Thinking Out Loud

November 7, 2018

Wednesday Connect

A recent cartoon from Dave Walker at Church Times. Click the link to view larger.

Click the image to see past editions of Wednesday Connect.

I recognize that most of my U.S. readers are probably preoccupied with yesterday’s elections, but thanks to those of you who’ve dropped by for something non-political.

♦ Bound by grief: The pastor of the African Methodist Church in Charleston, South Carolina and the Rabbi of Conservative Jewish synagogue had nothing in common until this past week. Now, Rev. Eric S.C. Manning and Rabbi Jeffrey Myers sadly share the pain of having a mass shooting in their respective houses of worship. The New York Times reports on the two men meeting each other.

🎬 Bias in movie ratings? The producers of The Reliant starring Kevin Sorbo, Brian Bosworth, Mollee Gray, Eric Roberts, and Julia Denton think it might be so.

Submission of the film to the Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA) for rating, produced an unexpected result. The MPAA rated it “R” for some violence. The producer reports that the film does not glamorize violence, and it was specifically and carefully designed to easily receive a more favorable rating. Dr. Johnston believes the MPAA is biased, and is, in effect, trying to prevent the film’s success because it is not only faith-based, but also pro-2nd Amendment.

Breaking — “Armed men kidnapped 79 children from a school in western Cameroon on Monday and a local pastor said separatist militias were responsible. The abduction happened before dawn in the city of Bamenda.”

♦ If you read (or will read) the Bible today; or if you asked for forgiveness; or if you dove into scripture  to fact-check something your pastor said; you owe all that to the day Martin Luther went viral.

♦ Warning! Don’t mess with James MacDonald. He’s having an especially litigious year-end. [Also, this.]

♦ Go Deeper! Take about 5 minutes to read this list of 5 Hebrew Words Every Christian Should Know.

🇨🇦 Intervention: “YES-TV, Canada’s largest multifaith broadcaster, has sent a letter to the Canadian government offering to sponsor and settle Asia Bibi, the Pakistani woman who was cleared of blasphemy charges last week.  Her death sentence was commuted by Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Oct. 31 following an appeal… Although cleared of the charges, Bibi has been living in a prison converted to a safe house since the decision, unable to leave for fear of her life.”

♦ Lauren Daigle responds to those who criticized her for doing the Ellen DeGeneres TV show. [8 Minute audio podcast.]

♦ Keeping Kosher: For Israel’s hospitality industry it comes at a very high price:

Several thousand inspectors – it is not clear exactly how many – make onsite visits daily to check things like food sanitation, the separation of dairy from meat products and that materials are bought from suppliers who are also approved. It even sends delegations abroad to inspect slaughterhouses that export beef to Israel…This has a created a situation where, according to one official, 17 inspectors every day descend upon a single food court in Jerusalem’s main mall, all at the expense of the business owners, who pass on costs to consumers.

♦ Opinion Piece of the Week: I Worship in a Television Studio. If the church you attend was constructed in the last couple of decades, you might relate to this. 

♦ Essay of the Week: “I want to ask my fellow professing Christians to do something downright shocking in today’s online environment: Be radically charitable to your Christian brothers and sisters. Be downright deferential. Consider them better than you. Demonstrate love in every interaction.” Brant Hansen plea for unity.

♦ Most provocative opening paragraph: “The Family Federation for a Heavenly USA (aka the Unification Church) has added worship artist Israel Houghton to the lineup of high profile Christians who will help evangelize New Yorkers for self-described True Mother and the only begotten daughter of God, Hak Ja Han Moon.” Did he know what he was signing up for when he agreed to perform at this?

♦ …Or maybe it’s this opening paragraph: “Washington state Rep. Matt Shea publishes manifesto calling for the execution of all males who refuse to follow ‘Biblical law.’ [Next paragraph] “…The document calls for ‘Biblical law’, and suggests that those men who support gay marriage and abortion rights should be executed.” [Thanks to Eric and Michael at Linkathon for this unusual story and source.]

♦ Provocative title of the week: Jerks for Jesus.

♦ A tragic headline: US Missionary Shot to Death in Front of His Wife, Son. “An American missionary was shot to death this week in Cameroon while riding in the car with his wife and son. Charles Wesco of Indiana was out to shop when two bullets struck him through the windshield, according to Dave Halyaman, assistant pastor at Believers Baptist Church in Warsaw, Indiana. The bullets knocked Wesco unconscious, and doctors were unable to revive him at the hospital.”

♦ Rethinking the doctrine of Original Sin. Peter Enns: “Whatever words we want to use to describe it, this self-evident reality of repeated, relentless sin remains a consistent fact of human existence…But all I’m asking here is whether the Old Testament says that Adam is the cause of it all. It doesn’t. Not at all. Not even a hint.”

The complete Memorial Service for Eugene Hoiland Peterson. [Transferred to YouTube from a live stream, the video indicates a running time of 3 hours 20 minutes, however it begins at the 1 hour 45 minute mark.] …

♦ …Text of the poem read by Peterson’s son

🇨🇦 News media in Toronto, Canada is all over a story about a woman who attended a Baptist Church east of the city who was informed by letter that she is not welcome because she is gay. She says, “Why didn’t somebody come to my home? Why didn’t they request to have this conversation in person? So yeah, I was a little hurt I received this in the mail.” The story possibly stands out more in pluralistic, tolerant Toronto than it might in the more conservative U.S. Read a copy of the letter she received.

♦ The one-hour documentary film about Richard Wurmbrand, Tortured for Christ is available to view online.

♦ After a woman faints at Monday night’s Republican rally, the crowd breaks into Amazing Grace. Trump stands in silence for 7-8 minutes.

♦ Dealing with Difficult Bible Passages: After a putdown of Study Bibles, Bible Software and the internet, this author suggests that, “Most difficult parts of the Bible are elucidated in other parts of the Bible. In that way, the Bible serves as a commentary on itself.”

Each of the writers represented above has a book (or two, or more) they wish they’d never written. See next item.

📖 Two publishing related items from across the pond at Premier Christianity:

📖 Also, Scot McKnight interviews Kellye Fabian about her new NavPress book Sacred Questions, noting that “…the devotional takes the reader on a formative journey. In other words, the book isn’t just 365 days of randomly selected Scripture passages, but rather has separate sections that move the reader from Jesus’ invitations to relationship with him through a process…”

📖 One last book-related item: Catching up with Todd and Colton Burpo 14 years after Heaven Is For Real.

♫ Sarah Reeves is part of the Big Church Night Out tour. Here’s a performance video for her song Angels.

🇨🇦 A Canadian TV sitcom with a Christian perspective has come to Netflix. Christianity Today introduces a U.S. audience to Kim’s Convenience.

♦ Finally, our Tweet of the Week:

Digging a Little Deeper

From the creator of Thinking Out Loud, check out Christianity 201. Guaranteed distraction-free faith blogging with fresh posts every day. www.Christianity201.wordpress.com

 

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October 31, 2018

Wednesday Connect

 

Today is October 31st. There’s something special about that day, but honestly, I can’t think of what it is, and this year, we didn’t find anything which reflected it as we have other years.

♦ The UK Supreme Court decision in the “gay wedding cake” case, could have repercussions for American law.

♦ A bad time to be nit-picking:

Israel’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi came under fire on Sunday for refusing to acknowledge in a newspaper interview that the massacre in Pittsburgh was carried out in a synagogue. The country’s ultra-Orthodox newspapers, in reporting on the event, have also refused to acknowledge that it took place in a Jewish house of prayer because Tree of Life is a Conservative congregation, and they do not recognize the non-Orthodox movements.

♦ John MacArthur will — over the next 18 months — step down as President of The Master’s University.

♦ Why Theology matters: “At its best, theology gives us an interpretive lens through which to more clearly see God, the world, our neighbor, and ourselves…On the other hand, if handled poorly, theology can turn us into the worst versions of ourselves…It is quite possible to memorize the whole Bible and to affirm and believe and even preach every single word that it says, and still not be even remotely submitted to it.

Under the microscope: 7 Books that Rocked the Church looks at titles which, “profoundly upset the church by calling into question foundational Christian doctrines or beliefs. Most of the books discussed here were banned at some time by Christian authorities.”

