Thinking Out Loud

October 20, 2010

Wednesday Link List

  • Making the Same Mistake Twice? Department:  Nobody felt the original reached its true potential so there’s going to be a remake of the Left Behind movie.   Guess who’s doing it?  Cloud Ten Pictures, the exact same company that made the first one.   Huh?
  • Truth is Stranger than Fiction Department:  The American who pastor who threatened to burn the Qu’ran and then didn’t is getting a free car just for being a good boy.  “Okay, Terry; you’ve been a good boy and remembered not to play with matches; so here’s the present we promised you…”
  • Personal Inventory Department:  Trey Morgan on the various things people use to gauge their self-worth.  What’s your’s based on?
  • Indie Christian Artist Department:   If you like dance music with bass that thumps while at the same time enjoying strongly Bible-based lyrics, check out the song “Life” by artist Beckah Shae.   Or go here for the YouTube now closing in on 200,000 views.   (Is that someone blowing a shofar in the background?)  Here’s another one:  Here in this Moment is closing in on 300,000 views.
  • Iniquities, Transgressions and Sins, Oh My! Department:  Washington, DC pastor Mark Batterson introduces the Jewish understanding of the three dimensions of sin.
  • Ecclesiology For Fun and Profit Department:  David Paul Door says when you plant a church, you have to think less like a pastor and more like a missionary.
  • You Really Should Read This Department:  A Christianity Today interview with Joni Earekson Tada on suffering, chronic pain, and breast cancer.
  • “I’m a Full Gospel Preacher” Department:   Challies posted this link this week to Erik Raymond, the Irish Calvinist, answering the musical question: Why are some pastors so fat? Except he didn’t bother with the word “some.”
  • Gettin’ Ready to Party Department:  If tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1611 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the KJV, the author of Majestie: The King Behind the King James Bible figures we’d better know a little about James Stuart.  Here’s the video trailer for the book which officially released yesterday.
  • Why Can’t We All Just Sing Along? Department:  CNN gets church choirs across North America to join together on a verse and chorus of Andrae Crouch’s classic, “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power;” and then attempts to blend them all as one.
  • Amish Fiction Overload Department:  If you can’t get enough of the Amish through the fiction section of your Christian bookstore, you can learn more about them in the popular blog Amish America.
  • For our cartoon today, we return to the most prolific of the Baptist Press artists, Joe McKeever:


October 10, 2010

“He Will Not Give Me Children” — A Cry for Help

Reposted from October, 2008

Every married couple knows that sometimes marriage involves compromise. But what do you do when the will of one spouse trumps the deepest longings of the heart of the other?

If my wife and one of my sons wants KFC tonight, and my other son and I want Chinese, there are various solutions. Have one tonight, and the other tomorrow night. Go to a food court. Declare a draw and go out for burgers.

But what was I to do with the woman who suddenly blurted out after a dozen or more years of marriage, “He will not give me children.” She didn’t say, “I can’t get pregnant;” or “He can’t father a child;” she said “will not,” in a way that almost intoned, “Help me! Do something.”

Or the woman who came in my store and complained about her husband’s lack of sexual response — albeit caused by a major illness — and said, “A woman’s got needs, you know.” Or the woman who told me, “We haven’t taken a vacation in ten years.” Or the man who wishes his wife would spice things up a little in the bedroom. Or cook something other than Kraft Dinner. Or the woman who is stuck at home all day because he won’t buy an inexpensive second car. Or the man who has a chance at a job on the other side of the country, but she wants to be close to family.

There are times when one person’s desires and goals totally and completely triumphs over the other’s for an entire lifetime. It could come under the heading of compromise, yes; but with a clear winner and a clear loser. “Losing the battle, but winning the war;” doesn’t really describe the situation properly. If an individual desire of the one person is so central — such as the desire to have children — it’s more like a hurt that never goes away. You don’t get Chinese food or KFC the next day.

The question I want to ask the “HWNGMC” woman, but have always been afraid to is, “Did you know this before you got married?” Sigh.

This section was added today, October 10, 2010

Sometimes it seems areas of life end in a draw.

