Thinking Out Loud

June 24, 2015

Wednesday Link List

While none of the pictures will make the Church Stage Design website, many church platforms are being transformed for VBS.

While none of the VBS pictures on Twitter yesterday will make the Church Stage Design Ideas website, many church platforms are being transformed this week for VBS.

Some stories this week from The Christian Post and Christian Today were rejected because of distracting links to other web content. 

Because of our arrangement with Christianity Today, many Wednesday Link Lists here simply link to PARSE, no matter what you click; but as of last week, PARSE no longer exists. If you want to know more about a particular story, email us the date of the link list, and we’ll post the original list with all the links. It’s all very time-consuming, but we’ll eventually get to all of them.

June 23, 2015

When Christian Authors and Artists Lives Get Messy, Should Retailers Pull Their Product?

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:58 am

no longer availableAs someone who has spent time leading worship in several different churches, I still get excited when I hear a new song. If the song really captures me — as one did recently — I’ll tell everyone I meet about it.

About a month ago I found such a song. It was a beautiful worship song that also contained teaching and exhortation — the best of all possible worlds worlds — and reminded me of some classic Andrae Crouch, or at least what he might write in 2015.

And then everything crashed. I was telling a group of people about the song and they proceeded to tell me a whole load of details about the artist, an affair, a marriage breakup and more. Hours later I went online only to discover everything they said was true, not that I should have doubted.

While I should have grieved over the artist’s sin (and my own), at that point my thoughts were entirely selfish. “Darn;” I thought; “I really liked that song.”

Two weeks later I decided to play the song on YouTube one more time. Still resonates. Then my wife and I had a discussion about whether or not the composition is in any way invalidated by the fact that the writer, like all of us, is flawed.

On Sunday night the discussion came up again in reference to an author. (See yesterday’s blog post.) Should Christian bookstores and online vendors simply pull his product off the shelves? If they do so, should this be permanent or just for a season? Is the truth contained in those books in any way invalidated by the author’s moral failure, or does the transgression disqualify it somehow?

Back in the day, Christian booksellers went through this when Amy Grant and Sandi Patti each were divorced. When Jennifer Knapp and Ray Boltz came out as gay. More recently, when Mark Driscoll admitted he plagiarized large sections of his books.

Of course, sometimes, the truth just isn’t there. The boy in The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven now admits he was never there in the first place. That’s a different type of situation. But last time I checked, those classic Amy and Sandi albums are back on the shelves, and this time around, some stores didn’t bother pulling Driscoll product at all.

I really like the song with which I began this discussion. I don’t wanna go all Charismatic on you and say it’s anointed, but it’s certainly special, at least to me. Does it not remain valid despite all the back-story? Didn’t God use a donkey once?

June 22, 2015

Tullian Tchividjian Resigns from Coral Ridge, Admitting Affair

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:05 am

Billy Graham’s grandson Tullian Tchividjian has resigned from his pulpit at Coral Ridge Presbyterian, a high-profile church in south Florida, after admitting he had an affair. He released the following statement to the Washington Post on behalf of him and his wife:

I resigned from my position at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church today due to ongoing marital issues. As many of you know, I returned from a trip a few months back and discovered that my wife was having an affair. Heartbroken and devastated, I informed our church leadership and requested a sabbatical to focus exclusively on my marriage and family. As her affair continued, we separated. Sadly and embarrassingly, I subsequently sought comfort in a friend and developed an inappropriate relationship myself. Last week I was approached by our church leaders and they asked me about my own affair. I admitted to it and it was decided that the best course of action would be for me to resign. Both my wife and I are heartbroken over our actions and we ask you to pray for us and our family that God would give us the grace we need to weather this heart wrenching storm. We are amazingly grateful for the team of men and women who are committed to walking this difficult path with us. Please pray for the healing of deep wounds and we kindly ask that you respect our privacy.

continue reading here at WP

Christianity Today also posted last night:

…Tchividjian’s tenure as pastor at Coral Ridge had been troubled from the start. In the spring of 2009, the church named the then-36-year-old as its senior pastor. At the time, Tchividjian led a young church plant which later merged with Coral Ridge.

Founded by famed preached D. James Kennedy, Coral Ridge had once drawn as many as 7,000 worshipers. But it had been in decline following Kennedy’s death in 2006.