1. Valentinus the Gnostic: Who Doesn’t Love a Conspiracy Theory? (Think The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown)
2. Galileo Galilei: A Scandal of Religion, Science, and Politics
3. Voltaire’s Candide, Enlightenment Rationalism, and the Church’s Thin Skin
4. Darwin’s Origin of Species: The Many Faces of Evolutionary Theory
5. Marx’s Communist Manifesto: The Red Bull of the Masses
6. Sigmund Freud’s Ego
7. Joseph Campbell: Christianity as an (Almost) Enlightened Myth (A book that strongly influenced George Lucas’s Star Wars films

A 184-page paperback from Hendrickson, now available.

♦ The faith of composer John Sebastian Bach: He used religious texts, but was this simply because it was in his job description

♦ Canada Corner: Couples wishing to adopt who hold to Christian values and principles are being “rejected with increasing frequency” from adopting children.

♦ Coming to light: A segment from Phil Vischer’s What’s in the Bible episode dealing with Genesis as to the age of the earth was deleted from digital editions of the program, but survives on the DVD. Someone posted it to YouTube.

♦ Rethinking the Wesleyan Quadrilateral: “It is true that John Wesley was big on one’s experience of Jesus Christ, but he would have never embraced the idea that experience is somehow co-equal with Scripture and tradition, nor that it should ever be pitted against the Bible itself. Indeed, as all who have at least a general understanding of this subject know, Wesley never employed the quadrilateral imagery.”

♦ The right way of doing anger: Three steps to make your anger more loving and more short-lived.

♦ If Christians aren’t supposed to sue each other, then why is James MacDonald doing just that? A statement from the pastor provides the necessary workaround

♦ …The article above is quite thorough; if you prefer you can also simply read what what Pastor James wrote. Sample: “Turn[ing] the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39) is a compelling command for dealing with people who offend us personally — but no one struggles with dialing 911 when a criminal act is underway.”

♦ A baby out of wedlock: In the United States, this is rapidly becoming the norm.

♦ A Baptist Church in Wakefield, Massachusetts is fundraising after being struck by lightning.

♦ Comparison shopping: Three chapters in Genesis side-by-side with the story of Gilgamesh. “[H]uman beings were being too loud, and the gods were unable to get any sleep.”

♦ Provocative Title of the Week: 4 Ways to Tell if You’re a Man or a Boy

♦ …And from the same author, here’s a free first chapter peek at The Five Marks of a Man.

♦ New Music: New artist Marci Coleman’s song “How You Love.”

♦ Finally, a preview of the film Small Group. More details at this website.

 

October 24, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Halloween message or graphic design fail?

From an article looking critically at the reasons given by some for believing that the English King James Bible is the only true Bible. Click here for the article and to find others in the series. (Click here for the original.)

The week on social media was dominated by reminiscences on the life of Eugene Peterson. I considered the idea of simply reproducing a section of The Message Bible today. If you’ve got one handy, or wish to access it on Bible Gateway, find a passage that you know intimately and see what Peterson did with it! 

This week’s list is a bit shorter because there’s a fifth Wednesday in October coming up in just seven days…

♦ James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel are suing the writers of The Elephant Debt accountability website as well as their wives as well as respected Christian investigative reporter Julie Roys, claiming defamation. Wait, serious? They’re suing the wives of the authors? That’s a first

♦ …but one writer reminds us you can tell the truth and survive a lawsuit as well.

♦ Kissing unDating Goodbye: Joshua Harris has asked the publisher of I Kissed Dating Goodbye to  “discontinue its publication, as well other supplemental resources tied to it (this includes the two books I wrote after it whose content is similar).” He goes on to say, “My publisher, whose encouragement in this process has been deeply meaningful to me, supports this decision and will not reprint the books after the current copies in their inventory are sold.” (Contains a link to a free download of “The Books That Changed My Mind.”)

♦ It’s a horrible story alleging the abuse of a child that I can’t fully summarize in the space available here. But we’ve seen this before among conservative Christians. In the case, the focus of the report is how Sovereign Grace church leadership, and Association of Reformed Baptist Churches leadership are so quick to come to the parents defense.

♦ Déja vu all over again: Religion News Service reports, “Since its grand opening nearly a year ago, the Museum of the Bible has exhibited five fragments from the storied Dead Sea Scrolls, the ancient parchment fragments discovered 70 years ago in a desert cave. On Monday (Oct. 22) the museum acknowledged that the five fragments it had on display were forgeries. They were taken down several weeks ago and replaced with three other fragments that do not have the same anomalies.” (Maybe someone made them with a calligraphy set purchased at Hobby Lobby.)

♦ It’s sometimes called “The Homeless Pastor Test” and James MacDonald wasn’t the first to try it. Would your congregation pass? (This was posted before we had determined today’s lead item.)

♦ Pass the pith helments: “You might be a missionary – someone called and sent to serve God cross-culturally – but chances are, you don’t like being called a missionary. That’s because, in popular Western culture, missionaries are seen as pith helmet-wearing colonialists – forcing their culture and religion on people who don’t want it.” Three pithfalls pitfalls to avoid. (“As an African believer once complained, ‘You brought us the bread of life, but it came wrapped in plastic that you shoved down our throats!’“)

♦ Church and State; Russian Style: An official statement, “acknowledged the right to independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which has been overseen by religious officials in Moscow since 1686.”

♦ Arriving with an admitted dose of cynicism and sarcasm, this British woman checks in for two years at the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM) in California.

♦ When Mark Driscoll’s latest book was published by Charisma House, you had to guess that he had crossed a doctrinal line on a personal level as well. In the appendix to that book, published on his blog, he addresses issues related to his current understanding of the Holy Spirit. (Warning: In the middle of the article you have to click ‘continue’ to see each new paragraph. This must certainly be the absolute dumbest and most annoying approach to website design in the history of the internet.)

♦ Question of the Week: Why did an apologetics expert write an article about Father’s Day in October? (Turns out it’s a subject close to his heart.)

♦ Conflict Crushers: When it happens — and it certainly will — here are six steps to handling conflict from Ephesians.

♫ “After a five-year break from her public career, singer-songwriter Avril Lavigne has released a powerful worship ballad titled “Head Above Water,” which recounts her battle with Lyme disease.” 

Switchfoot is back!

🎬 Russ Taff is the subject of a new movie I Still Believe, which deals with the alcoholism that threatened to destroy his music career.

♦ Exhaustive Study: Everything you always wanted to know about Halloween but were afraid to ask. (It’s a week today, by the way.)

♦ Bet your church bulletin typo on Sunday wasn’t as bad as this one.

♦ In my country, you’d be more likely to see giraffes in church than voter guides, but apparently this sort of thing is the norm in the United States. Only at Gateway, a prank version was substituted for the authorized edition.

♦ If you are in need of more laughter in your life, here’s ten video clips by ten clean comedians. (Two clips not available outside the U.S. however.)

♦ Finally — and it was an unlikely source this week — 33 excuses for passing on attending the new DVD-based Bible study about to launch.


The only day everyone loves you.

October 17, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Two major authors guilty of plagiarism. I’ve included them here as items on this week’s Connect feed, but I might return to this, as its importance cannot be overlooked. Attribution is so easy to do, so why the reluctance? And why did one author remove an apology?

Also, remember that the blogroll (3 of them, actually) in the right margin (or at the bottom of the page on your phone) is always being updated. Check out the recommended writers, and if you find anything that’s been dormant for more than 30 days, let us know.

♦ “This year, for the first time, more Americans agree that the Bible’s teaching on same-sex relationships is outdated than disagree.” Also, “A majority of US adults (58%) said that worshiping alone or with one’s family is a valid replacement for regularly attending church. Only 30 percent disagree.” More at the Ligonier Ministries/Lifeway 2018 findings on “the state of theology” in the U.S.

