Thinking Out Loud

March 11, 2020

Wednesday Connect

Finally, a cure! And Jim Bakker has it. Call while supplies last. But first, see story below.

Seemed to be no shortage of people under the microscope this week. I’ve included some, ignored others. Don’t forget that you can always play the home version of Wednesday Connect, just follow @PaulW1lk1nson on Twitter

Also don’t miss our 404 pages in the graphics below.

■ Where did all the Christians go? Alarming new stats from Barna Research shows nearly half as many Americans consider themselves “practicing Christians” as in 2000. Of those who aren’t, about half are non-practicing, and the other half would now be considered non-Christian. However there is hope: People are still reading their Bibles and praying at the same rate they were.

■ Despite a number of revisions to its youth curriculum, a close examination finds the Mormon doctrine that being black is the mark of a curse remains relatively intact.

■ When Jesus told his disciples he was leaving, is it better to say he was “changing location” instead of “changing form?” I ask because Steven Furtick says both in this short clip, but people are jumping all over him for the latter but ignoring the truth of the former. I think people are just predisposed to condemn him. (Pastors: What if your every sentence was widely posted online? Are your messages really that word-perfect? Could you stand up to the criticism?)

■ David Jeremiah was inducted into the National Religious Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame, but historically, that would not have been possible as he’s not in membership with the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability over a claim he gamed the New York Times Bestseller lists, in a scheme similar to the one which brought down Mark Driscoll

Get ready for a string of COVID-19 stories…

Breaking: The Attorney General for Missouri is the latest to come after televangelist Jim Bakker for peddling a cure for coronavirus. He’ll have to stand in line behind The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, The Federal Trade Commission, The New York Attorney General and others. It remains that “there are no known vaccinations or over-the-counter products approved to treat or cure the virus.” …

■ In Europe, “Cases of coronavirus infections have multiplied since Thursday, March 5, 2020 throughout France, especially among the faithful who participated in a large Evangelical gathering of the ‘Christian Open Door’ in Mulhouse from February 17 to 24…” Furthermore, “Participation in this Lenten Week, organized for 25 years, did not require prior registration, which complicates the identification of potential patients.” (Story is in French-language media.) …

■ COVID-19 scare? Bethel Church closed their Redding campus healing rooms recently. Skeptic/atheist websites are having a field day with this one. …

■ Six Christians were among the 100,000 released on Monday from Iran’s prisons in order to stem the tide of the virus. It included Mary (Fatemeh) Mohammadi whose story needs to be shared. …

■ And earlier this week Bobby Gruenewald the founder of YouVersion and Craig Groeshel the founder of Life.Church entered self-quarantine after attending a conference in Germany.

■ Three items this week from The Christian Institute:

■ How Christian books come to be: Jeff and Shaunti Feldhahn have a new book about finances, but guess what? It’s not about money. (And this is from a couple that freely shares that they disagree about some aspects of financial planning, which gives the rest of us hope!) (Actually, she gets top billing on the book’s cover.)

■ Redeeming the Arts: In a world where a banana taped to a wall sells for $120,000, a short look at the God-intended role of artists, crafters, woodworkers, metalworkers, designers, engravers, stone-cutters, weavers, embroiderers; and anyone else engaged in what the author calls Presence-Centered Art.

■ Labels: “We need to take care who we label false teachers. It’s okay to name names—but we should do so only when we’re certain. And when we do wrongly label one another false teachers, we need humility to confess and repent.” Check the list of 9 marks of a false teacher.

■ Parenting Place: Concerned that Google is taking your children where you don’t want them to be? Try Kiddle.co for safe-search results, bigger fonts, larger images, and (to repeat) safe-search results.

■ More on the situation re. John Ortberg and Menlo Park Presbysterian

■ 🇨🇦 Canada has begun the process of making conversion therapy against the law in every province. “The legislation would also authorize courts to order the seizure of conversion therapy advertisements or to order those who placed the advertisements to remove them.”

■ After nearly 30 years as President of Bread for the World, David Beckmann is stepping down to be succeeded by Eugene Cho.

■ Provocative Headline of the Week: Jesus Isn’t a Death Star.

■ The Book of Alternative Services: The Sound Bath Evensong.

During sound bath Evensong, ethereal voices sing sacred texts as a musician pumps a Shruti box, creating a low, steady hum. A single pitch from a singing bowl dissolves into sonorous overtones from a large gong. It penetrates to the core. The sounds are primal and soothing. For those who sit in quiet contemplation in the pews, the unique acoustic experience offers a chance to clear the mind.

Get Religion looks at what this Associated Press report included about the service, and what is left out. Is this even about God?

■ If you missed all the public service announcements, this church included one in their choir selection.

■ Christianity is a religion, not a relationship. Wait, what? Isn’t that the opposite of what you’ve been told is true?

■ Finally, don’t forget I Still Believe — the Jeremy Camp story — opens in select theaters on Thursday; others on Friday.



The website Church Pop thinks the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh has the best 404 page, given that St. Anthony is the patron saint of lost things. Sourced at churchpop.com



March 4, 2020

Wednesday Connect

Lifestyles of the Rich and Infamous: Whose house is this house? See story * below.

We’re back with our weekly look at faith-related stories, as they appear to us living one international border removed from much of the action. I told my wife that the U.S. network TV shows weren’t on last night because it was Super Tuesday. She asked, in all seriousness, “That’s football, right?”

■ Coronavirus and the Shincheonji Church in South Korea: “In the largest outbreak outside of China, the majority of the country’s more than 4,335 confirmed cases are members of the secretive group, labeled a cult in South Korea and by the Christian community, according to a spokesman for the church. ‘You would be 5 centimeters away from the person who sits next to you, and have to say ‘Amen’ after every sentence the pastor speaks — it’s the best environment for the virus to spread,’ An So-young, a 27-year-old who left the group, told Reuters.” …

■ …And the virus means some SBC missionaries may need to be redeployed to other countries. International Mission Board President Paul Chitwood said, “For missionaries who are at the epicenter of the virus, in places where the risk is high and also where interaction with other human beings has almost been totally shut down, what we have said to them is, ‘If you have small children or health issues, we want you somewhere else quickly.'” …

■ …and in Italy, in the all-important season of Lent leading up to Passion Week, the Roman Catholic Church has congregations scrambling for alternative ways to say the Mass, including streaming live on the internet.

■ Nagmeh Panahi, former wife of Saeed Abedini, shares her story with Pastor Neil McClendon and the congregation of Grand Parkway Baptist Church in Richmond Texas (58 minutes). (Interesting quote: “The first time I saw a commercial airplane it was really scary; I couldn’t understand that there could be airplanes that weren’t meant to drop bombs.”)

■ Tornado hits Nashville: Joel and Luke Smallbone of for King and Country report, “Many of us were up through the night listening to sirens, searching for information on what was taking place around us, and checking in with loved ones around Nashville. By God’s grace, we’re all unharmed, but the same cannot be said for our city- which has taken quite a hit.”

