Thinking Out Loud

December 8, 2018

Bucket List Checkmark: Inside a Mormon Church

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:24 am

Our town’s local congregation of Latter Day Saints meets in a building not quite as elaborate as this one in Salt Lake City. [image: Wikipedia]

Last week we visited a display of Christmas creches from all over the world at a local Anglican Church. While there, someone mentioned a similar display coming up this weekend at the Mormon Church. Immediately, my eyes lit up!

It’s not that I’m a huge fan of Christmas-themed folk art; rather, I’ve always been watching for an opportunity to see inside their building — penetrate the fortress — without having to go to a 3-hour Sunday morning service.

As we pulled in the parking lot, my wife said, “This is giving me the creeps.”

It kept giving her the creeps the whole time — less than an hour — until it was time to leave. I decided to drop in on a Friday night children’s ministry thing going on at my own church to give her a chance to cleanse her spiritual palette.

It’s not that we haven’t done this sort of thing before. We’ve visited a Hare Krishna temple, a Buddhist Mandir, and two Muslim mosques. I wrote about how that came about in this article.

And it’s not that she’s spiritually discerning and I’m not. I remember quite clearly, as a 21-year old, the spiritual oppression the minute a friend and I drove into Las Vegas, Nevada. (I also have the advantage of having done the one-hour tour of Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah when I was 14. In 60-minutes, they managed to shatter a lifetime of Sunday School, but fortunately I was able to put the pieces back together when I got home.)

But something about this one — possibly the fact that much of the doctrine of Latter Day Saints is a blatant hijacking of Christianity — was getting to her. The terminology is the same, but the words end up meaning entirely different things. Can you say ‘deception?’

I texted our sons — who had shared some of our above-mentioned building visits in the past — to say I’d finally been inside an LDS church. My oldest texted back, “Did you buy the underwear?”

In the lobby when we arrived, we met a woman who said she was a lapsed Mormon. “Not very observant,” is how she put it. She said she visits the place where we were, but often goes to the Presbyterian Church or the United Church. (The United Church of Canada is an ultra-liberal mainline denomination.) She didn’t seem to see any difference; her attitude was that they’re all good.

I went into ‘teacher’ mode and tried to educate her on a few things, all the while remembering that we hadn’t come to evangelize Mormons inside their own building. (They’re actually in process of trying to ditch the ‘Mormon’ handle, but I suspect they’re stuck with it forever.)

The building itself? Typical church construction of the early 1990s. If there were any secret rooms, they weren’t about to show them to us. Even though this was a Friday night, informal Christmas gathering, many of the men were wearing suits and ties. There had been a short service beforehand, and as we listened to the last 10 minutes of it from the lobby, the language was extremely formal.

The creche display was beautiful and whimsical. There was a Veggie Tales nativity scene. Nobody was taking pictures, however. One large nativity in the center of the room reminded my wife of the one in the store window in the Mr. Bean Christmas movie.

One man greeted us and we stayed in the display area about ten minutes while I asked him questions. Mostly ecclesiology-related things; nothing too doctrinal. Ruth stayed absolutely silent. She had, I presume, no questions.

By the time we arrived in the room where they serving refreshments, it looked like they were all out of coffee.

 

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August 24, 2015

Heresy for the Rest of Us

Would we call Buddhism a heresy? (p. 148)

Counterfeit Christianity - Roger OlsonThere is a striking difference between heresy and heretics, and as the question above illustrates, much depends on where you’re standing when you ask it. Theology and Ethics professor Roger Olson has written a book which occupies a middle ground between the usual academic text and a popular survey of cults and isms. Counterfeit Christianity: The Persistence of Errors in the Church (Abingdon) makes examining the plethora of Christian beliefs and doctrines accessible to the common parishioner, but is in no way light reading.

Olson has written many hardcover textbooks, but with this 176-page paperback seems to go out of his way to make this sideways look at church history more appealing to a broader readership, using some colorful imagery:

The Nicene Creed means that Christians are to believe in a God who is “one what and three whos.” The Chalcedonian Definition, hypostatic union, means that Christians are to believe that Jesus Christ is “one who and two whats.” (p.32)

Got that?

