Thinking Out Loud

April 18, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Baptist Food Pyramid: This Babylon Bee article, published exactly one year ago today, is accessed by clicking the image.


Finding True Religion: I took this picture a few weeks ago at Toronto’s Eaton Centre. Apparently True Religion is a brand of denim jeans. Click the image to visit their site.


I’m writing the introduction at 5:30 PM yesterday with the list not quite finished. This week really came together and in some respects I feel that this is one of the best Wednesday Link Lists (or whatever we call it now) that I’ve ever completed. I hope you’ll take the time — and it does take time — to read several of these which might interest you and share the link with your friends using this shortlink: https://wp.me/pfdhA-9Vh

► Your Article of the Week: “I’ll never forget hearing the phrase, ‘Make Sunday morning the best hour of their week!’ encouraging ministers to focus all of their attention on making that Sunday morning hour so popping, so exciting, so over-the-top memorable and fun, that kids couldn’t wait to come back. However, the trade-off for that is that we had to create programs that appealed primarily to the senses and not necessarily to the soul and spirit.”

► Your Quotation of the Week: “At this point in the pontificate of Francis, I believe it can be reasonably maintained that this marks the twilight of that imposing historical reality which can be defined as ‘Roman Catholicism.’ This does not mean, properly understood, that the Catholic Church is coming to an end, but that what is fading is the way in which it has historically structured and represented itself in recent centuries.” The writer then argues that Francis is using the playbook written by Martin Luther.

► Provocative Headline of the Week: “New Documents Reveal How the FBI Deployed a Televangelist to Discredit Martin Luther King.” The article details how “the bureau colluded with Elder Lightfoot Solomon Michaux, then a widely successful black radio preacher and televangelist, in their campaign against King.”

► As the Global Ambassador for The World Evangelical Alliance, Brian Stiller prepares to travel to a symposium on the subject, a look at what it means to be (called) Evangelical. “While the recent sharp reaction to the use of the label has come about in the U.S., in part because of divisions following the 2016 presidential election, a decision on what name best suits us globally is not a choice we can leave for Americans to decide. The U.S. does not set the agenda for the world, and we should not assume that what matters to them will define what matters globally. As influential as they are, and recognizing that American concerns do affect the world, the real place of evangelical growth is in the global south (Asia, Africa and Latin America).” (Be sure to also check out Brian’s new book from IVP, From Jerusalem to Timbuktu.)

► Congratulations to Terry Mattingly: “This week marks my 30th anniversary writing this national  ‘On Religion’ column. The first piece ran on April 11, 1988 and focused – wait for it – on arguments about evangelicals and White House politics. Turn, turn, turn. Three decades is a long time, so allow me to pause and make something clear. I still believe that if journalists want to cover real news in the real lives of real people in the real world then they need to get real serious about religion.”

► Monday was not a good day for U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson, on trial in Turkey. “The day’s hearing ended with the court ordering Brunson back the prison where he was first held after he was detained in 2016, said the American Center for Law and Justice, a Washington D.C. advocacy agency that is supporting the pastor’s defense. It is a facility where nearly two dozen inmates are held to a cell, the center said. ‘Instead of being returned to the prison where he had been held most recently, the judge ordered Pastor Andrew to be taken back to an overcrowded and extremely grim prison where he was held initially,’ said the center’s chief counsel, Jay Sekulow. ‘As you can imagine, the news is devastating to Pastor Andrew and his family.'”  (Background: The BBC reports “Andrew Brunson is accused of helping a group led by Fethullah Gulen, an exiled Muslim preacher who Turkish authorities allege was behind a failed 2016 coup.”)

► Allow me to go off on a tangent with this one. The article on lesser-known Bible translations, stressing the value of translation by committee, does recognize that we tend to celebrate the work of individual translators, mentioning Jerome, Tyndale, Luther, Jan Hus, and Robert Morrison. Really? So why is that we have some who now despise this very type of solo effort, condemning the work of Eugene Peterson (The Message) or Brian Simmons (The Passion Translation)? Makes no sense. If you have a CT subscription, or they haven’t pay-walled this by Wednesday, checkout Ten Bible Translations You’ve Never Heard Of (even though most readers certainly have heard of several of them.)

► Your word of the Week: Intercommunion.  “the German Church has been thrown deeper into controversy after seven bishops appealed to the Vatican against new guidelines that would allow Protestant spouses of Catholics to receive Holy Communion…The more fundamental problem with intercommunion is that, even if the form is similar, different religious communities often have very different understandings of what Communion means…Either the sacrament is the Body and Blood of Christ, or it is not. If it is viewed simply as a symbolic remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice, that is another thing entirely. This is why, under established Catholic teaching, intercommunion is possible with the Orthodox Churches – though limited in practice – but not with most Protestant denominations, simply because they don’t agree with the Catholic view of what Communion actually is.

► End of the world predictions: Ed Stetzer–
I emailed…January 15, 2018 after his last prediction failed. I wrote him:
Hi…
It looks like all those predictions did not come together. I wonder if you regret them now and the embarrassment they’ve caused so many Christians?
Ed
…He explained that “revelation is progressive.”
But, it’s not…You are either a fraud or a fool, and it’s time for you to stop making Christians look foolish.

► Poverty in Kissimmee, Florida: “It seems obscene that such poverty exists in the shadow of the Happiest Place on Earth, perhaps even persisting under its watch. That the person serving my churro or checking my seatbelt on Magic Mountain could be living out of a derelict motel should be a devastating realization. A single day pass to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom costs $115, which means some of the park’s workers likely cannot afford the luxury of taking their family to visit Mickey and friends…. While we may cringe at the idea of seeing such raw stories played out on screen— 6-year-olds swearing at adults, spying on the topless elderly woman tanning at the pool, finagling adults into giving them ice cream money—assuming this all to be some horrific parable about the doctrine of total depravity, simply because the images are uncomfortable does not mean that they can be ignored.

► Bible Contradictions: Six discrepancies that don’t actually exist. “Sample #3: James and Paul teach two different salvations. …The book of James would seem to teach a contradictory salvation of faith plus works (Ja. 2:14-17). However, the book of James never denies faith is necessary for salvation. Its focus on works is to show that live faith, like a live tree, blossoms and bears fruit…This is not denying justification by faith but simply showing that justification and sanctification are connected, albeit in a strict order.”

► Muting the choir so that you can hear the soloists: A parable on the danger of spiritual over-activity.

► Writing runs in the family: “I now find it much easier to find satisfaction in the small things in life. The beauty of a house in my neighborhood, an interesting piece of poetry, playing with my roommate’s dogs. All these things add up and make life much more enjoyable.” My son’s story about learning to appreciate anxiety-inhibiting drugs.

► Live near or within driving distance of Toronto, Canada? Here’s a last-minute notice for Thriving in a Babylon, a conference on living in a secular world happening this weekend.

