Thinking Out Loud

May 22, 2019

Wednesday Connect

Another collection of links to stories and opinion pieces you might not have seen elsewhere this week. Subscribers should hang on to last week’s email, since the picture which led the list was ultimately deleted — see the comments — though some were disappointed that we removed it.

■ You have to worry when the latest article about James MacDonald ends with this sentence: “Under Illinois law, a person who requests or encourages someone to murder another person is guilty of solicitation of murder which is a Class X felony which comes with a 15-30 years prison sentence.”

■ Is it time for Roman Catholics to completely rethink the office of priest? The problem is the sexual abuse scandals: “The celibacy of priests, which grew out of the practice of ascetic monks and hermits, may have been put forward, early on, as a mode of intimacy with God, appropriate for a few. But over time the cult of celibacy and virginity developed an inhuman aspect—a broader devaluation and suspicion of bodily experience. It also had a pragmatic rationale. In the Middle Ages, as vast land holdings and treasure came under Church control, priestly celibacy was made mandatory in order to thwart inheritance claims by the offspring of prelates. Seen this way, celibacy was less a matter of spirituality than of power.”

■ Christian television network destroyed by firebombing: “The Jerusalem studio of Daystar, one of the largest Christian networks in the world, was firebombed over the weekend. The attack destroyed Daystar’s new studio but the network plans to rebuild. The fire began early Saturday morning when an arsonist threw a firebomb into the facility. Daystar was in the midst of a major renovation and upgrade of its studio in Jerusalem overlooking Mount Zion and the Mount of Olives. The fire destroyed the new work and much of the existing facility.”

■ Being a Good Samaritan will cost you: “As the Trump administration moves on multiple fronts to shut down illegal border crossings, it has also stepped up punitive measures targeting private citizens who provide compassionate help to migrants — “good Samaritan” aid that is often intended to save lives along a border that runs through hundreds of miles of remote terrain that can be brutally unforgiving.” Teresa Todd didn’t feel she was doing anything wrong. She is both the city attorney of Marfa, Texas., and the county attorney of Jeff Davis County, an elected position. She told The New York Times, “It’s been pretty transformative for me, to be perfectly honest. To have devoted my life to public service, and then to be… detained and investigated as if I’m a human smuggler.” 

■ An outstanding Australian Rugby player has had his $4 million dollar contract ripped up because he tweeted some Bible verses. “The words he cited are from 1 Corinthians 6:9-14 which are about sin and repentance and who will be admitted to the Kingdom of God.” (Yes, it’s about that issue. Again.)

■ New Music: Normally I position the music videos further down the list, but over the years my wife and I have come to really appreciate the music of Josh Garrels, and I hope you`ll enjoy this new song: Closer Than a Brother.  (The song that got us hooked was Farther Along.)

■ Old Music: You really feel you`re getting old when you read that Steven Curtis Chapman`s latest album was released under the Gaither Gospel Series banner. “The CD showcases live, acoustic performances of Chapman’s most popular hits and gospel classics, which capture the heart of the man behind countless inspiring lyrics and career masterpieces…” There’s also a DVD version with additional documentary material. 

■ China Watch: “A pastor in Shangqiu city in Henan province told Bitter Winter that local communist officials told him to delete a theological statement from his sermon – “God made heaven and earth, and created everything” – and to include more Chinese traditions and beliefs. The pastor leads a government-registered Three-Self Protestant church and had sent his sermon to local authorities for approval.”

■ Abortion: The issue isn’t black and white. The author sees herself as both pro-life and pro-choice. ” I seemed convinced that abortion supporters didn’t appreciate the gravity of later-term abortion. But the opposite is true. Nobody understands this issue better than women who have actually had a late-term abortion. By listening to their stories, I’ve come to see that the tragedy of this procedure, sought in desperation, is well understood by the women receiving it.” “…What I do know for sure is that I care about all lives, and that includes the lives of women contemplating abortion…”

■ Bible Translations: You can always use one more. “…Still, it’s because we’re so rich with Bible translations that we ought to take advantage of our wealth. There’s much to be gained from reading the Bible in more than one translation.”

■ Evangelical Christian publishing in perspective: Literary Hub looks at women authors in particular. As to the whole industry it notes: “It’s an industry whose target consumers make up a percentage of annual book sales ($600 million) that’s smaller than annual worldwide sales of Garfield merchandise, but still occupies a powerful place in its target demo’s consciousness.”

■ Although the same percentage of people in the U.S. and Canada claim no religious affiliation — referred to as ‘the nones’ — it’s easier to be unaffiliated in Canada. “With religion playing a less important role in Canadian public life, Canadians don’t view their country as a “Christian nation.” That also makes it increasingly easier for Canadians to say they don’t belong to any religious group.” The difference is the subject of a forthcoming book.

■ Opinion piece at Baptist News: “Could the Constitutional right to own guns be in direct conflict with the Christian responsibility to love one’s neighbor, protect human life and prioritize the vulnerable?” The author writes, “There are now more guns than people in the United States. I wonder if we don’t love guns more than we love God or other people.”

■ Less than seven months after the passing of her husband, Janice Peterson, wife of author Eugene Peterson has died.

■ Best Tweet of the Week: This church actually did this, and one comment suggested they do it ever year. (Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.)

■ On the big screen, but not where you live: The story of Australian missionary Graham Staines, who was murdered in India in 1999 is Opening this week in cinemas across Australia. The Least of These is a major new movie revolving around the killing — they were burned alive — of Gladys’ Staines’ husband and two sons, Philip (10) and Timothy (6), when the Staines worked with people affected by leprosy. Stephen Baldwin plays the role of Graham Staines. Read the story of this remarkable woman and the media onslaught with the resurrection of the story through the film’s release. Also, watch the 2½ minute trailer.

■ ‘Sozo Prayer’ – Ever heard of it? Just when I thought we’d covered all the ‘uniqueness’ (he said politely) of all the teachings at Bethel Church, we hear about another one. “Sozo is not counseling, it is not a prayer ministry, it is a team of people going in helping you make that connection with the Godhead and thus have a place to go to deal with all the issues and crises that will happen with you…” The sessions typically run one to three hours. [Note to readers: There is a second page to this; equally informative.]

■ Georgia’s new abortion law: The governor fights back: “Over the weekend, Georgia’s governor, Brian Kemp, mocked the ‘C-list celebrities’ vowing to boycott the Peach State after he signed into law a bill banning abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detectable, which usually occurs about six weeks into pregnancy.” Yeah, that was the right response.

■ Cheery Video of the Week: Momento Mori (Remember That You Will Die). (It’s a 2 minute apologetic for apologetics, among other things.)

■ Touching: A death row inmate asks for the cost of his last meal to be given to the homeless.

■ For those who arrive at church and wonder why they’re not having the same jumping-up-and-down experience as the people all around them, or the people on the platform: God may have wired you differently.

■ In the UK things just keep getting increasingly more liberal. Now this: “The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has voted to campaign for the decriminalization of prostitution.”

■ New Music: Crowder joins Social Club Misfits for the song Testify.

■ Christian celebrity hot gossip: After not dating for ten years, comedian John Christ is in a relationship with country singer Lauren Alaina.

■ Finally if you missed our “Christian Captcha” earlier this week; here’s another look.

She notes, “To be clear, I do not plan to have children and Jubal and I are not married. It was a nice dress, but I hope that people focus on things other than my clothing when I preach.

After the Rapture: He was taking advantage of the first really warm Spring day to hang some laundry outside when it happened.


May 15, 2019

Wednesday Connect


So once again, we find ourselves with a link list where the lead items all concern the conservative church knee-jerking about a woman in ministry. I am so glad I follow a different God than theirs. There. I said it. And I’m not even a fan of this week’s featured target. But she deserves better.

■ Woman “A” doesn’t think Woman “B” (as in ‘B is for Beth Moore’) should preach, even on Mother’s Day. “When a pastor invites a woman to sin by taking over the pulpit, he drags her and the women of his church right back to post-Fall Eden.” …

■ … and then Woman “B” (as in ‘B is for Beth Moore’) had a few things to say about it herself. “…Then I realized it was not over Scripture at all. It was over sin. It was over power. It was over misogyny. Sexism. It was about arrogance. About protecting systems. It involved covering abuses and misses of power. Shepherds guarding other shepherds instead of guarding the sheep.” …

■ …Or appropriately, this summary of the events: “Beth Moore preaching on Mother’s Day in the SBC, and men are losing their minds.” (Right now, as I type this, probably many a complementarian is pulling out his hair or dealing with elevated blood pressure. As for me, I’m making myself a sandwich. This is not a hill to be on.)

■ Going about it the right way: “Even though the Roman Catholic Church teaches that all life has dignity and abortion is a moral evil, a Catholic college in Montana is dictating to its Students For Life group how they should criticize Planned Parenthood, both on campus and online.”

■ Months later, the botched adoption story continues. The Canadian government simply refuses to move for this couple who now alternate between their home in Canada and, most recently, Ghana. Click the link, and be sure to read the whole thing. A travesty for which Canada should be ashamed… 

■ …and while we’re talking Canada, sadly, the movie Unplanned will not be playing in Canadian theaters. The two largest film distributors in the country said ‘content’ as the issue, “not lack of consumer demand.

