Thinking Out Loud

July 16, 2017

We’re Back from Europe

We are back from eleven days in Europe

In the early days of my reading faith-focused blogs — approximately 2005 to 2009 — I was often disappointed to turn to some of my favorite writers only to learn they had taken the day to talk about their latest vacation. This occurred at a time when even an out-of-state (or province in our case) trip would have been impossible. Over the years there have been four significant factors preventing us from going anywhere. In order:

  • Raising children, including one who would have been considered special needs at the time.
  • My health; though we did take some road trips.
  • Economics, especially in the sense of affording air travel.
  • My parents health which perhaps wasn’t always as much a barrier as we thought, but certainly did require us to be in daily contact, which would have complicated an overseas holiday.

So when the opportunity to catch up arose, we selected a package which took us to Hungary, Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic. We also passed through Slovakia which I later got to visit more closely while Ruth took a different side trip.

I knew nothing of these countries prior to leaving and did not have time to do much research. I probably could have pointed to Germany on a map and said something about wiener schnitzel, polka music and beer. (For the record, I don’t remember hearing an accordion and my beer consumption consisted of splitting one with my wife on the last day of the trip.)

As familiar as sightseeing destinations are in Paris and England and Rome, the recent terrorist activity in the first two doesn’t lend itself to worry-free touring. (I’ll grant that Germany has not escaped such events.) So we chose this particular set of countries. They were different. They were unknown. They were a nine-hour flight away.

The trip was certainly eye-opening. As I sit typing this at 5:45 in the morning — my body confused by the six hour time difference — I am reminded particularly of our reaction the first day to the historical sections of Budapest on our first full day, and our first glimpse of the old town of Prague last Wednesday. It was surreal.

We were there. It wasn’t a movie set. We saw it. We felt the bricks. We walked on the cobblestones. We pinched ourselves a few times to make sure it wasn’t a dream.

In North America, generally speaking nothing old is older than the late 1700s. Our old buildings are mostly mid-to-late 1800s. In Europe, tour guides speak of a structure saying, “this was erected in the year 921” as casually as they are reminding you not to leave personal belongings on the bus. “…And the one on the left was built in the 1100s.”

Europe is also all about cathedrals. Our last tour director — the trip was in two stages — told us that many travelers reach a the ABC stage, meaning “Another bloody castle.” But they might also say, “Another bloody cathedral.” You know your brain is saturated when, knowing the ornateness and beauty that awaits inside, you pass by because you are simply cathedraled-out.

But it does offer the opportunity to consider a number of faith-focused things. Tomorrow we’ll look at the emergence of a new group of conservative Christians in Germany, and then move on to look at

  • The very not-seeker-sensitive synagogue district in Prague
  • Resenting the church’s wealth
  • Church funding in Germany
  • Meeting people who grew up Godless

and other topics as I think of them and go through our pictures.

So that’s the line-up for this week, plus hopefully a return of the link list on Wednesday.

If you don’t want to hear about someone’s holiday excursion when having one of your own seems remote right now, please understand I totally get that.



The Eugene Peterson Thing

On the last few days of our trip an interview Religion News’ Jonathan Merritt did with Eugene Peterson blew up into a major tempest and then within 24 hours, as quickly as it had begun, the gale subsided. We’ll obviously be focused on other things this week, but here’s a 7:00 AM Sunday morning update from Religion News in case you missed it:

  • Jonathan Merritt’s column was actually the third in a series of Q&As with the author. | Read the story
  • Merritt’s question to Peterson was by no means unfounded, especially given what he said in this 2014 video. | Read the story
  • Our summer intern Madeleine Buckley looked at other prominent Christians who’ve had a change of heart on LGBT issues. | Read the story
  • Commentator Jacob Lupfer says the controversy shows that Peterson is exactly where most non-mainline Christians are — “confused, conflicted, and torn between fidelity to beliefs … and compassion for people they know and love.” | Read the story

Note: I thought what Peterson said about engaging in hypotheticals in interviews like this was brilliant; it’s hard for a pastor to answer a question which begins if there was a gay couple and if they were Christians and if they asked you to marry them…

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June 14, 2016

What Every Conservative Christian Needs To Know About The Pride Flag

Today’s post needs a three point set-up. First of all, our friend Martin D. at Flagrant Regard broke radio silence with his first blog post in eight months. Second I believe he posted this before the news from Orlando hit; there is no direct connection as to the timing. Third, this begins with a distinctly Canadian perspective, but I think the rest of it is fully accessible to readers in various countries.

