Thinking Out Loud

January 5, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Here’s a new list to kick off a new year…

  • While some “Christian” pastors — one anyway — want to burn the Qu’ran, Heartsong Church in Cordova, Tennessee has “a more welcoming approach.” ” Steve Stone and his congregants put out a sign welcoming incoming neighbors at the Memphis Islamic Center. The church then allowed these Muslim neighbors to use their sanctuary as a makeshift mosque throughout Ramadan while the Islamic Center was under construction.”  Read more at Christianity Today.
  • As strange as that story may be, it’s also the basis for a Canadian situation comedy now in its 5th season.  The new season of Little Mosque on the Prairie kicked off on Monday night with an episode that makes the Imam look a lot more appealing — i.e. “nicer” — than the Anglican minister who is renting the Islamic congregation its space.   Watch past episodes at CBC-TV.
  • The girl who recorded “Wait for Me” in 2000 is done waiting.  News yesterday that Christian singer Rebecca St. James is engaged to marry Jacob Fink who has a background in missions, television production and music. Proposal: Christmas Day. Wedding date: TBA.
  • The number of abusive priest lawsuits in a Milwaukee diocese has forced it to declare bankruptcy.  But a victims’ lawyer says it’s only being done to protect identities, and will merely delay the process.
  • This item was the runner up on Perry Noble’s top 2010 posts:  Ten Questions That Unchurched People Are Not Asking (Sample: #8 – “Does your pastor teach exegetically through the Scriptures?” Hey, it’s a dealbreaker, right?)
  • Tucked away in a little corner of James MacDonald’s (Walk in the Word) website is this tidbit of news:  “And this is amazing…We received a donation of a 20-million-dollar television production facility. The studio and the technology it provides will enable Walk in the Word to produce greater resources to reach more people.”  Not the first time something like this (i.e. Harvest Bible Chapel’s land in Elgin, Illinois) has dropped into their laps!
  • Does God withhold blessings from me because of my sins (even sins that have been forgiven)?  That’s the question Dana asked at Upwrite.  “…it is about the possibility of freedom from beating myself up over the things I might have missed out on because of my sins.”  Anyone care to leave her an answer?
  • And then, this testimony: “My backstory isn’t a pretty one. In fact, I didn’t even begin life as an sweet little planned bundle of joy. My mom was raped and I was the result. I was adopted by two wonderful parents who loved me and raised me as their own. But from the age of 3 until about the age of 12 my concept of love became skewed and shattered as I was repeatedly molested and raped by two different people in my family.I was pregnant at 17.”  That’s Stephanie Shott’s story.  Read the rest at her guest post at Jenni Catron’s blog.
  • This week I checked out the website affiliated with a book that released in November:  Besides The Bible – 100 Books that Have, Should, or Will Create Christian Culture.  The publisher blurb promises, “Covering a wide array of subjects and authors, from Christian bookstore best sellers to classics of Christian history and more, you’ll find yourself agreeing with some titles, shaking your head at others, and even shocked by a few.”  Here’s the WordPress blog for Besides the Bible.
  • 265 Journal pages containing 214 entries later,  John Piper is back from his leave of absence, and condenses his report in a much, much shorter summary at Desiring God.
  • Bored during church or that expensive ministry conference?  Jim Lehmer is back with an entirely updated version of Christian Buzzwords Bingo.   Each refresh of the page gets you a new bingo card!
  • Want to send a shout out to long-time friend Al Clarkson for keeping me posted on things I might have missed.   (Like this and the next two entries.)  Here’s Alpha Course founder Nicky Gumbel speaking at the Lausanne Conference.
  • Canada’s popular Christian musician, Steve Bell — who we linked to last week — scored some major press here this week in the prestigious business insert to a national newspaper.  You can catch both items at once at this bookstore industry blog.
  • And at the same blog, at age 102, George Beverley Shea is to receive a Lifetime Achieve Award in conjunction with The Grammy Awards.
  • Last week we linked to Derek Webb’s piece at Huffington Post, and this week you can read Frank Turk’s very firm response, and the 250 comments it generated.
  • And at the blog, On The Fence (tagline: A Skeptical Screenwriter and a Christian Pastor Talk About Faith) Travis comments on reading Greg Boyd’s Myth of a Christian Nation over the holidays. Not sure if Frank Turk would approve of Boyd.
  • Our photo below is a flashback to a 2009 post at the now defunct blog, Cool Things in Random Places. It’s a picture of The Door to Hell. Really. The link gets you many more pictures and videos.

