Thinking Out Loud

January 18, 2018

Blogger’s Book Better Late Than Never

Flipping through listings of future publications in the “Religion” category, I was surprised to find a spring listing for a book from Christian blogger Jamie Wright. Though there’s nothing showing on her blog since August of last year, being The Very Worst Blogger would be an appropriate addition to her collection of “worsts.” I wondered if people would remember her after all these years.

Like the blog, the book is titled The Very Worst Missionary and is being distributed by no less than Penguin Random House. With an April 3rd release date — just after Easter — the book will appear under PRH’s Converge Books imprint, a parking place for anything Christian that’s edgy. Yeah, they got that right. Totally candid, brutally honest, and wonderfully transparent.

Earlier today I browsed this blog’s archives for references to Jamie Wright only to find too many indexed to follow up on all of them. But this should give you an idea; a 2013 piece on being the parent of three teenage boys, simply titled Sex.  [Warning: Explicit language.]

…I believed that sex was the best thing I had to offer the world. It was the only thing about me worth loving. And I learned, too young, that I could leverage sex to get what I wanted. My female parts had become my greatest asset.

Then I found my way into the Church, 19 with a baby on my hip, and while I lingered on the outskirts of the Christian bubble, guess what I learned… I learned I was right! Apparently, even God was super concerned with my vagina, and where it had been, and what it had touched. Apparently, my genitals were like a portal that led straight to my soul. I had been muddied – and everybody knows that once you muck up clean water, you can’t unmuck it.

It took me a lot of years and a lot of conversations with God (and with people who know more about God than me) to understand that everything I believed about my own sexuality was built on two huge lies.The first comes from our culture, and it tells us that sex outside of marriage isn’t a big deal.

The second is from the Church, and it tells us that sex outside of marriage is the biggest deal of all the deals ever.

One allowed me to give it away freely, convinced I would carry no burden. The other forced me to carry a spirit crushing load.

Both are complete crap.

Now that we’ve shocked a few of you, for me the real gold to be mined in Jamie’s blog are some pieces she wrote on short-term missions, as seen through the eyes of full-time career missionaries in Costa Rica; like this 2012 piece, Hugs for Jesus:

…We ended up shooting an impromptu interview with this group of college aged youth, who’d come from all over North America and Europe. We asked them simple questions like who they were, what they were doing, and what they hoped to accomplish by giving out hugs on the streets of Costa Rica. I can say they were at least able to tell us their own names with confidence – beyond that, it was obvious that none of them was really sure why they were here or what they were doing. One girl even admitted that she wasn’t even a Christian when she arrived in the field, and that her Mom had signed her up (As a missionary! On a missions trip!!) without her knowledge.

We asked them, “If someone accepted a hug and was so moved by said hug (and subsequently knowing that Jesus loved them) and they wanted more information, what would you do?”

And they weren’t really sure.

So we helped them out with a suggestion, “Would you, y’know, maybe refer them to a local church?”

“Oh, yes! Yes. For sure. We would refer them to a church.”

Cool. Which church?

“Oh. Costa Rica has tons of great churches.”

OK. Do you know what any of them are called? Or where they are?

“Well… No. But, they’re everywhere around here.”

Oookaaay… Do you go to a church here? Like, a church that you could invite people to attend?

“Um…yeah. Hey, you guys? What’s that church we go to? Like, on Sundays. What’s it called again?”

So you don’t even know where YOU go to church?

And then, a leader came up and tapped her watch and said, “Sorry to interrupt, but we’ve got to go do… a…thing…” And then they split.

Jamie Wright

A little later that year, after quoting Luke 10 where Jesus sends out his version of a missions team, Healthy Short Term Missions? Do it Like Jesus, she noted:

Where Jesus appointed, we take volunteers.

Where Jesus sent pairs, we send herds.

Where Jesus admonished for danger and quiet humility along the road, we opt for vacation destinations and loud self-congratulations.

Where Jesus asks to be bringers of peace, we often bring chaos.

Where Jesus designed an opportunity for a disciple to lean into a new family, learn a new culture, and serve under the head of a household (who best knows his own need), we march in with a plan and the resources to git’er’done – completely missing out on the gift of being “a worker worth his wages”.

What if the original picture of “short-term teams” was meant to show us this valuable step in the process of discipleship, where we can learn dependence on God, love for others, and how to serve

And what if we’ve taken that picture and turned it into a billion dollar industry, creating dependence among the poor – not on God – but on the ourselves, damaging Christ’s image in the world, and missing the point entirely?