♦ While the release of American Pastor Andrew Brunson from Turkey after two years was certainly newsworthy, it was the scene were he knelt to pray for the President that captured my attention…

♦ …But while Brunson is free after two years, it’s now been 1,000 days for an 84 year old Australian doctor kidnapped in Burkina Faso. “Dubbed ‘the Doctor of the Poor’, Dr. [Ken] Elliott was providing free treatment, saving patients significant amounts of money. Since the closure of his clinic, people travel via poor transport links hundreds of miles to the capital, Ouagadougou, for medical care. His wife noted,

“My husband did not have an easy and comfortable life: 46 years ago, he chose to raise his family among you, our friends and our neighbours. With God’s help, he performed thousands of operations and saved many lives. Those who asked for help often came from afar, they came to us at any time of day or night.”

♦Parenting Place: Think you’re doing well at the child-raising thing? Here are 12 things that family counselors look for.

♦ Watching The Shack in prison:

But more and more, as I spend more time living on the margins and less in my head, reading the Bible with the damned to use Bob Ekblad’s phrase, I’ve come to see how much of theology boils down to social location. I might not get The Shack, but these incarcerated men sure do. Many were in tears at the end. So I check my critiques. The critiques may be valid and important, and there’s a time to bring them up, but I don’t center or privilege them. I don’t allow my academically sophisticated theology to win every argument or be The Answer to every question

♦ Quotation of the Week: “Just like you, the student in the northern Ghanaian village is monitoring the number of likes her Instagram selfies are getting.” A look at the pictures missionaries take, the ones they publish, our culture of photo images, and the danger of exploiting people from other cultures

♦ By now many of you are aware of an announcement on the weekend concerning the decline in health of esteemed author Eugene Peterson. If not, here is a link to a Facebook page containing a note from his son Eric.

♦ From a book review on the history of atheism in the Soviet Union:

In Russia, there is a religious revival happening. Orthodox Christianity is thriving after enduring a 70-year period of atheistic Soviet rule. In 1991, just after the collapse of the USSR, about two-thirds of Russians claimed no religious affiliation. Today, 71 percent of Russians identify as Orthodox. One can now see priests giving sermons on television, encounter religious processions in St. Petersburg, and watch citizens lining up for holy water in Moscow. Even Moscow’s Darwin museum features a Christmas tree during the holidays.

♦ A Georgia physician, Dr. Wayne Bloodworth has opened a clinic established to reverse Female Genital Mutilation as practiced 30 countries in sub-Saharan Africa as well as in Asia and the Middle East. “Dr. Bloodworth up until now has totally financed the operation and equipping of the clinic. Since there is no fee for the services, they depend on donations and grants.”

♦ Ask N.T. Wright anything: A new podcast is launching in the UK from the same people who bring us the Unbelievable! podcast each week. (You can send your questions now online.) 

♦ Another plagiarism case: Zondervan has reached a settlement with Carey Scott, the author of Untangled: Let God Loosen the Knots of Insecurity in Your Life (Revell, 2015) whose work was borrowed by popular author Christine Caine in Unashamed: Drop the Baggage, Pick up Your Freedom, Fulfill Your Destiny (Zondervan, May 2016), which has sold over 150,000 copies to date. 

“About two weeks before Caine’s book Unashamed was set to launch, I received a promotional email that contained a two-minute book trailer video. Some of the wording at the beginning of the video sounded very familiar, and after some digging I discovered that the first 30 seconds of her personal narration on the promo video came directly from a paragraph on page 55 of my book,” Scott told Publisher’s Weekly. “There are several examples of direct copying and substantial similarities.”   …

♦ … But sadly, not the only plagiarism case involving Zondervan: A quotation in Ann Voskamp’s book The Broken Way was attributed to her father but, “matched almost word for word the writing of author Cynthia Occelli on her social media pages.” In another case, she apologized for when she “lyrically paraphrased” a nine-point list by another writer. But that post was later deleted. Why? In this Occelli case, World Magazine notes:

The problem: Some readers probably missed Voskamp’s apology, submerged as it was in a long scroll of a post concerning a family trip to Israel, a Tim Keller talk, a Mister Rogers quote, Instagram photos from fans raving about her books, and more. The item’s burial was too bad, because this was a teachable moment about likely dangers at a time when internet files can be copied and mislabeled so readily, with unclear attribution.

♦ In other Christian publishing stupidity, author Thom Rainer has published what looks to be potentially an extremely helpful and hopeful resource for struggling, small churches, but you can’t buy it here in Canada, where the percentage of such churches is double what it is in the U.S., and Americans can only buy it at LifeWay stores. What a non-Jesus thing to do! (Freely you have received, now freely hoard it or make it exclusive to certain people.) For that reason, I’m not even mentioning its title.

♦ Canada Corner: The crucifix will continue to hang in the Quebec legislature, because — wait for the logic of this — although it represents Christian values it isn’t a religious symbol

♦ Across-the-Pond Corner: ICYMI, the UK Supreme Court vindicated Ashers Baking Company and its general manager Daniel McArthur in the world’s most celebrated “Gay Wedding Cake” case which “demonstrated the need for the law to reasonably accommodate family-run businesses with firmly-held beliefs…” 

♦ …also at the website The Christian Institute this disturbing news: “More than 125,000 people have been hospitalised after taking cannabis in the last five years, it has been revealed…The Mail on Sunday reported that around 15,000 teenagers and even some children under the age of ten were admitted after taking the potent drug.”

♦ The teaser for this article at The Federalist is: “The loss of confidence in Pope Francis reflects that his mismanagement of the crisis has been a scandal in itself. It may also reveal a growing public awareness of Francis’ own poor record.” Where does the problem lie? “From the start of his papacy, Francis has surrounded himself with a hand-picked inner circle of cardinal advisers—a kind of papal ‘kitchen cabinet’…This inner circle of nine cardinals close to Francis has become known as the ‘C9.’ The article proposes that group may be tainted. (One writer has used the term ‘mafia club.’)

♦ Christian singer Lauren Daigle is rockin’ the pop charts right now, so some readers might want to see her and get to know her better. After ten minutes without discussing anything of substance, she explains the song “Losin’ My Religion.’ (Budding journalists: When you get to spend time with a current news-maker, this is a good example of what not to do.) …

♦ …On the other hand, if you want to see her something more substantive, there’s nothing quite like her visit to lead worship in a maximum security prison.

♦ You can’t be cessationist and also claim that God ‘led’ you to do something. But just in case He does, here’s the necessary workarounds to explain why it happened and didn’t happen at the same time.

♦ Quotation of the Week: “My ego always struggles with acknowledgment. I not only want my left hand to know what my right hand is doing (Matt. 6:3) I want them to get together and start an avalanche of applause because I’ve done it.” ~Jim Thornber at (the other) Thinking Out Loud.

♦ How not to write a movie review: I wanted to know more about God Bless the Broken Road but after hitting a few spoilers I realized this was just giving away the entire script from beginning to end.

♦ From that website with the weird name: 

♦ I wanted to include this item — about Ray Comfort and Penn Jillette — but had trouble finding the lede.

♦ Actual things said to women pastors by parishioners and male pastors in the North Carolina Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. A six minute video.

♦ Another Christmas season; another school board excises any mention of Jesus from their Christmas concert. 

♦ Finally…what? We don’t have a ‘finally’ today?

This Anglican Halloween alternative has us curious. “Trick or treat at 15 doors with the saints.”

 

October 3, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Last week’s Connect collection was a very busy place. This week, the algorithms brought us a much tighter list. I’m experimenting with embedding the videos again this week. Our opening graphic (above) is courtesy of Happy Monday.

♦ She was teaching Sunday School in my own church. And she believed in reincarnation. Fortunately one of the Grade Five boys told his mom and she was relieved of her duties. Monday, Pew Research reported “Most American adults self-identify as Christians. But many [American] Christians also hold what are sometimes characterized as “New Age” beliefs – including belief in reincarnation, astrology, psychics and the presence of spiritual energy in physical objects like mountains or trees.”

♦ The heart of The Wartburg Watch website: “Folks, hear me. The information on our blog is not only a critique of abuse in the church. It also exists to document the relationships and affiliations of certain groups that we have identified as worthy of watching. There is serious money involved in these enterprises and we intended to keep an eye on it.” A look at backscratching at Challies.com.

♦ Reconsidering one of Ireland’s unique laws:

The Constitution defines blasphemy as offensive comments or matter designed to offend any religious community: anything said or done deemed “gross abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage against a substantial number of the adherents of that religion”. Under the 1961 Defamation Act, a person could be fined and/or jailed for up to seven years for the crime of blasphemous libel, making blasphemy punishable by law.

