easter Sunday, CBS ran a profile of a man that was scheduled to appear in 1993. If you’ve driven the interstate highway system, you’ve seen Bernard Coffindaffer’s work: Crosses erected within sight of the freeway. “Coffindaffer has spent his own money on this project — close to $3 million … to buy the wooden poles, to hire road crews, to perform routine cross maintenance.” But the video never aired when he died of a sudden heart attack. Years later, his legacy continues: “There are 48,000 miles of interstate highway in America,” Sara Abraham of Crosses Across America said. “We will have crosses every 25 miles all across America.”

Editorial / Devotional on Christian Maturity– “Jason and I have often wondered what a foreigner or alien would think the church believed if they simply judged us on the books we buy and sell. As I walked through the aisles, I started to worry that they would perceive a church that is weak and powerless, so consumed with our own needs and self-esteem that we constantly battle the same issues, and never become effective agents of God’s mission in the world… Sadly, may of us in America are “grown up,” in that we’ve been serving Christ a long time, but we have not yet reached maturity. Like it says in Hebrews, we should be teachers, but we need someone to teach us the basics over and over again.”

Church History Lesson: The Non-Jurors – “[T]he new order was demanding that all clergy and office holders take oaths to the new king. Many clergy, including some of the church’s greatest spiritual and intellectual beacons, found that they simply could not accept. They refused to swear those oaths, and by dint of that, became non-swearers, “Non-Jurors.” They began a domestic schism from the established church, and ordained their own succession of bishops…They agonized over issues of ecclesiology, and at the same time sought new ways of leading a pure Christian life… you have very likely encountered portions of their writings or hymns. It was for instance Thomas Ken who wrote the famous Doxology.”

When Sharing Your Faith is Costly – The woman in the story works for the government-run National Health Service (NHS) in the UK: “Miss Wasteney had discussions about Christianity and Islam with a junior colleague, Enya Nawaz, and offered to pray with her when she became upset about health problems. She also invited her to church and gave her a book called I Dared to Call Him Father, about a Muslim woman who converted to Christianity. However, Miss Nawaz accused her of trying to convert her to Christianity and made a formal complaint. Miss Wasteney was suspended for nine months while the East London NHS Foundation Trust investigated.” In a story update, the Employment Appeals Tribunal ruled against her.

On My Own Blog – A look at what I call Spiritual Recidivism and a review of Did God Kill Jesus by Tony Jones.

Finally… – How younger leaders can gain credibility, from Brad Lomenick who tracks up-and-coming Christian leaders, 11 suggestions. Sample: “Become an expert NOW, even before you need to be. Set a standard of excellence way before you’re the leader in charge who is expected to. That way when it’s your turn to come off the bench you are ready.”

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Short Takes

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April 14, 2015

A Letter to the Pastor

Filed under: Lost Voice Project — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:59 am

The Lost Voice ProjectDear Pastor,

I know we’ve never quite gotten together as I had hoped we would, but I kinda had to write this letter to you today.

I think you are quite familiar with the work I do in the next town over, and because of that work and the nature of its environment, people tend to dump a lot of their stories — especially church stories — on me. I guess they feel it’s a safe, neutral place; a sort of ecclesiastical Switzerland.

Anyway, some of the stories are about your church, but that’s not a big deal because given the numbers, there is bound to be some restlessness and dissatisfaction out there. There are stories about several churches, though a few seem to be somehow exempt. I don’t really expect Pastors and church leaders to put a lot of stock in what the critics might have to say anymore than you would expect me to give a lot of weight to comments people leave on my blog. Sometimes it’s just best to ignore them.

But then again, I’m writing you a letter, aren’t I? So there must be something troubling me.

Here’s the deal. I don’t personally believe that people get hurt by this church or that church. But people do get hurt by people in a church. Sure, sometimes it’s about the sound system, or the parking lot, or the color of the new paint in the Fellowship Room; but more often than not it involves a fellow human. People say things and do things and while some people are thick-skinned, some people are not, and there is always going to be some hurt and wounding in any institution, especially one which operates with a volunteer army and a presupposed adherence to the highest of ethical and moral standards.