We wanted to share this with readers here, but I’m going to close comments so that you can respond directly at his blog. Click the title below, and then scroll down to “Comments Most Welcome.”

TRUE COLORS: What Every Conservative Christian Needs To Know About The Pride Flag

In light of two recent events; one being the declaration by mayor John Tory that June 2016 is ‘Pride Month’ in Toronto, and the other, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s hoisting the pride flag at the house of commons in Canada’s capital just over a week ago, it’s understandable why traditional or conservative Christians are a tad ticked off.

Most evangelicals and Roman Catholics continue to maintain that homosexuality or same-sex partnering/parenting is not God’s default design for men and women and believe it to be an outworking of the sinful nature. And because of that, they are annoyed at how much attention the pride movement gets. We’ve gone from years of having an entire week dedicated to pride celebrations to a month long event and hey, the way things are headed, 2017 is setting up to be Pride year and 2020 ‘ll be ‘Pride Decade’.

Since the early days of gay activism, the Pride flag has stood as the primary token for anyone celebrating the movement that declares ‘we are separate and different in our sexuality and are not going to stay quiet about it’. The proponents of the movement claim it’s about the freedom to love whomever they want, but let’s be real here – it’s about being fully open in regards to what kind of sex you want to have and with whom.

Stretching from the last quarter of the 20th century and up to the present day, conservative Christians have been angered that the pride movement ‘stole the symbol of the rainbow’ from God or God’s word and that their using it in their parades or as decorations for their front porch was blasphemous and highly disrespectful of the religious community.

But is that really what’s happened? Is the Pride flag even what we think it is?

Here’s a little bit of history:

According to Wikipedia, gay icon Harvey Milk encouraged homosexual activist Gilbert Baker to come up with a symbol of pride for the gay community. His original design was a flag consisting of 8 colors, starting with pink at the top (not a big surprise there!). Apparently, due to fabric unavailability, pink was dropped from the design between 1978 and 79. The flag’s design was left with the 7 colors that corresponded with nature during the formation of a rainbow or when pure light is refracted through a clear glass prism. Those colors are, in case you wondered,

Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet.

But then something interesting happened. By 1979, the Gay Pride Flag (as it was referred to back then – there was no LGBTQIA) was reduced from 7 colors to 6! Indigo and turquoise (turquoise is not a colour natural to rainbows, per se) were dropped in favor of Royal Blue.

Since then, this 6 colour combination has represented the pride movement and has been presumed by most, to represent the rainbow – an atmospheric phenomena and symbol that the God of Judaism gave Noah after the flood. For those rare few of you who don’t know the history – the flood – a world-wide event referenced by many cultures throughout the planet via writings or oral legends – was a real event. The Jewish or Old Testament take on it was that the earth was full of wickedness and had to be purged via a one-off deluge that would wipe out humanity save for one family that would afterward be responsible for repopulating the planet with hopefully less evil than had gone before them. At the end of the flood, and at God’s bidding, the rainbow appeared in the sky to Noah – patriarch of the rescued family – and represented the promise made by God to never fully waterboard humanity again.

Even though this information is out there, there will nonetheless be a lot of religious folk who get bent out of shape whenever they see the pride flag, believing their cherished faith or perceived symbols of their faith (namely the rainbow) are being flouted.

Maybe a different perspective here will help.

ONE: The pride flag doesn’t represent a real rainbow! It isn’t reflective of what occurs normally and naturally in the physical world. It is a banding of 6 – NOT 7! – colours that have absolutely nothing to do with God’s promises or the bible.

TWO: Even if the flag WERE a real rainbow and LGBTQIA folks were deliberately ripping it off from the bible to annoy conservative Christians who don’t acknowledge the pride movement or who don’t wish to give ascent to their sexual proclivities, they shouldn’t be surprised!

Committed Christians are told in Scripture that:

“At the end of time, some will ridicule the faithful and follow their lusts to the grave.” These are the men among you—those who divide friends, those concerned ultimately with this world, those without the Spirit.”
Jude, v.8

“Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.”
1 John, chap. 3, v.13

“In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…”
2 Timothy, Chap. 3, v.12

Bible-adherent Christians should expect to be called out or persecuted by those who don’t like them because of their stance on the Truth of God’s word and the healthy, holy direction God wants His children – his people – to follow.