■ N. T. Wright on what the Bible says about women preachers. “Wright said the same question would elicit a yawn in the U.K. ‘We settled this one years ago,'”

■ Parenting Problems: Why it’s increasingly difficult for Christians to work within the constraints of publicly funded fostering programs. This is a devotional article, but you want to at least read the anecdote.

■ Polyamory: In 2020 this is a definite “no” for Evangelicals. But 2030? Look what happened with homosexuality. To consider this:

■ Know anyone in this category? “There is a tendency for the parachurch to become a quasi-church. In other words, the tendency is for the parachurch to become the functioning church of its participants. It becomes the hub around which the Christian lives of its participants revolve.” The writer says such organizations are not a proper substitute for the local church

■ If you see someone on Twitter or Facebook asking for prayer, pray for them. And then let them know you’re praying. Prayer request of the week is for Olivia, daughter of @BibleBacon. (See Feb. 21, 22, 25, 26.)

■ A prominent Reformed writer asks his denomination if they are taking the Bible seriously when it comes to teaching on Satan and the demonic realm. (Kicks of a series of articles.)

■ Your Church is not a cafeteria: Thom Rainer offers seven reasons the two are not the same.

* Got $1.9M? James MacDonald’s house is for sale. (More info in the comments section.)

John Ortberg returns to Menlo Presbyterian this week after completing a “Restoration Plan” with church leadership.

■ Honored: On May 5th a Christian publisher’s association will award Stormie Omartian for “the outstanding contribution of The Power of a Praying® series, both to the industry and to society at large.” “The series’ collection of 20 books, published by Harvest House Publishers, has achieved more than 31 million in sales worldwide.” (Note to self: Don’t forget the ®.)

■ Lauren Daigle and Hillsong topped the list of the top Christian songs streamed on Spotify in 2019.

■ New Music ♫ This item got omitted last week, but apparently some people must thing the new Hillsong Young and Free song isn’t Jesus-y enough for worship use. At least, something sparked this short article. (Video embedded.)  

■ New Music ♫ Paul Baloche is back with a new album, Behold Him. Check out the lyric video for What a Good God

■ New Music ♫ Back on October 2nd, this Bethel Worship musician’s picture topped our Wednesday Connect column with the announcement of his run for Congress. Check out his new song, Raise Our Voice.

■ Meet Naomi: Not a faith story, but on the climate change front, Greta’s got competition.

■ Finally, last week’s burning theological question: Was Jesus buff?


Someone wasn’t taught to close their eyes for prayer.
Photo: Reuters News


■ Tweet of the Month for February:


Top Clicks from last week’s Connect feed:

  1. If there were only 100 Christians…
  2. Guest Post at Julie Roys: What happened at Willow Creek
  3. Julie Roys at Julie Roys: Son of John MacArthur in trouble
  4. At what point do we say that the “unreached” have been “reached?”
  5. The Akiane art theft we never knew about
  6. American Idol contestant leads judges in a prayer

Click to see them all at this link.

February 26, 2020

Wednesday Connect

Crossing the Red Sea – 21st Century Edition



Today is Ash Wednesday aka the first day of Lent. Again, send us your recommended links; especially those ‘off-road’ blogs where you feel someone is writing something significant so it can reach a wider audience.

■ Starting off: What if there were only 100 Christians? What would we know about them? Gordon Conwell seminary has envisioned this in an infographic for people who might not grapple well with %-age stats, but can see it more clearly with a manageable number. Language, ethnicity, income and a host of other parameters are covered. (You can’t do justice to this on a mobile phone, however.)

■ Curiosity scandal of the week: This time it’s Mark MacArthur, son of John MacArthur and a Grace To You board member; and a $16M investment scheme. Sigh.

Breaking: Mass Coronavirus outbreaks at Chinese prison spark concern for imprisoned Christians

■ …Also from China, new rules which were due to be implemented on February 1st, would require all “religious personnel” to pledge loyalty and “total submission” to the Chinese Communist Party.

■ Question of the Week: When will the ‘unreached’ be considered ‘reached?

■ Trouble at The Holy Land Experience tourist attraction in Orlando, Florida, with most of the staff laid off.

Not Linked: I’ll let you find this one for yourself. It’s rather dark and depressing. Dan George guests at Julie Roys’ blog and reveals the contents of a meeting he attended as an elder at Harvest Bible Chapel. James MacDonald is again revealed to be the person that we now know he is and it’s not pretty. (Some days you wish this story would simply go away.)

■ A great commission (so to speak): ♫ Our friend David Wesley, known for his acapella and virtual choir videos on YouTube was recently invited to be part of the 40th Anniversary celebrations at Saddleback Church in Orange County, CA for which he produced the latest in his “Evolution of Worship” videos. For this one, Pastor Rick Warren compiled the song list and David arranged the 12-minute medley

■ Separation of State and Church: In England, The Humanist all-party parliamentary group, which is affiliated with lobby group Humanists UK, is calling for “removing the automatic right of the 26 longest serving Church of England bishops to sit in the House of Lords, arguing that bishops have changed the outcome of votes and have privileges over other members, such as when a bishop wants to speak and other peers are expected to give way.” They argue that only 14% of the population is Church of England…  

■ … Meanwhile, the Church of England is encouraging churches to be able to accept “contactless” (what we call “tap” where I live) credit card donations in lieu of traditional cash offerings.

■ The story of “Just Sam,” age 20 who led the American Idol judges in prayer. After, Luke Bryan joked that they should all get baptized.

■ For one bakery, people giving up sweets for Lent means packing all the inventory of decadence into a donut feast called Paczki Week, which falls between the Polish and American observances of Paczki Day. The Chicago bakery expects to sell 25,000 Paczkis.

■ I’m confused. Randy Alcorn is now at Patheos. (Or is that not new.) Just last month I reported that Scot McKnight had left Patheos for Christianity Today. However, Randy Alcorn’s blog is still updating at Eternal Perspective Ministries with different content. Can someone explain this to me?

■ Parenting Place: “Be careful of the amount of news you discuss in front of your children.” This, and other advice on keeping sane and keeping safe.

■ Stories We Missed Department: I was unaware that the painting of Jesus titled Prince of Peace by once-child-prodigy Akiane Kramarik had been stolen. In December, the artist viewed the picture for the first time in 16 years. [In a longer version of the story, check out what’s she’s painted more recently.]

Essay of the Week: A historical look at Willow Creek: “[A]nother unintended consequence was virtually guaranteed: the spiritual maturity of any new leaders would likely not rise above the level of the current leadership.” This is an excellent overview for people who don’t know the full Willow story.

■ KidMin: Lent activities, Bible lessons and coloring pages for kids.

■ We often hear stories about the growth of the church in Nigeria, but at the same time, the country is struggling with an increase in incest, even though it goes “against the teachings of both Islam and Christianity.”