That law’s continuance is now part of an end-of-the-month referendum

♦ Video of the Week (Teaching): The Meeting House in Canada produced this excellent 4-minute piece on giving. (Try to watch this full-screen.)

♦ How a graphic novel helped a Bible scholar better understand physical locations and perspective in the Gospel of Mark.

♦ Handicaps:

♦ Fighting the battle of losing: Catholic churches see declining numbers; “The prescription for combating the decline lies in large part not with Rome, but with local Catholic leaders inspiring young people individually.”

♦ In many ways, the sermon preached this weekend is an encapsulation of the past decade of his preaching, and a response to those who don’t understand the purpose behind the new book, Irresistible. (Message starts at 18:30) He didn’t directly address the “unhitching” controversy, but comes directly at “the Bible says” discussion with great passion

♦ …Related headline: Has Irresistible Cracked the Code to Reach the Nones? Review sample: “For Christians that don’t see the big deal, it’s because we grew up on the inside. But think about the confusion that it would create if Americans put the Articles of Confederation (the binding document that preceded the Constitution) together with the Constitution and said they are both authoritative, even though we only live under the Constitution. It could get confusing to those on the outside. Or it would be like being married to your current spouse but still maintaining an intimate relationship with your ex-spouse or your ex-girlfriend or boyfriend. Things probably wouldn’t work out so well.”…

♦ …and then this article, which also looks at “Stanleyism” at its conclusion foreshadows another look at the issue forthcoming in February, The Lost World of the Torah.

…This book is written by the certifiably evangelical John H. Walton, Old Testament professor at Wheaton College in Illinois and formerly at the Moody Bible Institute, and his son J. Harvey Walton, a graduate student at St. Andrews University. The publisher is the certifiably evangelical InterVarsity Press…We can anticipate more lively Christian debate ahead regarding the Old Testament.

♦ Video of the Week (Music): Is this song, “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire” by Mack Brock at tribute to the Jim Cymbala book of the same name?

♦ Calling Good Evil and Calling Evil Good: Though written last Friday in a rapidly shifting news cycle, this is a devotional for such a time as this

♦ A new (or should that be old?) translation of Psalm 23 in Middle English

♦ Quotation of the Week: “The New Testament writers and apostles were far from naïve or prudish. They lived with TMI – too much information about the violence, excessive behaviour and destructive tendencies of the human heart.”

♦ Children’s Bible-related books tend to focus on the First Testament stories or the Gospels, but rarely on anything in the Epistles. So this book (pictured at right on desktop, or above on mobile) Paul Writes (a Letter) by Chris Raschka is a refreshing change.

♦ Counting the Costco: A study shows the more religious you are, the more you will value frugality, which means the less likely you are to make impulse purchases.

♦ I’m not sure how necessary this would be in groups I’ve belonged to, but this short piece did get me thinking about other similar things. The author thinks that just as there is a greeter or two at church services, there should be a greeter at small group meetings. (However, if your small group still needs name tags, either it’s a large group, or you’re failing at community.) …

♦ …on the other hand, here’s an article from the same site about the importance of confidentiality in small groups. Five ways to ensure confidentiality in your meetings.

♦ Lauren Daigle’s album Look Up Child is rockin’ the mainstream pop charts with the song You Say.

♦ The Latter Day Saints (Mormons) have launched an updated website to help people struggling with pornography. It makes four significant changes to the earlier site.

♦ Losing Her Religion: A review of Lisa Gungor’s new book, The Most Beautiful Thing I’ve Seen (Zondervan). 

Describing faith like a sweater, she says: “…over the years, a thread comes loose and you try to just tuck it in” but eventually you decide you don’t need it anymore – the thread comes out easily and the sweater stays together. But over time “you pull another, and another, and soon you find all the yarn is gone. You have deconstructed the entire thing.” This is what Lisa says happened to her.

♦ Reddit of the Week: “Can I be Christian and transgender?” If you’re not familiar with the internet genre known as ‘forums,’ this is as good a place as any to begin

♦ If you saw my piece on Monday about the CBS-TV show God Friended Me, here’s more about the lead actor, who really is the son of a minister.

♦ Finally, this lesson in how not to engage in inter-faith dialog is also a good lesson in how a certain name for God came to be:

 


Tweet of the Week:

September 26, 2018

Wednesday Connect

It’s now possible to buy a globe that provides a very accurate representation of what things were like when “the earth was without form and void.”

When we changed the name, 28 weeks ago, from Wednesday Link List to Wednesday Connect, one goal was to center more on news stories and opinion pieces which you might not see in other similar lists, but which I still think are vitally important. Today’s list is no exception.

That said however, in case you missed it, yes, it’s finally happened, Hillsong is about to become its own denomination. (I guess I just considered that significant enough to include.) 

Now on to the list:

♦ A Pennsylvania couple is fighting their borough over being told they cannot hold Bible studies or church meetings of any type on their farm property.

♦ It’s Trinity Western all over again; this time at Azuza Pacific University which has made changes to its student code of conduct

🇨🇦 Part three of three in the Reformed-Anabaptist interview between The Gospel Coalition Canada, and The Meeting House pastor Bruxy Cavey. [Where Bruxy lists many topics not covered, which might have been if the interview had been hosted the other way around.]

♦ Essay of the Week: “Before you reject the Christian life, make sure you know what it is. Here’s a question that seized the mind of a generation—’Do you like Green Eggs and Ham?’ Half the entertainment value in this classic children’s book lies in the main character’s colorful determination not to receive that meal… People today share this experience in that they’re sure they don’t want Jesus: ‘I do not want him in a house, I do not want him with a mouse. I do not want him in a tree, I do not want him, let me be.'” The author shares that at a pivotal moment, the faith he had lost “blazed to life.”

🎬 The writers of God’s Not Dead have just wrapped a $6M film which “focuses on anti-abortion activist Abby Johnson, who spent years working for Planned Parenthood before switching sides.” (For those having a déja vu, a decidedly lower-budget version of this story released in 2011 under the same title.

♦ After being adrift for 49 days, this Indonesian teenager found strength in prayer and reading his Bible.

♦ Losing Her Religion: “With the release of her new book, The Most Beautiful Thing I’ve Seen Grammy nominated artist Lisa Gungor goes deep on family, church, and being pushed out of the world she knew so well.” The 7-minute video title begins, “I Stopped Believing in God.”

♦ Oh my! The Trump Prophecy film is complete and tickets are being sold. (I have no words.)

♦ One of the first people to ever hear the original Living Bible read aloud (long before any print edition), Mark Taylor reflects on it and its successor, the New Living Translation.

♦ The aftermath of Hurricane Florence: “God is good even when we may not have all the answers to the problem of natural evil.” The author links to four detailed articles written after Hurricane Katrina.

📖 While standing in the Jordan River, Francis Chan talks about his new book, Letters to the Church. 3 minute video. 

📖 Audio Book Excerpt: 16 minutes of Andy Stanley’s newest — and most controversial — Irresistible: Reclaiming the New That Jesus Unleashed for the World.

📖 Provocative Book Title of the Week (1): R. T. Kendall explains the background behind his newest book, Popular in Heaven, Famous in Hell.

📖 Provocative Book Title of the Week (2) ‘Outside the Lines: How Embracing Queerness Will Transform Your Faith (Fortress Press; pictured at right.) Click to read an excerpt.

Sermon of the Week: No, actually this really is about VitalSermons.com which posts, along with other things, what they consider the sermon of the week. [Background  story at Religion News Service .]

♦ Disturbing headline of the week: “Two Christian Bus Passengers Executed After They Refuse to Recite Islamic Statement of Faith.” The story: “Some horrific news is emerging out of Kenya after two Christians were murdered in cold blood by militants belonging to Islamic terror group Al-Shabaab.” 

♦ Dialing for Doctrine: A short video refutes the idea that Wesleyan Arminianism is human centered, or that the individual is the author or originator of salvation.

♦ We’re told to sing: “Scripture is full of references to people singing joyfully to the Lord. At every feast and celebration, in public and private worship, singing filled the air.” Randy Alcorn shares a personal story, a teaching, and a popular worship song video.