If you are a conservative Christian who is annoyed by the pride-Nazis (those in-your-face proponents of the alternative-sexuality lifestyle) and their influence on society or the pride movement parades – grow a backbone!

Throw a heterosexual pride parade, write a blog-post about your beliefs or write your local politician stating that you are not standing with them if they decide to ride the Tranny-float down the main drag in your fine city. There are probably many things you can do but kvetching isn’t really one of them. Nonetheless, if you’re going to speak out against or attempt to hamper the pride movement’s influence through legal, worthwhile means, remember this one thing: GOD HELP YOU if you don’t love with all your heart every single person – gay or straight – that wants to attack you for what you believe and WHO you believe in.

We’re told to BLESS those who persecute us* – ‘Bless and do not curse’. Love and be ready to serve any and every LGBTQIA soul who does not love you and your reward in the next life is great! Don’t forget that.

Lastly – relax when it comes to the rainbow. It’s still yours … all 7 colors. It was never really taken from you. It’s still there echoing God’s promise to not super-soak humanity in a watery death. I think it’s more important that we realize that through Jesus, we all have been offered the waters of life. Waters that if imbibed of deeply and consistently – will alter us from the inside out and ensure His true colors come shining through – in our every word and every action.

© 2016 Flagrant Regard; Used by permission


* Paul’s Letter to the Romans, Chap. 12, Verse 14 &
Luke’s Gospel, Chap. 6, Verses 28-36

 

February 26, 2015

Destiny Image Publishing Cancels Book by Progressive Christian Writer

I thought it was strange that the first I heard that blogger Brandan Robertson had become the Christian publishing news-maker of the week, it was a story at the online page of TIME Magazine, not my usual Christian information channels. The book in question was Nomad: Not-So-Religious Thoughts on Faith, Doubt, and the Journey In Between, scheduled for release October 20, 2015 by Charismatic publisher Destiny Image.

Brandan RobertsonThe article begins,

A prominent Christian publisher canceled a book project this week after the author refused to say that he did “not condone, encourage or accept the homosexual lifestyle,” the author told TIME.

Okay, so it was the gay thing again. End of story, right?

For its part, Destiny Image was dodging the issue:

When TIME asked [Don] Nori why Destiny pulled the book, Nori did not address the role that Robertson’s position on sexuality played in their decision: “There is nothing significant to report,” Nori says. “We did not reject or refuse. As with all books, a publisher decides what is financially viable. We released the book back to the author with our sincere prayers for his success. This occurrence happens every season.”

The implication is that here, in the first quarter of 2015, the sales force had already determined that there wasn’t enough interest in a book scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2015. Seems a bit far off, doesn’t it?

Furthermore, there was one report that the word gay only occurred one time in the final manuscript which the publisher had received only hours before.

The more I thought about this, the more weird it seemed that Destiny Image had tapped Robertson for a book at all. Destiny Image is a publisher of Charismatic books. Their top titles at Spring Arbor Distributors and Send the Light Distribution include The Maker’s Diet, When Heaven Invades Earth, The Lady in Waiting, Hosting the Presence, The Supernatural Ways of Royalty, The 40-Day Soul Fast, and God’s Armor Bearer and they have been home to authors such as Myles Munroe, Bill Johnson and T. D. Jakes.  Knowing that, I reached out to Brandan on Twitter:

Brandan, As a longtime veteran of the Christian bookstore business, I don’t know how the heck you ended up with Destiny Image in the first place.

But then two days ago Brandan wrote a blog post which got picked up by Huffington Post yesterday which sets the scene a little clearer:

…My former publisher, Destiny Image, signed me in March 2014 to be one of the first in their new “progressive” line of books along with books by my friend Benjamin L. Corey (who blogs at Patheos Progressive). As a then 21 year old senior in college, I was excited at the opportunity to turn so many of the thoughts that I had been sharing through my blog Revangelical into a book, a dream that I have had since I was a child. My book was to be a collection of memoir-essays that outlined some of the most important lessons that I have learned over the course of my spiritual journey thus far. I would be raw and honest, but also seek to write from an evangelical perspective to evangelicals. In order to do that, I intentionally kept out a chapter on sexuality, hoping to not detract from the broader message I was trying to communicate…

Okay, so it’s the progressive publishing imprint thing again. End of story, right?