Around the same time as I wrote this, a local church was going through the issue of whether or not to have women as church elders.   The pastor was wise, and brought in two guest speakers for Sunday night workshops to discuss their side of the issue.

I sat there uncomfortably and finally decided to ask the second one what he felt the scriptural precedent was for resolving this kind of issue when both sides were presenting strong arguments.   He nicely dodged the question by saying it went outside his mandate, and that this was the whole purpose of our discussions.

It’s the same question in theology and doctrine in local churches as it is in marriage:  What do you do when you don’t know what to do?  When the debate seems to end in a draw?

Life does involve compromise and as it turned out today, in a similar food debate to the one that introduced part one of this post two years ago, we ended up going out for burgers.   (Actually it turned out they also had fish and chips and Greek gyros, but that’s another story…)

How do you resolve “draws” in your marriage, or your church?


September 8, 2010

Wednesday Link List

The long hot summer is just about over, and the kids are back in school.    Time for a look at the pages that grabbed my attention this week, with a little help from our friend (at right) the links lynx.

  • First of all, there’s a live event online tomorrow (Thursday September 9th) night:  A Night of Worship, streaming live from North Point Community Church at 7:30 PM Eastern, 6:30 PM Central.   To watch at home you need enough bandwidth to capture the live feed, and this website.
  • When Chad Holtz isn’t busy pastoring a rural Methodist church, he’s busy confronting evil at the local Islamic Center.  Sort of.
  • Greg at the blog, Lost in the Clouds posts an edgy response to the Christianity Today cover story Hipster Christianity by Brent McCracken based on his book of the same name.   Greg says “I’m sorry, but all of this is adding up to a sorry picture of our tour guide through the world of Hipster Christianity…”   I think he struck a nerve.
  • Students at Belmont University are being handed cash to make a difference.    Donald Miller explains the $20 giveaway; but I wonder what they’d do if — after the manner of Matthew 25 — one of the students simply handed back $40?
  • Carlos Whitaker doesn’t want attendees at the Catalyst Conference to be singing the songs he chooses, so he asks his readers to report the song titles they are connecting with at their churches.   So far, over 125 replies.
  • Frank Turk, who probably doesn’t write a lot of music reviews, joins a number of bloggers who are noticing what can only be termed a “modern hymnwriter,” Matthew Smith.
  • Andrew Jones lists five major game changers that revolutionized who he is today.  People in ministry, don’t miss this one.
  • Thom Turner knows that baptism can be a divisive subject, but suggests there’s room for diversity even within denominations and possibly within local churches as well.
  • If you missed the blog tour — actually it was more like a progressive dinner — for Anne Jackson’s Permission to Speak Freely (Thomas Nelson), you can still catch all seven excerpts by following the links, starting here.  Anne’s honesty will resonate with anyone dealing with various types of pain.
  • Brian, a regular reader of this blog, invites you to join him and others in a week of prayer for Beja people — nomadic camel herders — of Egypt, Sudan and Eritrea.   Read more here.
  • Our video link this week is a worship song you may not know by Willow Creek’s Aaron Niequist, simply titled Changed.
  • U.S. Fundamentalist nutcase Terry Jones is determined to burn copies of the Quran on September 11th — I doubt even the U.S. President could stop this guy — so as of Tuesday night officials announced plans to quell access to his property through an identification checkpoint, so fewer people can see him do it.
  • John Stackhouse has no problem with street preaching, but that’s usually in commercial areas, right?  What happens when the preachers invade a residential street?  That, he says, is going too far.
  • Anglicans in Nova Scotia, not content with the annual “blessing of the pets” service, are having a “blessing of the techs” service for laptops, cellphones and mobile devices.
  • This may be your church, or at least your church sign:  Grace Methodist Episcopal in New York, circa 1922; from; a classic photograph site.  Middle picture is from the Gospel Mission in Georgetown, circa 1920; final picture is a storefront church from the “Black Belt” of Chicago in 1941 and where deciding where you’re going to eat after church isn’t an issue with the lunch wagon next door.   Click through any of the pictures to see the images in super-giant size.



