Thinking Out Loud

November 7, 2018

Wednesday Connect

A recent cartoon from Dave Walker at Church Times. Click the link to view larger.

Click the image to see past editions of Wednesday Connect.

I recognize that most of my U.S. readers are probably preoccupied with yesterday’s elections, but thanks to those of you who’ve dropped by for something non-political.

♦ Bound by grief: The pastor of the African Methodist Church in Charleston, South Carolina and the Rabbi of Conservative Jewish synagogue had nothing in common until this past week. Now, Rev. Eric S.C. Manning and Rabbi Jeffrey Myers sadly share the pain of having a mass shooting in their respective houses of worship. The New York Times reports on the two men meeting each other.

🎬 Bias in movie ratings? The producers of The Reliant starring Kevin Sorbo, Brian Bosworth, Mollee Gray, Eric Roberts, and Julia Denton think it might be so.

Submission of the film to the Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA) for rating, produced an unexpected result. The MPAA rated it “R” for some violence. The producer reports that the film does not glamorize violence, and it was specifically and carefully designed to easily receive a more favorable rating. Dr. Johnston believes the MPAA is biased, and is, in effect, trying to prevent the film’s success because it is not only faith-based, but also pro-2nd Amendment.

Breaking — “Armed men kidnapped 79 children from a school in western Cameroon on Monday and a local pastor said separatist militias were responsible. The abduction happened before dawn in the city of Bamenda.”

♦ If you read (or will read) the Bible today; or if you asked for forgiveness; or if you dove into scripture  to fact-check something your pastor said; you owe all that to the day Martin Luther went viral.

♦ Warning! Don’t mess with James MacDonald. He’s having an especially litigious year-end. [Also, this.]

♦ Go Deeper! Take about 5 minutes to read this list of 5 Hebrew Words Every Christian Should Know.

🇨🇦 Intervention: “YES-TV, Canada’s largest multifaith broadcaster, has sent a letter to the Canadian government offering to sponsor and settle Asia Bibi, the Pakistani woman who was cleared of blasphemy charges last week.  Her death sentence was commuted by Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Oct. 31 following an appeal… Although cleared of the charges, Bibi has been living in a prison converted to a safe house since the decision, unable to leave for fear of her life.”

♦ Lauren Daigle responds to those who criticized her for doing the Ellen DeGeneres TV show. [8 Minute audio podcast.]

♦ Keeping Kosher: For Israel’s hospitality industry it comes at a very high price:

Several thousand inspectors – it is not clear exactly how many – make onsite visits daily to check things like food sanitation, the separation of dairy from meat products and that materials are bought from suppliers who are also approved. It even sends delegations abroad to inspect slaughterhouses that export beef to Israel…This has a created a situation where, according to one official, 17 inspectors every day descend upon a single food court in Jerusalem’s main mall, all at the expense of the business owners, who pass on costs to consumers.

♦ Opinion Piece of the Week: I Worship in a Television Studio. If the church you attend was constructed in the last couple of decades, you might relate to this. 

♦ Essay of the Week: “I want to ask my fellow professing Christians to do something downright shocking in today’s online environment: Be radically charitable to your Christian brothers and sisters. Be downright deferential. Consider them better than you. Demonstrate love in every interaction.” Brant Hansen plea for unity.

♦ Most provocative opening paragraph: “The Family Federation for a Heavenly USA (aka the Unification Church) has added worship artist Israel Houghton to the lineup of high profile Christians who will help evangelize New Yorkers for self-described True Mother and the only begotten daughter of God, Hak Ja Han Moon.” Did he know what he was signing up for when he agreed to perform at this?

♦ …Or maybe it’s this opening paragraph: “Washington state Rep. Matt Shea publishes manifesto calling for the execution of all males who refuse to follow ‘Biblical law.’ [Next paragraph] “…The document calls for ‘Biblical law’, and suggests that those men who support gay marriage and abortion rights should be executed.” [Thanks to Eric and Michael at Linkathon for this unusual story and source.]

♦ Provocative title of the week: Jerks for Jesus.

♦ A tragic headline: US Missionary Shot to Death in Front of His Wife, Son. “An American missionary was shot to death this week in Cameroon while riding in the car with his wife and son. Charles Wesco of Indiana was out to shop when two bullets struck him through the windshield, according to Dave Halyaman, assistant pastor at Believers Baptist Church in Warsaw, Indiana. The bullets knocked Wesco unconscious, and doctors were unable to revive him at the hospital.”

♦ Rethinking the doctrine of Original Sin. Peter Enns: “Whatever words we want to use to describe it, this self-evident reality of repeated, relentless sin remains a consistent fact of human existence…But all I’m asking here is whether the Old Testament says that Adam is the cause of it all. It doesn’t. Not at all. Not even a hint.”

The complete Memorial Service for Eugene Hoiland Peterson. [Transferred to YouTube from a live stream, the video indicates a running time of 3 hours 20 minutes, however it begins at the 1 hour 45 minute mark.] …

♦ …Text of the poem read by Peterson’s son

🇨🇦 News media in Toronto, Canada is all over a story about a woman who attended a Baptist Church east of the city who was informed by letter that she is not welcome because she is gay. She says, “Why didn’t somebody come to my home? Why didn’t they request to have this conversation in person? So yeah, I was a little hurt I received this in the mail.” The story possibly stands out more in pluralistic, tolerant Toronto than it might in the more conservative U.S. Read a copy of the letter she received.

♦ The one-hour documentary film about Richard Wurmbrand, Tortured for Christ is available to view online.

♦ After a woman faints at Monday night’s Republican rally, the crowd breaks into Amazing Grace. Trump stands in silence for 7-8 minutes.

♦ Dealing with Difficult Bible Passages: After a putdown of Study Bibles, Bible Software and the internet, this author suggests that, “Most difficult parts of the Bible are elucidated in other parts of the Bible. In that way, the Bible serves as a commentary on itself.”

Each of the writers represented above has a book (or two, or more) they wish they’d never written. See next item.

📖 Two publishing related items from across the pond at Premier Christianity:

📖 Also, Scot McKnight interviews Kellye Fabian about her new NavPress book Sacred Questions, noting that “…the devotional takes the reader on a formative journey. In other words, the book isn’t just 365 days of randomly selected Scripture passages, but rather has separate sections that move the reader from Jesus’ invitations to relationship with him through a process…”

📖 One last book-related item: Catching up with Todd and Colton Burpo 14 years after Heaven Is For Real.

