Thinking Out Loud

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.

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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.

 

 

August 22, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Our opening graphic today is from The Francis Chronicles aka Francis, The Comic Strip, which began publishing at National Catholic Reporter on January 2nd. Click the image to see the full archives.

Welcome to Wednesday Connect #23.

♦ I decided it would be just too punishing for everyone to have to begin a third week in a row with more from Willow Creek, but there was indeed a story since our last look. After publishing that update, the Chicago Tribune reported (8/13) that the church paid out over $3M (USD) in settlements involving a child sex abuse case

♦ …and while we’re on the subject of abuse, we have the full text (English translation) of Pope Francis’ response to the Pennsylvania clergy abuse report

John MacArthur: His university has two years to remedy some serious problems. Or else!

♦ John MacArthur’s Masters University is under scrutiny for governance issues which threaten its accreditation. Warren Throckmorton reports:

The school must address issues in four broad areas to maintain accreditation. These concerns include board independence, personnel and management practice, operational integrity and leadership.
Of particular concern is a finding of conflict of interest involving president’s son-in-law Kory Welch who functions as an administrator. According to the action letter, this individual oversees contracts which have gone to friends and relatives.
There is also mixing of staff and payments between MacArthur’s ministry Grace to You and TMU. For instance, on the 2015 990 form for Grace to You, MacArthur’s son-in-law Kory Welch’s businesses were awarded nearly $790,000 for contract work. According to the report, the conflict of interest had been known for six months without any action.

♦ Carey Nieuwhof posted an article earlier offering “7 Signs Your Church is Honestly… Mediocre.” The metrics were rather superficial, the specifics wouldn’t be helpful to anyone outside a certain megachurch-imitating congregation, and frankly, I thought the whole piece was rather harsh… Which brings us to…

♦ …Michael Frost was not impressed. He offers a response on a whole other level.

♦ The African American kid had the uniform, had a scholarship and was all set to start Grade One at a Florida Christian school. But first, the dreadlocks would have to go. Instead, the kid did, and seems quite happier attending a public school…and then just days later…

♦ An African American girl is expelled from another Christian school because her hair style is “unnatural.” People, this is nothing less than a race war and these kids are caught in the middle. For the boy and girl in these two stories, the hair style is as “natural” as breathing. This must stop. 

Intermission: There were some good articles which almost made it in this week, but it was a simple case of one pop-up too many. Subscribe. Buy my book. You have 3 free articles left. Turn off ad blocker. Cookie policy. Cake policy. Pie policy. Be sure to visit the gift shop on your way out. I just couldn’t send you there. Some of these are sites which I once relied on heavily for good articles, now I rarely click through to them. Just because you can add pop-ups doesn’t mean you should.

♦ They don’t want to be called Mormons anymore. Or Latter Day Saints. It’s now “The Church.” NBC news spoke to a public relations specialist who noted that “The term ‘Mormon’ is ingrained in American culture and has a lot of good equity that the faith would be losing by shifting away from using it… He predicts confusion among people who won’t realize the full name is the same religion as Mormons, and said there’s a ‘very slim’ chance the name change will catch on.” …

♦ …How the same story played out in local, Salt Lake City media.

“Most people know that there are many different branches of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, etc.,” [Benjamin] Knoll writes in an email, “but they don’t tend to know that about Mormonism.”  It would be “great,” he says, “if the public knew that the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is one branch of the wider Mormon tradition among many, including the Community of Christ and the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.”He hopes Nelson’s push to “decouple ‘Mormon’ from ‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ will help make that distinction clearer in the public mind.”

♦ “A Donald the Caveman Book” says the banner across the top of the book, pictured here. Warren Throckmorton writes, “After books on Christian heavyweights Bonhoeffer and Luther, Eric Metaxas tackles the heaviest weight of them all – Donald the Caveman. I haven’t seen a pre-publication copy as yet, but I can only imagine the wonders within this prehistoric prose.

♦ You’ll either love this or hate it. The article is titled something like ‘Five Things Christian Millennials Should Stop Doing.’ So far so good. But then the writer seems to take a different tone with people who left comments. (In an April blog on his own site, the author claims Shane Claiborne supports polygamy.)

