Thinking Out Loud

June 26, 2019

Wednesday Connect

David Hayward, aka The Naked Pastor sells his original artwork, so if you buy now, you could be presenting this one to your minister at this fall’s Pastor Appreciation Sunday.

Welcome to Wednesday Connect #66, so we’re calling this the Route 66 edition. This week wraps up with some great alternative Christian music videos from artists I’d never heard of until last night!

Essay of the Week: “During my teenage years, I experienced periods of intense disdain for my physicality. In becoming fully aware of my sexuality and my existence as a sexual being, I came to oppose such an existence. I envied the sexual unawareness of my prepubescent self. I began to believe my sexuality to be more a curse than a gift…Growing up in a Christian home, I might be tempted to blame my upbringing for my bodily and sexual antipathies…Looking back, I know, in part, what drove me: consumerism and marketing. I experienced sexuality through American advertising and internet pornography. The American machine had to be built, and my body with its sexuality represented a good to be extracted, purchased, and consumed by the leviathan of the liberal economy…”

■ Ravi Again: “Following the story coming out about Ravi Zacharias and his fall from grace, I felt it was time to tell my story and experience about this hypocrite. About his using his pastoral position to influence a 16-year girl (me) to have an abortion. Because his brother Ramesh Zacharias (then 20 years old) was the father.” Shirley Steward tells her story almost 50 years later.

[Do not read the linked article on a mobile device] After being mentioned briefly in the James MacDonald saga, Ed Stetzer is another one to keep a watchful eye on. The tone of the article is harsh and unmistakably anti-Christian, but the reporting seems about right. I was aware of Ed Stetzer, but just in print. I first ‘saw’ him on Phil Visher’s podcast and found his arrogance beyond detestable and said so. (Another reason I dropped the podcast; anyone that would give this guy airtime was totally lacking discernment.) Within an hour he’d found the comment, so he must be constantly tracking references to himself. And that’s this author’s point. The man is full of himself. If the author isn’t a Christian, he’s at least doing us the favor of highlighting the possibility that Stetzer may be doing the cause more harm than good. [Re. the phone thing: I mentioned before that we were done with Patheos links, but this article had me curious. As of last night there were 38 advertising elements in this one, and they pop up between each paragraph. Earlier in the day, I accidentally clicked one, and then it took about ten minutes to restore my phone from an assortment of all-white and all-black screens. Patheos is the worst. I hope some of its better writers will find a home elsewhere. Soon.]

■ “Though people like to talk about the ‘culture wars,’ Christian colleges today are more endangered by economic forces. Higher education is increasingly dividing into winners and losers as the number of thriving schools is shrinking and a handful grow in prestige, enrollment, and endowments. Small colleges, in particular, are hurting because they are more tuition-driven and less able to weather the storms of economic cycles.”

■ All the tweets in one place: Relevant Magazine collates what different Christian leaders are saying about the U.S. child detention crisis.

■ Infuriating Headline of the Week: “New Survey Shows Rise in Number of Americans Who Believe Refusing Service to Jews Should Be Allowed.” (Biting my tongue on this one…)

■ Equally Disturbing Headline: “Alabama Quietly Passes Law Allowing Church With History of Racism and Homophobia to Form Its Own Police Force.”

■ Apparently, when it comes to secularizing the landscape, in the case of religious monuments, historical conservancy outranks humanistic neutrality.

■ The Liberalism You Never Knew: “[Richard] Rorty ought to know something about liberalism, and something about man-made utopias. His grandfather was Walter Rauschenbusch, the liberal Baptist who pioneered the Social Gospel. Rauschenbusch rejected cardinal Christian doctrines on the deity of Christ, the sinfulness of humanity, and the need for personal regeneration, calling instead for the ‘salvation’ of social structures through political activism. Rauschenbusch believed turning Christianity away from a supernatural gospel would ‘rescue’ the faith for enlightened moderns.”

■ Intriguing Headline of the Week: Food, Fat, Faith, and the Gospel: Reflections of an Overweight Christian. Five reflections that you or someone you know may need to read.

■ Worthy of Recognition: “The Queen is to celebrate the work of UK faith and belief groups in bringing local communities together during a reception at Buckingham Palace.”

■ Coming eventually to a city near you, we have a report on the Make America Straight Again Conference, which happened (of course) earlier in Pride Month. “Steven Anderson, well-known for his calls for the murder of LGBTQ people, spearheads the New Independent Fundamental Baptist Movement (New IFB), whose ministers spoke at the gathering. But it was the inclusion of Anderson’s lesser-known associates that revealed the breadth of the New IFB’s growing influence.”

■ The labels that the parents of an autistic child use to describe themselves apparently offends other parents.

■ Declining church attendance? J. D. Greear believes there’s one thing that can reverse any church’s decline.

■ Following his decision to invite Vice President Mike Pence to speak at Taylor University, President Paul Lowell Haines has resigned.

■ Last year at this time, the #1 faith-based news story in Canada had to do with Christian charities being shut out of the summer job grant program. This year, the problem was rectified, but some groups were still refused.

■ Giving “opening in prayer” equal time, an Alaska government meeting began with “Hail, Satan!” As you might expect, several people walked out.

■ The church in Plains, Georgia where 94-year old former U.S. President Jimmy Carter occasionally teaches Sunday School, Maranatha Baptist has it’s first black pastor.

■ Testimony Time: She was raised Assemblies of God. He was raised United Pentecostal. Today they pastor a Southern Baptist Convention church. (“Well, he pastors; I pastor-wife.”)

■ Yes, Brad Lomenick still does his Young Influencers List. Here are another seven younger people to watch.

■ I asked my wife what her church was doing for Petertide. She said, “Same as last year.” This Sunday is Petertide.

■ Burned out on church right now? Find some connection in The Lasting Supper online community. (Learn the background here.)

♫ Weirdest Christian Music Ever: Radical by Ecclesia. (Maybe someone can explain this one to me.)

♫ Recently Discovered: Posted in January, I Give You My All by Isla Vista Worship. (Again though, can someone explain the last 30 seconds?)

♫ A Most Prolific Artist: Jaisua – Breathe featuring Adanna Duru.

■ Finally, understanding the Bible in its context; Olfactory Observations: “The report states that, though it is not intended to insult the disciples of Jesus, fact remains that they most definitely stank like holy hell, and that, had not everyone else at the time also reeked, no one would have come within two miles of them to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ.


Don’t you hate it when you leave the house with some copies of The Four Spiritual Laws, or Steps to Peace with God? This guy found a permanent solution.

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June 19, 2019

Wednesday Connect

It’s Pride Month in New York City, but apparently even some gay residents of NYC think this is ridiculous.


This image is from Pastor Dave Gipson. Click the image for more. It’s not new, though; so why are we featuring it today? Because there really is a Bacon Bible available now, but just not what Dave had in mind. See below.


No, it wasn’t that the sermon was really boring, but who reading this hasn’t been tempted to stretch out during the pastor’s 5th point of a 3-point sermon? Click the image to find out why these people are sleeping.


Every once in awhile, as in The Truman Show, former cast members try to sneak on the set and make a surprise appearance.

If you read yesterday’s post you know we had a major crisis on the technical side of the blog, and there are enough complications producing this weekly list without having to learn a new editing system. But somehow it all came together at the last minute.

■ Liberty University has made some big cuts to its Faculty of Divinity.

Some of those let go were well-loved professors who’d been at Liberty for over a decade. The terms of their departures include offers of severance and also nondisclosure agreements. Some changes were likely overdue, Falwell said in an interview Friday. He believes the divinity school needed to adapt to a changing culture where students are less likely to work full-time for churches… Unlike most universities, where faculty members can earn tenure and the job security that comes with it, almost all Liberty faculty members teach under one-year contracts that are renewed annually… Some pointed out the timing of the non-renewals came long after the academic hiring cycle’s peak, potentially making it difficult for affected professors to find full-time employment…”

With faith teaching such a big part of its heritage, it looks like “the largest Christian university in the world” is today a little less Christian.

■ What’s the first thing you think about when you see the acronym, CBD? Even for readers here, that might be shifting, and it’s affecting Christian Book Distributors who’ve lost their edge on search engines, as they point out:

Over the last 12 months, there has been a rise in popularity of a medicinally used product derived from the cannabis plant—cannabidiol, commonly referred to as ‘CBD.’ Across the country, people see signs for ‘CBD sold here,’ which creates brand confusion. In the past, a Google search for ‘CBD’ would place our company at the top of the results page. Now “our CBD” is nowhere to be found in the search results, only sites for the cannabis product are listed, and paid ads are no longer allowed. As this wave of popularity over the “other CBD” is not likely to subside, we will stop referring to ourselves as ‘CBD’ and will also drop the word “Distributors” from our company name. Going forward, we will operate under the name of ‘Christianbook.’