Or in the contrast between the Protestant and Catholics views of doctrinal authority, he quotes Modecai Kaplan:

Tradition always gets a vote, but never a veto. (p.39)

The approach is fresh, and some of it helps explains areas where non-theologians get stuck trying to untangle complex concepts:

In other words, the doctrine of the Trinity can be explained; the Trinity cannot be explained. The doctrine of the Trinity was never intended to be an explanation of God; it was intended to be a model that helps people think about God in a way that does not destroy the mystery of God, is faithful to God’s self-revelation in Christ, and protects God’s triunity from misunderstanding and distorted explanations. (p. 90, italics added)

And again,

Folk religion is to historic religion what astrology is to astronomy… Not all folk religion is totally wrong or heretical, but it’s a fertile seedbed in which heresy can grow and flourish. (p.140)

Organizationally, the book begins with two chapters outlining heresy and orthodoxy, five chapters dealing with what we might consider classic heresies, and three chapters dealing with modern, unofficial heresies; those not condemned by a particular historic council.

Many chapters offer prescriptions for confronting flawed teaching:

The only way to have it in its full and true reality is to delve deeply into the Bible and Christian history by studying the whole Bible, not just passages that support our values and desires, and all the great voices of the Christian past – especially those who suffered for swimming against the stream of their cultures.

[There is] a need for American Christians to receive missionaries from Christian movements in the Global South where Christianity is thriving and, by all account, God’s involvement in day-to-day life is evident. (p.152)

Overall, I feel this title is something needed in the religion/apologetics/church history book market at this time. Again, this is not a textbook — though it could certainly serve as an undergraduate text — but has great potential for the average churchgoer who wants to go deeper into an understanding of false doctrine in the Christian era.

Review copy provided by Augsburg-Fortress Canada

September 10, 2012

Learning More About Other Faiths

For Christian publishers, any kind of reference book can be a tough sell, and the sub-category of “world religions” isn’t likely to produce a chart-topper anytime soon.  So I always appreciate it when authors and publishers go out of their way to produce helpful material in a form that is more accessible to the average person.

Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day (Bethany House paperback) is one such title, and the “15 minutes” in question is probably more like ten minutes for most of us, if that.  For someone like myself — eternally doomed to confuse Hinduism and Buddhism — books that provide a refresher course like this are always needful, and Garry R. Morgan, who teaches missions at Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minnesota even provides a bonus “extra minute” with an always interesting sidebar.

The book has 40 chapters and covers 24 distinct religious groups, with five sharing parts of two chapters, and others having multiple chapters.  (Christianity  5; Islam 6; Folk and Aboriginal religions, Buddhism and Hinduism 3 each; Judaism 2.)

Sometimes there are similarities between other faiths and our own.  Here’s a paragraph from the book with parallels added:

…Conservative Judaism leaves to each congregation whether or not they will accept a female rabbi (sounds familiar, my denomination is wrestling with this right now). The person who actually leads the synagogue services, however, is the cantor, or hazzan (in other words, the worship leader or worship team is in charge of the service). Large congregations seek a cantor who not only sings but will also compose original music. Usually the cantor is also responsible for coaching young people in Hebrew as they prepare for their Bar or Bat Mitzvah (in other words he doubles as the youth pastor).   (Okay I stretched that a bit, but not much.) 

Or this paragraph about Islam,

Islamic beliefs and practices are based on the Qur’an, the Sunna and the Haddith. The Quar’an is held to be sacred scripture… Many questions about faith and practice arouse after Muhammad’s death, so Muslims asked those who had known the prophet and were still alive what he said or did in various situations. These were eventually written down and collected into the Sunna (or Sunnah) meaning “Traditions.”  Although not considered a holy book like the Qur’an, in daily life the Sunna is moved more frequently. (Which reminded me of what some view as a concern that although we have the gospels, in many of our churches, the majority of New Testament sermons are based on what Paul wrote, not the words of Jesus.)

The book is also ever dealing with the question of which groups deserve a chapter and which are simply mentioned in the context of a larger body, which bears on the question, what constitutes what the larger group would consider a “cult” and at what point do these subset groups become a religion in their own right. (Or if you want to go for the pun, in their own rite.)

Books like this are tough to write because, while this one will mostly be sold through Christian bookstore and online channels, there is always the possibility (and for the publishers, the hope) that the title will appear on the shelves of mass retailers like Barnes and Noble in the U.S. or Chapters/Indigo in Canada; which means you don’t know that a member of that group won’t flip through a copy to see how they’re represented.

And I wondered if there was something of this behind a sentence that appears early on,

At the publisher’s request, this book intends to be descriptive rather than evaluative or polemic.

so I contacted the author at Northwestern. Garry Morgan was gracious enough to write back:

Garry R. Morgan

…They encouraged me to not hide my own faith, but to just describe what the various religions believe and practice, without an overtly evangelistic “here’s how you share the Gospel with a ….” section.

