Thinking Out Loud

December 12, 2018

Wednesday Connect

 


Again, a most interesting collection. If you missed last week, use the large “Wednesday Connect” logo in the blog’s right margin to link to the whole collection. Images are courtesy of Relidicous.com. We’ll try to be back next week but family obligations may make that impossible.

♦ The man who revived Nietzsche’s ‘God is Dead’ franchise, scientist Thomas Altizer has died.

♦ This week’s most talked about religion story: Sexual predation is a recurring theme in the Independent Fundamentalist churches. Why are so few perpetrators in jail?

♦ …and read more about the reactions to this front-page, 4-part, investigative series which, from a local Texas newspaper is now rocking the Christian world

♦ At the Museum of the Bible, a rare Bible from the 1800s used to educate and convert slaves omitted key verses which would have given them ideas about rebellion or liberation.

♦ Breaking this week: 100 Christians arrested in raids on churches in China

♦ The James MacDonald lawsuit – Collateral Damage: Was Wayne Grudem defamed in the process?

♦ In the UK, concern about making all associations working with children politically correct. “The idea that Scouts, Guides, Cubs, Brownies, Sunday schools, sports teams and cadet forces should be assessed and graded by the Government and its agencies is as unwholesome and unwelcome now as it was then.”

♦ Parenting: A first-hand account with the provocative title, “Don’t Teach Your Children Predestination.”

The latest Harvest Bible Chapel update.

♦ John MacArthur 1998: It is dangerous for the President to have a habit of lying, deception, and hypocrisy.
John MacArthur 2018: Christians should not be concerned about the moral life of the President.
What happened between 1998 and 2018?
He gives the current President a pass, but wouldn’t do that years earlier.

♦ Composed after a summer of violence in Salzburg, Germany, this year we wish Happy Birthday to “Silent Night” which turns 200 this year

♦ Reconstruction: Rebuilding the Utah town made infamous by polygamous pedophile cult leader Warren Jeffs.

♦ Name-it-and-Claim-it, Catholic Edition.

Since the 1950s, when the prosperity gospel was first preached by Pentecostals in America, it has proliferated with astonishing speed across the Christian world, finding a particularly receptive audience in developing countries. Although initially limited to the Pentecostal flock, through a process of osmosis the prosperity gospel has entered the teachings of many Catholic clergymen…In Latin America and much of the Global South, believers typically seek to receive divine blessings by forming contractual relations with sacred figures. For example, grassroots Catholics make a promise or vow to a saint or the Virgin Mary in return for a favour generally involving health, wealth or love.

♦ Instead of being classrooms, churches should be studios. That’s the thought of Brian McLaren in a recent interview.

♦ Getting rid of the accuser: It’s time to kill the Elf on a Shelf. (A parable of sorts.)

♦ TGC has its 11th annual list of the top ten Christian news stories of the year.

♦ Don’t tell Bob the Tomato: The question is whether a Calvinist can truly say “God Loves You” to each and every person they meet.

♦ A Christian high school teacher thought he could avoid the gender problem by not using one altogether in reference to a student. “The West Point School Board voted unanimously 5-0 to fire Peter Vlaming who teaches French.” When you read the article, you might learn two new words, “misgendering” and “deadnaming.”

♦ … Students stage a peaceful walkout in support of that teacher.

♦ Canada Corner (1) The Federal Government has pledged that the “values attestation” which prevented many churches and parachurch organizations from getting summer job funding in 2018 are being re-worded to avoid this year’s debacle. However, not everyone is rejoicing.

♦ Canada Corner (2) Children in Alberta were taken to a Gay Straight Alliance conference and to a facilitator’s home without parental knowledge or consent

♦ Canada Corner (3) At a Christmas Market in Kitchener, Ontario two presenters who attempted to read the Christmas story — as they had in previous years — the city cut off the audio system.

♦ A plea for balance in the attacks on Christian singer Lauren Daigle

♦ With two-thirds of December still to go, Bible Gateway released its list of the Top 100 Bible Verses according to this year’s searches. 

