Thinking Out Loud

June 12, 2015

The Disconnect Created by Fashion Jewelry

From Java, a beaded wood cross necklace from Gifts With A Cause.

From Java, a beaded wood cross necklace from Gifts With A Cause.

You’ve seen it, I’m sure.

The tabloid by the checkout lands an interview with a well-known porn star and her picture is on the cover, wearing a cross.

“Wait, what?” you ask out loud, causing the shopper ahead and the cashier to look at you strangely.

Whether it’s an actor known for his very dark, very Godless roles or a marcher being interviewed at the Gay Pride parade, the cross around the neck almost always surprises any person of faith. It certainly raises a number of possibilities.

  • The contrast is intended to shock.
  • The person doesn’t really know or understand the significance of the cross.
  • They believe that they are a Christian.
  • The cross-wearing somehow cancels out the wrong in that person’s life.
  • They take a different, pre-Christian meaning to the symbol.
  • It represents what they’d never admit verbally; that God has blessed their life with good things.
  • They are somehow appealing to a religious demographic, hoping that in spite of what they’re saying or doing, those people will like them.
  • The cross was a gift from someone, and by wearing it once in awhile they can say…that they’re wearing it.

Are there other reasons I’m missing?

The point is that there is a disconnect between the symbol and the person’s reputation or lifestyle or even activity at the moment the photo is taken or the video is recorded.

It’s a symbol that should be dear to the devout believer; the sincere Christ-follower. And so some get incensed that it’s being misused or misapplied or even mocked.

When I see these pictures on an online news feed, or in a magazine at the grocery store, I try to find the redemption in the moment, and I gotta admit, I’m not seeing it…


Tangentially: For those in the know, what do think of the trend in the last few years of wearing sideways crosses on necklaces and bracelets?

 

 

April 2, 2015

This is Maundy Thursday

Over the past five years we’ve seen a major shift in Evangelical observance of what the Mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic churches call Holy Week. There is much more consciousness of Lent and even debates — because of the rapid shift in some denominations — as to its incorporation in Evangelicalism. While we’ve always been observant of Good Friday and Easter Sunday, there is also an increasing awareness of Maundy Thursday and Holy Saturday. This article appeared here exactly five years ago…

2The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 3Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. ~John 13: 2-5 (NIV)

What’s that saying? “A fanatic is someone who loves Jesus more than you do.” Today I felt somewhat spiritually outclassed.

I spoke with someone and asked what their church was doing for Holy Week. They told me that their church was doing a service on Thursday, as well as Good Friday.

Thursday is called Maundy Thursday. The theological page Theopedia doesn’t cover it for some strange reason, but the regular Wikipedia site offers two explanations for the name, of which I give you the first:

FootwashingAccording to a common theory, the English word Maundy in that name for the day is derived through Middle English, and Old French mandé, from the Latin mandatum, the first word of the phrase “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos” (“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you”), the statement by Jesus in the Gospel of John (13:34) by which Jesus explained to the Apostles the significance of his action of washing their feet. The phrase is used as the antiphon sung during the “Mandatum” ceremony of the washing of the feet, which may be held during Mass or at another time as a separate event, during which a priest or bishop (representing Christ) ceremonially washes the feet of others, typically 12 persons chosen as a cross-section of the community.

As an aside, if you’re into church hopping, this is the day for you:

The tradition of visiting seven churches on Holy Thursday is an ancient practice, probably originating in Rome, where early pilgrims visited the seven pilgrim churches as penance.

Anyway, this church is having a foot washing as part of their Thursday service, and I was told, “Come and join us and we will wash your feet.”

I’ve never said that to anyone. And I’ve never washed anyone’s feet. I’m not totally comfortable with doing this or having it done for me. But the Biblical mandate to do this is quite clear. I feel like my spiritual pilgrimage is somewhat incomplete, like the person who has never been to Israel (or Wheaton, Illinois; the one time Evangelical equivalent, now displaced by Colorado Springs or Nashville; I’m not sure which.)

14Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. ~John 13: 14-17 (NIV)

Does anyone see a loophole here? An opt-out clause? A reason why this doesn’t apply in the current dispensation?

I don’t.


…since the original article appeared, I have had to, on a couple of occasions, help my mother with some moisturizing lotion on her feet. Normally she has someone who does this for her. Another time when we were swimming and my wife was sitting on the side, I sort of pretended to be washing feet that by that point were obviously clean. I can’t describe it but there is something spiritual in the servitude of this; something God knew all along and something Jesus modeled for us. You may not want to go to a church and experience this — not yet, anyway — but it’s something you might start by doing as a family.

January 31, 2015

Faith Itself is Not a Destination

Bruxy Cavey:

“We treat faith in our culture much like a painting that you hang on the wall. It’s something you go and look at. Look at my faith. Faith is a beautiful thing. But biblically faith is a connecting concept to connect you with something else. It’s not an end point destination that you stare at but it’s something you stare through. In other words, faith is more like a window that you install in a wall, not a painting you hang on a wall. It is something designed to help you see through the wall or whatever barrier is there to see … the outside of your particular world.”


~Bruxy Cavey, author of The End of Religion and Teaching Pastor of The Meeting House, an eightteen-site church in Ontario, Canada from the series Get Over Yourself, part six, December 13, 2009

January 4, 2015

Blessed to be a Blessing

This morning at church the message wrap-up focused on asking for, and receiving God’s blessing so we can bless others.  I kept thinking of this song by Aaron Niequist, who currently serves at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, IL.

 

In Jesus’ name I’ve been changed, I’ve been filled,
I’ve been found, I’ve been freed, I’ve been saved!
In Jesus’ blood I’ve been loved, I’ve been cleansed,
And redeemed, and released, rearranged

But how can I show You that I’m grateful?
You’ve been so generous to me.
How can I worship more than singing?
And live out Redemption’s melody.

I have been blessed – now I want to be a blessing
I have been loved – now I want to bring love
I’ve been invited – I want to share the invitation
I have been changed – to bring change, to bring change

In Jesus’ name we are changed, we are called,
We are chosen, adopted, and named!
In Jesus’ blood we are loved, we are healed,
We’re forgiven and free of our shame!

We want to show You that we’re thankful
Flooding Your world with hope and peace
Help us to worship more than singing
Giving Redemption hands and feet

We have been blessed – now we’re going to be a blessing
We have been loved – now we’re going to bring love
We’ve been invited – we’re going to share the invitation
We have been changed – to bring change, to bring change
We have been changed – to bring change, to bring change

Thank You for this new life, thank You for the invitation!
God, we want to live it loud enough to shake the nations in Your name!

We have been saved – we’re going to shout about the Savior
We have been found – we’re going to turn over every stone
We’ve been empowered – to love the world to Heaven
We have been changed – to bring change, to bring change
We have been changed – to bring change, to bring change
We have been changed – to bring change, to bring change

 

April 10, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Community Baptist Church

I’m a success at blogging but a failure at Twitter. Please follow me… please?

Any one of this week’s links could have been its own feature article.  By the way, I’m organizing a travel opportunity that begins in a Wesleyan college in western New York and ends in Jerusalem. I call it the Israel Houghton Tour.

Explaining Present Technology

February 22, 2013

David Gregory Makes it a Trilogy

Filed under: apologetics, books — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:15 am

Night With A Perfect StrangerAlthough there has been a publisher change between the second and third books, David Gregory’s Dinner with a Perfect Stranger and A Day with a Perfect Stranger now has third companion title,  Night with a Perfect Stranger  (2012 Worthy Press hardcover).

I got to know David through the first two books, and then followed him to the nearly 400-page novel The Last Christian, which I reviewed here.  The first two books were also used as the basis of two movies, but with some significant plot changes. I explained the mapping of the two books to the two films here.

So it was interesting to follow David back to the much shorter (120 or so pages) format of the earlier titles.

