Thinking Out Loud

May 1, 2019

Wednesday Connect

So there was no way we were going to a story about leggings without shopping around to see if there was a Christian equivalent of the mainstream fashion item. We found this one at…

…and this one, too which at least doesn’t have a crotch print. Christian t-shirts? That’s so last year. More leggings here.

After a week’s absence, welcome back! I’m working on a borrowed computer for this edition, with my own still a shadow of its former self. Since there was no post last week, this might be longer. And remember, if we’re not here, there’s always Twitter. 

Also, since we last met #PrayForRHE has become a rallying cry for Christians around the world lifting up prayer for author and speaker Rachel Held Evans. On April 19th, husband Dan wrote, “During treatment for an infection Rachel began exhibiting unexpected symptoms. Doctors found that her brain was experiencing constant seizures. She is currently in the ICU. She is in a medically induced coma while the doctors work to determine the cause and solution.” She’s been in three facilities and is currently being weaned out of the coma as I write this. Updates from Dan at her blog.

Must reading: Things to think about before stopping a random disabled person in the street and offering to pray for their healing. (This BBC article is longer, but worth the time.) Were he physically incarnate again, would Jesus heal today in the same manner as he did in the Gospels?

■ Another one going off the rails? Highly respected for his work in founding anti-pornography ministry, Craig Gross has launched Christian Canabis and recommends weed as an aid to worship. No it’s not a month-late April Fool’s story; it appeared Monday in The Christian Post. The quote: “I’ve never lifted my hands in a worship service ever, ‘cause I was raised Baptist. … I’ve done that in my bathroom worshiping with marijuana by myself.”

■ Absent from the body: The British and Australian approach to dead bodies differs from the American penchant for embalming and displaying the body of the deceased. Michael Frost reflects on what this means, especially in this post-Lent season.

■ Important reading: Everything your church team — at all levels — needs to know about ministry to step-families (i.e. blended families). All the family life dynamics are unique.

■ Available for viewing: When Christianity Today published James MacDonald’s apologetic for suing other Christians, two people wrote well-considered op-eds — if you don’t know the term it’s like “equal time” for the opposing viewpoint — in response. Now you can read both of those pieces at Wartburg Watch.

■ This Ramadan, many Muslims are choosing to follow Christ. “It is one thing for a Muslim to begin the journey of faith in Christ, but another to keep pressing on in this journey, year after lonely year. If they are rejected by their birth community without really finding a new community in Christ, they are left isolated and vulnerable. They need Christ’s followers to be new ‘family’ to them.” 

Tribute: In one of his best articles yet, Carey Nieuwhof asks who will replace Eugene Peterson and others like him when that generation passes from the scene. Seven important things that people of Peterson’s ilk have in common.

■ World Watch: Updates on past killings/abductions in Kenya and Nigeria where despite the fact that half of the girls abducted were freed, 112 are still missing

■ More political than I like to get here: The National Review notes that cozying up to the President as Franklin Graham has done comes at a cost to Evangelicalism.

■ The new battleground for the church: …[wait for it]… Leggings! “The only thing people like more than wearing leggings is getting mad about leggings. In the sphere of public debate, leggings have become the symbol of slipping standards.”

■ Plagiarism of Sermons: A “time honored Baptist tradition.” (Even after the story illustrations have been proven to be hoaxes.) 

■ As one reader so eloquently commented, “This is classic Michael Spencer, where he dared to ask difficult questions of himself and dared to expose some of his own garbage. Indeed, what do we do with sins that we’ve been forgiven of by God, yet others not so much (and not so much maybe with good reason)?” Discover the transparency of the late founder of the blog Internet Monk

Worth Applauding: Pathway Church in Wichita, Kansas purchased the medical debt of 1,600 families in their area. Lead pastor Todd Carter told the church on Easter Sunday, “I want you to imagine for a moment what those 1,600 people felt like last week when they got that letter in the mail. What was going on in those houses when they got that letter in the mail and all of a sudden they realize that their debt, this debt that has been hanging over their head has been forgiven… that’s exactly what God in the person of Jesus Christ wants you to feel each and every day – that your debt has been forgiven.”

■ Thanks, but no thanks: “Eight teenagers, aged 13 and 14, who make up this year’s confirmation class at First United Methodist Church in Omaha, Neb., stood before the congregation on Confirmation Sunday (April 28) and read a letter saying they do not want to become members at this time. The teens said they took their stand on principle because they believed the denomination’s vote to uphold and strengthen its ban on LGBTQ ordination and marriage to be ‘immoral’ and ‘unjust.’

■ Ripple Effect: It is now being reported that child and teen suicides spiked after the airing of 13 Reasons Why on Netflix. The third season is about to begin.

■ Tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches: “Sadly, a lot of a church ministry strategy uses the tomato sandwich method. These strategies get people into programs, but the programs don’t bring lasting heart change.” This essay reminds me why J.D. Greear is such a good writer. Is your church using the wrong ministry strategy?

■ Opinion: Will your church be alive in ten years? “61 percent of American churches have fewer than 100 members. Many of these small churches are in a death spiral, but it is not the size of the congregation that creates the trajectory toward death.”

■ Homeschooling: Not for the benefit of the children as much for the benefit of the parent: “One of the primary means by which God works out the selfishness and carnality in our lives is by allowing crisis into our lives to show us what we are truly like. To accomplish this more effectively, God hand-crafted customized little button-pushers, who are strategically designed to bring out the worst in us.” There is a great principle here, even if you don’t homeschool, or don’t even have kids.

■ Under-reported: An attack on a [Protestant] church in Burkina Faso killed five people on Sunday, local media reported. At least two other people were missing, according to a security source cited by the AFP news agency.

■ The problem with online dating sites: The first thing you see is a picture. “Charm is deceitful and beauty is fleeting.” [Warning: Another example of a great article rendered in that washed out light gray font someone thought was cool. I guess nothing is black-and-white anymore.]

■ Jory Micah doesn’t like the idea of God as a man. And truly God is neither male nor female. However, there is that nagging thing where incarnate, “he” showed up as a man not a woman. A to-be-expected Reformed rant (their word, not mine) responding to Jory’s “If God is a Man, Count Me Out” campaign.

American Gospel is the title of a 1 hour, 20 minute film on how Christianity has changed in the United States. It’s available free online in a full version or a one hour version. (The short version linked is actually the first 40 minutes of the film followed by endorsements. May contain Calvinism.)

Essay of the Week: Even adults encounter bullies. If you’ve been in a situation like this, the article will resonate, but it might also raise your blood pressure. “Maybe you’ve had something similar happen to you. Maybe you’ve been angered by mean people and have wondered why they can get away with it. It’s easy to walk away from this situation and chalk people like her up to the bullies of the earth. But that’s too easy.”

■ No, not kidding: Canada, which just this week won the award for “Best Bank Note” for its new $10 bill, is releasing a gay $1 coin. (The coin itself has no sexual preference.) “The Royal Canadian Mint has released a commemorative one-dollar coin… to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalization of the LGBTQ community.”

■ New Music ♫ – Sarah Kroger – For Us

■ New Music ♫ – Matthew West – Unplanned (from the movie) 

■ New Music ♫ – How Great Thou Art – Caleb and Kelsey (from Anthem Lights)

■ New Music ♫ – Unspoken – Human Condition

■ You won’t get an actual schedule of speakers for the 2019 Wild Goose Festival until a few weeks before the event, but there are clues here and here and here. (Why promote when you can tease?)

■ A bake shop employing girls in Thailand is an alternative to working in the sex trade. “Baking is cutting edge in Thailand. Most people do not have ovens in their homes. But cafes are becoming trendy and baked goods are in high demand. A kitchen where the girls can learn to bake will open the doors for incredible job opportunities in the future.”

■ Most provocative headline of the week: “BYU speaker comes out during commencement speech.” (BYU, or Brigham Young University is a Mormon school.) He said he is “proud to be a gay son of God.”

■ Harvest Bible Chapel: Responding to the ECFA (financial oversight organization) in the pages of the Chicago Tribune. Is this sticking a finger into the dyke or are they on a path toward fixing things once and for all?

Veggie Tales is back in the hands of the original creative team. “Brand-new episodes of VeggieTales are on the way, courtesy of a partnership between Trinity Broadcasting Network and Big Idea Content Group. Each episode will remain true to the classic VeggieTales brand to deliver clever storytelling, Biblically-based lessons, and memorable songs.” 

■ Finally, a peek inside the minvan with this Family on the Way to Church:

■ Well, that was depressing. Let’s try a different “finally…”

■ Bonus Twitter item

April 17, 2019

Wednesday Connect

The question everyone is asking this special week.

Welcome to a special economy edition of this week’s list. What it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quantity.

■ “In 2016 three jihadist women were arrested for plotting to blow up Notre Dame and last Friday, one of their number–Ines Madani–was sentenced in a French court. Curiously, a fire broke out near the Al Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem at the same time as the Notre Dame blaze.”

Essay of the Week: A Jewish perspective on Monday’s tragic fire: “Nevertheless, we Jews can and should mourn. We mourn, because Notre Dame is a sacred place. Even in a rapidly secularizing world (and even, ironically, in France, the country that gave birth to European secularism), holy places still matter… Notre Dame symbolizes transcendence. To be blunt and obvious: They don’t build places like that anymore. At least, not churches and synagogues. The builders of Notre Dame, along with other sacred places of its genre, intended for both worshippers and mere tourists to understand a central message: You, oh mortal, are small; God is great.”