■ Pop Culture / Kids Korner: The gospel in Frozen 2. Love is the one thing that’s permanent.

■ Hey, Pastor People: Do you preach from the Lectionary? Now you can bust a rhyme in the middle of your sermon with Lectionary Poetry.  

■ Finally, this:


Top stories from last week:

  1. What’s on the mind of America’s Pastors
  2. Michael Newnham on the SBC’s new sub-group
  3. The Timothy Keller tweet called a “train wreck”
  4. Internet Monk’s crazy Valentine cards

February 19, 2020

Wednesday Connect

Welcome to Wednesday Connect #90 aka Wednesday Link List #490. We just returned from Cuba, so forgive me if the list is a bit shorter today.

Wednesday Connect - color swap■ What do American pastors feel are the major concerns facing the church today? Barna Research releases its latest survey. (Personal aside: It’s interesting to read down the list and consider how many of these concerns would be worldwide, and how many are unique to the U.S.)

■ No doubt all owing to his not being on the pro-Trump bandwagon in a denomination where supporting the President is de rigueur, the SBC’s Russell Moore, and the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of which he has been president since 2013, will be the subject of an SBC task force which will study its finances and policies. There have been “anecdotal accounts of churches withholding money or reducing their giving because of concerns about the ERLC.” …

■ …Meanwhile, a splinter group has formed within the SBC. Meet CBN, the Conservative Baptist Network

■ …Michael Newnham brings his Calvary Chapel experience to bear on why the Conservative Baptist subgroup may not be a good idea.

■ Essay of the Week: Just as pastors are called to minister to the people who can’t be physically present in the weekly service, they are also called to those who, while present, are not entirely there. They have “heard it said,” but either don’t know or don’t take next steps. “And just as you are all bound together in your sin, so you are also bound together in your inability to save yourselves.”

■ History-making: After the Reformation, the Cathedral of Saint-Pierre de Genève was taken over by John Calvin’s Reformed Protestant Church, which destroyed the cathedral’s statues and paintings, and banned Catholic worship. On Leap Day, February 29th, the first Catholic mass in 500 years will be celebrated in the building

■ …And a longstanding Catholic tradition may be changing. “Currently Papal law dictates that non-Roman Catholic Christians, for example Anglicans, cannot take part in the Eucharist (sharing of the bread and wine) at a Catholic service and similarly it directs that Roman Catholics should not take Holy Communion in other Christian churches.” However, a UK theologian is challenging this position. The stumbling block to change would be the Catholic position on transubstantiation.

■ Some Christians have been challenged by the intellectual concepts advanced by mainstream author Jordan Peterson. It turns out the man has not been well for several months and is in Russia improving after undergoing a detox process from meds which produced the opposite reaction to the one intended.

■ A doctor whose practice is 100% devoted to providing abortions boasts about getting repeat customers.

■ LGBTQ themes, characters and ideas continue to be omnipresent in popular culture, including at Marvel Comics which introduces. “a character named Phastos who is Marvel’s first openly gay superhero.”

■ First there was the book Your God is Too Small. Next, someone should write Your Church is Too Loud. After paying $105M to purchase a former event center, Transformation Church in suburban Tulsa has been told their services are too loud. The church was given 15 days to turn down the volume or make adjustments to the building.

■ Jonathan Merrit called the comment section of this Twitter thread by Tim Keller “a dumpster fire and visual explanation of why American evangelicalism is in such a perilous state.

■ At the Movies: A review of First Lady – A Modern Fairytale, produced and directed by Nina May. (It rhymes with Tina Fey.) “It’s not very often that you see a faith-based rom-com like May’s.”

■ “Jimmy Carter was way ahead of the rest of America when he put solar panels on the White House…Unfortunately, Ronald Reagan, who was no fan of alternative energy took the panels down form the White House when he took office a few years later… [I]n 2017, [Carter] leased ten acres of land near his home in Plains, Georgia, to be used as a solar farm with 3,852 panels… Three years after going live, Carter’s solar farm now provides 50% of the small town’s electricity needs, generating 1.3 MW of power per year. That’s the equivalent of burning about 3,600 tons of coal.”

■ Bizarre Conference Department: The Mentors and Mantles Solemn Assembly is your chance to receive “THE IMPARTATION” [their all-caps] to “serve this present age.” It’s also “for those who want to know how to be empowered by God to operate both in the sacred and the secular.”

♫ Music Time Travel: A look at the Reliant K song Mood Rings, and how songs like this influenced attitudes toward women.

■ Provocative Headline of the Week: Department of Justice Awards Federal Grant to Anti-Homosexual Group Hookers for Jesus

■ Finally, scroll down to the middle of Saturday’s Sunday Brunch at IM, and realize that sometimes Valentine’s Day Cards have been rather creepy.



Some links this week from Ann Brock or Mad Church Disease.

Articles used on Wednesday Connect frequently originate with Religion News Service (RNS). Two months ago I made a small donation to show support, and I hope that those of you who are able to do more will consider tossing money into the hat as well, to keep this service available.

February 5, 2020

Wednesday Connect

posted by @Bruxy on Twitter

For those of you who read this on the blog, in just a few days Thinking Out Loud will celebrate 12 years of never changing its basic blog theme, Gray is the New Black. Oh, and writing some articles also. Last week was music week here at Wednesday Connect. Scroll back ICYMI. It contained some really great music, but apparently that’s not what draws people here. So I’ll be phasing those out.

■ Hurry! It’s the bees knees! Be the first kid on your block to visit the new website for James MacDonald Ministries.

■ Parenting Place: With a pre-teen and two teenagers, you wouldn’t expect this family to make their next church Episcopal. “Questions permeate my thoughts, how will our children endure this shift, especially at this stage of their spiritual development? Is this even the right choice for our family? … I glance over at my children—wide-eyed, and we’ve only just begun.

■ The advertisement you didn’t see on the broadcast of the weekend game. FOX-TV refused to sell the airtime

■ …Opinion: Should anyone really have been shocked by halftime show?

■ Regulated to Death, Literally: Michael Frost writes,

A recent Australian government enquiry into child sexual assault by clergy recommended that there be tighter regulations around who can be called a “pastor” and what minimum training is required for such a role. I understand why those recommendations were made but they make it very difficult for those churches that want to encourage all members to see themselves as missionaries (or sent ones) in their own neighborhoods. One of the fathers of the missional movement, Lesslie Newbigin was well known for talking about the declericalizing of the church. That is, the blurring of the line between clergy and lay people, and “ordaining” all people to mirror the work of God in the world.

It’s one of five cultural trends that are killing the efforts of the local church.

■ A completely oxymoronic title: “The Comforting Doctrine of Election.” There was nothing comforting in this sentence of a Christmas post we’d missed earlier: “And often after the last present is unwrapped and the left overs are cleared away and you are in the car on the way home often a wave of sadness comes; those people you love so much are headed to hell.” No! No, it’s not over yet. Sorry, this isn’t what I believe. And how is this “comforting?” This is ‘election’ run amuck.