■ The NET Bible (New English Translation) is the latest to fall under the spell of Thomas Nelson Publishing, but hopefully the relationship lasts. “Thomas Nelson has a history of snapping up distribution of new, innovative translations. Looking back over the years, one remembers: The Everyday Bible (New Century Translation), The Voice Bible (a translation using dramatic script) and The Expanded Bible (an alternative to the Amplified Bible), but sadly, within 2-3 years the company loses interest and suspends marketing and the printing of new editions.”

■ The Southern Baptist Convention Convention: Let me get this straight, “Messengers strengthened their stance against sexual abuse and racism by overwhelmingly approving two amendments to the SBC Constitution” But, “The constitutional amendments will require a second two-thirds … vote at next year’s SBC annual meeting.”So basically, nothing is in place for another 365 days. Granted, they took a much-needed step, but a crisis of these proportions requires a crisis response.

■ Family of boy with autism asked to leave the church: This story from across the pond has been creating some heat. The father of the boy writes,

Tristan is nine years old, and is a clever and joyful child, who loves church buildings, services, and choral music. He is also non-verbal, and expresses his excitement by calling out and laughing. His expressions are often loud and uncontainable. It is part of who he is, so there is no realistic way for him to be quiet. Many autistic people are like Tristan in this way. Right before the Kyrie, one of the ushers informed me that you had instructed him to remove us. Tristan’s expressions were apparently interfering with the enjoyment of some of the other visitors, which was very inconsiderate on our part, because tourists come from all over the world to hear the Evensong.”

There has since been an apology from the Dean of Chapel at King’s College, Cambridge.

■ Oh no! It runs in the family! Jonathan Osteen makes his debut at father Joel’s church, fathered by his grandfather John Osteen. “Jonathan Osteen stepped into his parent’s shoes on Saturday night, speaking for the first time. The 24-year-old son of Joel and Victoria Osteen spoke from the pulpit with a Father’s Day message at services at 7 Saturday evening and on Sunday morning at 8:30 and 11.” Fast forward to the 1hr 8min mark.

■ Coming soon to the Roman Catholic Church: The pastor’s wife. “In a potentially groundbreaking move, the Roman Catholic Church on Monday cracked open the door to ordaining married, elderly men to the priesthood to meet the pastoral needs of Catholics in remote areas of the Amazon. The proposal would respond to the dearth of priests in the region by ordaining viri probati, or men of proven character, as they are known in Latin. It is the kind of exception to the celibacy requirement that church experts say — and church traditionalists worry — could be a step toward the ordination of married men in other areas of the world.”

■ A 13-year old girl with courage: Addison Woosley spoke against abortion at her city’s council meeting. She summed up the passion of the pro-life movement so very well, but was not well received when she compared it to slavery. A five minute video from the frontlines of this highly-charged debate. (Seriously, watch all of this, even after she stops speaking.)

■ Only God knows whose are his, right? But is there some minimum standard, or some necessary experience, or some basic knowledge requirement necessary before we can call someone a Christian?

■ If your national newscast this week didn’t report on the protests in Hong Kong, you’re watching the wrong channel.

■ Leadership Lessons: Not sure if I’ve seen this one before or not, Should pastors share the criticisms they receive with their spouses? Discuss among yourselves.

🇨🇦 Canada Corner: The article calls it “Quebec’s strict secularism bill,” noting, “A new law in Quebec prohibits the wearing of religious symbols or clothing by some government employees, including public school teachers, state lawyers, judges and police officers…Quebec’s majority government passed the bill, 75-35, using closure June 16 after long hours of deliberation. Some last-minute amendments concerning surveillance provisions made the law more stringent than anticipated…Bill 21 includes a notwithstanding clause overriding some parts of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

■ The South Carolina Pastor’s wife and three children were in the van while he was outside with a friend changing a tire. It was the last thing he did. The suspected drunk driver who killed both men outside the vehicle was free despite unresolved charges for an attempted murder.

■ The Bacon Bible, pictured here and recently published, is not the same concept as the one pictured at the top of today’s column.

■ Behind the LifeWay closure decision: Brad Waggoner, acting CEO, explains “the toughest decision in our 128 year history.” Retail losses in the last 5 years have been 50 million dollars. (5½ minute video.)

■ Philanthropy: “Giving to religion — perennially the biggest sector — is estimated to have declined by 1.5% in 2018 (a decrease of 3.9% adjusted for inflation), with a total of $124.52 billion in contributions… Una Osili, an associate dean at the Lilly philanthropy school, said giving to religious institutions has been lagging behind other sectors for several years. Reasons including declining attendance at church services and a rising number of Americans not affiliated with any particular religion.” The RNS headline states that a $3 Billion drop

■ How our teaching sounds to the uninitiated: “The content of the message? I have to admit, listening to it as an unbeliever might, it was so irrelevant I can’t imagine why anyone would listen. It would make sense to Christians, but to anyone else? Would anyone else ever start to find it interesting or worth believing? It was just a way to spend time yacking. Logic, reality, honesty. Not on the radar screen. We’re talking about filler for the weakened mind, and nothing for the serious thinker or seeker.”

■ Ever knocked a few years off your age when someone asked? Research indicates people want to feel younger, because they have a fear of being old.

■ After 16 years, Drew Marshall, the host of ‘Canada’s most-listened-to spiritual talk show’ is calling it quits. The last decade of the show has not been without controversy. “He kept his struggles with faith to himself until 2010, when he “came out” on air about not being sure if there was a God…” At the end of the radio journey he says, “‘I’m a hoper, not a believer,’ he said, explaining that he ‘hopes there is a Creator.’” (Full disclosure, I was once a guest on the show, and my wife was on the show on two different occasions.)

New Music: From the Christian reggae band Christafari, Kokopo (Broken Spears) from the forthcoming Musicianaries album tells an amazing story about taking the good news to the people of Melanesia…

…and don’t miss their new 11-minute short film, The Love of Jah., as the band celebrates 30 years in ministry this year! (Note: Film contains disturbing scenes of drug use, etc.)

New Music: From the band Trinity, Tryin’ to Live. The band consists of four Dutch guys mixing South American and Irish folk with African beats; and is the latest from Dove award winning producer Ian Eskelin.

♫ New (Old) Music: For those of you who prefer something more conservative, at the K-LOVE Fan Awards Matthew West and Mandisa team up to sing Blessed Assurance.

■ Far from the sister publication to Vogue Magazine you remember, “Teen Vogue, however, has shifted gears from the usual glamour magazine fare to progressive indoctrination, including advising teenagers how to circumvent state laws and parental consent to attain abortions, advocating normalization of LGBTQ lifestyles and even promoting prostitution as a viable career choice.”

Don’t miss this one. The Pipester is always with us. In this Twitter item, the real gold is in the comment thread as people recount the silly things John Piper has said over the years

■ Move over, Jerry Jenkins; these California nuns shared your love of gambling; but they also gambled their personal reputations. (And lost.)

■ A Catholic priest says the ridiculous practice of burying a statue of St. Joseph upside-down in order to sell your house drives him nuts! “I respond, ‘I will bless this statue, but I will not bless it if you plan on putting it in the ground.’

■ Today’s closing item is for all the church sound tech guys, people who were sound tech guys, and people who were asked to be sound tech guys and ran in the other direction: Friends don’t let friends wrap up microphone cables incorrectly.


June 12, 2019

Wednesday Connect

A new Barna Research survey has determined, using 16 factors, that the northeast region of the United States is the most ‘post-Christian.’ Click the image to read more.

We’re back. Or so I say each week. I was raised in a writing tradition where a constant mantra was, “‘We’ is an editorial ‘I.'” When this weekly column was part of the Christianity Today team, there really was a ‘we’ in the sense that my wife checked all the spelling and verified all the links. But once that ended, she cast me adrift into the sea of typos and dead links. There is also a ‘we’ in the sense that three or four people periodically send me story and opinion-piece suggestions. [realizes he has no idea where he’s going with this introduction…]

■ Who’s up for a good Church Membership Covenant? Hopefully no one. The practice asks members “to surrender their 6th, 7th, and 8th amendment rights.Check out this entire thread on Twitter. Also check out Wade Mullen’s blog. If you enjoy Spiritual Sounding Board, Wartburtg Watch, or Warren Throckmorton, this is a good site to bookmark.

■ If you missed the update that ran here a day later, the 17 year old girl in the Netherlands died, but not from euthanasia, for which it turns out she had actually been refused. Refer back to last week’s column for insight into how the false story got spread, and this article on how the conditions for it to happen in The Netherlands are still very real.

■ Target painted on his back? The guy in the original Colorado “gay wedding cake” story is now facing his third lawsuit for refusing to do a “gender reveal” type of cake for a trans customer. “So this latest attack by Scardina looks like yet another desperate attempt to harass cake artist Jack Phillips. And it stumbles over the one detail that matters most: Jack serves everyone; he just cannot express all messages through his custom cakes.”

■ Gender identity in the Catholic Church: “In its first statement on gender identity, the Vatican on Monday rejected the idea that transgender people can change their gender identity in a document meant to instruct Catholic teachers and students on sexuality and gender…This document comes in the midst of Pride Month…”

■ Worth following the thread: In 25 separate tweets, an outline of the story of a Spanish speaking pastor who was deported to Columbia by the U.S. government, after 19 years.