■ And this quote: “What a terrible yet sufficient reminder that the hope and joy that built this great cathedral did not fall by the flame. It is alive and well.”

■ Meanwhile, a dramatic turnaround in the case of arson involving three historic churches in Louisiana, as the Sheriff Deputy turns in his own son. “Investigators arrested Holden Matthews on Wednesday evening. He was charged Thursday morning with three counts of simple arson of a religious building. The maximum penalty for each count is 15 years in prison.”

■ Pastorless Christians (and Bigfoot and Nessie): The consistent testimony of the New Testament, particularly in the Epistles, is that all true believers have pastors… A Christian should know the name of their pastor(s) and pastors should know the names of their flock. So, while it’s good to listen to solid preaching from afar, it’s impossible to be biblically pastored from a distance. And in the 21st century, you should be able to text your pastor.

■ …and speaking of people whose spiritual diet consists largely of Christian television, “New research out of the University of Toronto’s department of psychology in the Faculty of Arts & Science suggests that exposure to prosperity gospel messaging – thinking God wants you to be wealthy, prosperous and donate money to the church – makes you more likely to show an exaggerated and unrealistic sense of optimism for life and take more financial risks.”

■ Seizing the building, closing the church: “The congregation, True Jesus Church in Anping, had opened a new building in July 2018 that cost around $300,000 U.S. But the Chinese accused the congregation of being in contact with foreign governments. The Chinese plan on converting the building to a nursing home… “

■ …It gets worse with this headline: Chinese City Offers $1,500 USD Reward for Snitching on Christians. “The plan, officially known as the ‘Implementation Plan on the Special Governance of Private Christian Gathering Sites,’ not only created mandatory ‘church-free zones,’ but also required churches to give the names of youth members to the local government…”

■ …But it’s not just Christians that China has in its cross-hairs; it’s Muslims as well. “China hopes to predict which of its peoples will become ‘unsafe’ for the nation, perhaps before they act, and then arrest them accordingly.” They’re using high tech to track people by facial features.

■ “Every year in the United States, about 20 percent of adults live with a diagnosable mental illness. That’s about equal to the total percentage of people diagnosed with cancer, those living with heart disease, people infected with HIV and AIDS, and those afflicted with diabetes—combined!” And yet, “…of those who went to clergy for help, less than 10 percent were referred to a mental health professional who could help with treatment. This is alarming, especially considering that 25 percent of those who seek help in the church have the most serious forms of illness.” 

■ An appropriate defence, on behalf of Christian bloggers everywhere in response to horrible post condemning said writers: “Yes, it was a rant. It was a rant with no proof. In this post I did what [Greg] Gordon should have done. I linked directly to Gordon’s words. Gordon just made a buck of innuendos.”

■ In the UK, The Christian Institute continues to crusade for tighter controls on advertising which “normalizes” betting (particularly sports betting) which can be viewed by children. They would like to see something “similar to those applied in tobacco control.

■ Seasonal apologetics: “The Pharisees hated Jesus. They earnestly believed He was a deceiver, and recalled that Jesus foretold that after three days, He’d rise from the dead (Matt. 27:63). Governor Pilate granted their request to keep the peace and to prevent any uprising. The religious leaders wanted to thwart any idea that Jesus could rise from the dead. To them, this would be a worse deception than Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah.”

■ Seasonal vocabulary: 4½ Words you should know.

■ This isn’t a news item, but I think the popularity of Notre Dame Cathedral was largely owed to the fact it was in Paris, and was already part of a larger set of things to see and do in a tourist-destination city. But if Monday’s fire spurs an interest in cathedrals, the one in Cologne, Germany is worthy of equal interest. Its building began around the same time, but the work was halted in the1470s, where it sat unfinished for nearly 400 years. (We visited it last summer.)

■ If it’s true that many people in leadership are surprised to be there, here’s a 12-point review for those of you in congregational leadership (elders is the usual term) and are wondering how they got there.

🇨🇦 Canada Corner: Shootings in small non-denominational Canadian churches are rare. This one left one man dead.

■ Listicle of the Week (but well worth consideration): 8 Reasons A New Generation is Following the Allure of Liturgy.

■ Listicle of the Week (runner up!): 7 Truths About Marriage You Won’t Hear in Church.

♫ With five albums, Lou Fellingham is much better known in the UK than in North America. Her latest is Our God is For Us from the album Made For You.

♫ Gloria Gaynor, who had a hit song I Will Survive, has signed with Gaither Music Group for an album releasing early summer. (Not to be confused with Gloria Gaither.)

■ Words matter: Google is taking heat for placing the Unplanned movie in the category “Propaganda.” One observer wrote, “Who knew that ‘propaganda’ was a movie genre? Google once again exposing its gross political bias…”

■ You haven’t done it and you’re not likely to. 3 Reasons Christians Cannot Commit the Unforgivable Sin.

■ Congratulations to the Mount Herman Christian Writer’s Conference, which just concluded their 50th anniversary conference.

■ Finally, the last word today goes to Michele Bachmann: ““In my lifetime I have never seen a more biblical president than I have seen in Donald Trump… He is highly biblical and I would say to your listeners [that] we will, in all likelihood, never see a more godly, biblical president again in our lifetime.” [cricket, cricket…]

April 10, 2019

Wednesday Connect

Birds of a feather
Host conferences together. (2018)
Ed Stetzer quickly cuts a check to pay back Harvest Bible Chapel for a 1971 Volkswagen Beetle purchased with church funds for him by James MacDonald (see second item in the list)

While I do promise to deliver stories that you haven’t seen in the past seven days, I will admit that I am guilty of repeating some key sources here rather frequently. That’s because there are some websites and bloggers which simply never fail to deliver good material. They are always on my weekly shortlist. 

The stories in this list are carefully curated. So to our friends at The Christian Post, stop psychoanalyzing bloggers or painting us all with the same brush. Stick to writing the news. The image below is pinned to the account of @Tim_Good. It looks about right.

■ New Denom: On March 27th, a group of Anabapt-ish pastors and leaders met in Alexandria, Virginia to begin a more formal association of churches that will be known as The Jesus Collective. Watch the 3-minute promotional video.

■ Ed Stetzer is the latest individual whose name is entwined in the web of deception affiliated with the Harvest Bible Chapel/James MacDonald story. At issue is a classic 1971 Volkswagen convertible. “Harvest Attorney Christopher Nudo…confirmed that Walk in the Word had purchased the car for Stetzer last spring and that in March, Stetzer had reimbursed the ministry for the full amount of the car, just under $13,000. Nudo said the money for the car had come out of a Walk in the Word reserve account and added that he was 95% sure that former Harvest CFO Scott Milholland had cut the check. Nudo said two other people at Harvest almost certainly would have known about the purchase of the car with Walk in the Word funds—James MacDonald and his assistant, Sharon Kostal, who no longer works for the church…Though Stetzer’s car may be the only reported incidence of MacDonald gifting a big-ticket item to someone outside the church, several sources told me that MacDonald had a regular practice of giving large gifts with the church’s money to people inside Harvest…”

■ Significant: Ted Cruz is on the warpath after Yale Law School caved to pressure from pro-LGBT students when a lawyer from a Christian law firm was schedule to speak: “In his capacity as chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, [Cruz] intends to investigate the extent and nature of Yale’s discrimination against their own Christian and conservative students, continue gathering information from various sources within Yale Law, from faculty to students, and possibly hold a hearing to determine whether their rights are being violated by Yale, an institution which receives federal funds and is clearly prohibited from this sort of action.”

■ “One Sunday I was looking for a song I really like by Elevation Worship and I realized the lead singer was wearing a pair of Yeezy 750s. They’re pretty rare, they resell for 800 bucks or so. I thought I knew about church-type salaries — my wife works for a church — and so I was like, ‘This does not compute. How is this guy wearing these kicks?'” Who needs real estate listings when there’s enough excess to be found in the shoes worn by celebrity pastors

■ Looking at a rapidly growing church brand, C3. “C3 has refashioned religion as a trendy lifestyle brand. But when your version of Christianity says that the Bible is the literal word of God, the devil is real, we’re all spiritually lost, premarital sex is a sin, and gay marriage is definitely a sin, it can make the branding part a wee bit complicated… C3 is a distinctly 21st-century manifestation of a church, aesthetically engineered to be as appealing as possible to young people, then packaged for global reproducibility online and off.” (If the name is new to you consider that in 2005 — remember that’s 14 years ago — “an Australian business magazine reported that its global revenue was believed to be over $100 million. At the time, C3 had only 100 churches.”)

■ Parenting/KidMin: An article on captivating the wonder and imagination of children contains a few quotations from Phil Vischer: “We’ve found that superficial teaching leads to superficial Christians…” “Kids can learn more than we think. Adults can learn less than we would hope. We consistently underestimate what kids are capable of learning and overestimate what adults will learn. Kids still ask questions; grown ups stop asking questions.” The author doesn’t say, but doesn’t this imply something breaks down when adults are teaching Children about God?

■ The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) holds a Special Consultative Status with the United Nations. “Influencing a nation to modify its behavior or change its laws is difficult. Yet that is what we seek to do…Churches have been opened after being shut down because of our persuasive and persistent appeals. Pastors and missionaries have been set free through our personal intervention with a senior government leader. Proposed legislation to curtail religious freedom was not passed, after our personal mediation, and pastors in a closed country felt emboldened and secure to speak up against discrimination because they knew their voice was being relayed in Geneva.”