■ Persecution Watch: “In a blow to the country’s Christian and other minorities, the military council in control of Sudan has affirmed that future legislation should continue to be based on sharia law.”

■ Donald Lawrence, a Gospel music artist claims to be doing more than just singing: “‘Spiritual Song Psychotherapy (and) Spiritual Lyric Psychotherapy Is a concept I’ve toyed around with for the last 8-12 years,’ he revealed. ‘It’s the idea of delivering spiritual psychology/ psychotherapy to (the) listener in song form knowing that repeating a healing phrase over and over will have a certain neurological effect, changing the way the listener speaks and thinks while also changing the way the subconscious reacts to a past challenge…'”

■ Quotation of the Week: Garrison Keillor in an article on Julian of Norwich (14th Century): “In 1351, Pope Clement VI himself railed against his own highest-ranking clergy: ‘What can you preach to the people? If on humility, you yourselves are the proudest of the world, puffed up, pompous and sumptuous in luxuries. If on poverty, you are so covetous that all the benefices in the world are not enough for you. If on chastity — but we will be silent on this, for God knoweth what each man does and how many of you satisfy your lusts.'”

■ We saved the best RHE tribute for last: Ed Cyzewski’s tribute to Rachel Held Evans. “She showed so many of us that we could do the heavy lifting of theology and still share compelling stories and narratives…One pastor noted that she had created a work of pastoral performance art that resembled the prophetic tradition…I cannot fathom the scope of this tragedy for her family at this time. Everything about this feels wrong and unfair for her children and husband…”

■ Essay of the Week: The Housechurch Movement Ruined My Life. “People who have written books and lead conferences will volunteer to come and teach your group how have a meeting with no one leading, but often the “model” of how to do housechurch often is restrictive and strangles things that would bring life to the group…Also, there are some house church experts who ban musicial instruments during singing because anyone playing a guitar would be “too much of a leader” in a fiercely leaderless movement. As a result, singing worship songs often loses something that only an instrument can provide, and its not a small thing that gets lost.” This is a longer piece, and while it’s subjective, it’s thoroughly considered and worth the time.

■ Warren Throckmorton points out that Gospel for Asia is saying to those entitled to receive funds out of the class lawsuit filed against it, essentially something like, ‘Once you get your money back, consider donating back to Gospel for Asia.’ A mass mailing reads, “I have submitted our claim in this settlement for 100% of what we are eligible to claim. I plan to take all the money I can from my claim, minus an amount I will need to set aside for taxes, and donate it back to GFA to their general fund to help cover the 11 million dollars it has to raise for the settlement.” Writers such as that one are presented as believing they are in disagreement with the lawsuit. Others might feel, ‘Once bitten, twice shy.’

■ Burning sage to rid your house of evil spirits? Charisma first reported on this in December, but it’s becoming more widespread: “This practice of saging a house is common among followers of New Age and shamanistic beliefs, and sadly, is becoming increasingly popular in Christian homes. Why would this practice go against Christian beliefs?” Read more here. Or this answer at

■ How the church widely deals with people with a porn problem: “For instance, in many church communities over the last several decades, sins like pornography use have essentially become earners of scarlet letters. Porn is seen by many as the unpardonable sin. But if we continue preaching, discipling, and counseling this way, we will soon find that we’ve excommunicated our church into oblivion!” (Read that last phrase again.)

■ Comparing my religion: Comparing our Christianity with our Jewish counterparts, even as, in this article, American Jews compare their rate of engagement with their Canadian counterparts. Relatively speaking Canadians are all in. (My guess is the same isn’t true for Christianity, but then again, if we’re measuring engagement as opposed to raw attendance numbers, I am willing to be proved wrong.)

■ Arizona pastor banned in Ireland: “Irish Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan signed an order under the Immigration Act 1999 forbidding the entry of Steven L. Anderson, pastor of Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, ahead of a visit to Dublin that Anderson said he had scheduled for May 26. His visit’s purpose was to preach to an unspecified congregation, according to the newspaper. It was the first exclusion order signed since the law was enacted.”

■ Nepotism is alive and well at New Destiny Christian Center, as televangelist Paula White (spiritual advisor to one Donald J. Trump) turns the lead pastorate of the church over to her son Brad. “Does it seem like favoritism to elevate an associate pastor and donor relations coordinator as senior pastors when, seemingly, there are more qualified church members on staff? To me, yes. But I can also understand that it is probably challenging to build a church or parachurch ministry and not want to choose your child, who you trust, as successor.”

■ Debriefing Mother’s Day: “When we expect others to fulfill our need for affirmation, a root of idolatry is revealed. God sees you. God loves you. God rewards those who faithfully serve Him. You will only find yourself fulfilled when you are working to please your Creator.”

■ Noteworthy here for its excellent portrayal of a large American Roman Catholic family in the 1970s, ABC-TV has cancelled The Kids Are Alright. This “gem of a show” isn’t getting to see a second season.

■ Group Publishing is back this year with WonderFull World, another VBS for adults. Actually they’re women’s retreats in a box, but since we started calling them adult VBS, it kinda stuck here at Wednesday Connect Central. This one has a travel theme.

■ Lev Bure, the 19-year-old son of actress Candice Cameron Bure, and nephew of Kirk Cameron was one of five younger leaders who got to preach this week at Shepherd Church, a non-denominational church in Los Angeles. Lev spoke on “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” 

■ We linked to this guy’s video when he toured a Greek Orthodox Church, so we thought we’d check out his discovery of Anglicanism. However, this “Ten Minute Bible Hour” does run 53 minutes, so we didn’t quite finish. Really good though; he picks good churches/pastors to film/interview.

■ Finally, for me, the punchline was in the last paragraph. The man standing through his car sunroof with his hands raised at speeds up to 100 mph while the car was on a cruise control “thought it would be a nice way to praise God for a minute.”

May 9, 2019

The Contagion of Mass Violence

Despite what these nuns may think, the gun issue in the United States is no laughing matter.

School shootings have now been with us for a generation; two decades. Or so some news media would have us think, preferring to use the Columbine (Littleton) event as a game changer. In fact, a look at the School Shootings List on Wikipedia shows that incidents so classified go back to the 1800s.

A close look at the list shows that Columbine had been preceded by just eleven months by an event in Springfield, Oregon where four people were killed but 25 were injured.

There are also two other significant outliers: In August, 1966, 18 people were killed at the University of Texas (Austin) tower shooting; and in May, 1986 there was an event in Cokeville, Wyoming involving a bomb which injured 79, though only one death, other than the perpetrators’, involved gunfire.

When you scroll through the whole list however, events since the year 2000 take up far more than half the page, so the Columbine thesis has some validity.

I’ve written about this subject before and it has often brought accusations that I, writing outside the United States, should not be meddling in the gun control issue, since that is a political issue that Americans need to work out on their own. So I won’t state the obvious here and suggest that maybe, just maybe, civilian access to the AR-15 is a bad idea.

But when I’ve written before, I’ve talked about the idea that the killer(s) had no regard for human life.

While I believe that there is a contagion of gun violence — not dissimilar to other things which have swept through U.S. culture, such as the contagion of divorce — I think we need to dig a little deeper and try to figure what has fostered the disregard for human life.

Hang on, this is going to sound very 1950-ish or 60-ish.

I believe American television has played a role. A big role.

Last week I was watching a situation comedy on a U.S. network. Lighthearted fare. Watched by families and children.

During the second commercial break, which included promotions for upcoming shows, I watched three people get killed.

I found it interesting that here was broadcast content advertising programs which probably aren’t allowed to be shown before 9:00 PM, and yet at 8:17 they can air scenes depicting the very violence which causes those programs to be designated for later viewing.

How many shootings have American kids watched on television compared to their UK counterparts?

I think the answer would be significant because UK adventures/suspense/mystery programs wouldn’t broadcast people pulling out guns and committing murder if in fact the weapons are not in the average citizen’s possession in real life.

Up to this very day, it is widely agreed that the focus of censorship in the U.S. has always been on sexual content not violent content, whereas in parts of Europe violence is censored and the treatment of sexual scenes is more liberal. Do American television networks have complicity in the gun violence we’ve been seeing since 1991? Or the actors themselves? When I wrote about this on Twitter, I received this comment “The irony is Hollywood actors who speak out about gun violence but make millions of dollars wielding and shooting guns in their movies.”

Do British children have a higher regard for human life?

I don’t think that television is the only factor at work; furthermore if there is a contagion of violence, those germs are capable of crossing the ocean through social media and the export of U.S. film industry products around the world.

Children are imitative. If that’s what we show them, that’s what they grow up thinking is normal behavior. We’re telling them that life is cheap.

So to my American friends, yes by all means look at gun control and even the Second Amendment itself.

But also look at media control, broadcast control, film industry control.


May 8, 2019

Wednesday Connect

This is my new cover image on Twitter, Delivery of the Keys, or Entrega de las llaves a San Pedro by 15th Century artist Perugino. Just between you and me, I don’t think what is pictured ever happened; that there were literal keys, or that Peter was the beginning of a Papal succession. However, the version I cropped fit the Twitter image requirements perfectly, and in the end, that was all that mattered. More about the painting at this Wikipedia page.

Welcome back! Again, my hope is you see something here you might have missed elsewhere. Really, there was only one story this week of significance,* so we’ll move on, as hard as it is to imagine the Christian internet world (and Twitter) without Rachel Held Evans. If you missed it, see the three previous blog posts here.