Don’t they ever learn?

This is so reminiscent of the situation with Waterbrook. If you’ve forgotten, they published a book — God and the Gay Christian — which also caught some flak because of sexuality issues. But then, they argued that the book was issued under the Convergent imprint, not Waterbrook per se. That didn’t fly with anyone, since the other imprint shared the same acquisitions and editorial staff. So the company severed the two divisions, as they should have from the outset.

Destiny Image had not announced a different imprint. The book was listed at two industry sites as being issued under the parent label.

Like Rob Bell, Robertson’s book was not afraid to ask questions. The author is quoted on the book’s page at Ingram Book Company of which Spring Arbor Distributors is the Christian distribution arm:

Nomad - Brandan RobertsonToo often in Christianity we equate wandering with negative categories like eternal damnation, deception, and going “astray.” We have often stigmatized those who wander from our group as weak and easily deceived. But what if we’ve been wrong? What if ones tendency to go wander off is truly a gift? What if the driving force beneath the curiosity that leads a person to wander off the beaten path is not immaturity, but the wild, untamable Spirit of God, drawing them into the foliage to be refined, to discover fresh insights, and pioneer a new way forward for a new group of people?

That’s how I have come to understand my life and my calling. I have come to appreciate and not fear getting myself lost. In my disorientation, I am forced to attune myself to the gentle breeze of God’s Spirit and allow myself to be moved into new, unexplored territories. Sure, it’s scary sometimes. Uncomfortable most of the time. But it’s always rewarding.

So here’s my advice to Christian publishers: You want to attract an edgier type of reader? Fine. But if you’re playing with fire, be prepared to get burned. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t have controversy without… controversy. Make up your mind to just go for it, and then be all in, or find a different avenue that will help you make your sales targets.

The book has been released back to the author, and after the publicity that has been generated, Brandan should have no problem getting it published, and may not have to wait until October if the new publisher decides to fast-track it to take advantage of the newly-generated interest.

Finally, if you think this is just desserts for an author that was probably too young to have this publishing opportunity bestowed on him in the first place, you might want to hold back that thought; his resumé is impressive. The information Destiny Image supplied to Ingram notes:

Brandan Robertson is a writer, speaker, activist, and the dreamer behind the Revangelical Movement. Brandan has a B.A. in Pastoral Studies and Bible from Moody Bible Institute in Chicago (as of May 2014) and is pursuing his M.Div. Degree from Wesley Theological Seminary (August 2014). Brandan writes for Revangelical, Red Letter Christians, Sojourners, and IMPACT Magazine and has been a featured contributor to a number of well-read blogs and news outlets. Brandan is also the host of the Revangelical Podcast and the director of an action-oriented social justice initiative called “Revangelicals for a Better Tomorrow.” He is also a sought after consultant to churches, denominations, and faith-based organizations on issues of the faith of the millennial generation and issues surrounding building bridges across religious, cultural, and political divides.

In other words, while I’m sure the offer was flattering at the time, he doesn’t need Destiny Image to get his message out.

December 2, 2014

Book Review: Compassion Without Compromise

Compassion Without CompromiseIn many ways, the most epic achievement a book can offer is living up to the rather grand premise of a challenging title. Compassion Without Compromise: How the Gospel Frees Us to Love Our Gay Friends Without Losing the Truth (Baker Books) takes on this challenge and provides a thorough examination of the present climate in the Church and the broader culture with very different approaches in each of the ten chapters.

I tried to read this book imagining its impact on people with whom I have conversations on this topic, people who find themselves immersed in this issue because of relationships with sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, brothers, sisters, neighbors, co-workers, or fellow-students; as well as a few people who are either gay themselves (both out, outed or closeted) or dealing with curiosity or confusion.

Probably some of them would say the book leans more on the side of conviction and less on the side of compassion. I’m not sure that is avoidable, given the context of the larger Christian publishing environment. What I do see however is that the heart of the authors’ intent comes through at various points and there is a solid attempt at trying to be compassionate without discounting what they see as Biblical absolutes.

Still, there are people for whom I would recommend this, even as they find they find themselves in the middle of a situation where they, or someone they know is dealing with either overt homosexuality or quiet same sex attraction. Adam Barr and Ron Citlau approach this book in their role as pastors who have counseled many people on this subject, and Ron brings the added empathy of someone who, by his own admission, was much involved in the gay sex scene before his life changed 17 years ago.