Honestly, I’ve probably done my own share of the hurting. Wait, not probably, definitely. I was on staff at a local church once and the way the story is told, I got rather firm with a student who was helping out on the sound system after a particularly mistake-filled first service, and told him we really needed it better for the second service. Apparently he was quite hurt. I’m told he didn’t come back. I don’t remember him not coming back. In fact, I don’t remember a whole lot of this story; it all got told to me years later. Ouch!

My point is, a lot of the stories I get told about your place of worship come down to one person. One guy. One individual. He’s a member of your church board, or deacons, or elders or whatever you call it your denomination. He’s a bit of a one-man wrecking machine.

On the other hand, he’s probably among the people in your church you are closest to. You and your wife probably socialize with him and his wife. He probably gets things done at a board level. You can count on him for support. You can’t imagine him being cast in a negative light.

Here’s the thing: Over the course of many years, because of him, you’ve lost a lot of good people. People who, if you added them all together, had so much to give to the life of your church. We’re talking a cumulative loss that’s worth more than whatever benefit you might see from one single leader.

At the end of the day however, I can’t be more specific. It’s all just random noise from the discontented being vented to a third party. But I think that, after many years, I’m a good judge of character. I think I can discern the sincerity of those dumping their stories on me, and it resonates with my own impressions of the person in question.

I hope you can connect the dots at this point and figure out who and what.

Sincerely,

Paul.


Though the format today was different, today’s piece continues The Lost Voice Project, a continuing series of articles about people whose circumstances have resulted in their contribution to the local church being diminished; their voices not being heard.

April 13, 2015

Book Review: Did God Kill Jesus?

Did God Kill JesusThere was something almost eerie about reading this book over the Easter season. I took a rather slow, almost plodding pace in order to absorb the material and then have a day to digest it before moving on, some of the events described paralleling narratives being brought to mind at Holy Week.

In Did God Kill Jesus? Searching for Love in History’s Most Famous Execution, author Tony Jones looks at the central element of the Christian faith — the death and resurrection of Jesus — though his focus is clearly on the crucifixion and all of its ramifications for doctrine and theology. Over the years, writers and teachers have processed a handful of dominant models of what all is taking place — what we call atonement — as Christ yields his life to the religious and political powers of Jewish authorities and Roman soldiers; and Jones considers these as well as a few of the lesser-known theories.

At the very core of his analysis is Jesus’ cry from the cross, “My God, my God; why have you forsaken me?” He veers strongly toward the view that at that moment Jesus sees the Father as absent and dares to suggest that right then, right there, Jesus experiences something akin to atheism; life in a world without God. This is presented alongside the notion that while positionally God’s omniscience is a given, there are things that could only be known incarnationally.

This is a book for people willing to risk actually doing some thinking. Many of us have grown up in environments where we were taught that “Jesus died on the cross for our sins;” but would be lacking clarity in explaining exactly how the violent, death of this One accomplished this. He notes that if a sacrifice were all that was required, a child sacrifice at the Bethlehem manger would have sufficed. He also forces the reader to consider why a violent death was necessary.

I had been aware of Tony Jones through his blogging activity at Theoblogy, and knew that because of his co-authorship of The Emergent Manifesto, some readers here might question his orthodoxy. My thoughts ran somewhat the other way; reading through I asked myself if the book could not have appeared under HarperCollins’ more Evangelical imprints such as Zondervan, instead of HarperOne. (There were a couple of language issues early on, which are, in balance, unfortunate.) Jones is simply a nice guy, charitable to people whose views on Calvary are different because they are Orthodox Church, Roman Catholic, Progressive or even Pentecostal. By this I mean, the book accounts for all tastes.