► New Podcast: Just listening to Episode 1 of this 30-minute journey into eschatology. “If you’re ready to leave behind Left Behind: we get it. If you’ve been traumatized by doom-and-gloom preaching: let us bring you a good old-fashioned dose of hope. Together, we’ll explore the New Testament passages about the so-called ‘End,’ in intelligent and humanizing ways.” Host Kurt Willems has IMHO one of the best teachings (on his other podcast, The Paulcast) on understanding “caught up to meet him in the air” from 1 Thessalonians. So I can safely say that I think you’ll find the podcast, Rapture Drill most interesting.

► The Chicken and the Big Apple: Chick-fil-A arrives in New York City. “…the company has announced plans to open as many as a dozen more storefronts in the city. And yet the brand’s arrival here feels like an infiltration, in no small part because of its pervasive Christian traditionalism. Its headquarters, in Atlanta, are adorned with Bible verses and a statue of Jesus washing a disciple’s feet. Its stores close on Sundays. Its C.E.O., Dan Cathy, has been accused of bigotry for using the company’s charitable wing to fund anti-gay causes, including groups that oppose same-sex marriage…” The company “…is set to become the third-largest fast-food chain in the nation, behind only McDonald’s and Starbucks.”

► Words about Worship: 20 Quotations about worship for worship leaders. (The headline adds, “by worship leaders” but not sure how that applies to any of the people quoted.)

► Sexual misconduct allegations happen to atheist groups as well. The head of American Atheists, David Silverman is out.

► You thought we were kidding when six months ago we promised you, and yes, this book actually did get released. (We offer the CBD page as proof!) “An intriguing look at the enigmatic prophecies surrounding the Trump presidency. Examining how the chaos enveloping the world could signal the beginning of the end-time awakening, the authors explore the president’s interest in rebuilding the third temple in Jerusalem, the global economic “reset” announced by the International Monetary Fund, the establishment’s hidden agenda, and more.” 

► I thought this was going to be something you’d expect to see on “The List” or “Access Hollywood” or “Entertainment Tonight.” But then Brittany Valadez surprised me with these 19 surprising facts about Paul, Apostle of Christ.

► There are still many bloggers who command a large daily readership, but how many have a Spanish language edition? Consider Tim Challies, bloguero, autor, y comentarista de libros. (Coming soon — I hope — the Internet Monk blog in Latin.)

► The weight of the matter: A Kentucky Baptist pastor realized he needed to do something when he was weighing in at nearly 500 pounds (223 kg). “I had lost my prophetic voice,” [Jeremy] Atwood said. “How are you going to speak to someone about their sin when you weigh 491 pounds?”

► I wasn’t going to go back to him again so soon, but Justin Bieber apparently led a worship set at one of the two weekends of the Coachella Festival. (He is bringing his faith into view more frequently…it’s an interesting trajectory.)

► In other celeb news from Relevant Magazine, Catholic nuns appealing to Pope Francis stop Katy Perry from closing the deal on the purchase of a convent in California. Sister Callahan of the Sisters of the Most Immaculate Heart stated, “in selling to Katy Perry, we feel we are being forced to violate our canonical vows to the Catholic Church.” 

► The YouTube channel Mahima Ko Aawaz features worship songs in Hindi or Nepali. This one is titled Hallujhea vandai Hosana. Or for something more professionally produced, check out Mero Chattan. ♫

► Televangelist Ernest Angley is back in the news. “The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals…decided to overturn a 2017 ruling that required Cathedral Buffet and Angley himself to pay more than $388,000 in back wages owed to workers as well as damages.  The latest appeals court ruling, which was unanimously decided by a three judge panel on Monday, said the workers did not expect to be paid for their work at buffet, meaning Angley did not violate fair labor laws. Angley claims that the buffet never made a profit.”

► Truth is stranger… “A woman has sued the pastor of a megachurch in Georgia for pushing her head while praying for her, causing her to fall down to the ground and hit her head. She says she got a traumatic brain injury due to the incident. Since her fall last year, [Yvonne] Byrd has had headaches and dizziness, and has visited hospitals several times, he said, adding that the church’s insurance company has refused to cover the medical bills which is why Byrd filed a lawsuit against the church and the pastor.”

► Finally, Christian comedian Jon Crist and his wife are on vacation and trying to find a church.

Coming This Weekend to an Imaginary Location Near You: ♫ The Christian Coachella Festival ♫ (via. Jon Crist)

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April 16, 2018

Missing Church

Filed under: Christianity, Church — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:19 am

There have not been a lot of weekends in my life where I’ve missed church, in one form or another, altogether. It’s even more weird to think that yesterday this was also true for most of the people I know.

Unlike our friends in nearby Buffalo, we don’t get hit with a lot of church closings. We get Sundays when the weather seems to definitely impact attendance. It will have been a great week and then a weather system rolls in on Saturday night. Is God just testing the resolve of our pastors and church leaders?

Attendance sags on those occasions, volunteers don’t show up, and you can bet your bottom dollar (pun intended) that offerings are down. But we’re hearty and our cities, towns and villages all have snowploughs (the preferred spelling here) because, after all, this is Canada.

But consistently on Saturday night, church after church looked at the satellite imagery, looked at the forecast, and looked out the window and announced closings. Well all except for The Salvation Army. They’re an army after all, and it takes more than a few inches of freezing rain to shut down an army.

But some were reluctant. Like these guys, who I won’t name:

Apparently, not “forsaking the assembly” is sacrosanct; an eleventh commandment so to speak. So it was going to take an act of God for this church not to meet.

But in the end, they caved to the planetary conditions in their region and shut down like the rest of us.

Well, not all of us.

You see to this point, I’ve not told you the full story. To the best of our knowledge, based on websites and church Facebook pages, it was the Evangelical churches which cancelled services. In the Mainline churches, it was business as usual.

My son, who is currently helping out a Roman Catholic Church choir director in another city, weighed in with the news that his church, “only cancels if it’s snowing in the Vatican.” (For the record, Sunday in Rome was, as today will also be, 21°C or 70°F and partly cloudy.)

Now it’s true that many Anglican (Episcopal), Presbyterian, Lutheran, Catholic, etc. churches operate on something closer to a parish system — meaning if you live in that parish you go to that local church — rather than having regional churches as do Evangelicals. It is also true that Evangelicals will drive greater distances because of the charisma of a particular speaker or the doctrinal distinctives of a particular tribe. (I have one contact in this area who drives, in good weather, about 90 minutes deep into Toronto for that particular reason.)

It’s also a fact of life in most of the Mainline churches that the pastor/rector/priest has a manse located next door to the church. Commute Time = 0.00 Minutes. So there’s no reason for him/her not to be there on time to open the building.

Despite all this, I still find it surprising that without exception all the Evangelical churches in my little corner of the world opted to shut down.

