Thinking Out Loud

March 13, 2015

They Shall Beat Their Swords into Ploughshares

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:09 am

In Pennsylvania.

One week today.

Somewhat literally.

Sword into Ploughshares

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January 28, 2015

Wednesday Link List

Jesus is my Coach

First, we’ll look at what PARSE readers are seeing today, and then we’ll add a few bonus links:

  • Work Out Your Salvation in Fear and Publishing – Philip Yancey sits down with World Magazine: “I tell people I write my books for myself, and that’s true. I grew up in an unhealthy church. I’ve talked about that very openly in my books. It was almost a toxic church. I went through a period of time where I threw out that whole church background because I realized there were some things they had lied to me about… [W]hen I started writing, I realized I had the opportunity to pick up pieces, one-by-one, of things that I had learned in church, and examine them, kind of, dust them off, and see what the truth was. You can almost tell from the titles of my books…what interests me.”
  • Up in the Sky, It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Super Apostles – An excerpt from a new book appears in a review by Tim Challies: “Some readers may suspect that the authors are anti-charismatic. They may expect us to argue that the miraculous gifts described in 1 Corinthians 12—including the gifts of prophesying, healing, and speaking in tongues—are no longer active in the church today. This is not our objective. Many Christians around the world, including charismatics and classic Pentecostals, believe that the miraculous gifts are still active, and we do not dispute their belief. We’ve tried to show that [New Apostolic Reformation] teachings do not represent the views of most charismatics or classic Pentecostals, but are, rather, entirely different.” Read the review of God’s Super Apostles.
  • Three Things Megachurch Leaders Get Right – With 300 members, you may not feel you’re playing in the big leagues, but you can borrow their strategies. “In our experience, it is common for churches to accumulate a variety of ministries over time. Some of them get the attention of senior leadership while others seem to float along under the radar. If you’re looking to lead a church toward a unified vision, build accountability by keeping everything tied to your senior leadership team.”  Which brings us to…
  • A Liberal Gay Jewish Man Walks Into a Baptist Megachurch – After constantly driving by Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa, curiosity gets the better of him: “First, these churches deliver powerful, personal spiritual experiences — which is a primary reason they’re winning over lapsed Catholics and mainline Protestants. The pastors talk directly about their conversion experiences. The service that I went to was a carefully, skillfully choreographed crescendo designed to inspire (and, judging by the enthusiasm of the congregants, successful at doing so). The theology is personal and experiential; you’re meant to talk to God, and hear God talking back…
  • Academic Avenue: The Role of Oral Tradition in the Synoptics – I thought we’d toss in some meat in the middle of the snack food: “But why can all three synoptics sometimes provide different wording regarding either the story or quotation of Jesus, yet some quotations will be exactly the same in all three synoptics? Scholars call these similarities and differences the Synoptic Problem.” Later on, “[E]xperts now tell us that ancient oral tradition was not only formed but performed. That is, early church communities further remembered Jesus by performing plays about these remembered incidents in his life.”
  • The Things Educators Believe Matter – Despite having high academic test score averages, a Christian school in the UK is in danger of losing its certification and having to shut down because inspectors felt the school reflected homophobic attitudes. Parents have rallied to fight the assessment carried out by Ofsted, the Office for Standards in Education, a government agency. A ten year old girl was put on the spot by the question, “What is a lesbian?” and was asked “if she felt trapped in someone else’s body?” Worse, the girl now feels the school’s rating by Ofsted is her fault.
  • Why We Won’t Lose the War – Author Anne Marie Miller doesn’t ignore the statistics, in fact she loves stats. And she knows that many under-35s are leaving the church. “Some leave and go to the church down the road. And then to the other church farther down the road. We commit just long enough to wonder why we haven’t found community only to start all over again.” Yet, despite all this, she remains wholly optimistic; “…quietly hoping, seeking, praying, pleading, trusting and living out the Gospel that the numbers and statistics don’t matter.”
  • Sorry, It’s In Your Contract – I knew a youth pastor once who worked in a megachurch that can only be described as a “sweatshop.” The week after his father died he asked if he could be exempted from having to be part of the platform party — it was the type of church where all the ministers sat on the stage during the whole service — and they refused him. And so he sat there, in full view of everyone, in tears.  I think of him whenever I see this healthy contrast:  The annual list of the Best Christian Workplaces.
  • Short Essay of the Week – A Michigan pastor escapes the frozen north to Cancun only to come face-to-face with with his own susceptibility to consumerism. As a member of the resort staff leads him into temptation: “It’s ironic, but our ‘all inclusive resort’ turned out to have some exclusions after all. Now here’s the thing: I was completely happy with my little corner of paradise until Shakira (yes, that was really her name) told me that there was more, and that – for only $70 more per day – we could have it all.” Did he purchase the upgrade?
  • Why Speak in Tongues When There’s Christianese? – “The Sea of Forgetfulness. Partaking in Christ’s body and blood. Dying to yourself. The mark of the beast. Getting caught up in the air. Out of context, some of the language used regularly in church sounds more like it belongs in some sort of weird horror movie…Some strange church sayings are direct quotes from the Bible, but to someone not familiar with the whole story of the Bible, they’re mind-boggling.” And speaking of our family dialect, the most recent post at The Dictionary of Christianese concerns the word televangelism
  • She’s Back! –  After a long absence, former co-host Sheila Walsh returns to The 700 Club for a 9-minute interview, speaking of her battle with clinical depression.