There were a couple of sections toward the end of the book I felt the authors handled very well. One was a dismissal of the argument that many of the laws in Leviticus no longer apply today, so why should we hang on to one single aspect of sexuality, when we are quick to ignore prohibitions against, for example, wearing clothing of mixed fibers? The authors point out four specific Old Testament commandments concerning sex that are repeated in the New Testament. That chapter is must reading, especially if you have a friend who keeps raising this particular objection.

The other section I liked, though it will frustrate some readers, was a Q & Q chapter — I’ve named it that because there were no answers, hence not Q & A — listing all of the various scenarios currently encountered as a result of the rapidly changing culture. (Though about ten common sample questions are dealt with.) I found this catalog of thorny issues and hot potatoes, most of which are not so hypothetical, to be useful in understanding the challenges Christians now face. But I also wished that chapter had appeared at the beginning of the book, and had in fact been the basis of what followed. To get that far in and realize how many practical situations need to be wrestled with was to feel that in its short 140 or so pages, the book had only begun to deal with the larger topic.

Yes, we can have compassion without compromising convictions, but doing so involves a softening our attitude and also earning the right to be heard, while maintaining respect for God’s best.


Read an excerpt from Compassion Without Compromise at Christianity 201


Compassion Without Compromise was provided to Thinking Out Loud by the blog review program of Baker Books.

 

October 28, 2014

The Westboro Saga Continues

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:03 am

Religion News Service posted an interesting story and video last week. As many of you know the Westboro Baptist Church property sits just 50 feet away from another home in the suburban neighborhood that mounted a counter-protest by painting the siding in the rainbow colors of gay rights.

I decided to check out the divide first hand on Google Street View and captured this:

Westboro Baptist and its Neighbor - from Google Street View

Two things surprised me. The first was how sedate and suburban the street is. The second was how unimposing the Westboro building is, given their worldwide infamy. (Was the word ‘God’ in the banner blurred out by Google, or was that just a camera thing?)

The video includes a visit to WBC’s protest sign library; they are prepared for all contingencies. This movement is not going away anytime soon, as some thought it might with the passing of Fred Phelps, Sr.

The other interesting moment for me was a quotation from one of their neighbors from the house by a member of the group Planting Peace, “…the perfect opportunity to promote freedom of speech, and also again to show the obvious juxtaposition: Where there’s hate, there’s love.”

Yes. Except the hate adjective here belongs to self-styled “Christians.” In a public relations contest, the gay-rights people would win all the votes of an unbiased audience.

I decided not to embed the video which features drag queen Gabby Godiva, but you can send RNS reporter Sally Morrow some click-love by watching the video and reading the story at source.

October 11, 2014

Letter to a Gay Teen Who Feels They Can’t Go On

I wrote the letter which follows this intro three years ago after another gay teen committed suicide, this one in a city which isn’t too far away from here. At the time, I said I felt it was becoming contagious.

I say contagious knowing I have the right to use that word. I remember years ago meeting with a California couple whose marriage counselor told them, “The best advice I can give you is to move out-of-state.”

In the late ’70s, divorce was rampant on the west coast. Today that advice wouldn’t work, since divorce is everywhere. But the counselor recognized that there was a ‘climate of divorce’ there at the time and if you could get away from it, you had a better chance.

Today, with the internet, there’s no getting away from social trends, and to be gay in 2014 is to realize that bullying can indirectly take the life of your peers. When I wrote this in 2011, with no disrepect intended, I wrote, “They’re dropping out of the sky on a weekly basis.” One campaign says, “It gets better,” but honestly it doesn’t appear to get better, certainly not for the average adolescent high school student. The boy in the story, who was 15, said he simply wasn’t up for waiting three years.

Reports at the time implied that he left a suicide note on his blog. That’s not entirely accurate. As I scrolled through the 30 pages of that blog it was obvious to me that the entire three months he posted (apparently replacing a previous blog) it was, from the beginning, full of pain, full of angst. The blog was like one long march toward a suicide that appeared somewhat inevitable. Did people see that? What if the right person had picked up on that and been able to intervene?