Church elders hoped that Tchividjian’s youth, vision, and name could revive the fortunes of the aging congregation.

Instead they got chaos.

Within six months, a group of church members led by Kennedy’s daughter, Jennifer, called for Tchividjian’s ouster. Those dissidents were banned by the church

At issue were a change in worship style and Tchividjian’s rejection of culture war politics…

continue reading here at CT

photo: Darryl Dash

June 21, 2015

The Price to Pay for “The Right to Bear Arms”

Filed under: current events — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:18 am

“But let’s be clear: At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it.” – President Obama

In light of events this week in Charleston, I am repeating two columns this weekend that were posted in the wake of similar events. The second one below appeared in December, 2012, after Newtown. Also, before you get angry with me, if you’re reading this from the U.S.,  take some time to see how these stories play out in foreign media; look at how the rest of the world views the U.S.


handguns

To Our American Friends: It’s Time to Have the Conversation

To our friends in the U.S. in light of events yesterday;

Please accept our heartfelt sympathies.

Even though we’re close neighbors, we don’t fully understand the U.S. gun culture that is part of the DNA of those with whom we share this continent. And before we start to sound judgmental, we don’t always get it right up here, either; neither have we been immune to gun violence.

But we don’t think the framers of the U.S. constitution had yesterday in mind when they drafted the 2nd Amendment. Rather, I think they would be appalled, provided they were not completely bewildered trying to process where things presently stand.

This is only going to get worse. And worse and worse.

It’s time to drop everything else you’re doing and have the conversation necessary to save America.

It’s time to repeal the 2nd Amendment.

I know this subject rips at the emotions of people within the U.S.; and I’m not trying to open existing wounds. I am simply stating an opinion commonly held by people outside the U.S., an, “It’s broken; you need to fix that thing;” opinion which I know does not play well with some Americans. The push-back in the comments section was fully anticipated. I’m just saying that this is how it looks to outsiders. We grieve with you, and know the pain you are experiencing as a nation because this thing hits close to home for us as well. But it represents a set of circumstances that are unique to the U.S. that I truly wish were different; that Americans would begin now to beat their swords into plowshares.

June 20, 2015

The Sun Sets on Another Week of Mass Killing in the U.S.

Filed under: Christianity, current events — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:13 am

“But let’s be clear: At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it.” – President Obama

In light of events this week in Charleston, I am repeating two columns this weekend that were posted in the wake of similar events. The first appeared in July, 2012, a few days after Colorado.


Another Day of Random Violence

Like so many in North America, I turned on the television this morning only to find there has been a mass shooting in Colorado.

Mass shooting in Colorado. I’m having a deja vu. Haven’t we been down this road before?

It would be very easy for me as a Canadian to get all self-righteous about how this is a consequence of the American constitution’s “right to bear arms;” were it not for a similar shooting that took place in Toronto just a week ago. But oh, how I wish the framers of that constitution had been a little more particular in their wording on this item. (And what they meant by separation of church and state.)

The alleged perpetrator has been arrested. You have to say alleged. Or suspect. Due process of law is guaranteed for all. But the facts on this one are fairly established. There is no way he knew the people he killed. Whatever his motive, there was no individual reason why those people died.

He simply had no regard for human life.

Whatever he learned in school about science, math, spelling, history, geography, music, art, literature; he did not learn the basics of moral law or moral ethics.

He had no regard for human life.

Families are now dealing shock, and loss, and planning funerals; and only beginning to contemplate life without their loved ones; while meanwhile others hold vigil outside hospital rooms hoping for a favorable outcome.

It’s almost 12:00 noon, and I still haven’t posted this. I turn on the television again, and Drew Carey is explaining the rules of a game to a contestant on The Price is Right. The major networks have returned to regular programming; so I title this, Another Day of Random Violence. Just a typical morning in the USA. Does anyone really care today if Drew’s contestant wins the prize package?

No regard for human life.

No regard.

At all.

None.

God, when will it end?


For some reason this morning I can’t get this song off my mind. There Will Never Be Any Peace (Until God is Seated at the Conference Table) is actually a song about war, but the chorus hook keeps replaying in my head in light of today’s events. There won’t be any peace, until the Prince of Peace returns.