The family in the UK school story has the same last name but is no relation.

Now on to some bonus links for readers here:

Finally, one of the great products to come out of the Emergent Church movement, Emerjeans:

Emerjeans

 

September 16, 2013

Destroying the Idol of Absolute Certainty

…each one of us needs to be developing a personal, systematic theology so that we can respond when asked what we believe. We should know the ways of God; truly know what Jesus would do. But we should write our theology in pencil, not pen; remaining open to the possibility that what we see as through frosted glass will become clearer over time and therefore subject to change…

– me, Thinking Out Loud, 2/24/13

There are going to be those, on seeing this is a review of a Greg Boyd book, who will immediately dismiss everything that follows. While perhaps not as high on the controversy scale as Rob Bell, Boyd’s writings, sermons, and YouTube videos posted on his blog often reference the radical pacifism of his Anabaptist leanings; his belief that the American Church should be apolitical, not seen to be supporting candidates of either major party; and his teaching of ‘open theology,’ which offers the idea that for any given persons or group, the future could contain a range of possible outcomes among which God has not committed himself to knowing the final choice in advance.

Benefit of the Doubt - Greg BoydWith his newest book, Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty (Baker Books), Gregory Boyd presents the thesis that far too many Christians — at least in North America and western Europe — are committed to a set of spiritual propositions more than they are committed to Christ; and that in fact the thing they worship and place their faith in are these ‘certainties,’ far more than they worship and have their faith secured in “Christ, and Him crucified.”

At this point, I want to step out and say that I while I believe this book has great potential for both seekers and skeptics, this is must-reading for every seasoned or veteran Christ-follower. Furthermore, I want also step out and, to use a cliché, that if the Lord tarries, I think Greg Boyd will be remembered as one of the great thinkers of our generation, even if he is not heretofore accorded such honor.

While the book clearly intends to shatter the idol of theological over-confidence, its equal purpose is to give some peace and comfort to people who, although they are long on the journey with Jesus, still don’t feel they have all the details of the contract worked out. He is writing to those of us who perhaps know people for whom all doctrinal and theological matters are settled once and for all, while we ourselves, as in the above quotation from a previous column here, feel our theological understanding is better jotted down in pencil rather than indelible ink and therefore feel our relationship with God is somewhat lacking.  He writes,

Think about it. If I was confident that God unconditionally loves me because of what he did for me on Calvary, then wouldn’t I be confident that his love for me does not increase or decrease based on how accurate or inaccurate my other beliefs are? So too, if I was confident God ascribes unsurpassable worth to me on the basis of Calvary, then wouldn’t I be confident that my worth can’t be increased because I hold correct beliefs and can’t be decreased because I hold mistaken beliefs? These questions answer themselves.