■ If you’ve followed the career of Rob Bell, you know that Mars Hill launched with an unlike series on the book of Leviticus. Now, he’s selling a Leviticus audio commentary titled Blood, Guts and Fire.

■ I’m quite sure the Harvest Bible Chapel saga continues to help sell newspapers for the Chicago Tribune. My favorite sentence, “While MacDonald’s style led some to bristle, he remained an extremely talented preacher who attracted thousands each week to Harvest locations.” Bristle. That’s the word we’ve all been searching for. The article quotes a church spokesperson saying that the church has lost about 6,000 people across six campuses.

■ Provocative Headline of the Week: “Hillsong Worship Is Going on Tour, But Don’t Call It Worship.” Sample:

I’ve said before that there’s a reason the contemporary pop-worship church holds such a low view of Holy Communion. It just doesn’t understand the point. Music is their substitute sacrament. Through commercial music, they allow themselves to be carried away on an emotional level into a perceived sensory connection with the divine. When you interpret worship through the lens of emotional stimulation, the bread and wine don’t make sense. It doesn’t compute.

■ Persecution Watch: Pastor Lawan Andimi was part of the Church of the Brethren in northern Nigeria, and chaired the Christian Association of Nigeria in his local district. A few weeks ago he was abducted by Islamic militants affiliated with Boko Haram. “On Jan. 20 he was beheaded by his captors. Sources said Andimi refused to renounce his faith in Jesus. He paid the ultimate price.”  …

■ …Meanwhile China uses a facial recognition system to keep track of who is attending church.

■ It’s all Greek to me! Seriously, here are 5 Greek words that every Christian should know.

■ Pastor Worship: It’s apparently more of a male thing. “But when you ask a man about his church, the first (and often only) thing he talks about is the pastor. He doesn’t talk about the facilities. He doesn’t talk about his friendships. He talks about his pastor and the quality of his sermons. ‘Oh, Pastor Jimmy is just a regular guy. His sermons are awesome!'” “So what are men searching for? A leader they can look up to and respect.”

Essay of the Week
Unreached People Group: MAGA-Nation.

We need to bring the real good news of Jesus to rural Trump supporters and FoxNews-weaned Evangelicals and Conservative single-issue voters and to people embracing a white America-centric theology—because the truth is: the compassionate, generous, diverse, barrier-breaking movement and message of Jesus are as foreign to them as anyone on the planet.

■ Kevin Makins is the pastor of Eucharist Church in downtown Hamilton, Canada and he’s chosen a unique way to introduce his June title with Baker Books; so we get to let him tell you himself! The book is Why Would Anyone Go to Church: A Young Community’s Quest to Find and Reclaim Church for Good.

■ In other book marketing news, Zondervan figured out a great way to tie-in your interest in Henry Cloud and John Townsend’s Boundaries series, depending on your favorite social media.

■ Dey not bein’ idle, man: Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky announced recently that they are launching their 10th campus.

■ Conspiracy theories? Connections between Coronavirus and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the implementation of 5G technology.

■ Next time you’re driving around while skipping church on a Sunday morning, slow down as you pass different churches and count the cars.

■ Newsy-political links we don’t here: The Atlantic looks at the confirmation bias of Wayne Grudem.

It is rather stunning to me that a person who has written a major textbook on Christian ethics can’t distinguish between a lawful investigation by American law-enforcement authorities or Congress and a president pressuring a foreign government, over which he has tremendous power, to announce an investigation into his political opponent—especially when the president’s team makes clear to that foreign government what the outcome of the request is supposed to be.

Title: “There is no Christian Case for Trump.

■ It’s personal: Over the years I’ve posted a variety of music links, but last year I discovered this one which is in a class all by itself. So yes, I’m repeating it. This is an arrangement of Psalm 104 from Psalm Project Africa. (Love how they pass the lyrics back and forth.)

■ New Music – Zauntee – Center Stage (Let love take center stage) – lyric video.

■ Hot Music – We the Kingdom – Holy Water – lyric video. 

■ New Music – Isla Vista Worship – Opened Up the Heavens.

■ Finally, just when I thought the satire writers had exhausted every possible premise, the Vatican Boy Choir defected to Japan

See you back in two weeks.


Last week’s top links:

  1. Worship leader accused of playing well-known song.
  2. First, Willow founder Hybels; now, Hybels mentor Dr. Bilezikian
  3. American Pie parody ode to Facebook
  4. Audrey Assad new song
  5. Movie trailer: The Road to Edmond
  6. Responses to Philip Yancey from NYT article
  7. Priest: Kobe Bryant attended Mass on the day of his death

January 29, 2020

Wednesday Connect

From Theologygrams by Rich Wyld. There are two books available in the series.


Learn more about this book in today’s first link. Subtitle: How the Bible’s Problems Speak to Its Divine Authority.


A somewhat music-focused WedCon this week, along with the usual news and opinion pieces I truly hope you haven’t seen elsewhere, plus a few I know you have. I’ve brought back the New Music feature this week with five good selections and there are also that many music-related links.

■ I watched all 96 minutes: A week ago today, Greg Boyd and Paul Eddy took questions from their church family concerning Greg’s new book, Inspired Imperfection. Before you can view this, you need to a little about the book’s premise. It’s a fresh look at the Bible which bypasses words like inerrant and infallible to arrive at the same place Andy Stanley did: Equipping the kids we sent off to college or university to withstand attacks on the reliability of God’s word. (In one sentence: Don’t sweat the alleged contradictions; embrace them!) However, unlike Stanley, he takes a whole different route to get there. If you haven’t heard about the book, watch the introductory sermon first, and then, dive deep into this Q&A.

■ On the morning of his death, several sources confirm Kobe Bryant went to church. “He attended the 7am mass prior to going to the Orange County John Wayne Airport… I imagine he went straight to the airport, because the mass was 7-8 am. I’m told generally 7 am was his Mass… He was very discreet… He would come in and stay at the back, and his family too, and then he would usually leave a little earlier prior to the very end of the service. He was very much loved at the church, and he was very devout, very dedicated to his faith.”

■ Christianity Today offers a full exposition on the subject of tax exemption for American churches.

■ In the Willow Creek culture, he’s known simply as “Dr. B.” He was a mentor to Bill Hybels and the café off the church lobby is named after him. Now Gilbert Bilezikian is being named as part of the story of sexual inappropriateness at the church.

■ The Bible returns to Bolivia:

Hoisting a large leather Bible above her head, Bolivia’s new interim president delivered an emphatic message hours after Evo Morales fled under pressure, the end of a nearly 14-year presidency that celebrated the country’s indigenous religious beliefs like never before.

“The Bible has returned to the palace,” bellowed Jeanine Añez as she walked amid a horde of allies and news media cameras into the presidential palace where Morales had jettisoned the Bible from official government ceremonies and replaced it with acts honoring the Andean earth deity called the Pachamama.