♦ The number of parameters in the various types of churches currently available in most medium to large cities, effectively leaves us with too many choices.

♦ Mystery Worshiper: The Pipester travels incognito (sort of) to a mainline church service and shares six different things he learned there. Sample hymn lyric: “May the church at prayer recall, that no single holy name, but the truth behind them all, is the God whom we proclaim.” The article is “a glimpse into what has become of the once dominant and now fading mainline Protestant tradition in America.” 

♦ Should we bring back the wake?

…Instead, we steal the body away and place it in a foreign place where only dead people go. We allow just a couple of hours in this strange place to speak quietly with the unmarked mourners. This is all done with the intention of making death easy on us; but, maybe, we have made it too easy. I truly respect and appreciate our funeral homes in Cadillac, Michigan. They sincerely serve the people with great care, etc. And my family has personally been blessed by their commitment and vocation. But perhaps we have laid upon them our responsibility. We should dig the grave. We should clothe the body. We should straighten the arms and close the eyes and kiss the forehead.

♦ Thom Rainer offers eight areas where pastors wish they were better trained, better prepared, better equipped.  

♦ Just don’t use the word “robe.” If you want to get the particularly correct word, here’s a guide to all the vestments worn by Anglican priests and deacons.

🎥 In movie news, God Bless the Broken Road opens September 7th, inspired by the popular song of the same name. The film mixes “faith, country music and stock car racing.” For the movie website, and to watch the trailer, go to GodBlessTheBrokenRoad.com. (In Canada, click this link for more information.)

♦ Our frequently repeated I Know What You Did Last Sunday feature: Worship leaders post their set lists on Twitter weekly using the Sunday Setlist hashtag

If you like Flyleaf or Skillet, you’ll like Ledger Band and the song Not Dead Yet

…If that’s too edgy, there’s Dwell: A Worship Experience featuring the music of David and Nicole Binion. This is a shorter song, Song of My Heart. (5 minutes) (This is one of those audio-only “provided to YouTube” videos, preparing for the day when you’ll pay for every song you play.)

♦ The baker in the “gay wedding cake” case in Colorado may have won a big victory, but now it’s time for round two; they just won’t leave the poor guy alone.

♦ We’re all friends here, right? There’s nothing wrong with reading an erotic novel now and then, is there?

♦ So…Calvin, in Calvin and Hobbes, the newspaper comic strip, was in fact named after Calvin, as in John Calvin, the theologian. (Revelation at 2:09 mark.) 

♦ Finally, “A California pastor is planning to open a religious space with a brewery, where parishioners can order a pint and pray.” Why does it seem we run this story every 6 months or so?


After looking at some of the greatest sermons, Tim Challies turns his attention to a not-so-great sermon by one Joel Osteen. If you tend to the think the criticisms against Osteen are a bit overstated, listen to what Tim turns up analyzing the content. It might just change your mind. (13 min)

August 15, 2018

Wednesday Connect

When in Holland, be sure to pick up the latest copy of “Nun of the Month” magazine.

Welcome to Wednesday Connect.

I wonder, when you stage a Lethargy Festival, does anyone bother to show up?

Breaking: Trinity Western University in Vancouver announced yesterday that it has dropped its controversial mandatory student covenant prohibiting sex outside of heterosexual marriage, effective with the 2018/2019 school year. The covenant was the major issue in a recent Supreme Court of Canada decision which blocked the school from establishing a School of Law. The covenant remains in effect for staff and faculty. In June the court “ruled that provincial law societies have the power to refuse accreditation for the school, saying the covenant would deter LGBTQ students from attending.” At issue is the idea that students entering that profession with such a perspective cannot practice law unbiased. (Statement: From the University President.)

♦ The Pipester Strikes Again! This time around adding verses to the hymn Great Is They Faithfulness, “he may have undermined the original writer’s intention. Thomas Chisholm, who wrote the hymn, was Methodist, meaning he probably held Wesleyan-Arminian views. Piper, famously, adheres to the more Calvinistic brand of Reformed theology.”  (The article doesn’t mention that The Gospel Coalition’s music superstar, Bob Kauflin, is on record as being opposed to congregations making lyrical adaptations to existing material.)