♫ Sarah Reeves is part of the Big Church Night Out tour. Here’s a performance video for her song Angels.

🇨🇦 A Canadian TV sitcom with a Christian perspective has come to Netflix. Christianity Today introduces a U.S. audience to Kim’s Convenience.

♦ Finally, our Tweet of the Week:

Digging a Little Deeper

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

 

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October 31, 2018

Wednesday Connect

 

Today is October 31st. There’s something special about that day, but honestly, I can’t think of what it is, and this year, we didn’t find anything which reflected it as we have other years.

♦ The UK Supreme Court decision in the “gay wedding cake” case, could have repercussions for American law.

♦ A bad time to be nit-picking:

Israel’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi came under fire on Sunday for refusing to acknowledge in a newspaper interview that the massacre in Pittsburgh was carried out in a synagogue. The country’s ultra-Orthodox newspapers, in reporting on the event, have also refused to acknowledge that it took place in a Jewish house of prayer because Tree of Life is a Conservative congregation, and they do not recognize the non-Orthodox movements.

♦ John MacArthur will — over the next 18 months — step down as President of The Master’s University.

♦ Why Theology matters: “At its best, theology gives us an interpretive lens through which to more clearly see God, the world, our neighbor, and ourselves…On the other hand, if handled poorly, theology can turn us into the worst versions of ourselves…It is quite possible to memorize the whole Bible and to affirm and believe and even preach every single word that it says, and still not be even remotely submitted to it.

Under the microscope: 7 Books that Rocked the Church looks at titles which, “profoundly upset the church by calling into question foundational Christian doctrines or beliefs. Most of the books discussed here were banned at some time by Christian authorities.”

1. Valentinus the Gnostic: Who Doesn’t Love a Conspiracy Theory? (Think The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown)
2. Galileo Galilei: A Scandal of Religion, Science, and Politics
3. Voltaire’s Candide, Enlightenment Rationalism, and the Church’s Thin Skin
4. Darwin’s Origin of Species: The Many Faces of Evolutionary Theory
5. Marx’s Communist Manifesto: The Red Bull of the Masses
6. Sigmund Freud’s Ego
7. Joseph Campbell: Christianity as an (Almost) Enlightened Myth (A book that strongly influenced George Lucas’s Star Wars films

A 184-page paperback from Hendrickson, now available.

♦ The faith of composer John Sebastian Bach: He used religious texts, but was this simply because it was in his job description

♦ Canada Corner: Couples wishing to adopt who hold to Christian values and principles are being “rejected with increasing frequency” from adopting children.

♦ Coming to light: A segment from Phil Vischer’s What’s in the Bible episode dealing with Genesis as to the age of the earth was deleted from digital editions of the program, but survives on the DVD. Someone posted it to YouTube.

♦ Rethinking the Wesleyan Quadrilateral: “It is true that John Wesley was big on one’s experience of Jesus Christ, but he would have never embraced the idea that experience is somehow co-equal with Scripture and tradition, nor that it should ever be pitted against the Bible itself. Indeed, as all who have at least a general understanding of this subject know, Wesley never employed the quadrilateral imagery.”

♦ The right way of doing anger: Three steps to make your anger more loving and more short-lived.

♦ If Christians aren’t supposed to sue each other, then why is James MacDonald doing just that? A statement from the pastor provides the necessary workaround

♦ …The article above is quite thorough; if you prefer you can also simply read what what Pastor James wrote. Sample: “Turn[ing] the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39) is a compelling command for dealing with people who offend us personally — but no one struggles with dialing 911 when a criminal act is underway.”

♦ A baby out of wedlock: In the United States, this is rapidly becoming the norm.

♦ A Baptist Church in Wakefield, Massachusetts is fundraising after being struck by lightning.

♦ Comparison shopping: Three chapters in Genesis side-by-side with the story of Gilgamesh. “[H]uman beings were being too loud, and the gods were unable to get any sleep.”

♦ Provocative Title of the Week: 4 Ways to Tell if You’re a Man or a Boy

♦ …And from the same author, here’s a free first chapter peek at The Five Marks of a Man.

♦ New Music: New artist Marci Coleman’s song “How You Love.”

♦ Finally, a preview of the film Small Group. More details at this website.

 

October 24, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Halloween message or graphic design fail?

From an article looking critically at the reasons given by some for believing that the English King James Bible is the only true Bible. Click here for the article and to find others in the series. (Click here for the original.)

The week on social media was dominated by reminiscences on the life of Eugene Peterson. I considered the idea of simply reproducing a section of The Message Bible today. If you’ve got one handy, or wish to access it on Bible Gateway, find a passage that you know intimately and see what Peterson did with it! 

This week’s list is a bit shorter because there’s a fifth Wednesday in October coming up in just seven days…

♦ James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel are suing the writers of The Elephant Debt accountability website as well as their wives as well as respected Christian investigative reporter Julie Roys, claiming defamation. Wait, serious? They’re suing the wives of the authors? That’s a first

♦ …but one writer reminds us you can tell the truth and survive a lawsuit as well.

♦ Kissing unDating Goodbye: Joshua Harris has asked the publisher of I Kissed Dating Goodbye to  “discontinue its publication, as well other supplemental resources tied to it (this includes the two books I wrote after it whose content is similar).” He goes on to say, “My publisher, whose encouragement in this process has been deeply meaningful to me, supports this decision and will not reprint the books after the current copies in their inventory are sold.” (Contains a link to a free download of “The Books That Changed My Mind.”)

♦ It’s a horrible story alleging the abuse of a child that I can’t fully summarize in the space available here. But we’ve seen this before among conservative Christians. In the case, the focus of the report is how Sovereign Grace church leadership, and Association of Reformed Baptist Churches leadership are so quick to come to the parents defense.

♦ Déja vu all over again: Religion News Service reports, “Since its grand opening nearly a year ago, the Museum of the Bible has exhibited five fragments from the storied Dead Sea Scrolls, the ancient parchment fragments discovered 70 years ago in a desert cave. On Monday (Oct. 22) the museum acknowledged that the five fragments it had on display were forgeries. They were taken down several weeks ago and replaced with three other fragments that do not have the same anomalies.” (Maybe someone made them with a calligraphy set purchased at Hobby Lobby.)

♦ It’s sometimes called “The Homeless Pastor Test” and James MacDonald wasn’t the first to try it. Would your congregation pass? (This was posted before we had determined today’s lead item.)

