Thinking Out Loud

January 23, 2019

Wednesday Connect

For those of you who love alliteration, this is the smiling Satan statue in Segovia, Spain. He’s happy. A little too happy as it turns out. See today’s final linked item.

So here we are again. Thanks again to our contributors. Today as usual there is good news, bad news, and strange news.

♦ Breaking as we come on the air: Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury speaks in tongues.

♦ The story at Harvest Bible Chapel keeps going. Both of these links are to blogger and broadcaster Julie Roys who has been relentless in separating fact from fiction in this unfortunate drama.

  • The last time we looked, James MacDonald was going to be leaving regular preaching duties, but would have continued speaking at Harvest Bible Chapel in Naples. The Naples pastor didn’t think that sounded right, and was promptly fired. He says if he’d known about the internal turmoil at HBC, he never would have allowed his formerly-independent church to join the HBC network. Now he wants his job back.
  • Harvest leadership team admits there were shortcomings concerning the firing of the Naples pastor. (Tuesday)

♦ A $452 billion (USD) Saudi “mega-city” project would destroy crucial historical and archaeological evidence including bulldozing the site where Moses received the Ten Commandments.

♦ A most distressing day for pro-lifers in New York State and everywhere else. A new “radical pro-abortion bill Tuesday that would allow unborn babies to be aborted for basically any reason up to birth.” It gets worse: “Protections for babies born alive after botched abortions also would end under the new bill. Additionally, the bill says the state cannot “deny, regulate or restrict” abortion, not even for common-sense reasons such as parental consent for minors, informed consent or limits on taxpayer-funded abortions.”

♦ Happening in Vermont: The story of Kelly Haines and Pastor John Longaker. “No one conducted a background check when a small church in southwestern Vermont hired a pastor in 2010…” From there, it’s a long story. Or if you prefer, check out this timeline constructed by the Burlington (VT) Free Press.

♦ Persecution Watch:

  • “During 2018, the Iranian Christian community, along with other religious minorities, continued to suffer multiple violations of their right to freedom of religion and belief. Ongoing surveillance of Christians by the authorities was often accompanied by harassment. The end of 2018 saw an unprecedented wave of raids on private house gatherings, leading to large numbers of arrests. Many Christians received prison sentences, or had sentences upheld by the court of appeal…” This link will lead you to a 9-page .pdf report.
  • For reports from four other countries, “The Christian Post spoke with believers from India, Iraq, Nigeria and one undisclosed South Asian country about the violence they and their communities have faced.”
  • For people in the world missions community, the release of the Open Doors annual World Watch List is always anticipated. Last week, the group issued the report, significant for the top-10 placement forn India. (In this case, the .pdf file link is a 68 page booklet; be sure to allow ample time.)

♦ Leadership Lessons: Fighting insecurity. “Consider the best leader in your life. What made them so effective? Why did you love them? It probably had something to do with how they empowered you to be your best. Not that their coaching and feedback was always easy and stroked your ego, but it was what you needed. And it was delivered in a way that moved you forward, rather than holding you back.”

♦ Those Catholic kids seeming to clash with a Native protester? You can’t always trust viral videos. “For most people, the meaning of moving images seems to relate to the footage inside them—the people, settings, and events that the camera pointed at and captured. But in fact, the way those elements were selected, edited, and re-presented has an enormous impact on the way they are received and understood. In the case of the Lincoln Memorial encounter, neither the original video nor the new one explains what ‘really happened.’

♦ Parenting Place: Just read this. Even if you don’t have kids. Turns out the opposite (and better) strategy to giving your kids a time-out is giving yourself a time-in.

Roger Olson on the wall. (As opposed to The Wall, a Pink Floyd album.) Sample: “Imagine that a political or natural disaster crisis occurred in Canada and thousands upon thousands of Canadian men, women and children fled it by crossing the border into the U.S. technically illegally? I wonder how many Americans would be up in arms demanding that a thousands mile long wall be built?”

♦ Reading Genesis: “According to C. John Collins, professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary and the Old Testament editor of the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible, both of these camps [creationists and evolutions] are fundamentally wrong for the same reason.

♦ Essay of the Week: Bath Night, Baptism and Happy Days. (Awarded not for the premise itself, but for the execution including some musical memories.)

The uploader has not made this link available in your country.

♦ After winning Christianity Today’s Book of the Year award for The Storm-Tossed Family, Russell Moore thanks the publication not only for the honor, but for the magazine’s very existence.

♦ An eight part series on The History Channel explores the life of Jesus from the perspective of eight people with whom he interacted. Jesus: His Life “will premiere with two episodes back-to-back every week starting on March 25 at 8 p.m. ET leading up to the week before Easter.”

♦ An unknown number of LifeWay Christian bookstores are closing.

♦ Headline which forced me to click through: Blackmail and the Gospel. You might consider this approach next time you get a spam email asking for money.

♦ New Music from Planetshakers: All Around (turn up your subwoofers).

♦ You’ve heard people talk about the music at Urbana events like Urbana 18. Listen to “You Are God” described as “a multilingual, multicultural worship anthem.”(Is this what singing in heaven will be like?)

♦ The cost of social media marketing for Christian publishers: This guy gets some rather incredibly expensive Bibles for free in exchange for reviewing them on YouTube, but given the small number of views relative to the retail prices of some of the Bibles, there’s something wrong with this picture.

♦ On the weekend we covered ABC-TV’s rehash of the Jim & Tammy Faye Bakker story. Here’s a 20/20 extra with some extra footage you didn’t see of what is now the home of Morningstar Ministries.

♦ John Crist’s advice on how to know whether or not you should cancel your services due to weather.

♦ ‘Before we begin today’s session a moment of prayer..’ Only at an Alaska assembly meeting, the invocation will be given by Pastafarians and Satanists.

♦ Finally, back to the “smiling Satan statue in Segovia, Spain.” (I just like typing that phrase.) If you read the story, he’s smiling for the same reason you’re often smiling. He’s taking a selfie. TIME reports that, “The Satanic sculpture was commissioned by the city council in hopes of drawing tourists to some of the town’s lesser-known neighborhoods, according to Spain’s El Pais newspaper. But residents were perturbed by the playful Prince of Darkness. [Again, notice the alliteration.] Some 5,500 people — approximately 10% of the entire city’s population — have signed an online petition calling for the project to be scrapped.”

Satan sneaks a selfie in Segovia.


It turned out we had another selfie picture in the files. Why should the devil have all today’s pictures?

 

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January 16, 2019

Wednesday Connect

We’re back with another list of news and opinion pieces and music. Thanks to those of you who send links. We try to use relatively recent items, but sometimes an online article will rejuvenate an older article or video. [Picture, above: See third item below.]

♦ Our lead item this week: Joyce Meyer saying her views on faith and prosperity were out of line? Relevant Magazine: “Joyce Meyer has posted a surprising video on Instagram where she seems to walk back some prosperity gospel and ‘word of faith’ theology.” But then…

♦ …In verifying the story at Relevant Magazine we found this little story with this headline from last March: “Watch Joyce Meyer Make a Strong Biblical Case for Getting Tattoos.” There was no actual video to watch, and this is the article in full: “Well, this is probably not the headline you were expecting to see today. Popular preacher and author Joyce Meyer recently preached a message in which she made the biblical case for getting tattoos, and explained why Christians who use the Bible to argue against them are taking the Scripture out of context. She also said that she is actually thinking about getting a tattoo of her own.”

♦ Equally Ridiculous: ‘If you have a brain, you must choose Calvinism.’ “I viewed this discussion with frustration at the willingness of these men to insult and denigrate the intelligent and theologically minded Christians throughout time who have not found a home in Calvinism.” (To which I add, frustration at how the views of others have been caricatured and misunderstood.) If you are theologically minded and also have low blood pressure, this will raise it. 12½ Minutes of Gospel Coalition preaching to the choir.  (Sample quotation: “It’s hard to imagine young Evangelicals being animated humanly speaking by anyone more than someone like John Piper.”)