♦ The Museum of the Bible will return a manuscript to Greece which was deemed to have been stolen, after already paying a $3M fine for illegal importation of items from Iraq.

♦ Something-to-Think-About Post of the Week: The Assumption (Catholic) or Dormition (Orthodox) of Mary beyond it’s primary purpose, serves to keep her eternally young. Is there a connection between this and today’s modern church emphasis on attracting youth? Several things going on at once in this article; worth reading.

♦ So what about the notion that “Everything happens for a reason?” Greg Boyd refutes that and notes a distinction in the Greek text of the story of the man born blind which translators seem to ignore.

♦ Congratulations to Rick Warren’s Saddleback Community Church in California which at some point this weekend crossed the 50,000 baptisms mark.

♦ Warning: Content may be graphic. (Actually, that’s a pun.) Sojourners looks at artists using the comic book or graphic novel format to tell the Christianity story.

♦ Canada Corner: When churches close society overall takes a hit. “…it’s just not religious people who benefit from churches and other places of worship. A lot of what we take for granted in Canada depends on them, too. Take charitable giving, for example…as church membership and attendance falls, fewer people will get those reminders—or not have an opportunity to put money in the offering plate…Nor will just charities feel the pain as churches and other places of worship close. The changes will also affect how people learn to be engaged citizens.

♦ The Summit Summarized: As he does each year, Joshua Reich offers 232 quotes from this year’s Global Leadership Summit.

♦ Should I stay or should I go? Stay home that is. Or go to church. Pew Research learns that 76% of Evangelicals identify the sermon as a key reason for going, while only 36% of Catholics share that view. This and many other stats on why people go and why others stay home.

♦ Is the canon of scripture open to new additions? Greg Koukl deals with this and two other topics in the 4-minutes-or-less Stand to Reason Ask podcast. (18 min. total)

♦ Worship Workshop 1: Have you ever sung a song containing a part where you’re expected to just go “Oooh…?” Can the “Ooohs” be considered worship? The worship perspective on songs which appear to missing some of the words.

♦ Worship Workshop 2: “A richness in the simplicity.” A keyboard technique which even some guitar players can perform on piano. “Hover Chording” is not to be confused with “Hover-boarding” which is a different extreme sport.

The Ark Encounter recently broke its previous attendance record, with over 8,500 guests.

♦ This beautiful song was posted back in April, but I heard it on the weekend for the first time. The title is Sails, performed by Pat Barrett featuring Steffany Gretzinger & Amanda Cook. ♫

♦ For the teenager in your house: We like to encourage young writers. She’s 13, calls herself Bible Blogger Girl and her site is titled Teen, Meet God

♦ At the Movies, One Year from Now: The Kendrick Brothers next feature is titled Overcomer, about a basketball coach. Scheduled for August 23, 2019.

♦ There’s never, ever, ever, ever been a show like Veggie Tales. It’s time for Veggie Tales: The Remix.

♦ Finally, God as Rust Remover: Kenneth Copeland lays hands on his airplane and its corrosion is healed.


The Newsboys (the originals, long before Michael Tait) appear in a story about journalism at a Catholic website. “Christopher Dawson once remarked that, had we read the Jerusalem Post or the Roman Daily News on the morning after the Crucifixion, we would find hardly any mention of it, other than perhaps a note that three bandits had been executed under Pontius Pilate. The ‘bad news’ of the Crucifixion turned out for the Christians to be a felix culpa, a happy fault – good news.” Click the image to read in full. (Library of Congress photo)


Follow Up: Many of you have wondered what happened to this documentary film; this update is from early last month. Click to bookmark their Facebook page.


Your Word of the Week

August 1, 2018

Wednesday Connect

My wife told me the sign means, “Christian Citizen School for Ordinary and More Extensive Primary Education;” but to me it will always say, “Christlike Burger School.” I think “Christlike Burgers” would be a great name for a chain of fast food places.