■ Warner Sallman: The guy whose picture of Jesus was once found in more churches and hospitals than any other image. “What changed in the 20th century with Sallman, was that Jesus images met American advertising and mass production. Prayer met plastic… Despite his beard, the “Head of Christ” is anything but hipster irony…Apparently, Sallman was attempting to create a more masculine Jesus than earlier portrayals. Ironically, many now find his Jesus effeminate — demonstrating the extent to which definitions of “masculine” are cultural and fluid rather than biological. In Jesus’ own day, and as a Jew in the Roman Empire, masculinity was as contested then as it is now.”

■ Former Templeton Prize winner Jean Vanier passed away in Paris yesterday, May 7th. The author of many, many books (published in several languages) some would know him better as a one-time mentor to Henri Nouwen. Vanier was 90 and died after spending just a few weeks in palliative care.

■ The Chabad of Poway synagogue shooter: “He attended an Orthodox Presbyterian Church. His parents seem to be faithful believers. His father is an elder at the church. His pastor preaches the Gospel. Yet he was infected with vile and murderous anti-Semitism and white nationalism…The shooting in Poway is a terrifying reminder that the church isn’t immune to any moral malady that stalks our land. It may land within the church with varying degrees of intensity and frequency, but it will land in the church.”

■ The downside of personality tests. “It’s no secret that the science behind personality tests is shady. Mainly because we typically view ourselves in the best light. Personality tests are often just as solid an indication of our self-idolatry intricacies as our God-given intricacies.”

■ A response to last week’s sweeping endorsement of cannabis by founder Craig Gross: “[M]y marijuana use ended as I yielded to the Holy Spirit’s guidance… The adventure of experiencing God’s presence and loving pursuit has displaced the need for so many things I’d previously used to manage life and to meet my own needs.”

■ If you’re keeping slaves, you don’t want them owning Bibles containing Israel’s exodus from Egypt.

■ Just when a bunch of boomers are getting ready to die, the funeral industry is being shaken. “…Somber, embalmed-body funerals, with their $9,000 industry average price tag, are, for many families, a relic. Instead, end-of-life ceremonies are being personalized: golf-course cocktail send-offs, backyard potluck memorials, more Sinatra and Clapton, less “Ave Maria,” more Hawaiian shirts, fewer dark suits. Families want to put the “fun” in funerals…The movement will only accelerate as the nation approaches a historic spike in deaths. Baby boomers, despite strenuous efforts to stall the aging process, are not getting any younger…” The Washington Post reports on “thinking outside the box. (With fewer weddings and funerals, what will provide extra cash for pastors a decade from now?)

■ ‘James MacDonald, you stole Fizzy Lifting Drinks, so you get nothing.’

■ The lead story yesterday at CBN News was a report on “hundreds of poor Christian girls [as young as 13] who have been trafficked to China in a market for brides that has swiftly grown in Pakistan since late last year… Brokers are aggressively seeking out girls for Chinese men, sometimes even cruising outside churches to ask for potential brides. They are being helped by Christian clerics paid to target impoverished parents in their congregation with promises of wealth in exchange for their daughters. Parents receive several thousand dollars and are told that their new sons-in-law are wealthy Christian converts. The grooms turn out to be neither…”

■ Exposing the dangers of Bethel Church: Apologia Studios posted this 50-minute video podcast “explosive and compelling story of Lindsay Davis who defected from Bethel.”

■ Missionary Matters (1): When you’re an overseas missionary, and the government in the country where you’re serving announces that there will be rotating power cuts for 72 days, you need to put into place a “Power’s Out Protocol.” There are seven principles here which do export well back to us in North American and Western Europe, but I think for myself at least, it would be called an “Internet’s Out Protocol.”

■ Missionary Matters (2): When your grandchildren will never see the place you currently call home, and all your once-treasured possessions back in the States have been given away, leaving a legacy, even if that means something as simple as planting a walnut tree, may seem pointless until you learn to think about it differently

■ Roger Olson on the Jesus People movement: “In short, I think the Jesus movement of the 1970s was a mixed blessing. It was a true revival, but it came at the cost of anti-intellectualism and anti-tradition in churches where at least some appreciation of theology and serious biblical study and traditional theologically-rich hymns had been present.” He attempts the argument that the movement is responsible for the watering down of the modern church. (But solely responsible? C’mon, Roger.)

■ A sad headline: “A Christian Mom’s Worst Nightmare: Her Son Converted to Islam and Died for ISIS, Now She’s on a Mission.”

■ The Twitter curiosity known as Dave Gass, “who after being a devout Christian for 40 years and a pastor for 20 years has decided that the religion is a hoax and only a means to control people and culture and not an actual direct path to God or a spiritual being.” [Source: Ann Brock.] He writes, “ After 40 years of being a devout follower, 20 of those being an evangelical pastor, I am walking away from faith.” However, there’s another element to the story, and after that is revealed, one reader correctly notes, “[The] problem is you implied you left active ministry due to your loss of faith and not the loss of credibility in your conduct required in Christian circles. Much of what you said was true regarding Christianity, the lack of disclosure throws all of your motives into doubt.” [Also, atheist and humanist bloggers are having a field day with this guy’s story.]

■ Frightening: Children’s Church when I grew up was never like this. Video has surfaced of kids as young as 5 at a Philadelphia Islamic Center singing, “We will chop off their heads…and we will subject them to eternal torture.

■ Unexpected source, much wisdom: “As for those of us who are still in the land of the living, if we can’t be civil and gracious when a 37-year-old wife and mother passes away, we had better to do some serious questioning of our own faith.”

■ Parenting Place (1): To spank or not to spank? A balanced article on the subject, with a ten point guide on how to — or how not to — administer loving correction.

■ Parenting Place (2): Exposing your kids to other cultures. “On one of those first trips, when my youngest was only four years old, we walked past a group of women, covered head-to-toe in solid black burkas with only small slits for their eyes visible and she tugged on my arm. I leaned down and she asked in her tiny innocent voice if the “black angels” were good or bad. Her heart was pure but her question still broke my heart because she asked it in fear of what she didn’t understand. I whispered that they were good.” [Warning: This is obviously a recommended article, but my AdBlock was blocking no less than 36 elements, and there was pop-up that popped up three times. This was truly the worst of anything I’ve ever seen online, and you might want to visit just on that basis alone.]

■ New Music from 🇬🇧 – Iron Lung by Martin Smith (of Delirious) (Title song from the new album)

■ New Music from 🇺🇸 – House on a Hill (Acoustic) by Amanda Cook (of Bethel Music)

■ New Music from 🇨🇦 – Into the Wild by Manic Drive (Winner of the 2019 Juno Award for Gospel/Christian Album of the Year; the Junos are Canada’s equivalent to the Grammy Awards.) 

■ Mini Podcast of the Week: A Catholic take on whether or not we should work on Sundays. (It’s not about money changing hands, so you can still go out for brunch after mass.)

■ Watch your scripture citations. Double check the references.

■ Finally — Back to the Bee: Basics for Bassists from the Fender Guitar people (as pictured below). All you really need for today’s worship music.

*There were a number of other articles about Rachel that we didn’t get to yesterday that were posted at the Tuesday link list at Phoenix Preacher. I’ve have read some but not all of these:

Response to P& P on the death of Rachel Held Evans

RIP Rachel Held Evans…

Four gifts RHE gave us…

Jesus Creed on RHE…

Relevant on RHE…

RHE and the democratization of theology…

May 1, 2019

Wednesday Connect

So there was no way we were going to a story about leggings without shopping around to see if there was a Christian equivalent of the mainstream fashion item. We found this one at…

…and this one, too which at least doesn’t have a crotch print. Christian t-shirts? That’s so last year. More leggings here.

After a week’s absence, welcome back! I’m working on a borrowed computer for this edition, with my own still a shadow of its former self. Since there was no post last week, this might be longer. And remember, if we’re not here, there’s always Twitter. 

Also, since we last met #PrayForRHE has become a rallying cry for Christians around the world lifting up prayer for author and speaker Rachel Held Evans. On April 19th, husband Dan wrote, “During treatment for an infection Rachel began exhibiting unexpected symptoms. Doctors found that her brain was experiencing constant seizures. She is currently in the ICU. She is in a medically induced coma while the doctors work to determine the cause and solution.” She’s been in three facilities and is currently being weaned out of the coma as I write this. Updates from Dan at her blog.

Must reading: Things to think about before stopping a random disabled person in the street and offering to pray for their healing. (This BBC article is longer, but worth the time.) Were he physically incarnate again, would Jesus heal today in the same manner as he did in the Gospels?

■ Another one going off the rails? Highly respected for his work in founding anti-pornography ministry, Craig Gross has launched Christian Canabis and recommends weed as an aid to worship. No it’s not a month-late April Fool’s story; it appeared Monday in The Christian Post. The quote: “I’ve never lifted my hands in a worship service ever, ‘cause I was raised Baptist. … I’ve done that in my bathroom worshiping with marijuana by myself.”

■ Absent from the body: The British and Australian approach to dead bodies differs from the American penchant for embalming and displaying the body of the deceased. Michael Frost reflects on what this means, especially in this post-Lent season.

■ Important reading: Everything your church team — at all levels — needs to know about ministry to step-families (i.e. blended families). All the family life dynamics are unique.