♦ A Nebraska principal has solved all her problems by basically banning Christmas completely. Included in the forbidden list:

  • Christmas trees
  • Carols
  • Candy canes
  • Elf on the Shelf (that’s Christmas-related)
  • Sending a Scholastic book that is a Christmas book (that’s Christmas-related)
  • Making a Christmas ornament as a gift (this assumes that the family has a Christmas
    tree, which assumes they celebrate Christmas. I challenge the thought of “Well they can
    just hang it somewhere else”)
  • Red/Green items (traditional Christmas colors)
  • Reindeer
  • Christmas videos/movies and characters from Christmas movies

♦ Chance the Rapper is taking a sabbatical for Bible Study. “Now, he’s planning to take some time to get to know the God he’s rapped about…”  

♦ Finally, this could be the best gift you give them this season:

 

 

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December 5, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Yesterday’s “doodle” on the UK Google site recognized the 153rd birthday of Edith Cavell.
“Guided by her strong Christian beliefs, her life embodied the service of others, and the need to love everyone, including her enemies.
“She was arrested on 3 August 1915, and was sentenced to death for helping 60 British and 15 French soldiers to escape.
Before her execution, she took communion with an Anglican chaplain, Revd Gahan, reciting the Lord’s Prayer and the hymn Abide With Me.
“Moments before her death by firing squad, she said: ‘Tell my loved ones later on that my soul, as I believe, is safe, and that I am glad to die for my country.’”
Sourced at The Christian Institute.

Putting this week’s link collection together I couldn’t help but notice that stories and articles dealing with what one person has called “pelvic” themes dominated the list. Further, if you think the two items dealing with “Transmania” don’t matter in North America because that’s an issue for the UK to deal with; I promise you, blink twice and it will be on our doorstep. Even elsewhere in the list, there was no getting away from LGBTQ issues.

This isn’t a particular positive collection this week, but hopefully by this time next week there is more to celebrate. Remember, you can contribute story and opinion-piece leads at any time.

♦ Fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce, right? Actually, hold on… with closer examination the rate has never hit 50% or been even close. Never!

♦ From the roof you can see Disneyland! A look at the transformation process of Robert Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral into a fully realized official Roman Catholic Cathedral.

♦ …And from the same blog: Ten things we can apply from John Chau’s death

♦ …Another article clarifies the mission agency’s position on John Chau’s mission to the natives of North Sentinel Island, which ended in his death.

♦ Sloppy language can lead to misinformation. “I remember in the 1980s taking a tour of the House of Commons in London. The tour guide pointed to a plaque on the wall in honor of a minister ‘who was killed by the Irish Catholics.’ Not the IRA, not the Provos, not the terrorists, but the Irish Catholics. Today we do the same thing when we say, ‘Muslims are killing Christians’ Saying that the Catholic church did not protect children is just as wrong. It was the bishops. It was the hierarchy.” The writer argues for the use of the word ‘hierarchy’ in place of the word ‘church.

♦ Out of the mouths of babes: “Wait, Dad. Are we for them or against them?” Kent Annan was talking with his eight-year-old son about the worldwide immigrant and refugee crisis. His son’s innocent question is one that many adults are asking. Kent Annan’s new book You Welcomed Me — his 4th with IVP — looks at overcoming fear to confidently answer that question.

♦ A Case for Catholic Worship: A brief list of 15 things the authors believe Jesus would recognize as familiar were he to visit a traditional Catholic mass.

♦ A University in Western Canada is demanding a pro-life group put up a $17,500 security deposit in order to hold a meeting on campus.

♦ Can James MacDonald be fired from Harvest Bible Chapel. No. Not ever. Not according to this Tweet: “Just read the Bylaws of Harvest Bible Chapel: Bylaws: 803. i.e. 804.b everything we need to know about his leadership, control and grip on the Elder board; he can’t be fired. EVER.” (A wise move on his part, looking back from how things are today.)…

♦ …Meanwhile the initial legal defense fund on GoFundMe (for the bloggers being sued by James MacDonald) has exceeded its $10,000 goal. (However, if the case drags on, possibly as much as 24 months, legal costs will be in “the high six figures.)