That’s the type of thing I’m looking forward to see reach a wider audience this spring. Whether or not I’ll get to review the book here, I don’t know; I have no contacts at Converge Books.

But I’m also looking forward to the first type of writing we quoted first. That’s what Jamie is all about. And that’s why I think she’s the very best missionary.  


Publisher marketing:

…As a quirky Jewish kid and promiscuous punkass teen, Jamie Wright never imagines becoming a Christian, let alone a Christian missionary. She is barely an adult when the trials of motherhood and marriage put her on an unexpected collision course with Jesus. After finding her faith at a suburban megachurch, Jamie trades in the easy life on the cul-de-sac for the green fields of Costa Rica. There, along with her family, she earnestly hopes to serve God and change lives. But faced with a yawning culture gap and persistent shortcomings in herself and her fellow workers, she soon loses confidence in the missionary enterprise and falls into a funk of cynicism and despair.

Nearly paralyzed by depression, yet still wanting to make a difference, she decides to tell the whole, disenchanted truth: Missionaries suck and our work makes no sense at all! From her sofa in Central America, she launches a renegade blog, Jamie the Very Worst Missionary, and against all odds wins a large and passionate following. Which leads her to see that maybe a “bad” missionary–awkward, doubtful, and vocal—is exactly what the world and the throngs of American do-gooders need.

The Very Worst Missionary is a disarming, ultimately inspiring spiritual memoir for well-intentioned contrarians everywhere…


Sharing the Sriracha bottle left to right: Nadia Bolz-Weber, Sarah Bessey and Jamie Wright at a Meatball Bar (whatever that is) in early 2014. I thought the only progressive Christian female writer (at the time) missing was Rachel Held Evans. (It’s amazing what you find in your photo file.)

 

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August 20, 2015

Andy Stanley: Love, Sex and Dating

Eschewing the standard Christian Television approach, Andy Stanley and the staff at North Point in Atlanta have been buying time on local NBC stations after Saturday Night Live. The repackaged sermon video is called Your Move, and the website is YourMove.Is

Today, if you have 28.5 minutes; we’re going to watch one of Andy’s most popular messages, which is also a book and a curriculum, The New Rules for Love Sex and Dating. This is the first of several episodes and deals with The “Right Person” Myth.

December 29, 2012

Men and Pornography: Keeping the Discussion Going

In July, 2008, I posted a draft version of The Pornography Effect online, and spent a great deal of energy trying to increase awareness of this plague which has spread via technology and has had particularly damaging effects on men. A few months later, popular blogger and writer Jeff Goins interviewed me on the subject, and today I can’t honestly recall where the interview appeared; but after finding a copy of it yesterday, I thought it helpful to spread this message yet again. Besides, we need to keep this discussion going. This is the first time this material has appeared at Thinking Out Loud.

You can read The Pornography Effect here, it uses a blog format but reads like a book with the chapters in proper order and a ‘next page’ type of click necessary to get to the second of the two screens.  It takes about 55 minutes. There’s also a ‘Cliff Notes’ version of the key points here.

The Interview

What is your personal experience with pornography? What did your own struggle look like?

We owned a computer that was connected online for about ten years before anything remotely pornographic ever crossed the screen.   Up until that point, I would say I was probably in the “This could never happen to me” category.   One Saturday afternoon doing a relatively random search, I ended up in the middle of an erotic novel.   A few days later I decided to read the whole thing from the beginning.   When I finished the story, nearly two weeks later, a link took me a site which contained photographic porn.   At that point certain walls of resistance had already collapsed.   Like the proverbial “guy with a remote control” who “wants to know what else is on,” I was determined to explore this alternative universe.   The internet was more than willing to oblige.   Even though I was leading worship in my church on Sunday, I was on the way to becoming a hopeless slave to internet pornography addiction.   But I rationalized that I was balancing the two worlds quite capably and getting away with it.

After what I consider a wake-up call several months later, I was able to break free for several months.   And then I went back for several weeks.   And then broke free again.   Today, there is a short-term freedom in being able to honestly say I’ve forgotten the internet addresses of most of those sites.   But in the long-term, the fact remains I know the search criteria that got me there.   For anyone, the internet’s dark side is never more than a few clicks and keystrokes away.