🇨🇳 Persecution Watch — China: The [Early Rain Covenant] Church in south-west China has been shuttered and [pastor ]Wang and his wife, Jiang Rong, remain in detention after police arrested more than 100 Early Rain church members in December. Many of those who haven’t been detained are in hiding. Others have been sent away from Chengdu and barred from returning. Some, including Wang’s mother and his young son, are under close surveillance. Wang and his wife are being charged for “inciting subversion”, a crime that carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison…Early Rain is the latest victim of what Chinese Christians and rights activists say is the worst crackdown on religion since the country’s Cultural Revolution, when Mao Zedong’s government vowed to eradicate religion.

📖 This ain’t the theology textbook you’re accustomed to, but it would help you understand many a discussion you’ve possibly overheard. Scot McKnight’s preview of Contemporary Theology: An Introduction – Classical, Evangelical, Philosophical and Global Perspectives (Zondervan) by Kirk R. MacGregor is 50% comprised of the chapter titles, but what a list it is! Included are “a collection of names, movements, and methods that pervade theological and biblical discussions.”

✟ …Also recommended by Scot McKnight, this article: Has someone ever told you they are a theologian? What do they actually do after they arrive at the office and punch the clock? “…By implication then, all those who grapple with the question of God are, in one way or another, theologians. They might be very poor theologians, amateur theologians, professional theologians, perhaps even theologians whose work is widely recognized in the life of the church – but theologians they are…”

♀ On Sunday, Dana Trent invited people to post pictures of women in the pulpit. “Our daughters, nieces, sisters, and neighbors need to see themselves represented in worship spaces. This is what a preacher looks like.” Check out the pictures in the thread.

♦ With the passing of former SBC President Bailey Smith, the words which became a legacy: “It’s interesting to me at great political battles how you have a Protestant to pray and a Catholic to pray and then you have a Jew to pray. With all due respect to those dear people, my friend, God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew. For how in the world can God hear the prayer of a man who says that Jesus Christ is not the true Messiah? It is blasphemy. It may be politically expedient, but no one can pray unless he prays through the name of Jesus Christ.”

📣 “The sermon is generally the most important element of most Protestant church services (most take between 25 and 45 minutes), but there are serious doubts about its effectiveness and Biblical basis.” Check out this very lengthy, very thorough look into how we learn, suggesting that it’s time to reconsider the sermon.

♦ “Science is rational, faith is irrational.” Ever have someone say that to you? “To me, the only answer is to yield the point, but to dispute the assumption. Your friend is attacking you because they are assuming that the word ‘irrational’ implies ‘bad’ — that anything that cannot be rationally explained is, in itself, bad. Yet this is in itself a case of generalizing too far, and our hypothetical challenger would have to agree that there are many non-rational things in the world which are fairly uncontroversially natural and good…”

📖 Releasing February 1st from Eerdman’s: Mere Calvinism. “Learn why the teachings of Calvinism not only matter, but can renew your trust and hope in the gospel!” (Because goodness knows, without it, the gospel is pretty hopeless.)

♦ Apologetics Alley: At the YouTube channel Pints with Jack — obviously set in a bar with equal parts beer and C. S. Lewis — a 5½ min. discussion about the question, “What is the point of Christianity?

✈ Yesterday marked ten years since “the miracle on the Hudson,” where US Airways pilot Chesley Sullenberger pulled off the feat of a lifetime. The spiritual lesson in this is that while we sometimes only have precious seconds to make a decision, we can draw on a lifetime of training and experience.

♦ Here’s a fairly comprehensive weekly spiritual inventory. Sample “#8 Who knows more about God today because of my witness this past week?

🎬 Opening in theaters this MLK weekend: Canal Street featuring music by TobyMac, Social Club Misfits, Hollyn and many others. After being arrested for the murder of a white classmate, a young black man’s father fights in court for his son’s vindication. Watch the trailer or visit the website.

♦ Relational Dynamics: Most of us don’t want criticism and don’t want negative feedback. “I have spent so much of my life carefully calculating what would earn me affirmation, attention, and accolades. I wanted to be highly revered and deeply loved. I did all I could to be the good kid, the smart kid, the capable kid, the best friend, the funniest, the kindest, the holiest, the most responsible… And it worked.”

♂ Combating a culture of toxic masculinity: ICYMI, here’s that Gillette commercial everyone’s talking about.

♦ Parenting Place: When your kids are looking at things online you wish they hadn’t seen. “You know, kids today, they’ve seen modeled that when they have questions, they take it to the internet. So our kids are just doing what we functionally taught them to do over their younger lives. So, that puts a burden, a responsibility on us to monitor what they’re looking for. Because, clearly, looking up body parts in the Encyclopedia Britannica or in the dictionary is going to yield different results than just looking it up on Google.”

♦ Anchorage, Alaska (Huffington Post): “A conservative Christian law firm that once defended an evangelical baker who refused to bake a cake for a gay couple is now representing a Christian charity that refused to let a homeless transgender woman stay in its overnight shelter… The [Hope Center] charity has reportedly refused to provide information about its public funding, which would help determine whether it is a place of public accommodation that could be required to follow the [city’s] anti-discrimination law.

🇮🇱 In Haifa, Israel, a firebomb was hurled at the museum currently displaying the McJesus sculpture by Finnish artist Jani Leinonen. Christians want it take it down, but in an unusual twist, so does the artist.

★ Chris Pratt and fiancée Katherine Schwarzenegger: Apparently the celebrity couple feels living together is okay as long as you’re engaged. Katherine “– whose dad is movie star Arnold – only agreed to move in with A-lister Chris Pratt after he’d popped the question, because co-habiting would be against their strict religious beliefs.” 

♦ After I compile the list, I check out the links Michael and Eric have posted at Phoenix Preacher and see how many we had in common. (Their list goes up on Tuesday.) We had three, and then I saw these:

♦ Remember the ‘Bruce Jenner’ message on the church sign? The pastor who posted it has resigned to stop people leaving the church. 

♦ Podcast of the Week: Chris Fabry discusses self control with Drew Dyck author of Your Future Self Will Thank You.

♫ Part of the Hillsong UNITED 2019 tour, Mack Brock’s song Fresh Wind Fresh Fire borrows from a book title by Jim Cymbala. 

♦ Tweet of the Week: A social media history of philosophy. [See also below.]

♦ Finally, thanks to my son Aaron for discovering the Bible Illustrated videos on YouTube. Here’s the first one he sent me, showing the difference between Roman Catholic Christians and Orthodox Christians.



A brief history of Philosophy


Digging a Little Deeper

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

January 9, 2019

Wednesday Connect

So here’s a question for you: Why do the authors so intent on helping me solve my financial problems only publish their books in hardcover?

Just a reminder that this blog uses cookies to keep the writer awake after 11:00 PM. Here’s your week’s worth of items culled from a variety of sources.

♦ An old format meets today’s technology in a Bible commentary in pictures: “The Visual Commentary on Scripture (VCS) [is] a freely accessible online publication that provides theological commentary on the Bible in dialogue with works of art. It helps its users to (re)discover the Bible in new ways through the illuminating interaction of artworks, scriptural texts, and commissioned commentaries. Each section of the VCS is a virtual exhibition comprising a biblical passage, three art works, and their associated commentaries. The curator of each exhibition selects artworks that they consider will open up the biblical texts for interpretation, and/or offer new perspectives on themes the texts address.”

✎ Essay of the Week: What ‘values’ are we trying to hold on to? “Conservatives, by their very nature want to conserve the values of the past. But the past wasn’t entirely Christian, you know? The past wasn’t a good time to be a woman or an Aboriginal or an immigrant or LGBTIQ. It wasn’t a good time to be an old-growth forest or a river. In fact, for very different reasons, it wasn’t even all that good to be a white male either.”

James MacDonald’s decision to shut down the broadcast component of Walk in the Word is our Story of the Week.