Perhaps it is my own perspective, but my takeaway — and I mean this as high praise — is that I found myself thinking about Jesus and what would be going through his mind throughout all aspects of his final words to his disciples, his betrayal, his beating, his trial before Pilate and the agony of the crucifixion itself. Could there be any higher benefit to the reader of a Christian book?

Click here to read sample pages of Did God Kill Jesus?.

April 12, 2015

From The e-mail Forwards Archives

Filed under: ethics, Faith, Religion — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:48 am

In the days before Facebook and Twitter, people would e-mail things like this to each other.

I grew up with practical parents. A mother, God love her, who washed aluminum foil after she cooked in it, then reused it. She was the original recycle queen, before they had a name for it… A father who was happier getting old shoes fixed than buying new ones.

Their marriage was good, their dreams focused. Their best friends lived barely a wave away..

I can see them now, Dad in trousers, tee shirt and a hat and Mom in a house dress, lawn mower in one hand, and dish-towel in the other. It was the time for fixing things.. A curtain rod, the kitchen radio, screen door, the oven door, the hem in a dress. Things we keep.

It was a way of life, and sometimes it made me crazy.. All that re-fixing, eating, renewing, I wanted just once to be wasteful. Waste meant affluence. Throwing things away meant you knew there’d always be more.

But then my mother died, and on that clear summer’s night, in the warmth of the hospital room, I was struck with the pain of learning that sometimes there isn’t any more.

Sometimes, what we care about most gets all used up and goes away…never to return.. So… while we have it….. it’s best we love it…. and care for it… and fix it when it’s broken……… and heal it when it’s sick.

This is true. for marriage……. and old cars….. and children with bad report cards….. and dogs with bad hips…. and aging parents….. and grandparents. We keep them because they are worth it, because we are worth it.

Some things we keep. Like a best friend that moved away or a classmate we grew up with.

There are just some things that make life important, like people we know who are special…. and so, we keep them close!

I received this from someone who thinks I am a ‘keeper’, so I’ve sent it to the people I think of in the same way… Now it’s your turn to send this to those people that are “keepers” in your life. Good friends are like stars…. You don’t always see them, but you know they are always there. Keep them close!

TEN THINGS GOD WON’T ASK ON THAT DAY

1…. God won’t ask what kind of car you drove. He’ll ask how many people you drove who didn’t have transportation..

2…. God won’t ask the square footage of your house, He’ll ask how many people you welcomed into your home.

3…. God won’t ask about the clothes you had in your closet, He’ll ask how many you helped to clothe.

4…. God won’t ask what your highest salary was. He’ll ask if you compromised your character to obtain it.

5…. God won’t ask what your job title was. He’ll ask if you performed your job to the best of your ability.

6…. God won’t ask how many friends you had. He’ll ask how many people to whom you were a friend.

7…. God won’t ask in what neighborhood you lived, He’ll ask how you treated your neighbors.

8…. God won’t ask about the color of your skin, He’ll ask about the content of your character.

9…. God won’t ask why it took you so long to seek Salvation. He’ll lovingly take you to your mansion in heaven, and not to the gates of Hell.

10…. God won’t have to ask how many people you forwarded this to, He already knows your decision.

Relevant Magazine and the Power of Print

Filed under: culture — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:23 am

Relevant Magazine CoverAbout a year ago my church library started stocking Relevant magazine. As no stranger to the website, relevantmag.com, and having great familiarity with the parent company (Strang Book Group) that gave birth to Relevant Media Group, I could have easily passed the print version by, but decided to borrow one, you know, just in case I missed something. Since then I’ve been borrowing each one as Paul and Elaine, our church librarians, place it in the rack.

This article isn’t about the magazine per se, but rather about the appeal of the print edition. But as to the magazine, its target audience is Millennials and people like me who want to be younger, or at least think younger; and its distinctive is that as it reviews current culture (movies, music, books, television, YouTube, etc.) the writers are not afraid to blend together two worlds that some would call ‘the sacred and the secular.’ Their writer base is diverse as are their interview subjects, and many of the differences that create division between different tribes of Christianity are seemingly absent.