When did you realize that this was a systemic problem in a lot of men’s lives?

After remaining free for a longer period, I decided to (a) go public, and (b) create a forum for women to know more about the mechanics of how the internet porn industry functions.   There are millions of pornographic web pages, but each has one thing in common:  They were all put there by someone.  That person had a reason, a motivation, and I thought it would be helpful to create more understanding of why the stuff is there in the first place.   Perhaps I’m wired to want to share and apply knowledge once it’s acquired.   Perhaps I was trying to redeem a bad personal experience.   I just figured there were already seminars for men who were dealing with a multitude of addictive behavior, but nothing for the women who were, as I termed it, the collateral damage in the sphere of internet addiction.

teen with computer I found out really fast that this is truly “the elephant in the room” both within and outside the church.   Tell people this is what you want to discuss, and the room gets really quiet.   Plus, I’m in Canada where there isn’t the same transparency about personal struggles.   We don’t talk about our spiritual lives here in the same way that people do in the U.S.  I have always know that this was a hot topic, but once I was trying to create open discussion, it was initially the silence that told me I had struck a nerve more than anyone’s particular admission or confession.

For a younger generation of internet sex addicts, though, this is a non-issue.   Images of naked people — even images of their classmates — have been available online all their lives.  An entire generation is being raised without a sense of shame.   It was once the case that humans distinguished themselves from the animals by our ability to blush, but slowly, an entire generation is losing that.   They would say there is no problem at all here.

How does pornography affect men’s relationships with their wives, family members, and God?

I don’t think anyone who has had exposure to pornography is ever the same.   Over an extended period, I think exposure rewrites the brain programs of our minds, to the point where, for guys, any female is just a body to be exploited.    I don’t think any man who is deeply hooked can look at his wife or girlfriend, his sister, his daughter or even his mother the same way.   Yes, I’m saying it changes all relationships that a man has with all females.  The girl serving at the fast food place.  The woman in line at the bank.   The kindergarten teacher at the elementary school.  All females. 

In terms of spousal relationships, the problem — and fortunately this wasn’t exactly the issue for me — is that men are intended to find sexual fulfillment in their wives. (And likewise, wives in their husbands.)   So immediately the relationship is encountering damage.   But where the internet habit is also a secret habit, there is an additional wall of separation building between the husband and wife.   Trying to get “alone time” on the family computer can also cause friction between other family members.

Spiritually, sin is sin.   While we can admit that God probably ain’t too happy, we can use all kinds of rationalization to justify that what we’re doing isn’t such a big deal.   After all, aren’t a lot of popular songs played on radio somewhat pornographic when you read the lyrics?    If a person is really tuned in to their own spirit, I think they’ll recognize that, like Adam in Eden, we’ve somewhat hidden ourselves, and hurt the relationship in the process.   There are other indicators of spiritual life and growth that will start to flash warning lights.

 Have you encountered women who have struggled with porn?

Once I went more public with my desire to speak to this subject, I had a number of women who came to talk me.   While at first discussing a husband’s or a son’s addiction, they eventually shared with me that they had struggled with this themselves.   Yielding to female stereotypes of soap operas and romance novels, I assumed they were speaking of text pornography, like the novel that had initially hooked me.   But they were saying no such thing.   They were into the pictures just like the guys were, and one woman in particular hinted at a very deep addition that had tied up hundreds and hundreds of online hours.

However, one of the main ideas I want to advance is the idea that text pornography is every bit as dangerous and harmful as drawn or photographic pornography.  It is able to convey ideas that either (a) cannot be expressed in a picture, or (b) would still be considered taboo graphically.  Text pornography, which includes but is not limited to erotic literature, puts forward ideas which in some cases are intended to change societal norms.  It ought to be the focus of more concern.

 What does it mean for a porn/sex addict to discover grace? What does that look like?

I think that the grace of God comes in the form of the strength that we don’t have within ourselves to walk away from the internet, either figuratively or literally.  Apart from Christ’s power working in us, there’s no compelling reason to break free, let alone the strength to do it.   But with Christ’s power, I believe that breaking free of this particular addiction can be a relatively painless process.   If we see our sin as being sin against God, we will strive for holy living.   The man who desires to do the will of God positionally does not sin.  