♦ Trans groups in the UK have been targeting children between 11 and 16, including coaching them online on what to say to the doctor to get hormone prescriptions. “The group has been highly active at Dorothy Stringer School, which now has 76 gender-confused students…”

Jane Galloway, parent and women’s rights campaigner, concludes: “I fear greatly that in 10 to 15 years’ time, we will find ourselves with a slew of young adults with mutilated bodies, no sexual function, who will turn round to the NHS and ask, ‘Why did you let us do this?’” …

♦ … This isn’t a one-off item online, One writer compiles eight stories in a single week that are part of Transmania. One article notes:

When I ask whether it can really be true that children could be sent off to consult with gender clinics without the parents’ knowledge, she explains that, currently, “the confidentiality of a trans child actually trumps everything, including a parent’s right to know. And if a school believes a child is mature enough to understand the implications of what they’re doing, they don’t need parental consent.”

While another writer observes:

It isn’t only the still small number of kids who are trans-diagnosed who are impacted upon by the transgender ideology. All kids are. The problem here is not some all-powerful trans lobby – it’s the unwillingness of institutions to withstand the transgender worldview. Schools are embracing the new religion of gender-neutrality and are encouraging their charges not to prejudge people’s gender and to believe that sex at birth is irrelevant in comparison with what you feel. The binary that has traditionally allowed children to negotiate an otherwise confusing world – between female and male, mother and father, girl and boy – is being erased, leaving kids socially bereft, uncertain, and re-engineered to think in the way the new elite thinks they should.

♦ Ongoing Story Department: An update from the ex-wife of Saeed Abedini

♦ The future of the church is young(er) leaders: “Don’t wait for a strategy. Just start inviting young people into opportunities to lead alongside you. In your next leadership gathering or board meeting, have you invited a young person in to experience what leadership looks like?

♦ Back to the U.S., Attacks on churches or a tax on churches? Russell Moore writes,

A little-noticed provision in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 now looms over faith communities in America, raising serious questions about religious freedom and the First Amendment. While this provision is a relatively small piece of the overall package, the effect of the policy it created will be felt by the faithful around the country. This change is a new policy to tax nonprofit organizations—including houses of worship, like the Southern Baptist churches I serve—for the cost of parking and transit benefits provided to employees. This effectively creates an income tax on churches…that has never happened in U.S. history.

♦ After his son was shamed for his African American hairstyle by a Christian school, the father announced last week he’s decided to pursue legal action.

♦ A worldwide group of 20 feminist Bible scholars have released a book of commentaries in order to address “the lingering patriarchal readings that have justified numerous restrictions and bans on women.”

♦ More on Nadia Bolz-Weber:

Before … 31,000 teenagers at that [Evangelical Lutheran Church] Youth Gathering, she altered the set of renunciations that parents or godparents are expected to answer at a baptism: “Do you renounce the devil and all his empty promises?” She rewrote that question: “Do you renounce the lie that Queerness is anything other than beauty?” To which the crowd dutifully replied: “I renounce them!” According to Bolz-Weber then, those Christians who held classic views about homosexual orientation and conduct are purveyors of the devil’s lies.

♦ A 3-year old is sexually molested at New Spring Church in South Carolina. “The North Charleston police are going after this big time.”

♦ Two board members have quit Azuza Pacific University over the drift of classroom teaching toward a more LGBT friendly environment. One said, “My solemn fear is it may be too late to save the university.”…

♦ …Meanwhile the President of another California Christian university, John MacArthur made a speech back in August defending Master’s College after a terrible accreditation review. The substance of that speech includes attacks on other colleges.

♦ Lauren Daigle can’t say for sure if homosexuality is a sin. “In a sense, I have too many people that I love that they are homosexual. I don’t know. I actually had a conversation with someone last night about it. I can’t say one way or the other. I’m not God.”

♦ Free: Read the first three pages of a new book from WestBow Press, Jesus’ Stenographers: The Story of the Red Letters.  Author Ben van Noort says “Jesus was followed by speedy writers and stenographers who used to make records after the events. The gospels are compilations of these early records.”

♦ What If Department: What if your last year of Facebook posts became the substance of your eulogy?

♦ A way to ease into the week: Happy Monday celebrates its 300th blog post.

♦ Finally, Jon Crist films inside The Creation Museum and promises a special blessing to those who made it through all 5-minutes of the cellphone video.