What you see, as in many places in Central and South America, is a blending of two religions.

■ Podcast of the Week: Why was there a model of the Tower of Babel inside the church lobby? …Power isn’t inherently bad, but how should pastors relate to it, both inside and outside the church? Julie Roys talks to author Kyle Strobel. Kyle is the son of Lee, who you may know, and co-author of The Way of the Dragon or the Way of The Lamb—Searching for Jesus’ Path of Power in a Church that has Abandoned It. Sample: “I can’t tell you how many churches I’ve met that have never bothered asking a future hire if they pray and what their prayer life is like. It just never came up.”

Short Essay of the Week: Evangelism may be sharing a gospel presentation and seeing immediate results. Or it may be being a link (what I’ve called elsewhere, ‘the chain of grace’) in introducing someone to the person who takes it to the next level. “A person’s coming to Christ is like a chain with many links.” 

■ In the news: “A South Dakota legislative committee approved a bill this week that would penalize medical professionals who prescribe hormone treatments or perform sex change surgeries for gender dysphoric children under age 16. Supporters of the measure argue the listed interventions are not healthcare but rather criminal acts against children too young to understand the long-term, irreversible effects.”

■ Fringe Christian movies:

  • Mentioned this one a month ago, but there’s been another promotional push for The Road to Edmond.
  • And even though it’s now supposedly released, we still don’t have a proper trailer for Faith Based (just the teaser already featured here.)

Two large-scale arenas have dropped Franklin Graham’s UK tour for reasons I’m sure you can imagine. Okay, we’ll spell it out: “It’s hard for many American Christians to get their heads around how much most people in Britain loathe Trump, and how that revulsion is also felt by many godly British believers…”

Essay of the Week: Philip Yancey was this year’s pick by Nicholas Kristof for his annual Christmas column on the Christian faith. The article received 830 comments. Yancey reflects (and includes screen shots) on some of those and explores their opinions, most of which providing consensus that we’re dealing with the nature of doubt

■ You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone: For many, the top religion news story of 2019 was the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral.

The New York Times reported that the cathedral came within twenty minutes of being lost. Notre Dame was saved only because a team of firefighters volunteered to carry fire hoses up the spiral staircases of the burning bell towers after another team had refused because of the danger…

What can we do when everything is on fire? Perhaps we can recognize that not all structures of belief are the same. Some deserve to be condemned, some need to be deconstructed, some are not worth saving. But other structures of belief are worth risking everything in order to try to save them.

■ “The Drop Box” wasn’t just the name of a movie, it was a concept that was adopted at the Seymour Fire Department in Indiana. Last week it was used for the first time, 224 days later, and a child’s life was saved.

■ New Music: A new song about grief and healing. Audrey Assad – Shiloh.
And now as your tears flow
Let them be cleansing
Washing your heart so
You can be mending

■ New Music: The Reckless Love guy returns! Cory Asbury – The Father’s House
Lay your burdens down
Here in the father’s house
Check your shame at the door
‘Cause it ain’t welcome any more
You’re in the Father’s house.

■ Not New Music: This video clip is dated 2017, and yet, this is currently the #1 song on my local Christian radio station, Life 100.3. Equippers Revolution – Better With You.
And I know
Life will only get better with You
And my soul
Makes its stand to keep praising You

■ New Music (Canada): “In 2018 Jeremy Benjamin and family set out on a year long tour of Canada raising money to reduce local and global poverty through music. For the next year Jeremy performed over 150 solo concerts in churches and schools across Canada... The tour raised over $500,000 for charities and Jeremy ended up recording over 20,000 voices on the powerful worship song that closes his [new] album, Wonderlove, …released in October 4th on True North Records.” (The same label which brought us Bruce Cockburn.) Jeremy Benjamin – Wonderlove.

■ Important Music: The singer writes, “This song is a lament. It’s a loving rebuke. It’s a plea for the 81%, to come home to the way of Jesus.” Daniel Deitrich – Hymn for the 81%.

■ Catholic Corner: When I’m sixty-four. Listening to The Beatles, the writer realizes that, “Jesus is literally bombarding us with His teachings at every turn, if we will only seek to encipher them.

■ Worship peeps: If you’re not already doing so, share your setlists using the #SundaySetlist hastag on Twitter

■ Who’da thunk it? One of the five Grammy awards in the Christian categories went to a pairing of the band King and Country and Dolly Parton. (King and Country won two of the five; Kirk Franklin also took home two, and the fifth one went to Gloria Gaynor for an album and video she did for Gaither Gospel Group. Yawn.) 

Breaking — A modern worship musician has been accused of playing a song the congregation already knew. (This should have been in The Bee.)

■ Another American Anomaly: There should never have been exemption in the first place allowing churches, charities, etc., not to have to file Form 990, not to practice full transparency. I like this article by Julie Roys about RZIM, BGEA and FOTF, but it accepts that the loophole exists, which is in my view the main problem.

■ They hired him to guard their Egyptian church. Then he shot and killed two of its members.

■ Finland says that Christianity is not monotheistic. With new curriculum from the country’s Ministry of Education, “The new lesson plan states Christianity is polytheism covered with a thin veneer of Judaism… A snap poll of Jews and Muslims show 93% agree Christianity may be a lot of things, but it isn’t monotheism.”

■ Sadly, our Tweet of the Week. Watch for conservative women skiers to get frostbite this winter. 

Pure Whimsy: If you’ve got the tune American Pie fairly fixed in your mind, you’ll enjoy these parody lyrics we missed back in August: Facebook Pie by Keith Edwin Schooley.

■ Finally, the quote heard everywhere this week: “…We command all Satanic pregnancies to miscarry right now. We declare that anything that’s been conceived in Satanic wombs that it will miscarry, that it will not be able to carry forth any plan of destruction; any plan of harm…” – Paula White, spiritual advisor to the President.


The Bee, of course. Click here to read.


Pregnancy books for couples abound, but You Got This, Dad is just for guys. With self-deprecating honesty, plenty of humor, and amusing asides from his lovely wife, Elaina, Aaron steers soon-to-be dads through the complex events and emotions surrounding pregnancy. Releasing February from Harvest House Publishing.


Top clicks from last week’s Wednesday Connect:

  1. The Rainbow Cake Girl
  2. Highest Paid Ministry Executives
  3. Matthew Pierce: Beth Moore Baseball Cheating
  4. Michael Frost: Australia Fires – Losing Your Country
  5. Canada: Not a Christian Country Anymore
  6. Scot McKnight Moves Jesus Creed Blog to CT
  7. Undoing Trans Surgery
  8. Andy Stanley TV Show

Correction: The Missing Link

■ Two weeks ago subscribers to this blog received a version of Wednesday Connect containing a reference to Christ and Pop Culture’s Top 25 of 2019 for which the link did not appear. If you were interested in reading it, click this link.