📻 After months of personal controversy, James MacDonald surprises his staff with the decision to shutter the broadcast sector of Walk in the Word. Julie Roys was anonymously sent a recording of the staff meeting.

In a surprise announcement to staff on Wednesday, MacDonald said he had decided to remove Walk in the Word from all “traditional” broadcast mediums and exclusively focus on digital delivery, like podcasts. MacDonald said the reason for the change was primarily pragmatic. “Traditional broadcast is a dying thing,” MacDonald said in a live announcement to staff

📻 …Dee Parsons believes the ‘radio is a dying medium’ argument by MacDonald takes the focus away from the controversial lawsuit and the issues which sparked it…

♦ …Breaking — Harvest drops the lawsuit; text of message to the congregation

♦ … Response from the defendants.

♦ Also from Julie Roys: Is it just about terminology? Or is there more? Beth Moore’s assertion that “reading the Bible isn’t the same as spending time with God‘ has sparked a firestorm, not dissimilar from Andy Stanley’s late last year… 

♦…Speaking of Andy, this week he asked the musical question, ‘Why do we worry about posting The Ten Commandments in public buildings and not want to post excerpts from The Sermon on the Mount?

📊 Survey says: A Barna study shows that half of all pastors had — and responded to — another calling before getting the call to a vocational ministry career.

♦ Coming to a comic book store near you: “Marvel and DC Comics… tend to shy away from actually depicting real religious figures like God and Satan. Usually, they’ll create a loose analogy … to steer clear of controversy, but evidently DC is throwing caution to the wind with their newest superhero, someone you might already be familiar with… That’s right: Jesus Christ is coming to the rescue in an upcoming series called The Second Coming, from DC imprint Vertigo.” …

♦ …Another article describes it: “Second Coming… sees the son of God return to modern-day Earth (because God hopes Jesus will learn a lesson in godliness from the almighty superhero Sun-Man), only for Christ to discover that the message of his gospel has become horrifically twisted in the years since his crucifixion.” (Possibly no argument there.)

♦ Devotional of the Week: By no less than Rez Band (Resurrection Band) guitarist Glenn Kaiser “riffing” (his word) on Paul’s words in Philippians 3.

♦ What’s your sign? “The names we call our churches have long provided a window into our souls, to borrow an irresistible cliché.”

Flippin, Ark., is home, somewhat irreverently, to Flippin Christian Church, Flippin Baptist Church, Flippin Church of God, and is not far from a Bar None Cowboy Church. Versions of the last also exist in Oklahoma, Texas, and Iowa. If Internet lore is to be believed, the South has played host not only to Hell Hole Swamp Baptist Church (South Caro­lina) and Waterproof Baptist Church (Louisiana) but to the First Church of the Last Chance World on Fire Revival and Military Academy (Florida) as well.  …continue reading at National Review

♦ In the Twitterverse: January is a time for “best books” lists, but this short Twitter thread gives a very short “best Bibles” list with reasons for each of the three choice. (Maybe not the three you’re expecting, but if you’re open to change in a new year, this might help.)

♦ Parenting / Student Ministry: The article’s title is “Stop Telling Girls to ‘Save Themselves.'” Sample: “The body that never had sex is better than the body that didn’t – at least according to purity culture. The problem? Virginity is not same as purity. Virginity is physical; purity is spiritual. God has commanded us to save sex for marriage because His design is for our protection and honor. So in a sense, virginity – not having sex prior to marriage – can be a form of purity, but only in the physical sense. Virginity is simply a biological status – not a status of the heart… When we focus on virginity as the only manifestation of purity, we also negate the value of Christ’s redemption.”

♀ Women’s Workshop: From Laurie Pawlik author of the book, Going Forward When You Can’t Go Back (releasing next week from Bethany House) this article about Six female Bible characters who, in different ways, said ‘yes’ to God. Sample: “… I noticed that these 6 female heroes of the Bible—our Biblical sisters—didn’t waste time wrestling with ‘Why me?’ Instead, they threw themselves into ‘Yes, Lord.'”

♦ Life and Leadership: 10 Questions to ask yourself, the answers to which will make for a fruitful 2019

♦ Bonus article for website visitors: Eight simple ways each of us can be missional in our everyday living.

🇨🇦 Canada Corner: The controversial “attestation” in the federal government’s summer job grant program has been removed for 2019. (Having to agree to the statement prevented many churches and Christian organizations from receiving the grant last year.) The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada reports on the changes in this 6-page .pdf article.

♦ Quotation of the Week: “We do not need ‘gender whisperers’ in our schools. Let kids be kids.” — Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison, criticizing a program in his country that could see children dressing up in opposite-sex clothing in order to explore gender fluidity…

♦ … Meanwhile in the UK, an event we reported previously, The Drag Queen Story Time is going ahead despite the report that “65 per cent of over 2,600 respondents find the event ‘inappropriate’.”

♦ The subject of the book The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven, Alex Malarkey has refiled charges against the publisher, Tyndale House, for “for appropriation, publicity given to private life, and financial exploitation of a person with a disability.”

♦ Unexpected: Gospel themes in the reboot of Mary Poppins.

The children often can’t believe what Mary Poppins proposes. But she says with a grin, “Everything is possible, even the impossible.” Did not Jesus say something similar? … But, just as Narnia doesn’t give a full exposition of faith or every attribute of Christ, enough is in Mary Poppins Returns to pique curiosity, to whet the appetite, to possibly plant a seed that Christians can water… there are echoes that can be tied to the gospel for those who seek to help people understand how longings in culture are connected to ultimate realities… There are many other allusions to the gospel and biblical truths in Mary Poppins Returns, not least of which is the fact that with the coming of this savior from heaven (as with Christ in His first coming) light emerges, miracles are performed, realms are opened, broken hearts are restored, a family is healed, faith is kindled, “childlikeness” is sparked, love grows, a thief and a liar is judged, and hope awakens.

♦ Changing standards? Are we allowed to use term ‘badass’ in a Christian book title? Eerdman’s did. Burying White Privilege: Resurrecting a Badass Christianity.

♫ The title song from the new Passion album, Follow You Anywhere. There’s a one month gap between the release of the album online (available now) and the physical CD (early February).

This link is only available to premium subscribers.

♦ For all you Church History buffs, The Theological Comedy Awards. “Example #1: St. Sebastian. If you’ve ever been to a renaissance or medieval art museum, you’ve probably seen a statue or painting of Sebastian pin-cushioned with arrows. He was a Christian Roman soldier in the third century who was caught converting other soldiers to the faith, and sentenced to death by arrows. Today, no joke, he is the patron of, among other things, archery.”

Okay, I was kidding about the premium subscription thing.

Finally, I really wanted to end today with a thing that Brant Hansen posted to his Facebook page on January 4th, but after trying to follow the instructions for embedding FB videos, I don’t think my version of WordPress supports it. So I decided instead to end with something by James Cary, whose book The Sacred Art of Joking releases this March.

 

January 2, 2019

Wednesday Connect

see story below for link

Welcome to Wednesday Connect #42. We’re back with more news and opinion pieces we hope you didn’t see elsewhere. Also, there was a list last week, so if you missed it, click this link.

♦ During a six-month period in 2008, three members of a well-known Evangelical family quietly left the staff of James MacDonald’s Harvest Bible Chapel. In December, one of them decided to break years of silence.

I think that most of us felt that Harvest was the biggest thing, humanly speaking, that we would all ever be a part of – travelling to cool places; being invited to speak at conferences full of people who actually wanted to really listen to you; hobnobbing with famous people; making six figures as a 32-year-old worship leader… these are all things that are understandably hard to want to give up. They’re the kinds of things that condition you to not rock the boat. Who would be crazy enough to purposely flush an incredibly prosperous career or dare to try and go against the powerful, unspoken Christian cultural ethic of never “speaking poorly” about your church or pastor?

♦ This would be the equivalent of Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Kelly Conway both quitting the same day, only it wasn’t in the President’s office, but across the ocean at The Vatican, where the Pope’s official spokesman and his deputy resigned.