Next time you’re hanging out with one of your Episcopal or Roman Catholic friends, ask them if their denomination has a College of Prophets. With a “General of Spiritual Warfare.” Whose specialty is “Warfarecology.” (My goodness, this poster is the gift that keeps on giving.)

 

December 1, 2018

Both Disgraced and Silenced

This morning I noticed in one of my “to-be-read-or-watched” piles a curriculum DVD by a pastor whose career was caught up among the #MeToo cases of the past two years.

The thing that struck me was that I had no desire to watch it now. I’m sure the teaching it contains is every bit as valid as the day it was recorded. It was vetted at the time by one of the top Christian publishing houses. No one has ever suggested he taught anything heretical.

However, I couldn’t help but think how in addition to the disgrace he suffered — and no doubt continues to suffer this very day — he has lost his voice; he has effectively been marginalized. Among the many voices competing for your attention his has become far less impactful; far less consequential. Though citations of his methodology and quotations of his messages might approach the one million mark online, for me to quote him now in an essay or blog article would simply lead readers to wonder, ‘Perhaps he hasn’t heard what happened.’…

…The whole #MeToo thing is a valid opportunity to examine your own life. In my 20s, I was known for an itinerant youth ministry that connected me to dozens of churches, a handful of missions, and a couple of camps. I found myself replaying events and scenarios in order to remind myself that fortunately, lines were never crossed. Blurred? The opportunities and motivation didn’t really present themselves. I can think of a couple of situations where a person could, if they so desired, misconstrue a couple of situations, but then that is true for all of us because anyone can pretty much make up anything.

Everyone reading this knows what follows (I hope) but here are some principles for anyone new to the game:

  1. Stay accountable. This was hard in itinerant ministry and without a board, but fortunately I had some people I could defer to for direction.
  2. Avoid being alone 1:1 with the people you’re serving. Always leave the door open to the office, or, as I did once, if you’re meeting in your car, park it right at the front entrance to the building.
  3. Avoid anything which could even contain the hint of something scandalous. This includes things done seemingly in jest.
  4. When working with youth, remember that a leadership role can be inferred (by the child/teen) even if it is not official. The same responsibilities rest with casual volunteers as rest with paid staff.
  5. Be ever conscious of your personal vulnerabilities to temptation. If you’re even thinking the thought, you’ve already started down a dangerous path.

 

November 28, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Welcome to another collection of news and opinion pieces you might not have seen elsewhere. The reading time of the list is about four minutes, to read all the articles is probably about 75 minutes. Consider yourselves challenged!

♦ Why They’re Dropping Out: No, it’s not research into Millennials leaving the church, but missionaries leaving the field. More often than not, the survey showed the reasons were family-related.

♦ More on I Kissed Dating Goodbye: Should someone as young as Harris ever been given a publishing contract in the first place?

…Did anyone in the chain of decision making consider the theological wisdom of letting such a young author (who was neither married nor a parent, the two most formative experiences possible in these questions) draw such deep lines in the sand? They may have, but I do wonder whether there was so much attention given to the wave-making potential of a child preacher that such concern rang hollow.

What Harris is saying today, via an apology tour, a documentary, and a pretty thick social media campaign, is that he spoke too soon. He’s not the same person he was twenty years ago, and he doesn’t believe the things he believed then. Should this really be an unsettling thing to hear? Is it even possible to go from 23 to 43 without radically refining our worldview, especially on those things that are so deeply intertwined with lived experience…?

♦ Provocative (to some) Headline of the Week: “God May Be Gender Neutral But He’s Still Our Father.” Sample: “The desire to de-gender God, especially by those who do not really accept the Bible’s teaching, is not prompted by a desire for theological accuracy but by a desire to blur human gender distinctions and to signal our equality and diversity credentials.”

♦ Story Finally Getting Attention: A Christian family hoping to bring an adopted son home from Africa is facing an unimagined nightmare as the adoption is delayed by bureaucracy in Ghana followed by a severe relapse of the mom’s Multiple Scoliosis. (If you research the name Kim Moran, you’ll find several links to recent coverage at the CTV and Global networks.) (Pray!) [Wednesday morning update: Kim has returned home for treatment while her husband remains in Ghana with the boy awaiting completion of paperwork.]

♦ Things continue heating up at Harvest Bible Chapel. If, as alleged, the figures in this article accurately represent salaries paid to the James MacDonald family in 2015, it involves one million U.S. dollars.