January 22, 2020

Wednesday Connect

If you really want to reach unreached people through television, don’t buy time on Sunday mornings; purchase the half hour immediately following Saturday Night Live in selected NBC-TV markets. This month, Andy Stanley ups his game: Instead of re-edited sermon videos, they’ve produced a series just for the Your Move audience.

Note: This blog uses cookies to keep the writer awake after 11:00 PM. 

Welcome to Wednesday Connect #87 (aka Wednesday Link List #487.) So you know what this means, right? Exactly. Next week will be Wednesday Connect #88. 

Don’t forget that WedCon is always happening, 24/7 on my Twitter. Join the select, elite few!

■ Lament for a nation on fire: Michael frost writes,

Friends have told me they can’t sleep, they feel continual low-level sadness. Some speak about feeling helpless or angry. There’s grief about the loss of life, and anxiety about the loss of native animals and livestock. There’s deep concern about the future of our nation. It feels like we’ve all experienced a kind of collective trauma because of the devastation that has occurred to our country. In times of hardship Aussies often say things like, “no worries” or “she’ll be right.” But no one is saying that this time.

Was the fire the pouring out of God’s wrath on Australia?

■ Parenting Place: From a mainstream website, ten “things to look out for this year as you raise kids in a hypersexualized porn culture;” along with practical steps parents can take to protect their kids from the effects of each.

Televangelist Jack Van Impe has died. He repeatedly accused Rick Warren of trying to promote a fusion of Christianity and Islam called ‘Chrislam’ but the charges didn’t stick.

■ The Wartburg Watch looks at author and influencer Dale Partridge.

■ Analogies in the Skywalker movie:  [May contain spoilers] “…the film’s examination of Rey’s identity evokes the good news of God’s adoption of us in Christ. Though humanity’s spiritual lineage is of Adam, though our nature and choices are trapped under sin, still God in Christ desires to graciously embrace us with a new identity: that of redeemed sons and daughters.”

■ Essay of the Week: Alex MacFarland on getting Millennials to church:

The quest to make youth ministry and discipleship ever easier and more accessible and not just ‘study and reflection’ – but actually ‘make it fun’ and ‘make it exciting’?” he questions. “[That] made many churches more about what I would call infotainment and less about imparting the rock-solid truths of scripture.”

And when parents lost the foundations of the faith, the apologist laments, there was less to pass on to their Millennial children.

In a way, McFarland says the horse is already out of the barn. “The majority of Millennials would not come back to a church that they were never a part of in the first place. They need to be evangelized,” he emphasizes.

■ Three new phrases for (some of) you: (1) Dominical sacraments, (2) apostolic charge, (3) liturgical formularies. Now then, read why Anglicans believe that communion (Eucharist) can’t properly happen unless (a) the right person is in charge, and (b) the right words are spoken

■ …so then what do you do with this story from an historic moment in 1969?

Commander Buzz Aldrin had stashed a communion wafer, a capsule of wine, and a tiny silver chalice onboard the Columbia, and smuggled it into space with him. Before his historic walkabout, Aldrin requested a brief radio silence… His actions were at first kept secret because NASA was embroiled in a lawsuit with an atheist who was suing them for broadcasting a public reading of the Bible by the crew of Apollo 8…

The problem is that, according to this author (for different reasons than listed in the previous item) what Aldrin did doesn’t qualify as communion.

■ Digging Deeper: “The apocalyptic logic is made especially clear in 1 Corinthians 15:24-28. Jesus must reign at the right hand of God, in keeping with the narrative of Psalm 110, until all his enemies have been overpowered and destroyed, including the last enemy death. Then he will give the authority or kingdom which he received as the faithful Son of Man back to the Father, so that ‘God may be all in all’—effectively bringing Trinitarianism to an end.” Check out the article, How Powerful is Jesus? (For those on a higher pay grade than I, what does this do wiith Jesus sitting at the right hand of God?)

■ What do complementarians believe about women who find themselves in ministry contexts in another part of the world? Do the rules about women in church leadership differ from New York to New Delhi?

■ The Connected Generation: Barna Research Group “spent much of last year researching and learning more about… the 18–35-year-olds—comprised of both Gen Z and Millennials—who are the future of our world.” They were asked both what they already feel they’ve accomplished, and what they are still hoping to accomplish.

■ Before the UMC split happens: “They may wear uniforms, ring bells at Christmas time, and look traditional….but they are anything but. In fact, they are the most progressive people I’ve ever met – I’ve encountered more interracial couples in The Salvation Army than I have in any other church or nonprofit organization I’ve been involved with. Did you know women preach in their churches? That SA fights human trafficking around the world?” What the United Methodists can learn from the Salvation Army. …

■ … For those who don’t click: A link to a piece referred to in the previous item, You Probably Have it Wrong about The Salvation Army. “Every time I hear Lauren Daigle’s song ‘Rescue’ and she sings ‘I will send out an Army to find you in the middle of the darkness‘ I know she’s singing about the Army. The Salvation Army.

■ Yes, the Christian school is Louisville, Kentucky dismissed Kayla Kennedy; and no, it wasn’t because of the rainbow cake. It was because of all the things. The real question that needs to be examined is: How did she get admitted to the school in the first place?

■ Parenting Place (again): Does your local school have a Satan Club? “Atheists using the name “Satanic Temple” attempt to intimidate schools, parents, and the organization (Child Evangelism Fellowship) which holds Bible clubs in schools around the country. Because CEF won a Supreme Court ruling allowing the free exercise of religious clubs in schools, atheists try to get CEF’s flagship program, Good News Club, out of schools by starting Satan Clubs. They hope parents and school boards will panic, and all religious clubs will be expelled.”

■ This was all over Twitter on Tuesday, but if you missed it, a church in a suburb of Minneapolis/St. Paul is shutting down in June and then doing a ‘reset’ opening in November in the hopes of starting out fresh with a younger demographic. Hence the headline: “Cottage Grove church to usher out gray-haired members in effort to attract more young parishioners.” (A “planting pastor” at the church said later there are some inaccuracies in the story.)

Canada Corner: Not exactly news, but a new study confirms that Canada is not a Christian nation. Not by any means. The survey looked at both belief and church attendance.

■ Mentioned this last week, but now have a link for you: The Jesus Creed blog (Scot McKnight) now has a new home at Christianity Today. (Complete with a back catalog of previous articles.)

■ As of April 14th, gamblers in the UK won’t be able to use credit cards to do so.

■ New Music: Matt Redman – Official Live Video for “We Praise You” Featuring Brandon Lake  ♫

■ Post-surgery, he discovered he didn’t fit the category of gender disphoria, but was truly suffering from PTSD.

■ In North Carolina, you can carry a concealed weapon to church, but not if the church meets in a school.

■ The Jeremy Camp-inspired movie I Still Believe, releasing in March has been named by Seventeen magazine as the #1 Romantic film of 2020.