…My uncle is a faithful pastor of a local Spanish-speaking congregation, and my aunt is a beloved school teacher. They founded a soccer academy, and have been leaders in our community for almost 20 years… My uncle graduated in the 80s from a university in New York for which he played soccer. He was promised legal residency upon graduation, but instead graduated to a broken promise from this institution… It’s no secret to our family that this country’s immigration system is deeply broken and biased toward immigrants of European descent. But this current administration—and to speak more frankly, our president—has been the single greatest threat to my family the past few years.

■ Incomplete. Lives that were never finished. “A grieving Parkland dad announced the launch of the Museum of Incomplete, which will feature artifacts from lives cut short by gun violence—clothing never worn, an email left unsent, artwork never finished.

■ Your next book to read? God’s Internationalists: World Vision and the Age of Evangelical Humanitarianism, by David King. He researched the 70 year history of the organization. In teasing out this interview, Scott McKnight posed the question as to whether people would perceive World Vision as part of the religious right or evangelical left?

■ Translation Troubles: Speaking of Scot McKnight, he has a really good article on how the tribe which produced a Bible translation may influence its rendering of certain verses. He offers a great example in James 3:1.

■ If you can take the 13½ minutes to watch, this homily by Rachel Held Evans given in 2015 in a California church is almost prophetic, given the events of the past two months.

■ Catholic songwriter David Haas’ new song, You’ve Made Me Wonderful is not without its critics. “Haas said he had written the refrain on Sunday as a gift to all of his friends in the LGBTQ community who will be involved in Pride activities this month…and is based on Psalm 139:13-14. Haas has elaborated by saying that the Bible verses speak of a God who knows us better than we know ourselves and loves and accepts all of us.” (We tracked it down on YouTube and observed that the song clocks in at less than 90 seconds.)

■ Question of the Week: Is David Brooks a Christian or a Jew?

■ Provocative Headline of the Week: “Why Are Calvinists So Mean?” (Presented by someone within the camp; and presented without further comment. But oh, so tempting.) (And what are they going to do about this problem?)

■ New Music: Last week a friend introduced me to Bethany Music — not Bethel Music — and this is their most recent video, an acoustic version of It is Finished.

■ Different Music: Steelpan is an instrument you don’t see featured often in mainstream music. Joy Lapps performed recently with the Toronto Mass Choir. This video was recorded two years ago.

■ Testimony/Sermon: If you’ve never had the Francis Chan experience, this was posted just last week from a talk Chan gave to a youth convention in the UK.

■ Leadership Lessons: “Clipboard Leadership emerges when the need for reports begins to outweigh the need for results.” Three ways to recognize when it has crept into your church’s corporate culture.

■ Harvest Bible Chapel: The Niles campus of Harvest, located east of O’Hare International Airport will sever itself from HBC, and return to its roots — since 1871 — as an independent church. Read the story, or watch the video announcement.

■ “A former Sunday school teacher who was falsely accused of being a drug smuggler, detained at Vancouver International Airport and eventually strip searched says she is still traumatized by the treatment and is calling for greater oversight of the Canada Border Services Agency.”

■ Biography (1): Rev. Jasper Williams, the pastor who delivered the eulogy at Aretha Franklin’s funeral has released, It Ain’t But One. “Williams looks back on his life and ministry, recounting the challenges of taking the reins of leadership at Salem Bible Church at the tender age of 20, growing and shepherding the congregation and rising in leadership and influence in the Atlanta community and across the country.

■ Biography (2): Releasing this fall, Ray Barnett, the founder of the African Children’s Choir tells his story in Don’t Tell Me It Can’t Be Done. “Barnett takes readers on a roller-coaster journey through … a childhood marked by loss, abuse, learning disabilities, rejection, and the crushing discovery that the family who raised him was not his own.”

■ Katy Perry is still trying to buy that convent in Los Angeles. “The last living nun of the convent who fought off Katy Perry’s purchase of a Los Angeles property isn’t giving up on the feud. Sister Rita Callanan, 81, told the New York Post that the singer ‘has blood on her hands’ after the lengthy legal battle over the former home of Sisters of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary… On her mission to woo the nuns into accepting the sale, Perry reportedly sang ‘Oh Happy Day’ for them at a meeting regarding the sale, and showed them a “Jesus” tattoo on her wrist. It apparently didn’t do the trick…”

■ Gospel music’s Deitrick Haddon will appear in the movie Sins of the Father on July 7.

■ Finally — Seeing Double: In Italy, 26-year old twins were ordained to the priesthood, side-by-side on the same day.


June 5, 2019

Wednesday Connect

Photobombing the Toledo Grace Brethren Church. Found at the anon Twitter account, Lloyd Legalist.

As you can see, Coffee With Jesus has switched to a vertical format. Read more installments at this link. (And thanks to Happy Monday at The Master’s Table for this one!)

We’re back with more things you might not see elsewhere. This week Roger Olson had a piece on three “religions” often confused with Christianity: Moral Theraputic Deism, Americanism, and a Christianity rooted in social justice. It’s too bad my AdBlock-er was showing 28 advertising elements or I would have linked it.

Essay of the Week: An excellent profile of watchdog bloggers at Watch Keep, Spiritual Sounding Board, and The Wartburg Watch, appearing this Sunday in the Washington Post Magazine no less.

■ A massive exercise in spin? Later this month ” 3,235 boxes of paper items, 1,000 scrapbooks of news clippings dating back to the 1940s and more than 1,000 linear feet of videos, cassettes, reels, films and audio” which “documents the life and ministry of evangelist Billy Graham” will “no longer be housed at Wheaton’s highly regarded Billy Graham Center Archives.” The boxes are on their way to North Carolina, where a Wheaton College history professor notes, “The so-called (Billy Graham) Library is not a library…It has no archives. It has no archivist.” But it might be worse than that. Religion News Service notes,

Their fear: that this move is part of a bid by Franklin Graham to control his father’s legacy and make it more closely echo his own conservative political and theological agendas. They worry that Franklin Graham may deny access to the archival materials to scholars and others who don’t share his views or who are unwilling to promote what one called a “sanitized history” of the evangelical movement.

■ Provocative Headline of the Week: ‘Holy Ghosting: When Christians Vanish from Church.’ The article defines terms first, “Ghosting happens when people leave without informing church leadership. But it’s more than that. It’s also when a person decides to not speak to anyone about their decision to move on.” Then, an explanation of a mixed blessing; “Church growth, while being an obvious blessing for any congregation, can increase the likelihood of ghosting taking place. While the specific numbers vary, it is commonly said that a leader cannot pastorally care for more than 100 people at a time. Without an increase in pastoral staff, those in larger congregations can feel like they haven’t been fully embedded into their local church community. If they slip away from regular attendance, their absence is less likely to be noticed.”

■ From our continuing NBA Finals coverage: “Toronto Raptors point guard Jeremy Lin has reflected on power and importance of prayer, explaining that prayer ‘acknowledges that He is God and we are not,’ ‘brings necessary humble surrender into our lives,’ and ‘intimacy in our relationship with God.'” He adds, “I’ve been heavily challenged personally to pray more often and more boldly. So that’s why I decided to start a prayer movement with whoever will pray alongside me during the 2019 NBA Playoffs.”

■ Last month Newsweek cited a report that “says that the persecution of Christians across the world is fast becoming genocide and that the faith will soon disappear in some areas of the world, even in locations where its presence dates back to antiquity…The review found that eradicating Christians and other minorities through violence was the explicit objective of extremist groups in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, northeast Nigeria and the Philippines. These groups are not only murdering Christians for their faith but also whitewashing all evidence of their existence by destroying churches and removing religious symbols such as crosses.”

■ For years, I was a regular listener to the Phil Vischer Podcast, and I know that many of you shared that interest. Podcast regular Christian Taylor has been busy making a movie about D-Day and Normandy and tomorrow (Thursday 6/6) you’ll have a one-day opportunity to stream the complete film.

■ Concerned about “teaching children about the society that we live in and the different types of loving, healthy relationships that exist” at this UK primary school, now parents can’t even publicly voice dissent: “The head teacher of a school where parents have protested LGBT awareness lessons says she is bracing herself for mass arrests after the High Court moved to halt the protests. The High Court order bans protests from taking place outside the gates of Anderton Park Primary School in Birmingham – the first in the UK to have a legally enforceable exclusion zone.

■ A heartbeat is a heartbeat is a heartbeat. Except at The New York Times, which calls it “embryonic pulsing.

■ Bizarre Headline of the Week: “Christian Refugees Denied Asylum in Sweden for Failing Difficult Theological Quiz.” The Deputy General of the Swedish Evangelical Alliance noted, “A theology student may have to take another test if he or she fails, but if the asylum seeker fails the test, he or she will be deported to a country where he or she may be killed;” adding that the test included questions which “not even experienced pastors have been able to answer.”