…The saving grace this morning was churches streaming live, or delayed sermon podcasts. I can’t emphasize enough how blessed we are to live in this age of technology where so many resources are available to us.

Television, the resource of an earlier generation, is less of a factor as local stations claim more time to sell advertising for programs highlighting the weekend in sports, or Sunday morning political round-tables. You might catch some programs, but without access to a dedicated Christian cable or satellite channel, you won’t see much.

Nonetheless, I still missed the interactions, the corporate worship, the corporate prayer and sitting in person under live teaching taking place in the same room. 

The forecast for next Sunday promises weather that is much more balmy.

 

 

 

April 15, 2018

People in Your Church: Beautiful He and Beautiful She

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:48 am

by Ruth Wilkinson

It’s pouring rain. Buckets. Pissing down, as our English friends would say.

And it’s moving day.

S. and her family, including young K., are on their way. Everything is in boxes, the key has been arranged for. All there is to do now is actually go.

I had to work today, but swung by to say good bye and see if I could lift a few boxes and feel like I’d helped. When I got there, the truck was full and the trailer almost. S.’s man, the cranky Dutchman, was wrestling one end of a big wooden thing into place while the other end of it was being wrestled by Beautiful He.

Beautiful He and Beautiful She are a couple I’ve known for years and they get lovelier the longer you know them. He’s a builder and she’s an artist, both on canvas and in the kitchen.

They were both there today to help S. move with their big black truck and their trailer.

I first met Beautiful He and Beautiful She at a church I used to go to.

As with any ‘church’, there are people who do different jobs and, as with any ‘church’ there are jobs people want to do and jobs people don’t. Most of the ones people do want involve the use of microphones and rehearsal.

Most of the ones I’ve done involve the use of microphones and rehearsal.

One Sunday morning, we’d just finished our final practicing and I was heading down the hall to go check on my son in the nursery.

The soundcheck was done, the arrangements finalized. My head was full of songs, and key changes, and harmonies. I needed to check my hair and make sure my skirt was turned around straight and my mascara hadn’t run and then I was headed back to the platform for the ‘pre-service song’ (of which there would be one, followed by a spoken welcome, 2 songs, a pastoral prayer, 3 songs and then, after the sermon, one more.)

As I headed down the hall, I saw Beautiful She coming the other way. Also wearing a skirt, also with her hair done, also wearing heels. Carrying a bucket, and a mop, and a plunger. She smiled as she passed and said good morning, Ruth, the practice sounded good. And away she went, turned down the hall to the bathroom and disappeared through the door.

I thought, “That’s who I want to be.”

I want to be someone who can get all dressed up but be willing to wield a plunger. To put on a pair of high heels, and go stand in a puddle. Who doesn’t take themselves so seriously ‘as an artiste‘ that they’re no use to anybody. Someone who can be beautiful while cleaning up a mess because cleaning up messes is a beautiful thing to do.

Someone who’ll be truly available to what ever God puts in their path, to serve and to give and to love.

Someone who’ll put down her paintbrush and leave her easel, long enough to get soaked to the skin by cold September rain, helping a virtual stranger move.

That’s who I want to be.

April 11, 2018

Wednesday Connect

We’re back! This week things are in a rather mixed-up order, so you’ll have to read carefully. Don’t forget to have your suggestions in by 5:00 PM on Tuesday and thanks to those of you who do.

►► In case you missed it, Bill Hybels has stepped down from leading Willow Creek, six months ahead of schedule. “Hybels had been the subject of inquiries by church leaders into claims that he ran afoul of church teachings by engaging in inappropriate behavior with women in his congregation — including employees — allegedly spanning decades.” Update: Full statement by Hybels, board chair Pam Orr and lead pastor Heather Larson, including a link to full video of the church meeting Tuesday night.

► On Monday morning in London, a man caused a panic on a commuter train simply by reading the Bible out loud. With commentary. “Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to talk to you about something and that something is the word of the Lord, Jesus Christ. He’s here to heal your sins. The Bible tells you that homosexuality is a sin and sex before marriage is a sin. You need to repent.” People forced open the doors and spilled out onto the tracks; dangerous because the train is powered by the third rail.

► If you’re a donor to a Christian college or university, you know there are always things they’d like to do with your donations. Expand the library. Add a science lab. Offer more student scholarships. Or, on the other hand, you could follow the example of Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s Liberty University and spend $3 Million on a gun range which “allows pistol and rifle shooters to come out and perfect their aim.” (For context, the school has had “3,000 students go through their free firearms training safety program.”)

► Then there’s this 49-second video of the Stronger Men’s Conference happening this weekend in Springfield, Missouri with Craig Groeschel, Louie Giglio as well as MMA fighters, pyrotechnics, loud music, drum ensemble, guns that shoot fire, screaming preachers and more! This ain’t your father’s Promise Keepers event, that’s for sure.

► Debriefing the weekend’s Red Letter Revival in Lynchburg: “Compared to other evangelical conferences that often boast larger numbers, the revival was small. Roughly 300 to 350 people crowded into the E.C. Glass High School auditorium — where Martin Luther King Jr. once spoke — Friday evening.” “[Tony] Campolo also drew a distinction between religious disagreement and personal attacks, noting that Jesus’ disciples often had heated disputes. He pointed to his own televised debates with Jerry Falwell Sr. — Jerry Falwell Jr.’s father — as proof that theological sparring partners can disagree respectfully.” “Participants said it’s still too soon to say whether the revival was a success, or what success even looks like. ‘Ask me in a year,’ [Shane] Claiborne said. ‘It’s not about a moment — it’s about a movement.'” Jack Jenkins reports for Religion News Service.

► For those of you who have experience leading worship or hymns, there may at first appear to be nothing new in the first 12 minutes of this tutorial on choosing singable keys for your congregation. If that’s you, then fast-forward to 11:45, there’s an introduction of a fascinating software program that does a detailed statistical analysis on the pitches in each song with more information than you might have thought possible.

► …which addresses two of the nine reasons listed in this article as to why people aren’t worshiping.

► I frequently hear the statistic quoted that China is the largest producer of Bibles in the world, but few qualify that with the fact that few are produced for domestic consumption. Now, the Chinese government has cracked down on a loophole allowing purchase of Bibles by Chinese residents “as part of increased religious freedom restrictions — particularly against Christians. Other religious texts, including those belonging to Islam, Taoism and Buddhism, were still available on JD, Taobao and Amazon — the three largest online retailers in China. But none has the Bible available.” 

► Devotional: Amy Simpson on the absurdity of camping, which is what we’re doing here on this planet.

► Cuba in the late 1950s: “Some had heard that the Cuban State was conducting school trainings telling the children to close their eyes and pray to God for ice cream. Upon opening their eyes, of course, no ice cream magically appeared. Then the children were told to close their eyes and pray to the State for ice cream. The workers rushed in, giving all the children some ice cream when their eyes were opened, telling them that the State would now be their providers.” Returning to Cuba today: “We took a bus tour and our guide was excited about the upcoming election (April 19, 2018 is when Cuba will “elect” a new President). But there will only be ONE person on the ballot. How is that an ‘election’?