♦ 2018 was an Urbana year and videos of all the teaching sessions from this year’s conference are already posted at Urbana.org. (The Inter-Varsity sponsored event convenes every two years.)

♦ This might be controversial where you live:  People visiting the new Doha’s new Sidra women’s and children’s hospital in Qatar are welcomed by 14 huge bronze sculptures that graphically chart the growth of a baby, from conception to birth, ending with a 14-metre (46ft) statue of a newborn. There are other reports on this available, but this video shows all 14 sculptures.

♦ A Gallup poll shows the rating given clergy in terms of honesty and ethics continues to decline.

♦ Didn’t get this in time to include last week, but highly worth the reading: Why more American Muslims celebrated Christmas this year.

♦ Everybody sing! ♫ “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…” ♫ which is also the newly-announced title of the movie about Mr. Rogers starring Tom Hanks. Relevant Magazine also noted, “He was a Presbyterian minister with a divinity degree, and he viewed his work as a children’s show host in pastoral terms. ‘The space between the TV screen and whoever is watching is very holy ground,’ he said once, and he took that belief seriously.”

♦ Twist of Circumstances: In Egypt, two Christians were killed by a policeman who had been assigned to guard their church…

♦ …meanwhile, violence against Christians by majority Muslims in Uganda is quickly escalating.

♦ For Christmas this year, Philip Yancey looked into accounts of the appearance of angels in the gospels.

♦ Philosophy Department: For those of you who like to go deeper, a revised “Correspondence Theory” of truth.

♦ It’s not too late to change your family devotion time to more of a family worship time, and roommates can do this as well. “…It has had a powerful impact on our lives. My wife and I often comment on how our personal faith has been strengthened, and our kids eagerly expect ‘Bible time’ each morning. They actually complain on the occasional days when we miss our time together due to life’s hiccups….Christian housemates, empty nesters, and married couples without children could consider committing to a regular household devotional gathering like this. Even engaged couples might want to think about beginning so they can get in the habit early. I wish we had!…” Their model includes singing together.

♦ Jesus accepted people as they were. No one was required to fill in a statement of faith before hanging out with him. He didn’t put people in boxes except insofar as he would categorize them in terms of how they responded to him and his message.

♦ This article is four months old, but it’s message is important: “…But there’s one thing I don’t like about online dating sites. The very first thing a user sees is a photograph. Whether on a website or at a co-ed party, many will instantly eliminate ninety percent of potentially great partners on the basis of looks and body type alone.”

♦ A popular California pastor, Craig Jultila suffered a heart attack and died during a snowboarding trip. He was 53.

♦ Ohio upheld the veto of a “heartbeat” test for abortion bans, but the fight is not over and the tide could change with a new government in 2019.

♦ Franklin Graham was banned from Facebook for 24 hours, not for something he posted recently, but for an item he posted in 2016

♦ Parents continue to pull their kids out of the centuries old Boy Scouts of America in favor of a faith-based organization, Trail Life USA. “In 2015 the group announced it would begin allowing openly gay and lesbian leaders. Eighteen months later, the Boy Scouts opened ranks to girls who self-identify as boys. Girls started joining Cub Scouts earlier this year and will be able to join the traditional scouting program for 11- to 17-year-olds, to be renamed Scouts BSA…” Meanwhile, at Trail Life, volunteers must adhere to a statement of faith.

♦ Can you identify the source of this quotation? Answer below

In the seventeenth chapter of St. Luke, it is written that the kingdom of God is within man, not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! You, the people, have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then in the name of democracy, let us use that power. Let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give youth a future and old age a security.

♦ The recent season of Doctor Who, along with all the other changes it brought, seemed to make a greater allowance for the faith of its characters.

♫ A purple-haired Lauren Daigle performs You Say on Good Morning America.  

Chris Tomlin is again taking the show on the road…to Israel

♫ …or you could Kevin Max, TobyMac,The Newsboys, John Crist, Ryan Stevenson, Mandisa and others sailing on the Jesus Freak Cruise.

♦ There’s a classical music parody composer, Peter Shickele who once worked “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” into a ostensibly classical piece, but I never considered doing the Jeopardy theme during the offering

♦ 90 years after it was stolen, a statue of the baby Jesus was returned to a New Jersey church.

♦ Finally, if you’re like me, all the stores were sold out of Nativitalk, so I’m bookmarking this as a reminder to shop early next year.


The quotation is from the Charlie Chaplin movie The Great Dictator. You can read it in full here, and also hear portions of it on the live version of the song “A Head Full of Dreams” by Coldplay.

December 26, 2018

Wednesday Connect

The difference between a colon and a hyphen is critical here; but I know there are those who read it the other way around. [Source: The Christian Institute]

This week’s list follows up on at least one continuing story, and provides a conclusion to a year in which the Wednesday Link List became Wednesday Connect. Your suggestions for stories and opinion pieces to include here are always appreciated.

♦ Carey Niewhof’s end-of-year prognostications about the future of church attention contain some points worthy of deeper consideration beyond simply reading the article. Sample #4 “Does online participation feed consumption or drive engagement?” or #9 “What happens to kids whose parents only attend online?

♦ After #MeToo became #ChurchToo, for some writers, like Michael Frost, it was a very Hybels type of year.

♦ Why are some pastors afraid to denounce pastors who have done horrible thing. We took Sheila Wray Gregoire’s post and made a blog article out of it, but if you missed that, here’s the thread in its original form with comments.

♦ Comparing the situation a few years back at Mars Hill Church (MHC) to present day Harvest Bible Chapel (HBC) Warren Throckmorton writes: “I can’t see it getting any better as long as HBC maintains the defamation suit. Putting aside biblical arguments for or against the action, I think it is a terrible precedent to set as a matter of public perception of how Christians do things. The tension and animosity will only escalate with each new revelation. In MHC’s case, the church was always the PR loser when differences emerged into the light of day.”  Also…

♦ Mary’s song and social justice: “It’s an all-too-common reaction to scripture. When the message gets difficult (as it frequently does), the Church often “spiritualizes” the text, which really means divorcing the otherwise obvious challenge from any practical reality. That way, we can say we believe it, love it, quote it, sing it – but not let it affect our personal comfort or challenge the status quo of church or society.”

♦ Comparative Religion: When representatives from 200 different religions showed up at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Toronto in early November, it probably left some wondering what are these 200 different faiths, when most of us could only name a dozen or so.

♦ Pursuant to its desire to simply be known as “The Church” what you know currently as the “Mormons” or “Latter Day Saints” will have its bookstore chain, Deseret Books phase out titles using the old nomenclature

♦ Unexpected (CNN): “The Iraqi Cabinet approved a law to mark Christmas Day, December 25, as an official holiday across the country ‘on the occasion of the birth of Jesus Christ,’ according to a statement released by the Iraqi government. The Cabinet voted on an amendment to the national holidays law in the country that Christmas Day is a holiday for all Iraqis, and not only for the Christian community, as it had been for decades.”

♦ Actress Patricia Heaton feels that Christian actor Gary Sinise’s humanitarian philanthropic work shouldn’t go unnoticed. If she had her way, he’d be TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year.  

Robert Alter has finished his translation of the Bible. (I’m at my limit for New York Times articles, so I didn’t get to actually read this.) (Which is a shame because they do a lot of religion articles.)

♦ Provocative devotional article title: “Does Your Giving Say “Leftovers” or “Lord”?

We never seem to have the conversation that goes like this: “We can do what Jesus is leading us to do in his kingdom, but if we do, everything else is going to have to change.” Instead, we ask, “How much can we afford to give after all these other commitments are fulfilled?” After we get the kind of house we want to live in. After we go on the vacations we think our family would enjoy. After we drive the kind of cars and wear the kinds of clothes we want.

♦ While parishioners are singing a hymn, a car crashes into a church on the west side of Columbus, Ohio.