♦ Translation Topics: One of the best articles I’ve seen on the issue of committee or single person translations.  

Some may chide the single-translator editions for being the product of only one person. The negative comments I’ve heard against them have been that with a committee translated Bible, two heads are better than one and three heads are better than two, and so on. I don’t disagree with this, but a committee ultimately has to reach a consensus which may not allow for the best or better translation of a phrase. Sometimes the single translator has greater liberty to do what may be best—as in the case of commentaries—whereas a committee’s hands can be tied…

…There are certainly drawbacks to single-translator editions, but there are also strengths. Furthermore, if you want to revive your Bible reading habit, or make it richer, pick up a single-translator edition. There are often nuances in the text, especially for those who don’t read original languages, that committees aren’t able to represent.

♦ Fashion Section: [by the same author]

What if we truly looked to the Bible to see how people dressed for assembly in the first century? It isn’t a novel idea because most of us do that for other things already, so I point us, first, to the earliest New Testament writing, the book of James—written somewhere in the 40s… From the passages we have in the New Testament, could our best ever be considered by God to be overdressed?

♦ In the middle of #MeToo, is it possible that more boys are affected by dating violence than girls?

♦ Pastor Place: 10 Reasons why how you exit the church is more crucial than how you arrived all those years ago.

⛪ Church Life: 7 Things a worship leader won’t tell you. “…there are many misconceptions about a worship leader’s job, and a number of difficult elements that go unnoticed.” [Sample: #2 This job can get pretty weird.]

♦ Gender Study: “After a U.K. survey found that only 1 percent of British Christians consider God to be female, some Church of England leaders are urging clergy to consider their word usage. According to research conducted by YouGov, younger Christians are now more likely than older Christians to view God as male.”

♦ Parenting Place: When a kid throws sand at her own child, a mom writes a short but focused letter to the other child’s mom.

♦ The student unions of three well-known British universities has banned a pro-life group from displaying at school events.

♦ Many articles this week reposted a USAToday story about placing microchips in humans for identification purposes. But the story offered this sidebar:

Some people are already willingly microchipping themselves. For example, a self-declared “cyborg” in Canada named Russ Foxx has embedded multiple microchips into various areas of his body… Foxx, 36, has had over 100 body alterations ranging from ultraviolet tattoos to silicon horns implanted into his forehead.

♦ A classic liturgical resource has provided the lyrical inspiration for the album Songs of Common Prayer. Read an interview with the creator Greg LaFollette at Relevant; watch the one minute video trailer.

♦ A Chicago priest has been put on leave following an incident involving the burning of a rainbow banner.

🎬 The latest film from Pure Flix has grossed $4.5M at the box office, and a high profile actress is giving visibility to a sequel where the original left out the faith component. Read about Unbroken: Path to Redemption

🎬 Also from Pure Flix, though absent anything particularly faith-focused in the trailer I watched, is Little Women, opening this weekend. Watch the trailer for yourself.

♦ And the next state to legalize marijuana is… …Utah?  

🎹 New Music (1): Well Done, a new song by The Afters. (I really like this one!) 

🎹 New Music (2) / Kids’ Korner: I Give you My Heart by Hillsong Kids from the new album, Can You Believe It.  [Thanks to NewReleaseToday.com for the leads on new songs we use here from time to time.]

♫ Worship Workshop: In Episode #27 of NoPro Worship, David Wesley looks at different ways in which classic hymns are “wrought to” creating a contemporary feel.

♦ Well… Jesus used hyperbole, too; didn’t he? Pope Francis’ famous “I am the devil” statement (which I’ve just pulled out of context!)

📺 Atticus Shaffer, the youngest cast member of the 9-year-long sitcom The Middle talks about his Christian faith. (Also his reasons for liking Galatians er, make that 1 Corinthians or perhaps he really means the Gospel of John.)

♦ The truth is, the reason I don’t end these lists with links to Matthew Pierce anymore is because I’m convinced he’s totally nuts

♦ Finally, we have this Associated Press story: “SAVANNAH, Ga. (WJBF)/(AP) – Police say a woman was openly selling marijuana products during an event at a Georgia church.” …But then, once you’ve got the gist of the story, you really need to read how this website reported it.


I know some American readers will disagree with the perspective — the conclusion in particular — on this one-minute video, but for all my readers outside the United States, I thought you should see this firsthand.

 

September 19, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Hard to believe we’ve completed six months under the new Wednesday Connect banner. While it may seem similar to the old Wednesday Link List, there have been more behind the scenes changes than you might notice, particularly in how the links are gathered. I think each week’s list offers the best of things that you might not see in other places, and I hope you agree. – Paul.


♦ Before we begin, Remembering Nabeel Qureshi. If you haven’t seen it, there is now a third edition* available of Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. Abdu Murray, North American director for RZIM, posted this picture below. He is also a converted Muslim.


♦ The “petite bottle blonde from Arkadelphia.” The Atlantic profiles Beth Moore.

For decades, Moore never broke stride. In the past few years, however, she has felt out of step with the evangelical community. During the 2016 campaign, many of its leaders not only excused Donald Trump’s boorish behavior but painted him as a great defender of Christianity—evangelicals’ “dream president,” in the words of Jerry Falwell Jr. More recently, a series of high-profile pastors have been toppled by accusations of sexual misconduct. The deferential reserve that defined Moore’s career has become harder for her to maintain… This may seem like an uncontroversial stance. But in the wake of her tweets, the staff at Living Proof Ministries, Moore’s tight-knit organization, “could not hang up the phone for picking it up.” She got messages from women who had read her Bible studies for years but said they’d never read another.

♦ Continued developments in the imprisonment of American pastor Andrew Bronson as Turkey names a new prosecutor in a case hampering relations with the United States.

♦ Essay of the Week: A proposal for a new type of short term missions trip. Excerpts:

Just between you and me, nothing we do is particularly reliant on outsiders and we don’t need people to come in and play with local children or teach them – we have trained up local people to do that. And they do it really well…

…When there is a constant parade of outside trainers who aren’t willing to learn, we send the message that local people have nothing to offer. We reinforce their sense of inferiority, while patting ourselves on the back — emotionally boosted by the high status role of expert.

♦ Saying “Farewell” to the traditional sermon. This article really, really resonated with me. I’ve been saying this type of thing for at least two decades now. “…the intriguing thing about Apple Events is that no video or speaker ever takes more than 10 minutes at a time… According to University of Washington Medical School molecular biologist John Medina, our brains have a built-in stopwatch that ends at around 10 minutes. And he cites peer-reviewed studies to prove it… This will be heartbreaking to preachers who are currently preparing their 30-minute sermon for this Sunday. Michael Frost calls this piece, Learning How to Preach in the Church of Apple.

Who is paying Bill Hybels’ legal bills? Which leads to…

♦ …the above item links to detailed, multi-topic Q&A page posted this weekend at Willow… which brings us to this addition to the list:

♦ …Breaking: Former Willow teaching pastor Steve Carter breaks his silence. (Updated 9:00 AM EST)

♦ Hurricane Help: With a congregation dispersed over many states, a pastor’s Facebook posts are a link to conditions back home.

♦ When the network news changes its focus to new stories, the only way to keep focused is through prayer.

God does not stop hearing the cries of the afflicted when our news feed changes topic. Black lives matter today as much as they did five years ago and five hundred years ago. Refugees will always be close to God’s heart, whether the government embraces them or not. God’s command to “administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another” and to “not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor” (Zechariah 7:9-10 NIV) does not budge when we we max out our capacity to hear more stories of suffering.

♦ Praying for healing for Anne Graham Lotz as she faces a health challenge. Anne was scheduled for surgery yesterday, and we’ll update this if anyone has new information.

♦ Penal Substituationary Atonment (PSA) or just Substituionary Atonement (SA)? That is the question. “When U look to the cross in your mind’s eye, where do you spatially locate the Father? Do you see him hovering over Jesus, pouring out his wrath upon his Son? I don’t think that is a biblical image, not the image God the Father wants us to imagine.” Part two of a Gospel Coalition Canada interview with Bruxy Cavey.