► Here’s some good news: You’re going to die! “My boomer generation has a serious problem with denial when it comes to aging and death. It’s driven, in part, by our culture’s worship of youth and beauty—60 is the new 40 and all that nonsense. I think advancements in modern medicine that prolong the inevitable have also contributed. Additionally, death has become so sanitized in western society that many people may never even see a dead person in their lifetime. More than ever before, we have been anesthetized to the reality that life is but a vapor and what we do in our short stay here will have eternal consequences… Social media and television have increased our tendency to be distracted to a level the saints in times past could not have imagined. Regardless, there is still nothing new under the sun and the things we fill our minds with each day will guide our course as surely as the helm guides the ship.”

► Related:
I was talking philosophy with my college student son the other day and I asked, “So do you know what fatalism is?”
“Something about death?”
It reminded me of the time I asked my other son if he knew what Nihilism was and said, “Something to do with Egypt?”
A look at the death and resurrection of Christ in light of the truth that “the ultimate fatalism is fatality.

► Women in Leadership: Jewish Edition. It’s not just happening in Christianity. Mayim Bailik — the actress from The Big Bang Theory — looks at the issue with a brief profile of B’nai David-Judea, the only Orthodox synagogue in Southern California which employs a female clergyperson. (3 min. video)

► An entirely new approach to Evangelism. For example: “We should also emphasize sin differently. Given that the Western world is moving away from the guilt model of sin, since people no longer believe in absolutes, [Author Sam] Chan suggests we should emphasize shame when we talk about sin.” From the Zondervan book Evangelism in a Secular World, a summary of the 12 ways in which evangelism is changing. (This could end up being the most significant book of the year.)

► Justin Bieber unmistakably declares his faith on Instagram in all caps (we dialed it down a notch): “Jesus died on the cross for my sins and then rose again defeating death. I believe this happened and it changes everything. I am set free from bondage and shame I am a child of the most high God and he loves me exactly where I am how I am who I am.” 

► The headline we wished they’d used: Invasion of the Peace Snatchers. (They came close.) (We all have these people in our life.)

► “You can’t just override [translators] because you have a Strong’s Concordance or a Greek Lexicon.” A 9-minute video using Logos Bible Software for those of us not trained formally in Greek or Hebrew.

► This item is partly an advertisement, but there are seven tips from the booklet Raising Kids in a Hyper-Sexualized World worth a look. (Sample: #4 – Don’t think “Not my kid.”)

► An article at Breakpoint links the Toys-R-Us closing to fertility rates in America. “If you couple child-free lifestyles with our society’s disregard for marriage and support for abortion, we will deprive ourselves of more than just toy stores. We’ll be depriving ourselves of a future… With trends like this in progress the closing of toy stores may be merely a bellwether of further effects of low fertility to come. Smaller generations mean smaller consumer bases, which in turn mean less economic growth, and further declines in fertility.”

► He pitched the idea to his Canadian church on April Fool’s Day, but CTV News believes he’s serious about turning the church gym into a microbrewery. ‘The church and the coffee shop are really the connection this day in our culture because what’s happening at coffee shops should be happening at church and we need to have a bridge. So here’s a bridge to microbreweries, which I think are great in this city, there’s something like, 25, they’re neighbourhood, they’re not bars, they’re not about drinking or watching a TV, it’s about actually engaging with conversation with one another…”

► The Flood: Was it global or localized? An excellent second half of the Phil Vischer Podcast where Skye Jethani sits down with John Walton, who has another volume in the “Lost World of…” series of books just released. Fast forward to 36:00 for The Lost World of the Flood. (28 minutes from that point.)  (Book page at IVP.)

► Speaking of the second half of podcasts, an analysis of weekend events in Lynchburg at the Clear Lens Podcast starts at 22:56. (22 minutes from that point).

► Fresh Life is the church pastored by author Levi Lusko. They have their own radio station which we’ve mentioned before. The station plays some of the original worship music produced by their church, like this song titled Walls. ♫ 

► Like your modern worship songs mashed together? This one combines Even If (by Mercy Me) and Reckless Love (Bethel Worship) in a tasteful acoustic medley by Mass Anthem. ♫

► Kids and Gambling in the UK: “Online gambling adverts that are encouraging children to start betting at an early age ‘should be banned’, according to a newspaper columnist. Writing in The Times, Alice Thomson said that adverts for online gambling are now ‘everywhere’ on social media and are ‘usually aimed at specific markets: the young and known gamblers’. Thomson pointed out that some websites are now using children’s cartoon characters to encourage children to bet on games such as ‘Top Cat, Peter Pan, Jungle Books or Goldilocks’.

► Coming April 17th, for one night only, from Pure Flix: The Dating Project, which “follows five single people, ages 18-40, as they search for authentic and meaningful relationships. There is no script. There are no actors. These are real people trying to find love and happiness in an age of swiping left or right.” 

► A dissenting view of the third film in the Easter season movie trifecta: “It’s a sad day when VeggieTales is pretty much asleep for the winter and “God’s Not Dead” is getting a third installment. If I told you one of those series had two guys getting their prayers for the car to start so they could go to Disney granted, which one would you think it was?” (But that was Reddit so you might want to skip the comments.)

► Finally, just before Chicago metal station 97.9 – The Loop became yet another outlet for K-LOVE in March, they signed off with Motley Crue’s “Shout at the Devil,” Iron Maiden’s “The Number of the Beast” and AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.”  (Video of midnight transition.)

 

 

April 4, 2018

Wednesday Connect

With this piece of ephemera found in my basement from 2003, if my arithmetic is correct, then 2018 is the 25th anniversary year of Bob, Larry and the French Peas.

There are some great items here this week, and honestly, if you don’t click every single one of them, you don’t get any dessert.

► I’ve seen articles before about churches paying secular musicians to act as ‘ringers’ in a church orchestra or on a modern worship team, but I’d never considered the possibility of these people also playing late night gigs in clubs and bars the night before and being totally hung over when they show up for church.

► Follow Up: John Ortberg responds to the fallout from the article regarding Bill Hybels and Willow Creek Community Church which appeared in the Chicago Tribune. “This is not a reconciliation issue between Bill Hybels and me. We had no conflict. I spent nine wonderful years on Willow Creek’s staff and taught there regularly and joyfully for years after my departure…” However, “In this case, the tremendous courage of several women has been met with an inadequate process that has left them without a refuge and with no way to be assured of a fair hearing.”

► Australia’s Michael Frost sets up the article he wrote in this Twitter summary: “Across the country churches are being sold from under their congregations to pay for the past sins of pedophile priests. Before we complain about Christianity being under attack, can we just acknowledge we’ve brought so much of our own demise on ourselves.” He titled the article, Paying for the Sins of the Fathers.