Unlike other books I review here, the chapters of Benefit of the Doubt must be considered sequentially, not only for the progression of thought the book entails, but also because of the many autobiographical sections that are introduced then later referenced. This book is Greg Boyd at his most personal, most transparent; even as he writes of weightier things.

While Boyd admits in a couple of places that he tends overall to lean to the conservative position on many doctrinal issues; and that he believes in the inspiration of scripture and even a version of inerrency; the book will resonate with people who wrestle with many of the more difficult parts of the Bible, or those who are stuck in a place overshadowed by past unanswered prayers. He gets into this in describing an upcoming conference based on the book:

There are those who might falsely infer that with a title such as this, the pastor of Minneapolis megachurch Woodland Hills is slowly moving away from orthodoxy. Based on my reading, I would say with deep conviction, don’t think that for a minute. This is a book about the value of doubt; a book that espouses the concept that perhaps in an atmosphere of doctrinal fragility, our ultimate faith in Christ is perhaps stronger, more enriched, and more able to withstand the realities of life. As the publisher blurb suggestions, “Let your questions lead you to a stronger faith.”

March 30, 2013

Shane Claiborne Knows How to Throw a Party

Combine social activist Shane Claiborne with Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream’s Ben Cohen and you’re left with Jesus, Bombs and Ice Cream; 90 minutes of raw video of a pacifists rally that was as entertaining as it was informative.  Produced by the same film crew that did Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s Awakening of Hope video, J,B,&IC is every bit as much a block party as anything, complete with painters, jugglers, singers, a rapper, kids filling shopping carts and a welder literally ‘beating swords into plowshares’ so to speak. It’s hard to imagine having this much fun about a subject so serious.

Jesus Bombs and Ice Cream - Shane ClaiborneThe subject is decisively American-interest. However, as a Canadian, I’m well aware of the saying, “Every time America sneezes, Canada catches a cold.” That’s true of other countries, also; so whether the subject is armed conflict on-the-ground, or the nuclear build-up, the rest of the world can’t ignore what the U.S. does, and the statistics presented here are –despite the increase in threat level from other countries as I write this — extremely alarming.

The video can be watched as a single film, or broken up into six sessions for small group study, for which a study guide is available from Zondervan. However, there’s no actual book this time around, the movie or curriculum video is the main product. The nature of the filmography means this will appeal to a younger audience; I sometimes wonder if Shane’s (and Jonathan’s) use of the particular film company diminishes a greater potential.

Each section contains scripture references, and while I didn’t have the advantage of seeing the group study and discussion guide, I can see this generating much passionate conversation both inside and outside the U.S., though I might combine a couple of the clips and go with a four-week focus on this topic.

February 27, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Bart Simpson - Love Wins

Link and the world links with you…  The cartoon? See item 4 below:

For Heaven's Sake - Feb 4 2013

May 16, 2010

Blessed are the Peacemakers

Two of my favorite pastors together in the same service!

Bruxy Cavey

Today we drove to Oakville, Ontario where Bruxy Cavey, teaching pastor of The Meeting House — Canada’s largest and fastest growing church movement —  welcomed Greg Boyd, senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church in Minneapolis.    It was the sixth and final week of a series on the New Testament message of pacifism.

Early in the message Boyd stated — and Bruxy, not knowing this, repeated it to me in a conversation between services — that of all that megachurches in North America, he only knows of two that are taking the time to highlight what The Meeting House and Woodland Hills see as a prominent them in scripture.

What neither said, but what is implicit in the comment, is that most North American churches subscribe to what is generally called “Just War” theory; or perhaps “Just War” theology.