My wife and I were on separate buses, heading for different tours, but we both caught the familiar logo of Calvary Chapel next to a river in Heidelberg, Germany.

“…And, we’re back!” While we were away I was collecting items for this Wednesday Connect with Twitter, clicking “like” for the items I wanted to include. As we arrived back at the hotel each night, my Tweets would upload, so I had no idea that all my likes — two weeks’ worth — were disappearing into the ether. Nonetheless, we compiled this list in a hurry last night.

► Bethel Church in Redding, California has been criticized for not being a sanctuary for people who needed to evacuate because of the rampant fires happening there. But there is an explanation.

► Persecution Watch: With a change in status from prison to house arrest, praying people around the world are hoping that American Andrew Brunson is one step closer to leaving Turkey.

► “Now the youth group is taking another week-long summer trip, and she’s coming too. And just like last year, at some point in the week, she gets emotional about Jesus. Also like last year, she asks to talk to her youth minister, and yet again like last year, she comes to realize that she wasn’t “really” a Christian after all. Through tears and hugs she announces her newfound authentic faith, and again brings her testimony home to the church. But like last time, summer doesn’t last forever.” It’s easier to have a re-conversion than repentance

► Mark Driscoll: It’s déjà vu all over again. A new book looks at the rise and fall of Mars Hill Seattle from an academic perspective.

► Essay of the Week: “When you find yourself (for whatever reason) standing between a parent and a child—you’ve chosen the wrong side.” When a nation stops caring about its children, it has stopped being human.

► “We are experiencing characters and a dramatic developments (sic) in the world, which indicate that we are increasingly approaching the end times and Jesus’ return.” That may be true, but it’s not exactly what people were expecting to appear spontaneously from Google Translate.

► Parenting in the wake of dramatic news events: “For many teenagers and children, responses to a traumatic event are normal reactions to abnormal events. But some reactions may point to the need for further help.” The Thai soccer team cave rescue is an example where sometimes greater emotional and spiritual support is needed for kids and teens.

► Are Worship services for seekers or disciples? The problem with attractional worship is discussed in this Seven Minute Seminary video.

► The man who brought us “Chrislam” (a purported forthcoming merger of Christianity and Islam) now declares himself to be God’s Final Prophet

► What shall we name the baby? “Religion has taken a backseat in many people’s lives, but that doesn’t mean people have lost interest in it entirely. In fact, a rising number of parents are turning to the Bible for name inspiration for their kids.” Ten trending Biblical baby names. (Even if the parents don’t know they’re in the scriptures.)

► Parenting — Alleviating Awkwardness Dept. Having “the talk” with your daughter is made easier when three funny “big sisters” are telling the story on video. For just $39.00 you can partially outsource this normally precious mother-daughter moment.

► Chick-Fil-A is coming to Toronto, Canada, and already the gay community is planning a boycott. (Note: Link is to a gay news website.) … 

► … In other Toronto news, local churches open their door along a stretch known as The Danforth which was the site of another act of mass violence in a city often called Toronto the Good.

► On what we do here (blogging): “All it takes is a cursory stroll through Instagram to see that comparison- and bragging-based platform building has grown rapidly while the more thoughtful daily-logging and think-piecing have fallen out of fashion.” Zach Hoag returns to long-form writing at the new “General Christian” channel at Patheos. 

► Stepping aside from a church he helped found: Shai Linne gives an insight into what circumstantial burnout looks like.

► From our “Finds” department: Living Waters Europe documents both one-on-one Evangelism situations and adventures in street preaching on their YouTube channel.

► A look at the changing definition of masculinity. “How does this new masculinity function better? In what sense has it improved on the original version? The old masculinity drove men to provide for their families, protect their loved ones, win wars, build civilizations, among many other accomplishments. New masculinity may make effeminate men more comfortable, but what are they achieving and doing that traditionally masculine men couldn’t do as effectively? I can’t think of anything, besides, perhaps, matching their blazers to their shoes…” 

► Provocative Headline of the Week: One in Eight Divorces Caused by Student Loan Debt.