Back to print editions. The internet has been very kind to me, and I don’t want to bite the hand that feeds, but on Saturday afternoon I sat down with the physical copy around 4:30 and didn’t get up much before 5:30. Okay, maybe I’m a slow reader. And there was a short phone call. But there was something about getting lost in a magazine again that was, for lack of a better word refreshing not to mention that unlike the online experience, the print edition offers no off-ramps.

Relevant Magazine CoverI post this today simply to say I hope that Relevant does not go the way of other publications which have ceased print operations. At one time, CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) was the #1 Christian periodical, and now it is simply a web-only entity as is Discipleship Journal. Fortunately, Christianity Today and Leadership Journal (the latter of which employs me as a part-time writer) are also still in print.

As someone who is engaged in book sales, I obviously have a print-bias, but when you consider Relevant’s target market, and the presuppositions about that generation preferring to do everything online, the physical edition of the magazine is something I would hate to see lost to technological and economic factors. As the announcer says, “Available on fine newsstands everywhere;” I hope.

April 11, 2015

Weekend Link List

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:46 am

Afraid from PostSecret

Featured Stories

At first I wasn’t sure about devoting the top four featured items here to a single theme, but this is truly the story that never ends…

Paradigm Smashing The Wedding Cake Controversy – The author here sees nothing particularly immoral with gay marriage, but uses a section from The Sermon on the Mount to challenge us with a whole different way of responding, if you happen to find yourself in the cake baking (or invitation printing) business. I won’t include a spoiler here, but once you start reading, it’s clear where she’s going with this, but it is food for thought…  (An apologist responds.)

…Which Leads Us to This – Trevin Wax: “One hundred years later, the church is once again being rocked. This time, many Christians are calling for us to rethink the ’embarrassing’ parts of Christianity — specifically, our distinctive sexual ethic. After all, many of the moral guidelines we read in the New Testament were written from another cultural vantage point and are no longer authoritative or relevant today. If Christianity is to survive and thrive in the next century, many of our ancient prohibitions (sex outside of marriage, homosexual practice, the significance of gender, etc.) must be set aside.” Well, you have to read it in context

Which Takes Us to Indiana – Matthew Paul Turner: “You guys bake wedding cakes and build houses for Pentecostals. And you do that without blinking an eye. I mean, if you’re so bent on protecting your state’s faith, you might consider discriminating against those Pentecostal people who turn the Gospel into magic tricks, 401k plans, and pony shows every Sunday. They seem far more dangerous to your Christianity than gay people who want to get married… I feel sorry for your Christian business owners because you’ve given them a free pass to stop evolving.”

…Which Ends Up with a Possible Relocation of a Denom’s General Assembly – The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ): “As Disciples, we are particularly sensitive to the values of the One we follow – one who sat at table with people from all walks of life, and loved them all. Our church is diverse in point of view, but we share a value for an open Lord’s Table. Our members and assembly-goers are of different races and ethnicities, ages, genders and sexual orientations. They have in common that they love Jesus and seek to follow him. We are particularly distressed at the thought that, under the current version of [RFRA], some of our members and friends might not be welcome in some Indiana businesses – might experience legally sanctioned bias and rejection once so common on the basis of race.”

Six Things Mark Wilson Learned from Robert Schuller – “Some congregations run on positive energy.  Others run on negative energy.  You can grow a church with either kind — but positive energy attracts positive people and negative energy attracts negative people.  If you want a bunch of negative people, all you have to do is run the church on negative energy. You’ll get plenty of them.” He was also a believer in investing your life in a single geographic location.