♦ Quotation of the Week:

[Google’s] stated company mission is to store all the world’s knowledge, which starts to sound like omniscience. And if we consider that in today’s personal-information economy, knowledge is power, we could add omnipotence to our list. Such words are usually reserved for the other Big G.

A look at Search, Artificial Intelligence and the company that controls 75% of our online quests for information.

♦ Shoe Box Compassion: I posted this around the same time last year, but here we go again: Ten alternatives to Operation Christmas Child. [If you’re new to Thinking Out Loud, this is a recurring theme here. Start with this short post, then move on this concise, 14-point discussion.]

♦ Yet another look at Willow. This ice climbing analogy isn’t perfect, but it did get me thinking about two things. First, how your ‘fall’ can end up hurting others. Second, about how you might not want to ask God to ‘enlarge your territory’ to the point you can’t handle what’s put in front of you. “Lord, please don’t grant me more power than my character can handle.”

♦ Liberal churches keep losing numbers:

“Across cultures, religious communities that expect more from their members thrive (or religious communities in which members face greater consequences for leaving). Meanwhile, lenient religious groups struggle to maintain membership. Why is this? Wouldn’t you assume most people would want to join the easiest religion? Recent research suggests that strict religions are sociologically and psychologically predisposed to succeed.” A 7-minute video on why the strict churches succeed.

♦ Movie Trailer of the Week: [Don’t watch if kids are in the room.] A look at The Road To Edmond with Tripp Fuller and Nathanael Welch

♦ Testimony of the Week: She lives with OCD and Tourette’s Syndrome. Here are eight things she wants you to know.

♦ Provocative Title of the Week: Is the Christian Faith, Strictly Speaking, Biblical? “…this Jesus movement, which, once again, has its roots in Judaism, also make certain moves that don’t really follow that ancient tradition.” Peter Enns on an issue that’s top of mind right now (partly due to the book we reviewed on Monday.)

♦ “The Black Church has historically been a source of hope and strength for the African American community.” With that opening tag line, blogger Ann Brock provides an excellent summary of relevant stories on The Old Black Church. (We often steal story ideas from there, and thought you’d like to see our source firsthand!)

♦ Parenting Place: Another school year, another round of bullying, right? But this mom nailed it in a heart-to-heart with her sixth grade son. Read and learn.

♦ When the people who write the stories are the story. Sexual harassment at Christian writers conference.

♦ Challenging: Why climbing mountains should be part of teacher training.

♦ Canada Corner: Congratulations to Canada Christian College on the occasion of their move from Toronto to a beautiful location on the waterfront in Whitby, a town east of the city. (Ruth and I attended an opening barbecue last night; a formal grand opening will follow.)

♦ In Christian publishing news, Hachette Book Group (home to FaithWords, which in turn is home to Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer) has purchased Worthy Publishing, including all the Museum of the Bible titles.

♦ For two years she said nothing. But a former FBI agent says she saw angels at the 9/11 crash site.

♦ I often find I can’t read anything unless it’s in short paragraphs and peppered with bold face, italics, bullet points, numbered lists, etc. Believing others feel the same, I did a reworking on a classic commentary by Alexander MacLaren on an interesting scripture passage, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.”

♦ Science confirms it: Church is for the birds! Actually the piece is about the biodiversity found near churches, and not just about the tall spires and steeples that you thought were just there to mask cell phone towers.

♦ After TIFF there was CIFF. Not long after the Toronto International Film Festival, the city hosted the Canadian International Faith and Family Film Festival. (Wouldn’t that be CIFFFF?) Featured films are shown in the event poster below:


*This is the edition of the book now shipping, but it’s absent from the Zondervan website when you do a search.


What would you like to see more of? What would you like to see less of? Let us know how we can improve this list. Also, would you like the music videos returned to the list? Let us know in the comments or via the contact page.

September 12, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Years later, the Church Stage Design website is still going, sharing ideas for creative teams in large churches. Click either picture to link to the site.

So that’s what ASAP stands for! This design is available at TeePublic as a t-shirt, mug, pillow, tote bag, etc. Click to link.

We’re back! Don’t forget the top clicks from Wednesday are published on Twitter a day or two later. This is the paragraph which appears on Twitter, so we just need to make it a little longer. There. That should do it. @PaulW1lk1nson on Twitter

♦ IVP released Faith in the Shadows: Finding Christ in the Midst of Doubt by Austin Fisher yesterday. Brian Zahnd shares the introduction he wrote for the book: “I’ve seen fear-based Christian parents place their children in fundamentalist Christian schools for the sole purpose of shielding little Johnny from the “lies of secular science,” only to see Johnny become an atheist before he’s out of high school. When you force Johnny to choose between fundamentalist certitude and peer-reviewed science, Johnny may not always be persuaded by pseudo-apologetics from fundamentalist answer-men like Ken Ham… I’ve seen too many Christians lose battles they never needed to fight. Like Don Quixote they imagine harmless windmills as threatening giants, fight a needless battle, only to have the windmill-imagined-as-giant win.”

♦ Yesterday was the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy in the United States. Apologist Nick Peters wrote, “Today, we don’t have any promises. My wife and I will be out driving to places today. Do we have a promise that nothing will happen to us on the way? Nope. We are not promised anything like that…Our world is normally at peace, but we should never take it for granted. Odds are our loved ones will be with us for awhile, but we shouldn’t take that for granted.”

♦ She’s a pastor. That very sentence is enough to drive some complementarians to distraction, but evidence of a female pastor is as close as your copy of the Bible; but not in Paul’s writing but one of John’s epistles.

♦ Provocative Title of the Week: How Willow Creek Exposed our Sins

♦ …Related: This story of same-sex abuse 20 years also contains the same-old denials so common in these situations

♦…Also related: Michael Frost quotes New Testament scholar David Starling: “When you go looking in the Bible, you realise pretty quickly that leadership can hardly be found there at all. The Bible certainly contains a host of concrete instances of individuals, tasks, offices, and images that you might want to connect in some way with the category of leaders and leadership: mothers, fathers, shepherds, sages, prophets, judges, priests, kings, messiahs, apostles, pastors, elders, overseers … the instances are everywhere. But the abstraction, the umbrella term leadership, hardly rates a mention.” He calls the article, Pastoring in a post-Hybels World.

♦ For those focused on Israel, the birth a perfectly red heifer may be the most important news story of the week.  (Or this 1-minute video version.)

♦ After years of doing it so frequently, in the last 16-weeks we have ceased to link to the Phil Vischer Podcast nka The Holy Post Podcast. (Reasons on request.) But I don’t want you to miss Skye’s interview with Aaron Niequist on “practices.” He felt that the worship sets served in most modern churches simply don’t constitute a ‘well-balanced meal.‘  Fast forward to 33:22 for the interview.

♦ While not a faith-focused piece, this clearly describes the times we live in. I found this on the editorial page of Saturday’s Toronto Star. The writer is most concerned with broadcasting, but has a number of tech giants in his sights. It’s obvious who he is referring to, but note how concisely the players are mentioned:

♦ When people are moved to give: The President of the Canadian branch of the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination shares three examples of people removing bracelets, rings, a belt and an Apple Watch and placing them in the offering plate because they felt they needed to do something; they felt they needed to respond.

♦ An updated edition of The Mirror Bible by Francois Du Toit, first released in 2013, has been published including the Book of Revelation.

♦ North Korea and the U.S.? How about a summit almost as delicate between a Calvinist and Canadian pastor Bruxy Cavey on inerrancy, the authority of scripture, pacifism and much more.

♦ Turning visitors into regulars: “As any good manager of a hotel, store, restaurant, or attraction knows, the key to getting guests to come back is how they feel when they’re there. It’s about hospitality. No matter how much effort and time we spend on excellence–a stirring worship time, inspiring sermons, a good coffee blend in the foyer–what guests at our churches really want is to feel welcome, comfortable, and understood.” Part of the publicity for The Come Back Effect: How Hospitality Can Compel Your Guests to Return by Jason Young and Jonathan Malm, published by Baker Books. (Foreword by Andy Stanley) (Jonathan produces the Church Stage Design website, where today’s upper pictures originated.)

♦ Some good news about a high profile Christian author and a marriage reconciliation that you may have missed.