■ Testimony: “A couple of days after we buried our stillborn baby, God spoke to my wife. It was Krista’s first time returning to the grave after we’d buried Avery. As the van rolled up to the cemetery gate, a song started playing on the radio. Krista sat in the vehicle and listened as the artist declared that God does not abandon us in our sorrow. As she began to cry, the lyrics went on to assure her that God holds our tears. She hadn’t been asking God to speak to her. God’s voice came unexpectedly.” (From the 2019 Thomas Nelson book, Simply Spirit Filled by Andrew K. Gabriel.)

■ It was interesting to see this Christian Post article with Mike Huckabee, which doesn’t use the word ‘transgender’ and then compare it to The Friendly Atheist’s summary of it which lays all the problem of Christianity at the feet of transgendered people. (In fact, I would argue that for balance, you really must read both.)

■ One of the best known missions stories, through which Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Peter Fleming, and Roger Youderian became household names, is revisited in an Oxford University Press volume few of us can afford. The publisher of God in the Rainforest notes that this story of “Protestant missionary work among the Waorani came to be one of the missions most celebrated by Evangelicals and most severely criticized by anthropologists and others who accused missionaries of destroying the indigenous culture.” A career missionary reviewed the book and notes that i “seeks to tell the story of the Waorani from the standpoint of the people themselves, rather than explaining their lives through the eyes of others. They are presented as people with a complex and self-consistent society, in which violence is endemic. Far from being irrational savages, they come across as people like us, albeit living in a situation very unlike our own.”

■ The Early Church knew how to react when violence was the world’s default response.  This article is an exhaustive collection of some classic writings, such as Justin the Martyr: “We who formerly hated and murdered one another now live together and share the same table. We pray for our enemies and try to win those who hate us.” In a world of violence and terrorism, has the church lost the way of Shalom?

■ A 9-year old boy who died in 1964 had an unusual grasp of human suffering and the suffering of Christ. Pope Francis has decreed Nelson Santana to be recognized as a Saint.

■ Media Watch: The movie After, which opens Friday, has been called a 50 Shades of Gray for teens and tweens.

■ Provocative Headline of the Week: “Should busy pastors spend time and energy in the ‘dumpster fire’ of life in social media?

■ Hebrews 11: The Women-in-Ministry Edition. Your translation may vary.

■ Provocative Statement of the Week: “Instead of church planters, we need church closers.” The writer continues, “Yeah, I know, it sounds awful. But think about it. Those of you who regularly attend church, how many other churches do you pass on your way to your own? I can’t even count, but it’s probably 50. The reality is that most of those can’t even afford to maintain their buildings. They can’t pay their pastor fairly. They are already on the brink of locking their doors for good. Even if they try to deny it, the end is near. Instead of closing as a last resort, let’s be proactive.

🎬 The movie First Reformed: “Ethan Hawke stars as the troubled and reclusive Reverend Ernst Toller. Reeling from the death of his son, Toller is in something of a long, dark night of the soul. He has fewer congregants than tourists passing through his sleepy Dutch Reformed Church. His quiet, collared demeanor couldn’t be more out of place in the bombastic megachurch that helps keep his ministry afloat. His journal is full of searching and scrawling and longing. So when Mary comes to him with her husband’s demand she abort lest their daughter grow up in the ash heap of a world destroyed by climate change, Toller has true and genuine purpose. Maybe for the first time in years.”

■ Israel, David and the cultural artifact known FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out.

■ After two years in a Turkish prison, Wheaton College alumnus Andrew Brunson and his wife Norene (also a graduate of Wheaton) will speak at the school’s commencement for graduate students in May.

■ Remember that nun who threw that great pitch at the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018? Well, Mary Jo Sobieck has now got her own Topps Baseball trading card.

■ Clear and Loud: What Joshua Harris is doing now.

■ Only 10 Presidents in 133 years: A year after the controversy surrounding J. Paul Nyquist, Mark Jobe is installed as the new sheriff at Moody Bible Institute.

■ Congratulations: D.W. is 103 and Willie is 100. The Charlotte, North Carolina couple has been married 82 years. “They do make it to church every Sunday, in the front pew at Mayfield Memorial Baptist… All they have is love for each other and God.”

■ This isn’t exactly current, but for years I tried to find the album so that I could post this to my own YouTube channel. Apparently, someone got this online last fall. It’s Christian author and one-time cutting-edge CCM performer in the UK, Sheila Walsh singing with UK 80s rocker Alvin Stardust.

■ This is so 1997: A priest in Northern Poland burned Harry Potter books. However, now he’s apologizing in case anyone took it the wrong way. (How do you misinterpret a book burning?)

🎬 Don’t forget the animated version of Pilgrim’s Progress is in theaters for only two days, April 18th and 20th.

■ Just a week after being banned by a Texas airport, Chick-fil-A has been banned from opening at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. A spokesperson for the restaurants said, “Recent coverage about Chick-fil-A continues to drive an inaccurate narrative about our brand. We do not have a political or social agenda or discriminate against any group. More than 145,000 people from different backgrounds and beliefs represent the Chick-fil-A brand…We embrace all people, regardless of religion, race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.”

■ A Pastor’s alleged affair has left him dead, his wife injured, and another woman facing murder charges.

■ Reddit of the Week: “Are you a Christian?” It’s like asking, “Are you Chinese?” There are many different ways of interpreting the question, and many differences which would be involved in determining how someone might answer.

♫ Looks like the people at Bethel Worship have discovered some Christian music that existed before theirs.

♫ Months after its release, the song from Canada’s Dan Bremnes, Wherever I Go, is breaking into the U.S market.

■ American Jesus: “It has finally happened. After nearly a decade of futility, Jesus has finally won the tournament that bears his name. I would say Shane Claiborne put up a valiant fight, but Jesus smelled the blood in the water. He finally made it to the championship match and he wasn’t going to miss his shot. He threw all that humility and first shall be last stuff to the wind and laid down a 99% to 1% beating that would make even Satan himself shake in his boots.”

■ “On this coming Easter, many will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus by going to church and having a family dinner. A group in the Philippines has a more literal interpretation of the holiday.Numerous Filipino Catholics will be crucifying and beating themselves in the same way that Jesus was punished by the Romans. At least seven will have nails driven through their hands and several will cut their backs and beat themselves in order to represent the pain felt by Jesus during the crucifixion.” The Roman Catholic church does not recognize the practice nor does it encourage trying this at home.

■ Finally: If you had some weirdness in your denominational history, would you not want to hush it up? The Church of England might. Consider: “He lived quite openly with his mistress, and his love of eating and drinking to excess was common knowledge. [Thomas] Patten would deliberately preach long and dull sermons that would continue until someone in the congregation held up a lemon – a sign that they would buy the Vicar his drinks for the evening.”  Or how about, “Ian Henry Gaunt Graham-Orlebar discerned that it was his particular ministry to live a life that was self-consciously retro… A keen equestrian since his boyhood, [he] decided that, in homage to the dignified clergy of old, he would conduct all visits on horseback.” But we saved the best for the last…

[This guy deserves his own paragraph.] …Reverend Robert Stephen Hawker was a profoundly weird individual. As Curate at Bude, he decided that he had a joint calling; not only to be a Priest, but also a mermaid. In order to live out this vocation, he fashioned a wig out of seaweed and, naked apart from an oilskin wrapped around his legs, rowed out to a rock in Bude harbour one evening, sat on it and began to sing…He kept a sizeable menagerie, including ten cats (who would follow him to church and routinely made up the majority of his congregation). However, he reacted with fury when he saw one catching a mouse on a Sunday and publicly excommunicated it in front of his other animals.” And we didn’t even get to the parish pig.

Our ministry of database corrections: A different reason why misgendering should be a crime! We find some stupid error like this at @Christianbook every few days. Sometimes we tell them, sometimes we shrug our shoulders. They really should get to know their authors better. Especially Templeton Prize winning authors.


April 3, 2019

Wednesday Connect

Part of our reason-for-being here is to bring you links to items you might not have seen elsewhere, but there were three stories which dominated Christian social media, so in case you missed them:

First, there was no escaping Twitter’s “accidental” shutdown of the account for the movie Unplanned. The powerful film, tells the story of Abby Johnson who went from abortion clinic administrator to vociferous foe of Planned Parenthood after witnessing an abortion. The movie, in a limited number of theaters on the weekend placed fifth, despite whatever happened at Twitter.

Second, there is the strange case of Sam Allberry. Whether you use the term ‘gay’ to describe him, or simply same-sex attracted; there’s nothing new about his views within the big tent of Evangelicalism. What is different is the endorsement he receives among the Reformed/Calvinist community whose views you would expect to be ultra-conservative.

The same goes for Doug Wills. The Calvinists regard him as one of theirs, but there is no denying his use of the c-word to describe women is over the top. But T4G-ers and TGC-ers have a history of forgiving the unforgivable, so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised.

Now, on to the rest of the day’s items…

■ “Based on the Impossible True Story.” If you only click one link today, take 2½ minutes to watch the trailer for the movie Breakthrough, opening Easter weekend. (It might be just what you need.)

■ Christian bookstores are not all dead. The Parable chain speaks out, explaining the difference between independent franchises and the type of corporate stores which went under last week and in 2017.