Giving Children Windows on the Worship Service – “For children the service is an hour and 30 minutes of tedium, or they are sent out to ‘jump in a few puddles’ while the adults do the real thing. Too many churches, in my experience, either ignore the fact that there are children in church or send them out to be entertained elsewhere. There are no ‘windows’ to enable them to participate and adults are often unable or unwilling to hold them up to see over the fence. So the implied message children receive is that there is nothing here for you. In other words, the view, or real worship, is essentially for adults only.”

The LifeWay Bookstores Blacklist – Is the list real? Either way, there have been changes at LifeWay, a bookstore chain associated with Broadman & Holman Publishing and the Southern Baptist Convention (though operating at arm’s length from the latter.) So first, a blogger published a story on a house-cleaning that allegedly took place along with a .pdf list of the authors. Then he updated with a clarification that these authors were not previously carried as part of store inventory, but had been available to order, and now would not be available to order. There’s also more on the story at CT’s news page, Gleanings.

Music Works Its Way Into Our Hearts – On a recent song by Mercy Me: “How easy it is for me to give a nod to the truth of those words without ever letting them seep into my soul. And that is where music works its wonders. Like smoke curling through the cracks and crevices of my heart, the melody carries the lyrics past the high walls and closed off places. Music is the covert agent of God feeding life-giving truth to my weary soul. It reminds me of his awe-inspiring wonder, his ever-present help, and gracious invitation to revel in being his redeemed…”

 

Image: Postsecret (if you don’t know that website, it’s just as well.)

April 10, 2015

Staring at the Screen

Filed under: writing — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:40 am

Albert remembers that afternoon in 1975 as if it were yesterday. He was 15.

It was July, hot and humid as you would expect. The sofa had been positioned to face the television set and he was jammed into it with his brother Barry, 13, sister Cathie, 10 and youngest brother Douglas, 8. They were all wearing shorts and tried not to let their legs touch because of the sweat the hot farmhouse was causing.

Short StoriesTheir father Ernie had resisted getting TV saying it was “the devil’s instrument;” and that “nothing good would come from having it;” but he couldn’t resist when a neighbor farmer offered him his old console set for $20 so he could make the move to one with better color.

The siblings spent their summers doing chores, but this day was so hot they had stripped down to shorts and t-shirts for lunch, and because the intensity of the noon-day sun, Ernie allowed them to take a rare full hour break, so they headed to the family room and settled in front of the television.

The set however, was not on.

After capitulating to pressure of the culture of the day, Ernie had second guessed himself after installing the set in its place. The set connected to the wall plug by way of a utility cord that was actually detachable — something they did back then — and he had yet to turn the set on for more than a few second to determine it had survived the move on the back of the pickup  and was capable of receiving a few off-air stations. Then he removed the cord and placed it somewhere out of sight.

So Albert and his brothers sat staring at the blank screen. Cathie found the TV listings in the Sunday paper that was still sitting by the fireplace, a routine placement for kindling for fires that weren’t needed in July. “Let’s see, it’s 12:30 PM on Friday, so what would we watch?” The kids talked about shows their friends often mentioned as the screen simply stared back silently, showing their reflection in the glass. They had television, so to speak, or at least they were making some progress.

Forty years later Albert remembered the absurdity of that summer lunch hour. A few days later his father caved in and the kids sat glued to it at every opportunity. It was harder for Ernie to get the kids to do their chores, but it also brought a wealth of information into their home which they had lacked for so many years.

Why remember this now?

The day came back to mind as Albert stared at the blank, blue screen on his computer, wondering who he should call to get it working again.

April 9, 2015

Spiritual Recidivism: Returning to the Old Haunts, Old Friends, Old Ways

I remember the first time I heard the term recidivism, it was in the context of American federal prisons, as the word can be used to describe the situation where, after serving time, prisoners re-offend and are re-incarcerated. It’s a term I would image Chuck Colson‘s Prison Fellowship ministry discusses frequently.