■ Available for viewing: When Christianity Today published James MacDonald’s apologetic for suing other Christians, two people wrote well-considered op-eds — if you don’t know the term it’s like “equal time” for the opposing viewpoint — in response. Now you can read both of those pieces at Wartburg Watch.

■ This Ramadan, many Muslims are choosing to follow Christ. “It is one thing for a Muslim to begin the journey of faith in Christ, but another to keep pressing on in this journey, year after lonely year. If they are rejected by their birth community without really finding a new community in Christ, they are left isolated and vulnerable. They need Christ’s followers to be new ‘family’ to them.” 

Tribute: In one of his best articles yet, Carey Nieuwhof asks who will replace Eugene Peterson and others like him when that generation passes from the scene. Seven important things that people of Peterson’s ilk have in common.

■ World Watch: Updates on past killings/abductions in Kenya and Nigeria where despite the fact that half of the girls abducted were freed, 112 are still missing

■ More political than I like to get here: The National Review notes that cozying up to the President as Franklin Graham has done comes at a cost to Evangelicalism.

■ The new battleground for the church: …[wait for it]… Leggings! “The only thing people like more than wearing leggings is getting mad about leggings. In the sphere of public debate, leggings have become the symbol of slipping standards.”

■ Plagiarism of Sermons: A “time honored Baptist tradition.” (Even after the story illustrations have been proven to be hoaxes.) 

■ As one reader so eloquently commented, “This is classic Michael Spencer, where he dared to ask difficult questions of himself and dared to expose some of his own garbage. Indeed, what do we do with sins that we’ve been forgiven of by God, yet others not so much (and not so much maybe with good reason)?” Discover the transparency of the late founder of the blog Internet Monk

Worth Applauding: Pathway Church in Wichita, Kansas purchased the medical debt of 1,600 families in their area. Lead pastor Todd Carter told the church on Easter Sunday, “I want you to imagine for a moment what those 1,600 people felt like last week when they got that letter in the mail. What was going on in those houses when they got that letter in the mail and all of a sudden they realize that their debt, this debt that has been hanging over their head has been forgiven… that’s exactly what God in the person of Jesus Christ wants you to feel each and every day – that your debt has been forgiven.”

■ Thanks, but no thanks: “Eight teenagers, aged 13 and 14, who make up this year’s confirmation class at First United Methodist Church in Omaha, Neb., stood before the congregation on Confirmation Sunday (April 28) and read a letter saying they do not want to become members at this time. The teens said they took their stand on principle because they believed the denomination’s vote to uphold and strengthen its ban on LGBTQ ordination and marriage to be ‘immoral’ and ‘unjust.’

■ Ripple Effect: It is now being reported that child and teen suicides spiked after the airing of 13 Reasons Why on Netflix. The third season is about to begin.

■ Tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches: “Sadly, a lot of a church ministry strategy uses the tomato sandwich method. These strategies get people into programs, but the programs don’t bring lasting heart change.” This essay reminds me why J.D. Greear is such a good writer. Is your church using the wrong ministry strategy?

■ Opinion: Will your church be alive in ten years? “61 percent of American churches have fewer than 100 members. Many of these small churches are in a death spiral, but it is not the size of the congregation that creates the trajectory toward death.”

■ Homeschooling: Not for the benefit of the children as much for the benefit of the parent: “One of the primary means by which God works out the selfishness and carnality in our lives is by allowing crisis into our lives to show us what we are truly like. To accomplish this more effectively, God hand-crafted customized little button-pushers, who are strategically designed to bring out the worst in us.” There is a great principle here, even if you don’t homeschool, or don’t even have kids.

■ Under-reported: An attack on a [Protestant] church in Burkina Faso killed five people on Sunday, local media reported. At least two other people were missing, according to a security source cited by the AFP news agency.

■ The problem with online dating sites: The first thing you see is a picture. “Charm is deceitful and beauty is fleeting.” [Warning: Another example of a great article rendered in that washed out light gray font someone thought was cool. I guess nothing is black-and-white anymore.]

■ Jory Micah doesn’t like the idea of God as a man. And truly God is neither male nor female. However, there is that nagging thing where incarnate, “he” showed up as a man not a woman. A to-be-expected Reformed rant (their word, not mine) responding to Jory’s “If God is a Man, Count Me Out” campaign.

American Gospel is the title of a 1 hour, 20 minute film on how Christianity has changed in the United States. It’s available free online in a full version or a one hour version. (The short version linked is actually the first 40 minutes of the film followed by endorsements. May contain Calvinism.)

Essay of the Week: Even adults encounter bullies. If you’ve been in a situation like this, the article will resonate, but it might also raise your blood pressure. “Maybe you’ve had something similar happen to you. Maybe you’ve been angered by mean people and have wondered why they can get away with it. It’s easy to walk away from this situation and chalk people like her up to the bullies of the earth. But that’s too easy.”

■ No, not kidding: Canada, which just this week won the award for “Best Bank Note” for its new $10 bill, is releasing a gay $1 coin. (The coin itself has no sexual preference.) “The Royal Canadian Mint has released a commemorative one-dollar coin… to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalization of the LGBTQ community.”

■ New Music ♫ – Sarah Kroger – For Us

■ New Music ♫ – Matthew West – Unplanned (from the movie) 

■ New Music ♫ – How Great Thou Art – Caleb and Kelsey (from Anthem Lights)

■ New Music ♫ – Unspoken – Human Condition

■ You won’t get an actual schedule of speakers for the 2019 Wild Goose Festival until a few weeks before the event, but there are clues here and here and here. (Why promote when you can tease?)

■ A bake shop employing girls in Thailand is an alternative to working in the sex trade. “Baking is cutting edge in Thailand. Most people do not have ovens in their homes. But cafes are becoming trendy and baked goods are in high demand. A kitchen where the girls can learn to bake will open the doors for incredible job opportunities in the future.”

■ Most provocative headline of the week: “BYU speaker comes out during commencement speech.” (BYU, or Brigham Young University is a Mormon school.) He said he is “proud to be a gay son of God.”

■ Harvest Bible Chapel: Responding to the ECFA (financial oversight organization) in the pages of the Chicago Tribune. Is this sticking a finger into the dyke or are they on a path toward fixing things once and for all?

Veggie Tales is back in the hands of the original creative team. “Brand-new episodes of VeggieTales are on the way, courtesy of a partnership between Trinity Broadcasting Network and Big Idea Content Group. Each episode will remain true to the classic VeggieTales brand to deliver clever storytelling, Biblically-based lessons, and memorable songs.” 

■ Finally, a peek inside the minvan with this Family on the Way to Church:

■ Well, that was depressing. Let’s try a different “finally…”

■ Bonus Twitter item

April 17, 2019

Wednesday Connect

The question everyone is asking this special week.

Welcome to a special economy edition of this week’s list. What it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quantity.

■ “In 2016 three jihadist women were arrested for plotting to blow up Notre Dame and last Friday, one of their number–Ines Madani–was sentenced in a French court. Curiously, a fire broke out near the Al Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem at the same time as the Notre Dame blaze.”

Essay of the Week: A Jewish perspective on Monday’s tragic fire: “Nevertheless, we Jews can and should mourn. We mourn, because Notre Dame is a sacred place. Even in a rapidly secularizing world (and even, ironically, in France, the country that gave birth to European secularism), holy places still matter… Notre Dame symbolizes transcendence. To be blunt and obvious: They don’t build places like that anymore. At least, not churches and synagogues. The builders of Notre Dame, along with other sacred places of its genre, intended for both worshippers and mere tourists to understand a central message: You, oh mortal, are small; God is great.”

■ And this quote: “What a terrible yet sufficient reminder that the hope and joy that built this great cathedral did not fall by the flame. It is alive and well.”

■ Meanwhile, a dramatic turnaround in the case of arson involving three historic churches in Louisiana, as the Sheriff Deputy turns in his own son. “Investigators arrested Holden Matthews on Wednesday evening. He was charged Thursday morning with three counts of simple arson of a religious building. The maximum penalty for each count is 15 years in prison.”

■ Pastorless Christians (and Bigfoot and Nessie): The consistent testimony of the New Testament, particularly in the Epistles, is that all true believers have pastors… A Christian should know the name of their pastor(s) and pastors should know the names of their flock. So, while it’s good to listen to solid preaching from afar, it’s impossible to be biblically pastored from a distance. And in the 21st century, you should be able to text your pastor.

■ …and speaking of people whose spiritual diet consists largely of Christian television, “New research out of the University of Toronto’s department of psychology in the Faculty of Arts & Science suggests that exposure to prosperity gospel messaging – thinking God wants you to be wealthy, prosperous and donate money to the church – makes you more likely to show an exaggerated and unrealistic sense of optimism for life and take more financial risks.”

■ Seizing the building, closing the church: “The congregation, True Jesus Church in Anping, had opened a new building in July 2018 that cost around $300,000 U.S. But the Chinese accused the congregation of being in contact with foreign governments. The Chinese plan on converting the building to a nursing home… “

■ …It gets worse with this headline: Chinese City Offers $1,500 USD Reward for Snitching on Christians. “The plan, officially known as the ‘Implementation Plan on the Special Governance of Private Christian Gathering Sites,’ not only created mandatory ‘church-free zones,’ but also required churches to give the names of youth members to the local government…”

■ …But it’s not just Christians that China has in its cross-hairs; it’s Muslims as well. “China hopes to predict which of its peoples will become ‘unsafe’ for the nation, perhaps before they act, and then arrest them accordingly.” They’re using high tech to track people by facial features.

