Thinking Out Loud

April 20, 2019

Technical Difficulties | Focus on the Cross

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:10 am

The Challenge

So the idea was that seven of us would sing from the balcony of the historic church to begin the service. No accompaniment. Just fragments of Good Friday related hymns and songs, sung by different combinations of the group. While that was happening, a number of visual images would appear on the screen.

As we began, it was apparent the person who was supposed to have started the slide carousel was distracted. So I chose a section where there was no need for me to be there, and slowly headed down the creaky spiral staircase only to find people waiting in the lobby to get in.

I pushed my way through nonetheless, got her attention, got the slides going, and tried to sneak back up. I arrived in time for my next part with no seconds to spare and started singing, albeit reverting to an earlier version; not as we had more recently rehearsed it…

…Technical challenges like this are frustrating for those of us involved in presenting a program like this, but for the most part, I don’t know that the congregation were very aware. My mind was still debriefing this, and despite having been up since 4:30 AM on Friday, I couldn’t get back to sleep until 1:00 AM last night…

The Songs

The song fragments we chose were beautiful. I’ve reproduced the lyrics below. Hopefully you know some of these.

How Deep The Father’s Love – v2

Behold the Man upon a cross
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

When I Survey – v3 – tune Rockingham 

See from His head His hands His feet
Sorrow and love flow mingled down
Did ever such love and sorrow meet
Or thorns compose so rich a crown

And Can It Be – v2 only 

He left His Father’s throne above
So free so infinite His grace
Emptied Himself of all but love
And bled for Adam’s helpless race

At Calvary – chorus

Mercy there was great and grace was free
Pardon there was multiplied to me
There my burdened soul found liberty
At Calvary

Were You There – v1

Were you there when they crucified my Lord
Were you there when they crucified my Lord
O sometimes it causes me to tremble tremble tremble
Were you there when they crucified my Lord

Calvary Covers It All – chorus 

Calvary covers it all
My past with its sin and stain
My guilt and despair
Jesus took on Him there
And Calvary covers it all

My Jesus I Love Thee – v2 

I love Thee because Thou hast first loved me
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow
If ever I loved Thee my Jesus ’tis now

I Will Serve Thee – chorus

Heartaches broken pieces
Ruined lives are why You died on Calv’ry
Your touch was what I longed for
You have given life to me

There Is A Redeemer – v2  and chorus

Jesus my Redeemer name above all names
Precious Lamb of God Messiah
O for sinners slain

Thank you, O my Father, for giving us your Son
And leaving Your Spirit ’til the work on Earth is done

Amen

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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 16, 2019

The “We’re Late for Church” App Lets You Delay the Start of the Service

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:34 am

I was staring at the clock on my vehicle’s dashboard and mentally mapping out if I could make it to church comfortably (and self-righteously) on time for the 9:00 AM service. I had four minutes, no valid weather excuse this week, and then two normally red traffic lights decided to cooperate.

I was thinking that it’s too bad there isn’t an app that contacts the church and grants you an extra 30 seconds of grace. The church should always be about grace, right? The app would somehow signal to the tech team to start the countdown clock a half-minute later and then the worship team would start the first song later as well.

The way I figured it, for a medium-sized church, if five people activated the app from their car it would grant a 30-second delay. If ten people did that would buy everyone 60-seconds. (You could have it set for up a two-minute delay if you wished.) But once that 60-second delay has been factored in, this new information appears on the corner of the giant screen in the auditorium, and people sitting there (who arrived on time) who have the app can log in and down-vote those trying for a later start.

Better yet, once you’ve hit the one minute delay mark, those people still on their way and trying to get the airline to delay the flight (so to speak) have their names displayed in that same corner of the screen. That’s right, this app includes shaming. People who are frequently late would be regularly shamed.

The church should always be about grace, and this app allows for it.

Just not anonymously.

April 10, 2019

Wednesday Connect

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

April 3, 2019

Wednesday Connect

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


March 30, 2019

Placing the Interests of the Other Person Above Your Own

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:00 am

This weekend wraps up the ninth year of Thinking Out Loud’s sister blog, Christianity 201. Monday marks the beginning of year ten. My goal with C201, God willing, is to do what I did here: Ten years of daily content without missing a day,

Today I wanted to bring readers here a taste of what happens there. These articles (today and tomorrow) are being cross-posted with what’s running there.

I Cor 12:25 (NIV) so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

I Cor. 12:25-26 (The Message) The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.

Romans 12::5 (Phillips) Share the happiness of those who are happy, the sorrow of those who are sad.

Romans 12:15 (NLT) Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.

I originally wrote this when several different people we knew were facing the anniversary of a loss. I copied The Message version of I Cor. 12:25-6 into an email and sent it to one such family. I respect Eugene Peterson’s credentials to do a translation like The Message, but I don’t know enough about his translation process to know how we came to “…involved in the hurt and the healing.” It’s certainly unique to his translation; but I like that it implies a sense of follow through; that we stick around not only for the hurt but for the better days that are to come.

This whole sense of bearing one another’s burdens is so contrary to western “me-first” individualism. We sort of get the idea of extending love and care to someone else, but we often miss the part of the concept where you and I are one. We sort of get the idea of the people in our church being family, but we miss out on the idea that as the body of Christ we are an organic unity.

It totally flies in the face of the Western mindset of individualism.

Even in marriages — the epitome in scripture of becoming one — it’s now common for husbands and wives to have separate bank accounts. I’m not talking about a situation where one spouse has a household account out of which to pay expenses as they crop up; I’m referring to situations where each keeps a portfolio of savings and investment accounts. Perhaps in an easy-divorce culture, it makes the separation of assets more simplified.