► First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas — the scene of a mass shooting killing 26 — is set to break ground on a new building. (Anyone can donate through a website.)

► The Faith-Based Film You Never Saw at Easter: Removed in January from North American release, the movie Mary Magdalene released nonetheless in Australia and the U.K. One review: “As I was watching the movie, I was wondering how the script-writers were going to tell the story of Mary Magdalene being the first person to see the risen Lord, as there are a few minor variations in the Gospel accounts… The solution was to come up with a couple of scenes that bear no resemblance to the Gospel… It is even unclear in the movie that Jesus really has risen from death; it could be understood that Mary is, instead, seeing visions of the post-crucifixion Jesus that only she can see.”

► Must Reading This Week: A look at Francis Chan, “Touch not the Lord’s anointed,” and what you get into when you join a church. “I would contend that most people have no idea what they are signing up for when they join a particular church. Sometimes, that lack of knowledge leads to unexpected conflict.

► Enhancing the Teaching Ministry of Your Church: “The Four Cs are a way in which the congregation celebrates biblical truths, theology, and ecclesiastical bonds with the past. These Four Cs are: creeds, confessions, catechisms, and covenants.”  

► Not an April Fool’s Joke: Amy Grant to appear at the Wild Goose Festival.  (Are they going mainstream?)

► Thinking Out Loud maintains a very full, old-school-style blogroll which includes links to a number of Christian news organizations. You’ll notice we have removed The Christian Post from the list, a site we have frequently linked to in the past. The removal follows a revelation that the site uses code which is considered malicious, the same type of code which got Newsweek Media Group in trouble. “The code enables a publisher running it to earn revenue on ads that would otherwise not meet industry standards for viewability.”

► Lessons for Leaders: A heartfelt essay on the dangers of pastoral leadership and being placed on a pedestal by one who saw five of his friends lose their ministry due to moral failure

► Remembering: The attack on Christians by ISIS continues in Pakistan.

► Elevation Collective is a sort of ‘supergroup’ that began with Elevation Worship and then added guest musicians including Israel Houghton, Tye Tribbett, Tasha Cobbs Leonard,  Travis Greene,  Kierra Sheard, and The Walls Group. Check out Unstoppable God featuring Tribett and Here In The Presence featuring Houghton. (These Gospel arrangements may not sound like the Elevation Worship you know.)

► …And for those of you who appreciate the music we post in these lists, before we get too far past Easter, here’s Rend Collective’s Nailed to the Cross.

► Returning to Her Roots (by which we don’t mean hair color): Katy Perry quoted this week saying, “I know that God has His hand on me, and I know sometimes I go through things and they’re just too intense and I can’t handle them and then He swoops in and He shows me that it’s His grace that brings me through it.” However, less than a year ago, the same news organization, CBN News reported that the singer was distancing herself from that very faith, saying at the time, “I’m not Christian, but I still feel like I have a deep connection with God. I pray all the time—for self-control, for humility.”

► Most curiosity-inducing opening line we read this week: “A contemporary Christian singer will not be Costa Rica’s next President.”

► This Week’s Scandal: “A Texas megachurch pastor and a Louisiana financial planner have been charged with defrauding mainly elderly investors of between $1 million and $3.4 million.” The investors were sold “historical Chinese bonds that authorities say have no financial value.”

► Another anon account on Twitter: Earl Evangelical

► Weirdest Minute of Video Ever: White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders reading the Easter story to children.

► For the Christian imprint of Penguin Random House, a forthcoming (May) Babylon Bee book represents WaterBrook’s first venture into humor. Publishing humor and satire is the extreme sport of religious publishing. Everyone in the process is required to tread carefully so as to not offend.

► Finally — What Roman Catholic Theology students are being taught: “Dr. Tat-siong Benny Liew, chair of New Testament Studies at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., said Jesus was a ‘drag king’ who had ‘queer desires.’ He also claims the Last Supper was a ‘literary striptease’ and that Jesus was not a man, but gender fluid.”  

…All of our closing images today — and I would love to have borrowed many more from their six years of archives — are recent ones from Christian Funny Pictures. Send them some stats love by bookmarking and frequently checking back. Also a great distraction while you’re listening to podcasts.





April 3, 2018

Cruising the Liturgical Worship Continuum

A few years ago, Evangelicals starting using words like Advent and Lent and Lectio Divina. While some purists probably thought this was the proverbial “Road to Rome,” some of us were thankful that the Episcopals, Anglicans and Catholics didn’t have a copyright on the liturgical calendar.

However, at the same time as this is taking place there is another distressing trend at the other end of the worship continuum. Increasingly, worship leaders seem blissfully unaware that there are songs which are especially suited for Easter Sunday and more disturbingly, Good Friday, or the mandate that these days issue to them.

I attended a number of Good Friday services this year and got to witness this firsthand. The lack of focus was rather appalling, however, as I said, the standard has been eroding for at least the past decade, to the point where younger worship leaders and worship planners have never had an Evangelical Good Friday service properly modeled for them.

I covered this in two previous articles:

One of the services I attended included Hosanna, which is a song for Palm Sunday and comes packed with the mood you’re not trying to create on Good Friday. Ironically, of all the services we attended or watched online, it was a capital “L” Liberal denomination’s church that got it right. We sat in a room with only 22 attendees and although there was no sermon, I give them 100% for liturgy and 100% for music in terms of capturing the intent of a Good Friday service.

This is a rant I will never stop. I’m sorry, but… well, here’s what I tweeted a week ago, possibly in anticipation of the weekend which was to follow.

It’s not just Good Friday, either. Thanksgiving has slowly fallen off the worship leaders’ radar. I’m not saying we need to sing We Gather Together or Come, Ye Thankful People Come endlessly; I’ll take a modern worship expression of the same theme. But the people choosing our songs apparently live in a total vacuum when it comes to awareness of the seasons in question. (And yes, I know Thanksgiving isn’t part of the liturgical calendar.)

March 28, 2018

Wednesday Connect

We’re starting off with a contest: What pop music artist was spotted heading to church on the weekend in this T-shirt AND what translation AND edition of the Bible is she carrying? Answer below.

A busy week with Good Friday and Easter Sunday approaching. April 1st is also the 8th anniversary of our sister blog, Christianity 201. Also, we went to see Paul, Apostle of Christ yesterday afternoon, which we’re still talking about. It’s too bad this film is up against I Can Only Imagine, but if you can squeeze it in — with God’s Not Dead 3 opening this weekend — I encourage you to do so.

► This week the bombshell dropped concerning allegations being made by John Ortberg et al against Bill Hybels. No matter how this turns out, there are no winners here. Since we’ve already covered the story with updated links on the weekend, here’s Get Religion’s summary of the coverage.