■ It’s not just a Christian issue: “The leading liberal Orthodox rabbinical school told a gay student it will not ordain him, only months before his graduation, the Jewish Week reported. The decision is being widely interpreted as a sign of just how far Modern Orthodoxy, which blends strict observance with progressive social values, is willing to go in adopting pro-LGBTQ stances.” But here’s the thing: The school knew about his orientation for nearly four years.

■ A call for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to revoke a degree for character issues. He was 25. She was 16. When she was 20, she realized what had been done to her.

■ Your small(er) church may not offer the programs and facilities of the megachurch next to the freeway, but there are five things that you simply must offer.

■ Vocational Ministry: The cry of many pastors, “It would be nice to go to a funeral and grieve.”

■ “You’re born looking like your parents, but you die looking like your decisions.” – A very short video clip on the issue of absentee fathers which is an epidemic in the black community.

■ Shutting down Protestant theological education in the Soviet Union: “The Pentecostal Union’s Eurasian Theological Seminary’s licence was annulled in October 2018 after inspectors questioned its theology course. The Baptist Union’s Moscow Theological Seminary was suspended for 60 days from January 2019, and banned from admitting new students.”

♫ Must listening: Found this preparing content for my other blog. Wanna hear something really different? It was posted back in 2014. This is an arrangement of Psalm 104 from Psalm Project Africa. (Love how they pass the lyrics back and forth.)

♫ Something more recent? This Passion song was featured at North Point Community Church on Sunday and Andy Stanley alluded to it in the sermon.
“…So I stop all negotiations
With the God of all creation
‘Cause you’re bigger than I thought you were…”

■ Speaking of music; if you want to be really clear on the difference between contemporary Christian music in the 1970s and 80s, you should start your investigation studying the music of Keith Green. “As my wife and I listened to Green’s music, we were struck by how strange his late 1970s lyrics sounded to our 2019 ears…CTR songs are sometimes hard to listen to.”

■ Freedom of Speech isn’t enshrined in Canada as it is in the U.S. This Vancouver story shows something like the “misgenerding” we reported on a few weeks ago with a UK story. “…For example, if you call a trans woman a “biological male” in Canada, that statement about DNA can be construed as hate speech, which is what led to a Christian activist getting fined $55,000.”

■ The eight beatitudes in Matthew 5 contain seven promises. “The blessings do not contain any imperative verb forms but use indicative statement verbs. As such, the Beatitudes come to God’s people as divine promises showcasing Jesus’ authority and the nature of the kingdom of God. While describing characteristics of God’s people to show them what they will experience in this life, Christ is also pronouncing God’s favor upon his people, the citizens of his kingdom.”

■ Getting to know the Bible better: It wasn’t written to you; even though the words may appear to be reaching out to make a personal connection. 6-minute video podcast with a little Belinda Carlisle thrown in.   

■ Archaeology Alley: Could this temple relic be proof of King Josiah?

■ The ultimate listicle article title: 7 Ways Not to Sin. We don’t have the power to get rid of sin but we do have the power to limit its influence. You’re holding the remote control.

♫ “I Can’t Feed my Face” is a parody of a similarly-titled song by The Weeknd. Next time the family is all together for a meal, sing grace. (Or this one, for the Coldplay fans.)

■ Popular Charismatic prophecy author Jonathan Cahn has another new title releasing in September, The Oracle. The book takes on a rather huge mandate, promising that it “opens up the jubilean prophecies and a mystery so big that it has determined everything from the rise and fall of world empires to two world wars, the current events of our day, the future, end‐time prophecy and much more. Ultimately, The Oracle will reveal the secret that lies behind end‐time prophecy and the mystery of the end of the age.

■ Bible Publishing Curiosities Department: The Bible in split-screen, in the 18th Century. (Also shown below.) 

■ Personal: My son is helping out a Catholic choir on Sunday mornings. There are two services. Should he take communion twice?

■ An article for the people of God, even though he’s never mentioned: NBC shares a report where scientists say experiencing awe — or what we could call the transcendent — helps you to live a better, richer life, both in terms of well being and physical health.

Each week I prepare this, one of my goals is to give you clean links. References to sources or newsletters I may subscribe to are removed and you receive the URL in its cleanest, simplest form. (Facebook is the worst, the numbers after the ? go on forever.) Some links are suggested by third parties, and every once in awhile I miss one. If you find a case where I’ve neglected to do that, let me know.

■ The next big Christian debate frontier: Leggings. “The only thing people like more than wearing leggings is getting mad about leggings.”

■ The pastor bought his wife a $200,000 Lamborghini for their anniversary and they were living in a $1.8 million home paid for by the church. The local media took notice. Then a former pastor visited and announced, “I cut people, I got a knife right in that pocketbook. Greenville News, come on. We done went through this.” The remarks were seen as threatening

■ Finally, Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The original and The Message Bible version.

March 27, 2019

Wednesday Connect

Rather surprising: K-LOVE initially wouldn’t promote the pro-life film Unplanned on its 440 radio stations. Click image for story.

Sorry, our run of 50,000 of these t-shirts is all sold out!

I publish this list every Wednesday. If you don’t read it, how will you know all the things? Let your friends know this exists. No books to sell. No newsletter to subscribe to. No pop-ups. Blogging the way God intended it to be.

■ Just perhaps, instead of hearing constantly about how “we’ve defeated ISIS,” it would be fair to show that the battle is not over, i.e. “Christians in Nigeria witnessed another round of bloody attacks last week as Boko Haram terrorists captured the town of Michika in Nigeria’s far eastern state of Adamawa, burning buildings and exchanging fire with government troops.” Similar attacks are also taking place in the Congo.

■ The problem which seems to haunt religious organizations is revealed in yet another faith tribe: ” Jehovah’s Witnesses build what might be the world’s largest database of undocumented child molesters: at least two decades’ worth of names and addresses—likely numbering in the tens of thousands—and detailed acts of alleged abuse, most of which have never been shared with law enforcement, all scanned and searchable in a Microsoft SharePoint file.” Douglas Quenqua’s groundbreaking report in The Atlantic.

■ With the continuing expansion of the clergy abuse investigations, 37% of Roman Catholics are reconsidering their church membership.

■ Spiritual formation in the family: “Christians are far more likely to say their mothers had a bigger influence on their faith than did their fathers, according to a new Barna study that examines the roles that moms and dads play in the development of children.”

Essay of the Week: “Is God the Background for Your Selfie?” An excellent teaching article with a practical illustration; namely that including yourself front-and-center in a picture of something else means turning your back on the object in question.

■ Coming soon to an arena near you: The Benny Hinn/Francis Chan tour! Okay, maybe not quite so literally, but it happen at a 60,000-attended event in Orlando. It’s just not Chan’s usual audience

■ …but it’s easy to see how Chan’s involvement can be construed as endorsement. (Article sample: “Who among us hasn’t done something we realized in hindsight was silly?”)

■ Post-Willow Creek: Looking at the non-denominational megachurch through the lens of what happened to the church which started it all. Maybe denominations aren’t such a bad idea after all.

■ Apples and oranges: Okay we missed this one back in February, but someone pointed us to it yesterday and it’s worth considering. When you compare sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic church to sexual abuse within the Southern Baptist Convention; while the actions may be similar, the ecclesiastic structure in general and church governance in particular dictates that the types of responses available will differ greatly.

■ While some U.S. states have moved toward radically liberal policies on abortions, some in other states would like to move their constituency in the opposite direction, such as this proposal banning abortions in the case of Down Syndrome.

■ A week after the massacre at the mosque in New Zealand, the Prime Minister of neighboring Australia admitted that in his country Islam is not well-understood. In an opinion piece, one writer laments the normalization or “ordinariness” of Islamaphobia.

■ Fairview Baptist Church in Edmond, Oklahoma was kicked out of Vimeo’s LiveStream program after they streamed a conference which the server found promoted “sexual orientation change efforts.” (There’s even an acronym for that, “SOCE.”) ALL their backlist of sermon content was also removed. Read the terse note they received from Vimeo’s “Trust and Safety” department.

🎬 First, after 20 years of alternative Christian music, K-LOVE changed the format of its sister station Air1 to a worship format. Then it intially refused to promote the pro-life movie Unplanned because of its R-rating. But the story has an update, be sure to read all.

■  Cambridge University has rescinded an offer of a two month research fellowship to Canadian Professor and author Jordan Peterson following complaints from students. Peterson is known for refusing to follow political correctness

■ Behind the scenes at LifeWay: Some of their biggest sellers weren’t profitable. Some of their pension obligations are unfunded. They are the most complicated business entity in the SBC family.

🎹 Planetboom is a next generation edition of Planetshakers. Their first album is titled Jesus Over Everything. This featured song is Everything X Everything. (Not recommended for people over a certain age.)

🎹 An homage to the poem Footprints in the Sand.
“Like that poem that I used to hear
Hanging ‘round everywhere
I used to write if off
Just a picture on a wall…”
…a new song, Footprints by Matt Hammitt. (Not recommended for people under a certain age.)

■ C. S. Lewis believed in Purgatory. And after-death conversion. (So why does the Reformed crowd love him so much.) Equally shocking were beliefs by Luther, Calvin, Moody, Spurgeon, Wesley, Graham, and Augustine. Frank Viola teases us with Lewis, you have to buy his book to read about the rest.