Lead Small is a new resource from Reggie Joiner (Orange Curriculum, Rethink Group) to help people learn five basic principles in leading small groups in various sized churches with particular highlighting of material which can be adapted in children’s ministry as well.

► Worship Workshop: This week on NoPro Worship, David Wesley suggests several reasons for adapting hymns in a modern church environment

► Christianese: Relevant Magazine’s Twitter poll results lists 9 phrases which confuse new and veteran Christians alike.

► Reaction to last weekend’s Revoice Conference in St. Louis, “Supporting, encouraging, and empowering gay, lesbian, same-sex-attracted, and other LGBT Christians so they can flourish while observing the historic, Christian doctrine of marriage and sexuality.” 

► Video of the Week: An atheist gets locked in a church. (9 minute standup comedy w/ mature language.)

► Finally: Is Satan uploading sin into your brain via wi-fi? This may be satire, but best be safe and avoid fast food restaurants with free wi-fi.


Click the image to read the article related to this image.

July 18, 2018

Wednesday Connect

A shorter list this week, as we’ll be taking our first ever break from the blog in a few days. The above image is from yet another Calvinist cartoonist, Reftoons. Click image to link. Them Reformers love them their comic panels.

► Essay of the Week: Given concerns about the role of patriarchy in Bible translation, which version of the scriptures is the best

► Provocative Headline of the Week: “Clergy Consider Handing Out Morning-After Pill in Church.” “The thing most of us have been talking about is to encourage the use of medical technology, the morning after pills and very good new drugs. We need to get some wise pharmaceutical company to make money off distributing them so people don’t need abortions, and/or smuggling the drugs in from Mexico and Canada. There are already very interesting groups of women my age feeling we could take the risk of loading up our vans to take road trips and give them out at churches.” 

► Misleading Headline of the Week: “UK refuses to accept any Syrian Christian refugees in latest statistics.” Yes, statistics can be spun. The article actually reads, “The newly obtained statistics revealed that the UNHCR (UN High Commission on Refugees) recommended 1,358 Syrian refugees for resettlement in the UK of which only 4 were Christians. The Home Office agreed to resettle 1,112 of these (82 per cent) all of which were Muslims and refused all recommendations of Christians.” So the headline is correct, but it simply means the 4 people weren’t part of the package.

► The revolt in the UK you didn’t hear about last week: “Bus ads promoting an upcoming evangelistic festival with Franklin Graham in England were pulled in response to outcry from LGBT communities.” A petition is circulating calling for him to be banned from the UK altogether.

► Clay Scroggins and John Crist. Together as they were meant to be… 

► …Okay, actually, the thing on the Zondervan YouTube channel I intended to feature was this 6-minute preview of the study curriculum based on The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel

► From our own archives: My son, the engineer in training takes an analytical view on Calvinism and Arminianism, circa 2013.

► Parenting – The role of Fathers: Missed this on Father’s Day as Philip Yancey pays tribute to Frederick Buechner, followed by a short book excerpt on fatherhood

► Another Denominational Fracture: “Windsor Village United Methodist Church of Houston, which has approximately 18,000 members, …a predominantly African-American megachurch in Texas, says it might leave the United Methodist Church amid the denomination’s ongoing debate over issues like homosexuality and same-sex marriage.”

► It’s not exactly the latest fad to hit Christian culture because it’s been around too long for that; but there’s no denying that everyone is currently nuts about The Enneagram

► New Music ♫ Francesca Battistelli’s “The Breakup Song.”

► Chuck and Andy’s Boat Tour: Charles Stanley and Andy Stanley recently wrapped up another Alaska Cruise. (Twitter pic) 

► Finally, from the first sentence, you get an idea of the improbability: Fan Fiction: Pastor Justin Bieber and Homeschoolers in Space. (Of course it’s Matthew Pierce; who else?)  


Book and Music Highlights:


Last week’s top clicks:

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July 11, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Remembering: Psalm 91 was always one of Maggie’s favorites. Click image to link.