■ The BBC finds American Christianity fascinating, as do Christians in other parts of the world. In a recent article they look at prosperity preaching and televangelists and profile some people who sent the last of their life savings. For this reader, it was also an introduction to Televangelist Todd Coontz.

■ Eric Metaxas: “To be clear, it’s not in my book anywhere, but was used in the jacket copy.” But it was used in related products and in a speech. Sigh! The Bonhoeffer quotation that will never die, even if Bonhoeffer didn’t say it.

■ KidMin: What would the perfect Children’s Ministry look like? The author of this piece offers eleven characteristics. Sample: “The focus would be upon the two whats and the two hows – what is is saying, what does it mean, how do I live this, how will it change my life.”

■ MusicMin: “If you’re happy and you know it shake your chains [rattle, rattle]” Paul and Silas, speaking to you from prison, will tell you not all Christian music is happy. They sang, but “they knew the pain they were experiencing.”

■ Walter Martin’s classic reference work Kingdom of the Cults has released in its sixth edition. “This new edition, comprehensively updated by experts Jill Martin Rische and Kurt Van Gorden, builds on Dr. Martin’s authoritative original text, and includes helpful information about changes and developments in belief systems around the globe in recent years.” Hardcover available now, from Bethany House Publishing, paperback in November.

Christianophobia. (Yes it’s a Patheos link, but only 15 ad elements on this one.)

■ New ♪ Music: Phil Wickham’s Singalong 4 is now out, but for physical CD collectors, sadly the Singalong series is only available for download. Meanwhile, here’s a sample medley.

■ Chicago Student Pastor deported to Columbia in ICE raid. “Betty and Carlos have no criminal record whatsoever, and the fact that Betty is a pastor in the Lutheran community and has these deep ties. They are also homeowners. … We think that distinguishes their case.”

■ Not ‘Lead us not.’ After many months of discussion, Pope Francis has signed off on the change to the official Catholic version of The Lord’s Prayer.

■ Joe Gibbs, Kathy Lee Gifford and the Unplanned movie were among the non-music category winners at the K-LOVE Fan Awards for 2019. Lauren Daigle and For King and Country won two each.

■ What’s your favorite? Readers at Reddit’s Christianity page discuss their favorite podcasts.

■ Noa Pothoven claimed that “sexual assaults and rapes as a small girl led her to develop post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anorexia. She was attacked three times as a youngster.” The 17-year old was legally euthanized according to Netherlands law. “Children as young as 12 can opt for euthanasia in the Netherlands but only after a doctor determines that the patient’s pain is unbearable.”  UPDATE (6/6; 13:20): Politico.eu has posted “The Euthanasia that Wasn’t,” clarifying that the English language version of the story which went worldwide was wrong, that she was actually refused Euthanasia, though Noa has indeed died due mostly to starving herself. We’ve pulled the link that was above, and you can read this updated report at this link.

■ Top clicked items here are posted on Twitter at some point the next day. Here’s what you liked last week.
1. Tweet of the Week: Fire Dancing at Church
2. Churches and organizations: Ditch MailChimp?
3. The exact moment when life begins
4. ‘Wear it Rainbow Day’ at work
5. Forced out of PhD program for beliefs
6. Things learned returning to ministry
If you missed last week, or are curious, click here.

■ New ♪ Music: Jen Ledger sings professionally as simply ‘Ledger.’ This is her newest single, Completely.

■ This was all over the internet yesterday, so you probably heard about David Platt’s explanation for praying for the U.S. President.

Another young pastor screws up.

■ Finally, Aardvarks in Church. The person who wrote this opening paragraph loved quotation marks:

A United Methodist “church” in Alabama has decided to host a “wedding party” featuring a free screening of the “Arthur” episode surrounding the same-sex “wedding” of Mr. Ratburn after Alabama Public Television said that it would not air the broadcast.


This week a major Christian news website devoted an article to the issue of CBD oil.


Digging a Little Deeper

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

May 29, 2019

Wednesday Connect

Gary Webber and the staff at Southside Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida took Bruxy Cavey’s ‘The Gospel in 30 Words,’ the centerpiece of the book (re)Union, and made it into a pocket card with matching key tag.


New York Times bestseller list. Her sister Amanda Held Opelt wrote on May 23rd, “She is still with us in so many ways. She always will be.”


This week we had a number of leads on items all connected to Patheos. They asked me to turn off my ad-blocker and normally I’m more than willing to do that, but I glanced at the ABP number in the corner of my screen and it indicated it was blocking 17 elements. There are some great writers at Patheos, but getting to read them comes at too high a price. One site — I can’t remember whose — was asking me to turn off ABP and it was indicating that there were 65 elements being blocked. I totally removed the bookmark.

Now that the rant is done, on to this week’s list…

■ Tired of hearing of church-plants tripping over each other to attract suburbanites? Here’s a positive story of reinventing the wheel: “An Indiana megachurch is impacting the lives of incarcerated and troubled individuals through volunteer-run microsite campuses established this year inside a local jail, a rehabilitation center, and a local work-release facility. At least 15 people have come to Christ since the multicampus, nondenominational Emmanuel Church launched [the] campuses in January

■ The darker side of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs): Forget everything you heard about Harvest Bible Chapel, that may have been tame by comparison with this New Jersey church. “A nondisclosure agreement used by a Ridgewood church, described by some former members as cult-like, to allegedly block its followers from leaking secret beliefs and practices has been nullified by two Superior Court judges. Those practices allegedly include forced abortions, tax fraud and doomsday prophecies, according to Raymond Gonzalez, an former member of the World Mission Society Church of God, who claimed the agreement he had signed bound him to silence… The church follows many traditional Christian teachings but breaks from the mainstream in its devotion to Zahng Gil-Jah, a 75-year-old woman whom members call God the Mother or Heavenly Mother… Gonzalez also alleged, among other things, that followers who did not sign were told they ‘would be punished by God and sent to a fiery hell.'”

■ Baptist leader says women can teach men as long as they don’t act like they are teaching. Okay, it’s actually more nuanced than that. The article is titled, “JD Greear Says Women Can Teach, Well Sort of, So Long As They Don’t Mimic the Authority of an Elder.” Mimic? The article continues, “She can’t mimic pastoral shepherding in a mixed gender group unless the co-leader is a man…In other words, ‘Just the facts, Ma’am.’ And apparently the size of the church is factor.

■ His PhD program at Purdue University was “sabotaged” because of his faith.

I was ABD (“all but dissertation”) with a 3.5 GPA. I completed all course work, languages, exams, and my funding was even from a different department. But my dissertation committee chair informed me that he dropped me. He said it was because I had “too much of a faith perspective.” Never mind the fact that part of my dissertation topic was on the virtue of faith.
I now had no adviser and no legal recourse. If they don’t want to advise a grad student, then they don’t have to. I couldn’t find an adviser willing to touch me. Without an adviser I couldn’t even register for research hours. Without doing so, you’re gone a semester later. So much for academic freedom and viewpoint diversity — even in a philosophy department. I had no choice but to terminate with an MA in philosophy. Essentially, I was effectively forced out of the PhD program.

■ Meanwhile in the UK: “A nurse who offered a bible to a cancer patient and encouraged him to sing The Lord is My Shepherd was fairly dismissed, a court has ruled. Sarah Kuteh was given the sack from her job at Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford, Kent in 2016 for repeatedly talking to patients about her faith and handing out a bible, in breach of Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) rules.”

■ This should settle some arguments: “Human life begins in bright flash of light as a sperm meets an egg, scientists have shown for the first time, after capturing the astonishing ‘fireworks’ on film. An explosion of tiny sparks erupts from the egg at the exact moment of conception.”

■ This is not a faith-focused article by any means, but I know that many of you use MailChimp’s mailing list server in your work with churches and parachurch organizations and the recent changes they have made in their terms of service have left some groups feeling it’s time for an alternative.

■ Persecution Watch: Iranian intelligence agents stormed a 100-year-old Assyrian Presbyterian church in Tabriz, removed the cross from its steeple, and shut it down…According to the source, agents from the Ministry of Intelligence and the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order (EIKO) ‘entered our church compound and changed all the locks on the doors, removed the cross from the church’s high tower, installed some monitoring instruments and started to threaten and force our custodian to leave his place inside the compound immediately.'”

■ “Catholics are moving away from President Trump.” So begins the article which continues, “When it comes to Trump, the shift among Catholics is more pronounced than among other religious groups.” But then the next paragraph begins, “Interestingly, the slippage is somewhat greater among white evangelicals.” Huh? More clear is that “Even relatively conservative Catholics retain elements of Catholic social teaching that put them at odds with Trump policies.”

■ The time when Jesus was being racist: A great explanation of the strange interaction between Jesus and the Syrophoenician woman. “Some Christians speculate the reason Jesus challenged Justa with his ‘dogs’ crack, was because she may have had a hangup with authority or racism, and this was meant to snap her out of it. They imagine Justa had refused to help her Jewish neighbors, and now the shoe was on the foot, and Jesus was pointing this out.”