♦ A year after they gave asylum to an undocumented immigrant, members of a United Methodist Church in Durham, North Carolina feel they were betrayed by a government that chose not to play fair.

♦ Celebrating the season:

It’s hard to “keep Christ in Christmas” because for many he was never there to begin with. Christian believers need to focus on keeping Christ in our worship services, in our homes, in our hearts. Let the world have Rudolph, Elf on the Shelf, Coca-Cola drinking, red BMW driving Santa Claus. You can’t control what the Hallmark Movie Channel does from Oct 1 to Dec 31. You can totally control what verses you read, hymns you sing and prayers you say in your family devotions.

♦ Biomedical ethics: In what may be this week’s longest-impacting story, a scientist in China has “successfully” edited the genes of twin girls. Some say it’s just “human experimentation.”

♦ Best answer I’ve seen: Greg Boyd on tithing in the era of the New Testament. “We are not called to be a people that are shamed by a rule, but a people who are captivated by a vision.”

♦ A missionary responds to the John Chau case and the potential backlash on people serving in foreign countries.

♦ Article Title of the Week: The Santa Clausification of Christmas

♦ Our Entertainment Choices Department:

The problem is not that we visit the movie theater. The problem is that we feel more at home in the movie theater than we do with the gathered church on Sunday. The problem is not that we have Taylor Swift on a guilty pleasures playlist. The problem is that when a relationship crumbles, our gut instinct is not to turn to the Psalms, which are inspired by the Holy Spirit (the same Spirit that we claim is dwelling inside of us), but rather we try to quiet our souls by turning to a pop singer whose own relationship history would suggest that she is not the wisest and most reliable counselor.

♦ Christmas quotes from pastors and theologians: 12 of the best.

♦ The husband and wife duo Aaron Smith and Jennifer Smith cracked the Publisher’s Weekly Top 20 Religion non-Fiction chart in the summer of 20166, marking the first time self-published authors had ever made the list. In a recent 46-minute video, they share the struggles they had with sexual intimacy; an area of their lives which was the springboard for their ministry.

♦ Another response to Carey Nieuwhof’s article about mediocre churches — at least according to his standards — is this piece by Stephen Altrogge. Sample: The Early Church was seriously mediocre. If you’re laboring in a small, ‘mediocre’ church, keep at it. Don’t buy into the lie that you need to up your production value before God will bless your efforts. Focus on the things that matter and let God handle the growth of your church.”

♦ For the science nerds: “…the rate at which the universe is expanding may be different depending on how far back we look at distant stars and galaxies.” Why is this important? J. Warner Wallace explains.

Before our universe came into existence, nothing existed. Nothing. No time, no matter and no space. Nothing. This singular truth about the universe exposes an even greater mystery. The long-established (and accepted) Principle of Causality dictates that whatever begins to exist requires a cause. If our universe came into existence from nothing – and that certainly appears to be the case – it had a cause, and not just any cause will do.

The cause of our universe cannot be spatial, temporal or material, given that space, time and matter didn’t exist (according to scientific discoveries) until the universe came into existence. Whatever the first-cause, it cannot be described using the attributes we typically ascribe to the natural realm. It could rightfully be described as “extra-natural.” Or “supra-natural.” Or even “supernatural.”

♦ All your questions about Jehovah’s Witness answered. Well, most of them. This particular Q&A-formatted article is one of several about JWs which appeared this summer at Mama Bear Apologetics

♦ Evangelicals increasingly relaxed attitude toward alcohol.

♦ Breaking one of our rules here to include this review of a new book which looks at what is exactly new in the New Testament. (Please…look for alternatives to supporting Amazon.)

Beyond the actual use of the word “new,” there are also instances of obvious conceptual reference to new realities: new exodus, new Moses, new Israel, new people, renewed nature, new temple, new law, new priesthood, new high priesthood, new sacrifice, new descendants of Abraham, second Adam, and the dawning kingdom of God itself.

♦ For the authors among us: At what level of copy-and-paste do the quotations in your book constitute copyright infringement?