August 30, 2010

Christians are Judged by the Highest Standard

Filed under: Church — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:58 am

I’m sorry.   Maybe I should have named this blog Ranting Out Loud. But telling Mark’s story yesterday reminded me of Sherry’s story and I find I can’t not record it here online for someone to learn from.   Of course names have been changed.

East Grove Neighborhood Church was serious about church growth.   The new building was the pride and joy of everyone but especially Ron and Yvonne.   Ron was on every committee and every board.    Ron’s contracting company had worked hard to bring the new state-of-the-art auditorium project to completion on time, and did so within a day of the announced date for the first service.

Yvonne was as excited about the new church as her husband, but really wasn’t a people person.   She had her friends in the church to be sure, and wanted to see all the new programs and outreach succeed, but she couldn’t hide her lack of interest in getting to know some of those she perceived as the ‘lesser’ people at the church, such as Sherry.

It’s funny because if you had asked Yvonne, she would have told you how much she believed in the ministry plans of the church, but her actions just couldn’t always line up perfectly with her “on paper” ideals.   Sherry got in the crossfire of that disconnect.

That’s really too bad.   We knew Sherry.   We still keep in touch.  She is a really giving person.  An asset to any church, any place, any time.    The kind of person you want to keep excited about big-picture vision.    It wouldn’t surprise me to learn she’s a 30% tither to God’s Kingdom; and with a job that makes that percentage meaningful, although, you wouldn’t know it by appearances.

Yvonne just never spoke to Sherry, wasn’t too responsive when Sherry spoke to her; and Sherry, for all her wonderful qualities is human after all and over a couple of years allowed it to get to her.   Around that time we got to know her, and shortly after she admitted to us that she wasn’t attending that church anymore.

Both Sherry’s story and Mark’s story from yesterday could be easily dismissed by readers as simply being the tales of two people who were oversensitive.   “These people just need to suck it up;” is what I can hear some of you saying.

But you don’t expect to be ignored when you’re part of a family.   Not for a minute.   The church shouldn’t work that way.   We should demonstrate that we belong to Christ by the love that we have for each other.   Visitors will see that.   Early church history documents that this is how we began.

So East Grove lost Sherry, but of course they kept Ron and Yvonne, whose contracting business hit a downturn about five years ago — two large clients couldn’t pay — and is now a shadow of its former self.   Ron got into a major depression over this and resigned from every committee and stopped a bunch of other church-related activities.

Sherry never invested herself completely in another local church after this, though she remains involved in at least a dozen ministry projects.   Her job requires she works some weekends, and a parachurch ministry that she is involved with requires her — like ourselves — to be somewhat nomadic some Sunday mornings.   But she continues to love and serve God with everything she’s got; and she really does have a lot to give.

Well, that’s the story.   And yesterday you heard a lot of our story, too as well as Mark’s.    In every one of these cases I can’t help but wish things had turned out a little different.   In our own case I wonder what it would be like to have been able to invest twenty years in serving alongside a single faith family.   I wonder if a dynamic youth program might have helped Mark’s boys.   I wonder what all East Grove could have gained from keeping Sherry joyfully serving as part of that church family.    I wonder…

No animals were wounded in the making of today’s blog post, but a number of church attenders were left frustrated, hurt or wounded.

August 11, 2010

Wednesday Link List

This was such a busy week already on this blog, that the link list seems almost anti-climactic…