It’s unlikely that readers of this blog would ever stumble across the writing of a teen like Jamie. But if I did, would I simply click away? Perhaps the best thing would be to leave a note; a note something like this:

Dear __________,

Somehow I found your blog today. I’m from a different part of the world, and a different generation, but I want you to know that there is no mistaking your pain, and I could feel that pain in your writing and I care very deeply for you.

High School can be a terrible environment. People commit verbal and physical abuse easily, and even the kid with the greatest degree of conformity can unwittingly become the target of the week. The bullies act out on their own insecurities, perhaps even insecurities as to their own sexual identity, though you don’t dare suggest that out loud.

Your life is a story that’s being written page-by-page, day-by-day. Only you get to choose the ending. I know you’re going through a period of depression, but your story doesn’t have to have a tragic ending. It doesn’t have to go the way you think it does. Your story can have an ending where you conquer, where you rise above the circumstances and perhaps even get to change some of the circumstances. You can write new chapters where things move in a different direction, where you can look back and say, ‘It didn’t get better overnight, but here’s a scene that was the beginning of where it got better.’

You should also know there are now alternative high schools where people are more accepting of your present sexual orientation. You might want to seriously look into that. Your parents would have probably helped you with college and university costs, they just need to be convinced that in your case you need that help sooner. But you might be able to find something closer to home if you live in a larger city. There are many ways to get that high school diploma.

I said present sexual orientation, not because I want to get into that discussion, but because you’re still fairly young, and like I said, there are always new chapters being written. On the one hand, I recognize that you know your feelings better than anyone, so the people who say, ‘This is just a phase he’s going through,’ aren’t being honest about how things are. But on the other hand, I wouldn’t want you to believe the lie that says, ‘This is who I am.’ Your sexual identity isn’t 100% of who you are, what you can accomplish and the person you can become. If you write on a piece of paper, ‘I am gay;’ write it in pencil, not in pen. You might actually some day need the eraser. I say that not because I’m doubting the reality of who you are now, but simply because, as a young teen, you are still a work in progress.

I should probably end by telling you that part of the reason I’m taking the time to write this is because I believe in a God that loves all people and therefore doesn’t hate anyone. I’ve seen other blogs written by young teens who are gay but have a deep faith, and are trying to follow Jesus in every aspect of their life. They pray, they read the Bible, and they try to find ways to serve others in Christ’s name. They are making a difference in their world. I have no doubt about that, but of course, also being gay, they remain a bit of a mystery to some of my Christian friends. I think God’s capable of sorting that, and I invite you to reach out to him in prayer, because I believe that He alone is the only source capable of helping you through the pain. I believe if you take one step toward him, he will come running to you.

Paul.


March 1, 2013

March Madness, Blog Style

I don’t do repeats here until the piece is a year old.  So a new month always offers new items from the previous year that you may have missed… (Apologies to email subscribers…this is long!)


A Letter to the Nominating Committee

Dear Nominating Committee;

Visiting your church for the first time last Sunday, I noticed an announcement in the bulletin concerning the need for board members and elders for the 2012-2013 year. I am herewith offering my services.

While I realize that the fact I don’t actually attend your church may seem like a drawback at first, I believe that it actually lends itself to something that would be of great benefit to you right now: A fresh perspective.

Think about it — I don’t know any one of you by name, don’t know the history of the church and have no idea what previous issues you’ve wrestled with as a congregation. Furthermore, because I won’t be there on Sundays, I won’t have the bias of being directly impacted by anything I decide to vote for or against. I offer you pure objectivity.

Plus, as I will only be one of ten people voting on major issues, there’s no way I can do anything drastic single-handedly. But at the discussion phase of each agenda item, I can offer my wisdom and experience based on a lifetime of church attendance in a variety of denominations.

Churches need to periodically have some new voices at the table. I am sure that when your people see a completely unrecognizable name on the ballot, they will agree that introducing new faces at the leadership level can’t hurt.

I promise never to miss a board or committee meeting, even if I’m not always around for anything else.

I hope you will give this as much prayerful consideration as I have.

Most sincerely,


This Song Should Be the Anthem of Churches Everywhere

I was scrolling through the CCLI top 200 worship songs, and it occurred to me there is a song that really needs to be there; in fact it really needs to be part of the repertoire of every church using modern worship.

Eddie Kirkland is a worship leader at Atlanta’s North Point Community Church, where, just to warn ya, the worship set may seem to some of you more like a rock concert than a Sunday service. But I hope you’ll see past that and enjoy the song.