► While it’s too early to know where the above story is heading, Spiritual Sounding Board has updated a biographical resource for each of Saeed Abedini, Tullian Tchividjian and Ravi Zacharias.

► Church Challenges: “In a lot of churches today, elders are typically the lay, non-paid, leaders that make big decisions in the church, oversee the budget, and act like an unglorified board of directors. They don’t function as shepherds, they may or may not meet the eldership qualifications in 1 Timothy 3 or Titus 1—they are savvy business leaders or big givers… But in the New Testament, elders are pastors—and pastors are elders. Both Peter and Paul use the words related to pastor and elder interchangeably to refer to the same ministry. Peter uses these words in the same context of a single paragraph.”

► This week’s top read: Preston Sprinkle’s concise explanation of why he’s reformed but not Reformed.

► Sacred Sleep: In San Francisco, “An average of 225 unhoused neighbors seek safety and rest on the pews in the sanctuary of St. Boniface church each weekday starting at 6 AM, and for an additional 100 guests at St. John’s the Evangelist in the Mission. No questions are asked when our guests walk into the churches; in an effort to remove all barriers to entry, there are no sign-in sheets or intake forms. No one is ever turned away; all are welcomed, respected and treated with dignity.”

► Rachel Held Evans disabuses John Piper of the notion that patriarchy protects women, when in fact it actually harms them.

► As Lent 2018 wraps up, a 5-min video which was part of a series of 8 films; this one on growing through pain, a time of discovery and transformation.

► Jesus was co-dependent? It’s an interesting approach explored in this article.

► Linda Brown who died this week at 75, was the kid at ground zero for the end of segregation in American schools.

► Crumbling Categories: In the UK, “Girl Guide leaders are protesting against new rules allowing boys who claim to be girls to share changing rooms, tents and shower facilities with girls.” The original story was that, “Guidance released by Girlguiding UK last year says biological males can ‘use the facilities of the gender that they self-identify as.’ It also advises leaders not to inform parents if their daughter will be sharing facilities with a boy.” If a girl isn’t comfortable with these arrangements, it “could lead to her being labelled transphobic if she says she is unhappy.”

► A former Supreme Court judge, John Paul Stevens says that the 2nd Amendment’s line about “well-regulated militias” is out of touch with reality. CBN News reports, “Concern that a national standing army might pose a threat to the security of the separate states led to the adoption of that amendment, which provides that ‘a well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.’ Today that concern is a relic of the 18th century,” said Stevens.

► Julia was only 26 when diagnosed with ovarian cancer; only 28 when she died. Her husband Andy has put a website together to help people with information and support he feels will help. If you or someone you know is facing a similar situation in a marriage, someone we know recently started this website, My Spouse Has Cancer.

► This isn’t the most recent music video at the Northland Church YouTube channel, but check out a really special 7-minute song, simply titled Tremble.

► Releasing next week: The live Hillsong album There is More includes this 7-minute song, So Will I.

► Miracle? “Every Orthodox Easter Saturday in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, thousands gather to witness a flame ‘miraculously’ appearing in the tomb of Jesus…And it’s believed to have been happening annually for the past 1,200 years…It is said that for the first several minutes the fire burns, but does not consume. During this time, many of the faithful bathe their faces and hands in the flame, apparently without being harmed.” But is it real or is it fake?

► Television show Megyn Kelly Today kicked off a pre-Easter series on Faith with guest Carlton Pearson (8 minutes).

Four titles from one of the finest publishers, InterVarsity Press (IVP) are being honored this week.

► Did the American Jesus Madness 2018 end the way you expected? You’ll have to click to see.

► Finally, a man who knows both lumber and churches guides you through the various type of Church Wood Panel Backgrounds that tell the world your church is cool.

Here’s our second contest for today: It’s a t-shirt and it’s a Christian t-shirt, so what do you think it says? Answer below.


Contest #1 answer. Contest #2 answer.

 

March 21, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Probably not your grandmother’s idea of church: A series titled “Villains, Bad Guys and Minions” at Church by the Glades in Coral Springs, Florida. (Source: Museum of Idolatry)

You would have recognized St. Catherine without reading the caption if you owned a set of SaintCards trading cards. See the Kickstarter preview below.

Welcome to our first ever Springtime edition of Wednesday Connect, where all the cool get people get their Christian news and opinion pieces. (If you missed the first one last week, it’s here.) You can also stay in touch during the week here at the blog and @PaulW1lk1nson on Twitter. (Just remember the number one substitutes for the letter I.)

► We don’t usually lead off with a video, but this piece by Andrew Peterson, based on Revelation 5, is especially powerful. There’s also a story behind the song, Is He Worthy?

► Andy Savage announced yesterday his formal resignation from Highpoint Church following the revelation of his abuse of power with then youth-group-member Jules Woodson.

► Persecution Watch: “Over the last three years, the anti-Christian persecution in India has continued to increase.  Open Doors’ World Watch List ranked India as the planet’s 25th worst persecutor of Christians in 2015.  Yet in 2017 it was found to be the 15th biggest persecutor and, this year, it climbed to 11th place. An Open Doors spokesperson informs us that before Christians face overt physical violence—in 2016, 15 Christians were murdered in India and many more beaten and threatened—’there [is] often…a long process of re-converting them to Hinduism, during which they faced discrimination, social exclusion and other types of pressure.’ A chief cause of the oppression, according to Open Doors, is the resurrection of Hindu nationalism.  The Hindu nationalist holds that only Hinduism should be observed in India.”

► Word of the Week: Christaphobe.

► Box Office Surprise: “The third-biggest movie in America this weekend was I Can Only Imagine, a Christian movie that shares a title with a Christian song that first charted 17 years ago…The movie’s success was unexpected for some, with analysts calling it ‘the big surprise of the weekend,’ given that it didn’t screen for critics and wasn’t widely marketed.(Pushing A Wrinkle in Time to 4th place.)

► By the numbers: Comparing 2015 to 2018, a look at Roman Catholic approval ratings of Pope Francis in various categories.  (Some rather significant declines.)

► American History: “Senator [Theodore] Bilbo used that power to craft an amendment (to the 1938 work relief bill), which would have relocated 12 million American blacks to Africa. The amendment failed, but Bilbo would defend it for the rest of his life. And he would do so in the name of God. His ideas of white supremacy and racial separatism were both advanced by making extensive biblical references. He really seemed to think he had God on his side.” 

► Youth leaving the church? Peter Enns says, “They have lost interest in what amounts to a shallow, quasi-biblical expression of Christian faith, one that focuses far too much on the not yet.

► Conundrum: Jesus never told Caesar how to run the federal government, correct? But what about the Religious Right today? “Let’s put it this way: their entire purpose for existing is to tell Caesar what to do.” So it wasn’t something Jesus did, rather, as Jerry Falwell, Jr. puts it, “That’s our job.”