  • Our opening cartoon above is from Sacred Sandwich and is titled “Baptist Bestseller.”
  • I’m trying to decide whether to run this Christianity 201 post here at Thinking out Loud.  It’s titled I Belong to a Cult.    I think it’s important to know the bare minimum about your spiritual lineage.
  • Zach N. posted this video embed which I believe is from a series Matt Chandler does at YouTube called Sermon Jam.
  • Here’s a full-screen CBN News item about Christian painter Ron DiCianni, currently working on a 12′ x 30′ picture of Christ’s resurrection; a picture with many unexpected features.
  • Here’s a really courageous — though not recommended — piece about a robbery attempt that fails because the clerk doesn’t want to be held responsible for the loss of the money; though she does feel responsible for the robber’s soul.
  • In all the talk about Keith Green last week, probably nobody mentioned Gordon Aeschliman.   He gave up his seat on the ill-fated plane at the last minute so one of Keith’s other kids could board.   Read about him and his book, Cages of Pain.
  • After a nine year hiatus, the book Operation World, first published in 1974, is ready to hit the streets in October.    The writer, Jason Mandryk, explains why the print edition is still needed in a world where the balance of the info is available online.
  • Over a hundred people at iMonk respond to Chaplain Mike’s invitation to explain why they follow the teachings of Beth Moore.
  • For this link, I’m going to plant you in the middle of a multi-part blog series by Dean Lusk, and then let you do the navigating to find the rest of it.   This is part five — and a personal favorite — from Is The Church Signing The Wrong Words?
  • Looking for a longer read?   Try this piece where initial-guy N. T. Wright considers initial-guy C. S. Lewis.
  • Albert Mohler weighs in on the back and forth status of California’s Proposition 8.
  • If you’re reading this in the U.S. before 6:30 PM Wednesday local time; ABC News has an interview with author Anne Rice.
  • With his comment level now reaching up into the stratosphere, Jon Acuff scores over 300 reactions to his piece on trying to find a new church.
  • Check out some new and different worship songs available free at Worship Corner.
  • This week’s comic:  It’s been six months since we last visited Jeff Larson’s The Back Pew

August 9, 2010

Letter From The Pastor (Redux)

To the members of our church…

After carefully weighing my options as your pastor, I have decided to devote all of this coming season to attending conferences in various places around the world.

During the past few years there has been an exponential increase in the number of such events, symposiums, conferences, etc. that are available to people in vocational ministry, to the point where there is now one each and every week. To be honest, to continue in effective ministry, I can’t afford to miss a single one.

While this means I will no longer be present in the office, I will continue to provide you with weekly video teaching. The largest and fastest-growing churches in the nation are multi-site congregations, and even in the ones where the pastor is actually in the room, it’s been shown that about 85% of the people are watching the screen anyway. As we move forward into the future, we need to recognize that this is the way preaching takes place across North America.

I thank you for your continued support of our church, and on a personal level, I am grateful for any Air Miles or Frequent Flyer Points you wish to donate.

For those wishing more personal contact, remember I can be reached on Facebook, Twitter, and several other social networking sites that haven’t been invented yet, but please remember that due to the high volume of incoming messages, I may not be able to get back to you as promptly as I would like.

Remember, at our church we care about each and every one of you.

Your Pastor.

August 2, 2010

Why You Should Know Adam Hamilton

His name has been coming across my computer screen more frequently recently, and he is one of the speakers at this week’s Willow Creek Leadership Summit, which is a must-do conference for many pastors, originating in Chicago and broadcast live via satellite to multiplied locations across North America.

So it was time to check out Adam Hamilton on that most authoritative source, Wikipedia.

Rev. Adam Hamilton (born July 12, 1964) is the senior pastor of the 17,000 member United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas. It is the largest United Methodist congregation in the United States, measured by weekend attendance.

Okay, for the bare facts, but then it gets interesting; I mean how can you not like a conversion story that’s got Darth Vader in it:

At the age of 14, Hamilton was at the house of a friend when a Pentecostal layman and door-to-door evangelist knocked on the front door. The visitor evangelized in this way despite being able to speak only through an artificial voice box held up to his throat. The man invited the boys to church, and even though they joked with one another that he sounded like Darth Vader.  

Hamilton has stated that he did not know why he attended the church services but hinted at the answer by admitting, “I wasn’t interested in God. I was interested in girls”.Original motives notwithstanding, Hamilton continued participating in the church and increasingly felt drawn to God. Finally, after reading the Gospel of Luke, Hamilton decided to become a Christian.

His original goal did not go unmet, however. While attending services at the Pentecostal church, he met the girl who would later become his wife, LaVon Bandy.

