Thinking Out Loud

February 22, 2017

Wednesday Link List

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Did you miss us last week? Subscribers will have one free week added to the end of their subscription.

The item in our top and bottom image was found in a candy store and originates with LaughRat.com (viewer discretion advised).

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February 8, 2017

Wednesday Link List

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Welcome to Link List #346. Please shake off the snow and leave your hats and boots at the door.

Re the image ↑↑ Granted, it’s a promotional piece for a new product from Zondervan Bibles, but it makes you think, doesn’t it.

Our closing item below is a bit different, I waited an extra week before including it. Found at Ben Witherington’s blog.

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There won’t be a link list next week; we’ll see you back on February 22nd.

February 1, 2017

Wednesday Link List

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faith-with-benefitsYou’ll have to scroll down to find the link referencing the book cover here, but yes, the title means what you think it means. For our upper and lower images today we’re featuring the artwork of the UK’s Dave Walker from CartoonChurch.com which originally appeared in the Church Times and can be found in the book Heroes of the Coffee Rota, published by Canterbury Press.

  • Essay of the Week: “I didn’t intend to create an IT policy for my spiritual life, but inadvertently I ended up doing so over the past few months… I didn’t think I had an issue–but since making these changes I am more relaxed, have far more free time, am more present at home, and even in times (like now) which would previously have been cripplingly busy at work are manageable–making me far more productive.”
  • Norma McCorvey, was the “Jane Roe” in the classic court case Roe v. Wade. Here are seven things she wants you to know about that precedent-setting case.
  • Must Reading: Do the rich get better discipleship? After shopping for a church with a solid youth program for four teenage boys, this family realizes they simply can’t afford it.
  • Op-Ed: A challenge to the teaching of Francis Chan and the Family Integrated Church movement. Sample: “Chan has totally missed the mark of what it actually means to be a Christian family!
  • The fertility industry: It’s the year 2042 and the woman who is the product of a surrogate birth shares her story: “They bought my mother’s eggs—lots of them—so they could pick the best embryos. They rented another woman’s womb for 9 months. Well, 8 months: we were premature and underweight. My dad’s decided that each of them would get one genetic child—so I’m a half-sister with my own twin, which is strange.” An expert offers the other side of the story.
  • Megachurch Life: Our messaging that it’s okay to come if you are broken and your life is messy right now is contrasted by the image we project with a polished, professional service.
  • Pause for Thought: Humility and certainty can go hand-in-hand. “In other words, Christians are humble because their understanding of truth is not based on their own intelligence, their own research, their own acumen.”
  • The son or daughter has informed his or her conservative Christian parents that they are gay. Should the parents disown them?
  • I love what The Gospel Project is doing with their videos, but this one should also be made available at those sites where you buy clips for weekend church services. Every church needs to show this.  
  • January’s Essay of the Month: Philip Yancey on the election.
  • The Joy of Sects: A look at The Panacea Society. “Joanna Southcott…had died a century earlier – and had left behind a sealed wooden box full of prophetical writings, stating that it should only be opened during a time of national crisis by all 24 Church of England bishops.” This group of women were “convinced they held the fate of the planet in their hands.”
  • Leadership Lessons: It’s been a month now. How are you making out on your new year goals? “Sometimes we in the church are just not that serious or passionate… We trust that the Word will do its work and that we are stewards of the mysteries of God. But we don’t really want to rock the boat. We don’t want to take risks.”
  • Current Events in the Rear View Mirror:  Should Christian women march?
  • Church Tech Talk: Is the tech team or communications team simply service providers or are they a ministry unit?
  • Survey Says: Pollsters seem to reject the possibility that you can be African American and Evangelical at the same time.  “… historically the word points to and names a theological-spiritual ethos, not a particular socio-political-class movement…”
  • What are your idols? Find out what matters to you with this short 20 Questions to Expose Your Idolatry.
  • Timely: Christian recording artist Audrey Assad tells of her father fleeing Syria and coming to the U.S. as a refugee. (6 minute video; watch full-screen.) 
  • Kids still deciding on a college? 25 Things to do or questions to ask before making the final choice…
  • …Meanwhile, at the other end of the education spectrum, a Christian mom explains her choice to send the kids into the public school system.
  • When your church, denomination or parachurch organization disagrees with the government: This author suggests there are but three courses of action you can choose.
  • ‘You have just aborted Beethoven.’ That’s the punchline to a popular argument against abortion. However, “It assigns value based on (presumed) accomplishments. It is a utilitarian argument — assigning intrinsic value based on one’s “utility” (usefulness) — and it is utilitarian arguments that are best suited for pro-choice arguments, not for pro-life. In any event, those contemplating abortion are already employing utilitarianism in their thinking.”
  • First there was The Bible Museum. Now the American Bible Society is launching the Faith and Liberty Center in downtown Philadelphia.
  • Sadly, another high-profile Christian family processes divorce
  • …while the writers at one website consider that we are only hearing one side of the story.
  • Forthcoming Film: The Resurrection of Gavin Stone “represents what modern Christian life actually looks like, with a sense of irreverence and a knowing point of view.”
  • Parenting Place: 95% of our behavioral patterns are established by age 6. Authors Todd and Jackie Courtney have launched Inspirational Nursery Rhymes, with four titles releasing today. They’re available where you buy books; Christian bookstores can access them through Anchor Distributing. Info and an interactive game at the series website.
  • Who remembers when Keith Green sold his music albums on a “pay what you can” basis? Now, author and pastor Craig Groeschel is working with his publisher on a “pay what it’s worth” system for his new book, Divine Direction. (With a base price of $5.)
  • Martha Collison was the youngest ever contestant on the UK version of the show we know as The Great American Baking Show. She pays tribute to fellow Christian and bake off star 81-year-old Mary Berry.
  • Faith With Benefits: “…students on Catholic campuses report being unhappy with casual sexual encounters, most studies have found no difference between Catholic colleges and their secular counterparts…” Oxford University Press, $29.95 hardcover.
  • One way to get your books out there: HarperCollins is hosting GodLab, a 3-day faith-focused conference in Los Angeles in early June. (Cocktails will be served.)
  • Christian comedian Chonda Pierce faced some backlash after appearing at the Presidential Inauguration. She noted that, “somebody asked me what I’m wearing and I said, ‘Whatever is washable because someone might throw eggs at me!'”
  • Not enough links today? You can always try Religion Link
  • Provocative Headline of the Week: What to Do When You are Bored of God.
  • Video of the Week: You’ve got to see it to believe it as parents in Tbilisi, Georgia lined up at Trinity Cathedral to have their children baptized.
  • Finally, something a little different to end today; a poem by Brian Bilston found at this Twitter post.