♦ Pass the pith helments: “You might be a missionary – someone called and sent to serve God cross-culturally – but chances are, you don’t like being called a missionary. That’s because, in popular Western culture, missionaries are seen as pith helmet-wearing colonialists – forcing their culture and religion on people who don’t want it.” Three pithfalls pitfalls to avoid. (“As an African believer once complained, ‘You brought us the bread of life, but it came wrapped in plastic that you shoved down our throats!’“)

♦ Church and State; Russian Style: An official statement, “acknowledged the right to independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which has been overseen by religious officials in Moscow since 1686.”

♦ Arriving with an admitted dose of cynicism and sarcasm, this British woman checks in for two years at the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM) in California.

♦ When Mark Driscoll’s latest book was published by Charisma House, you had to guess that he had crossed a doctrinal line on a personal level as well. In the appendix to that book, published on his blog, he addresses issues related to his current understanding of the Holy Spirit. (Warning: In the middle of the article you have to click ‘continue’ to see each new paragraph. This must certainly be the absolute dumbest and most annoying approach to website design in the history of the internet.)

♦ Question of the Week: Why did an apologetics expert write an article about Father’s Day in October? (Turns out it’s a subject close to his heart.)

♦ Conflict Crushers: When it happens — and it certainly will — here are six steps to handling conflict from Ephesians.

♫ “After a five-year break from her public career, singer-songwriter Avril Lavigne has released a powerful worship ballad titled “Head Above Water,” which recounts her battle with Lyme disease.” 

Switchfoot is back!

🎬 Russ Taff is the subject of a new movie I Still Believe, which deals with the alcoholism that threatened to destroy his music career.

♦ Exhaustive Study: Everything you always wanted to know about Halloween but were afraid to ask. (It’s a week today, by the way.)

♦ Bet your church bulletin typo on Sunday wasn’t as bad as this one.

♦ In my country, you’d be more likely to see giraffes in church than voter guides, but apparently this sort of thing is the norm in the United States. Only at Gateway, a prank version was substituted for the authorized edition.

♦ If you are in need of more laughter in your life, here’s ten video clips by ten clean comedians. (Two clips not available outside the U.S. however.)

♦ Finally — and it was an unlikely source this week — 33 excuses for passing on attending the new DVD-based Bible study about to launch.


The only day everyone loves you.

October 17, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Two major authors guilty of plagiarism. I’ve included them here as items on this week’s Connect feed, but I might return to this, as its importance cannot be overlooked. Attribution is so easy to do, so why the reluctance? And why did one author remove an apology?

Also, remember that the blogroll (3 of them, actually) in the right margin (or at the bottom of the page on your phone) is always being updated. Check out the recommended writers, and if you find anything that’s been dormant for more than 30 days, let us know.

♦ “This year, for the first time, more Americans agree that the Bible’s teaching on same-sex relationships is outdated than disagree.” Also, “A majority of US adults (58%) said that worshiping alone or with one’s family is a valid replacement for regularly attending church. Only 30 percent disagree.” More at the Ligonier Ministries/Lifeway 2018 findings on “the state of theology” in the U.S.

♦ While the release of American Pastor Andrew Brunson from Turkey after two years was certainly newsworthy, it was the scene were he knelt to pray for the President that captured my attention…

♦ …But while Brunson is free after two years, it’s now been 1,000 days for an 84 year old Australian doctor kidnapped in Burkina Faso. “Dubbed ‘the Doctor of the Poor’, Dr. [Ken] Elliott was providing free treatment, saving patients significant amounts of money. Since the closure of his clinic, people travel via poor transport links hundreds of miles to the capital, Ouagadougou, for medical care. His wife noted,

“My husband did not have an easy and comfortable life: 46 years ago, he chose to raise his family among you, our friends and our neighbours. With God’s help, he performed thousands of operations and saved many lives. Those who asked for help often came from afar, they came to us at any time of day or night.”

♦Parenting Place: Think you’re doing well at the child-raising thing? Here are 12 things that family counselors look for.

♦ Watching The Shack in prison:

But more and more, as I spend more time living on the margins and less in my head, reading the Bible with the damned to use Bob Ekblad’s phrase, I’ve come to see how much of theology boils down to social location. I might not get The Shack, but these incarcerated men sure do. Many were in tears at the end. So I check my critiques. The critiques may be valid and important, and there’s a time to bring them up, but I don’t center or privilege them. I don’t allow my academically sophisticated theology to win every argument or be The Answer to every question

♦ Quotation of the Week: “Just like you, the student in the northern Ghanaian village is monitoring the number of likes her Instagram selfies are getting.” A look at the pictures missionaries take, the ones they publish, our culture of photo images, and the danger of exploiting people from other cultures

♦ By now many of you are aware of an announcement on the weekend concerning the decline in health of esteemed author Eugene Peterson. If not, here is a link to a Facebook page containing a note from his son Eric.

♦ From a book review on the history of atheism in the Soviet Union:

In Russia, there is a religious revival happening. Orthodox Christianity is thriving after enduring a 70-year period of atheistic Soviet rule. In 1991, just after the collapse of the USSR, about two-thirds of Russians claimed no religious affiliation. Today, 71 percent of Russians identify as Orthodox. One can now see priests giving sermons on television, encounter religious processions in St. Petersburg, and watch citizens lining up for holy water in Moscow. Even Moscow’s Darwin museum features a Christmas tree during the holidays.

♦ A Georgia physician, Dr. Wayne Bloodworth has opened a clinic established to reverse Female Genital Mutilation as practiced 30 countries in sub-Saharan Africa as well as in Asia and the Middle East. “Dr. Bloodworth up until now has totally financed the operation and equipping of the clinic. Since there is no fee for the services, they depend on donations and grants.”

♦ Ask N.T. Wright anything: A new podcast is launching in the UK from the same people who bring us the Unbelievable! podcast each week. (You can send your questions now online.) 

♦ Another plagiarism case: Zondervan has reached a settlement with Carey Scott, the author of Untangled: Let God Loosen the Knots of Insecurity in Your Life (Revell, 2015) whose work was borrowed by popular author Christine Caine in Unashamed: Drop the Baggage, Pick up Your Freedom, Fulfill Your Destiny (Zondervan, May 2016), which has sold over 150,000 copies to date. 