Hamilton is also a United Methodist minister who is also a graduate of Oral Roberts University.    Honestly, you couldn’t pay someone to make up a story like this.

But for me, the story really peaks when he begins his church plant in a building containing human corpses.

In 1990, following a stint as an associate pastor in a United Methodist congregation, Hamilton was appointed to plant a new church in south Johnson County, Kansas after requesting permission from the local bishop to do so.  The bishop excitedly cast a vision to Hamilton that, given 10 years, the church might even grow to 500 members. At the time, all of the schools and community buildings in the area were being leased on Sunday mornings by other church plants who had similar aspirations. Willing to think outside the box, Hamilton decided to ask the owner of the newly built McGilley State Line Chapel funeral home if the new church could meet there for Sunday morning worship services.

Before Hamilton got the chance to ask, however, the owner contacted Hamilton and asked him if the new church would consider meeting there. Hamilton casually agreed. The name “Church of the Resurrection” seemed to be a good fit for a congregation that met in a funeral home.

Personally, I’d have wanted an audit of their early attendance figures to make sure everyone counted was actually breathing.   But I digress.   Here’s where the heart of the story kicks in:

Hamilton also surmised that the educated population of Leawood would be drawn by sermons that engaged not only the heart but also the head. Therefore, Hamilton’s sermons are addressed to thoughtful Christians who have questioned their faith and are comfortable with nuance. His aim in preaching is to impart content to the congregation that would be the equivalent of a college course on the topic.  As indicated by the title of one of his books and his blog, Hamilton is intellectually comfortable with seeing the gray in a world that often sees only black and white.

Ingram International, the largest distributor of Christian books in the world, lists him as author for 14 different titles, all with United Methodist publishing company Abingdon Press, including the new When Christians Get it Wrong.

Resurrection’s sermon download page has sermon audio available dating back to 1999.    He blogs occasionally at Seeing Gray (In a World of Black and White.)   You can also watch a book trailer (and link to several others) at Christian Book Shop Talk.

To learn more about other speakers at the 2010 Willow Leadership Summit, click here and use the pull-down menu under ‘speakers.’

July 22, 2010

Calling Apostles (and Everyone Else)

No matter what the people who print calendars tell you, the school year cycle determines when the start of the “new year” is in most churches.

Nothing lasting happens in your local church without (a) vision, (b) prayer and (c) planning.    Vision begins with people who are ‘initiators’ that is, people who feel God is sending them into the middle of a situation or area to give birth to something that will either (a) serve those with needs, or (b) proclaim Christ;  to provide opportunities to be salt and light at particular place and time or for their particular generation.

At a very low point in my life about ten years ago I asked God, “If my health improves and I am able to take on something, what do You want me to do for Your kingdom?”

The answer came in the middle of a worship service as clear as what you’re reading right now:  “You need to be doing more.”

More?   More what?

I wasn’t sure.

Some day, I’ll finish that story on this blog.  It wasn’t the answer I expected.  I was looking for a fresh vision.   Instead, I was led to expand on a vision already in progress.

Let me say here that there is nothing you can “do” for God.   He is concerned with what you can “be” for Him.   But I know a lot of people are working on that “being” to the extent that nothing happens about “doing.”   Sometimes by “doing” God shapes our “being.”   With the exception of a handful of people who have some major stuff they need to work out, you can’t wait until you are perfect.   That day will just keep slipping further and further into the future.

As the fall season approaches in your local church (or some local parachurch organization) you have a choice:  You can maintain the status quo in your life, or you can choose to be a little apostolic; you can be a person who makes things happens.

What will your role be as another season of ministry commences in a few weeks?

You need to be doing more.

July 21, 2010

Wednesday Link List

The Christian Internet:  Charismatic, Reformed, Fundamentalist, Catholic, Mainline Protestant and Evangelical sites all sharing cyberspace and competing for your attention.   Here’s a few we visited this week…

  • Our own link list cartoon this week is Joe McKeever at Baptist Press.

