Thinking Out Loud

January 18, 2016

Letter from Liberty University

Dear Mom and Dad,

Sorry I missed you when I tried to phone.

It’s hard to believe I’m already in my second semester of my freshman year. Classes are going well, and I was able to get a good deal on some textbooks.

I just wanted to tell you about something that happened today, because you’ll probably see it on the evening news.

Today Donald Trump came to speak to our chapel service. Well, it’s not really a chapel service, because calling it that messes up something; maybe it’s the accreditation, or state funding, or something. So they call it Convocation.

Anyway, Trump came to speak. Everybody was expected to attend. Somebody said there’s a $10 fine for skipping chapel, er, Convocation, so I went. The place was packed. Our president, Jerry Falwell Jr. took about 18 minutes — I checked the time on my phone — to introduce him, and mostly talked about the history of the college. I mean, we thought he was introducing Trump, but I think he kinda lost his way, not to mention spilling a glass of water and having his phone go off in the middle.

Then finally, Donald Trump walked on to the stage at our school, and spoke for 50 minutes.

Between that and being told last semester all the students should get a concealed carry permit — I mean nobody in our family even owns a hunting rifle — I’m kinda wondering what I’m doing here. I keep thinking that some people, like the Amish and the Mennonites and the Anabaptists don’t mix their politics with their faith the way we do here at Liberty U. And they get by without guns, too. And I’m reading that in other countries they don’t think like Americans do about religion and politics being so intertwined.

A few of my classmates are from Canada and they just roll their eyes anytime someone mentions government, or the debates, or the primaries or the election. They say it’s got nothing to do with what we are supposed to be learning.

Myself and two people in our dorm are driving to Pennsylvania this weekend to visit an Amish community. We’ve been invited to stay overnight. Some of them have a deal where you can do an extended stay and work with them on their farms. I’m thinking perhaps instead of doing my sophomore year right away I might —

–sorry, my R.A. is calling me to a dorm meeting. I’ll write again.

P.S.: Can you find out if we have any relatives in Canada?


Watch the entire Donald Trump event at Liberty (69 minutes) below or at this link.

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January 9, 2016

Can People of Other Faiths Be Worshiping the Same God?

Larycia Hawkins Press Conference

Yesterday I ran a review of a kids video. I did it because I think the problem when facing current events is that bloggers feel the need to rush-to-publish and sometimes there is some wisdom in waiting an extra 24 or 48 hours. Sometimes it’s better not to weigh in at all.

I’m referring to the case of Larycia Hawkins, a tenured professor at Wheaton College who was dismissed after demonstrating solidarity with her Muslim friends and especially for expressing the idea that we worship the same God.

In two short weeks she has raised a number of issues, and my personal take is that just as I waited a day or two to respond, I think that Wheaton College should have considered a more measured approach. While their action may appease conservative Evangelicals — many of whom form much of their donor base — I keep thinking this may come back to haunt them. As I did here, I wish they had not felt the rush-to-publish need to create the most drastic of all possible outcomes.

Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God? The knee-jerk reaction is to say, ‘Of course not.’ But an historical perspective yields different responses. Google the phrases “Three Faiths, One God” or “One God, Three Faiths” and you start to see the complexity of the issue.

But I want to ask a different question.

Do Jews and Christians worship the same God?

Again, the hard-line response of many is to say, ‘Of course not;’ after all, the God we worship is the God revealed in Jesus Christ, He who co-created the world with the Father, and sits at the Father’s right hand, and said, “No man cometh unto the Father but by me.” (And he really said cometh, according to my KJO friends.)

But the God we serve and sing to at weekend services is the same “God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” I really believe you have to answer this two-step question before trying to answer the three-step question that includes Islam.

I can hear some saying, ‘Well, that’s different, it doesn’t apply here.’ But again, there are three (major) Abrahamic faiths, Christianity, Islam and Judaism. There is some commonality.

And may I say, echoing Paul’s approach at Mars Hill, we certainly all seek the same God.

I wish Larycia Hawkins the best. She has left her mark on the ongoing, contemporary theological conversation.

 

 

 

 

November 30, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Paragraph containing witty introduction and possible lynx/links pun reference to Lynx canadensis or Lynx pardinus if picture is included.