“About two weeks before Caine’s book Unashamed was set to launch, I received a promotional email that contained a two-minute book trailer video. Some of the wording at the beginning of the video sounded very familiar, and after some digging I discovered that the first 30 seconds of her personal narration on the promo video came directly from a paragraph on page 55 of my book,” Scott told Publisher’s Weekly. “There are several examples of direct copying and substantial similarities.”   …

♦ … But sadly, not the only plagiarism case involving Zondervan: A quotation in Ann Voskamp’s book The Broken Way was attributed to her father but, “matched almost word for word the writing of author Cynthia Occelli on her social media pages.” In another case, she apologized for when she “lyrically paraphrased” a nine-point list by another writer. But that post was later deleted. Why? In this Occelli case, World Magazine notes:

The problem: Some readers probably missed Voskamp’s apology, submerged as it was in a long scroll of a post concerning a family trip to Israel, a Tim Keller talk, a Mister Rogers quote, Instagram photos from fans raving about her books, and more. The item’s burial was too bad, because this was a teachable moment about likely dangers at a time when internet files can be copied and mislabeled so readily, with unclear attribution.

♦ In other Christian publishing stupidity, author Thom Rainer has published what looks to be potentially an extremely helpful and hopeful resource for struggling, small churches, but you can’t buy it here in Canada, where the percentage of such churches is double what it is in the U.S., and Americans can only buy it at LifeWay stores. What a non-Jesus thing to do! (Freely you have received, now freely hoard it or make it exclusive to certain people.) For that reason, I’m not even mentioning its title.

♦ Canada Corner: The crucifix will continue to hang in the Quebec legislature, because — wait for the logic of this — although it represents Christian values it isn’t a religious symbol

♦ Across-the-Pond Corner: ICYMI, the UK Supreme Court vindicated Ashers Baking Company and its general manager Daniel McArthur in the world’s most celebrated “Gay Wedding Cake” case which “demonstrated the need for the law to reasonably accommodate family-run businesses with firmly-held beliefs…” 

♦ …also at the website The Christian Institute this disturbing news: “More than 125,000 people have been hospitalised after taking cannabis in the last five years, it has been revealed…The Mail on Sunday reported that around 15,000 teenagers and even some children under the age of ten were admitted after taking the potent drug.”

♦ The teaser for this article at The Federalist is: “The loss of confidence in Pope Francis reflects that his mismanagement of the crisis has been a scandal in itself. It may also reveal a growing public awareness of Francis’ own poor record.” Where does the problem lie? “From the start of his papacy, Francis has surrounded himself with a hand-picked inner circle of cardinal advisers—a kind of papal ‘kitchen cabinet’…This inner circle of nine cardinals close to Francis has become known as the ‘C9.’ The article proposes that group may be tainted. (One writer has used the term ‘mafia club.’)

♦ Christian singer Lauren Daigle is rockin’ the pop charts right now, so some readers might want to see her and get to know her better. After ten minutes without discussing anything of substance, she explains the song “Losin’ My Religion.’ (Budding journalists: When you get to spend time with a current news-maker, this is a good example of what not to do.) …

♦ …On the other hand, if you want to see her something more substantive, there’s nothing quite like her visit to lead worship in a maximum security prison.

♦ You can’t be cessationist and also claim that God ‘led’ you to do something. But just in case He does, here’s the necessary workarounds to explain why it happened and didn’t happen at the same time.

♦ Quotation of the Week: “My ego always struggles with acknowledgment. I not only want my left hand to know what my right hand is doing (Matt. 6:3) I want them to get together and start an avalanche of applause because I’ve done it.” ~Jim Thornber at (the other) Thinking Out Loud.

♦ How not to write a movie review: I wanted to know more about God Bless the Broken Road but after hitting a few spoilers I realized this was just giving away the entire script from beginning to end.

♦ From that website with the weird name: 

♦ I wanted to include this item — about Ray Comfort and Penn Jillette — but had trouble finding the lede.

♦ Actual things said to women pastors by parishioners and male pastors in the North Carolina Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. A six minute video.

♦ Another Christmas season; another school board excises any mention of Jesus from their Christmas concert. 

♦ Finally…what? We don’t have a ‘finally’ today?

This Anglican Halloween alternative has us curious. “Trick or treat at 15 doors with the saints.”

 

October 15, 2018

Joy is Available in All Circumstances: Book Review

by Gloria Matthies

John and Stasi Eldredge are two of my favourite authors, so I was excited when Stasi’s book Defiant Joy – Taking Hold of Hope, Beauty, and Life in a Hurting World (Thomas Nelson) became available. And it didn’t disappoint.

As in much of their other works, Stasi’s style is very readable – personal, authentic, real, relatable. I can see myself in many of her personal anecdotes. We’ve all been there – even accomplished authors!

It wasn’t the kind of book that keeps me reading long past the time I should be making dinner or going to bed. I actually couldn’t read it quickly because, even in its easy readability, there were parts that hit very close to home and I had to stop and mull it over, figure out how to apply it. Even after finishing the book, I find myself flipping back to the dog-eared pages and underlined passages again and again.

Stasi begins by laying the foundation: What is joy? How is it different from happiness? Why does she call it “Defiant”? She asserts – backed up with Scripture – that joy is always available to us in all circumstances, and especially in the really tough ones. She doesn’t shy away from “yes but, what about…” sadness, unmet longing, the waiting, loneliness, opposition, pain, suffering, comparison, resentment, misperceptions – all of which she addresses without judgement but rather with an invitation.

She invites us, dares us even, to step out in faith, to choose, hope, risk, trust, worship, remember God’s promises, in spite of our circumstances. And to be defiantly joyful people!


 

Gloria is co-coordinator of the Better Together Refugee Sponsorship project in Cobourg, Ontario and part time bookseller at the local Christian bookstore.

October 6, 2018

Bestselling Christian Books (at Least Where I Live)

Filed under: books, Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:38 pm

It’s much later in the day and we didn’t have a blog post today. So I thought I’d post this newly-released chart from the local Christian bookstore! Feel free to express your opinions on any of them; that’s what the internet is for, right?

October 3, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Last week’s Connect collection was a very busy place. This week, the algorithms brought us a much tighter list. I’m experimenting with embedding the videos again this week. Our opening graphic (above) is courtesy of Happy Monday.

♦ She was teaching Sunday School in my own church. And she believed in reincarnation. Fortunately one of the Grade Five boys told his mom and she was relieved of her duties. Monday, Pew Research reported “Most American adults self-identify as Christians. But many [American] Christians also hold what are sometimes characterized as “New Age” beliefs – including belief in reincarnation, astrology, psychics and the presence of spiritual energy in physical objects like mountains or trees.”