■ James MacDonald took no book royalties from his Walk In The Word sales? Not according to one former employee. (Be sure to click the red section labelled ‘statement’ to open the 2-pg .pdf.)

■ New Word of the Week: Clergypreneur. “Basically, I am like an Uber driver for your spiritual experience…I am not in charge of the congregation, I do not attend their leadership meetings, and I do not represent them. The congregation runs the church, and their ministry keeps it going. They contract with me for my own ministry, where and when it works best for them, and for me.”

■ The governmental body which regulates television in the United States continues to receive complaints from individuals and parent groups concerning its TV ratings system. (We looked at a variant of this problem a few months ago in this article.)

■ Update: Did John MacArthur really have that connection to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? The story has some (sort of) detractors.

🇨🇦 This story is only available to Canadian readers, and even they aren’t allowed to see it.*

■ Game of Chicken? Liberals will go to any length to castigate the Chick-Fil-A fast food franchise, but in banning them from key locations, municipal legislators may be violating the First Amendment.

This news story is not available in your area.*

■ As of yesterday, American Jesus Madness was down to a final four. Which is a good lead in to our next item!

■ Finally, it was just a typical weekend of worship at Ed Young’s church:




*okay I ran out of time last night

March 20, 2019

Wednesday Connect

He liked to kill “high value” animals. This picture best encapsulates the legacy that James MacDonald is leaving. See below for story.

A summary of one couple’s $72,000 worth of donations to Harvest Bible Chapel. They want a refund. See below for story link.

And so, our second year under our current name begins. Don’t forget the top clicks from Wednesday are published on Twitter a day or two later. Connect to @PaulW1lk1nson on Twitter. Also be sure to see the item which appears at the very bottom of today’s column about a Catholic Herald reporter in the UK.

■ Breaking: “The annual Templeton Prize, which recognizes outstanding contributions to “affirming life’s spiritual dimension,” was awarded Tuesday to Brazilian Marcelo Gleiser—a theoretical physicist dedicated to demonstrating science and religion are not enemies… An agnostic, he doesn’t believe in God—but refuses to write off the possibility of God’s existence completely.” 

■ Paying someone to do your homework:

It takes time to prepare a sermon well. Those who don’t have time to prepare their own sermons ought to do something else. The one thing they ought not to be doing is getting on stage to satisfy an audience, to keep the numbers high, and to do what it takes to make those happen. Do your own work, preacher. It is a pretense to preach someone else’s sermon or to give the impression the work is your own.

■ Last one out, turn out the lights. Fox News predicts the end of brick-and-mortar church as we know it. There are some insights in this piece, but they were too anxious to sensationalize the perspective; hence the headline, “Church as we know it, is over.” (To which Scot McKnight replied on Twitter, “No. A thousand times, no.”)

■ So how on earth did Harvest Bible Chapel get that seal of approval from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA)? There’s not a direct answer here, but apparently it wasn’t the only thing wrong at ECFA. The organization’s president was a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), but for 15 years had let his license lapse and was using the title improperly

■ …and one couple is demanding a refund of the $72,000 (USD; see summary picture above) they donated to Harvest Bible Chapel given what we now know. (Be sure to watch the video; and then multiply this by hundreds and hundreds of other families which did the same.)…

■ …The whole bear thing: A non-religious blogger at Patheos provides a reasonable lens through which to view the whole sordid Harvest Bible Chapel thing.

The pricey excursion was just one example of misappropriation of ministry resources, other similar letters from previous and present church staff say, which were submitted to the elders several weeks ago…MacDonald used church funds to purchase over $500 worth of cigars, and gave a waitress a $400 tip with church funds…Butters also explained in his letter to the elders that MacDonald demanded his office be renovated in 2013, which cost $150,000

■ …And in this 5 page .pdf file posted to Wartburg Watch, read one elder’s reasons for keeping quiet for so long

Just Added: Speaking from within the movement, a definition of “Reformed Fundamentalist;” including four characteristics, and four prescriptions to avoid becoming one. Great analysis!  

■ Worship Workshop: An Anglican walks into a Saddleback site and… Seriously, the point of this is not to skim it quickly (which you may) but to then click the link to the second part where the author breaks down the differences from a liturgical perspective. Again, don’t miss part two. Which brings us to…

■ …Saying what needed to be said re. the song “This is How I Fight My Battles:” The writer notes, “There is zero theology in this song. And for an about seven minute song — at least this YouTube version — there are a total of 15 unique words across basically two phrases. The song boils down to this: “This is how I fight my battles” repeated 4 dozen times. Then: “It may look like I’m surrounded, but I’m surrounded by you” Repeated just as many times… [I]f it wasn’t for it being sung in a church there is nothing to indicate this is even a song about God at all.”

■ Avoiding a negative message:

Church growth experts tell us that people want a “positive” message. This temptation to dilute the gospel has produced a new recipe for a trendy sermon. We start with some great motivational speaking (“Your past does not define your future!”), add a few quarts of cheap grace (“Don’t focus on your sin!”), pour in some prosperity gospel (“Run to this altar and grab your financial breakthrough!”), flavor it with some trendy pop psychology (“It’s all about you!”) and you end up with a goopy mess of pabulum that not even a baby Christian could survive on.

In contrast, “Paul gave his spiritual son Timothy clear instructions on how to keep his message on track.”

■ California Governor Gavin Newsom placed a moratorium on the death penalty last week and Evangelicals are thrilled. “We’re losing so much and gaining nothing in return. It’s time to let the death penalty go.”

■ What if, in all the miracles Jesus performed, he wasn’t so much operating in the divine, as much as he was modeling for each and every one of us what we could do if we fully exercised our spiritual gifts? That question gets asked in this 33-minute podcast with Rich Birch and Toronto area pastor John Thompson…

■ …John Thompson has also created an eight-part series of short videos dealing with spiritual practices and gifts which is available online for free. Watch them at

■ Rebranding the Bible: “Its hardcover Bibles sell for $78 and paperback softcover books are $38… Last year, the company sold more than 10,000 Bibles and made $300,000-plus in sales; Alabaster believes sales will triple in 2019 with some upcoming wholesale deals.” A new series of visually impactful Bible editions are made to connect with an Instagram generation.

■ The Latter Day Saints’ test of conviction has a strange descriptor; they say you feel “a burning your bosom.” One apologist just finds it not sound logically:

The burning in the bosom I find to be a weak argument. I can understand it’s very emotionally appealing and I do know ex-Mormons have said that there is nothing like the experience of the burning in the bosom. If you pray and you get the burning in the bosom, well that confirms that the Book of Mormon is true. If you don’t get it, well, you just weren’t sincere or something of that sort. The test is in essence unfalsifiable.

■ An undated article on the Life.Church website pays tribute to life in Middle America, and from a Christian perspective, its ten secret super powers.

Essay of the Week: It began with the dumbest Tweet of the week: “If you do rich people stuff, eventually you will be rich. If you do poor people stuff, you will eventually be poor.” That was Dave Ramsey. Some were nonplussed.

Ramsey’s sentiments about wealth disparity is an a oversimplification bordering on cruelty. When someone spends years responding to life’s complications with platitudes and proverbs, they tend to think of these teachings as absolutes over time. Particularly when someone has climbed from a state of poverty to one of financial wellness…Boiled down to its most basic form, this is karma by another name. It’s the bad advice of Job’s friends personified in 21st century American terms

■ Testimony Time: This was on Reddit on the weekend. Why I left Islam and Turned to Christianity.

■ Details you might have missed in the Apostle’s Creed: The meaning of ascended and seated

♫ New (to me) Music: From the land of Hillsong, comes CityAlight. This was actually posted back in November; but I hadn’t heard of them. This is their most-watched video, Yet Not I, But Through Christ in Me

♫ Obscure Music: The duo known as Wild Harbors. “Chris Badeker met Jenna on his first day at McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. They started singing together long before they were a couple, playing ’90s cover songs and leading worship at on-campus events.” Their song, “The Ballad of Wallace and Jessie” only had 232 YouTube views as of last night, but got me curious. The composition “takes its inspiration from a story…about a young orphan in Scotland named Jessie, who had a premonition of the Titanic sinking shortly before she passed away. In her dream, Jessie saw a man named Wallace playing the violin on the ship’s deck, calming passengers on their way to the lifeboats. The couple… decided to wrap a melody around his story.” 

■ Analogy of the Week: The Bible as compost pile, as opposed to cookbook.

■ Conference Calendar: The Water To Wine Gathering takes place June 13–15 at Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, Missouri. One of the speakers defines the conference goals in a blog post.

■ Where you live, do kids take a year off between high school and ‘what’s next’ as what’s called a ‘gap year?’ Here’s an alternative program that a Canadian university came up with for kids from five Christian high schools.

■ Everybody’s welcome: From a mainstream website, a from-the-inside-looking-out look at Waffle House restaurants. “Waffle House does not care how much you are worth, what you look like, where you are from, what your political beliefs are, or where you’ve been so long as you respect the unwritten rules of Waffle House: Be kind, be respectful, and don’t overstay when others are waiting for a table. Besides, everyone who has ever stepped foot in a Waffle House has a story to tell…”

■ If you’re late to the party in terms of finding a good book to read during Lent, here are three suggestions

■ …and from our Catholic Corner: Lent in New Orleans is more than just Mardi Gras. Read about the tradition of constructing St. Joseph Altars

■ Worth repeating: Large Evangelical “organizations such as The Gospel Coalition have self-consciously sought to drive and thereby control the small-r reformed world by buying up the talent and overseeing who gets to speak, what gets said, who gets reviewed, who is in, who is out.”