This was a week where we were consumed by concern for a boys soccer team in Thailand. At the same time as Christians were praying for the Wild Boars team, many were crediting their Buddhist meditation for keeping the boys calm in the middle of the storm. Does it matter which religion gets the credit? I’ll leave that for another blogger to take on! 

Here are this week’s articles which I chose just for you. Take the time to select a few and dive in!

Billboard magazine updates this chart regularly. It shows song titles, not albums; airplay, not sales.
Click the image to see all 50 of this week’s most active Christian songs.

► A much better TULIP: This is the article also referenced in Dee’s tweet below. It’s included twice here so nobody misses it. “…Sometimes it can seem like the safest thing to do with a new Calvinist is lock him in a cage for a few months (perhaps even a couple years), until his spiritual maturity can catch up to his newfound theology. The ‘doctrines of grace’ are explosive — first mind-boggling and then, if they truly take root, inevitably life-transforming. When they land on a young and restless person, they can make him a kind of liability for a season…Maybe we could use a second TULIP to pair with the first. What might it look like to encourage young Calvinists — and all of us — to the kind of spiritual virtues that should accompany the biblical theology…” You know Thinking Out Loud has come full circle when our first link today is to the Desiring God website.

► Essay of the Week: Scot McKnight’s second piece on the mess at Willow Creek is in many respects much better than the first. This time he looks at the management structure of churches like WCCC and why he feels it was absolutely necessary for the people involved to go to media such as The Chicago Tribune. “Willow’s process, however, lacked the wisdom of denominations or outside unbiased voices and its process was profoundly imperfect and corrupted.” Beyond the analysis, there is some implicit advice here that may apply to the place where you worship.

► A different type of church service: With Andy away, North Point campus pastor Clay Scroggins launched a 3-week series based on the movie Wonder. But this service is different, based on an entirely different paradigm which is more like a multi-media presentation. (Watch at least the first 15 minutes to get the idea.) 

► On an entirely different end of the video spectrum, “No Alcohol, No Musical Instruments, No Voting: Montana Mennonites Share Their Life.” After driving to Portland and passing through Montana, this documentary filmmaker spent some time with a Mennonite husband and wife and their four kids, leaving with hours of interview footage which was edited down to 22 minutes.

► With the first one now graduated from high school, blogger Tim Challies reviews (again) his (and his wife’s) decision to send their child to public school, when so many in their tribe prefer Christian schools or homeschooling.

► Apparently The Babylon Bee does NOT like satire, when it’s their own website being spoofed; as the folks at The Babylon Cee discovered when they were hit with a Cease and Desist Order.

► Michael Brown talks to Andy Stanley about the latter’s latest controversial message, on “un-hitching” Christianity from the Old Testament. (50-minute video podcast.)

► Inclusion here does not imply endorsement. Systematic theology guru Wayne Grudem offers a Biblical argument for the morality of building a border wall

► Church closings in Minnesota: “Church was a bedrock of daily life. Its absence leaves a large gap — spiritual, social, emotional — that for many seems almost impossible to fill.” And this quote: “It’s not uncommon for me to hear, ‘We had a funeral last week and the congregation had to revise its budget…’” An entire way of life disappears in this northern state.

► Illustration of the Week: A tale of two captains; a boat captain and an airplane captain who took two very different approaches to an emergency situation.

► This isn’t a faith-focused link, but I believe it’s helpful for those who want to know where the current technology is taking us. The CEO of search engine DuckDuckGo.com explains how his company remains profitable when not tracking individuals as does Google, which now has trackers on 76% of all websites.

► The Episcopal Church in the U.S. may end up spending as much as $8 million to update their prayer book with more inclusive language.

► A great writer and reporter, Jonathan Merritt has left Religion News Service, following a number of other departures. (Just me talking, but Merritt and Katelyn Beaty could spearhead an awesome news gathering organization.)

► CBS is burning off the remaining, never-seen episodes of Living Biblically on Saturday night (and one on the 21st) after canceling the series based on A.J. Jacobs’ bestseller.