June 19, 2015

Consuming Passion

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:47 am

passionsMy wife and I have been in closer contact with someone who grew up in a Christian home and has made a profession of faith, but is currently exploring the teachings of other religions. My wife and I also disagree somewhat about the seriousness of this. She feels the exploration is healthy; I am worried about this person (a) spending too much time on this in comparison to time reading the Bible or devotional material and/or (b) drifting from the faith altogether.

I don’t mind if a person wants to look at the other options. It’s certainly foundational to any training in apologetics or even informal talks with people who have a different perspective. I would even go so far as to say that if you’re reading this blog, and you’ve spent your whole life in the Christian bubble, you might want to read up on what other faith systems believe and teach.

Rather, I’m concerned more because of I see this very much energizing the person in question. We all have hobbies and interests — some short term and others longer — but what matters to me is what causes a person’s eyes to light up. While I will admit to a lifetime of failings in this regard, Jesus should be that which generates our greatest passion.

What consumes you? Here are some questions we’ve run a few times on the blog, though not lately:

  1. What’s the first thing you think about when you get up in the morning?
  2. What do you talk about when it’s your chance to control the conversation?
  3. What things have become the object your discretionary spending?
  4. If you could save one or two things before your house burned down, what would those things be?
  5. What do you want your life to be remembered for?

While this list is incomplete, it helps us to pinpoint the things that matter to us.

I’m generally not a big user of The Four Spiritual Laws approach, but I’m always aware of one particular image from the booklet. The dots in the diagram below represent our various hobbies and interests. In the previous panel to the one below they are somewhat random and different sizes and shapes, but when Christ takes control (i.e. on ‘the throne of our life’) the interests are ‘in harmony.’

Life in Balance - Christ Directed Life

I don’t agree that these interests are all of equal size necessarily — after all these years of blogging I still think I love music more than I love writing — but I like the idea of balance, and the idea of these things subject to Christ’s control.

We are very much defined by our passions, our position and our possessions. I think there’s a difference between an interest in something beyond the realm of Christian activity, and an unhealthy obsession about it.

Each one of us is, at any one moment in time, moving closer to the cross or moving away from the cross. I guess I’m erring on the side of caution because I don’t like to see what looks like someone moving further from the cross.


Read more here at Thinking Out Loud

June 18, 2015

10 Ways to Reduce Anxiety and Stress

Filed under: Christianity — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:22 am

Yes, it’s true. I’m writing a listicle.

Actually, I’m not even doing that. I’ve run out of hours in the day, and I found this in a pile of papers today and even though it’s sort of e-mail forward quality, I’m going to paraphrase it and make it my own.

  1. Do nothing which requires a cover-up or cover-story.
  2. Say “No” to projects you don’t have time for. (Read the book Boundaries, or the book Margin.)
  3. Hang out with people who are not worriers; people who laugh out loud.
  4. Get enough sleep.
  5. Pour passion into everything you do.
  6. Schedule some buffers into your day so you’re not commuting against the clock.
  7. Realize that your memory, like a hard-drive, can get overloaded. Write some things down, or send yourself reminders.
  8. Plug in a dedicated 30 minutes of physical movement for each day.
  9. Relax your standards.
  10. Keep a spare car key in your wallet.

In typing up this rather uncharacteristic blog post the night before, I am already one step closer to accomplishing #4 and #9. 

Anything you would add?

June 17, 2015

Wednesday Link List

Filed under: Christianity, links — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:18 am

The Real Thing

Coming (out) soon: In the news events of the past month we’ve seen people identify as a different gender and a different race than that they were born with. What’s next? Species? I’ve always felt I identified most strongly with some of the big cats we’d see on our zoo visits. Especially the Bengal Tigers. There’s something there that has always resonated. So yes, I am beginning species reassignment therapy. And starting today, really watch your blog comments, because I scratch. And bite. And I’m really ticked the grocery stores no longer stock Tender Vittles.

From the YouTube description on a channel I operate sponsored by Searchlight Books:

To the best of my knowledge, the oldest recording in my collection of Contemporary Christian Music, highlighting again that the entire movement traces its oldest roots to Roman Catholic folk masses. This 1969 recording is a translation from Italian where the group, known originally as I Barritas, or The Little Berets, learned the English phonetically. It was originally written in 1964 as Messa de la Pace, and was dedicated to the memory of Martin Luther King.