■ Sorry, but there’s something deeply disturbing about this music video, and if you watch the visual images, it should be rather apparent what it is. In Chinese, with English subtitles, check out the song God Has Predestined the Paths Man Must Walk. (From the website, “Gospel of the Descent of the Kingdom.”)

■ Time for Summer Camp! “A new generation is about to be introduced to such classic Christian hits as Michael W. Smith’s “Place in This World,” Amy Grant’s “Baby, Baby” and Steven Curtis Chapman’s “The Great Adventure” courtesy of the new film A Week Away.” The movie also contains original songs. ♫

■ Facts of Life star Lisa Welchel on why she never made another album, Christian or otherwise. ♫

■ An article about Justin Bieber leading worship at Judah Smith’s church in Beverly Hills contains a 21-minute segment of one (yes, just one) song. His stage posture there is certainly one of humility. ♫

■ An Atlanta Church has hired a psychic medium. I guess all the cool churches are doing it.

■ Matthew Pierce strikes again: “Is Beth Moore Behind the Baseball Cheating Scandal?” (Parental Discretion Advised.)


Found this in a pile of old papers. It’s a ministry partner letter from Walk in the Word, signed by James MacDonald from July, 2011. The middle paragraph reads, “You’re never gonna discover some secret about me or be disappointed with my private life. You’re never gonna unveil some upsetting news about our business practices behind the scenes…”

Digging a Little Deeper

From the creator of Thinking Out Loud, check out Christianity 201. Guaranteed distraction-free, faith-focused blogging with fresh posts every day at 5:35 PM EST. www.Christianity201.wordpress.com

Just in time for the impeachment hearings: This advertisement appeared in the Saturday edition of The Toronto Star. I cropped out the time and date for the event, but the ad was placed by moodystax.com.

 

October 9, 2019

Review: Worldviews and the Problem of Evil

Every so often, one needs to challenge themselves by reading something that is one level above what they might normally peruse.

I’m not entirely sure how a copy of the just-released Worldviews and The Problem of Evil: A Comparative Approach ended up in my mailbox. Lexham Press — home to bestselling apologist Dr. Michael Heiser — doesn’t normally send me review copies, and so I figured this one had arrived unsolicited and tossed it on the ‘unread’ stack.

Neither was I familiar with the author. Dr. Ronnie P. Campbell has lectured as Assistant Professor of theology at Liberty University’s Rawlings School of Divinity. His bio states that his “research interests include God’s relationship to time, the problem of evil, the doctrine of the Trinity, and religious doubt.” He’s also one of the contributors to the recently-released Zondervan Counterpoints title, Do Christians, Muslims, and Jews Worship the Same God? Four Views.

I placed the book off to the side for a few weeks, and then intentionally returned to it this week to give it a brief mention — they had mailed it after all — as an academic title that was ‘beyond my pay grade,’ a phrase I am given to using rather frequently.

But surely, even though my criteria is to not offer something as a formal review unless I’ve devoured every single word. While that’s not the case here, an attempt to give a cursory overview of the table of contents drew me in, and before long, I had covered well over half of the book’s 298 pages. (Not 352, as one popular Christian book retailer states.)

Campbell begins by presenting four dominant worldviews:

  • Naturalism
  • Pantheism
  • Panentheism
  • Theism

and I must confess the third of these was new to me; which sent me running a rabbit trail back to Kirk Macgregor’s Evangelical Theology, in order to brush up on process theology. But I digress.

With each worldview, Campbell looks at how it deals with life, consciousness, good and evil, and human responsibility.

He then settles in for a longer treatment of theism, exploring the implications of a God who loves beyond himself (though a trinitarian view allows for an internal love), a God who takes action, and a God who defeats evil, now and in the future.

The thing above about it being an ‘academic title?’ Instead, I found this accessible, and even delved into many of the exhaustive footnotes.

The publisher’s back cover blurb states the book’s approach integrates apologetics and theology, but I would argue that the book is also very much a work of philosophy, or if you prefer, Christian philosophy. I personally found some exposure to symbolic logic was additionally helpful…

Too much time had passed between receiving this book and not mentioning to my readers, so I decided to make amends today with the goal of continuing to read later today and tomorrow. While theologians may never cease considering the problem of evil, Campbell makes his point well that the Christian worldview is best suited to understanding pain, suffering and evil in our world.

A glossary of key terms — also highlighted in bold throughout the book — and extensive bibliography completes the book.

9781683593058 | Paperback | $22.95 U.S. | In Canada: Parasource

Title webpage at Lexham Press

July 8, 2019

Talking to People Who Reached Out to You First

Filed under: Christianity, evangelism, ministry — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:34 am

“Blogging is so 2010.”

That was a line in a newspaper article I read on the weekend. It could have been worse. At least they didn’t say, ‘so 2005.’

A friend would periodically tell me about discussions he got into on Reddit.com. Great, I thought, Isn’t there already enough arguing going on at Twitter?

Still he got me scanning r/Christianity and r/Religion and over the past year a handful of the stories that appeared on Wednesday Connect came from those sources.

On the weekend, I could stand it no more. I couldn’t keep lurking in the shadows, chomping at the bit to weigh in on various topics.

Someone was asking a question which I felt somewhat qualified to answer. They’d received a fairly good number of answers, but I thought something was missing. I even did Ctrl+F to make sure the keywords weren’t somewhere I was missing.

I pulled the trigger.

Create account.

Nobody on Reddit seems to use a real name. It’s all pseudonyms. The first three I picked were taken. I thought of just using ‘paulthinkingoutloud’ but decided to distance my responses from what I do here.

God has people out there. Just because there’s an information gap in one particular set of answers doesn’t mean I need to take this on like it all depends on me,.

I posted to three other topics. On one, the information I shared wasn’t necessarily a great fit, given where it turned out the person was located. I looked this morning at the page and nothing particularly jumped out at me.

Still, I go back to where I was a year ago. I often said after my friend first introduced me to the site that if a Christ-follower was just sitting at home each day staring at something mindless on their screen, and they wanted to have a significant online ministry apart from blogging, or Facebook, or Twitter, then Reddit would be my first choice.

I just didn’t take my own advice. I thought I had my hands full with WordPress, Twitter, Facebook and MailChimp.

Reddit is different. It’s not like “broadcasting” on social media, which sometimes feels like spitting into the wind. People are asking for advice. Your answers are going to slowly disappear into the back-catalog of the forums, but for a few hours at least, you can interact with a wide diversity of people on faith-focused subjects in something closer to real time.

Maybe one or two of you will decide to join me.

 

June 28, 2019

Compelling: Believable and Beautiful

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:48 am

For the past six months, my friend Pastor Clarke Dixon has been preaching an epic-length series under the title “Compelling.” Six months is a long time, but it represents a commitment to assemble all the major apologetic arguments in one place. It was truly a labor of love — in many ways — and I decided we would share it here as well as we’ve been doing every Thursday at Christianity 201 for the last six months. Each of the points below is a link, and you can access the full articles for each subject by clicking through.

