Thinking Out Loud

April 24, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Isolated rose

Our opening graphic is from the blog Abandoned to God

** Derek Webb, All Sons and Daughters, Robbie Seay Band, Charlie Hall, Shane & Shane and Shaun Groves are among the 45 artists on #SongsForWest, a fundraising album download for West, Texas with a suggested $10 donation.**

Here’s this weeks links:

  • Opening Link: A pastor and his wife in Watertown, MA are caught in the middle of a shootout in the wake of the Boston bombings. “We were trapped, with active gunfire on three sides of our home.”
  • Here’s another new movie to be aware of, opening in US theaters on Friday: King’s Faith
  • Watch (or listen to) a great sermon by Gary Burge preached midweek at Willow Creek a few weeks ago.  Check out Acts 11:1–18. Once you’re 5 minutes in, I guarantee you’ll want to finish.
  • An journalist who had originally interviewed Megan Phelps-Roper in 2011 before her departure from Westboro Baptist Church offered some additional detail and updates on her story.
  • This one is disturbing. Seems that people serving at Steven Furtick’s Elevation Church are being asked to sign some type of loyalty/confidentiality agreement, with legal consequences if you break the contract. Never criticize your pastor.
  • A Minneapolis preacher is still in the pulpit at age 105. “Noah Smith has no plans to retire — ever. He said he tried that once when he was 90 and it didn’t work out too well.”
  • Here’s how one church kid defines his faith. But if you’re in Christian Education or Youth Ministry, his response is somewhat disappointing
  • By contrast, here’s Greg Koukl at Stand To Reason with a 7-minute video describing an appropriate response to the question, What is Christianity? (He actually gets to it at the 2:40 mark.)
  • For those can’t enough of blogging, here’s the direct link to Faith Village’s Java Juice Blog House which we featured here a few days ago…
  • …And if you’ve got friends investigating Christianity or just starting out, here’s Faith Village’s Square One.
  • Pete Wilson’s Cross Point Church has a daughter church in India which he tries to visit as regularly as possible. Last week he suddenly learned his visa was denied, and he was summoned to India’s embassy in Washington, DC. Now he’s been granted a six-month visa, which isn’t quite the 5-year one he had…
  • …And here’s a 2-minute audio clip on YouTube of Pete discussing people who leave his church, or arrive from somewhere else because they weren’t being fed.
  • After ten years of keeping us aware on several social issue fronts, veteran Christian blogger La Shawn Barber moves on to other platforms. 
  • Your church needs to rethink tithing options in a world where nobody writes checks (or in some countries, cheques) anymore.
  • Our blog discovery of the week is Anabaptistly. Established in Spring 2011, recent activity includes a number of Eugene Peterson quotations like this one.
  • Another blogger notes audience reaction to the movie 42
  • The people who use GodTube sure like music reality show clips from X-Factor or [Name of Country]’s Got Talent. Here Simon Cowell is led to believe a man is going to impersonate a whole choir.
  • If homeschoolers aren’t already over-represented on social media, now they have their own theme song.
  • Yea! We made another Top 200 Ministry blogs list!
  • More links all week on Twitter.
  • Finally, in our Truth is Stranger Than Fiction department, Jamie The Very Worst Missionary is breaking all her own rules and going on a women’s retreat. Say it isn’t so!

A closing word from Francis Chan:

Francis Chan Quotation

April 2, 2013

James MacDonald Preaches about Money on Easter Sunday

James MacDonald - Easter Sunday 2013A reader posted a comment to an October blog post here about debt issues at Harvest Bible Chapel.  She claimed that instead of the standard Easter sermon, James MacDonald spoke about money and fiances. Huh? What the finance was he thinking?

At first, I didn’t want to believe what she wrote. But as I write this on Monday night, I’m listening to the Easter Sunday sermon at the main campus of Harvest Bible Chapel. I can see myself having brought a coworker or neighbor to the service, and I am squirming more and more with each of the 46-minutes.