  • Let’s kick off with a very short video on the influence the King James Bible had on the English language.  This is actually an excerpt from a very interesting eleven minute video on the language as a whole.
  • From there we go to a much longer video; a sermon video where N. T. Wright, the former Bishop of Durham, preaches in, of all places, Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago.  This was recorded just a few weeks ago on November 6th.
  • With church attendance slipping, Christian colleges and universities in the U.S. are cutting tuition costs, some by as much as 50%. “…One of the most pressing issues is that there are fewer prospective students for these schools to recruit. Religious membership has been on the decline, especially among young people.” Read the full story at CNN Money.
  • A new title in the Lego Bible series has been pulled from Sam’s Club outlets for being too violent.  One Facebook comment notes, ““I hear you are banning The Brick Testament for its offensive content but not the Bible which contains all the same content…”  The Brick Bible: A New Spin on The Old Testament is the 4th book in the series by illustrator Brendan Powell Smith.  [Update: Chaplain Mike covers this topic actual pictures!  Well, not violent ones, but one that’s not suitable for young children.]
  • A good friend of ours has recorded a tribute cover for Larry Norman’s song UFO.  Enjoy a limited time free preview.
  • My other blog, Christianity 201 marks 600 posts with some thoughts from James chapter 1 about seeing ourselves as we really are.
  • Eddy Arthur at Wycliffe Bible Translators UK posts a curiosity-inducing review of a new book, Pursuit of a Thirsty Fool by T. J. Macleslie, published by Bottomline Media. If you’re tired of the “then I became a Christian and now everything’s great” genre, this may be the story for you.  Here’s the review for the book pictured at right.
  • Annie Goebel, president and co-founder of the women’s prison ministry Daughters of Destiny, met the son she gave birth to as a teen in 1973 earlier this month.  Read the story at The Christian Post.
  • Laura Ortberg Turner and Owen Strachan discuss whether Scripture dictates that women work inside the home.  First, here’s Laura’s response to Owen’s critique of Tide’s “Dad-Mom” commercial.  Second, here is Owen’s response to Laura.  That this occurs at her•menuetics makes the comments all that much more interesting.
  • Rachel Held Evans hosts guest blogger Kathy Escobar (see blogroll at right) on the topic of spiritual insecurity.  Discussion starter: “The basic premise of Christianity is that there is nothing good in us.  That original sin has ruined us and we are miserable sinners, unworthy of anything good without the blood of Jesus…”
  • Family Feud Department: My one son has been getting into a popular card game, Magic: The Gathering; while my other son — who sees the game played at his college — is not entirely convinced it’s a good idea. He wrote up his thoughts which I’ve posted as a “page” here so you could read them.
  • Concert-goers in Canada already know them, but there’s a lot of buzz everywhere lately for brothers Nathan Finochio and Gabe Finochio aka The Royal Royal. You need to have an iTunes account to get their music.
  • Matt Stone at Glocal Christianity thinks this Coke Lite commercial is actually dramatizing A Catholic Girl’s Worst Nightmare.
  • Something lacking during announcement time at your church?  Adam Stadtmiller takes up the cause of what is often an epic fail.
  • And for all you worship team leaders and aspiring worship team members, here’s how one Canadian church auditions and integrates new musicians.
  • Tony Woodlief guests at World Magazine Online on why he was predisposed to agree the people who were boycotting Black Friday.
  • And this 3-minute video provides all the reason you need to skip the big sale.  Or any big sale.  Some scenes may be disturbing.

That’s it for WLL this week at TOL; try to submit your suggestions by 9:00 PM Mondays.

April 17, 2009

Missionfest: A Ministry Trade Show

missionfestAfter 35 years working in and around various types of ministry organizations, today I attended my first ever ministry trade show.    After several years of getting snowed out in the winter months, Missionfest Toronto moved both its date and its location and today’s balmy weather in Canada’s largest city rivaled that of Southern California.

After one aisle, I turned to Mrs. W.  and said, “We’ve only seen a fraction of this  and already it’s overwhelming.”    Basically, I suppose I always knew that a large number of ministry organizations like these existed — probably a fraction of what one might see at a similar event in the U.S. — but there was something else about having them all set up their booths in the same room.