■ It’s “Wear it Rainbow Day” at work. What do you do? “How do we navigate a work space in the public square; in which the work place has been leveraged as a major platform for social change, much of it at odds with a Christian view of sexuality, and some of it, at least, at odds with lots of other groups? That’s become a critical question, and it’s all happened so quickly.” 

■ A church in Northampton (UK) pays the ultimate price for past leaders sexual abuse: (BBC News) An orthodox evangelical church has closed down following a series of historical cases of sexual abuse. Six men from the Jesus Fellowship Church – formerly known as the Jesus Army – have so far been sentenced for the indecent and sexual assault of 11 victims between the 1970s and 1990s…The JFC’s leadership team said members of the church voted to revoke its constitution at a meeting on Sunday…At its peak in the late 1980s, Jesus Army had about 3,000 members – about half of whom lived together in community houses.”

■ Quotation of the Week: Philip Yancey quotes David Brooks

“The natural impulse in life is to move upward, to grow in wealth, power, success, standing. And yet all around the world you see people going downward. We don’t often use the word ‘humbling’ as a verb, but we should. All around the world there are people out there humbling for God. They are making themselves servants. They are on their knees, washing the feet of the needy, so to speak, putting themselves in situations where they are not the center; the invisible and the marginalized are at the center. They are offering forgiveness when it makes no sense, practicing a radical kindness that takes your breath away.”

■ Regardless of what you believe about Purgatory, click through to this piece and then click on the accompanying image of Mount Purgatory to view it full size. (Not raised Catholic and not having read The Divine Comedy, this was new to me.)

■ When is it time to stop? “Church world is known for allowing programs to limp along for years instead of ending them. The same could be said at times for overseas work…I have been mulling how to decide when to end a program or other ministry slice.” The author offers a number of considerations, and then this personal note, “It is sad. It has been hard to decide to end this iteration of outreach. And we believe it is the right decision.”

■ I watched all 16 minutes of this one. Jay Vellacott calls his YT channel Rock Badger Christianity and he doesn’t seem to have a huge following, but Bible publishers would do well to at least hear him out on Teens Against Bad Teen Study Bibles.

■ Video I did not watch: On Sid Roth’s YT channel, guest David Hogan’s story is called “Face to Face with a Shape-Shifting Witch Doctor.”

♫ The band from C4 Church in Toronto’s eastern suburbs has released their newest album. Enjoy the title song from the album Resurrection Song. (This was just released hours ago… be among the very first to hear five more songs from the album at this link.)

■ The role of fiction: “Fiction is by nature untrue, and I think this is where some people get hung up on it. To tell a story, you are technically lying—therefore in reading a fictitious account, the story must be not factual, but rather originating in the imagination. We get the word “fiction” from the Latin fictus, which means “to form.” …As an author, I love the image this evokes: the idea of the story forming—taking shape like clay on a potter’s wheel—in the mind. But although fiction is by definition not true, good fiction should show us true things.”

■ Leadership Lessons: Twelve things learned on returning to pastoral ministry.

■ Should church budgets identify each individual staff member’s salary? I would have liked Thom Rainer’s answer to be fleshed out in greater detail (including a line item indicating his salary) but he gives three common-sense reasons why he feels it shouldn’t be done.

■ Best headline: “It’s Lit When You Use Teen Slang, Right? TBH, I’m Kinda Shook.” Then again, we might link to the original article which had the title Resisting the Urge to Talk Teen. (The first headline from a reprint at churchleaders.com.)  …

■ … Quotation of the Week: Staying on the subject of youth ministry, and staying at churchleaders.com; I couldn’t resisting quoting this pithy statement: “I realized that sex is not sexy.”

■ Nothing much on the James MacDonald front this week, unless you count this article describing him as a “gun-toting bully” who “pointed a gun at a former worker who requested payment” and caused concern “because of his guns” and mentions that he probably “got away with ‘millions'” from Harvest Bible Chapel. Other than that, a fairly quiet week

■ …but in light the James MacDonald situation, Jon Acuff’s words on The 700 Club in 2015 seem rather prophetic, “Leaders who can’t be questioned end up doing questionable things. Show me a church that fell or a business that fell and I’ll show you an isolated leader.”

■ Although I agree with the ruling, I do have mixed feelings about what could be next: In the state of Maine, parents can no longer “use religious or philosophical reasons to opt out of having their school-age children receive vaccinations.

■ A supergroup made up of members from iconic CCM bands will make its debut this summer in Calgary, Alberta. “With sales exceeding 30 million records between them, Kevin Max (dcTalk), John Schlitt (Petra), Billy Smiley (Whiteheart) and Dan Haseltine (Jars of Clay) have united to collectively perform their biggest hits.” The band is called CCM All Star Review.

■ Now Open! Chick-fil-A Automotive: “My tire somehow went flat in the drive through so they rushed out to replace it for me with their hydraulic Jack. They brought my food out to me then after it was done replaced my food with new fresh food so it wouldn’t be cold and put two cookies in there for free! Those people are truly doing the Lord’s work over there!

■ Everybody join and sing with us:
The rains came down and the floods came up.
The rains came down and the floods came up.
The rains came down and the floods came up.
And they ended up in court.
(Except that’s a song about the wise man building his house on sand/rock, and this is a Noah’s Ark story about suing for water damage.) 

♫ More New Music: Jason Gray’s newest, I’m Gonna Let It Go

♫ More New Music: Lyric video for the Mallary Hope song, Me.

■ A whimsical article with Canadian connections that I thought was more suited to Lorne’s blog than my own

■ Tweet of the Week: They don’t do this in my church. What about yours?

■ Finally, “Fancy a swim above the Seine in a rooftop pool on Notre Dame? A number of designs have been proposed for Notre Dame’s fire-damaged roof and spire but few are as daring as this rooftop pool.”

Click the story above, or this link to see the design company’s swimming pool image in all its glory…

…other proposals included replacing the spire with a tower filled with beehives

…or this rooftop greenhouse (same link as above.)


 

May 22, 2019

Wednesday Connect

Another collection of links to stories and opinion pieces you might not have seen elsewhere this week. Subscribers should hang on to last week’s email, since the picture which led the list was ultimately deleted — see the comments — though some were disappointed that we removed it.

■ You have to worry when the latest article about James MacDonald ends with this sentence: “Under Illinois law, a person who requests or encourages someone to murder another person is guilty of solicitation of murder which is a Class X felony which comes with a 15-30 years prison sentence.”

■ Is it time for Roman Catholics to completely rethink the office of priest? The problem is the sexual abuse scandals: “The celibacy of priests, which grew out of the practice of ascetic monks and hermits, may have been put forward, early on, as a mode of intimacy with God, appropriate for a few. But over time the cult of celibacy and virginity developed an inhuman aspect—a broader devaluation and suspicion of bodily experience. It also had a pragmatic rationale. In the Middle Ages, as vast land holdings and treasure came under Church control, priestly celibacy was made mandatory in order to thwart inheritance claims by the offspring of prelates. Seen this way, celibacy was less a matter of spirituality than of power.”

■ Christian television network destroyed by firebombing: “The Jerusalem studio of Daystar, one of the largest Christian networks in the world, was firebombed over the weekend. The attack destroyed Daystar’s new studio but the network plans to rebuild. The fire began early Saturday morning when an arsonist threw a firebomb into the facility. Daystar was in the midst of a major renovation and upgrade of its studio in Jerusalem overlooking Mount Zion and the Mount of Olives. The fire destroyed the new work and much of the existing facility.”

■ Being a Good Samaritan will cost you: “As the Trump administration moves on multiple fronts to shut down illegal border crossings, it has also stepped up punitive measures targeting private citizens who provide compassionate help to migrants — “good Samaritan” aid that is often intended to save lives along a border that runs through hundreds of miles of remote terrain that can be brutally unforgiving.” Teresa Todd didn’t feel she was doing anything wrong. She is both the city attorney of Marfa, Texas., and the county attorney of Jeff Davis County, an elected position. She told The New York Times, “It’s been pretty transformative for me, to be perfectly honest. To have devoted my life to public service, and then to be… detained and investigated as if I’m a human smuggler.” 

■ An outstanding Australian Rugby player has had his $4 million dollar contract ripped up because he tweeted some Bible verses. “The words he cited are from 1 Corinthians 6:9-14 which are about sin and repentance and who will be admitted to the Kingdom of God.” (Yes, it’s about that issue. Again.)

■ New Music: Normally I position the music videos further down the list, but over the years my wife and I have come to really appreciate the music of Josh Garrels, and I hope you`ll enjoy this new song: Closer Than a Brother.  (The song that got us hooked was Farther Along.)

■ Old Music: You really feel you`re getting old when you read that Steven Curtis Chapman`s latest album was released under the Gaither Gospel Series banner. “The CD showcases live, acoustic performances of Chapman’s most popular hits and gospel classics, which capture the heart of the man behind countless inspiring lyrics and career masterpieces…” There’s also a DVD version with additional documentary material. 