Okay, so he spins the story of Judas to fit. Even that would be an offbeat theme for Easter Sunday morning.  I’m not sure how long it’s going to be online, but if you can, watch the it at this link even if you only see the first ten minutes. (Sermon notes .pdf was at this one.) Anyway, I’ll let my reader tell it:

I’d attended an Easter service at Harvest Bible Chapel in Rolling Meadows yesterday and am so disgusted and disillusioned with Pastor James I will never attend Harvest again.  Instead of celebrating the Risen Christ on Easter, he started a new series on MONEY, stating that, for those who think he can’t start a new series on Easter about money, “WATCH ME!!” The man’s arrogance knows no bounds.

I’ve attended Harvest on and off for ten years or so and have found many things that I don’t like or agree with over that time, but this was the final straw. I even brought a friend with me, and there were surely many other guests as well, all there to listen to his latest pontifications about MONEY, on Easter, no less! No communion, no gospel, no Jesus per se. There was some “apology” about his having taught about money at Harvest for 25 years but now he’s come to find out what he’s taught was wrong and asked for grace; my first thought was how am I to know that what he is going to teach NOW is correct?! Oh, that’s right, he put up pictures of Francis Chan, Dave Ramsey and other Christians wise about money and, since he is important and well known enough to have had one-on-one conversations with them and others of their ilk, apparently now is well versed in being a good steward.

How is it that the MacDonalds are “wealthy” when Jesus didn’t even have a place to lay his head? How is it that he speaks of wonderful vacations while asking for our tithes and offerings and I haven’t been able to afford a vacation in years?

I received a phone call tonight from a friend who used to attend there … saying that she had found out Pastor James talked about tithing…on EASTER!…and that she was also told of how desperate the financial situation at Harvest really is. Perhaps this is why Pastor James felt it necessary to talk about money on such a sacred day. All it took was a Google search to find out how bad the situation is. And to think he stood up there shaming me and others about our credit card debt…on Easter, no less. Did God put this on his heart to discuss on the day we celebrate His Son as our Risen Savior?! Did the elders approve this?!

Best of luck with your megachurch, Pastor, but my soul is not being fed while you’re too busy expanding your own kingdom.

..And to think I get upset if one of the worship pieces isn’t totally on the Easter theme.  A serious lapse in judgment, don’t you think?


Update 4/4/13

Basically what you’re seeing in the comments section is four possible responses:

  • Supportive (objectively) — People who feel J. MacD. was within his rights to preach this topic on Easter Sunday because it was a legitimate message even for “Holy Week.”
  • Supportive (subjectively) — People who rally around J.MacD. as their pastor or shepherd and want to defend him.
  • Opposed (subjectively) — People who choose to criticize J. MacD. on whatever grounds or based on whatever leadership criteria, or choose to examine this particular topic in light of other information about James and/or HBC.
  • Opposed (objectively) — People who — regardless of whether or not they liked the message — feel the topic was inappropriate for Easter Sunday.

It was the two objective types of comment we were hoping to have heard from here.

October 9, 2012

Lone Ranger Christianity

Increasingly, many people are following a solo track in their Christian life. With a proliferation of streaming church services, online sermons and podcasts and Christian books appearing at rate we’ve never before experienced, it’s both tempting and easy to go it alone.

In the past I’ve challenged some people to wrestle with a few questions:

  1. What do you do for Christian fellowship?
  2. What people or group comprise your covering when you need prayer?
  3. Where do you experience the Eucharist/Lord’s Supper/Communion?
  4. How do you experience corporate worship?

These are all serious questions which have theological underpinnings; and anyone who is actually maturing in their Christ-following is going to run up against these sooner or later.

But with the fiscal year-end serving as a reminder — though hopefully not fully the motivation — it’s also a good time to look at another question:

  • Where or how do you experience alms-giving or tithing?

If you are currently outside of a faith family, may I make a few suggestions? 

First you should give something to whoever does provide you with teaching and nurture: The online church, the radio ministry, the provider of devotional literature you receive. I’m assuming that one or more of these exist in your life because absent those factors, plus the ones listed above, I’d question the arena in which your faith journey operates.