♦ You might not have to punch a time clock in heaven — it’s eternity after all — but you might hold a job. Randy Alcorn writes, “Because there will be continuity from the old Earth to the new, it’s possible we’ll continue some of the work we started on the old Earth. We’ll pursue some of the same things we were doing, or dreamed of doing, before our deaths. Of course, some people’s jobs won’t exist on the New Earth, among them dentists, police officers, funeral directors, and insurance salespeople. What are now their interests or hobbies may become their main vocations.” 

♦ Famous last words: No, seriously; a web page devoted to the dying words of famous Christians from past centuries.

♦ Animals, yes; but people? A look at the idea of one person’s death atoning for the sins of others. “In 4 Maccabees 17 (one of the books of the Apocrypha), we read that the Jewish martyrs who died under Antiochus in the early 2nd century BCE were a “. . . ransom for the sin of our nation,” and “the blood of those devout ones and their death [was] as an atoning sacrifice” (verses 21-22).”

♦ Theological Concepts Department: A look at the phrase “ordinary means of grace” and its meaning for non-Catholics.

♦ This is so well done.

♦ Author/speaker Christine Caine on studying at Wheaton College: “I remember reading a Billy Graham quote maybe a decade ago. In that quote, Dr. Graham said that there were four or five things he had wished he had done differently, and one of them was that he wished he had studied more… If I want to continue to speak effectively into our culture, I must keep studying and learning and humbling myself. I must continual take in… I don’t feel like I have to dumb myself down here or pretend that I’m not a speaker. I can be fully who I am and be learning incredibly from professors and from fellow students in their 20s.”

♦ Parent of a high school student already thinking about September, 2019? The Christian University College Fair tour has kicked off for another year. (I mention this each year because one of these events was extremely helpful to us.)

♦ Charismatic evangelist and author Juanita Bynam announces the move of her ministry headquarters to Ghana.

♦ If you plan to set your Nike shoes on fire, at least have the good sense to take them off first. 🔥

♦ With so much controversy in the Roman Catholic Church right now, one family is withholding the $1 they usually give weekly.

♦ Finally, to understand the Apocrypha, you have to understand Star War Fan Fiction.


 

September 5, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Opening and closing images this week are from Clark Bunch at The Master’s Table.

♦ Allegedly under pressure from large financial donors, Fresno Pacific’s University’s graduate program in Anabaptist Theology has removed the visiting lecturer status of Bruxy Cavey, Greg Boyd and Brian Zahnd, and has also demoted its president to professor status after he takes a sabbatical. Yikes! In one cohort, 21 out of 23 students have signed a letter of protest, while meanwhile 11 out of the 18 students who were registered for this year — many on the premise of getting to interact with these very lecturers — have withdrawn. Greg Boyd said he had, “letters of support from [Mennonite Brethren] pastors apologizing and worrying about their denomination losing Anabaptist distinctives and acclimating to American fundamentalism.”

♦ An Evangelical Who’s Who: A list of all the big shots in Evangelicalism who got invited to that White House dinner we reported last week. Who would you have added?

♦ Speaking of which, students in the film program at Liberty University got a rather rude awakening when instead of the productions they thought they would be doing, ended up filming something called The Trump Prophecy. “In December [2017], before we left for Christmas break, we were slated to shoot two short films that had nothing to do with Trump,” one student recalled. “The first day we were back in January for spring semester, that had changed. Needless to say, we all thought it was a joke at first, but as you know … it’s not.” They are concerned that this film will damage the reputation of film students and discredit the film program

♦ California’s ‘anti-conversion’ Bill AB 2943, “which was designed to ban the sale of anything opposing the homosexual agenda – has been withdrawn after not receiving enough votes to reach Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.” “One of the most influential organizations leading opposition to the legislation was [James] Dobson’s Policy Center…”

♦ Funding for Churches: England will spend £1.8 million “to repair and maintain historic places of worship.” “The scheme will help listed churches and other eligible places of worship remain fit to serve their communities for generations to come. This will include managing a network of local volunteers in maintaining the listed buildings and exploring options for wider use of the buildings by the community.”

♦ No, it’s not about conflating patriotism with Evangelicalism. It’s actually a reason for removing the U.S. flag from the auditorium or sanctuary of Christians written from the perspective someone who knows a thing or two about flags

🎥 Beyond Patreon: “Giving Films releases its third project, An Interview with God, to theaters this week. The new movie follows last March’s Paul, Apostle of Christ and 2015’s 90 Minutes in Heaven. Whether you enjoy any of these titles, there’s no doubt the look and feel of these movies is worlds apart from the crowdfunded fare.

♦ Social concerns from the wider world: Chronic State, a 58-minute documentary looks at the impact of legalized pot on the state of Colorado. (Sample: “This is realistically a new drug. Yes, we call it marijuana and it comes from the same plant, but this is not the plant you’re thinking of when you’re thinking about marijuana.”)

♦ For the month of September, Mark Clark, pastor of Village Church in Vancouver and author of The Problem of God is creating a series of short videos teaching through the Gospel of Matthew for a Canadian television show. Start with this one — and learn a bit about Mark — and then click the channel to continue watching as new episodes are added.

♦ The object of our prayers: “We asked our nine year old, Lily Faith, to pray for our meal, and that’s when it happened: ‘Dear Alexa, please bless our meal today, and Daddy …’ Our entire family exploded with laughter (including some nice folks next to us). Lily, on the other hand, didn’t think it was funny at all. She began crying and couldn’t eat.” A look at the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on our work and family.

♦ Parenting: Robert has a 5-hour-per-day addiction to the game Fortnite. But now school has started and it’s turning into a Fortnitemare. (Link is to 3-min clip from The Today Show, NBC) 

♦ Parenting: Even if you don’t have kids this is good reading: 7 Parenting Errors Which Will Can Influence Adult Children to Leave the Faith.

♦ I hope you don’t need this article, but… How to be a Caregiver When it Feels You Can’t Go On.

♦ Skye Jethani revisits C.S. Lewis’ classic “liar, lunatic or Lord” argument with a visual flow-chart-like representation. (Click image to source.)

♦ This link is actually a year old, and we’ve carried it here before, but I found it interesting to see what John MacArthur’s Master’s Seminary was dealing with a year ago. The point is to say that the school is no stranger to controversy.

♦ Another one: “One worshipper has been killed and dozens of others injured after a church collapsed in southern Nigeria… Church collapses are relatively common in Nigeria. In December 2016 dozens of worshippers were killed when a church collapsed in Akwa Ibom state. The Nigeria Society of Engineers has blamed the problem mainly on the use of substandard materials and violations of building regulations.

♦ Musings when a pastor commits suicide: Navigating a pressure-packed vocation.

♦ Ed Young — who pops up elsewhere on this list — goes fishing with Steven Furtick. Supposedly Episode 1 of a series. 15 minute video.

♦ Most provocative headline we saw this week: Don’t Ruin Your Life for an Orgasm.

♦ This weekend, Mark Batterson of National Community Church in Washington, DC presented his church with the vision for their eighth location, which he describes on Twitter: “The old Navy Yard Car Barn was the turnaround where streetcars were repaired and rerouted. We’ll turn it into a prototype campus with child development center, mixed-use marketplace and co-work space.”

♦ A critical look at a #1 bestselling book, Rachel Hollis’ Girl Wash Your Face. “Make no mistake, sisters. This book is all about YOU.”

♦ Guest writer at Internet Monk: “It looks like the beginning of the end at Willow Creek. They aren’t saying that, but I feel like that’s what’s happening. If so, good riddance. And you can take the megachurch movement you spawned with you.”   [Ouch!]

♦ Charismatic Conglomerate: The parent company of Destiny Image Publishing has acquired Harrison House, home to many prosperity gospel and name-it-and-claim-it titles.

♦ CBN News: “When Influence Church Worship Pastor Michael Ketterer hit the stage Tuesday night for the live quarterfinal competition on NBC’s America’s Got Talent, he left the judges and the audience in tears – literally.” 

♫ The band I Am They: Official video for My Feet are on the Rock.

♦ Dumbest. Sermon. Series. Ever. Ed Young’s church presents Wrastlin’ featured in this 60-second preview. (Though he didn’t use these words, in this article, Tim Challies suggests this is the moment the attractional church model “jumped the shark.”)