■ China Watch: “A pastor in Shangqiu city in Henan province told Bitter Winter that local communist officials told him to delete a theological statement from his sermon – “God made heaven and earth, and created everything” – and to include more Chinese traditions and beliefs. The pastor leads a government-registered Three-Self Protestant church and had sent his sermon to local authorities for approval.”

■ Abortion: The issue isn’t black and white. The author sees herself as both pro-life and pro-choice. ” I seemed convinced that abortion supporters didn’t appreciate the gravity of later-term abortion. But the opposite is true. Nobody understands this issue better than women who have actually had a late-term abortion. By listening to their stories, I’ve come to see that the tragedy of this procedure, sought in desperation, is well understood by the women receiving it.” “…What I do know for sure is that I care about all lives, and that includes the lives of women contemplating abortion…”

■ Bible Translations: You can always use one more. “…Still, it’s because we’re so rich with Bible translations that we ought to take advantage of our wealth. There’s much to be gained from reading the Bible in more than one translation.”

■ Evangelical Christian publishing in perspective: Literary Hub looks at women authors in particular. As to the whole industry it notes: “It’s an industry whose target consumers make up a percentage of annual book sales ($600 million) that’s smaller than annual worldwide sales of Garfield merchandise, but still occupies a powerful place in its target demo’s consciousness.”

■ Although the same percentage of people in the U.S. and Canada claim no religious affiliation — referred to as ‘the nones’ — it’s easier to be unaffiliated in Canada. “With religion playing a less important role in Canadian public life, Canadians don’t view their country as a “Christian nation.” That also makes it increasingly easier for Canadians to say they don’t belong to any religious group.” The difference is the subject of a forthcoming book.

■ Opinion piece at Baptist News: “Could the Constitutional right to own guns be in direct conflict with the Christian responsibility to love one’s neighbor, protect human life and prioritize the vulnerable?” The author writes, “There are now more guns than people in the United States. I wonder if we don’t love guns more than we love God or other people.”

■ Less than seven months after the passing of her husband, Janice Peterson, wife of author Eugene Peterson has died.

■ Best Tweet of the Week: This church actually did this, and one comment suggested they do it ever year. (Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.)

■ On the big screen, but not where you live: The story of Australian missionary Graham Staines, who was murdered in India in 1999 is Opening this week in cinemas across Australia. The Least of These is a major new movie revolving around the killing — they were burned alive — of Gladys’ Staines’ husband and two sons, Philip (10) and Timothy (6), when the Staines worked with people affected by leprosy. Stephen Baldwin plays the role of Graham Staines. Read the story of this remarkable woman and the media onslaught with the resurrection of the story through the film’s release. Also, watch the 2½ minute trailer.

■ ‘Sozo Prayer’ – Ever heard of it? Just when I thought we’d covered all the ‘uniqueness’ (he said politely) of all the teachings at Bethel Church, we hear about another one. “Sozo is not counseling, it is not a prayer ministry, it is a team of people going in helping you make that connection with the Godhead and thus have a place to go to deal with all the issues and crises that will happen with you…” The sessions typically run one to three hours. [Note to readers: There is a second page to this; equally informative.]

■ Georgia’s new abortion law: The governor fights back: “Over the weekend, Georgia’s governor, Brian Kemp, mocked the ‘C-list celebrities’ vowing to boycott the Peach State after he signed into law a bill banning abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detectable, which usually occurs about six weeks into pregnancy.” Yeah, that was the right response.

■ Cheery Video of the Week: Momento Mori (Remember That You Will Die). (It’s a 2 minute apologetic for apologetics, among other things.)

■ Touching: A death row inmate asks for the cost of his last meal to be given to the homeless.

■ For those who arrive at church and wonder why they’re not having the same jumping-up-and-down experience as the people all around them, or the people on the platform: God may have wired you differently.

■ In the UK things just keep getting increasingly more liberal. Now this: “The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has voted to campaign for the decriminalization of prostitution.”

■ New Music: Crowder joins Social Club Misfits for the song Testify.

■ Christian celebrity hot gossip: After not dating for ten years, comedian John Christ is in a relationship with country singer Lauren Alaina.

■ Finally if you missed our “Christian Captcha” earlier this week; here’s another look.


She notes, “To be clear, I do not plan to have children and Jubal and I are not married. It was a nice dress, but I hope that people focus on things other than my clothing when I preach.


After the Rapture: He was taking advantage of the first really warm Spring day to hang some laundry outside when it happened.

May 20, 2019

The Colorization of Your Bible

On the weekend I realized that several articles we’ve done here at Thinking Out Loud and at Christian Book Shop Talk have a common theme: The progressively increasing use of color in Bibles. By this I don’t mean the addition of illustrations, such as is found in Children’s Bibles such as The Picture Bible or The Action Bible,

but rather the use of color in otherwise unedited, full-text editions.

There also isn’t time to talk about Biblezines, such as these three (lower right of photo) produced by The Gideons in Canada, with beautiful photography running through every page. Besides, they aren’t full Bible editions either, but contain selected themed text, with the Gospel of John complete at the back…

I’m sure it began with covers. I can’t imagine that black was always the cover color of choice. Evangelist Bob Harrington used a cherry red Bible which apparently some found offensive. He countered with, “The Bible should be read;” a homonym pun he repeated (and repeated) at successive appearances in the same churches.

Red letter Bibles are not that old. Wikipedia tells us:

The inspiration for rubricating the Dominical words comes from Luke, 22:20: “This cup is the new testament in my blood, which I shed for you.” On 19 June 1899, Louis Klopsch, then editor of The Christian Herald magazine, conceived the idea while working on an editorial. Klopsch asked his mentor Rev. Thomas De Witt Talmage what he thought of a testament with the Dominical words rubricated and Dr. Talmage replied, “It could do no harm and it most certainly could do much good.”

Klopsch published the first modern red letter edition New Testament later in 1899. The first modern, fully rubricated bible was published in 1901. The rubricated bible instantly became popular, and is sometimes favored by Protestant Christians in the United States. Especially in King James Version editions, this format is useful because quotation marks are absent.

But we want to look at more recent developments.

Even as early as 2010, I noted the following Bibles that were offered for sale by a prominent online Christian retailer, and asked readers to reader decide if we are really so excited about Bible engagement that we needed all these permutations, or if the marketers had gone a little crazy on us (and no, I am not making these up):

  • The Veggie Tales Bible
  • The Soldier’s Bible
  • The Grandmother’s Bible
  • The Duct Tape Bible
  • The Busy Life Bible (“Inspiration even if you have only a minute a day”)
  • The Chunky Bible
  • The God Girl Bible (only in “snow white”)
  • The Wisdom and Grace Bible for Young Women of Color
  • The Waterproof Bible (useful in frequently flooded U.S. states)
  • The Pray for a Cure Bible (in pink)
  • The Divine Health Bible
  • The Wild About Horses Bible
  • The Fire Bible

The cover colors offered were just as varied:

  • Raspberry
  • Melon
  • Razzleberry
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Caramel
  • Espresso
  • Toffee
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Glittery Grape Butterfly
  • Plum
  • Lavender (with flowers!)
  • Black Cherry
  • Distressed Umber (?)
  • Mocha/aqua

and remember this was before the “duo-tone” type of Bibles became more entrenched, ultimately exceeding the traditional “bonded leather” editions in terms of popularity.

In January of 2017, we reported on the trend that developed out of a convergence of adult coloring books and scrap-booking. People were apparently coloring the text pages of their Bibles and not everyone was happy with the results.

Bible Journaling 2

Bible Journaling 1

In 2017, Tyndale Publishing House decided to help some aspiring artists kickstart their personalization projects by creating The Inspire Bible, available now in a half dozen different editions.

The primary market for these is women, so I don’t actually own one. This page sample was captured online, and then I darkened it considerably so you would see the graphic art material which is actually printed in a much lighter tone.

They will disagree, but rival publisher Zondervan has never come with anything quite as striking in terms of color, print process (including the page edges) and overall aesthetics for the NIV. Meanwhile Tyndale is about to issue a girls version of Inspire.

Then last week, I discovered that even Bible tabs had joined the party. You can’t buy the ones pictured at Christian bookstores or major Christian online vendors, but through independent sources.

Of course, not every innovation pleases everyone. Just last week someone reacted to the NRSV Pride Bible which we had noted in a past edition of Wednesday Connect:

This, they felt went too far, though minus its appellation, with its primary colors it would make a nice Bible for kids.

Finally, all this is nothing new; people having been been marking their Bibles according to theme for decades. Perhaps this well-marked copy was the inspiration for the various color-coded Bibles on the market today…

…such as the Rainbow Study Bible, pictured here:

May 15, 2019

Wednesday Connect

 


So once again, we find ourselves with a link list where the lead items all concern the conservative church knee-jerking about a woman in ministry. I am so glad I follow a different God than theirs. There. I said it. And I’m not even a fan of this week’s featured target. But she deserves better.

