Thinking Out Loud

January 16, 2018

Martin Luther King: The Next Day

I’m finding myself left with the impression that the day in celebration of the life and vision of Martin Luther King, Jr., rather than diminishing with the passing of years, is only growing stronger. Furthermore, there seems to be an embrace of the day by many outside the African-American community. If you missed my reference on Twitter, be sure to check out the excellent message given by Bill Hybels at Willow Creek on Sunday about the life of Dr. King.

Below is about half of a devotional I received yesterday in email. It was the day’s selection from a devotional service I subscribe to, Devotions Daily from Faith Gateway. The quotes were compiled by Dr. Alveda King, the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and sourced at a 2014 Zondervan book, King Rules: Ten Truths for You, Your Family, and Our Nation to Prosper.

What Would MLK Tweet? 22 Inspiring Quotes & Prayers from MLK

  • I’m just a symbol of a movement. I stand there because others helped me to stand there, forces of history projected me there.
  • Heavenly Father, thank You for life, health, rewarding vocations, and peaceful living in this turbulent society.
  • God, teach us to use the gift of reason as a blessing, not a curse.
  • God, bring us visions that lift us from carnality and sin into the light of God’s glory.
  • Agape love, repentance, forgiveness, prayer, faith: all are keys to resolving human issues.
  • God, deliver us from the sins of idleness and indifference.
  • Lord, teach me to unselfishly serve humanity.
  • Lord, order our steps and help us order our priorities, keeping You above idols and material possessions, and to rediscover lost values.
  • Lord Jesus, thank You for the peace that passes all understanding that helps us to cope with the tensions of modern living.
  • Creator of life, thank You for holy matrimony, the privilege You grant man and wife as parents to aid You in Your creative activity.
  • Dear Jesus, thank You for Your precious blood, shed for the remission of our sins. By Your stripes we are healed and set free!
  • Dear God, You bless us with vocations and money. Help us to joyfully and obediently return tithes and gifts to You to advance Your Kingdom.
  • Deliver us from self-centeredness and selfish egos. Dear Heavenly Father, help us to rise to the place where our faith in You, our dependency on You, brings new meaning to our lives.
  • God, help us to believe we were created for that which is noble and good; help us to live in the light of Your great calling and destiny.
  • Lord, help me to accept my tools, however dull they are; and then help me to do Your will with those tools. [Paraphrased]
  • Our Father God, above all else save us from succumbing to the tragic temptation of becoming cynical.
  • God, let us win the struggle for dignity and discipline, defeating the urge for retaliatory violence, choosing that grace which redeems.
  • Remove all bitterness from my heart and give me the strength and courage to face any disaster that comes my way.
  • God, thank You for the creative insights of the universe, for the saints and prophets of old, and for our foreparents.
  • God, increase the persons of goodwill and moral sensitivity. Give us renewed confidence in nonviolence and the way of love as Christ taught.
  • Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the ministering, warring, and worshipping angels You send to help keep and protect us in all our ways.
  • We are all one human race, destined for greatness. Let us live together in peace and love in a Beloved Community.
  • Have faith in God. God is Love. Love never fails. It is our prayer that we may be children of light, the kind of people for whose coming and ministry the world is waiting. Amen. 

August 12, 2010

Steven Furtick: Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me

I’ve just finished reading an advance copy of Sun Stand Still: What Happens When You Dare to Ask God For the Impossible by Steven Furtick, the pastor of the rapidly growing Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC.   The title, releasing another “sun significant” day, September 21st from Multnomah Books,  is based on Joshua’s prayer in Joshua chapter 10.  “There has never been a day like it before…” (vs 13 NIV)

This is a book about prayer, and it’s a book about faith, and mostly, it’s a book about praying prayers of faith, or what he calls audacious prayers.   As such it’s a title that will inspire next-generation Christ-followers to stretch their faith in prayer; a book that might be given to a teen or twenty-something and/or someone who is new to the family of faith.

The author quotes Jim Cymbala’s Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire early on and in many ways this book stands in that tradition of — and I hate to use this word because it can diminish the impact — books on prayer that are truly inspiring.

But beyond the reading process which I began several days ago, I decided to dig a little deeper to, if you’ll forgive the nameplay, see what makes Steven Furtick tick.

The book begins with the story of Elevation Church filling the Time Warner Arena in Charlotte the year on Easter Sunday; a dream planted in Steven Furtick’s heart just four years earlier.     Reports ranged from attendance figures of 10,000 to the figure on the Elevation Worship Blog, 11,600.   (It also lists the worship pieces that morning; of the eleven, six were from Hillsongs.)

I decided to watch the service online, but presented with a range of sermons, decided to jump into something else, only to find myself watching a guest speaker, North Point’s Andy Stanley.   In the process of trying to ascertain where Furtick and Elevation fit into the larger map of American Christianity, Andy Stanley came as a bit of a surprise.