♦ Cassia’s Story: From losing the life she’d had, to reaching out for help. This is a promotional commercial for 2018 at the Salvation Army in New Zealand. A reminder at this time of year of the good that they do worldwide

♦ Parenting Place: A double-feature from the same blog. 

♦ KidMin: Download and print free Advent coloring sheets; up to 24 to choose from.

♦ Catholic Corner: A 13-minute fun call-in podcast on the meaning of The Liturgy of the Hours. (Personally, I think that’s about the right length for a podcast.)

♦ Last month, for National Coming Out Day, the creator of the popular The Brick Bible — which when released was carried in many Christian bookstores — came out as a lesbian transgender woman.

♦ That conservative preacher was actually right when he said the characters in Pokémon Go are “virtual cyber demons.” “Ghost monster” is how Japanese folklore might express it. [Good or bad might depend if you live up-river or down-river.] [Don’t watch the video just before going to bed.]

November 21, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Our weekly collection of stories and opinion pieces that we sincerely hope you have not seen elsewhere up to this point, unless of course you have a computer, in which case, it’s possible you saw a few of these. Again, a reminder that some items we wanted to include here we could not because they contained links to Amazon. Sorry. That’s the policy. Now on to this week’s links.

♦ “It would be absurd for the university to require the vegan student group to appoint a meat-lover as its president. Likewise, the University of Colorado shouldn’t force Christian students to let atheists or other non-Christians lead their Bible studies in order to become a registered club.” With that, and faced with the real possibility of an atheist leading the campus Christian group, the apologetics group Ratio Christi is launching a lawsuit against the university in which it “challenges the university’s policy which allows university officials to deny registered status to a group because the organization selects leaders that share and will advocate for the organization’s religious or political philosophy.” [Or they could let him/her lead it and slowly and lovingly destroy their arguments.]

♦ Meanwhile, at another university, a Christian professor is suing Shawnee State University in Ohio because he believes that “God created human beings as either male or female, that this gender is fixed in each person from the moment of conception, and that it cannot be changed, regardless of an individual’s feelings or desires.” So he is refusing to use female pronouns for a male student identifying as transgender

♦ …A well-worth-reading opinion piece about the above story. [Even if you’re more progressive on this issue, you’ve got to admit that things have gotten, at the very least, quite confusing.]

♦ Essay of the Week: Re-embracing silence. Re-embracing mystery. Re-embracing love.

♦ Devotional of the Week: Even in a GPS-saturated world, people still get lost, people are lost.

♦ Judge Judy, Eastern European Style: After converting from Islam to Christianity, 43 individuals in Uzbekistan are subjected to a “show trial” on TV. After the verdict, they could reduce the amount of their fines by being interviewed on television.

♦ When your world is shattered:

We were horrified to discover that my father had abused several of the grandchildren, including my own children and one of my siblings. Like most children, they had remained silent because they loved him and didn’t want him to get in trouble. The truth was becoming clear. This supposed man of God, this loving father, this doting grandfather had played us all. The shock and disbelief turned to anguish and despair as the magnitude of the situation began to set in. The father I thought I’d had all my forty years of life was a lie. I was the daughter of a pedophile.

♦ Many Christians are fascinated by Jordan Peterson. He even got asked to officiate a wedding; pausing a few minutes to go online and get ordained. So why are the ideas of this University of Toronto professor so interesting?

♦ Can a person be LGBTQ and also be an Evangelical? Regardless of the outcome, some Evangelical scholars think the former group should at least be permitted involvement in settling the definition of the latter.

♦ Just seeing this horrific story from last month. A missionary in Cameroon was shot dead by terrorists in front of his wife and small children

♦ …Also from Premier UK, a story about children forced to attend a Gay Pride event, with no opting out permitted. Fourteen parents complained, and at least one said the school is no longer treating her the same. “Her son no longer attends the school because she feels they were ‘bullied out of it’.”

♦ Thanksgiving Question of the Year: Where are the aboriginal voices in the American Thanksgiving narrative? This author says they are completely marginalized in the story.

♦ The things authors go through to get permission to quote song lyrics in a book. Admittedly, this one needs a lot more lyrics than usual, but when you have to play detective and get people to find the person who holds the rights at a Sushi bar near the Nashville airport, it borders on absurd.

♦ Christian music artist Kari Jobe talks about her visit to the White House.