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Reproduction of the Wednesday Link List in whole in or in part would constitute a great waste of scarce resources.

January 25, 2017

Wednesday Link List

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Thanks for your suggestions this week. Don’t forget to share today’s link list URL on your blog and social media. Take a deep breath… here we go!

I know you thought we were quite done with Christmas, but now we know why these guys (below) took so long to find the baby:

Arctic Wisemen from Sacred Sandwich

January 18, 2017

Wednesday Link List

Welcome to the Link List. Beware of the Dog:

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mosquitoMy wife took that picture while standing about five feet away. It never budged. As to the little home decor item at right, it’s an actual item made by Heartfelt, Inc. Can I put you down for a dozen of them?

This week a big shout-out to all the radio guys who check us out every Wednesday for program material. You can watch for our invoice in the mail.

…and yes it’s true. Skye Jethani was part of the cast of Puzzle Place. We offer a screenshot as proof.

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January 11, 2017

Wednesday Link List

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Hey readers! I want to be honest; I put some extra hours into this one, both in seeking out some things you might not read elsewhere — I only check other aggregators after this is mostly wrapped up — and including some longer quotations so you get the main idea of each item. So please help spread the word by sharing this link to today’s list with your contacts.  http://wp.me/pfdhA-8Fg

  • From High Society to the Mission Field: Raised as a debutante in Toronto’s upscale Rosedale district she rejected that life to work with Wycliffe Bible Translators. Canada’s national newspaper, The National Post gives extensive space to Ruth Thompson’s story. “Fifty years ago they didn’t wear clothes. Now they call Thomson on their cellphones.”
  • Essay of the Week: The above item. Hands down.
  • Women’s ministry in perspective: “I shifted in my seat at the women’s ministry event; the speaker said it again. “You are a beautiful, chosen, special woman of God. There is no one in the world like you!” …Again, it’s not a bad message. But it’s theologically deficient, and if the goal of a women’s ministry is to encourage and equip female Christians, the message has to change…When you create a culture that uses Jesus for little more than a spiritual feel-good, it’s no wonder the women it produces can’t get victory…”
  • Leadership Lessons: Don’t get caught saying, “I’m too busy.”
  • Grieving: “The early days of grief are a hazy, dizzying, moment by moment response to a trauma that your mind simply can’t wrap itself around. You are, what I like to call a Grief Zombie; outwardly moving but barely there… Most people understand grief as an event, not as the permanent alteration to life that it is, and so they stay up until the funeral and imagine that when the service ends, that somehow you too can move ahead.” 
  • Next Tuesday (17th) morning Shane Claiborne and other Christian leaders will hold a 2-hour rally in front of the Supreme Court calling for the end of the death penalty.
  • A 155-year old Baptist church in the heart of Washington, DC has appointed a gay couple as co-pastors. Both women have worked previously in chaplaincy, but buried deep in the article is the mention that one was an associate minister at Unitarian Universalist Church. The church — which bears the name Calvary Baptist — actually cut ties to the SBC in 2012.
  • The faith of President Obama, compiled entirely in his own words
  • This just in: Theology students at the University of Glasgow are being given trigger warnings in the course ‘Creation to Apocalypse: Introduction to the Bible (Level 1)’and in order “to protect the mental of health of vulnerable students” it appears that “Theology students are being warned in advance that they may see distressing images while studying the crucifixion of Jesus, giving them a chance to leave if they fear being upset.”(They’re right of course; I think a man dies in that scene. We can’t have that.) …
  • …Here’s a response to that nonsense.
  • Things like this only serve to set back Christian-Jewish relations in Israel. Fortunately most key comments on this story aimed at peacemaking
  • An Italian security official warns that the potential for a terrorist attack on The Vatican is very real.