♦ The heart of The Wartburg Watch website: “Folks, hear me. The information on our blog is not only a critique of abuse in the church. It also exists to document the relationships and affiliations of certain groups that we have identified as worthy of watching. There is serious money involved in these enterprises and we intended to keep an eye on it.” A look at backscratching at Challies.com.

♦ Reconsidering one of Ireland’s unique laws:

The Constitution defines blasphemy as offensive comments or matter designed to offend any religious community: anything said or done deemed “gross abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage against a substantial number of the adherents of that religion”. Under the 1961 Defamation Act, a person could be fined and/or jailed for up to seven years for the crime of blasphemous libel, making blasphemy punishable by law.

That law’s continuance is now part of an end-of-the-month referendum

♦ Video of the Week (Teaching): The Meeting House in Canada produced this excellent 4-minute piece on giving. (Try to watch this full-screen.)

♦ How a graphic novel helped a Bible scholar better understand physical locations and perspective in the Gospel of Mark.

♦ Handicaps:

♦ Fighting the battle of losing: Catholic churches see declining numbers; “The prescription for combating the decline lies in large part not with Rome, but with local Catholic leaders inspiring young people individually.”

♦ In many ways, the sermon preached this weekend is an encapsulation of the past decade of his preaching, and a response to those who don’t understand the purpose behind the new book, Irresistible. (Message starts at 18:30) He didn’t directly address the “unhitching” controversy, but comes directly at “the Bible says” discussion with great passion

♦ …Related headline: Has Irresistible Cracked the Code to Reach the Nones? Review sample: “For Christians that don’t see the big deal, it’s because we grew up on the inside. But think about the confusion that it would create if Americans put the Articles of Confederation (the binding document that preceded the Constitution) together with the Constitution and said they are both authoritative, even though we only live under the Constitution. It could get confusing to those on the outside. Or it would be like being married to your current spouse but still maintaining an intimate relationship with your ex-spouse or your ex-girlfriend or boyfriend. Things probably wouldn’t work out so well.”…

♦ …and then this article, which also looks at “Stanleyism” at its conclusion foreshadows another look at the issue forthcoming in February, The Lost World of the Torah.

…This book is written by the certifiably evangelical John H. Walton, Old Testament professor at Wheaton College in Illinois and formerly at the Moody Bible Institute, and his son J. Harvey Walton, a graduate student at St. Andrews University. The publisher is the certifiably evangelical InterVarsity Press…We can anticipate more lively Christian debate ahead regarding the Old Testament.

♦ Video of the Week (Music): Is this song, “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire” by Mack Brock at tribute to the Jim Cymbala book of the same name?

♦ Calling Good Evil and Calling Evil Good: Though written last Friday in a rapidly shifting news cycle, this is a devotional for such a time as this

♦ A new (or should that be old?) translation of Psalm 23 in Middle English

♦ Quotation of the Week: “The New Testament writers and apostles were far from naïve or prudish. They lived with TMI – too much information about the violence, excessive behaviour and destructive tendencies of the human heart.”

♦ Children’s Bible-related books tend to focus on the First Testament stories or the Gospels, but rarely on anything in the Epistles. So this book (pictured at right on desktop, or above on mobile) Paul Writes (a Letter) by Chris Raschka is a refreshing change.

♦ Counting the Costco: A study shows the more religious you are, the more you will value frugality, which means the less likely you are to make impulse purchases.

♦ I’m not sure how necessary this would be in groups I’ve belonged to, but this short piece did get me thinking about other similar things. The author thinks that just as there is a greeter or two at church services, there should be a greeter at small group meetings. (However, if your small group still needs name tags, either it’s a large group, or you’re failing at community.) …

♦ …on the other hand, here’s an article from the same site about the importance of confidentiality in small groups. Five ways to ensure confidentiality in your meetings.

♦ Lauren Daigle’s album Look Up Child is rockin’ the mainstream pop charts with the song You Say.

♦ The Latter Day Saints (Mormons) have launched an updated website to help people struggling with pornography. It makes four significant changes to the earlier site.

♦ Losing Her Religion: A review of Lisa Gungor’s new book, The Most Beautiful Thing I’ve Seen (Zondervan). 

Describing faith like a sweater, she says: “…over the years, a thread comes loose and you try to just tuck it in” but eventually you decide you don’t need it anymore – the thread comes out easily and the sweater stays together. But over time “you pull another, and another, and soon you find all the yarn is gone. You have deconstructed the entire thing.” This is what Lisa says happened to her.

♦ Reddit of the Week: “Can I be Christian and transgender?” If you’re not familiar with the internet genre known as ‘forums,’ this is as good a place as any to begin

♦ If you saw my piece on Monday about the CBS-TV show God Friended Me, here’s more about the lead actor, who really is the son of a minister.

♦ Finally, this lesson in how not to engage in inter-faith dialog is also a good lesson in how a certain name for God came to be:

 


Tweet of the Week:

September 26, 2018

Wednesday Connect

It’s now possible to buy a globe that provides a very accurate representation of what things were like when “the earth was without form and void.”

When we changed the name, 28 weeks ago, from Wednesday Link List to Wednesday Connect, one goal was to center more on news stories and opinion pieces which you might not see in other similar lists, but which I still think are vitally important. Today’s list is no exception.

That said however, in case you missed it, yes, it’s finally happened, Hillsong is about to become its own denomination. (I guess I just considered that significant enough to include.) 

Now on to the list:

♦ A Pennsylvania couple is fighting their borough over being told they cannot hold Bible studies or church meetings of any type on their farm property.

♦ It’s Trinity Western all over again; this time at Azuza Pacific University which has made changes to its student code of conduct

🇨🇦 Part three of three in the Reformed-Anabaptist interview between The Gospel Coalition Canada, and The Meeting House pastor Bruxy Cavey. [Where Bruxy lists many topics not covered, which might have been if the interview had been hosted the other way around.]

♦ Essay of the Week: “Before you reject the Christian life, make sure you know what it is. Here’s a question that seized the mind of a generation—’Do you like Green Eggs and Ham?’ Half the entertainment value in this classic children’s book lies in the main character’s colorful determination not to receive that meal… People today share this experience in that they’re sure they don’t want Jesus: ‘I do not want him in a house, I do not want him with a mouse. I do not want him in a tree, I do not want him, let me be.'” The author shares that at a pivotal moment, the faith he had lost “blazed to life.”