■ Christian music streaming service The Overflow has shut down after it has proved no longer sustainable financially. (Customers are promised refunds in April.)

■ A good news story: The man was taking advantage of the little girl’s mother being in the restroom, but a teenage boy ignored his mother’s advice and got involved.

■ Those Hollywood celebs could have saved thousands of dollars, since committing bribery to get your kids into homeschool is much cheaper

■ …Same premise, different satirical website, different type of school.

■ Finally, yes! Even at his new home on Patheos, the American Jesus March Madness Bracket is back for 2019. Who will win? Mormon’s vs. Latter Day Saints? (I think the other option was “The Church,” but, oh well.) “Girl Wash Your Face” vs. “Girl Get Some Footnotes?” Shane Claiborne vs. America’s love affair with guns? Donald Trump autographing the Bible vs. Donald Trump actually reading the Bible? You’ll have to check it yourself. Explanations will be posted today, and you have until the end of the day today (midnight, CST Wednesday) to enter.

Much of what’s on would never make the cut here, but I found this one interesting food for thought.

■ This is for real. It happened to a journalist and columnist for the UK Catholic Press and means legal trouble and possibly jail time. Read the story at Christian Post. A GoFundMe page has been set up for her legal defence.

March 13, 2019

Wednesday Connect

Michael Frost’s reading audience includes a wide demographic.

Welcome to Wednesday Connect #52. This is where all the cool get people get their Christian news and opinion pieces. You can also stay in touch during the week here at the blog and @PaulW1lk1nson on Twitter. (Just remember the number one substitutes for the letter I.)

Starting on a more serious note, U.S. news media reported the eight Americans killed in the Ethiopian Air crash but not the 18 Canadians (the largest toll for any country other than Ethiopia itself.) I wanted to highlight just one, below. CNN reported on the larger number of people who were aboard the plane, “Gone is an entire corps of experts and workers focused on issues as diverse as championing the cause of Arctic marine life to maintaining security in Uganda to easing the suffering of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.”

■ So the past week brought us the image of Donald Trump autographing Bibles. What’s up with that? Michael Frost probed the subject and didn’t look to far to find those who said Trump was desecrating Christianity’s sacred textbook.

■ Canada Crisis: Or maybe it’s common to other countries in Western Europe and North America. “A national charity that works to save old buildings estimates that 9,000 religious spaces in Canada will be lost in the next decade, roughly a third of all faith-owned buildings in the country. National Trust for Canada regeneration project leader Robert Pajot says every community in the country is going to see old church buildings shuttered, sold off or demolished.”

Dave Stone (l), Kyle Idleman (r)

■ With a weekly attendance of over 21,000; Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky is definitely one of the largest megachurches in the country. After 30 years, this week it was announced that Dave Stone is handing the role of Senior Pastor over to former teaching pastor Kyle Idleman. “Stone himself is following the lead of Southeast’s former senior pastor, Bob Russell, who handed the reins to Stone in 2006. Russell was 62 at the time, and felt the church would benefit from a younger leader.”

■ Your new term for the week: Spiritually Vibrant, or if you prefer, Spiritual Vibrancy. Barna defined this and then surveyed what it calls Households of Faith on which practices bring a lively spiritual life to broader family routines and activities.

■ Ticking off the wrong people: Vimeo objected to promoting “sexual orientation change efforts.” (SOCE) So, “the church’s account – with all its SERMONS – was deleted.” In doing so they removed content which “had nothing to do with SOCE. They removed Christian testimonies from people who left LGBT lives. They removed other talks on Scripture.” Janet Mefford notes “You may not care about us, but this is an attack on Christianity. Period. There was no fair reason for Vimeo delete all the church’s sermons, with no warning or discussion.” (Be sure to click “show this thread” to see everything.)

■ Essay of the Week: With so many Christians so affluent, we tend to favor the idea of Jesus blessing the poor in spirit (Matthew), rather than having him simply say, ‘Blessed are the poor.’ (Luke). “Theologians Stassen and Gushee collected evidence from early church documents to show that for the first 300 years or so after Christ, the Beatitudes was the single most quoted piece of Scripture evoked for teaching, discipline or doctrine in the church.” Other scriptures support the idea that Jesus was indeed blessing the poor, and not just ‘in spirit.’

■ Hymns and Chorus explained. (And no it’s not the one about the cows in the cornfield.)

Many modern songs tell us what. They do this really well! We sing what God is, What He’s done, and what we do in response.
Hymns often tell us why. Why He is the way He is, why He’s done what He’s done, and why we should respond. If what brushes the skin, why penetrates the heart.

■ An element of the Passion Week story you might choose to leave out of your Good Friday sermon: The idea that, as one considers the dynamics of Roman crucifixion, Jesus endured what we would term sexual abuse today. (Graphic content.)

■ The response to James MacDonald’s justification of suing another believer (or several) which Christianity Today refused to print. (4½ .pdf pages plus footnotes.) (Admittedly the lawsuit was dropped, but by publishing only one side, doesn’t that leave CT complicit in the whole sordid affair?)  …

■ …and according to this report from Julie Roys, documents she’s seen show “numerous incidents where MacDonald spent the church’s money to support his lavish lifestyle.” Included in her report is the time when he “went on a worldwide missions trip that was so stressful, he needed a safari in South Africa to help him recover from it.” Or the time he “Demanded that the church pay to repair his truck after he scraped and dented it on one of the columns in the Elgin church parking garage, blaming security for ‘setting the cones up wrong.’

■ When it comes to certain issues, people will draw the line for one subject but not another. The article, at Internet Monk introduces links to a series of sermons and podcasts from one church which is on the frontlines of the issue of women in ministry.

■ If the formula ain’t (yet) broke… “After the success of 2018’s I Can Only Imagine, the Erwin Brothers and their producing partner Kevin Downes are tackling I Still Believe, the story of Jeremy Camp. Through Lionsgate and their Kingdom banner, the producing partners have targeted March 20, 2020, for wide release.”

■ Walking the Pavement: An organization which knows a thing or two about campus ministry notices that having some type of context changes how they pray for those college and university campuses. Instead of sitting in an empty classroom, there’s a value in prayer-walking, and it changes how a person prays.

■ Seeing the school adorned with flags supporting the LGBT community, an Ohio student responded by putting Bible verses on Post-It notes, which were taken down, and she received a suspension. She describes her conversation with the principal: “…I asked him why every time Jesus or God or anything like that gets brought up at school, it gets taken down right away. But we can put gay and pride stuff all over the school and not have to take it down and people can talk about it, but when you talk about God or Jesus you just get put down, you’re not allowed to talk about it.”

■ Believing the best or deceiving the donors? It’s amazing to read the spin John MacArthur’s Master’s University and Seminary puts on things despite being in default of academic institutional standards and also facing staff cutbacks.

■ Post-Hybels: Putting the situation at Willow Creek in perspective, a UK writer notes four things to remember about the Bill Hybels story, including that we should not be dismissive of all Bill believed and taught about evangelism and leadership… also this article:

■ Nancy Beach, a longtime Willow staff member from the earliest days, responds to the independent investigation.

■ This story is interesting and even includes a nun who was also Chemistry professor at a Michigan University. Yes, really! “While the discovery of DNA is usually credited to two physicists, James Watson and Francis Crick, there was a woman behind the scenes that paved the way for their breakthroughs by uncovering the complex structure of the molecule.” The story of Dominican Sister Miriam Michael Stimson.

■ NewSpring — the church founded by Perry Noble — isn’t taking responsibility. “A Southern Baptist megachurch in South Carolina says it is not responsible for actions of a former volunteer criminally accused of sexually assaulting preschool boys inside a church bathroom while security cameras rolled.”

■ Up to 100 former Jeopardy contestants who also happen to be clergy, including Orthodox Jews, Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians and Episcopalians, will be participating an interfaith service via a Zoom conference on March 13 to offer prayers for program host Alex Trebek who was recently diagnosed with stage four cancer.

■ The top Latter-day Saint meets the top Roman Catholic. “A visit between a pope and the man considered a prophet by millions of Latter-day Saints would have been unimaginable to leaders and members in both churches 50 years ago. Clandestine olive branches and decades of détente were necessary, according to sources from both faiths…”

■ How To: In the United States, going to church seems as American as apple pie and baseball, but many are hesitant to invite their friends, neighbors, coworkers or extended family. An article from Life Church offers a template on how to begin the conversation.

■ The humility of affliction. A short devotional on Psalm 10 comparing the English of one verse to how it’s rendered in the Italian Bible.

■ New Author: Derek Vreeland is the author of By the Way: Getting Serious About Following Jesus. Here’s a sample of his writing dealing with four wrong assumptions about Christ’s death.

■ Then there’s the interesting case of the UK street preacher. Street evangelism is much more common in the UK than in North America, but this one had a rights-violating experience with police. “After marching out of the area, law enforcement transferred him by car to a remote location over five miles away from where he was. Lost and with no money, it was only through the kindness of strangers that Olu managed to find his way back to Southgate.”

■ A profile of  former Everyday Sunday member Trey Pearson, a “gay Christian rocker” who had to find new places to play after he was shut out of the Christian music circuit after coming out

♫ New Music: Lift Up Jesus by Passion featuring Brett Younker. ♫

■ Desiring God, a website once the domain of Reformed Pope John Piper, is now all about deciphering imagery in the Captain Marvel movie franchise. (With some predictable and justifiable outcry on their take.)