  • America is suffering from a religious literacy problem starting with “media powerhouses” who “don’t quite get religion.” “Christians, in general, are ignorant about their own tradition. Half of Protestants can’t identify Martin Luther; half of Catholics don’t understand the doctrine of transubstantiation…Religious illiteracy is not a liberal problem. It is a function of two key factors: insularity and lack of education.” 
  • What if? (I thought I’d keep that teaser simple.)
  • Suicide Prevention: The son of author Anne Lamott shares surviving another day in an article, the very title of which ought to arrest you in your tracks. “How I managed not to kill myself today.”
  • A Theology of Sarcasm: The wife of a prominent Christian apologist provides a Biblical bibliography justifying the use of sarcasm. (Though some of the selections might be better described as hyperbole.)
  • Astronomers at Calvin College have confirmed two stars that will collide and merge in 2022, forming a binary star and producing a red nova.  No doubt as with the blood moon, this will produce a new crop of prophecy books.
  • The Singles Section: Looks? Personality? Both? An incredibly honest reflection on the attraction factor when hoping to fall in love.
  • Parenting Place: If your children get Highlights magazine and your values are conservative, you might want to check out the February issue before the kids do
  • …Somewhat related Devotional of the Week: An adult-portioned answer that begins with the kids asking what happens to their pet when it dies.
  • Having Carrie Underwood sing on the first day of the Catalyst Conference probably seemed like a good idea at the time, but the backlash has been considerable.
  • He moderated a County Quiz Bowl where “public school children did better on the religion, specifically Bible, questions than they did on the geologic time-table questions that had their basis in the theory of evolution.  So much for many people’s claims that public schools are brain-washing our children against the Bible.” See how do you fare — without scrolling down — on 30 statements which may or may not be from the Bible.
  • I’d love to live in a world where announcements like this did not exist.
  • Canada Corner: The longest-running religion editor of The Toronto Star, Canada’s largest circulation newspaper, Tom Harpur has died. His 2004 book, The Pagan Christ “digs deep into the origins of Christianity, and argues that there is no evidence that historical Jesus existed” and that “the story of Jesus was largely based on an Egyptian man-god and was simply an allegorical tale, meant to act as a guidepost for those striving to be better people.” The newspaper’s obituary quotes him as saying, “I’m not really a religious guy, you know.”
  • ♫ Worship Songs: We’ve re-formatted a few things at Christianity 201 and if you’re wishing to discover or re-discover some worship songs with substance without wading through YouTube’s search system, click this link.
  • The Family Squabbles of Jesus: Jesus and his mother didn’t always agree
  • Listicle of the Week:  The top searched verse on You Version in 88 countries; or if you prefer, this format.
  • Quotation of the Week: (a friend spotted this on Facebook) “We’re not here to fix this mess, nor to join it, or to befriend it. We’re here so if anyone gets tired of it, they can know there is an alternative to it.
  • ♫ Video of the Week: We couldn’t decide among several here from a band that I believe is set for greater recognition in North America in 2017. We’re talking about Rivers and Robots. (Yes, that’s the name.) Pick a song…
  • …Unless we’re talking about the uniqueness of the video itself. Then this international production by Rivers and Robots wins. Watch Lift Up My Eyes. A couple of times…
  • …or their most-watched Shepherd of My Soul.
  • ♫ Music Memories: Thumbing through the 1996-97 Tooth and Nail Records catalog is like opening a time capsule according to one person whose band was on their roster. He describes it as a time when music mattered.
  • I didn’t watch all 77 minutes of this, but street preaching is definitely one of the extreme sports of ministry
  • The world we live in: Two new spokespeople representing major makeup companies are not women.
  • Time-waster you’ll probably click: 13 Cats Resting on the Promises of God.
  • Finally, I’m happy that the editors at Baptist Press know what makes for a good religion news story.