Grace can also appear in the form of a friend who has walked the same road, or a friend who is simply brave enough to wade into the topic with you.   Grace can be a pastor willing to devote a Sunday morning sermon to the topic; and grace can be a congregation that doesn’t judge when you walk towards the altar at the pastor’s invitation.  Grace can be an understanding spouse who desires to encourage you towards freedom from addiction.   Grace can even be a young daughter who catches a glance of an image on your computer screen and asks, “Daddy, how would you feel if that were me?”

Can you share at least one story of someone you know who was able to break out of a porn addiction?

It’s interesting to think about that question apart from the various things I’ve read in books and magazine articles that were all U.S.-based.  The Book Porn Nation by Michael Leahy, and the book I Surrender All:  Rebuilding a Marriage Broken by Pornography by Renee and Clay Cross share two stories that I believe to be representative of stories that are common to so many.  In my country, what I’ve experienced is hushed voices, speaking in low tones, whispering, “Been there.  Done that.   Free now.”  

I think the curiosity factor engages a great percentage of men at one time or another, particularly as the computer changes the way pornography is accessed.    The question is how long are you going to stay in Sin City?   Some stay a long time.   Some reading this are there right now.   No… make that many reading this are there right now.  Thankfully,  I think there are probably more stories of spiritual victory out there than we realize, but far too many men are afraid to admit the problem existed in the first place.   A person has to simply determine not to go back there. 

What resources are available for those who are struggling?

If a person has a trusted friend who can serve as an accountability partner, I think that accountability software like Covenant Eyes is probably the best resource we have right now.   I know pastors who serve as accountability watchdogs for each other.   If a person is really fighting the addicitive nature (which can be part of the human condition) then a program like Celebrate Recovery is also helpful.

October 3, 2008

August 19, 2012

“Heather Has Two Mommies” is So Last Century

Filed under: family, marriage, media — Tags: , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:47 am

Wikipedia family tree for the television show Modern Family

Forget it, Heather. Your family is now so commonplace that it’s time to push the envelope once again. And Lily in TV’s Modern Family, this applies to you, too. Melinda at Stand to Reason wrote this piece (also below) in response to this news story.

Heather Has How Many Mommies?

A California bill could allow judges to recognize more than two parents. 

Stories like this about continuing to change the family gets me to thinking about the roots of the idea.  And the fundamental idea we need to keep defending. The reason people can propose such a bill – and all sorts of other things these days – is because the fundamental idea of family has changed.  And we’ve accepted the idea that sex is not intrinsically related to marriage and children.

I’m sure there are further antecedents, but it seems to me one of the fundamental disjunctions between sex and reproduction was birth control in the 60s, hailed by feminists because women no long risked the “burden” of children when having sex.  Birth control allowed people to think of sex without the consequence of reproduction.  With that risk managed, sex and marriage became detached. Also in the 60s, no-fault divorce became common.  Legally, marriage was no longer a lifelong contract that required sufficient reason to void.  If you didn’t love someone anymore, divorce.  So marriage became about love, not commitment.

Of course, we end up with children born out of wedlock and the idea became accepted that two parents weren’t necessary.  Feminism touted the idea that there were no differences between men and women, so why would a child need two parents – or parents of each sex?  They’re interchangeable. 

When we’ve walked this far, marrying whomever we love and mix-and-match parents don’t seem very outlandish. 

Ideas have consequences.  I think very often we’re fighting skirmishes over ideas that fit in a bigger picture.  And we have to go back to the roots and talk about family and how sex, marriage, and children are best served in that natural and God-given unit.

January 15, 2012

Sexperiment Disaster Lesson: Always Use Protection

While the media had a lot of fun with Ed and Lisa Young‘s Friday night “bed in” to promote the new book Sexperiment, I didn’t see a lot of coverage on the web, in blogs, or in news feeds taking place during and after.  But the 24-hour live event ended badly because Ed and Lisa failed to use protection.

Eye protection. 

If you’re going to lie in bed on the roof of a Texas church on a sunny January day, apparently you’re going to risk ‘sunburned eyes.’  According to the host of the section we watched on Friday evening, the two had gone to hospital for medical treatment.  Clips from earlier in the day showed the couple wearing dark sunglasses, but again, with a lack of information available online, we’re not sure at what point they realized their eyes were hurting from the sun, not to mention television lights.

Having someone acting as an actual “producer” for this event might have helped in this and so many other ways.  We caught some of the late evening feed — between 9 PM and midnight EST — and clearly some microphones were simply not working, and the (presumably) last-minute substitute hosts had gotten away from the purpose of the event with the conversation reduced to Christian TV talk show fare.