I actually borrowed this book because I wanted to read it. I’m not aware of Worthy (the publisher) having any kind of review programs. So having mentioned it here let me use bullet points to highlight a few things:

  • The basic premise you have to agree to is that Jesus can appear to people today in the flesh. Yes, of course you disagree that this happens, but you need to suspend that issue to enjoy the book.
  • While this continues to be “apologetics fiction,” the main theme here is the nitty gritty of living the Christian life, of keeping up the zeal we have at major turning points when spiritual disciplines or church life become routine.
  • Tied to this is the nature of God’s dealings with us and the nature of God’s presence.
  • Like the first book — but not the second — there is more appeal here to the male reader, but not at the expense of women who will enjoy this as well.
  • This one is less static; there are more locations; there is more action.
  • There is a fun reference to “that book where God is an African-American woman,”  and readers of “that book” and others like it will enjoy this.
  • The back cover of the book, above the bar code, doesn’t indicate the title as fiction which, in terms of literary genre, it clearly is. Not sure why.

At $14.95 U.S., hardcover gift books like these are not cheap, but they are certainly worth giving to the right person who is struggling with a present Christian life that doesn’t equal past Christian experiences; or is simply longing, as we all do, for something more.

October 19, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Not the most focused list this week — certainly nothing like the one two weeks ago — this one is rather random.  But it will take you to places you might not otherwise have visited…

  • Jeff Fischer guests at Near Emmaus and suggests that Adam — as in Book of Genesis Adam — is actually a metaphor.
  • Tom wants to ban the use of the word ‘church’ in North America for five years.
  • The ever provocative Mark Driscoll apparently preached a sermon titled God Hates You, so Sarah wants him to know that, despite this, God loves him.
  • It’s bad enough getting hate-filled comments at your blog, but even worse when you trace the IP address back to what is almost surely someone from your former church.
  • Bible aficionado J. Mark Bertrand spends some time sniffing the pages of The Arion Press NRSV Bible which is actually too heavy to be carried in the processional.
  • Jennell Williams Paris — who never met a topic she couldn’t tackle — thinks online dating sites are appropriate for Christians.  But Leslie Ludy disagrees strongly.
  • Another one of those articles promoting the idea of not delaying marriage, i.e. marrying young.
  • Kent Shaffer profiles the Water of Life filtration system being implemented by Compassion International.  This one works with water sourced from less desirable places than water obtained from wells.
  • Matt attends the Catalyst Conference and walks away feeling uncomfortable about the idea of ‘big church’.
  • Jesus said we could ask for anything and He would do it, but it’s hard to see results while we maintain traces of doubt that would appear to nullify the offer. So what did Jesus mean?
  • When his 28-year old gay son arrives at a midweek meeting with his boyfriend, the pastor yells “Sic ’em,” as the two are kicked and punched. (Note: This source isn’t a Christian blog, but I feel we need to be aware what is taking place and how it is perceived.)
  • A Wiccan claims she learned all about astrology from C. S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy series.   (Note: This one ain’t a Christian blog either, or even close, but again, if you’re open to reading, the first seven or eight paragraphs will give you an idea of how some people view the world.)
  • Christian bookstore owners find out why the DVD series based on Janette Oke‘s eight book Love Comes Softly series suddenly has a # 9 and a #10.
  • I’m not sure who the Reeds are, or how they originally got on my blogroll, but Joe Reed’s family of missionaries in South Africa got robbed this month, which can take awhile to sort through.
  • I guess that wraps up this week, except for the weather forecast: Slightly overcast with a chance of passing showers, but we don’t expect the rain to last —

August 16, 2011

The Well by Mark Hall Turns John Chapter Four On Its Head

John’s gospel, chapter four.  Some of you might even have it memorized.  Jesus.  A Samaritan woman.  A conversation of at high noon.  We call the story, “The Woman at the Well.” 

But Jesus promises her living water.  He tells her that he is that living water.  The structure they are standing beside is just a hole in the ground.  He — Jesus — is the well.  We should call it “The Woman Who Spoke to a Well.”