■ “Every year in the United States, about 20 percent of adults live with a diagnosable mental illness. That’s about equal to the total percentage of people diagnosed with cancer, those living with heart disease, people infected with HIV and AIDS, and those afflicted with diabetes—combined!” And yet, “…of those who went to clergy for help, less than 10 percent were referred to a mental health professional who could help with treatment. This is alarming, especially considering that 25 percent of those who seek help in the church have the most serious forms of illness.” 

■ An appropriate defence, on behalf of Christian bloggers everywhere in response to horrible post condemning said writers: “Yes, it was a rant. It was a rant with no proof. In this post I did what [Greg] Gordon should have done. I linked directly to Gordon’s words. Gordon just made a buck of innuendos.”

■ In the UK, The Christian Institute continues to crusade for tighter controls on advertising which “normalizes” betting (particularly sports betting) which can be viewed by children. They would like to see something “similar to those applied in tobacco control.

■ Seasonal apologetics: “The Pharisees hated Jesus. They earnestly believed He was a deceiver, and recalled that Jesus foretold that after three days, He’d rise from the dead (Matt. 27:63). Governor Pilate granted their request to keep the peace and to prevent any uprising. The religious leaders wanted to thwart any idea that Jesus could rise from the dead. To them, this would be a worse deception than Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah.”

■ Seasonal vocabulary: 4½ Words you should know.

■ This isn’t a news item, but I think the popularity of Notre Dame Cathedral was largely owed to the fact it was in Paris, and was already part of a larger set of things to see and do in a tourist-destination city. But if Monday’s fire spurs an interest in cathedrals, the one in Cologne, Germany is worthy of equal interest. Its building began around the same time, but the work was halted in the1470s, where it sat unfinished for nearly 400 years. (We visited it last summer.)

■ If it’s true that many people in leadership are surprised to be there, here’s a 12-point review for those of you in congregational leadership (elders is the usual term) and are wondering how they got there.

🇨🇦 Canada Corner: Shootings in small non-denominational Canadian churches are rare. This one left one man dead.

■ Listicle of the Week (but well worth consideration): 8 Reasons A New Generation is Following the Allure of Liturgy.

■ Listicle of the Week (runner up!): 7 Truths About Marriage You Won’t Hear in Church.

♫ With five albums, Lou Fellingham is much better known in the UK than in North America. Her latest is Our God is For Us from the album Made For You.

♫ Gloria Gaynor, who had a hit song I Will Survive, has signed with Gaither Music Group for an album releasing early summer. (Not to be confused with Gloria Gaither.)

■ Words matter: Google is taking heat for placing the Unplanned movie in the category “Propaganda.” One observer wrote, “Who knew that ‘propaganda’ was a movie genre? Google once again exposing its gross political bias…”

■ You haven’t done it and you’re not likely to. 3 Reasons Christians Cannot Commit the Unforgivable Sin.

■ Congratulations to the Mount Herman Christian Writer’s Conference, which just concluded their 50th anniversary conference.

■ Finally, the last word today goes to Michele Bachmann: ““In my lifetime I have never seen a more biblical president than I have seen in Donald Trump… He is highly biblical and I would say to your listeners [that] we will, in all likelihood, never see a more godly, biblical president again in our lifetime.” [cricket, cricket…]

April 10, 2019

Wednesday Connect

Birds of a feather
Host conferences together. (2018)
Ed Stetzer quickly cuts a check to pay back Harvest Bible Chapel for a 1971 Volkswagen Beetle purchased with church funds for him by James MacDonald (see second item in the list)

While I do promise to deliver stories that you haven’t seen in the past seven days, I will admit that I am guilty of repeating some key sources here rather frequently. That’s because there are some websites and bloggers which simply never fail to deliver good material. They are always on my weekly shortlist. 

The stories in this list are carefully curated. So to our friends at The Christian Post, stop psychoanalyzing bloggers or painting us all with the same brush. Stick to writing the news. The image below is pinned to the account of @Tim_Good. It looks about right.

■ New Denom: On March 27th, a group of Anabapt-ish pastors and leaders met in Alexandria, Virginia to begin a more formal association of churches that will be known as The Jesus Collective. Watch the 3-minute promotional video.

■ Ed Stetzer is the latest individual whose name is entwined in the web of deception affiliated with the Harvest Bible Chapel/James MacDonald story. At issue is a classic 1971 Volkswagen convertible. “Harvest Attorney Christopher Nudo…confirmed that Walk in the Word had purchased the car for Stetzer last spring and that in March, Stetzer had reimbursed the ministry for the full amount of the car, just under $13,000. Nudo said the money for the car had come out of a Walk in the Word reserve account and added that he was 95% sure that former Harvest CFO Scott Milholland had cut the check. Nudo said two other people at Harvest almost certainly would have known about the purchase of the car with Walk in the Word funds—James MacDonald and his assistant, Sharon Kostal, who no longer works for the church…Though Stetzer’s car may be the only reported incidence of MacDonald gifting a big-ticket item to someone outside the church, several sources told me that MacDonald had a regular practice of giving large gifts with the church’s money to people inside Harvest…”

■ Significant: Ted Cruz is on the warpath after Yale Law School caved to pressure from pro-LGBT students when a lawyer from a Christian law firm was schedule to speak: “In his capacity as chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, [Cruz] intends to investigate the extent and nature of Yale’s discrimination against their own Christian and conservative students, continue gathering information from various sources within Yale Law, from faculty to students, and possibly hold a hearing to determine whether their rights are being violated by Yale, an institution which receives federal funds and is clearly prohibited from this sort of action.”

■ “One Sunday I was looking for a song I really like by Elevation Worship and I realized the lead singer was wearing a pair of Yeezy 750s. They’re pretty rare, they resell for 800 bucks or so. I thought I knew about church-type salaries — my wife works for a church — and so I was like, ‘This does not compute. How is this guy wearing these kicks?'” Who needs real estate listings when there’s enough excess to be found in the shoes worn by celebrity pastors

■ Looking at a rapidly growing church brand, C3. “C3 has refashioned religion as a trendy lifestyle brand. But when your version of Christianity says that the Bible is the literal word of God, the devil is real, we’re all spiritually lost, premarital sex is a sin, and gay marriage is definitely a sin, it can make the branding part a wee bit complicated… C3 is a distinctly 21st-century manifestation of a church, aesthetically engineered to be as appealing as possible to young people, then packaged for global reproducibility online and off.” (If the name is new to you consider that in 2005 — remember that’s 14 years ago — “an Australian business magazine reported that its global revenue was believed to be over $100 million. At the time, C3 had only 100 churches.”)

■ Parenting/KidMin: An article on captivating the wonder and imagination of children contains a few quotations from Phil Vischer: “We’ve found that superficial teaching leads to superficial Christians…” “Kids can learn more than we think. Adults can learn less than we would hope. We consistently underestimate what kids are capable of learning and overestimate what adults will learn. Kids still ask questions; grown ups stop asking questions.” The author doesn’t say, but doesn’t this imply something breaks down when adults are teaching Children about God?

■ The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) holds a Special Consultative Status with the United Nations. “Influencing a nation to modify its behavior or change its laws is difficult. Yet that is what we seek to do…Churches have been opened after being shut down because of our persuasive and persistent appeals. Pastors and missionaries have been set free through our personal intervention with a senior government leader. Proposed legislation to curtail religious freedom was not passed, after our personal mediation, and pastors in a closed country felt emboldened and secure to speak up against discrimination because they knew their voice was being relayed in Geneva.”

■ Testimony: “A couple of days after we buried our stillborn baby, God spoke to my wife. It was Krista’s first time returning to the grave after we’d buried Avery. As the van rolled up to the cemetery gate, a song started playing on the radio. Krista sat in the vehicle and listened as the artist declared that God does not abandon us in our sorrow. As she began to cry, the lyrics went on to assure her that God holds our tears. She hadn’t been asking God to speak to her. God’s voice came unexpectedly.” (From the 2019 Thomas Nelson book, Simply Spirit Filled by Andrew K. Gabriel.)

■ It was interesting to see this Christian Post article with Mike Huckabee, which doesn’t use the word ‘transgender’ and then compare it to The Friendly Atheist’s summary of it which lays all the problem of Christianity at the feet of transgendered people. (In fact, I would argue that for balance, you really must read both.)

■ One of the best known missions stories, through which Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Peter Fleming, and Roger Youderian became household names, is revisited in an Oxford University Press volume few of us can afford. The publisher of God in the Rainforest notes that this story of “Protestant missionary work among the Waorani came to be one of the missions most celebrated by Evangelicals and most severely criticized by anthropologists and others who accused missionaries of destroying the indigenous culture.” A career missionary reviewed the book and notes that i “seeks to tell the story of the Waorani from the standpoint of the people themselves, rather than explaining their lives through the eyes of others. They are presented as people with a complex and self-consistent society, in which violence is endemic. Far from being irrational savages, they come across as people like us, albeit living in a situation very unlike our own.”