Which is unfortunate because the previously-recorded sections we did see from earlier in the day contained a strong message to Christ-followers that a Christian view of sex and sexuality is going to stand distinctively apart from the view of sex held by the wider society; a message that needs to be shouted from the rooftops.

May 9, 2011

Pornography Changes Worldview

I’m at a point where I often forget that I have an online book, let alone a book about a devastating social problem.  But then I’ll hear a sermon where someone discusses the effects of pornography, and I’m reminded of some of the unique things my manuscript had to say on the subject, and aspire to see the material reach more people.

…Redemption comes in various forms. The redemption of a period of several weeks being counted among the this-could-never-happen-to-me addicted to the internet’s dark side, was a book manuscript that would help females understand what’s going on in the lives of some male they know.

screenshot - book online The Pornography Effect is available online as a free internet resource.

Sadly, this is totally defeating the point. The original idea was that as a crisis resource — which describes the under-24,000-words length — this book would be a print product that would be given to women who might be completely unfamiliar with the workings of the internet. Having the book online is helpful, but that help is now limited to those who can get online to find it.

The original publisher contact — who told me his company did over 400 titles in 2007 — took this one step further and suggested that the book be shrink-wrapped in packs of four or five, so that pastors and counselors could have copies on their desk to put in the hands of those dealing with this problem. But then came the “backhanded complement” that this project was “too big” for his company to handle. Hmmmm.

Sadly, I’ve been unable to find a publisher who would catch that vision and meet two industry criteria as to its distribution to retail stores. And now, three years later, I’d want it to be a rather different version of the text instead of this Version 1.0 edition. In the meantime, people needed help; and they need people to start the conversation.

So here are the highlights of my book for those of you that don’t want to click the link at the beginning and end of this article. If you do click; allow about 50-55 minutes to read the thing fully, and since it’s formatted as a “reverse blog,” click on “previous entries” to find chapters 7-15.

These are the Cliff Notes, or for those of my fellow-Canadian readers, the Coles Notes.  Chapter by chapter, the book goes something like this:

  1. Any exposure to internet pornography results in immediate changes in relational dynamics between men and women. A man who watches this stuff over time will look at his wife, or girlfriend — and perhaps even his sister, or daughter, or even his mother — differently.
  2. Addition to porn is at the extreme high end of the spectrum of addictive behavior and addiction consequences. Its availability is not unlike the cigarette company is standing outside the junior high school passing out samples.
  3. After much exposure, the tastes of porn viewers “skews” to interest in things they would have previously considered reprehensible. I don’t believe anyone just gets up one morning and says, “I think I’ll look at pictures of naked eight-year-olds.” Doesn’t happen instantly like that. But does happen over time.
  4. The long-term consequences of pre-teens and teens growing up with pornographic images freely available won’t be known for at least 20 years.
  5. Immersion in pornographic and related websites will eventually change your worldview on a number of issues connected to family and sexuality.
  6. Porn is more than pictures. The guy in the office staring at a screen that is all text may well be reading erotica. Text sites can also be a gateway to visual or photographic porn.
  7. For all the pictures on pornographic websites, don’t expect to see shots of people in love. Porn sites are all about people “using” other people. Nobody “cares” about anybody else but themselves and their own personal gratification.
  8. Whether it’s passive viewing on internet sets, or the more interactive nature of chat rooms, the “next step” of “acting out” on something seen online is just a heartbeat or two away from happening.
  9. There is a limitless number of formats that pornographic websites can take. Many are inter-linked and all of them eventually want to you to produce a credit card number so that you’ll pay for what was formerly free.
  10. Just because it’s set up as “photography” or “art” or “modeling” or “recreation” doesn’t mean it’s not porn. Many of these are just shallow attempts at establishing legitimacy.
  11. Cartoon pornography is porn nonetheless. Aimed at kids, it’s actually more dangerous. And it has a mission: The incest agenda. Promoting the acceptance of incest. (Betcha those other books on this subject didn’t tell ya that one!) And the kids are watching. And downloading.
  12. While psychologists debate genetic predispositions to homosexuality, a lot of same sex attraction begins with the internet and is based somewhat randomly on the type of website — and surrounding online community — that gets to a young person first.
  13. If a family member is caught up in online porn, you are — whether you like it or not — engaged in a battle. You have to start fighting back, for the sake of that person and the sake of nuclear and extended family. The forces you are fighting are giants and you are David. But…
  14. …Faith can be the slingshot you’ve got to go up against the giant. Pray, yes; but pray very specific prayers. Teach your kids self control and delayed gratification. Be intentional about the spiritual formation of yourself and your family. But always remember that many people clicked on that first website because of personal hurts that also need to be addressed.
  15. You are not alone. There are number of different types of resources available to help.