We want to be a church where freedom reigns
We want to be a people full of grace
We want to be a shelter where the broken find their place
We want to be refuge for the weak
We want to be a light for the world to see
We want to be a love the breaks the walls and fill the streets…

All are welcome here
As we are, as we are
For our God is near every heart

If those sentiments are not the goal of where you attend on Sundays, frankly, I think you’re doing it wrong.

Here’s another version of the song that was used as part of North Point’s Be Rich campaign, where each year, instead of reinventing the charity wheel, NPCC members flood secular social service organizations with money and volunteer hours.

Watch the song a few times, and then forward the link to today’s blog post — http://wp.me/pfdhA-3en — to the worship leader at your church.

If a church of any size desires to live up to what this song expresses, there’s nothing stopping that church from changing the world.


Qualifying “It Gets Better”

One of the Church’s biggest failures of the past decade has been our reaction, and over-reaction to the LGBT community, especially to those who — absent the treatment they see their peers receiving — hold on to a faith in the Messiah-ship of Jesus Christ.

On the one hand, there are the usual conservative voices who insist that any gay sympathies constitute an automatic ticket to hell. Frankly, I am curious to see who shows up to picket at their funerals.

On the other hand, there are among the more progressive progressives, certain Christian bloggers who in their compassion have thrown out a lot of the core of the Bible’s ideal for family, procreation and partnership.

And now, to add to our confusion, we discover that Psalm 139, the scripture used as a major element in the argument against abortion, is used as a rallying cry for gay and lesbian Christians. Regardless of which translation is employed.

Anyway, I’ve already blogged my personal place of balance on this issue, but in thinking about it this week, I’ve realized that my particular choice of words has a bearing on another commonly heard phrase particularly among teenagers who either come out of the closet by choice or who are outed by their classmates.

The phrase is, “It gets better.”

For the bullied, the confused and the lonely, I certainly hope it does. Soon.

But I have to say this, and maybe this can be your response as well, “It gets better, but it doesn’t necessarily get best.”

In other words; I’m there for you.

I understand.

I’m not someone looking at this from the detachment of an outsider; I’ve read your blogs, I’ve looked in to your online discussions. I do get it.

But with all the love in my heart, I just think that ultimately, God has something else in mind which, because He made it, is perfect.

So yes, it gets better, thought it doesn’t necessarily get best.


A Powerful Story Echoes Three Decades Later

This was recorded nearly 30 years ago at a Christian music festival somewhere in Canada. Nancyjo Mann was lead singer in the band Barnabas. I always knew that I had this in my possession — on VHS, no less — and have always felt that more people need to see it. For those of you who knew me back in the days of the Searchlight Video Roadshow, you’ll remember that I often closed each night with this particular testimony.

November 3, 2012

Greg Boyd Tackles Politically Hot Issues

“We all fall down; the difference between a saint and a sinner is that we get up again.” ~Greg Boyd.

Sometimes before Greg Boyd, pastor of Woodland Hills Church in Minneapolis, starts his sermon, he takes a few minutes to look at the issue(s) of the day.

In this case 20 minutes.

The issue is the Gay Marriage Amendment. But it’s not about the issue. It’s about how Christians ought to handle all issues of this nature. It’s about finding a third way between the extremes.

“The arch-enemy of God in scripture is Satan and he’s called the accuser; the who points out peoples’ sin and holds it against them. The shocking and tragic truth is that this has been the role that the church has played throughout history.” ~Greg Boyd

Apologies to those of you who live in areas where you can’t enjoy these video embeds. I fought using them here for nearly three years but there is simply soooooo much material that deserves wider exposure.

“The sins that the church in America tend to be most guilty of… tend to be the ones that are most emphatically denounced in scripture.” ~Greg Boyd.

“So if we’re doing our job as ministers of reconciliation, we should be the last people on the planet that would ever point out someone else’s sin if they haven’t invited us to do so, and hold it against them” ~Greg Boyd

October 5, 2012

If You’re Gay But Not Happy

It’s been a year since I ran the letter which appears below, a letter occasioned by the suicide of a young gay teen. It’s not a perfect letter, but I felt it needed to appear again. What follows is something that really matters.

I’ve written other comments here about how I interpret the present social climate, and I don’t believe the issue is black and white, therefore I avoid words like right and wrong. That may disturb some of my more conservative readers, but their perspective might be different if the issue had literally come home.