The Door to Hell, is situated near the small town of Darvaz in Turkmenistan.  Thirty-five years ago, geologists were drilling for gas when then encountered a very large cavern underground filled with a poisonous gas.  They ignited the gas expecting it to burn off in a few hours.  The gas is still burning to this day. Its 60 meters in diameter and 20 meters depth have not been caused by volcanic activity or a meteorite impact.This crater was created sometime in the 50’s when the Soviets were prospecting for natural gas in this area and it’s been burning since then.

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June 21, 2010

Masturbation and the Consequences of Sin

History doesn’t tell us who first came up with the notion that if you masturbate you will go blind.   Neither I am aware of any scientific corroboration of this connection, though I am sure that it has acted as a deterrent to many a young man, especially in less-informed times.

Sometimes, though, there are times when, if we give into our lusts, cravings or desires, there are definite consequences.

Heather was the friend of a friend.  I met her at least once, maybe twice.   She was an extremely attractive girl in her late teens at a time before people said, as we now do, that “the girl is hot.”  She got swept up by an older guy — some said he was in his 30s — and we don’t whether or not she was aware that he had AIDS before they had unprotected sex.

This was at a time — nearly three decades ago — before drugs could prolong the life of people diagnosed HIV positive and Heather’s life and beauty wasted away very quickly, and before much time had passed, my friend was suddenly telling me about “visiting Heather’s mom at her home the day after the funeral.”   Consequences.   Unavoidable consequences.

I don’t believe that today thousands of people have started down the road to blindness because of masturbation anymore than I believe that every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.   But I do know of one instance where the Bible makes very clear the possibility of physical penalty for something which is obviously sinful.

It’s the passage that is often read at The Lord’s Supper, aka The Breaking of Bread, aka The Eucharist, aka Communion.  Perhaps you were raised with I Cor. 11: 28-30 in the King James:

But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.  For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.  For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.

Okay, I know.   But for some  of you-eth, the KJV script is all too familiar.  Let’s try the dynamic-equivalence translation extreme of the NLT, adding vs. 27:

So if anyone eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily, that person is guilty of sinning against the body and the blood of the Lord.  That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking from the cup. For if you eat the bread or drink the cup unworthily, not honoring the body of Christ,  you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself.  That is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died.

Wow!  It does seem a bit unmistakable, doesn’t it.  [At this point I paused to check out the verses in four different commentaries, but there was no convenient opt-out at this point, none of the writers suggested the language was figurative.]

It all raises the possibility of consequences.  I think the view would be of God striking someone with something, that the agency of disease or even death would be external.


But I have a whole other direction for our thoughts today.

I’m wondering if perhaps it is not the case that for some people — not all — willful sin creates a physical disconnect between the body and the mind, or between the body and the spirit.   Perhaps it creates a tension that puts us in conflict between our actions and that for which we were created, or, in the case of believer, a conflict between our actions and the way we are expected to be living.

We already know that many diseases are brought on by stress.   Is not the conflict between right living and wrong living a stress, even for those who are not pledged to follow Christ?  It can weaken the autoimmune system, or conversely, overstimulate it.   And for the Christ-committed, would the stress not be greater since the internal conflict is greater?

I had a story cross my desk this week about a person who I knew was involved in something that I considered a lifestyle conflict.   (Whatever you’re thinking, it’s not that one; this was rather obscure.)  This person was also involved in a ministry organization, so the degree of conflict would be more intensive, wouldn’t it?

Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.  (James 3:1 NIV)

Today, this person is fighting a rather intense physical disease.   I can’t help but wonder if there was so much tension between what he knew and taught to be God’s best versus what he was caught up in, that it some how manifested itself internally as a kind of stress.  But I know what you are thinking:

His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.  (John 9: 2-3 NIV)

Not all affliction is the consequence of wrongdoing.   But the I Cor 11 passage allows for the possibility of affliction as direct consequences of sin.

Do you ever find yourself internally conflicted?   Paul said,

What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise… I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.  t happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.   (Romans 7: 15, 17-23, The Message)

The inner conflict is going to be there.   The tension is going to exist.   The question is whether or not it is going to absorb us into something that becomes a lifestyle, and that lifestyle is going to bring consequences.

You can disagree with this of course, but you don’t want to go blind, do you?


Today’s blog post is a combined post with Thinking Out Loud and Christianity 201.

Photo credit (upper) http://www.lookinguntoJesus.net
Photo credit (lower) product available at http://www.zazzle.co.uk
Graphic (middle) adapted from Chapter One text at http://www.thepornographyeffect.wordpress.com

Read more:  Sin: It’s Kind of a Big Deal

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