Missionfest exhibitors consisted largely of:

  1. Actual mission organizations doing evangelism and church planting in the third world
  2. Local, urban mission organizations working in Canadian cities
  3. Relief and development agencies
  4. Christian liberal arts colleges and universities, Bible colleges and seminaries
  5. Christian residential summer camps and retreat and conference centres
  6. Christian radio and television stations and ministries
  7. The teaching ministries of various authors or pastors, many of which are also broadcasters included in (6) above
  8. Ministries focused on Bible and Christian literature distribution
  9. Commercial businesses which provide specialized services to churches and non-profits (i.e. insurance, printing, internet, etc.)
  10. Organizations with a specialized focus on ministry to children
  11. Organizations with a specialized focus on ministry to the Jewish community
  12. Umbrella organizations, Christian political organizations, denominational groups.

From my wife’s point of view however, there were only two types of exhibitors:

  1. Those who were giving away wrapped pieces of chocolate at their booth
  2. Those who were not giving away chocolate at their booth

To be fair, my wife and I probably had the longest and most productive conversation with someone she previously only knew through e-mail, concerning the ministry project with which she is engaged.   He and she are probably getting together later in the spring to continue sharing ideas.

From the outset, we wondered what motivates the various organizations to drop their day-to-day ministry agenda to go through all the trouble of displaying their magazines, flyers, literature samples, etc. at an event like this.    Some reasons might include:

  1. There’s no doubt that for missions professionals, trade shows like this provide the benefit of any professional trade show, which is social in nature, or what we Christ-followers call ‘fellowship’
  2. Mission organizations are always looking for donors.   A few times someone came out in the aisle and told us, quite clearly, that they are looking for support.    It also occurred to us that conversely, someone of a philanthropic bent might attend this seeking out a target organization for their giving.   (We were actually keeping an eye out for something that would fit this particular criteria for someone we know who is in this position, but couldn’t attend; but nothing in particular jumped out at us.)
  3. Many organizations are looking for recruits; either as volunteers, missionaries requiring deputation, or perhaps even paid staff.   The colleges and universities are looking for prospective students.
  4. Apart from considerations in (2) and (3) above, everyone is looking to raise the profile of who they are and what they do; to get their name known in the Christian community, or in this case, more accurately, the Evangelical community.
  5. I would like to think that in addition to people giving their time and talents, or their money, that these organizations are also seeking specific prayer support.    I didn’t get that particular message today, though I’ve yet to sort through the large bag of literature we brought home.

The event also features a number of seminars dealing with various aspects of mission and ministry.    Many of these were on Saturday which conflicted with another event my wife is involved in; and some were part of a ‘Master seminar’ track which wasn’t in our budget.   (Some were simply capitalizing on who was available, such as Brian Doerksen’s songwriting workshop, prior to his concert tonight with Shane Claiborne; and no, I don’t think Shane is singing but I’ve actually heard him teach a song to about 2,000 people and he’s not bad.)

For me the “star” highlights were meeting Charles Price, pastor of Toronto’s Peoples Church, and also running into Shane Claiborne in the restroom.   I went back to the Crawford Broadcasting booth hoping that Neil Boron was free.  He hosts a four-hour afternoon talk show on WDCX-FM in Buffalo, which is the closest I get to coveting someone else’s ministry.   What a fabulous opportunity he has each day.    Unfortunately, he had left for lunch when I went back.

But the interactions with everyday people doing everyday mission and ministry were also valuable.

I walked into the exhibit floor someone cynical, reminding myself that missions — especially some of the 12 categories listed above — is very much run like a business, and that many of these people are in a very real sense competitors for items 2 to 5 in the second list.

I also know that some people are equally skeptical of the missions paradigm because — unlike (for example) a Christian bookstore which is theoretically self-supporting, or any model whereby the staff are ‘tentmaking’ at some other remunerative vocation — mission organizations merely have to “ask” to get money.

But my viewpoint was softened very quickly, as I was impressed by the earnest sincerity of the people we met.

If an event like this hits your community, I would encourage you to check it out; especially if you’re at a personal crossroads and wondering if God may have some avenue of service — either short term, long term, or life long — for you to consider.


 

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