Not being an expert, I can only guess at a few sample reasons why people might follow their previous paths and end up back in jail:

  • Crime is the only life they know; they haven’t been placed in a new direction or given enough new life skills, and they simply return to what they know.
  • They actually “learn” crime in prison from listening to other inmates; or they idolize other prisoners and see their exploits as something worth trying.
  • They fall back among former friends — people who didn’t do hard time — and get caught up in their lifestyle of illegal activities.
  • They either consciously or subconsciously miss the security and routine of prison life and/or feel “lost” in the outside world and are simply either expecting or hoping to get caught again.

Those are just some sample ideas, I’m sure there are more.

But I am equally guilty of recidivism.

I sin, and then I sense God dealing with me about it, and I repent and I abstain from that sin for a season, but then that temptation might call out to me. I’m not thinking of anything recent here, but it’s a pattern that most Christ-followers — including the Apostle Paul — are familiar with. I’m told that some sects — particularly the Catholic church’s earliest concepts of confession, and certain aspects of Mormon doctrine — teach that once confessed, you really shouldn’t sin the same sin twice.

So why do we?

Let’s see if we can follow the pattern above and get some insights:

  • A lifestyle of sin is deeply ingrained. This is where Charismatics and Pentecostals (among others) would say there is a need for something that goes beyond confession: Deliverance.
  • We actually ‘learn’ sin from hanging around with other Christians who, instead of lifting us up, bring us down. Or, freed from one area of temptation, we don’t realize that without God filling the emotional or spiritual voids that exist, we are leaving ourselves open for other types of sin or distraction.
  • We go back to the people we knew before we determined to live a life of intentional spiritual formation. This includes people in the church who are simply not committed. It can also include media influences.
  • If we get deeply enough entrenched in a sinful lifestyle, we can become numbed to guilt, and our sin feels comfortable and enjoyable. Momentarily, the pleasures of sin outweigh the joy and satisfaction found in letting God direct our paths.

Here’s the full text from Paul I alluded to earlier:

NIV Romans 7:15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?

To amend George Santayana’s well known quotation: “Those who fail to learn the lessons of their personal history are doomed to repeat them.

Do you find yourself running down the same sin rabbit trails? Just as spring is bringing new life to the northern hemisphere, allow God to help you break free and enjoy spiritual new life.

…If a search engine brought you to this post, maybe God is trying to tell you something. Click here to watch a brief presentation on giving Him control of your life.

April 8, 2015

Wednesday Link List

Fallon Easter

Featured Stories

Ten Secrets of Senior (Lead) Pastors – “Most pastors walk with a degree of uncertainty about our abilities to do the work we feel called to do. We intellectually know this is designed by God. It keeps us in prayer and walking by faith. But, we are human and the demands upon us and our insecurities in them can also make us question at times whether we have what it takes to do the work before us… A senior pastor’s insecurities can cause them to become overprotective of their reputation and position… The pastor too can experience loneliness…  some pastors have no true friends either inside the church or outside… Most senior pastors have been burned by someone they once trusted.”

Interacting with Your Mormon Friends – “We Christians seem to have taken our worldview for granted. We are apathetic residents of a state while Mormons are passionate citizens of a nation. Many of the Christians I’ve taken to Utah are amazed by how strongly Mormons seem to resist our efforts to share the truth. That’s because we, as Christians, mistakenly think Mormons are as loosely affiliated with their religious worldview as we are with ours. That’s simply not the case… Mormons don’t easily walk away from their faith, even when they’ve discovered it’s untrue.”

On The Religious Freedom Reformation Act – “One of the drawbacks of having friends on both sides of an issue is that they bombard you with articles and stories supporting their side of the issue and this is most likely to happen in our culture on LGBT matters.  My pastor sent me, and the rest of our church, link after link explaining ‘our’ side of the issue and making it clear that ‘their’ side was not only wrong but mean.  My progressive neighbor did the same from the other point of view.  I was tempted to just forward their e-mails to the other… This is life in America today, particularly on LGBT issues.  One side yells at the other that they are ignorant of the law, and that they hate America, Christians and religious freedom.  The other side yells that the RFRA is nothing more than a hidden attempt to legalize Christian discrimination of LGBT individuals.  Everyone is talking; nobody is listening, at least not to those who differ.”