Second here’s a stretched analogy to help you find some giving possibilities:

Jerusalem

In our area this could include:

  • a ministry reaching youth such as a local chapter of Youth for Christ
  • a faith-based ministry reaching the poor and marginalized such as The Salvation Army
  • the local Christian radio station which relies on donations more than commercial revenue
  • the local crisis pregnancy center
  • the local Christian school which needs donation to supplement parent fees

Judea

Here you’re looking at regional ministries. In our area this might be:

  • Christian camp ministries, making a difference in the life of children and teens
  • organizations that place Bibles in prisons, schools, hotels such as The Gideons
  • faith-based group homes and residences for people dealing with addictions or family crisis

Samaria

In the original passage, Samaria is more of a descriptor of “the place you don’t want to go” than a geographic reference. To me, this represents a ministry to a select people group than a particular place. We’ve known of ministries to a select ethnic group within our country; to street people in urban centers; to Gay/Lesbians; to professionals; to people needing jobs; to people with a specific medial condition;  to the elderly; to a specific arts community; etc.

Uttermost Parts

This could include:

  • worldwide Bible translations organizations such as Wycliffe or Bible distributors such as the various Bible societies or Megavoice
  • faith-based relief and development agencies such as Compassion
  • ministries raising awareness of religious persecution of missionaries and Christians in nations claiming religious liberty; and/or dealing with issues such as human trafficking
  • evangelistic organizations with worldwide impact such as Billy Graham’s

These are just suggestions.

As a Lone Ranger Christian, you are still part of the body if not a local assembly. Addressing the giving question still doesn’t address the prayer and worship and fellowship and communion issues, but it’s a place you can begin, even on a weekday.

Comments?

March 5, 2012

The Business of Charity

This weekend I had two widely different experiences which were both connected by the theme of philanthropy in a Christian context.

The first began with an article I read about an organization which annually pools funds from a handful of wealthy donors and foundations and then receives grant applications from ministry organizations from which a few are selected to receive funding for various projects.  I’m guessing that you have to be giving around $100,000 to play in this league, but I wondered if in the process of collecting applications they had uncovered any organizations that might be of interest to people whose charitable donations were closer to $10,000 annually.

My motivation was that I believe that many people of means who are looking beyond their local church for worthy projects tend to go with what I call “the usual suspects.”  These high profile Christian parachurch organizations and relief and development agencies have frankly, in my opinion anyway, grown fat. They’re well known, well-established; they receive money in bequests, and honestly don’t need as do other charities.

On the other hand, there are a number of what I would call “next generation” missions and ministries which are just starting out, haven’t been corrupted by largesse, and are trying to meet new challenges; while at the same time being relatively unknown among the people I would call “the givers.”

However, when I delved into this further, what I found grieved me deeply, and when I use the word grieve, I am not trying to be overly dramatic.

In case you don’t know, charity is an industry.

This industry is greatly focused on self-perpetuating and while some revenue definitely goes to charitable purposes, a surprising amount goes to assuring that there will be even more revenue in the future.

As I examined some of the successful grant applications, a large number of them had gone to improving websites, integrating technology systems, streamlining data processing, hiring IT specialists, increasing web presence, etc.  The phrase, “proposals that demonstrate a thoughtful and innovative approach to increasing an organization’s impact will be more favorably considered” should have been a red flag.

The organizations themselves are doing work worthy of support, but these large donors would never have the satisfaction of seeing their money used for those more noble goals.  Instead there was money for proposals and studies and initiatives to increase further fundraising. Quick, gag me with a response card.

There was money for Christian colleges, but it wasn’t going to bursaries or keeping tuition costs flat for the next three years.  There was money for a Bible distribution organization, but it wasn’t buying Bibles.  There was money for an organization that helps out young mothers in poverty, but it wasn’t going toward infant formula or subsidized housing. There was money for a Christian camp, but it wasn’t providing for summer leadership training for students or giving free weeks of camp to children in poverty. There was money for a medical mission, but it wasn’t going to buy pharmaceuticals or first aid supplies. There was money for a student ministry that wasn’t going to hire another high school or college worker; perhaps one that is qualified but not networked enough for the rigorous deputation required.