■ The Early Church knew how to react when violence was the world’s default response.  This article is an exhaustive collection of some classic writings, such as Justin the Martyr: “We who formerly hated and murdered one another now live together and share the same table. We pray for our enemies and try to win those who hate us.” In a world of violence and terrorism, has the church lost the way of Shalom?

■ A 9-year old boy who died in 1964 had an unusual grasp of human suffering and the suffering of Christ. Pope Francis has decreed Nelson Santana to be recognized as a Saint.

■ Media Watch: The movie After, which opens Friday, has been called a 50 Shades of Gray for teens and tweens.

■ Provocative Headline of the Week: “Should busy pastors spend time and energy in the ‘dumpster fire’ of life in social media?

■ Hebrews 11: The Women-in-Ministry Edition. Your translation may vary.

■ Provocative Statement of the Week: “Instead of church planters, we need church closers.” The writer continues, “Yeah, I know, it sounds awful. But think about it. Those of you who regularly attend church, how many other churches do you pass on your way to your own? I can’t even count, but it’s probably 50. The reality is that most of those can’t even afford to maintain their buildings. They can’t pay their pastor fairly. They are already on the brink of locking their doors for good. Even if they try to deny it, the end is near. Instead of closing as a last resort, let’s be proactive.

🎬 The movie First Reformed: “Ethan Hawke stars as the troubled and reclusive Reverend Ernst Toller. Reeling from the death of his son, Toller is in something of a long, dark night of the soul. He has fewer congregants than tourists passing through his sleepy Dutch Reformed Church. His quiet, collared demeanor couldn’t be more out of place in the bombastic megachurch that helps keep his ministry afloat. His journal is full of searching and scrawling and longing. So when Mary comes to him with her husband’s demand she abort lest their daughter grow up in the ash heap of a world destroyed by climate change, Toller has true and genuine purpose. Maybe for the first time in years.”

■ Israel, David and the cultural artifact known FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out.

■ After two years in a Turkish prison, Wheaton College alumnus Andrew Brunson and his wife Norene (also a graduate of Wheaton) will speak at the school’s commencement for graduate students in May.

■ Remember that nun who threw that great pitch at the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018? Well, Mary Jo Sobieck has now got her own Topps Baseball trading card.

■ Clear and Loud: What Joshua Harris is doing now.

■ Only 10 Presidents in 133 years: A year after the controversy surrounding J. Paul Nyquist, Mark Jobe is installed as the new sheriff at Moody Bible Institute.

■ Congratulations: D.W. is 103 and Willie is 100. The Charlotte, North Carolina couple has been married 82 years. “They do make it to church every Sunday, in the front pew at Mayfield Memorial Baptist… All they have is love for each other and God.”

■ This isn’t exactly current, but for years I tried to find the album so that I could post this to my own YouTube channel. Apparently, someone got this online last fall. It’s Christian author and one-time cutting-edge CCM performer in the UK, Sheila Walsh singing with UK 80s rocker Alvin Stardust.

■ This is so 1997: A priest in Northern Poland burned Harry Potter books. However, now he’s apologizing in case anyone took it the wrong way. (How do you misinterpret a book burning?)

🎬 Don’t forget the animated version of Pilgrim’s Progress is in theaters for only two days, April 18th and 20th.

■ Just a week after being banned by a Texas airport, Chick-fil-A has been banned from opening at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. A spokesperson for the restaurants said, “Recent coverage about Chick-fil-A continues to drive an inaccurate narrative about our brand. We do not have a political or social agenda or discriminate against any group. More than 145,000 people from different backgrounds and beliefs represent the Chick-fil-A brand…We embrace all people, regardless of religion, race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.”

■ A Pastor’s alleged affair has left him dead, his wife injured, and another woman facing murder charges.

■ Reddit of the Week: “Are you a Christian?” It’s like asking, “Are you Chinese?” There are many different ways of interpreting the question, and many differences which would be involved in determining how someone might answer.

♫ Looks like the people at Bethel Worship have discovered some Christian music that existed before theirs.

♫ Months after its release, the song from Canada’s Dan Bremnes, Wherever I Go, is breaking into the U.S market.

■ American Jesus: “It has finally happened. After nearly a decade of futility, Jesus has finally won the tournament that bears his name. I would say Shane Claiborne put up a valiant fight, but Jesus smelled the blood in the water. He finally made it to the championship match and he wasn’t going to miss his shot. He threw all that humility and first shall be last stuff to the wind and laid down a 99% to 1% beating that would make even Satan himself shake in his boots.”

■ “On this coming Easter, many will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus by going to church and having a family dinner. A group in the Philippines has a more literal interpretation of the holiday.Numerous Filipino Catholics will be crucifying and beating themselves in the same way that Jesus was punished by the Romans. At least seven will have nails driven through their hands and several will cut their backs and beat themselves in order to represent the pain felt by Jesus during the crucifixion.” The Roman Catholic church does not recognize the practice nor does it encourage trying this at home.

■ Finally: If you had some weirdness in your denominational history, would you not want to hush it up? The Church of England might. Consider: “He lived quite openly with his mistress, and his love of eating and drinking to excess was common knowledge. [Thomas] Patten would deliberately preach long and dull sermons that would continue until someone in the congregation held up a lemon – a sign that they would buy the Vicar his drinks for the evening.”  Or how about, “Ian Henry Gaunt Graham-Orlebar discerned that it was his particular ministry to live a life that was self-consciously retro… A keen equestrian since his boyhood, [he] decided that, in homage to the dignified clergy of old, he would conduct all visits on horseback.” But we saved the best for the last…

[This guy deserves his own paragraph.] …Reverend Robert Stephen Hawker was a profoundly weird individual. As Curate at Bude, he decided that he had a joint calling; not only to be a Priest, but also a mermaid. In order to live out this vocation, he fashioned a wig out of seaweed and, naked apart from an oilskin wrapped around his legs, rowed out to a rock in Bude harbour one evening, sat on it and began to sing…He kept a sizeable menagerie, including ten cats (who would follow him to church and routinely made up the majority of his congregation). However, he reacted with fury when he saw one catching a mouse on a Sunday and publicly excommunicated it in front of his other animals.” And we didn’t even get to the parish pig.

Our ministry of database corrections: A different reason why misgendering should be a crime! We find some stupid error like this at @Christianbook every few days. Sometimes we tell them, sometimes we shrug our shoulders. They really should get to know their authors better. Especially Templeton Prize winning authors.


April 3, 2019

Wednesday Connect

Part of our reason-for-being here is to bring you links to items you might not have seen elsewhere, but there were three stories which dominated Christian social media, so in case you missed them:

First, there was no escaping Twitter’s “accidental” shutdown of the account for the movie Unplanned. The powerful film, tells the story of Abby Johnson who went from abortion clinic administrator to vociferous foe of Planned Parenthood after witnessing an abortion. The movie, in a limited number of theaters on the weekend placed fifth, despite whatever happened at Twitter.

Second, there is the strange case of Sam Allberry. Whether you use the term ‘gay’ to describe him, or simply same-sex attracted; there’s nothing new about his views within the big tent of Evangelicalism. What is different is the endorsement he receives among the Reformed/Calvinist community whose views you would expect to be ultra-conservative.

The same goes for Doug Wills. The Calvinists regard him as one of theirs, but there is no denying his use of the c-word to describe women is over the top. But T4G-ers and TGC-ers have a history of forgiving the unforgivable, so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised.

Now, on to the rest of the day’s items…

■ “Based on the Impossible True Story.” If you only click one link today, take 2½ minutes to watch the trailer for the movie Breakthrough, opening Easter weekend. (It might be just what you need.)

■ Christian bookstores are not all dead. The Parable chain speaks out, explaining the difference between independent franchises and the type of corporate stores which went under last week and in 2017.

■ It’s not just a Christian issue: “The leading liberal Orthodox rabbinical school told a gay student it will not ordain him, only months before his graduation, the Jewish Week reported. The decision is being widely interpreted as a sign of just how far Modern Orthodoxy, which blends strict observance with progressive social values, is willing to go in adopting pro-LGBTQ stances.” But here’s the thing: The school knew about his orientation for nearly four years.

■ A call for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to revoke a degree for character issues. He was 25. She was 16. When she was 20, she realized what had been done to her.

■ Your small(er) church may not offer the programs and facilities of the megachurch next to the freeway, but there are five things that you simply must offer.

■ Vocational Ministry: The cry of many pastors, “It would be nice to go to a funeral and grieve.”

■ “You’re born looking like your parents, but you die looking like your decisions.” – A very short video clip on the issue of absentee fathers which is an epidemic in the black community.

■ Shutting down Protestant theological education in the Soviet Union: “The Pentecostal Union’s Eurasian Theological Seminary’s licence was annulled in October 2018 after inspectors questioned its theology course. The Baptist Union’s Moscow Theological Seminary was suspended for 60 days from January 2019, and banned from admitting new students.”

♫ Must listening: Found this preparing content for my other blog. Wanna hear something really different? It was posted back in 2014. This is an arrangement of Psalm 104 from Psalm Project Africa. (Love how they pass the lyrics back and forth.)