🎬 The writers of God’s Not Dead have just wrapped a $6M film which “focuses on anti-abortion activist Abby Johnson, who spent years working for Planned Parenthood before switching sides.” (For those having a déja vu, a decidedly lower-budget version of this story released in 2011 under the same title.

♦ After being adrift for 49 days, this Indonesian teenager found strength in prayer and reading his Bible.

♦ Losing Her Religion: “With the release of her new book, The Most Beautiful Thing I’ve Seen Grammy nominated artist Lisa Gungor goes deep on family, church, and being pushed out of the world she knew so well.” The 7-minute video title begins, “I Stopped Believing in God.”

♦ Oh my! The Trump Prophecy film is complete and tickets are being sold. (I have no words.)

♦ One of the first people to ever hear the original Living Bible read aloud (long before any print edition), Mark Taylor reflects on it and its successor, the New Living Translation.

♦ The aftermath of Hurricane Florence: “God is good even when we may not have all the answers to the problem of natural evil.” The author links to four detailed articles written after Hurricane Katrina.

📖 While standing in the Jordan River, Francis Chan talks about his new book, Letters to the Church. 3 minute video. 

📖 Audio Book Excerpt: 16 minutes of Andy Stanley’s newest — and most controversial — Irresistible: Reclaiming the New That Jesus Unleashed for the World.

📖 Provocative Book Title of the Week (1): R. T. Kendall explains the background behind his newest book, Popular in Heaven, Famous in Hell.

📖 Provocative Book Title of the Week (2) ‘Outside the Lines: How Embracing Queerness Will Transform Your Faith (Fortress Press; pictured at right.) Click to read an excerpt.

Sermon of the Week: No, actually this really is about VitalSermons.com which posts, along with other things, what they consider the sermon of the week. [Background  story at Religion News Service .]

♦ Disturbing headline of the week: “Two Christian Bus Passengers Executed After They Refuse to Recite Islamic Statement of Faith.” The story: “Some horrific news is emerging out of Kenya after two Christians were murdered in cold blood by militants belonging to Islamic terror group Al-Shabaab.” 

♦ Dialing for Doctrine: A short video refutes the idea that Wesleyan Arminianism is human centered, or that the individual is the author or originator of salvation.

♦ We’re told to sing: “Scripture is full of references to people singing joyfully to the Lord. At every feast and celebration, in public and private worship, singing filled the air.” Randy Alcorn shares a personal story, a teaching, and a popular worship song video.

♦ Translation Topics: One of the best articles I’ve seen on the issue of committee or single person translations.  

Some may chide the single-translator editions for being the product of only one person. The negative comments I’ve heard against them have been that with a committee translated Bible, two heads are better than one and three heads are better than two, and so on. I don’t disagree with this, but a committee ultimately has to reach a consensus which may not allow for the best or better translation of a phrase. Sometimes the single translator has greater liberty to do what may be best—as in the case of commentaries—whereas a committee’s hands can be tied…

…There are certainly drawbacks to single-translator editions, but there are also strengths. Furthermore, if you want to revive your Bible reading habit, or make it richer, pick up a single-translator edition. There are often nuances in the text, especially for those who don’t read original languages, that committees aren’t able to represent.

♦ Fashion Section: [by the same author]

What if we truly looked to the Bible to see how people dressed for assembly in the first century? It isn’t a novel idea because most of us do that for other things already, so I point us, first, to the earliest New Testament writing, the book of James—written somewhere in the 40s… From the passages we have in the New Testament, could our best ever be considered by God to be overdressed?

♦ In the middle of #MeToo, is it possible that more boys are affected by dating violence than girls?

♦ Pastor Place: 10 Reasons why how you exit the church is more crucial than how you arrived all those years ago.

⛪ Church Life: 7 Things a worship leader won’t tell you. “…there are many misconceptions about a worship leader’s job, and a number of difficult elements that go unnoticed.” [Sample: #2 This job can get pretty weird.]

♦ Gender Study: “After a U.K. survey found that only 1 percent of British Christians consider God to be female, some Church of England leaders are urging clergy to consider their word usage. According to research conducted by YouGov, younger Christians are now more likely than older Christians to view God as male.”

♦ Parenting Place: When a kid throws sand at her own child, a mom writes a short but focused letter to the other child’s mom.

♦ The student unions of three well-known British universities has banned a pro-life group from displaying at school events.

♦ Many articles this week reposted a USAToday story about placing microchips in humans for identification purposes. But the story offered this sidebar:

Some people are already willingly microchipping themselves. For example, a self-declared “cyborg” in Canada named Russ Foxx has embedded multiple microchips into various areas of his body… Foxx, 36, has had over 100 body alterations ranging from ultraviolet tattoos to silicon horns implanted into his forehead.

♦ A classic liturgical resource has provided the lyrical inspiration for the album Songs of Common Prayer. Read an interview with the creator Greg LaFollette at Relevant; watch the one minute video trailer.

♦ A Chicago priest has been put on leave following an incident involving the burning of a rainbow banner.

🎬 The latest film from Pure Flix has grossed $4.5M at the box office, and a high profile actress is giving visibility to a sequel where the original left out the faith component. Read about Unbroken: Path to Redemption

🎬 Also from Pure Flix, though absent anything particularly faith-focused in the trailer I watched, is Little Women, opening this weekend. Watch the trailer for yourself.

♦ And the next state to legalize marijuana is… …Utah?  

🎹 New Music (1): Well Done, a new song by The Afters. (I really like this one!) 

🎹 New Music (2) / Kids’ Korner: I Give you My Heart by Hillsong Kids from the new album, Can You Believe It.  [Thanks to NewReleaseToday.com for the leads on new songs we use here from time to time.]

♫ Worship Workshop: In Episode #27 of NoPro Worship, David Wesley looks at different ways in which classic hymns are “wrought to” creating a contemporary feel.

♦ Well… Jesus used hyperbole, too; didn’t he? Pope Francis’ famous “I am the devil” statement (which I’ve just pulled out of context!)

📺 Atticus Shaffer, the youngest cast member of the 9-year-long sitcom The Middle talks about his Christian faith. (Also his reasons for liking Galatians er, make that 1 Corinthians or perhaps he really means the Gospel of John.)