There was money to buy an organization new laptops, to help another promote a promotional DVD, for another to hire a consultant, for another to start an arts journal. And more consultants, IT directors and website improvements. And then there was the one for a well known inner city mission to improve the acoustics in a meeting room. “Seriously, I just can’t work with the echo in here.”

Do you see the problem?

I was hungry and you hired a consultant. I was thirsty and you improved your website. I was in prison and you merged with another organization. I was naked and you lobbied your government for increased freedoms to raise more money.  I was homeless and you were worried about room acoustics. I was sick and you bought inventory management software.

This is the very type of liberal spending that grates on so many people when it’s done by government, but we forget that there is much excessive spending in the religious charitable sector as well. I’d really like to know how that arts journal is going to make the world a better place.

By contrast, on Saturday night, we attended a fundraising dinner for a missionary in eastern Europe. He got on a plane and landed in a foreign place with nobody there to meet him at the other end. No idea where he would stay when he got there or where his first meal would come from. No covering from a mission agency or church denomination.

The spaghetti dinner we attended — and church fundraising doesn’t get any more basic than this, except for car washes — was put together ostensibly because the church had no proper means by which to receipt donors. The missionary in question was working with the gypsy population until the government forced most of them out of the city in question, and so he now works with ethnic minorities. Any extra money he has he spends on the people he works with, including needs they face for prescription medicine. He has apparently put off his own medical care several times, preferring to look after the needs of others.

The money collected on Saturday night will be given to his mother here in Canada, who will then credit an account that he can access. This is real grassroots fundraising for a real grassroots missionary. What it should be all about. They raised $840; nothing in that number to attract the interest of the elite donors club.

Charity is a business; there’s no getting around it. Its participants end up with confused priorities and misguided visions. The term, “misappropriation of funds” needs not refer to people who are stealing or embezzling from the organization in question, you misappropriate every time fail to meet the genuine needs for which the organization or program was established in the first place.

In all fairness, I should add that all the examples above apply to 2010, and in 2011, the “faith-based funders,” as they call themselves elected to support more realistic projects, and required that each one represent a partnership between two established Christian charities. Still, many of the projects were described in a somewhat nebulous form of charity-speak that belies what the actual invoices for goods and services actually pertained to; and also, as a footnote, the money in both years all stayed in North America; there was no consideration of projects undertaken by U.S. and Canadian organizations overseas.

Sigh.

…If you wish to support the missionary in the story above, contact me off the blog and we’ll try to provide some direction. I guarantee it would be money well spent, even if you don’t get a tax receipt.

James 1:27 Religion that is pure and genuine in the sight of God the Father will show itself by such things as visiting orphans and widows in their distress and keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world.

J. B. Phillips Translation

 

THIS IS TRUE RELIGION

 


July 11, 2011

Perry Noble Lays Down The Law

NewSpring Church pastor Perry Noble has declared that he’s had enough of people arriving to church late, criticizing the music, etc.  They also have a rule that if you have to leave the auditorium during the message you cannot re-enter.  And kids under 12 are not allowed in the service at all.  A little over-the-top authoritarian?  Here’s what FBC Jax Watchdog had to say:

It ain’t easy being a member these days at NewSpring Church pastored by Perry Noble – the rules, the regulations, the sheep beatings, the curses.

According to Perry Noble, you “officially suck as a human being” if you express to Perry that you are purposely late to church because you like his preaching but don’t care for the music style.

NewSpring members need to be careful that their church doesn’t begin to fall into the category of a cult. Cults often begin by having a very demanding, charismatic leader, they will require conformity with rigid extra-biblical rules, they will devalue outsiders and non-conformists, and they will suppress dissent.

You see all four of these beginning to emerge at NewSpring. Not saying they are a cult, but when the charismatic leader starts telling people that :

  • – they can’t come back into the auditorium after the sermon starts even if they leave to tend to a child or go to the bathroom;
  • – that you suck as a human being if you disagree with the pastor over music styles;
  • – you are not allowed to designate how your donations are spent;
  • – you must give 10% of your income to the church un-designated or God will curse you;
  • – parents cannot bring children younger than 12 years of age into the church services;
  • – you must show up to church on time or you can’t get into the church service;

…then you better begin to get concerned.