♦ Finally, when The Onion isn’t funny: If anything, people were complaining that this story was too true-to-life.

August 29, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Mark Driscoll on the September cover of Charisma magazine? Charisma, as in Charismatic, Pentecostal, et al? Driscoll as in Acts 29 Network, Gospel Coalition, Together for the Gospel? And does he know this crowd reveres and ordains women?

♦ Asked why they don’t identify with a particular religious group, some unidentified individuals found none the six choices offered by Pew Research’s survey described their situation. Apologist J. Warner Wallace (Cold Case Christianity) believes their views are best captured in another Pew survey, two years earlier.

Ravi Zacharias apologizes. Now what?

♦ Preaching to the choir: “Sadly, many of us who ‘preach’ spend little time doing anything that resembles evangelism. In a culture where it is increasingly hard to find unbelievers who will listen, it is tempting to throw up our hands and quit. What worries me, however, is that our conscience is not even bothering us much anymore. We’re comfortable being the congregation’s ‘minister.’ The gig we aspire to would be a nice mix of pulpiteer/pastor/program director.”

♦ After the spiritual gift test results are back: We loved this article so much, we’re running it this evening at Christianity 201. Check out Specific Places of Service for Every Spiritual Gift in Your Church.

♦ Mainstream Media: The New Yorker tackles the differences in the faith of Millennial Evangelicals and that of their parents; part of “a growing trend of young Christians who view themselves as theological conservatives rather than political ones. To them, this shift marks a return to a more authentic way to follow the teachings of Jesus, without the taint of the conservative politics with which older evangelicals have imbued the text. These younger believers contend they aren’t looser in any way in their approach to scripture—in fact, they say the opposite. By following the words and actions of Jesus as revealed by God in the Bible, they believe they are being more faithful believers, eschewing worldly politics altogether. They remain deeply committed to the tenet of Biblical inerrancy, and the idea that the Bible, as a whole, is divine revelation…”

♦ “‘Spiritual’ and ‘spirituality’ have indeed become buzzwords in contemporary American culture, in which their main function, as far as I can see, has been to distinguish outward religious behavior, such as belonging to a denominational body and adhering to its precepts and standards of behavior, from an inward sense of the sacred and the wish to express it in a personal way.” But there is no corresponding word in the Hebrew bible.

♦ Did they just cave? An article dissecting the decision made by the leadership of Trinity Western University after they dropped their controversial student Community Covenant following a Canadian Supreme Court decision. 

♦ Finally. A clear and calm and rational dismissal of the notion that the KJV is the most accurate translation. (14-minute video) 

Invitations for the White House dinner were sent out just six weeks before the event.

♦ The Trump “Thank You” dinner for Evangelical leaders:

♦ The basic report from Religion News Service

♦ The text of what the President said (including an interjection from Shirley Dobson)

♦ The more biting look at the meeting from John Fea, who describes the crowd as “court Evangelicals.”

♦ Erring too far on the side of Grace? An examination of Tullian Tchividjian’s newest book and the responses it is receiving.

♦ So very sad: “Members of Inland Hills Church in Chino, California, are now grappling with grief after their lead pastor, Andrew Stoecklein, succumbed to self-inflicted injuries Saturday after a battle with depression and anxiety, his church said. He was 30.” He leaves his wife and three young boys. (More on the church’s Facebook page.)

♦ Good advice: Things to consider when you encounter a friend or acquaintance who has been recently diagnosed with, or has been dealing a long time with mental illness. Sample: “When people are dealing with something we don’t understand…our natural tendency is to draw away and to put space between us and them. The same thing happens when we assume a person’s experience is too private or shameful to ask them about. Don’t make the mistake of reinforcing stigma and shame by pulling out of a friend’s life just when he or she needs you most. You aren’t the solution, but you can be a powerful vehicle for God’s healing grace.” 

♦ You can’t tell the players without a program: Your moment-by-moment guide to the Anglican (Episcopalian, if you prefer) Communion Service (Eucharist, if you prefer) for the first-time attendee.

♦ It’s been awhile since we linked to one, so here’s the most recent Young Influencer’s List from Brad Lomenick.

♦ Quotation of the Week: “Our churches are full of people on Sunday mornings who are tired from staying up late the night before. They watched the end of the game that went into overtime. They were out late with friends. They caught the end of “Saturday Night Live.” The people in attendance on Sundays have grown accustomed to 30-second videos on social media and 140 characters in tweets. They’re used to being entertained and distracted at the touch of a button, and we expect them to be enthralled as we explain Paul’s teaching about circumcision for 30 to 45 minutes.” The power of good stories in preaching.

♦ Outrageous Quotation of the Week: “In a recent issue of the classic [Batman] comic, Bruce Wayne declares he doesn’t believe in God, only Batman. But does that prove to be enough?” Issue #53 is packed with theology including a quotation from the Book of Job.

♦ Aretha Franklin’s funeral will be broadcast on various outlets and live-streamed online

♦ …”After years of singing gospel music, she decided she wanted to cross over and sing pop and soul music. But as her father famously said and was obvious to anyone who listened to her sing, she never left the church.” More about the sacred side of Aretha’s music.

♦ When do the words of a “watchdog blogger” cross a line into hate speech? I find this one more disturbing than the person he’s writing about. Consider: “I write to the fan of Steven Furtick. Flee from him, lest your soul also be ensnared to hell. He is not a sound teacher. He is not the most obviously damning teacher, but he surely is one I’d say is the most cunning in his deception of the flock. If super soakers, Lego props, and the like were not clues enough – surely, the words of his mouth will serve as ample witness.” (Personally, I always thought super soakers were the sign of the antichrist.)

♦ New Bible for 2019: Watch for the April release of the Revised New Jerusalem Bible. (The New Testament edition may already exist, but I couldn’t confirm this on any reliable trade sites.)

♦ Dialing for Doctrine: More non-sequiturs and inconsistencies with Calvinism, along with 250 comments.

♦ Prayer request: For author and conference speaker Sarah Bessey who is battling a new health challenge.

♦ Canada Corner: A new brothel is opening up in Toronto. The cost is $80 for a half hour. But the women are artificial.

♦ Parenting Place: Keep your ears tuned for kids talking about “the Momo challenge” circulating on What’s App. It encourages kids to commit self harm.  

♫ New Music: Video for the title song of the forthcoming Casting Crowns album Only Jesus.

♦ Author and former CT Editor Katelyn Beatty has signed on to work for a division of Baker Book Group as an acquisitions editor, i.e. someone who seeks out new voices and helps them reach a wider audience

♦ In a $1 Billion class action law suit, Herbalife distributors claim the organization’s ‘pep rally’ events were a sham. I think it is significant that I found this story in the Twitter feed of Religion News Service. The reason? So many Christian people get caught up in these multi-level marketing schemes

🎥 Focus on the Family focuses (in great detail) on the hot movie of the summer, Crazy Rich Asians including spiritual content.”Early on, Eleanor leads a Bible study and reads a section of Colossians 3, including the phrases, ‘If, then, you have been raised with Christ … set your minds on things above.’ … Eleanor’s faith apparently runs deep enough that she forbids Nick and Rachel from sharing a room together in her house during their visit—a conviction that, it’s implied, is rooted in her Christian faith.” But the site also reviews less desirable elements of the film from a Christian perspective. (Plugged-In does this for all major film releases; it’s a good website to bookmark.)

♦ Not exactly a faith-focused story, however… Under pressure from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and after 116 years of captivity, the animals on the box of Animal Crackers have been freed from their cages. (But we still get to bite their heads off.)

♦ A very merry Jewish Christmas for kids: The book description, “A contemporary satirical take on Rudolph, Schmuck the Buck: Santa’s Jewish Reindeer introduces Larry, a young Jewish reindeer. He overcomes his awkward and painful youth to save Christmas. His tale of acceptance and inclusion is sure to warm the hearts of anyone who loves Christmas, Hanukkah, both.”

♦ Finally:

This may have been found on either the religion or Christianity page at Reddit. Not sure. I’m posting it here more for your entertainment and not implying endorsement. I did like the closing sentence however.

 

 

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