♫ Something more recent? This Passion song was featured at North Point Community Church on Sunday and Andy Stanley alluded to it in the sermon.
“…So I stop all negotiations
With the God of all creation
‘Cause you’re bigger than I thought you were…”

■ Speaking of music; if you want to be really clear on the difference between contemporary Christian music in the 1970s and 80s, you should start your investigation studying the music of Keith Green. “As my wife and I listened to Green’s music, we were struck by how strange his late 1970s lyrics sounded to our 2019 ears…CTR songs are sometimes hard to listen to.”

■ Freedom of Speech isn’t enshrined in Canada as it is in the U.S. This Vancouver story shows something like the “misgenerding” we reported on a few weeks ago with a UK story. “…For example, if you call a trans woman a “biological male” in Canada, that statement about DNA can be construed as hate speech, which is what led to a Christian activist getting fined $55,000.”

■ The eight beatitudes in Matthew 5 contain seven promises. “The blessings do not contain any imperative verb forms but use indicative statement verbs. As such, the Beatitudes come to God’s people as divine promises showcasing Jesus’ authority and the nature of the kingdom of God. While describing characteristics of God’s people to show them what they will experience in this life, Christ is also pronouncing God’s favor upon his people, the citizens of his kingdom.”

■ Getting to know the Bible better: It wasn’t written to you; even though the words may appear to be reaching out to make a personal connection. 6-minute video podcast with a little Belinda Carlisle thrown in.   

■ Archaeology Alley: Could this temple relic be proof of King Josiah?

■ The ultimate listicle article title: 7 Ways Not to Sin. We don’t have the power to get rid of sin but we do have the power to limit its influence. You’re holding the remote control.

♫ “I Can’t Feed my Face” is a parody of a similarly-titled song by The Weeknd. Next time the family is all together for a meal, sing grace. (Or this one, for the Coldplay fans.)

■ Popular Charismatic prophecy author Jonathan Cahn has another new title releasing in September, The Oracle. The book takes on a rather huge mandate, promising that it “opens up the jubilean prophecies and a mystery so big that it has determined everything from the rise and fall of world empires to two world wars, the current events of our day, the future, end‐time prophecy and much more. Ultimately, The Oracle will reveal the secret that lies behind end‐time prophecy and the mystery of the end of the age.

■ Bible Publishing Curiosities Department: The Bible in split-screen, in the 18th Century. (Also shown below.) 

■ Personal: My son is helping out a Catholic choir on Sunday mornings. There are two services. Should he take communion twice?

■ An article for the people of God, even though he’s never mentioned: NBC shares a report where scientists say experiencing awe — or what we could call the transcendent — helps you to live a better, richer life, both in terms of well being and physical health.

Each week I prepare this, one of my goals is to give you clean links. References to sources or newsletters I may subscribe to are removed and you receive the URL in its cleanest, simplest form. (Facebook is the worst, the numbers after the ? go on forever.) Some links are suggested by third parties, and every once in awhile I miss one. If you find a case where I’ve neglected to do that, let me know.

■ The next big Christian debate frontier: Leggings. “The only thing people like more than wearing leggings is getting mad about leggings.”

■ The pastor bought his wife a $200,000 Lamborghini for their anniversary and they were living in a $1.8 million home paid for by the church. The local media took notice. Then a former pastor visited and announced, “I cut people, I got a knife right in that pocketbook. Greenville News, come on. We done went through this.” The remarks were seen as threatening

■ Finally, Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The original and The Message Bible version.

March 27, 2019

Wednesday Connect

Rather surprising: K-LOVE initially wouldn’t promote the pro-life film Unplanned on its 440 radio stations. Click image for story.

Sorry, our run of 50,000 of these t-shirts is all sold out!

I publish this list every Wednesday. If you don’t read it, how will you know all the things? Let your friends know this exists. No books to sell. No newsletter to subscribe to. No pop-ups. Blogging the way God intended it to be.

■ Just perhaps, instead of hearing constantly about how “we’ve defeated ISIS,” it would be fair to show that the battle is not over, i.e. “Christians in Nigeria witnessed another round of bloody attacks last week as Boko Haram terrorists captured the town of Michika in Nigeria’s far eastern state of Adamawa, burning buildings and exchanging fire with government troops.” Similar attacks are also taking place in the Congo.

■ The problem which seems to haunt religious organizations is revealed in yet another faith tribe: ” Jehovah’s Witnesses build what might be the world’s largest database of undocumented child molesters: at least two decades’ worth of names and addresses—likely numbering in the tens of thousands—and detailed acts of alleged abuse, most of which have never been shared with law enforcement, all scanned and searchable in a Microsoft SharePoint file.” Douglas Quenqua’s groundbreaking report in The Atlantic.

■ With the continuing expansion of the clergy abuse investigations, 37% of Roman Catholics are reconsidering their church membership.

■ Spiritual formation in the family: “Christians are far more likely to say their mothers had a bigger influence on their faith than did their fathers, according to a new Barna study that examines the roles that moms and dads play in the development of children.”

Essay of the Week: “Is God the Background for Your Selfie?” An excellent teaching article with a practical illustration; namely that including yourself front-and-center in a picture of something else means turning your back on the object in question.

■ Coming soon to an arena near you: The Benny Hinn/Francis Chan tour! Okay, maybe not quite so literally, but it happen at a 60,000-attended event in Orlando. It’s just not Chan’s usual audience

■ …but it’s easy to see how Chan’s involvement can be construed as endorsement. (Article sample: “Who among us hasn’t done something we realized in hindsight was silly?”)

■ Post-Willow Creek: Looking at the non-denominational megachurch through the lens of what happened to the church which started it all. Maybe denominations aren’t such a bad idea after all.

■ Apples and oranges: Okay we missed this one back in February, but someone pointed us to it yesterday and it’s worth considering. When you compare sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic church to sexual abuse within the Southern Baptist Convention; while the actions may be similar, the ecclesiastic structure in general and church governance in particular dictates that the types of responses available will differ greatly.

■ While some U.S. states have moved toward radically liberal policies on abortions, some in other states would like to move their constituency in the opposite direction, such as this proposal banning abortions in the case of Down Syndrome.

■ A week after the massacre at the mosque in New Zealand, the Prime Minister of neighboring Australia admitted that in his country Islam is not well-understood. In an opinion piece, one writer laments the normalization or “ordinariness” of Islamaphobia.

■ Fairview Baptist Church in Edmond, Oklahoma was kicked out of Vimeo’s LiveStream program after they streamed a conference which the server found promoted “sexual orientation change efforts.” (There’s even an acronym for that, “SOCE.”) ALL their backlist of sermon content was also removed. Read the terse note they received from Vimeo’s “Trust and Safety” department.

🎬 First, after 20 years of alternative Christian music, K-LOVE changed the format of its sister station Air1 to a worship format. Then it intially refused to promote the pro-life movie Unplanned because of its R-rating. But the story has an update, be sure to read all.

■  Cambridge University has rescinded an offer of a two month research fellowship to Canadian Professor and author Jordan Peterson following complaints from students. Peterson is known for refusing to follow political correctness

■ Behind the scenes at LifeWay: Some of their biggest sellers weren’t profitable. Some of their pension obligations are unfunded. They are the most complicated business entity in the SBC family.

🎹 Planetboom is a next generation edition of Planetshakers. Their first album is titled Jesus Over Everything. This featured song is Everything X Everything. (Not recommended for people over a certain age.)

🎹 An homage to the poem Footprints in the Sand.
“Like that poem that I used to hear
Hanging ‘round everywhere
I used to write if off
Just a picture on a wall…”
…a new song, Footprints by Matt Hammitt. (Not recommended for people under a certain age.)

■ C. S. Lewis believed in Purgatory. And after-death conversion. (So why does the Reformed crowd love him so much.) Equally shocking were beliefs by Luther, Calvin, Moody, Spurgeon, Wesley, Graham, and Augustine. Frank Viola teases us with Lewis, you have to buy his book to read about the rest.

■ James MacDonald took no book royalties from his Walk In The Word sales? Not according to one former employee. (Be sure to click the red section labelled ‘statement’ to open the 2-pg .pdf.)

■ New Word of the Week: Clergypreneur. “Basically, I am like an Uber driver for your spiritual experience…I am not in charge of the congregation, I do not attend their leadership meetings, and I do not represent them. The congregation runs the church, and their ministry keeps it going. They contract with me for my own ministry, where and when it works best for them, and for me.”

■ The governmental body which regulates television in the United States continues to receive complaints from individuals and parent groups concerning its TV ratings system. (We looked at a variant of this problem a few months ago in this article.)

■ Update: Did John MacArthur really have that connection to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? The story has some (sort of) detractors.

🇨🇦 This story is only available to Canadian readers, and even they aren’t allowed to see it.*

■ Game of Chicken? Liberals will go to any length to castigate the Chick-Fil-A fast food franchise, but in banning them from key locations, municipal legislators may be violating the First Amendment.

This news story is not available in your area.*

■ As of yesterday, American Jesus Madness was down to a final four. Which is a good lead in to our next item!

■ Finally, it was just a typical weekend of worship at Ed Young’s church:




*okay I ran out of time last night

March 20, 2019

Wednesday Connect

He liked to kill “high value” animals. This picture best encapsulates the legacy that James MacDonald is leaving. See below for story.

A summary of one couple’s $72,000 worth of donations to Harvest Bible Chapel. They want a refund. See below for story link.