So I decided to check out the sermon video for myself.  Perry makes some good points.  People have become apathetic about arriving to church on time, while they would never think to be late for work, or a sports match.  And some people seem to have no problem about the people they are distracting when they sit near the front, need to leave, and then return.  As for the issue of kids, I agree with Perry that his sermons tend toward PG-13 content.

But some of it was very disturbing to listen to.  Is something else going on here?  Where is grace in all this?  Why give up an entire Sunday sermon to an apologetic for the church’s rules and regulations?  Let’s return to the FBC Jax Watchdog blog:

Lest you think that I’m overstating things by bringing up the word “cult” – don’t forget what happened to a critic of Perry Noble’s at the hands of staff members a few years back that is the subject of an on-going lawsuit. You see from the “you suck as a human being” quote how those who even mildly express dissent are devalued by the pastor. I would say it is this kind of rhetoric from the pastor towards dissenters that breeds the actions taken by a staff member against the Noble critic back in 2008 and 2009.

Perry Noble even tells the parents that if they don’t conform to the “authority” of the church leaders, they will breed rebelliousness in the hearts of their children . No, actually subjecting one’s self to non-biblical requirements for the pleasure of the pastor might teach your kids that they must endure spiritual abuse at the hands of an over-bearing preacher.

This is classic sheep beating. A pastor is to be the picture of humility and servant-hood for the people he shepherds, but instead Perry Noble is a stand-up comedian who makes jokes about troublesome church members, denigrates Christians who disagree with him, and lays down extra-biblical rules that are burdensome on people.Unfortunately in Perry Noble and other mega pastor superstars these days, we have professional religious men who have turned Christianity from its essence: the release of sinful men and women from the burden of having to try to please God with their works and their alms through simple faith in Christ – into a strict religious system that demands conformity to religious practices, tells people how they must think and what rules they must obey to be pleasing to God and their priest, and uses tactics of guilt and shame in the process. And, oh by the way, they get filthy rich while doing it.

I’m pretty sure that if Jesus were here, he would warn the people of NewSpring about the arrogant Perry Noble and his professional religious men and describe them as he did the Pharisees:

“They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.” (Mat 23:4)

May 4, 2011

Wednesday Link List

You’re expected to follow the advice of the experts.  While this blog has been doing link lists for several years, next Wednesday marks 52 weeks of using the same title each week.  Sigh!

  • Tony Miano confronts Planned Parenthood.   Take five minutes to read what could be the best thing you read today.
  • Suffering from terminology confusion?  Here’s the 411 on the difference between “fundamentalist” and “evangelical” including two helpful terms outlining the difference between “theological fundamentalists” and “sociological fundamentalists.”  One of several related posts at The Wartburg Watch.
  • WAY-FM’s Brant Hansen took some heat for that article on tithing I linked to last week, so here’s the spot where he responds to the questions.
  • “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice.”  Pete Wilson reminds us of the truth of Proverbs 24:17 in the wake of the death of Osama Bin Laden.
  • Meanwhile Carlos Whitaker throws the topic open, with over 250 reader responses to date.
  • “Perhaps the death of Osama Bin Laden has made this world more safe. I do not believe, however, that his death has made this world more beautiful.” — comment e-mailed to Brian McLaren.
  • With all the fuss over that book lately, Rachel Held Evans launches the Rally to Restore Unity, which is a kind of synchroblog thing you can still get in on.   (My contribution is below…)
  • A few days late for Easter perhaps, but this video from Lutheran Satire suggests that the disciples have to face their own instincts for profit motives from the resurrection.  HT: The Least Read Blog on the Net.
  • Our local Salvation Army captain has kicked off a new blog in style: Lots of good topics and an immediate following of faithful readers.  Check out il capitano inquisitore.  Especially the post which deals with Appointment Day, the day in which the entire organization finds out if anyone needs to start collecting cardboard boxes for a July move.
  • Here’s an idea if you’re a blogger with a tight schedule: My somewhat rushed quote collection on discipleship at Christianity 201.   You may also like yesterday’s post, Spiritual Cataracts, where I also tossed in some French worship music.
  • It’s spelled Roque.  It’s pronounced “rock-key.”  Our new artist of the week invites you to check out her story, and her song, Thank You.
  • I would definitely join a church that devotes a month to doing a series on the Theology of Food.
  • Monday was Election Day here in Canada and Google Canada celebrated with the usual graphic, except, as Bene Diction noted, they showed voting booths which are not used in Canada. (See above.) Oops!  We go behind privacy screens and mark paper ballots.  Pay no attention to the voter behind that curtain! (BTW, we elected a Conservative majority parliament, and for the first time a New Democratic Party official opposition.)