June 16, 2015

Finding Blog Topics in the Middle of Sunday Worship

Filed under: Christianity, Church, worship — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:37 am

Applegate Christian Fellowship

On Sunday our church had its annual “Church In The Park” service. Since we normally meet at two different service times, it’s nice to have everyone altogether.

During the worship time, I couldn’t help but look around and see families and individuals in the unique out-of-doors context. There was one family that I’ve known for years, but their one child seemed troubled during the singing time. Another family that I’ve known a long time is new to this church and it was great to see them entering in wholeheartedly as we we worshiped. I saw a number of people who were by themselves and as this particular service especially caters to families with kids, I made a point to speak to one of them.

I also wondered how the four of us looked to others.

Every picture tells a story; each person is an unfolding story.

“Paul;” some will be thinking, “It was the worship time, and you should have been focused on the attributes of God, his love and majesty, and expressing your thanksgiving and praise to him.”

I guess I allowed myself this different track because of something my wife said to my youngest son earlier in the week about how she is experiencing that time in our weekend services. I asked her to explain:

As an introvert with eclectic music tastes, I find the ‘modern worship’ pool at the churches we attend growing increasingly shallow and, to be honest, uninteresting.  As we stand and sit and stand again during the ‘worship time’, I am less and less engaged in the singing, so I look around. 

I see a man who I remember going through a dark time several years ago and recall how God brought him through.  I see a woman still healing from her surgery, hands raised, eyes closed and a smile on her face.  I see a family, faithful attenders, working to stay close to each other despite disappointments and pain.  I see a woman trusting God for an answer in the middle of her weakness and anxiety.   And the weight, the power, the joy of what God has done in their lives, of what he is continuing to do, hook themselves into my heart. 

In looking into those lives I’m reminded of God’s faithfulness, love, healing and hope deeply and irresistibly.  In that, and in silence, I worship. 

This all got me thinking as well about how some of my fellow-bloggers say they have a tough time coming up with topics; that they never know what to write about.

Look around you.

There are many, many stories. If they are ‘too close to home’ then change up the names, locations and situations, but keep the essence of what you see. If you’re not a good storyteller, then generalize what you feel are the important themes that come to mind. (‘I’ve been thinking lately about…’) 

Summing this up, I think the making of a good writer involves (a) being out and about in the real world, and (b) being observant; having one’s eyes open. Even in the middle of worship when everyone else’s eyes are closed.


Photo: Applegate Christian Fellowship in Oregon. They don’t have to go to the park, they have this on their property.

June 15, 2015

An Open Letter to Steve Finnell

Filed under: blogging, Christianity — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:13 am

Dear Steve,

I can only speak for myself here, but a number of us who have blogs have encountered you in our comments section, and despite the fact I don’t post your copy-and-paste remarks, they keep coming. I’ve tried to contact you directly on this, but with new comments occasionally continuing to arrive, I thought we’d try this format.

Steve FinnellI love your passion. Just a tree or plant explodes many seeds, you scatter a great many messages that land in a great many places. That takes time, and dedication and a deep conviction that you’ve got the hottest news on the rack.

But blogging was never intended to be what you expect of it. Rather, it started out as social media which means the comments created community. I can’t tell you how many people I now exchange offline communications with that began with our interactions in the response section of various blogs.

You can’t build rapport, or have a dialog with people when you simply copy/paste mass commentaries. You seem to to be content to be a troll, and as you’re trolling and looking for certain keywords, you then interject your comment/sermon without any direct reference to the article or piece in question.

Calling you a troll hurts, because theologically, we’re probably on the same team on the essentials. But, you’re going about it all wrong.

And Steve, you’ve been on the internet long enough to know that using CAPITAL LETTERS just turns people off. You’re yelling at them, Steve; and that’s not how to make friends.

You see, it’s not enough to have the truth. Ephesians 4:15 says (and I know you like Bible verses) “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” It equates maturity in the Christian life not to just speaking truth, but doing so in a loving manner. Part of that I believe comes in earning the right to be heard.

Steve, wouldn’t be a shame if instead of drawing people to the Kingdom of God, you were driving them away?

Your internet/blogging friend,
Paul.

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