♦ “Rider University in New Jersey sent a survey to students during the spring semester, asking them which restaurants they would like to see the school bring on campus. But when it became clear that Chick-Fil-A was the students’ top choice, the college disregarded the results of the survey. The school will not bring the popular fast food chain to campus because “their corporate values have not sufficiently progressed enough to align with those of Rider.” [The restaurant isn’t sufficiently evolved, I guess.]

Could the Roman Catholic Church be headed for a split?

♦ The subtitle is, “The Unexpected Story of a Gay Activist Discovering Jesus.” Read an excerpt from the new Zondervan book, A War of Loves. [The foreword is by N.T. Wright.]

♦ Responding to the “Is Lauren Daigle an Enemy of God?” video. Advice experts (!) Paul and Morgan agree and disagree.

♦ Segregation in America: The Wikipedia article about a publication I’d never heard of until a movie of the same name was releasing, The Negro Motorist Green Book, which told African American families where they could get served while traveling the U.S.

♦ Parenting: The differences are both subtle and significant in this comparison between the Middle School experience in 2008 vs. 2018.

♦ The movie Instant Family is far from a Christian movie, but it is opening up people to a better understanding of the adoption process

♫ Newsboys UNITED? Get the 411 on this new touring unit in this 5-minute interview.

♫ New Music: The song You Tell Me by YoungHeart.

♦ Forest Hill Church in Charlotte, North Carolina produced this 2-minute video. Facebook claims it has been seen by over 4 million people. YouTube claims 120,000. Either way, it’s a nice sentiment about being thankful for what you already have in a season of consumerism.

Perry Noble is selling a weight loss book.

♦ Finally,


► You can show support and encouragement to us by downloading my wife’s Christmas album for only $7 or for just a buck ($1) download the title song.

 

 

November 14, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Weekly introduction which is skipped over completely by people reading this on the blog or as email subscribers, but turns out to be a vitally important paragraph for people linking to the list from Twitter. Blah, Blah, Blah.

♦ Not-the-Quotation of the Week: “In place of academic excellence for all, the district’s primary mission is now to ensure that students think correctly on social and political issues.” Furthermore, you need to send your kids to school so they will learn how to become a nice person.

🇨🇦 A complete upset in Canada’s top faith-related story of the week: Atheist pastor Gretta Vosper gets to keep her job. The United Church of Canada “settled ahead of what some had dubbed a ‘heresy trial,’ leaving her free to minister to her east-end Toronto congregation

♦ …At least one Toronto columnist sees the ridiculousness of the situation:

…Carry on deleting all reference to God or a supernatural being in all sermons and rewritten hymns. Carry on expunging the Lord’s Prayer. Carry on with a fundamentally humanist dogma. Carry on conducting services as a community-centred attestation where everybody gets a shot at the microphone.

But what a cross to bear that gigantic wooden crucifix at the front of the Church of the Master must be, constant reminder of everything this parish rejects…

I would characterize their embrace of Vosper as idolatrous.

♦ It’s a loss for privacy but a win for security. Once again the debate has arisen over putting microchips in humans.

♦♦♦ More concerns at Harvest Bible Chapel: $270K (US) stolen from the church and a youth director released from staff for impropriety affecting three families. See a copy of the letter emailed to church members. (Link here for the youth pastor report in the Chicago Tribune.)

♦ Jordan Peterson is a name which comes up in many conversations with people of faith. But as Terry Mattingly notes, “Peterson is a ‘depth psychologist,’ not a theologian… and he has sent complex, mixed signals about the Bible and Christianity. Nevertheless, it’s impossible to avoid the moral content of his work.”

🇨🇦 You’ll remember a few months ago I linked you to a series of interviews between Paul Carter of The Gospel Coalition Canada and Bruxy Cavey of The Meeting House. Now, TGC Canada has released a statement, the gist of which is, ‘We can’t be in full fellowship if you won’t use our terminology.’ Or something like that.

♦ Essay of the Week (1): Changing faith traditions can be filled from trauma, but some of that may be due to family concerns, not the religions themselves.

♦ Essay of the Week (2): An American living in Hondouras offers her unique perspective on the migrant caravan heading to the U.S. border. More than half of the students in the school she helps operate “have walked out because they admittedly had no interest in studying or preparing for the future.”