► Christian apologist John Lennox reflects on the life and writings of Stephen Hawking. (24 min. video.) 

► One of my favorite authors (Michael Frost) quotes one of my other favorite authors (Skye Jethani) and the concept of “Fear-vangelicals.” Frost sets it up uniquely, however: “In the conservative Australian state of Queensland it was recently decided to remove any reference to a person’s height or gender on their driver’s license. That’s actually no big deal to those of us from other states where height and gender hasn’t been included on our licenses. But among the ultra-conservative evangelicals in that state it was cause for moral outrage.

► Albert Mohler, Jr. writes that sometimes controversy is necessary. “The New Testament is not evasive, as it reveals serious and consequential controversies within the earliest congregations and even among Christian leaders. The Apostle Paul defended the gospel against compromise as he entered into a controversy with the Galatians. He inserted himself into a moral controversy as he wrote to the Corinthians. Paul faced down Peter over the issue of the Gentiles and circumcision. Jude warned of the perpetual challenge of defending the truth against its enemies. John warned of a church that was so lukewarm and uncommitted to the truth that it could not muster a controversy. The history of the church also reminds us of the necessity of controversy when the truth of the gospel is at stake.”

► Stating that, “It is my religious conviction that a male cannot have a husband,” the publisher of a local newspaper northwest of Lubbock, Texas scrubbed the name of a grieving son’s partner from his mother’s obituary. The story adds that, “The newspaper’s publisher, Phillip Hamilton, says he’s a bi-vocational Baptist pastor.” So believing that a same sex husband is somewhat of an impossibility, Hamilton leans on his conviction that, “A newspaper cannot knowingly or recklessly publish false information.”

► The Wheaton Thunder football player involved in a March, 2016 hazing incident is now suing Wheaton College for $50,000 in legal costs and damages.

► Notwithstanding everything we wrote about Christian radio here yesterday, here are few ‘new’ CCM songs: First, Freedom Hymn by Austin French (which was actually posted last September) and second, Christian rapper Zauntee’s God Taught Me (originally recorded last May and also available at YouTube in a Chipmunk version.)

► In your younger days did you ever want a major role in the class play only to be cast as a tree? Well, it could be worse: “‘Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus’.’ [John 12:20-21] I wish I knew more about these Greeks. They’re the bittest of bit parts, most extra of extras, to the story of Jesus. They wander into view, tell Philip they want to see Jesus… and then we never hear of them again.”

► Regular readers of Thinking Out Loud know that for years I championed the cause of Saeed Abedini when he was imprisoned in Iran for evangelism. Sadly, as this weekend headline reminds us, things have not worked out well for the pastor since his return to the U.S.

► Admittedly, it’s an advertisement, but for free you can read Barna Research’s top five American cities in three denominational categories: Catholic, Non-Mainline Protestant and Mainline Protestant.

► Not wanting to be outdone by conventional religious broadcasters, Scientology launched its own network last Monday. (At the same source, a rather cynical review of its programming.)

► Ever wonder what the choir director is doing when he’s waving his arms? This one doesn’t have a clue.  

► Kickstarter Preview: It’s actually launching at the crowdfunding site on Easter weekend. After years of distributing their baseball-card-type saint cards through Parish schools, SaintCards is getting ready to ramp things up a notch.

► Finally, you can breathe a sigh of relief: There’s been a major breakthrough in the manufacture of Mormon underwear for women.


The latest Twitter parody account had no problem approaching 1,000 followers. @DesiringDog echoes the name of John Piper’s website.


The question all our readers are asking; see if you agree with the answer!


“So where does all this Wednesday Connect stuff leave me? Do I still have a job?”

March 16, 2018

Your Church Family Directory

One of the two churches with which I’m directly involved has a church directory which includes email addresses. The major benefit I see is that it allows people to continue the conversations started on Sundays throughout the week; to initiate contact; or to follow up with friends they haven’t seen in awhile.

The church family phone directory is probably something that will disappear over the next decade because of (a) privacy concerns, and (b) the degree to which the megachurches set the agenda of smaller churches. Nonetheless we thought we’d visit this topic.


Since my church uses a photo directory, I had a thought today that it would be fun to do one where instead of actual photographs, people submitted an avatar, as they do on social media. It would be 100% contrary to the purpose for which photo directories were created in the first place, but definitely fun and colorful.

Full disclosure: I was looking at this picture of two cats when I came up with this, and thinking it might be better than the dated picture of Mrs. W. and myself they’ve been using for the past four years.


Next, there is the issue of people who appear in these directories who have long moved on, hopefully to another church.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon was a megachurch pastor. We often forget that numerically, he would qualify by today’s standards. The church experienced phenomenal growth. At their size, not to mention the cost of paper, a church directory would have been impossible. But there was a membership roll and people wanted their name kept on it. He wrote,

Let us not keep names on our books when they are only names. Certain of the good old people like to keep them there, and cannot bear to have them removed; but when you do not know where individuals are, nor what they are, how can you count them? They are gone to America, or Australia, or to heaven, but as far as your roll is concerned they are with you still. Is this a right thing? It may not be possible to be absolutely accurate, but let us aim at it… *

I don’t think that everyone I’m aware of actually wants their directory listing to be kept. They’ve possibly changed churches and aren’t giving it a thought. Rather, the fault lies with the church for not noticing their absence. (Having written that, I just got in touch with someone I haven’t seen lately to see how they’re doing.)


I see we’ve covered this topic before. Four years ago, I proposed something different:

How a social media hub is different from a Church directory

I’m writing this in a vacuum, because I haven’t exactly seen done what I am proposing here. I just see a need. So here’s the proposal, and if you have any suggestions or revisions based on experience with a church that’s doing this please leave a comment.

Social media, as we have come to know it, is with us to stay. The platforms will migrate over time, but a generation has grown up communicating on line, and overall, I would say that for the church, this is a good thing. We can start a conversation at a weekend service, and continue it all week. We can learn that people have specific interests, and send them links to articles and channels of interest. It replaces the classic “encouragement notes” or “thinking-of-you cards.”

  • Ideally, a church directory lists every member and adherent. A social media index lists only people who want to share their various social media platforms.
  • A Church directory contains addresses and numbers for mobile phones and land lines.  A social media index has names and locations for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, tumblr, WordPress and YouTube pages.
  • A Church directory often exists in print; a church social media hub exists only online. It’s live, so information may be added or removed at any time.
  • Church publications generally promote the church’s own social media pages. A social media index highlights what the church family is doing online.
  • Church directories are usually only distributed to the people whose names are contained in them. A social media index can just be a page on the church website — “Central Community Church on Social Media” — with no restricted access, because each of the pages concerned are public anyway.
  • Knowing that anyone in your church can access your pages is a wonderful way of keeping yourself accountable for what you write, post or link to. Your social media pages may reflect a personal family focus and other interests and hobbies you have; but ultimately you are aware that fellow church members might drop in at any time, unannounced.
  • Social media is constantly changing. A social media index for your church family needs to be updated on a regular basis, perhaps weekly. If a given platform falls out of use, there can be a decision to delete all links to that platform.
  • If any social media platform from any church member is reported to have questionable content, all their listings would be removed.