■ Woman “A” doesn’t think Woman “B” (as in ‘B is for Beth Moore’) should preach, even on Mother’s Day. “When a pastor invites a woman to sin by taking over the pulpit, he drags her and the women of his church right back to post-Fall Eden.” …

■ … and then Woman “B” (as in ‘B is for Beth Moore’) had a few things to say about it herself. “…Then I realized it was not over Scripture at all. It was over sin. It was over power. It was over misogyny. Sexism. It was about arrogance. About protecting systems. It involved covering abuses and misses of power. Shepherds guarding other shepherds instead of guarding the sheep.” …

■ …Or appropriately, this summary of the events: “Beth Moore preaching on Mother’s Day in the SBC, and men are losing their minds.” (Right now, as I type this, probably many a complementarian is pulling out his hair or dealing with elevated blood pressure. As for me, I’m making myself a sandwich. This is not a hill to be on.)

■ Going about it the right way: “Even though the Roman Catholic Church teaches that all life has dignity and abortion is a moral evil, a Catholic college in Montana is dictating to its Students For Life group how they should criticize Planned Parenthood, both on campus and online.”

■ Months later, the botched adoption story continues. The Canadian government simply refuses to move for this couple who now alternate between their home in Canada and, most recently, Ghana. Click the link, and be sure to read the whole thing. A travesty for which Canada should be ashamed… 

■ …and while we’re talking Canada, sadly, the movie Unplanned will not be playing in Canadian theaters. The two largest film distributors in the country said ‘content’ as the issue, “not lack of consumer demand.

■ Persecution Watch: “In a blow to the country’s Christian and other minorities, the military council in control of Sudan has affirmed that future legislation should continue to be based on sharia law.”

■ Donald Lawrence, a Gospel music artist claims to be doing more than just singing: “‘Spiritual Song Psychotherapy (and) Spiritual Lyric Psychotherapy Is a concept I’ve toyed around with for the last 8-12 years,’ he revealed. ‘It’s the idea of delivering spiritual psychology/ psychotherapy to (the) listener in song form knowing that repeating a healing phrase over and over will have a certain neurological effect, changing the way the listener speaks and thinks while also changing the way the subconscious reacts to a past challenge…'”

■ Quotation of the Week: Garrison Keillor in an article on Julian of Norwich (14th Century): “In 1351, Pope Clement VI himself railed against his own highest-ranking clergy: ‘What can you preach to the people? If on humility, you yourselves are the proudest of the world, puffed up, pompous and sumptuous in luxuries. If on poverty, you are so covetous that all the benefices in the world are not enough for you. If on chastity — but we will be silent on this, for God knoweth what each man does and how many of you satisfy your lusts.'”

■ We saved the best RHE tribute for last: Ed Cyzewski’s tribute to Rachel Held Evans. “She showed so many of us that we could do the heavy lifting of theology and still share compelling stories and narratives…One pastor noted that she had created a work of pastoral performance art that resembled the prophetic tradition…I cannot fathom the scope of this tragedy for her family at this time. Everything about this feels wrong and unfair for her children and husband…”

■ Essay of the Week: The Housechurch Movement Ruined My Life. “People who have written books and lead conferences will volunteer to come and teach your group how have a meeting with no one leading, but often the “model” of how to do housechurch often is restrictive and strangles things that would bring life to the group…Also, there are some house church experts who ban musicial instruments during singing because anyone playing a guitar would be “too much of a leader” in a fiercely leaderless movement. As a result, singing worship songs often loses something that only an instrument can provide, and its not a small thing that gets lost.” This is a longer piece, and while it’s subjective, it’s thoroughly considered and worth the time.

■ Warren Throckmorton points out that Gospel for Asia is saying to those entitled to receive funds out of the class lawsuit filed against it, essentially something like, ‘Once you get your money back, consider donating back to Gospel for Asia.’ A mass mailing reads, “I have submitted our claim in this settlement for 100% of what we are eligible to claim. I plan to take all the money I can from my claim, minus an amount I will need to set aside for taxes, and donate it back to GFA to their general fund to help cover the 11 million dollars it has to raise for the settlement.” Writers such as that one are presented as believing they are in disagreement with the lawsuit. Others might feel, ‘Once bitten, twice shy.’

■ Burning sage to rid your house of evil spirits? Charisma first reported on this in December, but it’s becoming more widespread: “This practice of saging a house is common among followers of New Age and shamanistic beliefs, and sadly, is becoming increasingly popular in Christian homes. Why would this practice go against Christian beliefs?” Read more here. Or this answer at GotQuestions.org.

■ How the church widely deals with people with a porn problem: “For instance, in many church communities over the last several decades, sins like pornography use have essentially become earners of scarlet letters. Porn is seen by many as the unpardonable sin. But if we continue preaching, discipling, and counseling this way, we will soon find that we’ve excommunicated our church into oblivion!” (Read that last phrase again.)

■ Comparing my religion: Comparing our Christianity with our Jewish counterparts, even as, in this article, American Jews compare their rate of engagement with their Canadian counterparts. Relatively speaking Canadians are all in. (My guess is the same isn’t true for Christianity, but then again, if we’re measuring engagement as opposed to raw attendance numbers, I am willing to be proved wrong.)

■ Arizona pastor banned in Ireland: “Irish Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan signed an order under the Immigration Act 1999 forbidding the entry of Steven L. Anderson, pastor of Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, ahead of a visit to Dublin that Anderson said he had scheduled for May 26. His visit’s purpose was to preach to an unspecified congregation, according to the newspaper. It was the first exclusion order signed since the law was enacted.”

■ Nepotism is alive and well at New Destiny Christian Center, as televangelist Paula White (spiritual advisor to one Donald J. Trump) turns the lead pastorate of the church over to her son Brad. “Does it seem like favoritism to elevate an associate pastor and donor relations coordinator as senior pastors when, seemingly, there are more qualified church members on staff? To me, yes. But I can also understand that it is probably challenging to build a church or parachurch ministry and not want to choose your child, who you trust, as successor.”

■ Debriefing Mother’s Day: “When we expect others to fulfill our need for affirmation, a root of idolatry is revealed. God sees you. God loves you. God rewards those who faithfully serve Him. You will only find yourself fulfilled when you are working to please your Creator.”

■ Noteworthy here for its excellent portrayal of a large American Roman Catholic family in the 1970s, ABC-TV has cancelled The Kids Are Alright. This “gem of a show” isn’t getting to see a second season.

■ Group Publishing is back this year with WonderFull World, another VBS for adults. Actually they’re women’s retreats in a box, but since we started calling them adult VBS, it kinda stuck here at Wednesday Connect Central. This one has a travel theme.

■ Lev Bure, the 19-year-old son of actress Candice Cameron Bure, and nephew of Kirk Cameron was one of five younger leaders who got to preach this week at Shepherd Church, a non-denominational church in Los Angeles. Lev spoke on “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” 

■ We linked to this guy’s video when he toured a Greek Orthodox Church, so we thought we’d check out his discovery of Anglicanism. However, this “Ten Minute Bible Hour” does run 53 minutes, so we didn’t quite finish. Really good though; he picks good churches/pastors to film/interview.

■ Finally, for me, the punchline was in the last paragraph. The man standing through his car sunroof with his hands raised at speeds up to 100 mph while the car was on a cruise control “thought it would be a nice way to praise God for a minute.”

May 10, 2019

How to Accuse Someone of Heresy

Before you say:

  • He’s not a Christian
  • She doesn’t know the Lord
  • He’s probably in hell today

make sure you’ve worked your way through the normal method of drawing such conclusion.

Citation

You simply must quote the name of the work in question and page number. Include the quotation. If you can’t honestly bring yourself to purchase a copy of the author’s book, while I admire you for standing on your principles and not spending money on someone you don’t think you can support, know that you have forfeited the right to critique their writing. There is no need to read further.

Identify

Make clear what it is in the quotation that you feel is worthy of examination. Everyone else may be reading this and seeing “A” but if you feel “B” is present, note both the impact and implications of the authors words. State what you see the author saying. At this stage avoid citing third parties. This is about what you want to express concerning the author.

Verify (1)

Make sure you’re not ‘proof-texting’ the author. Don’t use pull-quotes to deliberately be provocative if the body of the larger paragraph doesn’t support your thesis. Is the author using sarcasm, humor, etc.? Jesus himself used hyperbole on several occasions in his teaching. (People who feel they have been called to defend the faith against heresy are, for reasons that escape me, generally lacking a sense of humor.) I know one particular author who is not known as a humorist, but did one title totally tongue-in-cheek. And certain people will always miss that sort of thing.

Verify (2)

Do the research for yourself. Don’t quote someone else. And make sure that person has followed these steps. (The propagation of the KJV-Only movement happened only because people built a foundation on ‘so-and-so says.’ In fact the whole thing can be traced back to two individuals, with very little primary research done by others.)

Compare

Now that you’ve followed those steps, compare what the author says verse-by-verse with scripture and make the case that there is definitely a conflict.