April 20, 2011

Wednesday Link List

I chose this particular WordPress theme for its wide margins, but inherited a rather tiny default typeface in the process.  For years  I’ve been bumping it up manually with HTML codes, but last week WordPress changed the rules, and I would now have to do it paragraph by paragraph.  [Update: Which, now having the time, I’ve just done! Which renders the rest of this paragraph redundant.] So… if you can’t read what follows simply press Ctrl and while you’re holding it down press the “+” sign, although technically you’re pressing “=” sign, because it’s done without holding down the shift key.  But nobody thinks of it that way…

As a bonus today, excerpts from the links are included in red.

  • Brant Hansen continues to blog, albeit not at Kamp Krusty.  He recently explained to WAY-FM listeners why he doesn’t tithe. People like me who no longer believe we are bound to tithing are not arguing for less giving.  Oh no.  We’re arguing for more, for those who have it.  Much more.
  • In a related post, Christianity Today asks if people receiving unemployment benefits should tithe on that “income.” Tithing is not a luxurious option achievable only by those whose financial security is assured. It is the ancient spiritual practice that God uses to begin setting our priorities right, to heal our hearts of greed and fear, and to draw us ever closer into his own boundless generosityJoin the conversation at CT.
  • Followers of Judaism are fighting declining numbers by modernizing many of its practices, including an enhanced use of creative arts. Every branch of Judaism has seen membership drop digits. Interfaith marriages… continue at a pace of 50% for Jews.  Look for parallels between their efforts and what Evangelicals have done in the last few decades in this USAToday story.
  • Tom at the blog Living in the Beauty of  Dirty Faith has a concise summary of the objectification of our children:  So this is the message young daughters around the country (and world) are getting:  don’t be measured by what type of person you are becoming, how you treat others, etc. but rather be measured by your measurements.  Check out Girls Gone Wild.
  • Just so everybody’s clear, Shaun Groves makes it clear that Facebook friends are not true friends: I have friends. You’re probably not one of them.  Not everybody likes this news, but they’re now redirected to a fan page.
  • With all the attention being given the new NIV revision (and the new NAB revision) it’s easy to miss the Josh James Version.  Having appreciated the many opportunities that the web has to offer, I decided in 2008 to begin using web space to publish some of my Bible study, sermons, instruction in the Greek language, my Greek translation of the New Testament, and various other bits of information. The individual pages take forever to load, but I admire his diligence!  Check out Josh James’ translation page.
  • Readership at Christianity 201 — my other blog — is growing faster these days; so I thought I’d scare everyone away with a really, really, really, really long post by Steven Furtick.    We could be judgmental, but the truth is that there are things that are just as elementary that you and I still don’t get. And it’s these things that keep us in a state of inertia in our walk with God and the calling He has placed on our lives. Check out this reposting of his three-part series at Maybe You Just Don’t Get It.
  • If you’ve been avoiding the magazines at the grocery store by doing the self-checkout thing, you may have missed out that Rob Bell has put the issue of hell on the cover (see above) of Time Magazine.  Bell’s arguments about heaven and hell raise doubts about the core of the Evangelical worldview, changing the common understanding of salvation so much that Christianity becomes more of an ethical habit of mind than a faith based on divine revelationThe article is long, but well-researched.
  • Meanwhile, Barna Research shows that one in four “born again” Christians subscribe to universalist beliefs.  For many evangelicals, the idea of Christians holding universalist ideas is particularly disturbing because it nullifies the need for Christ to die on the cross and the message of Jesus that he is the only way, truth and life… A 2008 Pew Forum survey revealed that 57 percent of evangelicals agreed with the idea that other religions than their own can lead to eternal life. Read the story at Christian Post.
  • Speaking of the above, Adam Powers blogs a few quotations from the Gospel Coalition’s special session on responding to Bell.  Crawford Loritts on people who have cut their spiritual teeth on Bell: We all need to be careful when we talk about these things not to overcorrect. We are to love unbelievers and we are to preach the love of God. I would encourage this person, not only to pursue right exegesis on this issue, but to the study of the nature of God altogether. Look at the wholeness of who God isRead more at the blog Pleasing Pain.
  • Speaking of responses, a reader is trying to get me to recant of my earlier support of Bell’s alt interpretation of Peter and Jesus walking on water.  I reply, Bell’s alternative reading on this stops short of the kind of fantasy scripture that his friend Peter Rollins would conjure up. It’s not the main point of the story, but, a year later, I still think Jesus is saying to Peter, “I chose you, I invited you to step out of the boat, I have faith you can walk on water; do you trust my choice?” And then, I refuse to withdraw my endorsement on this particular bit of Bell’s teaching.
  • When it comes to preaching, I know what I like; but not as well as Darryl Dash knows what he doesn’t like.  I’ve observed that there are countless ways to preach well, but there are only a few key steps you need to master if you want to preach poorly.  Check out his guest post at Soren’s blog, Six Keys to Poor Preaching.   (BTW, Darryl’s brother is a neighbor of mine who sends me hilarious e-mail forwards by the truckload.)
  • The Seventh Day Adventists, which make up a large majority of the population in Loma Linda, California are losing their unique Sunday mail delivery.  Carrier supervisor Duane Hubbard told the paper that the postal service’s computers don’t recognize Sunday as a workday, meaning the local office is unable to communicate with any other agency offices then.  Now only two communities in the U.S. are left with the unique delivery situation.
  • The “gone wild” reference earlier reminded me of this t-shirt concept available at Kaboodle.com