That’s my paraphrase.  And that’s just my takeaway from the first chapter of Mark Hall’s book The Well: Why Are So Many Still Thirsty? (Zondervan).  Additional insights from the lead singer and road pastor of the Christian music group Casting Crowns tumble out of each successive chapter.  And I don’t believe in packing book reviews with spoilers, so you’ll have to get the book. 

The Well would certainly suit any Casting Crowns fan, but this is a book that really transcends age or level of spiritual maturity.  There’s enough here for everyone.  Having said that however, I really hope that, with its straightforward writing style, The Well finds a market among teens and twenty-somethings.  I know some stores will stock this in the music section, but it needs to be in the youth section as well.

But also in the self-help section.  As Hall points out, the problem stated in the book’s subtitle is that we tend to look for hope and help from substitute wells — approval, control, resourcefulness, talent, entitlement; looking for “something else,” even religion — instead of looking to The One who is The Well.

When I finished the book, I immediately started in again, reading four chapters out loud in our family devotional time.  We really liked an insight into the time, just before his ascension, Jesus builds a fire to cook fish.  A detail I’d missed.  And will never miss again.  But you’ll have to get the book.

This one’s a keeper.

The Well: Why Are So Many Still Thirsty? by Mark Hall with Tim Luke publishes the first week in September from Zondervan in paper at $14.99 U.S.

April 23, 2011

Stuck in Saturday: Pete Wilson

I remember reading this section when I read Pete Wilson’s book Plan B, and so when Pete blogged it this weekend, I knew it was the perfect post for Saturday here as well.  The following is just a preview; you’ll have to click this link to read the whole article in context, which I hope you’ll do right now.

It was Friday, remember, when Jesus was crucified.  But the paralyzing hopelessness the disciples experienced continued to intensify as they moved into Saturday.

I think it’s interesting that we don’t talk a lot about Saturday in the church.  We spend a lot of time talking about Good Friday, which of course we should.  This is the day redemption happened through the shedding of Christ’s blood.  It’s a very important day.

Nobody would argue that Easter Sunday is a day of celebration.  We celebrate that Jesus conquered death so that we can have life.  It doesn’t get any better than Easter Sunday.

But we don’t hear a lot about Saturday do we?

Click here to pick up this section in context.

April 21, 2011

Judas’ Betrayal versus Peter’s Denial

Judas.

Peter.

Who screwed up most?

Does it matter?

This week I’ve been reading a classic, The First Easter, by Peter Marshall.  It’s written in a style that actually reminds me so much of Rob Bell’s writing.  I’ve been reading out loud as part of our family Bible study, and I’ve divided into seven sections of about twenty pages each.  Last night was the middle part, which seemed to portray clearly great remorse on Judas’ part.

I have sinned in that I have betrayed innocent blood… Jesus of Nazareth.  He had done nothing amiss.

In a piece at the CNN Belief blog, Craig Gross discusses this topic in great detail.  He describes asking his Facebook network if they believe Judas is in heaven or hell today?  The first response is dogmatic.

Judas is in hell today.  He’s been there for 2,000 years and he’ll be there forever.

Craig is not impressed.  He notes how convinced everyone is that their view is correct.  As if it matters.   I know there have been times in my life where I denied the Savior.  Maybe not as overt as Peter.  And I’m sure if I look there have been times where, by some mis-step, some mis-statement, some inflection or even laughter, I have betrayed the cause of Christ.   Perhaps not with the same historical significance, but then, who is to say?  Craig reminds me:

It is easier to debate these issues and make speculations about others than it is to actually look at ourselves in the mirror. It is always easier to think someone else is worse off then we are.

I guess my greater concern is how all of this puts the focus on the wrong person.  Judas or Peter are not what this weekend is all about.  It’s all about Jesus.  It always has been.   It’s a time to gaze deep into the eyes of the suffering Christ and through His pain, see Him reflecting back lavish amounts of love.  To me.  To you.

Allow nothing to take the focus off where it belongs.  It was our sin — just as bad or worse than Peter’s or Judas’ — that put Jesus on the cross, but He willingly allowed this to give us a future and a hope.

Allow the love of Jesus Christ to overwhelm you in the next 96 hours as we remember His death, and His triumph over death.

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