■ FREE Book Excerpt: Yesterday marked the latest release of a new fiction title by author Joel Rosenberg. You can read a 19-page .pdf sample of The Persian Gamble at this link.

■ Piano Lesson ♪ : Sound like you know what you’re doing as you reharmonize Amazing Grace. (12 minute video.)

■ Question of the Week: Could the Catholic Church in New York file for bankruptcy?

■ Lastly, did you give something up for Lent? Decision Data reports “this year social media overtook alcohol for the top spot. For years, booze had been at the top of the list, but not in 2019. Other big movers include television, which fell off the top chart and into the “other” category.” Check out the survey results.

Click the image to see this t-shirt at

Or click the image on this one to see it in black. We should get a commission for this!

Apparently Michael W. Smith’s infatuation with this diamond pattern is a long-running thing. The current album (r) and his second album (l) are separated by 35 years.

March 6, 2019

Wednesday Connect

Matthew Pierce asks: “Want to feel old? This is the cast of The Sandlot today.”

Thanks to those of you who send ideas.

■ Over the past decade, we’ve watched as LGBT issues have become the new battlefield for many in the church. Over the past few months, the ‘T’ in LGBT has taken center stage, as transgender issues affecting children, parenting and the education system have increased in number and impact. Here are a few from this week:

  • In the UK, a new school curriculum coming into effect next  year would teach children as young as five about homosexuality and transgenderism.
  • Meanwhile, in Arlington, Virginia (a suburb of Washington, DC) kindergarten children were read the book I Am Jazz, the story of a transgender student, with the blessing of the National Educational Association, the nation’s largest teachers union. “The event spotlights transgender and gender-expansive students;” and for one child, the takeaway was, “Anyone can be anything.” The classroom kindergarten teacher is an openly gay man.
  • A U.S. parent who went along with a transitioning program for her child had a wake-up moment and now believes that she and the child experienced “a form of brainwashing as schools, popular television programs and other authoritative sources in a young person’s life seem to encourage a new understanding of a transgender person’s new life.” [Original story source.]
  • The hardest-to-read of all stories I saw this week: “My once beautiful daughter is now nineteen, homeless, bearded, in extreme poverty, sterilized, not receiving mental health services, extremely mentally ill, and planning a surgical procedure that removes part of her arm to construct a fake penis.” Five parents tell their stories.

■ Going where no-one has dared to go before, BuzzFeed asks this unique, 13-years-together couple, “Can an atheist date a Christian?” 12½ minute video. (Before he went to sleep at night, his mom would make the sign of the cross with anointing oil; “a protective covering.”)(Her take: “If you were a stronger Christian, I think you’d push it more on me.” Interesting.) We originally had this near the bottom of the list, however…this is worth watching.  

■ Plagiarism in Rachel Hollis’ followup to her blockbuster Girl, Wash Your Face. Documented examples from Girl, Stop Apologizing where she took principles and pithy sayings from the writings of others. [Already seen this CT piece? Check out this Rachel Hollis plagiarism forum.][Or more examples on BuzzFeed.]

■ Using the Old Testament as a moral authority: John Walton’s new book in the “Lost World of…” series finds him in company with Andy Stanley on the present interpretations of the first testament on various social issues. However, a Get Religion story necessitated a response when it touched on an issue that Walton said the book did not.

■ Philosophy of Church: If the worship of God is party about his mystery; his transcendence; why do we do everything in our worship environments to promote his immanence? (Meet me at the church coffee and t-shirt shop to discuss this further.)

■ Nailing it: Just because something is ‘Biblical’ doesn’t mean that it’s ‘Christlike.’ Has finding a supporting Biblical text overridden the WWJD litmus-test question when it comes to our ethics and responses? 

■ Reading, copying, studying, praying, singing… This item at the Bible Gateway blog leads you to another page promoting 14 different ways we can interact with scripture texts.

■ Environmental anxiety: Talking about the environment with someone who knows Jesus is always going to make for a different type of conversation.

■ OOPS! The video is supposed to be promoting a book about “Humble Calvinism.” The first panelist begins, “If you know Calvinism, which is really nothing more than Biblical theology…” WAIT, STOP! There’s that arrogance right there. Exhibit “A”. Check out this 7-minute cure for low blood pressure.

■ Provocative Headline of the Week: Introducing Fourth-Term Abortion.

■ Muslim prison inmates in Arkansas don’t like the idea of attending inter-faith services with… Jews? Christians? No; rather, other branches of Islam. “Though the three groups, which overlap in their histories and theology, follow distinct religious teachings, the Arkansas Department of Correction requires followers of Islam, the Nation of Islam, and the Nation of Gods and Earths who want to worship to attend a single prayer service.” (Do they force Baptists to attend with Pentecostals at the Christian service? That would be equally wrong.) 

■ Make America Bored Again! “Once you’ve truly settled into the anesthetizing effects of boredom, you find yourself en route to discovery.” A parenting article at the New York Times suggests that boredom might be a great way to refresh. Sample

But surely teaching children to endure boredom rather than ratcheting up the entertainment will prepare them for a more realistic future, one that doesn’t raise false expectations of what work or life itself actually entails. One day, even in a job they otherwise love, our kids may have to spend an entire day answering Friday’s leftover email. They may have to check spreadsheets. Or assist robots at a vast internet-ready warehouse…Perhaps in an incessant, up-the-ante world, we could do with a little less excitement.

■ Video podcast of the week: Danielle Strickland sits down with Bruxy Cavey to talk about women in Church leadership. (For audio, look for Meeting House After-Party wherever you buy fine podcasts.) 

Muscovy Duck (Wikipedia)

■ The case of the duck that is kosher and not kosher:

Another fundamental issue with the laws of kashrut is the lack of a Jewish governing body. Judaism has no centralized force, as Catholicism does with the Vatican. Instead, there are simply a bunch of extremely learned dudes, throughout thousands of years of history, who are considered very smart and knowledgeable and whose arguments about the various laws are widely read and sometimes adopted. But these dudes—usually but not always given the title of Rabbi—have disagreements, and their own followings.

So is the Muscovy duck okay to consume? Nobody knows for sure, which means this article is certainly for the birds.

■ Abuse: A week ago her name was kept confidential. Her father, a pastor, is now serving a 30- to 60-year sentence in a Pennsylvania state prison after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting and taking inappropriate photographs of four very young girls. She played a role in turning him over to the police

■ Oh, my! My wife does this. The Spiritual Discipline of Hanging out in Cemeteries. “Traditionally, Lent—which begins this week, Wednesday, March 6—is a season set aside for this very purpose. It’s a time to repent, fast, and meditate on our sinfulness and mortality as we prepare to celebrate Christ’s resurrection.”

■ Love the sinner, hate their theology. A devotional/study on the clutter that comes with too much cultural immersion, based on the church at Thyatira.

■ Conference Calendar: Still room at end of the month at the Awakenings Gathering in Alexandria, Virginia; being promoted by Missio Alliance.

■ “It is always interesting when a new book appears by an author long dead. There usually are questions as to whether the author intended the material for publication. In this case you could say the material is previously published, but not in book format.” A look at A Cloud by Day, A Fire by Night by A.W. Tozer

■ Church Planting without Planting: It’s called “horizontal growth” and uses many different forms to reach more people.

■ The Proverbs 31 Woman: If the rest of the book was written to men (boys actually) maybe women need to hear that the final chapter of the wisdom book wasn’t written to them.

■ A story from channel 5 in Dallas-Fort-Worth says that a house fire which killed a pastor, his wife and their daughter is being treated as suspicious.

New Music: An acapella adaptation of an arrangement of Trust and Obey originally recorded by Big Daddy Weave.

Just in time for Easter: From Living Hope – The House Sessions, Phil Wickham’s Christ is Risen.

■ With much accomplished in seven years — the greatest fruit of which was seen in the past 90 days — one of the two voices in The Elephant’s Debt (an accountability blog reporting on Harvest Bible Chapel), Scott Bryant is stepping down from the site.

■ Finally, Jon Crist sneaks his camera into a Bible Wax Museum in Ohio:

Top items from last week’s Wednesday connect:

  1. Four ways the modern church looks nothing like the early church
  2. The book with the weird title, “Cursed Above All Cattle.”
  3. Scot McKnight’s review of John Walton’s latest book
  4. Singleness is too hard; book excerpt
  5. VP Mike Pence teaching sex education to kids


February 27, 2019

Wednesday Connect

This is Wednesday Connect #50, or if you prefer, Wednesday Link List #450. A splendid time is guaranteed for all.

You miss church because of the weather. No problem, right? You go online and watch the sermon, or if you’re in a smaller church, you just listen to the audio. But what about your kids? They missed church as well. The Meeting House, an Anabaptist congregation on the western edge of Toronto, Canada posts the video portion of their kids curriculum, an idea I hope other churches are doing or will consider.

If you’ve tracked with John Walton’s “Lost World” series — such as The Lost World of Genesis One — Scot McKnight believes the newest, The Lost World of the Torah, is the best of the set.

A Barna survey finds that non-Christians see Christians as terrible listeners. (At least I think that’s what it said; I wasn’t paying attention.) That’s unfortunate since they want to talk about matters of faith.