► Getting to know your cousins: “In his classic book Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis compares Christendom to a large hall in a house ‘out of which doors open to several rooms.’ These doors represent the traditions and branches of historic, orthodox Christianity; a follower of Christ may open a door and find behind it a chair and fire with which to make oneself comfortable… Curiosity is just generosity plus energy. Aren’t you a little curious who shares this “great hall” with you? What similarities and passions you might share with your neighbors in the faith? What distinctives and cultural quirks you might learn from? What new friends you might discover?” A new series is introduced at the blog of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.  

► Interest groups in Canada caught in the crossfire of the “attestation clause” in their summer job grant applications are now taking action against the federal government. Example: “Sarnia Concrete makes concrete… The government is forcing them to take a position on something they don’t have a position on.”

► The Calvary Chapel Association conference started yesterday following a split in the organization created by Chuck Smith. Michael Newnham writes,”These are the true believers, the ones who preach chapter by chapter, verse by verse through Numbers and Leviticus, the ones who preach the pre tribulational rapture of the church, then have conferences about the pre tribulational rapture of the church… They will invoke the founders name and pray for his ailing widow because without wrapping themselves in his mantle they are mere mortals, simply power hungry schismatics who took their toys and went home.” But hey, Michael, tell us what you really think!

► Opinion Piece: Does the number of Christian denominations — 40,000 or so — grieve the heart of God? “I think you could mount a good case for a small set of core beliefs being important, but the diversity in the world and among people suggests God likes diversity.”

► Happy 10th Birthday to the YouVersion Bible app. “The app, which initially launched with 15 versions and two languages, has since partnered with publishers and Bible societies to offer more than 1,700 different versions of the Bible, including Bible text in more than 1,200 languages.”  ❿

► The Canadian Bible Society is reinventing the way we imagine Christian bookstores.

► LifeWay research claims that our loyalty to our local church has little to do with music or the preacher’s powerful rhetorical abilities. Rather, it’s all about the theology.

► A prankster with 2.2 million YouTube subscribers, and 361 million YouTube views. That’s Justin Stuart. But look closer and his “about” page says, “All the Glory goes to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Faith Today’s youth magazine Love Is Moving caught up with Justin.

► The investigative site, Spiritual Sounding Board takes a different tone on weekends, when Kathi presents “Sunday Gathering” which always includes scripture readings two music videos. In this week’s post, she introduced us to Urban Doxology performing Father, Let Your Kingdom Come.  ♫ 

Four Christian movies releasing in the second half of 2018.

► A classic: Nice to see this song by J. J. Heller reach a million views on YouTube. ♫ 

► The Biebs’ fiancée Hailey Baldwin speaks out on her faith. Well, at least she did in 2016, and Relevant Magazine had it on file. 

► Finally, it was satire, but many took it seriously.

To the tune of “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” —

July 4, 2018

Wednesday Connect

July 4th: A day to gather round the red, white and blue.

F O U R T H  o f  J U L Y  E D I T I O N

► Should Christian churches observe Canada Day or the 4th of July? “[W]hen you add that patriotic song, display that flag, or invite that politician to offer a special word to your church gathering, you risk working against the Great Commission. Jesus commissioned us, ‘Go into all nations.’ That means he was establishing a people not bound or defined or constrained by this world’s national borders. He was building something multinational.”

► The more wealth a nation accumulates, the less it depends on prayer. I guess they don’t need God at that point. However, the United States is a glaring exception, with a huge GDP and high incidence of daily prayer. (Click the image to see full size. The link to Pew Research takes you to full 97-page .pdf of the full report.) 

► Essay of the Week: Recent events are nothing new. “We have a dark history – a sordid, sinful pattern even – of taking children OUT of their families.” The author then lists these:
African-American children
Native American children
The Stolen Generation
Orphaned Children
Refugee children
“…It is time to turn away from this pattern. It is time to repent.” 

► Illustration of the Week: “Las Vegas, the consummate sinner’s town… a deeply broken place where people get really messed up. But we can put aside our moral misgivings and choose to look at the gambling dens with more missional eyes. We might ask, what is the person who is sitting at the slot machines really searching for? Perhaps it is the search for redemption but in the wrong place. It is the belief that to win the jackpot means to be changed and transformed into a new life. This search might also be driven by a now pathological need to take risks because life has lost its sense of real adventure.” Author Alan Hirsch on how the Gospel addresses Las Vegas’ issues.