♫ If for some reason you didn’t get enough seasonal music, check out the blog of Pastor Brad Russell. This will take some work on your part, but there are 25 separate blog posts here, each titled “Christmas Playlist” and then in some, there are up to seven different versions of the same song. On others, there are some obscure songs you might hear for the first time. (I listened to about 15 of the 25 and thoroughly enjoyed each.)

♦ In poly-amorous relationships, whose family do you get together with at Thanksgiving or Christmas?

♦ In the first seven minutes of this sermon, John Mark Comer deals with one of the great moral dilemmas of the 1990s: Burning CDs for friends or from friends.

♦ In an end-of-year soft news story, Religion News Service asks Phil Vischer about his relationship with Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber after 25 years.

♦ Prosperity teaching at Hillsong: “…In other words, give money to Hillsong and God will unlock ‘financial revival’ in your life. Note that after God, generosity towards the ‘church’ has priority over family and those who need it most.”

♦ Meet “The Gucci Priest.” Vyacheslav Baskakov is a Russian Orthodox priest with a thing for bling. “Baskakov denied actually purchasing any of the luxury goods he posted, saying he took photos in shops. He said he sometimes sewed expensive-looking buckles and accessories on his shoes to make them look nicer.” 

♦ And then there’s this priest: In a Spanish village for nearly two decades he performed marriages, baptized babies and heard confessions. But his ordination documents were forged; he had never been ordained.

♦ You think your pastor runs long? This service has been going on for over 1,400 hours.

♦ Finally, we end this link every week with rather bizarre Christian news stories, so it’s only fitting that our final one for 2018, should be as bizarre as they get: “A French teenager has injected himself with a DNA sequence he claims contained text from the Bible and Koran, prompting fierce criticism from those involved in the specialized science. Adrien Locatell, from Grenoble in France, translated the passages into DNA code in order to generate proteins that he could inject into his body.” With that, we wrap up the year.


Joseph and Mary in a modern world. The picture was posted without annotation to the Christianity page of Reddit with the title José y Maria. Take a second look. Read the 200+ comments.

December 19, 2018

Wednesday Connect

‘…and on the eighth day, God created paragraphs.’
This is someone’s blog. For reals. Here’s a different article. Same format.

We made it back around 9:15 PM from being out-of-town all day only to have the link to Firefox.exe disappear from my computer last night. Nonetheless, I had prepared much of this beforehand. Have you ever done the hot tub in the dead of winter thing? It was -6°C (that’s 21° for those of you in that country that still won’t switch to metric) and honestly I could have stayed all day. Scratch that one off the bucket list!

♦ The Julie Roys investigative piece into activities involving James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel was finally published a few days ago. It’s a disturbing piece which paints a picture of a rather shameful church leadership culture. (See also the screenshot from the article at the bottom of today’s list.) 

♦…But wait, there’s more!

♦ God wasn’t leading us into temptation in the first place, so Pope Francis is working on an amended version of The Lord’s Prayer. (As I was formatting this, I noticed a December, 2017 piece we ran at C201 which indicates that he was working on this last year as well.)

♦ Why won’t there be marriage in heaven? The question has more to do with resurrection than it does with the institution of marriage itself.

♦ Quotation of the Week: “When the voices of dissent are silenced, whether through threat or departure, the institution itself suffers.” An article about rocking the boat.

♦ From Associated Press: “Twice as many high school students used nicotine-tinged electronic cigarettes this year compared with last year…It was the largest single-year increase in the survey’s 44-year history, far surpassing a mid-1970s surge in marijuana smoking.”

♦ A memorial mural at Pomona College remembering the victims in the Pittsburgh synagogue attack has been defaced at least two times.

♦ Parenting: “…I dislike the things about him that remind me of my own awkward teenage self. Yes, I played sports. But I didn’t really like it. I pretty much just did the bare minimum that I had to do. Just like he does. I really just wanted to draw and write and listen to my music and talk to the adults about adulting, even though I knew nothing about adulting. Just like he does…” Thoughts on when your child doesn’t meet your expectations.

♦ The President of the United States either didn’t know The Apostles Creed, or chose not to recite it, even though it was printed in the program of the funeral he was attending. Members of the Churches of Christ don’t know it, either.

♦ If you’re target audience is seekers — as opposed to believers — it’s going to affect what your worship looks like and what your preaching sounds like.

♦ Another great site celebrates ten years: Check out the apologetics articles at What God May Really Be Like.

♦ Essay of the Week: “The most pressure I ever felt in seminary to adopt a certain viewpoint had nothing to do with a theological issue. It was over Santa Claus…Unlink the gifts from behavior. The presents under the tree have nothing to do with avoiding a ‘naughty list.’ Instead of being part of attempts at mere behavior modification, Santa can actually help bring about Christ-centered character development.Children do not earn gifts or lose them because of their behavior. They have them because they are loved.”

♦ A supposed exposé of Ravi Zacharias has been released as an eBook on Kindle and Nook. “He had written dozens of books, had a weekly radio show that reached over 2000 outlets, he packed large auditoriums around the world, and in 2016 his ministry brought in $42,000,000. This was a large boat that nobody in the Christian business world wanted to rock.

♦ Your future self will thank you for reading this book: Countdown is on to the New Year release date for Drew Dyck’s third book; this one covering the topic of self control.

♦ Not the bad porn, but the good porn. Apparently Nadia wasn’t the first to suggest this, Mark Driscoll said it first.

♫ We’ll start out this 4-pack of music with something highbrow and Christmas-y: A selection from Handel’s Messiah.

♫ While not a commercial recording, you might like the refugee perspective of Away from the Manager.

♫ This particular duet was part of a 2016 tour, but I believe this recording of the song (originally recorded by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli 30 years ago) may be new: The Prayer performed by Danny Gokey and Natalie Grant.

♫ Matthew West’s song The Motions has been certified Platinum. Watch the video, read the story.

♦ Where I live, as well as the UK and Europe, Christians would find this somewhat unbelievable.

Recently billboards have appeared along major U.S. freeways depicting Trump’s face and the quote from John 1 “And the Word became flesh.” Another saying on the billboards is “Make the gospel great again.” Predictably these billboards have raised concerns and questions. The Christians who sponsor the billboards have defended them, claiming that they do not equate Trump with Jesus Christ. But the billboards are what they are. Whatever the sponsor’s thoughts and intentions may be, the billboards scream out that Trump is “up there with Jesus” in terms of messiahship, saviorhood, worthiness of ultimate loyalty.

♦ I don’t think you’re going to be successful looking for “A Multitude of the Heavenly Host” under the artist listings on iTunes. (Probably make a great recording, though; we might be able to request it one fine day…)

♦ Artistic License: The Mormons get ticked over what they feel is the appropriation of one of their own pieces of art by the new Deadpool movie, even though the picture was painted by a Jehovah’s Witness.

♦ Finally, When Mennonites lose their passwords.


Deer me! Truth is stranger than fiction:  My favorite paragraph from the Julie Roys piece in WORLD. (First link in this list above.)


Over the years many of our graphic images have come from Twenty-One Hundred Productions’ Facebook page. 2100 is the media division of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.

 

December 12, 2018

Wednesday Connect


Again, a most interesting collection. If you missed last week, use the large “Wednesday Connect” logo in the blog’s right margin to link to the whole collection. Images are courtesy of Relidicous.com. We’ll try to be back next week but family obligations may make that impossible.

♦ The man who revived Nietzsche’s ‘God is Dead’ franchise, scientist Thomas Altizer has died.

♦ This week’s most talked about religion story: Sexual predation is a recurring theme in the Independent Fundamentalist churches. Why are so few perpetrators in jail?

♦ …and read more about the reactions to this front-page, 4-part, investigative series which, from a local Texas newspaper is now rocking the Christian world

♦ At the Museum of the Bible, a rare Bible from the 1800s used to educate and convert slaves omitted key verses which would have given them ideas about rebellion or liberation.

