Thinking Out Loud

June 12, 2019

Wednesday Connect

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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June 5, 2019

Wednesday Connect

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another young pastor screws up.

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

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


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


Digging a Little Deeper

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

May 29, 2019

Wednesday Connect

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

■ Quotation of the Week: Philip Yancey quotes David Brooks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

May 22, 2019

Wednesday Connect

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

May 15, 2019

Wednesday Connect

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 8, 2019

Wednesday Connect

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

■ Watch your scripture citations. Double check the references.

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


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

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

RIP Rachel Held Evans…

Four gifts RHE gave us…

Jesus Creed on RHE…

Relevant on RHE…

RHE and the democratization of theology…

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 Zazzle.com…

…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 XXXChurch.com, 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.


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