So the notion of weeping with those who weep and rejoicing with those who rejoice tends to miss the recurring word “with.” We often weep for, and rejoice for, instead of weeping with and rejoicing with; and by this I am referring to the full sharing of their situation, not something simply done in physical proximity.

In our business, we adopted a financial policy that is somewhat biased toward the people of like faith that we deal with. We pay all our bills on time anyway, but we like to use the following principle, and expect the people who deal with us — many of them who are churches — to carry a similar goal:

Gal 6:10 (ESV) So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

The problem is, consider the following scenario: A and B are both Christ-followers and are involved in a financial transaction where A is performing a service for B that is part of his trade. A wants to give B a price break because she is a fellow believer, but B wants to pay more than A is invoicing her for because she wants to honor the Galatians 6:10 principle.

I’ve been involved in such transactions where each person thinks it’s them that is doing the other person a favor, and it’s not unlike the classic scene where two very polite people are trying to let the other person go through a door first.

The way we work out these things is going to be complex, and sometimes an exactly similar situation will be interpreted in different ways by the different parties, leading to different outcomes. Still, I believe that God is pleased when we are endeavoring to honor Him by preferring others in all that we do.

Furthermore, I believe that what honors Him the most is when we truly view ourselves as part of a single collective body.

Paul used the analogy of parts of the body, but if he had jigsaw puzzles in his day, he might have said, “The bottom right corner piece of the puzzle cannot say to the middle piece, ‘I don’t need you.'”

The way we show there’s no preference is to prefer the other.

March 27, 2019

Wednesday Connect

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This news story is not available in your area.*

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

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

 

 

 


*okay I ran out of time last night

March 20, 2019

Wednesday Connect

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

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

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

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

■ Paying someone to do your homework:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

■ Avoiding a negative message:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

March 13, 2019

Wednesday Connect

Michael Frost’s reading audience includes a wide demographic.

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

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

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

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

Dave Stone (l), Kyle Idleman (r)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Click the image to see this t-shirt at Zazzle.com

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


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

March 11, 2019

The Sermon He Did Not Want to Preach

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:43 am

The hints to Pastor Mitchell Norris started out subtly enough.

“Why don’t we do a series on “The Seven Deadly Sins,” pastor?”

He looked at the list: pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth. After the last almost-complete shutout of volunteers for the last church work day, he felt that starting at the end of the list with sloth would be a good series opener.

But then, the requests got more specific.

“We should have a sermon on gluttony.”

Maybe they weren’t quite that bold. They’d begin with a reference to the latest health reports on how we’re not eating as healthy as we could; or how American life expectancy is dropping for the first time; or how we have so much food compared to the rest of the world and we could solve world hunger by sharing it. Some offered more detailed statistics.

But then they’d pitch the sermon on gluttony.

Pastor Mitchell especially liked this pitch: “Nowhere in the Bible does it say we’re supposed to close our eyes to pray, but there are over one hundred references to gluttony.”

He decided to spare himself the bother of fact-checking that stat.

Why would the church be so concerned about this particular topic?

It was all about Renn.

Renn Taylor had been involved in the church for several decades. When Mitchell Norris arrived, Renn weighed 165 pounds soaking wet. He was 3rd base on the church softball team, and on his turn at bat his home runs came from his speed running the bases, not the depth of the hit.

And now, many trips to Cracker Barrel and Chick-fil-A later, he was clocking in around 285 pounds. Word was it wasn’t genetic. Renn loved a good meal. If there was an underlying psychological reason for the gorging, Renn would have to want to talk to the pastor — or someone — about it. He wasn’t going say a word, nor did he feel he needed to. Renn was a smart man who knew that his former set of clothing was no longer fitting.

People joked about it with Renn, they invited him and his wife over for some ‘health food,’ they anonymously sent him diet books in the mail, they even offered to make him a doctor’s appointment.

They were obsessed.

They were obsessed with Renn’s weight gain.

And as for Pastor Mitchell Norris, he felt there were more important things in congregational life to deal with than a topic which might only apply directly to about a half dozen people, but would be perceived as applying to one individual in particular.

As long as Renn would be in the audience — and he rarely missed a Sunday — Pastor Norris was not about to give that sermon, or do the series on “The Seven Deadly Sins” for that matter. “I cannot;” he told his wife, “do a sermon on overeating, binge eating, weight problems, or anything else on that subject as long as Renn is sitting in the audience. He’ll see right through it.”

The more he refused to address the issue, the more people in the church dug in their heels.

“Gluttony is a sin;” they reminded the pastor.

“So is materialism;” he would reply.

Or on another day, “There’s sin in the camp;” they would affirm. “We can’t simply tolerate sin within the walls of our church family.”

To which Pastor Norris would reply, “And what exactly is sin?”

To that question, responses varied. Some attempted a sound theological answer, and a few got it right, but for most, sin was Renn Taylor, spotted last Friday having a cheeseburger at the Waffle House next to the freeway.

So Pastor Mitchell Norris preached a series, but not the one they were expecting. He pulled a sermon out of the files about worrying about the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye when all along you’ve got a plank in your own.

Then he spoke about the type of people who Jesus befriended, and how none of us really deserve to be part of his inner circle, but when he lets us in, it’s an act of grace.

The week after that one, he spoke about Peter’s preoccupation over what might happen to the Apostle John and how Jesus tells him it’s really ‘none of your business.’

When it was over, they told him it was some of his best preaching. That he seemed to have a fresh passion and urgency about his preaching.

He thanked them.

And then, in the week that followed, at different times and places, they asked him if he would consider doing a sermon on gluttony.

 

 

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