June 30, 2010

Wednesday Link List

Check your calendar:  The year is half over.   Just eighteen months left until the world ends in 2012.    Here’s where we were this week:

  • Without question my number one link this week is Francis Chan’s children’s book trailer — that’s right, a kids book — for The Big Red Tractor releasing in September from David C. Cook.
  • Pete Wilson pays tribute to a retiring staff member who he hired seven years ago to bring some experience and wisdom to an otherwise younger team; sharing some valuable lessons he learned from Tom Tyndall.  Here’s a sample:

    Great sermons will get you pats on the back. Savvy leadership skills will win you admiration from your colleagues. Hard work will catch peoples eyes as you separate from the pack. But if you don’t love you’re nothing more than a noisy gong, or a clanging cymbal. If you don’t love the people God has placed in your life nothing else really matters.

  • Andy LePeau at InterVarsity has a surefire way to increase the earning potential of your children and it’s not (directly, at least) education.   Check it out.
  • I really enjoyed Rick Apperson’s Blogapalooza throughout the entire month of June at Just a Thought, but especially this guest piece by Clay Crosse.  (Check out the other posts, too.)
  • Mark Wilson has a hilarious hypothetical conversation between God and St. Francis on the subject of lawn maintenance.

    GOD : They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?
    ST. FRANCIS: Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.
    GOD:  They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

  • Know somebody who is giving your pastor a hard time?  Probably not anything like this story.   This guy was a terrorist.  This is a book trailer for an upcoming non-fiction book, The Devil in Pew Number Seven by Rebecca Alonzo; releasing August 1st.
  • A 2006 iMonk column by Michael Spencer showed considerable insight in trying to bring balance to the young-earth/old-earth tensions in science vs. creationism.  He felt the Bible was a book about God and Jesus, not a book about science.
  • Here’s something you don’t see every day; a book about the ascension of Jesus and why it matters.   Check out Jeff Loach’s review of He Ascended Into Heaven.
  • First it was the hymn people versus the chorus people.  But recently there’s been more visible unrest within the modern worship community itself.   Michael Krahn comments,  in a blog post inspired by one by Canadian Chris Vacher.
  • New Blog of the Week:  Contrast by Terry Foote in Florida.   No particular post, though you might read a father’s perspective on the loss of a child.
  • Atheists have put the “under God” part of “One Nation Under God” back on the agenda with a billboard campaign .
  • There are parts of the Christian internet I’m sure some of you (us) never get to see. Not sure what to make of this one: The blog Enoch Route introduces us to “Billy” who offers some signs you might be in a cult.
  • Can you handle one more Drew Marshall Show link?   When the new archived interviews (from last week’s show) go up on Friday, it’s Drew’s first “Gay Day” with Justin Lee of the Gay Christian Network, Wendy Gritter from New Direction Ministries, and singer-songwriter Derek Webb, just back from a tour with Jennifer Knapp.  Click here after 7.2.10 and select the show from 6.26
  • Ruth Graham observes that the themes in Christian young adult fiction are creeping into the mainstream book market.  (Some critics felt it was the other way around.) Check out her article at Slate.
  • Some people have all the answers until you start asking spiritual questions.   Check out this Soul Chat promo.   More Soul Chat video content here.
  • If you’ve read the last chapter of the book version of Stuff Christians Like (as opposed to the website) you know the (somewhat) serious side of Jon Acuff (pictured at right). CNN’s Belief blog had him back again, this time to tell everyone why some Christians act like jerks online.
  • Late breaking item:  With too many contradictions in his Muslim-turned-Christian story, when Ergun Caner’s current term as dean of Liberty University Theological Seminary expires today (6/30) the job won’t be renewed, though he gets to stay on staff.   The Washington Post tells the story, additional background is at World Magazine.
  • Our cartoon today is a classic — in internet terms, it’s actually only from 2008 — Hi and Lois by Brian and Greg Walker.

If you were listed in the blogroll here at Thinking Out Loud, and your blog name begins with “The,” don’t panic, you’re still here.  Look for your blog’s title without the “the.”  (Requests to have it reinstated will be considered by a bureaucratic committee that meets in Switzerland twice a year.)

Last week’s link list got bumped from its home page position by another post, check it out here.

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