♦ The truth is, the reason I don’t end these lists with links to Matthew Pierce anymore is because I’m convinced he’s totally nuts

♦ Finally, we have this Associated Press story: “SAVANNAH, Ga. (WJBF)/(AP) – Police say a woman was openly selling marijuana products during an event at a Georgia church.” …But then, once you’ve got the gist of the story, you really need to read how this website reported it.


I know some American readers will disagree with the perspective — the conclusion in particular — on this one-minute video, but for all my readers outside the United States, I thought you should see this firsthand.

 

September 19, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Hard to believe we’ve completed six months under the new Wednesday Connect banner. While it may seem similar to the old Wednesday Link List, there have been more behind the scenes changes than you might notice, particularly in how the links are gathered. I think each week’s list offers the best of things that you might not see in other places, and I hope you agree. – Paul.


♦ Before we begin, Remembering Nabeel Qureshi. If you haven’t seen it, there is now a third edition* available of Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. Abdu Murray, North American director for RZIM, posted this picture below. He is also a converted Muslim.


♦ The “petite bottle blonde from Arkadelphia.” The Atlantic profiles Beth Moore.

For decades, Moore never broke stride. In the past few years, however, she has felt out of step with the evangelical community. During the 2016 campaign, many of its leaders not only excused Donald Trump’s boorish behavior but painted him as a great defender of Christianity—evangelicals’ “dream president,” in the words of Jerry Falwell Jr. More recently, a series of high-profile pastors have been toppled by accusations of sexual misconduct. The deferential reserve that defined Moore’s career has become harder for her to maintain… This may seem like an uncontroversial stance. But in the wake of her tweets, the staff at Living Proof Ministries, Moore’s tight-knit organization, “could not hang up the phone for picking it up.” She got messages from women who had read her Bible studies for years but said they’d never read another.

♦ Continued developments in the imprisonment of American pastor Andrew Bronson as Turkey names a new prosecutor in a case hampering relations with the United States.

♦ Essay of the Week: A proposal for a new type of short term missions trip. Excerpts:

Just between you and me, nothing we do is particularly reliant on outsiders and we don’t need people to come in and play with local children or teach them – we have trained up local people to do that. And they do it really well…

…When there is a constant parade of outside trainers who aren’t willing to learn, we send the message that local people have nothing to offer. We reinforce their sense of inferiority, while patting ourselves on the back — emotionally boosted by the high status role of expert.

♦ Saying “Farewell” to the traditional sermon. This article really, really resonated with me. I’ve been saying this type of thing for at least two decades now. “…the intriguing thing about Apple Events is that no video or speaker ever takes more than 10 minutes at a time… According to University of Washington Medical School molecular biologist John Medina, our brains have a built-in stopwatch that ends at around 10 minutes. And he cites peer-reviewed studies to prove it… This will be heartbreaking to preachers who are currently preparing their 30-minute sermon for this Sunday. Michael Frost calls this piece, Learning How to Preach in the Church of Apple.

Who is paying Bill Hybels’ legal bills? Which leads to…

♦ …the above item links to detailed, multi-topic Q&A page posted this weekend at Willow… which brings us to this addition to the list:

♦ …Breaking: Former Willow teaching pastor Steve Carter breaks his silence. (Updated 9:00 AM EST)

♦ Hurricane Help: With a congregation dispersed over many states, a pastor’s Facebook posts are a link to conditions back home.

♦ When the network news changes its focus to new stories, the only way to keep focused is through prayer.

God does not stop hearing the cries of the afflicted when our news feed changes topic. Black lives matter today as much as they did five years ago and five hundred years ago. Refugees will always be close to God’s heart, whether the government embraces them or not. God’s command to “administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another” and to “not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor” (Zechariah 7:9-10 NIV) does not budge when we we max out our capacity to hear more stories of suffering.

♦ Praying for healing for Anne Graham Lotz as she faces a health challenge. Anne was scheduled for surgery yesterday, and we’ll update this if anyone has new information.

♦ Penal Substituationary Atonment (PSA) or just Substituionary Atonement (SA)? That is the question. “When U look to the cross in your mind’s eye, where do you spatially locate the Father? Do you see him hovering over Jesus, pouring out his wrath upon his Son? I don’t think that is a biblical image, not the image God the Father wants us to imagine.” Part two of a Gospel Coalition Canada interview with Bruxy Cavey.

♦ Quotation of the Week:

[Google’s] stated company mission is to store all the world’s knowledge, which starts to sound like omniscience. And if we consider that in today’s personal-information economy, knowledge is power, we could add omnipotence to our list. Such words are usually reserved for the other Big G.

A look at Search, Artificial Intelligence and the company that controls 75% of our online quests for information.

♦ Shoe Box Compassion: I posted this around the same time last year, but here we go again: Ten alternatives to Operation Christmas Child. [If you’re new to Thinking Out Loud, this is a recurring theme here. Start with this short post, then move on this concise, 14-point discussion.]

♦ Yet another look at Willow. This ice climbing analogy isn’t perfect, but it did get me thinking about two things. First, how your ‘fall’ can end up hurting others. Second, about how you might not want to ask God to ‘enlarge your territory’ to the point you can’t handle what’s put in front of you. “Lord, please don’t grant me more power than my character can handle.”

♦ Liberal churches keep losing numbers:

“Across cultures, religious communities that expect more from their members thrive (or religious communities in which members face greater consequences for leaving). Meanwhile, lenient religious groups struggle to maintain membership. Why is this? Wouldn’t you assume most people would want to join the easiest religion? Recent research suggests that strict religions are sociologically and psychologically predisposed to succeed.” A 7-minute video on why the strict churches succeed.

♦ Movie Trailer of the Week: [Don’t watch if kids are in the room.] A look at The Road To Edmond with Tripp Fuller and Nathanael Welch

♦ Testimony of the Week: She lives with OCD and Tourette’s Syndrome. Here are eight things she wants you to know.

♦ Provocative Title of the Week: Is the Christian Faith, Strictly Speaking, Biblical? “…this Jesus movement, which, once again, has its roots in Judaism, also make certain moves that don’t really follow that ancient tradition.” Peter Enns on an issue that’s top of mind right now (partly due to the book we reviewed on Monday.)

♦ “The Black Church has historically been a source of hope and strength for the African American community.” With that opening tag line, blogger Ann Brock provides an excellent summary of relevant stories on The Old Black Church. (We often steal story ideas from there, and thought you’d like to see our source firsthand!)