If one of the basic problems in the church is that we don’t really know each other, I know of no other way to change that than to be interconnected online. This allows us to get to know each other to a greater degree.


We’ll look more at this topic tomorrow!

*Spurgeon quotation source, click here.

March 14, 2018

Wednesday Connect

■ We’re back with a new name and a slightly different format which I hope will evolve and improve over the next few weeks. Your comments and suggestions are always helpful. Welcome to Wednesday Connect #001.

► The Liabilities of Christian Celebrity. This short piece was one of the most frequently mentioned article in the past few days. “This is a fickle expression of faith, one that is based not in the Gospel, but in humans who have limitations and will change. Christian celebrity culture creates in and out groups based on the collective belief in faith leaders, as opposed a universal belief in the teachings of Christ.”

► Ravi Zacharias Update: The apologist will not face any sanctions from the organization which holds his ministry credentials, The Christian & Missionary Alliance denomination and said that “available evidence does not provide a basis for formal discipline under the C&MA policy.

► Question of the Week: “Here’s one way to test the teaching you’ve received and the lenses you’ve been given: were you taught that David’s sin with Bathsheba was primarily sexual? Or were you taught that his sin was the way he abused his power?” The writer goes on, “If you were taught to view David’s relationship with Bathsheba as a consensual, sexual liaison, I believe you’ve been taught to misread the story.”

Left Behind co-author Jerry Jenkins is signed up for a new series releasing this fall. “Dead Sea Rising features Nicole Berman leading an archeological dig in Jordan to search for the first concrete sign of the biblical patriarch Abraham. During the excavation, she discovers a 4,000-year-old complex that includes evidence of Abraham and his two sons, Isaac and Ishmael.” (New Testament scholar Dr. Craig Evans is “Biblical Consultant.”)

► They weren’t trying to be provocative, but…this headline: Is Déjà Vu Prophetic or Psychic Paranormal Witchcraft? “Déjà vu is mentioned nowhere in the Bible, but one thing is certain: It is not a spiritual gift. This is not the gift of prophecy. It’s not the word of knowledge…[It] does not belong in a prophetic person’s spiritual vocabulary of God expressions. At best, it’s likely a similar memory that’s buried in your subconscious. At worst, it’s witchcraft.”

► Essay of the Week: She plunged herself into an investigation of ‘prosperity gospel’ teaching. “I followed my interest in the prosperity gospel like a storm chaser, finding any megachurch within driving distance of a family vacation… I was traveling the country interviewing this movement’s celebrities for my doctoral research… I wrote the first history of the prosperity gospel from its roots in the late 19th century to its modern mix of TV preachers..” Objectivity went out the window: “No matter how many times I rolled my eyes at the creed’s outrageous certainties, I craved them just the same.” Then life intervened and it was time for a reconsideration.

► Two Men, Two Different Paths: A look at the divide in thought which occurred between Billy Graham and Charles Templeton (with whom my father worked back in the day). 

► A Sure Cure for Low Blood Pressure: Take this 20-question Bible Doctrine and Trivia (to make it an even 20) and provided you agree with the shameless bias of its creators, you’ll get 100%. One comment: “I got an 85 but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong Biblically, just means I didn’t answer all questions according to the question-posers’ doctrine.” (Me, too!) And they don’t even give you the ‘right’ answers or tell you which ones you missed. (The “About” page quotes MacArthur. That should tell you enough.)

► Parenting: That fear and dread when you find out your child is getting a ride home from someone who is not the one you had been told would be driving.

► Karl Vaters, the patron saint of small churches guests on the UnSeminary Podcast with Rich Birch. Don’t have 35 minutes? There’s also an executive summary at the link.

► Testimony Time (1): Her husband left her and then he left God.  An inside look at the pain that resulted.

► Testimony Time (2): Convinced he had the wrong god, he quit the Latter Day Saints (Mormons) and built a new spiritual foundation on what the Bible teaches. “It was important because this church, with all it’s beautiful buildings and all it’s property, in the message that sounded so similar to Christianity and terminology, it taught me and continues to teach others another Christ. A Christ that cannot save. It’s a different Jesus. It’s a Jesus that doesn’t have any existence whatsoever. It’s a Christ that cannot save…” (An interesting sidebar to this article was the discovery of QuitMormon.com.)

► Trouble in Domain-land? The American Bible Society controls the domain “.bible” which means deciding who gets to use it and who is doesn’t.

► One More Time!  If your church participated in the Global Hymn Sing two weeks ago, or even if it didn’t, here’s another listen to the Getty’s arrangement of Jesus Shall Reign.

► One More Time!  If your church does modern worship, you’re probably aware of the song Reckless Love which has become very popular in a short time. A few days ago, Israel Houghton offered a fresh arrangement of the song.

► A new genre of Christian Music:  They call it Christian Ambient Music. (There’s a part two to this as well.)

► Practical: 3 Steps in spotting spiritual pride; 3 steps in undoing spiritual pride.

► At the Movies: We looked briefly at the film A Wrinkle in Time here on the weekend, inasmuch as there are similarities in the way its being received by conservative Christians and that of the movie The Shack. I never got around to linking to a review however. This one, from the National Catholic Register covers it well.

► A longtime reader here who spent 30+ in marriage and family counseling recently posted this list of seven things implicit in being defined as an emotionally healthy person.

► Sadly, stories of sexual assault involving a church staff member and a teenager are all too common. What makes this one different is that charges were laid against a father and son, both working at a Baptist Church in Texas.

► Connect to More Connections: We had a “My, how you’ve grown!” moment recently when we checked the index to all the Patheos Evangelical bloggers. But don’t stop there, you’ll find an equally large number of Patheos Progressive Christian writers. (There’s more as well: Catholic and Eastern Orthodox blogs.)

► Finally, it’s that time of year again. Take a look at the contenders in the American Jesus Madness 2018 Bracket. Jen Hatmaker versus Lifeway Stores; Eugene Peterson’s backtracking versus The National Statement; and of course, Jerry Falwell Jr. versus Shane Claiborne. Many other interesting face-offs in the first round.

Spotted this week: Stephen Colbert holding “‘Doing her best’ Barbie” in a classic Godspell T-shirt

Spotted earlier this Year: The Biebs reading his Bible sans shirt.

And so it begins. This week was a transition between what was and what this column will become. Your feedback is always welcomed. Special thanks to Martin Douglas of Flagrant Regard for three of this weeks suggested items. The graphic at the top is from the UK’s Dave Walker. Click to connect. Items below are from Sacred Sandwich and Post Secret.

 

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