► Will a change at the U.S. Supreme Court trigger a new hearing on Roe v. Wade

► “Mary McAleese, former president of Ireland, believes that babies shouldn’t be baptized. To baptize an infant, she said, “imposes lifelong obligations of obedience to the Church’s Magisterium.”
In an interview with the Irish Times, McAleese expanded upon her objection, calling the children “infant conscripts.” There has to be a point, she said,
“…at which our young people, as adults who have been baptized into the church and raised in the faith, have the chance to say, ‘I validate this’ or ‘I repudiate this.'”
Is it just me or does this sound a lot like adult baptism or confirmation? 

► For the Mothers: That moment where you realize you’re becoming your mom aka The Mom Curse.

► Parents, kids and smart phones: “It’s difficult to say how many kids are pushing digital boundaries this way, not least because the whole point is to escape adult detection. Social media accounts are easy to establish and discard. Particular apps also rise and fall out of favor among teens with lightning speed, making them a moving target for researchers…Parents are clearly outmatched. Exposed to tablets and smartphones at an increasingly early age, kids are correspondingly savvier about using them and easily share tips with friends. Parents, by contrast, are both overwhelmed and often naive about what kids can do with sophisticated devices…”   

► In a black-and-white world, Chaplain Mike calls himself “a both/and person.

► He describes this 58-minute message as “the most compelling call to mission sermon I have ever heard.” Location: Sydney, Australia. Speaker: Michael Ramsden from Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.

► The Druids were out in New York again for Summer Solstice, but for a better NYC experience, there’s always Manhattenhenge on July 12 and 13. Here’s a unique Catholic perspective from a pastor whose church windows captures some of the effect.

► On the short list for the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy is Amy Coney Barrett, a charismatic Catholic.

► Does your church have a philosophy of food? A statement-of-faith type of item on the importance of food? Vancouver’s Christ Church Cathedral spells out the connection between faith and food in no uncertain terms…  

► …which, although I wasn’t intending this is a great opportunity to link you to this sermon from a few weeks ago by John Mark Comer on the topic of Hospitality: Eating and Drinking Together. (Listening to parts of this one-hour sermon for the 2nd time!)

► Religion Dispatches, a news source from which we derive many items here, is now part of Rewire.News

► His book pulled from one publisher after a marital affair, Tullian Tchividjian’s book is now being published by Fortress Press.

► Hyperbole? This article from Fox News suggests that contemporary worship music — Bethel Music is mentioned — is leading us into the next Great Awakening… 

► … Or consider this rather tongue-in-cheek piece which also had Bethel Music in view. 

► On a more upbeat music subject, why had I never heard of AccuRadio before? The Christian music page offers 15 Christian music channels. Streaming playlists allow you to skip to the next song. Creating an account allows you to vote on songs. This could be the best thing online you discover this week. ♫♫♫

► Testimony Time: “While our daughter was in school, we still weren’t sure about [Grenville, SC’s Evangelical Institute] for our last child, because he wasn’t academically inclined… Heart-breakingly, this son also wasn’t a Christian and was willing to say so… [O]ur son decided he was willing to go. ‘This is God’s last chance to show up in my life,’ he said to me. We told him not to pretend to be a Christian when he applied, but to be honest with the dean of men. He was, and he was conditionally accepted…” 

► Canada Calling: A graduate of Trinity Western University in Canada offers her opinion on that country’s recent Supreme Court decision effectively denying that institution a law school.

► The 22-year old daughter of Lysa TerKeurst discusses the pain of her parent’s divorce.

► Chris Tomlin introduces his forthcoming album, Resurrection Power releasing late September.

► Finally, in an item I’m sure is totally unconnected to the previous link, we return to the blog Ponder Anew for A Prayer for Those Forced to Listen to Contemporary Christian Music in the Car.


Sadly, this adult-oriented animated TV show, What Would Jesus Do?, is probably coming to TV networks in Europe soon. Click the image to read the story at Variety.com


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