♦ Breaking this week: 100 Christians arrested in raids on churches in China

♦ The James MacDonald lawsuit – Collateral Damage: Was Wayne Grudem defamed in the process?

♦ In the UK, concern about making all associations working with children politically correct. “The idea that Scouts, Guides, Cubs, Brownies, Sunday schools, sports teams and cadet forces should be assessed and graded by the Government and its agencies is as unwholesome and unwelcome now as it was then.”

♦ Parenting: A first-hand account with the provocative title, “Don’t Teach Your Children Predestination.”

The latest Harvest Bible Chapel update.

♦ John MacArthur 1998: It is dangerous for the President to have a habit of lying, deception, and hypocrisy.
John MacArthur 2018: Christians should not be concerned about the moral life of the President.
What happened between 1998 and 2018?
He gives the current President a pass, but wouldn’t do that years earlier.

♦ Composed after a summer of violence in Salzburg, Germany, this year we wish Happy Birthday to “Silent Night” which turns 200 this year

♦ Reconstruction: Rebuilding the Utah town made infamous by polygamous pedophile cult leader Warren Jeffs.

♦ Name-it-and-Claim-it, Catholic Edition.

Since the 1950s, when the prosperity gospel was first preached by Pentecostals in America, it has proliferated with astonishing speed across the Christian world, finding a particularly receptive audience in developing countries. Although initially limited to the Pentecostal flock, through a process of osmosis the prosperity gospel has entered the teachings of many Catholic clergymen…In Latin America and much of the Global South, believers typically seek to receive divine blessings by forming contractual relations with sacred figures. For example, grassroots Catholics make a promise or vow to a saint or the Virgin Mary in return for a favour generally involving health, wealth or love.

♦ Instead of being classrooms, churches should be studios. That’s the thought of Brian McLaren in a recent interview.

♦ Getting rid of the accuser: It’s time to kill the Elf on a Shelf. (A parable of sorts.)

♦ TGC has its 11th annual list of the top ten Christian news stories of the year.

♦ Don’t tell Bob the Tomato: The question is whether a Calvinist can truly say “God Loves You” to each and every person they meet.

♦ A Christian high school teacher thought he could avoid the gender problem by not using one altogether in reference to a student. “The West Point School Board voted unanimously 5-0 to fire Peter Vlaming who teaches French.” When you read the article, you might learn two new words, “misgendering” and “deadnaming.”

♦ … Students stage a peaceful walkout in support of that teacher.

♦ Canada Corner (1) The Federal Government has pledged that the “values attestation” which prevented many churches and parachurch organizations from getting summer job funding in 2018 are being re-worded to avoid this year’s debacle. However, not everyone is rejoicing.

♦ Canada Corner (2) Children in Alberta were taken to a Gay Straight Alliance conference and to a facilitator’s home without parental knowledge or consent

♦ Canada Corner (3) At a Christmas Market in Kitchener, Ontario when two presenters who attempted to read the Christmas story — as they had in previous years — the city cut off the audio system.

♦ A plea for balance in the attacks on Christian singer Lauren Daigle

♦ With two-thirds of December still to go, Bible Gateway released its list of the Top 100 Bible Verses according to this year’s searches. 

♦ A Nebraska principal has solved all her problems by basically banning Christmas completely. Included in the forbidden list:

  • Christmas trees
  • Carols
  • Candy canes
  • Elf on the Shelf (that’s Christmas-related)
  • Sending a Scholastic book that is a Christmas book (that’s Christmas-related)
  • Making a Christmas ornament as a gift (this assumes that the family has a Christmas
    tree, which assumes they celebrate Christmas. I challenge the thought of “Well they can
    just hang it somewhere else”)
  • Red/Green items (traditional Christmas colors)
  • Reindeer
  • Christmas videos/movies and characters from Christmas movies

♦ Chance the Rapper is taking a sabbatical for Bible Study. “Now, he’s planning to take some time to get to know the God he’s rapped about…”  

♦ Finally, this could be the best gift you give them this season:

 

December 5, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Yesterday’s “doodle” on the UK Google site recognized the 153rd birthday of Edith Cavell.
“Guided by her strong Christian beliefs, her life embodied the service of others, and the need to love everyone, including her enemies.
“She was arrested on 3 August 1915, and was sentenced to death for helping 60 British and 15 French soldiers to escape.
Before her execution, she took communion with an Anglican chaplain, Revd Gahan, reciting the Lord’s Prayer and the hymn Abide With Me.
“Moments before her death by firing squad, she said: ‘Tell my loved ones later on that my soul, as I believe, is safe, and that I am glad to die for my country.’”
Sourced at The Christian Institute.

Putting this week’s link collection together I couldn’t help but notice that stories and articles dealing with what one person has called “pelvic” themes dominated the list. Further, if you think the two items dealing with “Transmania” don’t matter in North America because that’s an issue for the UK to deal with; I promise you, blink twice and it will be on our doorstep. Even elsewhere in the list, there was no getting away from LGBTQ issues.

This isn’t a particular positive collection this week, but hopefully by this time next week there is more to celebrate. Remember, you can contribute story and opinion-piece leads at any time.

♦ Fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce, right? Actually, hold on… with closer examination the rate has never hit 50% or been even close. Never!

♦ From the roof you can see Disneyland! A look at the transformation process of Robert Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral into a fully realized official Roman Catholic Cathedral.

♦ …And from the same blog: Ten things we can apply from John Chau’s death

♦ …Another article clarifies the mission agency’s position on John Chau’s mission to the natives of North Sentinel Island, which ended in his death.

♦ Sloppy language can lead to misinformation. “I remember in the 1980s taking a tour of the House of Commons in London. The tour guide pointed to a plaque on the wall in honor of a minister ‘who was killed by the Irish Catholics.’ Not the IRA, not the Provos, not the terrorists, but the Irish Catholics. Today we do the same thing when we say, ‘Muslims are killing Christians’ Saying that the Catholic church did not protect children is just as wrong. It was the bishops. It was the hierarchy.” The writer argues for the use of the word ‘hierarchy’ in place of the word ‘church.

♦ Out of the mouths of babes: “Wait, Dad. Are we for them or against them?” Kent Annan was talking with his eight-year-old son about the worldwide immigrant and refugee crisis. His son’s innocent question is one that many adults are asking. Kent Annan’s new book You Welcomed Me — his 4th with IVP — looks at overcoming fear to confidently answer that question.

♦ A Case for Catholic Worship: A brief list of 15 things the authors believe Jesus would recognize as familiar were he to visit a traditional Catholic mass.

♦ A University in Western Canada is demanding a pro-life group put up a $17,500 security deposit in order to hold a meeting on campus.

♦ Can James MacDonald be fired from Harvest Bible Chapel. No. Not ever. Not according to this Tweet: “Just read the Bylaws of Harvest Bible Chapel: Bylaws: 803. i.e. 804.b everything we need to know about his leadership, control and grip on the Elder board; he can’t be fired. EVER.” (A wise move on his part, looking back from how things are today.)…

♦ …Meanwhile the initial legal defense fund on GoFundMe (for the bloggers being sued by James MacDonald) has exceeded its $10,000 goal. (However, if the case drags on, possibly as much as 24 months, legal costs will be in “the high six figures.)

♦ Trans groups in the UK have been targeting children between 11 and 16, including coaching them online on what to say to the doctor to get hormone prescriptions. “The group has been highly active at Dorothy Stringer School, which now has 76 gender-confused students…”

Jane Galloway, parent and women’s rights campaigner, concludes: “I fear greatly that in 10 to 15 years’ time, we will find ourselves with a slew of young adults with mutilated bodies, no sexual function, who will turn round to the NHS and ask, ‘Why did you let us do this?’” …

♦ … This isn’t a one-off item online, One writer compiles eight stories in a single week that are part of Transmania. One article notes:

When I ask whether it can really be true that children could be sent off to consult with gender clinics without the parents’ knowledge, she explains that, currently, “the confidentiality of a trans child actually trumps everything, including a parent’s right to know. And if a school believes a child is mature enough to understand the implications of what they’re doing, they don’t need parental consent.”