Even in my World Religions courses at Northwestern College, where all the students are professing Christians, I strive to be fair and accurate in describing the religious beliefs of others (I tell my students my goal is to teach in such a way that a follower of the religion sitting in the classroom would agree with my description, even if they disagreed with my assessment). So, I don’t think the book would have been substantially different without that request. Had I assumed an all-Christian readership, I might have added suggestions for appropriate responses to the various religions (e.g. “You can’t love your Muslim/Hindu/etc. neighbor and fear them at the same time.”). I did find it challenging at times to use vocabulary or phrasing that non-Christians would understand (it’s surprising how ingrown one can become teaching in a Christian environment). I think keeping the potential non-Christian reader in mind helped sharpen my writing.

Certainly the problem of becoming ‘ingrown’ is behind the need for this book. While I learned a lot reading this — including reading some chapters twice — and especially enjoyed the sidebars at the end of each entry, I lamented the absence of a concluding chapter to bookend the very helpful introduction. In a way, Garry Morgan provided the missing element to me in his note, and I offer it here alongside my recommendation of this title:

I do believe the Christian faith is truly unique. I think that comes out in the first chapter on Christianity in the book. My hope is that non-Christian readers would do their own evaluation and come to the same conclusion, and that Christians (who I assume will be the vast majority of readers) would have a resource for better understanding what others believe in today’s increasingly globalized society.

A copy of Understanding World Religions was provided to Thinking Out Loud by Graf-Martin a book promotion and publicity agency that comes alongside publishers and authors to increase visibility for key titles in Canada. 

Quoted sections page 60 and page 69.  The book is 174 pages and retails for $12.99 U.S.

Other books in this series include, Understanding Theology in 15 Minutes a Day and Understanding Your Bible in 15 Minutes a Day both by Daryl Aaron.

January 19, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Enjoy this week’s links; there’s ice cream at the end!

  • You Give Me Your Shows and I’ll Give You Mine Department:  Canada’s Christian television network, CTS has put together a reciprocal deal with Robert A. Schuller’s American Life Network to share programming and media platforms.  Currently a limited list of CTS programs are available on the NRB Network.  Read more at BDBO.
  • Tattooed Pastor Department:  Jay Bakker has a new book out, Fall to Grace (Faithwords) which Tony Jones reviews at Take and Read.
  • Read This One For the Gipper Department:  Here’s another book review, this one for The Faith of Ronald Reagan by Mary Beth Brown, reviewed by Darrell Dow.
  • Biting The Hand That Feeds Them Department:  The Feed-a-Friend program in downtown Houston, Texas is now being required to purchase a $17/day permit from the city to carry out its mission of feeding the homeless.  The group is trying to avoid an us-versus-them mentality.
  • Killing Me Softly Department: Dee at Wartburg Watch takes a trip down memory lane profiling a not-yet-published book by Irishman Charlie Boyd, and reminds us of The Jesus Movement, Arthur Blessitt, Larry Norman, The Late Great Planet Earth, the Shepherding Movement, Calvary Chapel, and so many other times and places worth remembering.
  • Big Bang Theory Department:  If your tastes run to quantum physics, Michael Belote’s recent posts at Reboot Christianity might be just what you’re looking for, starting with the most recent, Schrodinger’s Christianity. (This makes a good forward for your science-type friends. Spoiler: Our souls are like quantum particles.)
  • Ministry Copycat Department:  We all know of churches which offer conferences and seminars for pastors to learn how the big guys do it.  The seminars aren’t free; the churches are basically selling their expertise.   Now comes word that one megachurch actually charges a fee just to see the wording of their staff job descriptions. Yikes!
  • Dialing for Doctrine Department: At The Arminian Blog (caption line: Theology in the Dutch Reformed Tradition of Jacob Arminius) comes this article about inconsistencies among Southern Baptist Calvinists when it comes to missions.
  • Glass Houses Department: We all have a public persona and a private persona, but what really goes on behind the closed door of our houses when it’s just us and the fam?  It’s a question worth considering in the light of this homespun article by Trey Morgan listing ten things you’d notice if you were a guest. Not sure why I’m attracted to this article, but after reading it, I feel I’ve already spent time with Lea, Trey and the boys.
  • Church Plant Withers Department:  This is a link to Jamie Arpin-Ricci’s blog, selected because it takes you to all four parts of Jason Coker’s blog where he describes the final days of the Ikon church plant in San Diego.  Or you can also get there from David Fitch’s blog along with much additional analysis. The similarities between Jason’s experience in southern California and my own experience with Transformation Church an hour east of Toronto are rather striking.
  • Authors of Confusion Department: Keith Brenton lists some indicators of bad theology in a December piece I missed earlier, How To Spot False Teaching.
  • Higher Education Department: At my own alma mater, The University of Toronto, a couple of local churches and ministry organizations are lending support to a Jesus Awareness Week. Oh, to be a student again, and be part of the events.
  • Interfaith Dialog Department:  Mark Galli at Christianity Today suggests that step one in starting the conversation with people of other faiths actually lies in evangelizing ourselves.
  • Truth is Stranger Than Cartoons Department:  We leave this week with two, count ’em two links to the blog American Jesus.  The first is a 40-second mystery video about church pageantry and formality gone wrong.  The second link gets you an explanation for the picture which appears below.  See ya in seven days with more links.