Billy Graham Statue at the U.S. Capitol – “A move is afoot to replace a statue of a racist former governor with one of evangelist Billy Graham in the U.S. Capitol building. The change would mean North Carolina is represented by two Western North Carolina notables in the National Statuary Hall. The other leader honored is former governor and Buncombe County native Zebulon Vance. General Assembly lawmakers have proposed replacing the statue of Charles Brantley Aycock… Aycock was chief spokesman for the White Supremacy Campaign when the bloody riot resulted in the overthrow of the elected local government in the only documented coup d’etat in U.S. history.”

20 Minutes into the Future – It is said that if Americans want to see their religious future, they need only look at their neighbor to the north, Canada: “You don’t need to be a churchgoer to pray. That’s one of the findings of a sweeping new poll on faith from the Angus Reid Institute, conducted in partnership with Dr. Reginald Bibby of the University of Lethbridge. The recent survey of 3,041 Canadians showed that even as our affiliation with organized religion continues to decline we still believe — just in our own, often deeply personal, ways.” Results are presented in The National Post as a large infographic.

It’s Not Just The Marriage Part of Gay Marriage – This article dealt primarily with the impact of a shifting paradigm on homosexuality and its impact on “the Black Church.” But going beyond wedding ceremonies, invitations, cakes and flowers are a whole host of other issues which the author summarizes in a list at the end of the piece; the impact on facility rental, membership, funeral protocols, dedication of adopted children, and also the legal ramifications of any decisions on issues like these.

New App is a YouVersion Meets Instagram – “Parallel feels a lot like Instagram, but instead of filters, it has you tag your photos with biblical verses. In doing so, it attempts to make a universal text feel personal, and shareable, in the same way one might post a photo on any other social media…Unlike Instagram, Parallel seems to do away with geotagging and clear timestamps, so all the images live in a timeless and spaceless world of the biblical verses they represent—and instead of liking them, users can ‘crown’ them. The idea is that, in time, the app will populate the Bible with these photographic interpretations.”

What are Our Children Learning Spiritually? – “Far before a child can comprehend his purpose to worship God, the child learns how to worship. What happens with most parents, though, who see only the need to teach their child’s head, is that in order to teach such truths, they are willing to use almost whatever means necessary to do so. So they use puppets to teach Bible stories, never realizing that their children are learning to view biblical truth as something light and trivial. Or they use cartoons to teach moral lessons, never realizing that their children are learning to view morality as something silly or ‘adventurous.'”

The Pope Has Changed Rome Forever – The Wall Street Journal “In his two years in office, the pontiff has drawn attention for his unconventional gestures—such as personally welcoming homeless people to the Sistine Chapel last month—but those gestures matter most as signs of the radical new direction in which he seeks to lead the Catholic Church: toward his vision of the promise of Vatican II. Both the acclaim and the alarm that Francis has generated as pope have been responses to his role in the long struggle over the [Second Vatican Council]’s legacy. …Pope Francis, the first pontiff to have received holy orders after Vatican II, is very much a son of the council.”

Inside John Wesley’s Prayer Closet – From Jared Brock’s new book, A Year of Living Prayerfully: “…Wesley kept up his daily regimen by going to bed at nine o’clock and waking at four o’clock, insisting that everyone in his household do the same. He would begin his day by studying the Scriptures and praying. The room that would later become known as the “Power House of Methodism” is about the size of a modern walk-in closet, perhaps six by seven feet, with hardwood floors and a large window to let in plenty of light. When we entered Wesley’s study, I noticed a very odd, spring-mounted bouncy chair. ‘This was Wesley’s workout chair,’ the guide said. ‘For doing assisted squats.'”

Rhymes Jan 13 2014Rhymes With Orange – 1/13/14

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