That’s the bullet-point version. But you may know someone who needs to read this in full, with the topics fully discussed. For them, here’s the link one more time to The Pornography Effect.

June 1, 2010

The Perfect Excuse For Sin

As an itinerant youth worker who did music and seminars on music in a variety of churches, the closest thing I had to a base was a small, conservative Evangelical church in east Toronto which also happened to have, throughout the 1980s,  a very dynamic youth outreach on Friday nights.

On the Fridays I wasn’t booked elsewhere I would spend my evenings there listening to the performers and talking to people who just wanted to talk.

I knew Mike superficially but we hadn’t really had much in the way of conversations, so I was a little surprised when he told me that he really needed to talk with me about something important.

I had arrived early that night to unload some boxes, and hadn’t moved my car, therefore, parked as it was by the front door where teens were coming and going every few seconds, it offered a place that was both public and private at the same time.   I often used it as a portable office.

Mike shut the door and began telling me how his life was plagued by lustful thoughts and how he was often swept away by uncontrollable urges; often several times in a single day, if you get my drift.

My policy had always been that I felt questions concerning sex or sexuality should be handled by the married individuals and couples who were part of that ministry’s core team, and had I known ahead of time that this was the topic of choice, I would never have suggested Mike start telling his story.

But I was also not completely unprepared.   I have two stock answers to questions of this nature:

First, I told Mike that the Bible is very clear that the mind is the battlefield.   I may have mentioned the verse in Proverbs 4 that reminds us to guard our hearts.   I may have mentioned the one in II Cor.  5 which tells us to take every stray thought that enters our mind captive. I definitely would have got into the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus equates a lustful look with adultery.

Second, I reminded Mike that one aspect of the fruit of the spirit is self-control.   That nothing, no matter what, should overtake us.

I thought those two points summarized the issue quite well.   It also avoided ridiculous advice like, “Why not just take a cold shower?”   That would not have been helpful at that point.

So, confident that I had done my job, nothing prepared me for Mike’s response:

“But you don’t understand, Paul; I’m Italian.”

Apparently, somehow, ethnicity, or culture, or citizenship rendered all my earlier points null and void.    Mike’s self identity as an Italian canceled out all requirements to adhere to the lifestyle ideals presented in the scriptures I had quoted or alluded to.

The strange thing about this is, despite the clarity with which I can retell this story two-and-a-half decades later, I have absolutely no idea what I said next to Mike.   I can guess.    I know I didn’t give him an opt-out on the basis of his parentage.   I know at the end he appreciated my willingness to share.  But I can’t remember my response exactly.

Had Mike found the perfect excuse to just ignore everything the Bible teaches? He believed his answer to me had validity.

What would you have said to Mike at that point?

May 12, 2010

Wednesday Link List

Time for this week’s links.   I think I need to just be boring and call this by the same title each week, the perfunctory Wednesday Link List.   But the lynx, the chain links, the cuff links and the golf links will make an occasional appearance.    This was a very busy week online for a lot of people.   Pick a few of these and let me (or them) know you what you think:

  • Video link of the week is the animation of a great Sovereign Grace Music song, The Prodigal.
  • There are seven letters to different churches in the first chapters of Revelation.   Now it’s 2010 and you have the chance to write The Eighth Letter.    I don’t usually promote conferences, but that’s the premise of one coming to Toronto in October, with guests Ron Sider, Shane Claiborne, Andy Couch, and perhaps even you:  Three people will be selected to have their own 15 minutes of fame.
  • Shaun Groves talks to Christian business students and asks the musical question; “Is ‘Christian’ and ‘business’ not a bit of a contradiction?”
  • Ever read Jewish blogs?   Everybody knows cheeseburgers are not kosher (although your cat can has them) but here’s some detail why that is, and why adding cheese to your chicken sandwich is simply a case of guilty by association.
  • After a discussion with a police community support officer, who is also “the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered liaison officer” for his area, a UK street preacher is  jailed for saying homosexuality is a sin.
  • Most of the stuff on Wayne Leman’s blog about Bible translation issues may be over the heads of many, but here’s a simple post on how a Bible version expert appreciates a titanic translation.
  • Trevin Wax rightly calls into question the tradition in some churches of noting (in small ways) or giving an entire service over (in really big ways) to Mother’s Day.
  • Are there things we know about God that we don’t know from the Bible?   Dan Phillips launches a series on this topic that will make you think, but not everybody is going to agree about, on extra-Biblical revelation.  (Hit the home page to continue to locate subsequent discussions.)
  • Here’s a very new question-and-answer blog that bridges the gap between parents and teenagers.   Later this week we’ll introduce Matt who started it, but meanwhile, checkout ihaveaQ.
  • Mark Batterson thinks we need to listen to the voice of innovation, but also the voice of wisdom if we want to avoid making the classic mistake.
  • Some classic Ben Arment this week on the difference between a teacher and an exhorter is reposted at Christianity 201.
  • The media may have moved on, but the messy cleanup in Nashville continues, with one particular church — operating out of a building where they’ve yet to hold their first service — doing a lot of the heavy lifting.   Pete Wilson also thinks a 1,00o year flood is a 1,000 year ministry opportunity.

  • Liberty University’s seminary president Ergun Caner says he grew up Muslim, but now others are saying his claims are unsubstantiated.

  • Coming soon to a Holiday Inn near you… (not really) The reunion of the veteran Christian rock band Petra.  Tour kicks off in October.
  • Okay, so I’m the billionth blogger to link to this, but North Point Media did a really good spoof of “contemprovant” Churches in this Vimeo clip, Sunday’s Comin’.
  • In our “scariest thing done in the name of Christianity” department, check out the people “aisle running” at Stuff Fundies Like.  (But I’m sure next week SFL will find something scarier.)
  • In our “beating up Donald Miller” department, here’s a look at the question, “Is it really authentic to publicly confess sins you didn’t commit to people who weren’t sinned against?”   I always thought it was a rather inspired thing to do, but here’s an opinion that it’s really done out of pride.
  • In our “Let’s just keep to ourselves” department, here’s a critique of the mechanics of Tim Challies latest Christian book reader’s survey.  Also, here’s how the Calvin Crowd responded.

  • Here’s a worldwide look at what our online search terms say about our spiritual interests versus our interest in sex.

  • Our cartoonist today is a return visit by Joe McKeever at Baptist press, who does a new cartoon daily.

asdf

March 8, 2010

When Pastors Lie

Over the years, I’ve heard stories where people will say something like, “My pastor looked me straight in the eye and lied through his teeth.”   I’ve personally experienced things where a pastor can claim palpable denial of having said something, when in fact they did.   I’m not sure that “lied through his teeth” is the phrase I would choose, but there’s no doubt that these days the art of spin-doctoring is highly cultivated among professionals of all stripes.   Others claim to have been lied to outright by their priest, rector or minister.

The problem is, I still respect the office.  You may not respect the individual, but I still think you have to respect the sovereignty of God in placing people in charge of shepherding a portion of God’s flock.   At least until proven they are guilty.   In general though, most of the pastors I’ve met  had a considerable degree of integrity and most of the ones I know today are worthy of my trust.

But they aren’t perfect.   There are stories told by people in the hospitality industry of how pay-per-view screenings of pornography in hotels is either the same or higher than normal when there’s a pastor’s conference in the house.   That’s not the subject for this discussion, but if a pastor — presumably traveling at church expense — can think nothing of requesting Debbie Does Dallas (and it’s not a movie about the seminary) on the hotel’s movie-on-demand service, then they are clearly capable of doing anything else unethical.

So what does it look like when a man of God looks another man straight in the eye who is committing adultery with his wife?  How does he justify that action?

I can’t show you what it looks like, but I can let you hear what it sounds like.   This weekend I came across the website yourpastorlied.com aka Pastor Mike Hylton Lied to You Just so He Could Sleep with My Wife.   Last updated in the summer of 2009, it’s a very sad story of a woman swept up in the arms of another man.   Both have children.

David Gray, the website’s author, sticks to the facts in what must be an otherwise emotional time for him.   But the highlight — about 3/4 of the way down the webpage — is the mp3 file of a phone call he made to both his wife and her pseudo-husband.    While the minister in question doesn’t try to lie to Gray, he is living a lie.