  • …which in turn reminded me of this backprint/frontprint T-shirt concept also at Kaboodle

  • Today’s quote:
“People ask, ‘How could a loving God send people to hell?’ but I believe that a loving God put a blood-stained cross on the pathway to hell and if someone ends up going to hell they had to step over that blood-stained cross to get there.”
~Perry Noble, April 15th

April 20, 2010

Reblogging: The Lost Art of Giving

usher_sidebetsOne of the downsides of regular tithing to ones local church is that we can sometimes feel that we’ve ended our obligation to do anything else in a financial sense. Don’t get me wrong, the local church where you receive teaching, fellowship and spiritual nurture should be the first priority, when you look at where your money is going. But once done, your heart should still be open to the possibility of responding to other needs you hear about or see around you.

I’ll get back to that in a minute. First I want to consider another set of possibilities.

There are many people — especially in the blogosphere — who have gotten burned out on the whole church thing. Entire shelves in Christian bookstores are devoted to this theme. Those people are not current attending anywhere, which means many are not currently making financial contributions to the work of building the Kingdom of God. If you’re one of them, it’s possible that as the income tax deadline approaches (less than two weeks in the U.S. and four weeks in Canada) you’re realizing you don’t have the charitable deductions you may have had in the past.

For the people in either of the first or third paragraphs above, I want to suggest some guidelines that I have found helpful in choosing projects to support. I came up with some of this at a time we had no money at all, but am no trying to apply these things to some situations I have been aware of and trying to become more generous in my* giving.

*”My” in this case really meaning “our;” because I don’t do this alone but in consultation with my wife.