Avoid Generalization

Just because an author can be faulted on an individual point does not mean that their ministry has a whole deserves to be labelled heretical. (I would be greatly hurt if you called me a heretic just because I have views on eschatology that are different from yours. Which, by the way, I do.) For more on this, Google the phrase ‘logical fallacies.’ 

Civility 

Avoid name calling at all costs. Even if the person is a ___________________, it diminishes your argument. I would go so far to say it completely undermines your argument.

Repent

If the tide of public opinion on a particular author is positive and your view is negative, ask yourself why you are the lone prophet in the wilderness. Look for the fruit. If there’s fruit, and it’s good fruit, God is using them. “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.” – Romans 14:4

Humility

I would want to avoid the actual charge, “Heresy!” Sufficient to say you have concerns. And don’t even begin to express opinions about the eternal destiny of someone based on what you’ve written. Even if every charge you make about doctrinal aberration is correct, you don’t know that.

May 8, 2019

Wednesday Connect

This is my new cover image on Twitter, Delivery of the Keys, or Entrega de las llaves a San Pedro by 15th Century artist Perugino. Just between you and me, I don’t think what is pictured ever happened; that there were literal keys, or that Peter was the beginning of a Papal succession. However, the version I cropped fit the Twitter image requirements perfectly, and in the end, that was all that mattered. More about the painting at this Wikipedia page.

Welcome back! Again, my hope is you see something here you might have missed elsewhere. Really, there was only one story this week of significance,* so we’ll move on, as hard as it is to imagine the Christian internet world (and Twitter) without Rachel Held Evans. If you missed it, see the three previous blog posts here.

■ Warner Sallman: The guy whose picture of Jesus was once found in more churches and hospitals than any other image. “What changed in the 20th century with Sallman, was that Jesus images met American advertising and mass production. Prayer met plastic… Despite his beard, the “Head of Christ” is anything but hipster irony…Apparently, Sallman was attempting to create a more masculine Jesus than earlier portrayals. Ironically, many now find his Jesus effeminate — demonstrating the extent to which definitions of “masculine” are cultural and fluid rather than biological. In Jesus’ own day, and as a Jew in the Roman Empire, masculinity was as contested then as it is now.”

■ Former Templeton Prize winner Jean Vanier passed away in Paris yesterday, May 7th. The author of many, many books (published in several languages) some would know him better as a one-time mentor to Henri Nouwen. Vanier was 90 and died after spending just a few weeks in palliative care.

■ The Chabad of Poway synagogue shooter: “He attended an Orthodox Presbyterian Church. His parents seem to be faithful believers. His father is an elder at the church. His pastor preaches the Gospel. Yet he was infected with vile and murderous anti-Semitism and white nationalism…The shooting in Poway is a terrifying reminder that the church isn’t immune to any moral malady that stalks our land. It may land within the church with varying degrees of intensity and frequency, but it will land in the church.”

■ The downside of personality tests. “It’s no secret that the science behind personality tests is shady. Mainly because we typically view ourselves in the best light. Personality tests are often just as solid an indication of our self-idolatry intricacies as our God-given intricacies.”

■ A response to last week’s sweeping endorsement of cannabis by XXXChurch.com founder Craig Gross: “[M]y marijuana use ended as I yielded to the Holy Spirit’s guidance… The adventure of experiencing God’s presence and loving pursuit has displaced the need for so many things I’d previously used to manage life and to meet my own needs.”

■ If you’re keeping slaves, you don’t want them owning Bibles containing Israel’s exodus from Egypt.

■ Just when a bunch of boomers are getting ready to die, the funeral industry is being shaken. “…Somber, embalmed-body funerals, with their $9,000 industry average price tag, are, for many families, a relic. Instead, end-of-life ceremonies are being personalized: golf-course cocktail send-offs, backyard potluck memorials, more Sinatra and Clapton, less “Ave Maria,” more Hawaiian shirts, fewer dark suits. Families want to put the “fun” in funerals…The movement will only accelerate as the nation approaches a historic spike in deaths. Baby boomers, despite strenuous efforts to stall the aging process, are not getting any younger…” The Washington Post reports on “thinking outside the box. (With fewer weddings and funerals, what will provide extra cash for pastors a decade from now?)

■ ‘James MacDonald, you stole Fizzy Lifting Drinks, so you get nothing.’

■ The lead story yesterday at CBN News was a report on “hundreds of poor Christian girls [as young as 13] who have been trafficked to China in a market for brides that has swiftly grown in Pakistan since late last year… Brokers are aggressively seeking out girls for Chinese men, sometimes even cruising outside churches to ask for potential brides. They are being helped by Christian clerics paid to target impoverished parents in their congregation with promises of wealth in exchange for their daughters. Parents receive several thousand dollars and are told that their new sons-in-law are wealthy Christian converts. The grooms turn out to be neither…”

■ Exposing the dangers of Bethel Church: Apologia Studios posted this 50-minute video podcast “explosive and compelling story of Lindsay Davis who defected from Bethel.”

■ Missionary Matters (1): When you’re an overseas missionary, and the government in the country where you’re serving announces that there will be rotating power cuts for 72 days, you need to put into place a “Power’s Out Protocol.” There are seven principles here which do export well back to us in North American and Western Europe, but I think for myself at least, it would be called an “Internet’s Out Protocol.”

■ Missionary Matters (2): When your grandchildren will never see the place you currently call home, and all your once-treasured possessions back in the States have been given away, leaving a legacy, even if that means something as simple as planting a walnut tree, may seem pointless until you learn to think about it differently

■ Roger Olson on the Jesus People movement: “In short, I think the Jesus movement of the 1970s was a mixed blessing. It was a true revival, but it came at the cost of anti-intellectualism and anti-tradition in churches where at least some appreciation of theology and serious biblical study and traditional theologically-rich hymns had been present.” He attempts the argument that the movement is responsible for the watering down of the modern church. (But solely responsible? C’mon, Roger.)

■ A sad headline: “A Christian Mom’s Worst Nightmare: Her Son Converted to Islam and Died for ISIS, Now She’s on a Mission.”

■ The Twitter curiosity known as Dave Gass, “who after being a devout Christian for 40 years and a pastor for 20 years has decided that the religion is a hoax and only a means to control people and culture and not an actual direct path to God or a spiritual being.” [Source: Ann Brock.] He writes, “ After 40 years of being a devout follower, 20 of those being an evangelical pastor, I am walking away from faith.” However, there’s another element to the story, and after that is revealed, one reader correctly notes, “[The] problem is you implied you left active ministry due to your loss of faith and not the loss of credibility in your conduct required in Christian circles. Much of what you said was true regarding Christianity, the lack of disclosure throws all of your motives into doubt.” [Also, atheist and humanist bloggers are having a field day with this guy’s story.]

■ Frightening: Children’s Church when I grew up was never like this. Video has surfaced of kids as young as 5 at a Philadelphia Islamic Center singing, “We will chop off their heads…and we will subject them to eternal torture.

■ Unexpected source, much wisdom: “As for those of us who are still in the land of the living, if we can’t be civil and gracious when a 37-year-old wife and mother passes away, we had better to do some serious questioning of our own faith.”

■ Parenting Place (1): To spank or not to spank? A balanced article on the subject, with a ten point guide on how to — or how not to — administer loving correction.

■ Parenting Place (2): Exposing your kids to other cultures. “On one of those first trips, when my youngest was only four years old, we walked past a group of women, covered head-to-toe in solid black burkas with only small slits for their eyes visible and she tugged on my arm. I leaned down and she asked in her tiny innocent voice if the “black angels” were good or bad. Her heart was pure but her question still broke my heart because she asked it in fear of what she didn’t understand. I whispered that they were good.” [Warning: This is obviously a recommended article, but my AdBlock was blocking no less than 36 elements, and there was pop-up that popped up three times. This was truly the worst of anything I’ve ever seen online, and you might want to visit just on that basis alone.]

■ New Music from 🇬🇧 – Iron Lung by Martin Smith (of Delirious) (Title song from the new album)

■ New Music from 🇺🇸 – House on a Hill (Acoustic) by Amanda Cook (of Bethel Music)

■ New Music from 🇨🇦 – Into the Wild by Manic Drive (Winner of the 2019 Juno Award for Gospel/Christian Album of the Year; the Junos are Canada’s equivalent to the Grammy Awards.) 

■ Mini Podcast of the Week: A Catholic take on whether or not we should work on Sundays. (It’s not about money changing hands, so you can still go out for brunch after mass.)

■ Watch your scripture citations. Double check the references.

■ Finally — Back to the Bee: Basics for Bassists from the Fender Guitar people (as pictured below). All you really need for today’s worship music.


*There were a number of other articles about Rachel that we didn’t get to yesterday that were posted at the Tuesday link list at Phoenix Preacher. I’ve have read some but not all of these:

Response to P& P on the death of Rachel Held Evans

RIP Rachel Held Evans…

Four gifts RHE gave us…

Jesus Creed on RHE…

Relevant on RHE…

RHE and the democratization of theology…

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