And so, our second year under our current name begins. Don’t forget the top clicks from Wednesday are published on Twitter a day or two later. Connect to @PaulW1lk1nson on Twitter. Also be sure to see the item which appears at the very bottom of today’s column about a Catholic Herald reporter in the UK.

■ Breaking: “The annual Templeton Prize, which recognizes outstanding contributions to “affirming life’s spiritual dimension,” was awarded Tuesday to Brazilian Marcelo Gleiser—a theoretical physicist dedicated to demonstrating science and religion are not enemies… An agnostic, he doesn’t believe in God—but refuses to write off the possibility of God’s existence completely.” 

■ Paying someone to do your homework:

It takes time to prepare a sermon well. Those who don’t have time to prepare their own sermons ought to do something else. The one thing they ought not to be doing is getting on stage to satisfy an audience, to keep the numbers high, and to do what it takes to make those happen. Do your own work, preacher. It is a pretense to preach someone else’s sermon or to give the impression the work is your own.

■ Last one out, turn out the lights. Fox News predicts the end of brick-and-mortar church as we know it. There are some insights in this piece, but they were too anxious to sensationalize the perspective; hence the headline, “Church as we know it, is over.” (To which Scot McKnight replied on Twitter, “No. A thousand times, no.”)

■ So how on earth did Harvest Bible Chapel get that seal of approval from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA)? There’s not a direct answer here, but apparently it wasn’t the only thing wrong at ECFA. The organization’s president was a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), but for 15 years had let his license lapse and was using the title improperly

■ …and one couple is demanding a refund of the $72,000 (USD; see summary picture above) they donated to Harvest Bible Chapel given what we now know. (Be sure to watch the video; and then multiply this by hundreds and hundreds of other families which did the same.)…

■ …The whole bear thing: A non-religious blogger at Patheos provides a reasonable lens through which to view the whole sordid Harvest Bible Chapel thing.

The pricey excursion was just one example of misappropriation of ministry resources, other similar letters from previous and present church staff say, which were submitted to the elders several weeks ago…MacDonald used church funds to purchase over $500 worth of cigars, and gave a waitress a $400 tip with church funds…Butters also explained in his letter to the elders that MacDonald demanded his office be renovated in 2013, which cost $150,000

■ …And in this 5 page .pdf file posted to Wartburg Watch, read one elder’s reasons for keeping quiet for so long

Just Added: Speaking from within the movement, a definition of “Reformed Fundamentalist;” including four characteristics, and four prescriptions to avoid becoming one. Great analysis!  

■ Worship Workshop: An Anglican walks into a Saddleback site and… Seriously, the point of this is not to skim it quickly (which you may) but to then click the link to the second part where the author breaks down the differences from a liturgical perspective. Again, don’t miss part two. Which brings us to…

■ …Saying what needed to be said re. the song “This is How I Fight My Battles:” The writer notes, “There is zero theology in this song. And for an about seven minute song — at least this YouTube version — there are a total of 15 unique words across basically two phrases. The song boils down to this: “This is how I fight my battles” repeated 4 dozen times. Then: “It may look like I’m surrounded, but I’m surrounded by you” Repeated just as many times… [I]f it wasn’t for it being sung in a church there is nothing to indicate this is even a song about God at all.”

■ Avoiding a negative message:

Church growth experts tell us that people want a “positive” message. This temptation to dilute the gospel has produced a new recipe for a trendy sermon. We start with some great motivational speaking (“Your past does not define your future!”), add a few quarts of cheap grace (“Don’t focus on your sin!”), pour in some prosperity gospel (“Run to this altar and grab your financial breakthrough!”), flavor it with some trendy pop psychology (“It’s all about you!”) and you end up with a goopy mess of pabulum that not even a baby Christian could survive on.

In contrast, “Paul gave his spiritual son Timothy clear instructions on how to keep his message on track.”

■ California Governor Gavin Newsom placed a moratorium on the death penalty last week and Evangelicals are thrilled. “We’re losing so much and gaining nothing in return. It’s time to let the death penalty go.”

■ What if, in all the miracles Jesus performed, he wasn’t so much operating in the divine, as much as he was modeling for each and every one of us what we could do if we fully exercised our spiritual gifts? That question gets asked in this 33-minute podcast with Rich Birch and Toronto area pastor John Thompson…

■ …John Thompson has also created an eight-part series of short videos dealing with spiritual practices and gifts which is available online for free. Watch them at

■ Rebranding the Bible: “Its hardcover Bibles sell for $78 and paperback softcover books are $38… Last year, the company sold more than 10,000 Bibles and made $300,000-plus in sales; Alabaster believes sales will triple in 2019 with some upcoming wholesale deals.” A new series of visually impactful Bible editions are made to connect with an Instagram generation.

■ The Latter Day Saints’ test of conviction has a strange descriptor; they say you feel “a burning your bosom.” One apologist just finds it not sound logically:

The burning in the bosom I find to be a weak argument. I can understand it’s very emotionally appealing and I do know ex-Mormons have said that there is nothing like the experience of the burning in the bosom. If you pray and you get the burning in the bosom, well that confirms that the Book of Mormon is true. If you don’t get it, well, you just weren’t sincere or something of that sort. The test is in essence unfalsifiable.

■ An undated article on the Life.Church website pays tribute to life in Middle America, and from a Christian perspective, its ten secret super powers.

Essay of the Week: It began with the dumbest Tweet of the week: “If you do rich people stuff, eventually you will be rich. If you do poor people stuff, you will eventually be poor.” That was Dave Ramsey. Some were nonplussed.

Ramsey’s sentiments about wealth disparity is an a oversimplification bordering on cruelty. When someone spends years responding to life’s complications with platitudes and proverbs, they tend to think of these teachings as absolutes over time. Particularly when someone has climbed from a state of poverty to one of financial wellness…Boiled down to its most basic form, this is karma by another name. It’s the bad advice of Job’s friends personified in 21st century American terms

■ Testimony Time: This was on Reddit on the weekend. Why I left Islam and Turned to Christianity.

■ Details you might have missed in the Apostle’s Creed: The meaning of ascended and seated

♫ New (to me) Music: From the land of Hillsong, comes CityAlight. This was actually posted back in November; but I hadn’t heard of them. This is their most-watched video, Yet Not I, But Through Christ in Me

♫ Obscure Music: The duo known as Wild Harbors. “Chris Badeker met Jenna on his first day at McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. They started singing together long before they were a couple, playing ’90s cover songs and leading worship at on-campus events.” Their song, “The Ballad of Wallace and Jessie” only had 232 YouTube views as of last night, but got me curious. The composition “takes its inspiration from a story…about a young orphan in Scotland named Jessie, who had a premonition of the Titanic sinking shortly before she passed away. In her dream, Jessie saw a man named Wallace playing the violin on the ship’s deck, calming passengers on their way to the lifeboats. The couple… decided to wrap a melody around his story.” 

■ Analogy of the Week: The Bible as compost pile, as opposed to cookbook.

■ Conference Calendar: The Water To Wine Gathering takes place June 13–15 at Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, Missouri. One of the speakers defines the conference goals in a blog post.

■ Where you live, do kids take a year off between high school and ‘what’s next’ as what’s called a ‘gap year?’ Here’s an alternative program that a Canadian university came up with for kids from five Christian high schools.

■ Everybody’s welcome: From a mainstream website, a from-the-inside-looking-out look at Waffle House restaurants. “Waffle House does not care how much you are worth, what you look like, where you are from, what your political beliefs are, or where you’ve been so long as you respect the unwritten rules of Waffle House: Be kind, be respectful, and don’t overstay when others are waiting for a table. Besides, everyone who has ever stepped foot in a Waffle House has a story to tell…”

■ If you’re late to the party in terms of finding a good book to read during Lent, here are three suggestions

■ …and from our Catholic Corner: Lent in New Orleans is more than just Mardi Gras. Read about the tradition of constructing St. Joseph Altars

■ Worth repeating: Large Evangelical “organizations such as The Gospel Coalition have self-consciously sought to drive and thereby control the small-r reformed world by buying up the talent and overseeing who gets to speak, what gets said, who gets reviewed, who is in, who is out.”

■ Christian music streaming service The Overflow has shut down after it has proved no longer sustainable financially. (Customers are promised refunds in April.)

■ A good news story: The man was taking advantage of the little girl’s mother being in the restroom, but a teenage boy ignored his mother’s advice and got involved.

■ Those Hollywood celebs could have saved thousands of dollars, since committing bribery to get your kids into homeschool is much cheaper

■ …Same premise, different satirical website, different type of school.

■ Finally, yes! Even at his new home on Patheos, the American Jesus March Madness Bracket is back for 2019. Who will win? Mormon’s vs. Latter Day Saints? (I think the other option was “The Church,” but, oh well.) “Girl Wash Your Face” vs. “Girl Get Some Footnotes?” Shane Claiborne vs. America’s love affair with guns? Donald Trump autographing the Bible vs. Donald Trump actually reading the Bible? You’ll have to check it yourself. Explanations will be posted today, and you have until the end of the day today (midnight, CST Wednesday) to enter.

Much of what’s on would never make the cut here, but I found this one interesting food for thought.

■ This is for real. It happened to a journalist and columnist for the UK Catholic Press and means legal trouble and possibly jail time. Read the story at Christian Post. A GoFundMe page has been set up for her legal defence.

Older Posts »

Blog at