While another writer observes:

It isn’t only the still small number of kids who are trans-diagnosed who are impacted upon by the transgender ideology. All kids are. The problem here is not some all-powerful trans lobby – it’s the unwillingness of institutions to withstand the transgender worldview. Schools are embracing the new religion of gender-neutrality and are encouraging their charges not to prejudge people’s gender and to believe that sex at birth is irrelevant in comparison with what you feel. The binary that has traditionally allowed children to negotiate an otherwise confusing world – between female and male, mother and father, girl and boy – is being erased, leaving kids socially bereft, uncertain, and re-engineered to think in the way the new elite thinks they should.

♦ Ongoing Story Department: An update from the ex-wife of Saeed Abedini

♦ The future of the church is young(er) leaders: “Don’t wait for a strategy. Just start inviting young people into opportunities to lead alongside you. In your next leadership gathering or board meeting, have you invited a young person in to experience what leadership looks like?

♦ Back to the U.S., Attacks on churches or a tax on churches? Russell Moore writes,

A little-noticed provision in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 now looms over faith communities in America, raising serious questions about religious freedom and the First Amendment. While this provision is a relatively small piece of the overall package, the effect of the policy it created will be felt by the faithful around the country. This change is a new policy to tax nonprofit organizations—including houses of worship, like the Southern Baptist churches I serve—for the cost of parking and transit benefits provided to employees. This effectively creates an income tax on churches…that has never happened in U.S. history.

♦ After his son was shamed for his African American hairstyle by a Christian school, the father announced last week he’s decided to pursue legal action.

♦ A worldwide group of 20 feminist Bible scholars have released a book of commentaries in order to address “the lingering patriarchal readings that have justified numerous restrictions and bans on women.”

♦ More on Nadia Bolz-Weber:

Before … 31,000 teenagers at that [Evangelical Lutheran Church] Youth Gathering, she altered the set of renunciations that parents or godparents are expected to answer at a baptism: “Do you renounce the devil and all his empty promises?” She rewrote that question: “Do you renounce the lie that Queerness is anything other than beauty?” To which the crowd dutifully replied: “I renounce them!” According to Bolz-Weber then, those Christians who held classic views about homosexual orientation and conduct are purveyors of the devil’s lies.

♦ A 3-year old is sexually molested at New Spring Church in South Carolina. “The North Charleston police are going after this big time.”

♦ Two board members have quit Azuza Pacific University over the drift of classroom teaching toward a more LGBT friendly environment. One said, “My solemn fear is it may be too late to save the university.”…

♦ …Meanwhile the President of another California Christian university, John MacArthur made a speech back in August defending Master’s College after a terrible accreditation review. The substance of that speech includes attacks on other colleges.

♦ Lauren Daigle can’t say for sure if homosexuality is a sin. “In a sense, I have too many people that I love that they are homosexual. I don’t know. I actually had a conversation with someone last night about it. I can’t say one way or the other. I’m not God.”

♦ Free: Read the first three pages of a new book from WestBow Press, Jesus’ Stenographers: The Story of the Red Letters.  Author Ben van Noort says “Jesus was followed by speedy writers and stenographers who used to make records after the events. The gospels are compilations of these early records.”

♦ What If Department: What if your last year of Facebook posts became the substance of your eulogy?

♦ A way to ease into the week: Happy Monday celebrates its 300th blog post.

♦ Finally, Jon Crist films inside The Creation Museum and promises a special blessing to those who made it through all 5-minutes of the cellphone video.

Next time you’re hanging out with one of your Episcopal or Roman Catholic friends, ask them if their denomination has a College of Prophets. With a “General of Spiritual Warfare.” Whose specialty is “Warfarecology.” (My goodness, this poster is the gift that keeps on giving.)

 

November 28, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Welcome to another collection of news and opinion pieces you might not have seen elsewhere. The reading time of the list is about four minutes, to read all the articles is probably about 75 minutes. Consider yourselves challenged!

♦ Why They’re Dropping Out: No, it’s not research into Millennials leaving the church, but missionaries leaving the field. More often than not, the survey showed the reasons were family-related.

♦ More on I Kissed Dating Goodbye: Should someone as young as Harris ever been given a publishing contract in the first place?

…Did anyone in the chain of decision making consider the theological wisdom of letting such a young author (who was neither married nor a parent, the two most formative experiences possible in these questions) draw such deep lines in the sand? They may have, but I do wonder whether there was so much attention given to the wave-making potential of a child preacher that such concern rang hollow.

What Harris is saying today, via an apology tour, a documentary, and a pretty thick social media campaign, is that he spoke too soon. He’s not the same person he was twenty years ago, and he doesn’t believe the things he believed then. Should this really be an unsettling thing to hear? Is it even possible to go from 23 to 43 without radically refining our worldview, especially on those things that are so deeply intertwined with lived experience…?

♦ Provocative (to some) Headline of the Week: “God May Be Gender Neutral But He’s Still Our Father.” Sample: “The desire to de-gender God, especially by those who do not really accept the Bible’s teaching, is not prompted by a desire for theological accuracy but by a desire to blur human gender distinctions and to signal our equality and diversity credentials.”

♦ Story Finally Getting Attention: A Christian family hoping to bring an adopted son home from Africa is facing an unimagined nightmare as the adoption is delayed by bureaucracy in Ghana followed by a severe relapse of the mom’s Multiple Scoliosis. (If you research the name Kim Moran, you’ll find several links to recent coverage at the CTV and Global networks.) (Pray!) [Wednesday morning update: Kim has returned home for treatment while her husband remains in Ghana with the boy awaiting completion of paperwork.]

♦ Things continue heating up at Harvest Bible Chapel. If, as alleged, the figures in this article accurately represent salaries paid to the James MacDonald family in 2015, it involves one million U.S. dollars.

♦ A year after they gave asylum to an undocumented immigrant, members of a United Methodist Church in Durham, North Carolina feel they were betrayed by a government that chose not to play fair.

♦ Celebrating the season:

It’s hard to “keep Christ in Christmas” because for many he was never there to begin with. Christian believers need to focus on keeping Christ in our worship services, in our homes, in our hearts. Let the world have Rudolph, Elf on the Shelf, Coca-Cola drinking, red BMW driving Santa Claus. You can’t control what the Hallmark Movie Channel does from Oct 1 to Dec 31. You can totally control what verses you read, hymns you sing and prayers you say in your family devotions.

♦ Biomedical ethics: In what may be this week’s longest-impacting story, a scientist in China has “successfully” edited the genes of twin girls. Some say it’s just “human experimentation.”

♦ Best answer I’ve seen: Greg Boyd on tithing in the era of the New Testament. “We are not called to be a people that are shamed by a rule, but a people who are captivated by a vision.”

♦ A missionary responds to the John Chau case and the potential backlash on people serving in foreign countries.

♦ Article Title of the Week: The Santa Clausification of Christmas

♦ Our Entertainment Choices Department:

The problem is not that we visit the movie theater. The problem is that we feel more at home in the movie theater than we do with the gathered church on Sunday. The problem is not that we have Taylor Swift on a guilty pleasures playlist. The problem is that when a relationship crumbles, our gut instinct is not to turn to the Psalms, which are inspired by the Holy Spirit (the same Spirit that we claim is dwelling inside of us), but rather we try to quiet our souls by turning to a pop singer whose own relationship history would suggest that she is not the wisest and most reliable counselor.

♦ Christmas quotes from pastors and theologians: 12 of the best.

♦ The husband and wife duo Aaron Smith and Jennifer Smith cracked the Publisher’s Weekly Top 20 Religion non-Fiction chart in the summer of 20166, marking the first time self-published authors had ever made the list. In a recent 46-minute video, they share the struggles they had with sexual intimacy; an area of their lives which was the springboard for their ministry.