Bruxy devoted week five to considering the objections people have to this, those “But What About…?” questions that led him to call the message “But What About? Sunday.”   He often records an appendix to the sermons called “The Drive Home” and in this instance the supplement was actually longer than the sermon itself.    You can find the series online by going to The Meeting House and clicking on “Teaching” and then clicking on the series “Inglorious Pastors.”  (Yeah, they really called it that.)   You’ll see the “Drive Home” messages available there as well for listening live or downloading.

Greg Boyd

Boyd was in excellent form, and didn’t seem to miss a beat — or lack any energy — moving from the platform to handling individual questions  between the three services.   The audio portion of this morning’s teaching is also already uploaded, and a quick scan of the nearly two decades of sermons archived at the Woodland Hills site may help you find messages where he’s covered this back at home.

I got to shake Boyd’s hand tell him I was one of his “podrishioners,” his term for people who are part of the church’s vast podcast family.   Then I added — since Bruxy was standing nearby — that I was also one of Bruxy’s “podrishioners” as well.

I wish both of them well in proclaiming this aspect of Jesus’ teachings that is relatively absent from our churches; it’s gotta feel like swimming upstream sometimes.

…For my local readers, after leaving TMH, we drove across almost the entire stretch of Dundas Street, cutting through a variety of ethnic neighborhoods in Toronto, considered one of the world’s most diverse cities.   We ended up at Gerrard and Coxwell in an area specializing in Indian and Pakistani food, making somewhat random choices from a menu we didn’t fully comprehend and enjoying it all not knowing exactly what it all was.

Starting on Friday (5/21) you can catch a one-hour radio interview with Boyd and Cavey broadcast on Saturday (5/15)  on the Drew Marshall Show.

May 5, 2010

That Time Again: Mid Week Links

It’s time for our mid wink leek mid week link list:  The best of the Christian internet except for the parts that are better.

  • Our borrowed banner this week is from Rumblings, the blog of Ryan Dueck, an associate pastor in Vancouver; that’s his son catching a view of the Pacific.
  • Bruxy Cavey at Canada’s largest multi-site church, The Meeting House is in the middle of a series with the title “Inglorious Pastors” (yes, really) which looks at the contrast between the popular “Just War” theory among evangelicals versus the pacificism practiced by the Anabaptists.   Click this teaching page, select the above-named series, then select individual sermons.
  • I thought the relaunch of James Dobson’s broadcasting career was going to be an internet-only thing, but as this website testifies, they kicked off Monday on a number of broadcast radio outlets in the U.S.   (Couldn’t resist borrowing the graphic at right, which kinda summarizes what Dobson was and still is all about.)
  • The ECPA Book of the Year for 2010 is The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns.  Other winners are listed here.
  • A couple of weeks ago, Collide magazine came up with some good reasons to stop using media, more reasons than you might imagine.  Consider:

    “The lack of conviction with which your media is created (or purchased) and presented may transfer to your audience, or fail to transfer anything at all. Even worse, you’ll be under the impression that you’ve done your job for the week, and your audience will be under the impression that what they just sat through is what they can expect from an authentic worship experience. For what it’s worth, I think you’d both be wrong.”

    Read more here.

  • Our YouTube of the week is this 90-second testimony by Tamara Lowe who may or may not watch waaaaaaaaay too much broadcast television.
  • A 100-second Bible study on all the “one another”s from scripture is found at Zach Nielsen’s blog.
  • An interesting “behind the scenes” 4-minute video with a pastor from Bethlehem Baptist Church describes the process whereby John Piper’s preaching replacement for the next eight months was found in Kenny Stokes.
  • This week Michael Lantz included a brief excerpt from the Didache, an early church document which I don’t think we’ve mentioned here.   If you don’t know the word, that most inerrant source, Wikipedia has this to offer, or go directly to Michael’s blog.
  • Blog discovery of the week:  “Wrestling with an Angel — Lessons in the life of a father learned through the struggles of his disabled son.”  Whether or not you’ve walked a similar road, you’ll be richer for having read this blog by Greg Lucas.
  • The economy disperses families, job moves tear up roots, and electronic interaction sometimes is just a poor substitute.   Here’s our quotation of the week from the blog, Contents Under Pressure:

    It seems like most people already have the maximum number of active relationships that they can handle, and simply do not have any more of themselves to give to a new relationship.  Those with kids tend to typically interact with other folks who have kids, which makes sense to a certain degree.  So, being new to the area and having no kids has proven to create a difficult scenario for my wife and I.  Relationships that we maintain from North Carolina have expectedly become more difficult, as we either communicate via voice mail, text message or social media.  These methods of communication are all fine and well, but they do not replace real interaction with people.

  • Actually, here’s another shorter quotation from C.S. Lewis from the essay “Fern Seed and Elephants” which appeared this week at the blog, Mockingbird:  “[Modern biblical critics] ask me to believe they can read between the lines of the old texts; the evidence is their obvious inability to read (in any sense worth discussing) the lines themselves. They claim to see fern-seed and can’t see an elephant ten yards way in broad daylight.”
  • Not to minimize my appreciation for widely-used BibleGateway.com, but I find I’ve been increasingly utilizing a different site that allows better search results when I’m not entirely sure of the keywords, and greater ease of translation switching.   Check out Blue Letter Bible.
  • In a world when photocopy machines did the job of e-mail forwards, this fictional story of a pastor who didn’t get hired was popular among Christians as it still is.
  • Our cartoon this week is from Matt Glover in Australia:

March 3, 2010

B(link) and You’ll Miss It

Don’t miss this week’s links or else!

  • The blog Man of Depravity considers why websites like Church Rater are a bad idea;  and then, the next day, considers why they might be a good great idea.
  • Catholic seminarian Mike G. provides our “classic art meets modern convenience” photo images at right, from his blog The Night Is Passing.
  • It was actually a good week for discovering Catholic bloggers.  That’s where I discovered Nick Alexander aka the Catholic Weird Al Yankovic.  This YouTube video explains the traditions of Lent and Ash Wednesday.  (Also recommended for fans of The Police!) [HT: The Ironic Catholic]
  • Blog of the Week:  You think you know a thing or two about Bibles don’t you?   But forget translation for a minute; what about types of leather, binding, gilding, fonts, features, etc?   That’s where you need to know someone like J. Mark Bertrand at the Bible Design Blog. [HT: Christian Book Shop Talk]
  • Pastor Ed Young raps his way through an admonition to pastors to be themselves in a video simply called UBU.  [HT: Wil Mancini]
  • New word of the week: “Acedia.”   If you have trouble getting out of bed in the morning, you may be in the company of early church saints, therefore Catholic author Kathleen Norris wants you to know this word.
  • David Housholder explains why you’ve never met any missional Lutherans, or read any Lutheran prophecy books for that matter, at this lengthy but extremely interesting and well-written post at his Journal blog.  Seriously, don’t miss this one.
  • Ruth Wilkinson (who may or may not be related to me) now has a new relationship to crucifixes.
  • Book Review:  Jamie Arpin-Ricci looks at The Naked Anabaptist by Stuart Murray (Herald Press) (forward by Greg Boyd) in this excellent summary.
  • Storytime:  Mark Sayers walks us through The Parable of the Lotus, The Impossiblly Handsome Man and The Church.   A must read for pastors and leaders especially.
  • Here are some pictures of the damage in Chili from the weekend earthquake at Boston.Com’s The Big Picture.
  • Internal Link:  I really thought Friday’s piece on Peter Rollins’ interpretation of The Prodigal Son story would have evoked a comment or two.   When did the younger son actually repent?
  • A USAToday article about sex on television warns that things are scheduled to get worse.  [HT: Brett Hendrix at Changing Lanes]
  • For the third week in a row we return to Baptist Press for our cartoon, this one is Doug Michael at Beyond The Ark.

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