♦ Parenting Place: Another school year, another round of bullying, right? But this mom nailed it in a heart-to-heart with her sixth grade son. Read and learn.

♦ When the people who write the stories are the story. Sexual harassment at Christian writers conference.

♦ Challenging: Why climbing mountains should be part of teacher training.

♦ Canada Corner: Congratulations to Canada Christian College on the occasion of their move from Toronto to a beautiful location on the waterfront in Whitby, a town east of the city. (Ruth and I attended an opening barbecue last night; a formal grand opening will follow.)

♦ In Christian publishing news, Hachette Book Group (home to FaithWords, which in turn is home to Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer) has purchased Worthy Publishing, including all the Museum of the Bible titles.

♦ For two years she said nothing. But a former FBI agent says she saw angels at the 9/11 crash site.

♦ I often find I can’t read anything unless it’s in short paragraphs and peppered with bold face, italics, bullet points, numbered lists, etc. Believing others feel the same, I did a reworking on a classic commentary by Alexander MacLaren on an interesting scripture passage, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.”

♦ Science confirms it: Church is for the birds! Actually the piece is about the biodiversity found near churches, and not just about the tall spires and steeples that you thought were just there to mask cell phone towers.

♦ After TIFF there was CIFF. Not long after the Toronto International Film Festival, the city hosted the Canadian International Faith and Family Film Festival. (Wouldn’t that be CIFFFF?) Featured films are shown in the event poster below:


*This is the edition of the book now shipping, but it’s absent from the Zondervan website when you do a search.


What would you like to see more of? What would you like to see less of? Let us know how we can improve this list. Also, would you like the music videos returned to the list? Let us know in the comments or via the contact page.

September 15, 2018

Weekend Archives: Best of the Early Years

Three posts, with some updating, from our very first year…

My Paraphrase of II Tim 3:16 – The Purpose of the Bible:


Today’s New International Version (TNIV)

All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for

  • teaching
  • rebuking
  • correcting…
  • training in righteousness

The Message

Every part of scripture is God-breathed and is useful one way or another —

  • showing us truth
  • exposing our rebellion
  • correcting our mistakes
  • training us to live God’s way

New Living Translation (NLT)

All scripture is inspired by God and is useful to

  • teach us what is true…
  • make us realize what is wrong in our lives…
  • correct us when we are wrong…
  • teach us to do what is right

My very loose paraphrase

All scripture has its point of origin in God’s mind, and

  • shows us the path God would have us walk
  • highlights when and where we’ve gotten off the path
  • points the way back to the path
  • gives us the advice we need to keep from wandering off the path in future

What Your Library Says About You:

Several years ago we were asked to stop in at the home of man who was well known in the Christian music community here in the 1980s. He passed away on the last day of August, and because he had some books and Bibles, and because we’re in the book and Bible business, we were asked to help find a home for some things.

We were only there an hour, but it got me thinking about the stuff we own, the stuff we collect, the stuff we purchase, the stuff we save and the stuff we leave behind. Someday, everyone reading this will be gone and perhaps someone else will be going through their stuff trying to decide was is valuable and what is not; what is worth keeping, what is worth selling and what is worth giving away; what ought to go where and to whom.

I have always believed that a man consists of more than the abundance of his possessions. But the things we hold on to, the things we value, say a lot about the people we are. It tells those who follow after us what our priorities were. I remember visiting an artist once who had a vast collection of what artists and printers refer to as paper stock samples. He then — somewhat tongue in cheek, because he was a Christian — said, “These are my gods.” Others would not say this as humorously.

The man whose library we went through today was different. He didn’t really own much in the sense of having stuff that was marked for long-term ownership. His name wasn’t written in the front of a lot of books. Instead, he had temporary ownership of things he wanted to give away. Books, booklets, Bibles, sermon audio discs, sermon DVD discs. It’s a nice legacy to leave.

His ‘giving away’ ministry was much a big part of who he was, though. I said to a visiting missionary yesterday, that in our local area, after years of meeting with the broadest assortment of the Christian community, I have only met about six people who are truly passionately committed to evangelism. This man was one of them. Finding someone to fill his shoes was quite a challenge, but as I write this, years later, 90% of his materials found a home.

The Mystery Man and His Gift of Encouragement:

For over twenty years now, I’ve carried a secret that is only known to my wife and two kids. The secret concerns the identity of a guy who was used in our lives to be an encouragement to us at a time when no one else filled that role.

We had been several months into our retail store in a market where three previous stores had failed over the past six years. In fact, we were the fourth Christian bookstore and the sixth location in six years. The first and last of these were “second” stores for established retailers, the middle one was a family with a strong retail history. We figured we didn’t stand a chance. Heck, we didn’t even bother installing a telephone. I figured three to six months and it would be over; but the pre-existing business would at least have a chance to blow out some inventory in the process.

And then Mr. ___ walked in. Carrying about six bags of groceries. Interesting groceries, too; stuff we didn’t know what to do with. Lots of pork. And cabbage. And those little cubes you put in water to make beef broth. But it was all so very encouraging. A week later Mr. ___ showed up again, with more cabbage and more broth cubes. And the next week, too. And so on for about six months, and then later it switched to a weekly thing with a little bit of cash here and there to buy similar amounts of groceries.

When we finally realized why the other three Christian retailers had failed in this particular small town, we decided to wrap it up. The problem? How to tell Mr. ___ that it wasn’t working. I did not want to break his heart or make him feel like he’d been used, or that he’d contributed to something that wasn’t going to last. So we deferred the decision another week. And kept deferring it.

Not many years later, we were a chain of three stores in three cities. All because we didn’t quit. Or more accurately, because we were so surrounded by encouragement, so pumped by someone cheering us on in the stands, that we just kept running the race.

His weekly visits lasted over a year. I learned later that he could ill afford to be buying us groceries. He said that God would tell him when it was time to quit, and once we rounded the corner financially, his visits stopped. I only ever saw him two or three times after that.

This guy did not want to be known. This was our secret. He was quite clear on that. It reminded me of Jesus performing a miracle and then telling the recipient to say nothing about it. (But wait; it was a miracle!) The man in our story and his wife may have been the last people on earth that you would guess would play a pivotal role in a ministry that would bless the entire Christian community in three towns. But my wife and kids know differently. God used this couple to get us to keep going when everything around said it was time to pack it in.

The world needs a lot more people like Mr. ___ .

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