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Images: Hallmark store (upper); Baptist Memes (lower)

January 9, 2017

Rethinking the Christmas Day Church Closings

closed signIn just 2176 days, in the year 2022, Christmas will once again fall on a Sunday. There was a great deal of angst this year about the number of churches which opted not to have a service. With only six more years to get this right, I want to address this issue now, while the subject is still fresh in my mind and yours.

First of all, I believe what we saw in 2016 was another example whereby the agenda for the church at large, at least in North America, is being dictated by the modern megachurch. The type of church service now in view is very complex and involves a multitude of staff and volunteers. Just the technical specifications for the worship service itself — and that’s not counting the children’s ministry, or the people directing traffic in the parking lot — requires an army of sound, lighting, music specialists as well as ushers. To expect a consistent turnout of these people on a morning when their hearts are at home, gathered round the Christmas tree hearing those familiar Christmas words, “This one says, ‘To Ben from your sister Julie'” is possibly asking too much.

The modern megachurch simply cannot offer an alternative service in a smaller room in the church where Mrs. Trebleclef will play some carols on the piano, the head of Men’s Ministry will speak, and then we’ll have a coffee time in the atrium. That would be a simple service. It would involve said pianist, the person giving the short devotional message, and the person to make the coffee, as well as someone to unlock the doors and check the restrooms. But that’s not the brand these churches want to offer. You can’t have a simple, grassroots service like that. Better to have locked doors.

Instead, the service is canceled and then the contagion spreads to smaller (and smaller and smaller) churches where not having the service becomes normative. Evangelicalism: Closed for the day. Be back next week.

Can you imagine a Roman Catholic church not having the mass on Christmas Day? No. Neither can I. Where did this day-off-mentality come from anyway?

Well, actually it came from megachurches who have started doing a similar week off thing in the summer, usually on Memorial Day weekend. “If you come next week, we won’t be here.” Seriously? What about visitors who didn’t know that’s the pattern? Or the Griswalds, who have driven cross-country just to see the celebrity pastor? Goodness knows these big box churches are doing something right, so if they’re not having a service, perhaps our little 200-member church should do the same. Heck, we’ll also cancel Labor Day weekend while we’re at it; this is obviously a key plank in church growth, right?

But that diverts from the more serious issue. What about the people who are lonely? The people for whom weekend services are a spiritual and social lifeline? The people who need that one hour to ramp up to the 167 hours that follow? My wife and I learned from doing the Christmas Dinner on Christmas Day in our own hometown that the people who most need some level of fellowship or companionship — not that the capital-C Church is particular good at this — know no particular stereotype.

There’s also the matter of cost. By this I don’t mean the cost of turning on lights and having people consuming coffee cups and flushing toilets. No, I mean the cost of building church buildings and then having the auditoriums sit empty for the 13 days between one service, and the one which would follow in two weeks. It’s not about having offering revenue. Skip the collection on long weekends by all means. It’s about the investment in erecting places of worship and equipping them with comfortable chairs, state of the art sound and lighting, and engaging child and youth facilities, and then shuttering the place on what is usually the prime traffic day…

…Does this make any sense to you?

So where do those KidMin, worship and parking volunteers come from on Christmas and holidays? They don’t. You change up the brand image for the sake of one Sunday and using a skeleton staff, offer something for the people who really need to be connected. Maybe not Mrs. T. on the piano. Maybe it’s a film. It might involve a guest speaker or guest musicians. Perhaps it’s a shorter service.

Just. Don’t. Lock. The. Church. Doors.

If weekend worship has gotten so complex that we can’t do it without a volunteer roster the size of the Marine Corps, maybe we need to be rethinking what it means to do and be the church.

January 4, 2017

Wednesday Link List

A new year brings a new list… Each one of these takes on a life of its own and differs from the week previous in terms of the type of links and the overall tone of the collection as a whole.

December 28, 2016

Wednesday Link List

For our graphics this week, we pay a return visit to TwentyOneHundred Productions, the media division of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Know a young person with a flair for graphic art or video? Have them consider an internship at 2100.

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December 21, 2016

Wednesday Link List

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Our graphics this week are from The Babylon Bee’s Top 10 Christian Books of 2016. Click either image to read in full.

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