NIV.I Peter.3.13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.

Believable and Beautiful: Why Christianity is Compelling

by Clarke Dixon

Can we really believe what we read in books written so long ago? With so many world-views and so many religions, how could we ever pick just one? Does it really matter what you believe, so long as you are sincere, and don’t bother others with it? Don’t people need to leave their brains at the door of a Christian church? Many people are reluctant to consider Christianity. However, in our series we have considered how Christianity is compelling, both in being believable, and beautiful.

First let us review why Christianity is believable, why one need neither leave their brain at the door of the church, nor their faith in the university parking lot. (Click on the links to read the corresponding “Shrunk Sermon.”)

BELIEVABLE

  • Compelling Truth.  People who are “relativists” when it comes to faith and religion suddenly become “modernists” when they need surgery. Truth can be known and does matter. We consistently live as people who know truth can be known and does matter. The truth about Jesus can be known and does matter.
  • A Compelling Cosmos. We considered that the universe had a beginning, the “fine-tuning” of the universe to be life-permitting, and the fact that anything exists at all. What we learn from studying the universe points to the reality of God.
  • Compelling Morality. Very few people will say that there are not certain behaviors that ought to be considered evil for all people at all times in all places. The reality of objective morality points to the reality of God.
  • Compelling Life. Life began and now flourishes in a world that seems ideally suited for it. The realities of life point to the reality of God.
  • Compelling Minds. Thinking people point to the reality of a thinking God.
  • Compelling Religion. The appetite for the spiritual points to the reality of God.
  • Compelling Evil. The existence of suffering and evil is consistent with what the Bible teaches about our experience. Suffering and evil point to the reality of God.
  • Compelling Holy Books. What caused each of the books of the Bible to be written? The documents that make up the Bible point to the reality of God whose interaction with the world stirred up much writing.
  • The Compelling Man. The most compelling man in history, compelling in his activity, his teaching, his ethics, his presence, his good works, his love, and his impact, points to the reality of God.
  • A Compelling Turn of Events. The tomb was empty and disciples were going about telling everyone that they had seen Jesus risen from the dead. They were willing to die for that testimony. Naysayers like James and Paul, changed their minds. Devoted Jews took radical shifts in their theology. The events of, and following, Easter, point to the reality of God.

Cold-case detective J. Warner Wallace speaks of a cold-case trial as being a cumulative case. That is, the best explanation of the evidence is the one that explains all the evidence. With regards to religion and faith, certain world-views may explain some of the evidence. For example, with regards to suffering, Eastern religions have a nice tidy explanation. If you suffer, it is because you deserve it. Your karma is catching up to you. There is a cosmic justice and suffering makes sense. However, there are still many things that don’t makes sense. If Eastern religions are correct, then how did the Bible come into being? Why was the tomb of Jesus empty, why did the disciples go around telling everyone that they had seen Jesus risen from the dead and why were they willing to die for that? Why did naysayers like James and Paul change their tune about who Jesus is and what he is about? Likewise, atheism also gives a good explanation as to why there is suffering. However, again, atheism can not explain all the evidence. Christianity explains all the evidence! Therefore, not only are the truth claims of Christianity believable, there are compelling reasons why we can see them as being the best depiction of reality. God is for real, and in Christ, God is for us.

We can further ask if each worldview is consistent in where it leads. It would be strange if, while the evidence points to the existence of a good and loving God, belief in, and devotion to, that God led to a terrible way to live, and a horrible society. We have used the example of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. If you have read the novel, or watched the TV series, you will see the dominance of a worldview which leads to ugliness and not beauty. Does Christianity lead to ugliness, or to beauty? In our series we considered how Christianity leads to beauty.

BEAUTIFUL

  • Compelling Evidence. Science and Christianity point in the same direction. Christianity helped science get started. A perspective which denigrates science is ugly. That Christianity can work with science is beautiful!
  • Compelling Religion. While religion can, in the words of Christopher Hitchens, “poison everything,” a Biblical Spirit-led Christianity leads to healing. This is beautiful!
  • Compelling Grace. The love of God for people is beautiful. God’s grace and forgiveness is beautiful!
  • Compelling Grace, Part 2. The call to grace, forgiveness, and wisdom in human relationships is beautiful!
  • The Compelling God. The perfect justice and wonderful mercy of God is beautiful. Only at the cross do we see God being perfectly just while also being merciful. This is beautiful!
  • Compelling Mission. The sharing of good news is always beautiful. That we share the good news through words, rather than by force, and give people the space and freedom to choose for themselves, is beautiful!
  • Compelling Family. The Christian vision for parenting and marriage is beautiful. Yet the flexibility that no one is forced to fit the mold of “married with children” is also beautiful!
  • A Compelling Life. The Jesus-centered, Spirit-filled, life lived in wisdom is beautiful. That we don’t just follow rules, but grow in character, is beautiful!
  • A Compelling Society. Christians are not called to takeover the government and set up a society that enforces Christian living. That Christians are called to be salt and light is beautiful!
  • A Compelling Perspective on Humanity. No one has greater value than anyone else. That all people are created in the image of God, without exception, and without exception Christ bore the cross for all people, is beautiful!
  • A Compelling People. That the Church is to be a people who do good works in Jesus’ name, in allegiance to Jesus, under the influence of the Spirit, is beautiful!
  • A Compelling Future. The future of every single person, whether they receive Jesus or not, is reasonable & consistent with a good and loving God. This is beautiful!
  • A Compelling Invitation. Everyone is invited! You are invited! This is beautiful!

The outworking of the Christian faith is consistent with the good and loving God the evidence points to. There are many aspects of Christianity that make us say “of course that is how a good and loving God would do it.” However, Christians have often made a mess of things and been the cause of ugliness rather than beauty. When this happens, it results from a disconnect from Jesus, and often, an unfortunate understanding of God’s Word. The inconsistency is ours. The ugliness is ours. But there is beauty. There is beauty, because there is God.

Perhaps you still have questions. I do. We don’t need all the answers. I have long thought of faith as being like a jigsaw puzzle. As we are figuring out our view of the world, our spirituality, and the way things are, pieces come together. Some people start with the most difficult of questions and give up. But for many of us, the puzzle pieces come together in such a way that the picture begins to form. It is a beautiful picture. So beautiful, in fact, that we cannot help but keep working on it. Sometimes there are pieces that we cannot yet place. Sometimes we have the sense that we are forcing certain pieces together that don’t fit. Sometimes we need to take pieces out that we thought fit, and fit them in where they really belong. This is all a normal part of growing and maturing in our understanding. The picture that comes together as we grow in our understanding is beautiful, and well worth the effort. It is a picture of the cross, of God’s love in Christ.

My prayer throughout this whole series is that you would find the Christian faith to be believable and beautiful, that you would find Christ to be compelling.


Use the above links to read any of the posts in the series. At each you’ll find a link for the audio version of the full sermon on which they are based.


1 John.1.1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy complete. 5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.

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