November 8, 2010

And Then There’s This Website…

I found this after the woman in question took a HALF PAGE advertisement in the Toronto, Canada edition of Metro, the commuter newspaper.   Half pages don’t come cheap.

It ran on October 18th, 20 days ago.  It linked to this:

www.thepeacelady.com

Nothing like a website that cuts to the chase, right?

I decided to look up the individual video clips which comprise the website at their source on YouTube.   Less than 100 views each.  Not a single comment.  (Well, maybe one.)

I figured you guys might want to help her out with her stats.

But seriously…Why do people do this?   Who is the intended audience?  What is the intended result?  How clear is the message?   What do I do (as Andy Stanley would say) to ‘discern the next steps?’

Better yet, here’s a good question for today:  Have you ever personally known anyone who was part of something religious that was, for lack of a better (kinder) term, “incredibly fringe?”  Did you ever challenge their beliefs or spiritual modus operandi?

Learn more about The Peace Lady here in this December, 2009 report.   If you live in Toronto and you’ve seen the woman on the bridges in the white robe “blessing” the traffic; yep…it’s the same person.

October 5, 2010

Absence of Compassion is Less Than Human

Even animals express some kind of sympathy, or grief, or compassion when there is a loss among their kind.

The family members associated with a small U.S. religious fringe group do not see it that way.   They see death as opportunity.   They argue their right to advance their agenda in the middle of a family’s sorrow is protected by free speech.

Free speech indeed; the men who drafted the U.S. Constitution would be horrified to learn what “free speech” is currently permitting.

The Westboro tribe claim they are using the attention to show how far down the road of moral decay American society has gone.   Instead, they are an example of it.    Their actions highlight the degree you can take the idea of one man’s inhumanity to another man.   And funeral after funeral, families simply have to let the voices of protest roll over them.

But not Albert Synder.   The father of a soldier killed in Iraq doesn’t want any other families to have to suffer as he did.   In what will certainly be a landmark case, the Supreme Court will rule on an argument for the privacy rights of grieving families.   The court faces the prospect of passing an “enough is enough” ruling, with the option of declaring a funeral to be a venue worthy of a greater amount of privacy, regardless of the public thoroughfares adjoining the church, funeral parlor or grave site.

CNN notes, “The Supreme Court has never addressed the specific issue of laws designed to protect the ‘sanctity and dignity of memorial and funeral services'”   Many of the Phelps family are trained in law.

Albert Snyder told the media outlet, “They are using the First Amendment as a sword and a shield. My son and thousands like him did not put their lives on the line so that someone could abuse the Constitution like this…”

Read the full story and watch the video at CNN.

Related Links:  Fred Phelps has turned up in this blog before; the first time in a piece about his son Nate;  the second time in a piece about is daughter Lauren.   One can’t help but hope the attrition continues.

Repeat of a personal notation in one of the above items: “…It was then that I observed a fundamental difference between Canada, where the Phelps phenomenon would never happen, and the U.S.: In the United States laws protecting freedom of religion trump any prohibitions against hate speech.  In Canada laws forbidding hate speech trump any protection of freedom of religion.”

August 26, 2010

The Cultization of Calvinism

It happened again yesterday.

My son got a package in the mail from the Christian camp where he did a four-week leadership training course, containing a magazine and other resources.

John Piper was on the cover of the magazine, there were advertisements for Crossway Books and the ESV Study Bible, a couple of references to Mark Driscoll, a reference to the Together for the Gospel conference.  And many such clues that this was not really a mainstream Christian publication.

I’m okay with that.   I told him he should make an effort to read every article.   I’m glad the camp took the time and expense to send it to him, along with an encouraging personal letter from the two directors of his leadership course.   We actually worshiped in a Christian Reformed Church just two weeks ago.