♦ Parenting (1): Now that many of our churches have observed the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, here are four reasons why your kids need know all that’s taking place.

🎄Parenting (2): Everything you need to get ready to have a focused Advent countdown in your home.

Yet another Bible translation.

♦ A day before Veteran’s Day, while World War II didn’t take his life, he didn’t survive a home invasion in his Georgia Home. John and Virginia Dawson had been married 72 years.

♦ A man comes into a church dressed in drag. The pastor asks him to leave. Watch the video. What do you think? Did the pastor do the right thing?

♦ Returning from the mission field is like stepping back through the wardrobe from Narnia. “It is difficult and frustrating sometimes feeling like we don’t actually fit anywhere, that no place feels quite right. But it’s a gift too, I’ve found. It’s sharpened my gaze to those who are a bit other where they are too.

📖 A different look at the popular book, Girl Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis.

Can you tell a woman who has lost her hoped-for child as a result of state officials turning a blind eye to a water-poisoning crisis in a predominantly black area, or a mother seeking asylum whose child was taken away from her at the border, that “you are ultimately responsible for who you become and how happy you are”? You can, but you would be wrong. And cruel. Hollis doesn’t address the possibility that for some people, obstacles to happiness are outside their control. And it is proof of her hard-earned privilege that she doesn’t have to.

♦ This one breaks our rule about not sending you to sites with OBNOXIOUS pop-ups, however… There’s an interesting insight how the text in the Book of James sounds so much like Jesus speaking. Quoting Scot McKnight: “James sounds like Jesus in every paragraph without quoting him. And you can only do this if you follow Jesus so deeply that every time you talk, you sound like him.”

♦ This again: On the one hand, some churches don’t have a problem with it. On the other hand, some believe Yoga is demonic.

♦ The Kentucky franchise of the SBC will no longer permit affiliation of churches which hold a dual affiliation with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship “that took steps earlier this year to allow the hiring of LGBT staff members.”

🎬 That’s the lead singer from Christian band Downhere that you’re hearing in the movie Bohemian Rhapsody.

♦ NSFW (or home)(or anywhere someone might be watching): The website Christian Friendly Sex Positions. (When you’re compiling a weekly list like this, the internet is the gift that keeps on giving.)(Betcha this one is the top click this week.)

♫ I usually pick things eclectic and esoteric and [need another e-word] for these music links, but this new song from Casting Crowns is really growing on me. The Bridge from the new album Only Jesus.

♦ Finally, “Transagers” — “Allowing adults who self-identify as children to compete in junior sports events has been a controversial subject, as critics have argued that it puts their opponents at an inherent disadvantage. However… banning Transagers from competing with children would be discriminatory.


November 7, 2018

Wednesday Connect

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

Click the image to see past editions of Wednesday Connect.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

♦ Provocative title of the week: Jerks for Jesus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

♦ Finally, our Tweet of the Week:

Digging a Little Deeper

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

 

October 31, 2018

Wednesday Connect

 

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

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

♦ A bad time to be nit-picking:

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

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

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

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

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

A 184-page paperback from Hendrickson, now available.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

October 24, 2018

Wednesday Connect

Halloween message or graphic design fail?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Switchfoot is back!

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

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

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

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

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

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


The only day everyone loves you.

October 19, 2018

When Words Fail

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:56 am

Very suddenly this week, our community lost someone who was known by people in many churches here. A few years earlier Alison had left her Pentecostal church to return to her Salvation Army roots. Two of her and her husband’s three children had elected to pursue a vocational ministry career in the Salvation Army.

And then this summer, a must unusual thing happened. Alison herself — never having taken the Officer Training Program — was tapped by district officials to jump in to, by herself, lead an army ‘corps’ in a city three hours away from us near the Quebec border. And she said ‘yes’.

Alison died on Tuesday at age 53. Those who knew her are in shock. While I didn’t know her as well as others, we spent nearly an hour in conversation the week before she moved, as she described the uniqueness of this particular ‘call’ to vocational ministry. I’ll simply never forget her story. Although she we will undoubtedly be remembered by closer friends or family for other things, this willingness to serve on such short notice is a tremendous legacy to leave.

She will be missed.

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