Raising your kids and doing ministry in Las Vegas? “But Las Vegas has it in plenty. True, but every sin advertised in Las Vegas exists in every city — theologically every city is Sin City. Drunkenness, homosexuality, gambling, prostitution, murder, envy, lust, pride, slander, impatience, gluttony, anger, covetousness, and foolishness are in every town. Why? Because where humans live, sin lives.”

Outreach in a liturgical setting: Creating a template for a service for people affected by suicide.

It quickly became apparent that we would be reaching out to three kinds of people. The first and most visible were parents of those who had, mostly in their late teens and early twenties, and often after a long struggle with mental health challenges, taken their own life. The second were other family members—spouses, siblings, children. What set the parents apart from other relatives seemed to be that the parents were more likely to have founded charities or in some other way become active in supporting other families or advocating for measures to make suicide less prevalent. The third group we had in mind were those who had themselves attempted suicide, often more than once, and had reached a place where their life was no longer in the same degree of crisis

Imagine having access to top scholars and authors such as Michael Bird, Wayne Grudem, Craig Keener, Mark Strauss, Tremper Longman, William Mounce, and dozens more. Zondervan Academic launches the Master Lectures series with a 14-day free trial.

While Crossway probably isn’t my favorite publisher, this article in the “5 Myths About…” series shows that when it comes to releasing a Christian book, sales potential, author platform, practical applicability, etc., aren’t the only things that matter.

▀ The book pictured: “Jesus said ‘Many will come in my name and deceive many.’ Indeed, they have. Today’s institutional churches are teaching theology which cannot be supported in the scripture. They are leading many astray with false narratives and unsupported doctrine. Cursed Above All Cattle challenges these narratives, particularly the end day prophecies. The institutional church has formed false narratives on the end day prophecies which has lulled believers to sleep and given them a false sense of security.

“Pastors do not need to do a PhD. But coming behind an MDiv, a PhD can be part of what sharpens and grows and theologically strengthens a pastor.” This article, which leads to a sales pitch for one particular program, does offer three solid reasons to consider that doctorate.

How We’re Different: Relevant tracks four characteristics of the early church which differ from our modern churches today.

Persecution Watch: Another pastor has been taken captive by Buddhist rebels in Myanmar.

A reminder: Grieving people are all around you. Go easy on people, as you don’t what they are facing or recovering from.

All The Single Ladies (and Gentlemen): A full excerpt of the first chapter of Sam Allberry’s book on being single looks at one of seven common misconceptions:

…Calling others to live sexually abstinent outside of marriage is now regarded as unnecessary and cruel. Those wanting to uphold the Bible’s teaching on sexual ethics are criticized for “enforcing celibacy” on others and, by doing so, causing considerable damage

For the “dones” and those who are almost done:

“I think a lot of the “dones” and “almost dones” are tired of simply confining the practice of their faith to a weekly worship gathering and a midweek meeting. They want to find the meaningful life Jesus promised in the places they live, work and play. That is, outside the church walls. They need someone to tell them you don’t need to leave church to find it. You can be the church in the world, just as Jesus promised.”

“Jews don’t believe in heaven.” Wait a minute, says who? A New York City rabbi responds to the assertion that heaven doesn’t exist in the Hebrew scriptures or in modern Judaism.

Divisions in the United Methodist Church. Wanna guess what some of the issues are?

Please don’t be confused, but Zondervan is about to publish one of its study Bibles in the ESV translation.

Then there’s this book, Abba Isn’t Daddy and Other Biblical Surprises: What Catholics Need to Know About Scripture Study.  “Did you know that when Jesus called God “Abba” he didn’t really mean the familiar “Daddy” as you may have been taught? Could the Our Father have originally been a Jewish prayer? Releasing March 8th from Ave Maria Press.

New Music, from the new album Living Hope (House Sessions): Wild River by Phil Wickham. “Your mercy flows like a wild, wild river / Your love is strong like the raging sea…”

Finally, an Onion-like page at Patheos alleges that Vice President Mike Pence is touring the country teaching sex education.



February 20, 2019

Wednesday Connect

So as you read yesterday, we got back Monday night from Cuba. I was working on this list at 5:00 PM and my computer wanted to run a Windows update. I told it no, which usually means it tries the next day. Instead of that, it started running it at 7:00 PM. I had more than dozen things open and lost quite a few. You’re told that having the latest version includes security features to protect you, but I am convinced that a majority of the updates we are constantly forced to endure are adding functionality which is entirely motivated by commercial purposes. So if you have issues with the size of today’s list, take it up with Microsoft.

This week’s opening graphic is from a site I’ve visited a few times for Christianity 201, titled Broken Believers.

♦ “A team of 26 Christians from Alberta had been working for the aid group Haiti Arise when they became stranded by the protests at a compound in Grand Goâve, about 31 miles from the capital of Port-au-Prince.” The Canadian missionaries have been safely evacuated from the country.

♦ A Chicago Tribune summary of the weekend services at Harvest Bible Chapel reveals that, especially at the Saturday night service, some people got up and walked out during a video sermon by Pastor Rick Donald. (Personally, I hope their next church has a real live pastor from week to week.)

♦ Exactly how controlling was Harvest Bible Chapel?

A year or so before leaving Harvest I had written a blog post about holiness in which I had referenced the growing fad of tattoos in our culture. I hadn’t realized that James had gotten a tattoo that week. My blog had indirectly undermined James. As a result, I was asked to meet with the elders, pull the blog piece and write a new one that James would first approve. James ended up sending me a copy of the new approved blog post, and out of fear, I complied. I didn’t want to be rebellious against authority. I also managed to write an apology to James for the pain I had caused him. I regret staying at Harvest after that meeting with the elders. I should have left that week…

A former Women’s Ministry Director at the original campus speaks out.

♦ The phone call begins, Hello. This is St. Mary’s Prayer Center Ministry calling today to see if you need urgent prayer. If you would like to have someone from our center pray for you, please press 1…” But several minutes in, if you’re still connected comes the sales pitch. “A call center operator who said she was from the Philippines asked how much I’d like to donate. I gave $1.47. My idea was to see the organization’s name show up on my bank statement to get more information, but that plan failed. It showed up as a PayPal transaction. But I didn’t have to look to hard to find out who made the call. It came from Manasseh Jordan Ministries, an organization based in New York and run by a man who calls himself Prophet Manasseh Jordan.

♦ Well, duh? “The United States has announced that it will not be pressing charges against the remote Indian tribespeople who brutally murdered American missionary John Allen Chau.” A roundup of these more-or-less unapproachable people would have been interesting to watch. And what if inbred North Sentinel Islanders all look the same? (Okay, that last sentence wasn’t helpful, but this is a really dumb announcement.)

♦ E. T. phone home! That is where E. T. stands for Elder Theo. “The reaction to last week’s announcement that Mormon missionaries will now be able to call home once a week—instead of twice a year, as was the former policy—has been mostly positive.” But some think it’s a bad move; that today’s missionaries are “Clinging to their helicopter parents.” (And weren’t we supposed to stop using the word ‘Mormon?’)

♦ After two weeks in Uganda, J. Lee Grady repents of his spoiled-rotten American attitude.

I encourage you to examine your attitude. We Americans are so blessed, yet many of us have no clue how the rest of the world lives. We complain when the Wi-Fi signal goes out, or when our Amazon order doesn’t arrive in two days, or when we don’t have enough legroom on our flight to our Orlando vacation. And then we post our childish complaints on social media so we can infect everyone with our toxic self-centeredness.

♦ His name wasn’t Jesus, it was Apollonius. So says a low-budget film, much to the general annoyance of theologians.

UPDATE to a previous story here:  A conservative group called CitizenGo has managed to cancel the second coming. Actually it’s a about a comic book: “The Second Coming series, from DC imprint Vertigo, was due to launch on 6 March. Written by Mark Russell and illustrated by Richard Pace, its story followed Jesus’s return to Earth. “Shocked to discover what has become of his gospel,” he teams up with a superhero, Sun-Man, who is more widely worshipped than him.” The group got 200,000 signatures, even though their usual thing is anti-abortion and anti-LGBT campaigns.

♦ A new book claims that a majority of Vatican priests are gay

♦ …meanwhile, a New York Times article tries to identify the source of the issue: “Today, training for the priesthood in the United States usually starts in or after college. But until about 1980, the church often recruited boys to start in ninth grade — teenagers still in the throes of puberty. For many of today’s priests and bishops over 50, this environment limited healthy sexual development. Priests cannot marry, so sexuality from the start was about abstinence, and obedience.“…

♦ …which brings us to your new Catholic word-of-the-week: “Laicized.” Try to guess before you click.

♦ …and in a not-directly-related-but-also-Catholic article, what do you do when your doctrine doesn’t permit divorce? Well of course: Annulment.

The problem is that Rome is trying to justify people by making the Law easier. That’s why they have the annulment. Sinners can’t go to heaven, and they certainly can’t take communion. So what is a sinner to do? What’s a divorced person’s hope for righteousness? In order to justify people, Rome needs to move the laws around, invent excuses, pull some bureaucratic levers. Poof! It never really happened.

Grammy Award winners for 2019 in three major Christian categories.

 — I’m afraid that’s all the time I had this week. I’d really love to stay and sing a song, but the sign on the clubhouse wall says it’s time to go.

How we’re viewed: Granted, this comes from a militant (or if you prefer, ‘bold’) atheist group, but the views contained are not exclusive to them.



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