But it was another reminder how there are different clusters of people, belief and thought; and how, just as Calvinists of previous generations were somewhat segregated by Dutch ethnicity, today New Calvinism has emerged as a dominant (especially online) cluster.

Some of you probably like the word cluster over the word cult, but in fact, any identifiable group fits the dictionary definition; the problem is that we’ve tended to use it in the last 30 years or so as an abbreviation of false cult, which is another matter entirely, usually involving unique books and writings considered to be divine, and often the presence of private compounds and Kool-Aid.   However, of the eight definitions of cult at dictionary.com, only #6 indicates “a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader.”

The decision by the largest online Christian book distributor to set up a separate site just for people of Reformed doctrine is another example of this.  The company has massive buying power, and has a large share of the Christian book business, but surveys revealed it was seeing only a trickle of commerce from Calvinists because they preferred to buy from their own sites, where presumably materials are carefully filtered.   The larger company had no choice than to do that filtering.

But this is something that neither Charismatics nor Catholics have ever propelled them to do.    The Charismatic and Pentecostal world — as any visit to the Elijah List site will confirm — has its own authors and a large supply of its own worship music, distinct from the mainstream worship we hear on Christian radio.

But Calvinists are readers, and as the blogosphere indicates, many are also writers, though a good percentage of the bloggers employ more of a ‘cut and paste’ approach to content generation.   (With, I might add, a great overlap into another emerging subgroup, the Academics.   American prosperity has permitted large numbers of U.S. Christians to enjoy advanced and continuing education, but much of the writing, as Acts 18:15 and 2 Tim 2:14 reminds us can consist of quarreling about words which leads to strife.   See also this post.)   On the other hand, other brands (or cults!) of Christianity tend to be more about about doing which is why the internet has, just as one example, a critical shortage of Salvation Army bloggers, as I noted in back in May ’08.

But because of the fragmentation taking place, I suggested to the senior editor of Christian Retailing magazine that instead of just having Charismatic and Catholic specialty bestseller charts, they should also have a Calvinist or Reformed specialty list each month as well.   Really, if they’re going to do the former two, they might as well do the latter.    But what if he takes my advice?

The result would be distinctively Reformed shelves in Christian bookstores (which probably already exist in some) where Calvinists could browse the shelves untainted by titles which disagree with their views.   And what is the result of that?

The larger picture is that it takes Reformed people and Reformed literature out of mainstream Evangelicalism, and takes mainstream Evangelicalism out of the Reformed sphere of awareness.   It increases compartmentalization; a kind way of saying it advances what I’ve termed here the cultization of Calvinism, which, I would think from God’s perspective at least, is rather sad.

What is, in a discussion like this, the better part?

I believe one of the healthiest dynamics of Evangelicalism has been the cross-pollination that takes place through inter-denominational dialog (Br. – dialogue) and worship.    Instead of conferences where only one theological brand is raised, we need to encourage events in which a variety of voices are heard.   Instead of bloggers posting blogrolls where they are afraid to list someone who is outside their faith family, we need to be familiar with the much wider Christian blogosphere.    Instead of encouraging Christian young people to only read certain authors and one or two particular Bible translations, we need to encourage them to study the wider compendium of Christian thought.

Basically, we need to avoid situations where our personal preferences lead to being cut off from the larger, worldwide Body of Christ.

Paul Wilkinson

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

July 5, 2010

Alienation Made Easy

Doing a two mile hike before breakfast isn’t the normal way I start the day, but these were unusual circumstances.   It was already pushing 90-degrees F., and I’m sure I looked the part.

But a friend had recommended I drop by the bookstore in a large well-known Christian conference center in New York state, and since we were only a few exits away, I decided to go for it.

As soon as I walked in the bookstore, a young man met me and said something like, “The ‘wind-swept’ look really works for you.”   If you know that I’ve been having a bad hair day since birth, you know that this is a kind of remark I am really sensitive to.

A quick look around the store, and I realized the degree to which this is an ultra-conservative conference center.   I think the phrase, “By their Bibles you shall know them;” was the big giveaway:  ESV, KJV, NKJV and a small sampling of NASB and HCSB.

In other words, no NIV, TNIV, NCV, Message, or NLT.   To me that’s like drawing a line in the sand.   But the book selection only reinforced this.

The guy’s opening remarks now begged translation:  “I can see by looking at you that you don’t belong here.”

And I agree.   I met my wife at the car and said, “Get me out of here, fast!”

Seeker sensitive?  They’d probably spit at you for using the word.   This is an elite club, and they can smell you a mile away if you’re not part of it.

Sad, really.

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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