This is what justifying sin sounds like when you hear it over the telephone.   This is what rationalization sounds like when it’s spoken out loud.    You need to read a bit of the text to understand the story, but then you really need to hear the 6-minute (or so) audio transcript of the call.

People — all of us included — are capable of minimizing the most blatant sin.   Even people who’ve worked in vocational ministry, who have taken vows to be the shepherds of God’s flock.  Pray for your pastor, that he does not fall into sin, and if you take time to click and listen, pray for repentance, confession and forgiveness to take place in this particular story.

James 3: 1

(The Message) 1Don’t be in any rush to become a teacher, my friends. Teaching is highly responsible work. Teachers are held to the strictest standards.

(NLT) 1 Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly.

(Amp.) 1NOT MANY [of you] should become teachers (self-constituted censors and reprovers of others), my brethren, for you know that we [teachers] will be judged by a higher standard and with greater severity [than other people; thus we assume the greater accountability and the more condemnation].



February 3, 2010

The Missing Links

As you can see above, we’ve been busy at our keyboard to bring you the finest links from the last seven days and beyond…

  • I wanted to take a bit longer this week to introduce a program that aired on Frontline on PBS in our area last night that I think you should watch, although the entire piece runs about 86 minutes.  Each one of us reading this has one thing in common:  We’re online.  The first two-thirds of program deal with what it means for children who are growing up in a digital culture to live in a world of multi-tasking.   I think every parent should watch this, at least through to the end of the second section that deals with online video gaming.   The piece is titled Digital Nation.
  • Two YouTube links this week.  The first is pastor Pete Wilson with a preview of the promotional video for his forthcoming book, Plan “B” releasing later this spring with Thomas Nelson.   (Hint to publisher:  We’d love to do a major review on this one!)
  • The second YouTube link is Jeff Maguire with a bunch of cutouts explaining once and for all the nature of the Missional Church.
  • Speaking of church, Dan Horwedel at the blog Fully Clothed Pastor — which must be a response to David Hayward’s Naked Pastor — kicks around some ideas for different types of gatherings.
  • Meanwhile James Waugh in Nashville suggests that “The Church doesn’t have a mission, the mission has a church.”
  • Meanwhile, forthcoming Baker author Brent McCracken takes a rather different view of Church life in general, and goes searching for the ten top cities in the US to find — wait for it — Christian hipsters.
  • On the other extreme end of the spectrum, Keith Drury writes an essay on why we — and this we includes you, too — are bringing our boomer pastor back.   So to speak.   Sort of.
  • Moving on — finally — from church-related topics, Les Lanphere from the blog Killer Robot Ninja takes his best Calvinist shot at the classic questions Reformers get asked, “If God Chooses Who He Will Save, Then Why Evangelize.”
  • Ron Dreher at Beliefnet notes a federal study that suggests that abstinence-only education may have been written off too quickly; while others still insist abstinence education has little impact.
  • At the other end of that spectrum, John Shore wonders if all of us — Christians included — aren’t just sexual animals.    It’s the comments to this blog post you especially don’t want to miss.  (John’s blog is livin’ on the edge with this one!)
  • Although he doesn’t say so outright, theologian Ben Witherington III must figure if Christians are going to drink so much coffee, they might as well know a little bit about it.
  • On the other hand, Russell Moore, whose blog also tends to lean a little more to spiritual writing,  has decided to quit caffeine cold turkey.
  • Here’s some information about the picture at the right:   The structure you’re seeing is the Treasury at Petra officially kwown as Al Khazneh.  It’s considered “the eighth wonder of the ancient world,”  or “one of the seven wonders of the modern world;” depending on who you ask.   You won’t find Petra mentioned by that name in most Bibles unless you are using The Amplified Bible in which case it appears nine times in the Old Testament as an alternate reading for Sela, or “you who dwell in the clefts of the rock.”
  • One of the creative forces behind all things Willow Creek has been busy blogging at a new location for nearly a year now.  Check out Nancy Beach’s blog.
  • Not enough blog links for ya this week?  Here’s a web portal that lists over 4,000 Christian blogs.   I’d add this one, but in a field that big, really, what’s the point?  Check out Christian Blog Catalog.
  • Today’s comic is our first animated one from Dan Lietha at the Launch Pad.

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