This was also written in response to a couple of blogs by gay Christian teens that I was following a year ago when I wrote it. It expresses my heartfelt hope for their future and my desire to see their faith grow.

Dear __________,

Somehow I found your blog today. I’m from a different part of the world, and a different generation, but I want you to know that there is no mistaking your pain, and I could feel that pain in your writing and I care very deeply for you.

High School can be a terrible environment. People commit verbal and physical abuse easily, and even the kid with the greatest degree of conformity can unwittingly become the target of the week. The bullies act out on their own insecurities, perhaps even insecurities as to their own sexual identity, though you don’t dare suggest that out loud.Your life is a story that’s being written page-by-page, day-by-day. Only you get to choose the ending. I know you’re going through a period of depression, but your story doesn’t have to have a tragic ending. It doesn’t have to go the way you think it does. Your story can have an ending where you conquer, where you rise above the circumstances and perhaps even get to change some of the circumstances. You can write new chapters where things move in a different direction, where you can look back and say, ‘It didn’t get better overnight, but here’s a scene that was the beginning of where it got better.’

You should also know there are now alternative high schools where people are more accepting of your present sexual orientation. You might want to seriously look into that. Your parents would have probably helped you with college and university costs, they just need to be convinced that in your case you need that help sooner. But you might be able to find something closer to home if you live in a larger city. There are many ways to get that high school diploma.

I said present sexual orientation, not because I want to get into that discussion, but because you’re still fairly young, and like I said, there are always new chapters being written. On the one hand, I recognize that you know your feelings better than anyone, so the people who say, ‘This is just a phase he’s going through,’ aren’t being honest about how things are. But on the other hand, I wouldn’t want you to believe the lie that says, ‘This is who I am.’ Your sexual identity isn’t 100% of who you are, what you can accomplish and the person you can become. If you write on a piece of paper, ‘I am gay;’ write it in pencil, not in pen. You might actually some day need the eraser. I say that not because I’m doubting the reality of who you are now, but simply because, as a young teen, you are still a work in progress.

I should probably end by telling you that part of the reason I’m taking the time to write this is because I believe in a God that loves all people and therefore doesn’t hate anyone. I’ve seen other blogs written by young teens who are gay but have a deep faith, and are trying to follow Jesus in every aspect of their life. They pray, they read the Bible, and they try to find ways to serve others in Christ’s name. They are making a difference in their world. I have no doubt about that, but of course, also being gay, they remain a bit of a mystery to some of my friends and even me at times. I think God’s capable of sorting that, and I invite you to reach out to him in prayer, because I believe that He alone is the only source capable of helping you through the pain. I believe if you take one step toward him, he will come running to you.

Paul.


*see comments

March 29, 2012

Compassion Tempered With Concern

One of the Church’s biggest failures of the past decade has been our reaction, and over-reaction to the LGBT community, especially to those who — absent the treatment they see their peers receiving — hold on to a faith in the Messiah-ship of Jesus Christ.

On the one hand, there are the usual conservative voices who insist that any gay sympathies constitute an automatic ticket to hell. Frankly, I am curious to see who shows up to picket at their funerals.

On the other hand, there are among the more progressive progressives, certain Christian bloggers who in their compassion have thrown out a lot of the core of the Bible’s ideal for family, procreation and partnership.

And now, to add to our confusion, we discover that Psalm 139,  the scripture used as a major element in the argument against abortion, is used as a rallying cry for gay and lesbian Christians. Regardless of which translation is employed.

Anyway, I’ve already blogged my personal place of balance on this issue, but in thinking about it this week, I’ve realized that my particular choice of words has a bearing on another commonly heard phrase particularly among teenagers who either come out of the closet by choice or who are outed by their classmates.

The phrase is, “It gets better.”

For the bullied, the confused and the lonely, I certainly hope it does. Soon.

But I have to say this, and maybe this can be your response as well, “It gets better, but it doesn’t necessarily get best.”

In other words; I’m there for you.

I understand.

I’m not someone looking at this from the detachment of an outsider; I’ve read your blogs, I’ve looked in to your online discussions. I do get it.

But with all the love in my heart, I just think that ultimately, God has something else in mind which, because He made it, is perfect. 

So yes, it gets better, thought it doesn’t necessarily get best.

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