♦ Another response to Carey Nieuwhof’s article about mediocre churches — at least according to his standards — is this piece by Stephen Altrogge. Sample: The Early Church was seriously mediocre. If you’re laboring in a small, ‘mediocre’ church, keep at it. Don’t buy into the lie that you need to up your production value before God will bless your efforts. Focus on the things that matter and let God handle the growth of your church.”

♦ For the science nerds: “…the rate at which the universe is expanding may be different depending on how far back we look at distant stars and galaxies.” Why is this important? J. Warner Wallace explains.

Before our universe came into existence, nothing existed. Nothing. No time, no matter and no space. Nothing. This singular truth about the universe exposes an even greater mystery. The long-established (and accepted) Principle of Causality dictates that whatever begins to exist requires a cause. If our universe came into existence from nothing – and that certainly appears to be the case – it had a cause, and not just any cause will do.

The cause of our universe cannot be spatial, temporal or material, given that space, time and matter didn’t exist (according to scientific discoveries) until the universe came into existence. Whatever the first-cause, it cannot be described using the attributes we typically ascribe to the natural realm. It could rightfully be described as “extra-natural.” Or “supra-natural.” Or even “supernatural.”

♦ All your questions about Jehovah’s Witness answered. Well, most of them. This particular Q&A-formatted article is one of several about JWs which appeared this summer at Mama Bear Apologetics

♦ Evangelicals increasingly relaxed attitude toward alcohol.

♦ Breaking one of our rules here to include this review of a new book which looks at what is exactly new in the New Testament. (Please…look for alternatives to supporting Amazon.)

Beyond the actual use of the word “new,” there are also instances of obvious conceptual reference to new realities: new exodus, new Moses, new Israel, new people, renewed nature, new temple, new law, new priesthood, new high priesthood, new sacrifice, new descendants of Abraham, second Adam, and the dawning kingdom of God itself.

♦ For the authors among us: At what level of copy-and-paste do the quotations in your book constitute copyright infringement?

♦ Cassia’s Story: From losing the life she’d had, to reaching out for help. This is a promotional commercial for 2018 at the Salvation Army in New Zealand. A reminder at this time of year of the good that they do worldwide

♦ Parenting Place: A double-feature from the same blog. 

♦ KidMin: Download and print free Advent coloring sheets; up to 24 to choose from.

♦ Catholic Corner: A 13-minute fun call-in podcast on the meaning of The Liturgy of the Hours. (Personally, I think that’s about the right length for a podcast.)

♦ Last month, for National Coming Out Day, the creator of the popular The Brick Bible — which when released was carried in many Christian bookstores — came out as a lesbian transgender woman.

♦ That conservative preacher was actually right when he said the characters in Pokémon Go are “virtual cyber demons.” “Ghost monster” is how Japanese folklore might express it. [Good or bad might depend if you live up-river or down-river.] [Don’t watch the video just before going to bed.]

November 21, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Our weekly collection of stories and opinion pieces that we sincerely hope you have not seen elsewhere up to this point, unless of course you have a computer, in which case, it’s possible you saw a few of these. Again, a reminder that some items we wanted to include here we could not because they contained links to Amazon. Sorry. That’s the policy. Now on to this week’s links.

♦ “It would be absurd for the university to require the vegan student group to appoint a meat-lover as its president. Likewise, the University of Colorado shouldn’t force Christian students to let atheists or other non-Christians lead their Bible studies in order to become a registered club.” With that, and faced with the real possibility of an atheist leading the campus Christian group, the apologetics group Ratio Christi is launching a lawsuit against the university in which it “challenges the university’s policy which allows university officials to deny registered status to a group because the organization selects leaders that share and will advocate for the organization’s religious or political philosophy.” [Or they could let him/her lead it and slowly and lovingly destroy their arguments.]

♦ Meanwhile, at another university, a Christian professor is suing Shawnee State University in Ohio because he believes that “God created human beings as either male or female, that this gender is fixed in each person from the moment of conception, and that it cannot be changed, regardless of an individual’s feelings or desires.” So he is refusing to use female pronouns for a male student identifying as transgender

♦ …A well-worth-reading opinion piece about the above story. [Even if you’re more progressive on this issue, you’ve got to admit that things have gotten, at the very least, quite confusing.]

♦ Essay of the Week: Re-embracing silence. Re-embracing mystery. Re-embracing love.

♦ Devotional of the Week: Even in a GPS-saturated world, people still get lost, people are lost.

♦ Judge Judy, Eastern European Style: After converting from Islam to Christianity, 43 individuals in Uzbekistan are subjected to a “show trial” on TV. After the verdict, they could reduce the amount of their fines by being interviewed on television.

♦ When your world is shattered:

We were horrified to discover that my father had abused several of the grandchildren, including my own children and one of my siblings. Like most children, they had remained silent because they loved him and didn’t want him to get in trouble. The truth was becoming clear. This supposed man of God, this loving father, this doting grandfather had played us all. The shock and disbelief turned to anguish and despair as the magnitude of the situation began to set in. The father I thought I’d had all my forty years of life was a lie. I was the daughter of a pedophile.

♦ Many Christians are fascinated by Jordan Peterson. He even got asked to officiate a wedding; pausing a few minutes to go online and get ordained. So why are the ideas of this University of Toronto professor so interesting?

♦ Can a person be LGBTQ and also be an Evangelical? Regardless of the outcome, some Evangelical scholars think the former group should at least be permitted involvement in settling the definition of the latter.

♦ Just seeing this horrific story from last month. A missionary in Cameroon was shot dead by terrorists in front of his wife and small children

♦ …Also from Premier UK, a story about children forced to attend a Gay Pride event, with no opting out permitted. Fourteen parents complained, and at least one said the school is no longer treating her the same. “Her son no longer attends the school because she feels they were ‘bullied out of it’.”

♦ Thanksgiving Question of the Year: Where are the aboriginal voices in the American Thanksgiving narrative? This author says they are completely marginalized in the story.

♦ The things authors go through to get permission to quote song lyrics in a book. Admittedly, this one needs a lot more lyrics than usual, but when you have to play detective and get people to find the person who holds the rights at a Sushi bar near the Nashville airport, it borders on absurd.

♦ Christian music artist Kari Jobe talks about her visit to the White House.

♦ “Rider University in New Jersey sent a survey to students during the spring semester, asking them which restaurants they would like to see the school bring on campus. But when it became clear that Chick-Fil-A was the students’ top choice, the college disregarded the results of the survey. The school will not bring the popular fast food chain to campus because “their corporate values have not sufficiently progressed enough to align with those of Rider.” [The restaurant isn’t sufficiently evolved, I guess.]

Could the Roman Catholic Church be headed for a split?

♦ The subtitle is, “The Unexpected Story of a Gay Activist Discovering Jesus.” Read an excerpt from the new Zondervan book, A War of Loves. [The foreword is by N.T. Wright.]

♦ Responding to the “Is Lauren Daigle an Enemy of God?” video. Advice experts (!) Paul and Morgan agree and disagree.

♦ Segregation in America: The Wikipedia article about a publication I’d never heard of until a movie of the same name was releasing, The Negro Motorist Green Book, which told African American families where they could get served while traveling the U.S.

♦ Parenting: The differences are both subtle and significant in this comparison between the Middle School experience in 2008 vs. 2018.

♦ The movie Instant Family is far from a Christian movie, but it is opening up people to a better understanding of the adoption process

♫ Newsboys UNITED? Get the 411 on this new touring unit in this 5-minute interview.

♫ New Music: The song You Tell Me by YoungHeart.

♦ Forest Hill Church in Charlotte, North Carolina produced this 2-minute video. Facebook claims it has been seen by over 4 million people. YouTube claims 120,000. Either way, it’s a nice sentiment about being thankful for what you already have in a season of consumerism.

Perry Noble is selling a weight loss book.

♦ Finally,


► You can show support and encouragement to us by downloading my wife’s Christmas album for only $7 or for just a buck ($1) download the title song.

 

 

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