  1. How great is the need? Is this a project that one or two people can help with, or is going to take a lot of people pulling together to make this happen? Sometimes we tend to bail out if the need is huge, thinking our contribution won’t make a difference. Other times, if the need is small, we think someone else will take care of it.
  2. How urgent is the need? If the organization or project needs finances now, it means people need to respond now.
  3. How visible is the project or need? Item (1) notwithstanding, there is an organization I know of that is so very visible that I sometimes find myself looking at projects I think may be off the radar of other people.
  4. How able is the constituency to support itself? Some people think that the people who most benefit from a ministry or organization should be the people who are supporting it. But that’s not the case with ministry to the poor, or to youth, or to seekers and new believers who haven’t yet learned the principle of giving.
  5. How much of my gift will go directly to meeting the need? As with anything financial, we need to be shrewd; we need to be good stewards. Make sure the need is real and that someone’s plight is being exploited to maintain the organization itself. Giving in this sense may take the form of giving directly to an individual or family, bypassing the tax receipt.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

If you live in Canada and are looking for some practical suggestions on giving, e-mail me (see the contact-us button) and depending on the response you’ll get either a personal reply or a copy of some suggestions.

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April 20, 2010 update:  Sorry for the reblog today.  Things just got busy.   Link list for tomorrow is ready to go.

April 2, 2009

The Lost Art of Giving

usher_sidebetsOne of the downsides of regular tithing to ones local church is that we can sometimes feel that we’ve ended our obligation to do anything else in a financial sense.   Don’t get me wrong, the local church where you receive teaching, fellowship and spiritual nurture should be the first priority, when you look at where your money is going.    But once done, your heart should still be open to the possibility of responding to other needs you hear about or see around you.

I’ll get back to that in a minute.    First I want to consider another set of possibilities.

There are many people — especially in the blogosphere — who have gotten burned out on the whole church thing.   Entire shelves in Christian bookstores are devoted to this theme.   Those people are not current attending anywhere, which means many are not currently making financial contributions to the work of building the Kingdom of God.   If you’re one of them, it’s possible that as the income tax deadline approaches (less than two weeks in the U.S. and four weeks in Canada) you’re realizing you don’t have the charitable deductions you may have had in the past.

For the people in either of the first or third paragraphs above, I want to suggest some guidelines that I have found helpful in choosing projects to support.   I came up with some of this at a time we had no money at all, but am no trying to apply these things to some situations I have been aware of and trying to become more generous in my* giving.

*”My” in this case really meaning “our;” because I don’t do this alone but in consultation with my wife.

  1. How great is the need?    Is this a project that one or two people can help with, or is going to take a lot of people pulling together to make this happen?    Sometimes we tend to bail out if the need is huge, thinking our contribution won’t make a difference.   Other times, if the need is small, we think someone else will take care of it.
  2. How urgent is the need?   If the organization or project needs finances now, it means people need to respond now.
  3. How visible is the project or need?    Item (1) notwithstanding, there is an organization I know of that is so very visible that I sometimes find myself looking at projects I think may be off the radar of other people.
  4. How able is the constituency to support itself?  Some people think that the people who most benefit from a ministry or organization should be the people who are supporting it.   But that’s not the case with ministry to the poor, or to youth, or to seekers and new believers who haven’t yet learned the principle of giving.
  5. How much of my gift will go directly to meeting the need?   As with anything financial, we need to be shrewd; we need to be good stewards.   Make sure the need is real and that someone’s plight is being exploited to maintain the organization itself.    Giving in this sense may take the  form of giving directly to an individual or family, bypassing the  tax receipt.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

If you live in Canada and are looking for some practical suggestions on giving, e-mail me (see the contact-us button) and depending on the response you’ll get either a personal reply or a copy of some suggestions.

March 21, 2009

Satisfaction Guaranteed Or Your Money (or Offering) Refunded

Filed under: Christianity, Church — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:46 pm

Joel had a major disagreement with the pastor of Covenant Harvest Church following a sermon that was preached in January to launch the new calendar year of ministry.    There were some follow up attempts by both parties to find common ground, but an unofficial visit from one of the elders ended up burning the bridges it was supposed to mend.

Now, eight weeks later, the church has received a registered letter from Joel.   He regrets greatly the amounts of money — over $3,500 — he gave to the church in the four months prior to his departure and wants a “refund” on his offering.   In the letter, he says nicely, “I want my money back.”

Though the names and circumstances are altered, what do you think of the principle at issue here?  Were the story entirely real as presented, should the church give Joel his $3,840 back?

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