That’s because — as my reading of the book and eventual viewing of the Easter sermon and two other sermons convinced me — Furtick’s message and style seems to fit into a long line of Pentecostal or Charismatic tradition.  For the Time Warner Arena occasion, he donned a suit which, combined with the dynamics of the arena, couldn’t help remind me of Joel Osteen.

But I’m not sure that Furtick would welcome the comparison.   I decided to dig into his blog; not just current entries, but ones from its beginnings in the fall of 2006.    He considers Craig Groeschel and Perry Noble mentors, and there’s nothing in his church’s core beliefs that hints of Pentecostalism.

Maybe it was just the Easter suit thing.   Or the traditional invitation at the end of the messages.  Or having the congregation stand for scripture readings. Or the “Amen Corner” on the website.

…Or maybe it’s part of our fallen nature that anytime someone has a faith-stretching, big-believing message we want to categorize or pigeon-hole that person with a “Charismatic” label, instead of recognizing that this is what it means to follow Christ as the early disciples understood it, and as we’re reminded in a story early in the book, Christians in the third world or persecuted church understand it today.   In fact, in some places Furtick would challenge the prosperity or claim-it message of hardcore Charismatics.

In the end, I have to conclude that Steven Furtick is a hybrid.   His next-generation appeal might earn him the label Emergent Charismatic.   Neither adjective is fully accurate here — how about Missional Pentecostalbut it’s the best I got because Sun Stand Still is a Spirit-filled message of classical Biblical faith, but it’s a 30-year-old’s fresh take on a classic Old Testament passage that any young person should enjoy reading.

The book will energize your prayer life no matter where you are on your journey with Christ.   If you want to dig in to more of Elevation online, you’ll find some powerful and passionate preaching with a wisdom beyond Steven Furtick’s years.

Reviewer’s Notes:

  1. Thanks to Norm at Augsburg Canada (Multnomah’s up-North distributor) for the advance copy.
  2. Elevation’s online sermon server gets you a full-screen, high-def video sermon every time, that downloads quickly provided you’ve got the bandwidth. Clearly among the best I’ve seen.   I don’t see an audio option.
  3. Given the aforementioned appeal to younger readers, I gotta seriously question Multnomah’s decision to release this in hardcover at $20 U.S. ($23 CDN)   I hope initial sales don’t discourage those involved, because this is a natural title for paperback first edition. UPDATE:  This will release in paperback at $14.99 US/$16.99 CDN.  They must have been reading this blog!!
  4. If you click on the “comments” section for this post (below) you can watch the promotional video for the book featuring Steven’s ever-changing hairstyles!

May 21, 2010

Church Without Belief

Filed under: cults — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:27 am

Erin has been blogging at Decompressing Faith since 2005.   This past week she went to a Unitarian Universalist church to hear her brother perform a musical number.

It’s an experience I had myself in my last year of high school, and it also involved a musical performance.   I would echo her observation:

I have never understood why people will go to all the trouble to have church, with all the semblances of a mainline service, but wipe it clean of any core belief system. I don’t mean that as a disparaging remark against UU’s. I understand the sense of community and the value of the power of that community when they come together. I also value and respect the concept of acceptance and non-conformity. I get it all; as much as any outsider can.

My point is this: the service was decidedly like a mainline service. I don’t mean in content, but in presentation. The invocation, the homily, the benediction…they were all there. They have a hymnal, very much like any traditional hymnal. They have responsive reading and a doxology. You get my drift. Yet, it’s all been purged of almost anything that identifies with any particular religion or belief system. And what I wonder is why, if you’re going to do something subversive and liberal, why do it exactly the same as something traditional and conservative? Is it a tribute to what we might have known as children? Is it for comfort? Or is it tradition simply for the sake of tradition?

Why indeed?   Erin goes overboard to say her intention is not to cause offense, she’s just got questions:

Why work so hard to make it seem like “church”, when it’s not “church”?  And why call it “church”, giving it a distinctly traditional tone and flavor, but having it actually be something else entirely, with a vastly different mission, content, and core? …Why wear a label that doesn’t fit, or follow a pattern that doesn’t do us justice?

In the end, she challenges the UU Church to come up with something original.   Not the conclusion I would make.

Are we, as a religious humanity, really that incapable of doing something truly new? Must we always keep one foot anchored in the old thing in some manner, while timidly stretching beyond the borders of it? What are we afraid of out there in the wild blue yonder? Why pretend to be something that is still within the confines of “acceptable”, even as we venture out beyond convention?

Rather, I would conclude that there is something deeper taking place in those services; a longing for something that was, and is, so very much anchored, so absolute, so very secure.   There is some comfort in dogmatism, but if you can’t abide the belief, the heart longs to fill the void by keeping the forms.

But maybe, at that point, like the children on summer break, you’re simply playing church.

Let us pray.

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