Thinking Out Loud

January 18, 2017

Wednesday Link List

Welcome to the Link List. Beware of the Dog:

beware-of-dog

mosquitoMy wife took that picture while standing about five feet away. It never budged. As to the little home decor item at right, it’s an actual item made by Heartfelt, Inc. Can I put you down for a dozen of them?

This week a big shout-out to all the radio guys who check us out every Wednesday for program material. You can watch for our invoice in the mail.

…and yes it’s true. Skye Jethani was part of the cast of Puzzle Place. We offer a screenshot as proof.

skye

January 11, 2017

Wednesday Link List

youve-got-a-friend-in-jesus

Hey readers! I want to be honest; I put some extra hours into this one, both in seeking out some things you might not read elsewhere — I only check other aggregators after this is mostly wrapped up — and including some longer quotations so you get the main idea of each item. So please help spread the word by sharing this link to today’s list with your contacts.  http://wp.me/pfdhA-8Fg

  • From High Society to the Mission Field: Raised as a debutante in Toronto’s upscale Rosedale district she rejected that life to work with Wycliffe Bible Translators. Canada’s national newspaper, The National Post gives extensive space to Ruth Thompson’s story. “Fifty years ago they didn’t wear clothes. Now they call Thomson on their cellphones.”
  • Essay of the Week: The above item. Hands down.
  • Women’s ministry in perspective: “I shifted in my seat at the women’s ministry event; the speaker said it again. “You are a beautiful, chosen, special woman of God. There is no one in the world like you!” …Again, it’s not a bad message. But it’s theologically deficient, and if the goal of a women’s ministry is to encourage and equip female Christians, the message has to change…When you create a culture that uses Jesus for little more than a spiritual feel-good, it’s no wonder the women it produces can’t get victory…”
  • Leadership Lessons: Don’t get caught saying, “I’m too busy.”
  • Grieving: “The early days of grief are a hazy, dizzying, moment by moment response to a trauma that your mind simply can’t wrap itself around. You are, what I like to call a Grief Zombie; outwardly moving but barely there… Most people understand grief as an event, not as the permanent alteration to life that it is, and so they stay up until the funeral and imagine that when the service ends, that somehow you too can move ahead.” 
  • Next Tuesday (17th) morning Shane Claiborne and other Christian leaders will hold a 2-hour rally in front of the Supreme Court calling for the end of the death penalty.
  • A 155-year old Baptist church in the heart of Washington, DC has appointed a gay couple as co-pastors. Both women have worked previously in chaplaincy, but buried deep in the article is the mention that one was an associate minister at Unitarian Universalist Church. The church — which bears the name Calvary Baptist — actually cut ties to the SBC in 2012.
  • The faith of President Obama, compiled entirely in his own words
  • This just in: Theology students at the University of Glasgow are being given trigger warnings in the course ‘Creation to Apocalypse: Introduction to the Bible (Level 1)’and in order “to protect the mental of health of vulnerable students” it appears that “Theology students are being warned in advance that they may see distressing images while studying the crucifixion of Jesus, giving them a chance to leave if they fear being upset.”(They’re right of course; I think a man dies in that scene. We can’t have that.) …
  • …Here’s a response to that nonsense.
  • Things like this only serve to set back Christian-Jewish relations in Israel. Fortunately most key comments on this story aimed at peacemaking
  • An Italian security official warns that the potential for a terrorist attack on The Vatican is very real.
  • America is suffering from a religious literacy problem starting with “media powerhouses” who “don’t quite get religion.” “Christians, in general, are ignorant about their own tradition. Half of Protestants can’t identify Martin Luther; half of Catholics don’t understand the doctrine of transubstantiation…Religious illiteracy is not a liberal problem. It is a function of two key factors: insularity and lack of education.” 
  • What if? (I thought I’d keep that teaser simple.)
  • Suicide Prevention: The son of author Anne Lamott shares surviving another day in an article, the very title of which ought to arrest you in your tracks. “How I managed not to kill myself today.”
  • A Theology of Sarcasm: The wife of a prominent Christian apologist provides a Biblical bibliography justifying the use of sarcasm. (Though some of the selections might be better described as hyperbole.)
  • Astronomers at Calvin College have confirmed two stars that will collide and merge in 2022, forming a binary star and producing a red nova.  No doubt as with the blood moon, this will produce a new crop of prophecy books.
  • The Singles Section: Looks? Personality? Both? An incredibly honest reflection on the attraction factor when hoping to fall in love.
  • Parenting Place: If your children get Highlights magazine and your values are conservative, you might want to check out the February issue before the kids do
  • …Somewhat related Devotional of the Week: An adult-portioned answer that begins with the kids asking what happens to their pet when it dies.
  • Having Carrie Underwood sing on the first day of the Catalyst Conference probably seemed like a good idea at the time, but the backlash has been considerable.
  • He moderated a County Quiz Bowl where “public school children did better on the religion, specifically Bible, questions than they did on the geologic time-table questions that had their basis in the theory of evolution.  So much for many people’s claims that public schools are brain-washing our children against the Bible.” See how do you fare — without scrolling down — on 30 statements which may or may not be from the Bible.
  • I’d love to live in a world where announcements like this did not exist.
  • Canada Corner: The longest-running religion editor of The Toronto Star, Canada’s largest circulation newspaper, Tom Harpur has died. His 2004 book, The Pagan Christ “digs deep into the origins of Christianity, and argues that there is no evidence that historical Jesus existed” and that “the story of Jesus was largely based on an Egyptian man-god and was simply an allegorical tale, meant to act as a guidepost for those striving to be better people.” The newspaper’s obituary quotes him as saying, “I’m not really a religious guy, you know.”
  • ♫ Worship Songs: We’ve re-formatted a few things at Christianity 201 and if you’re wishing to discover or re-discover some worship songs with substance without wading through YouTube’s search system, click this link.
  • The Family Squabbles of Jesus: Jesus and his mother didn’t always agree
  • Listicle of the Week:  The top searched verse on You Version in 88 countries; or if you prefer, this format.
  • Quotation of the Week: (a friend spotted this on Facebook) “We’re not here to fix this mess, nor to join it, or to befriend it. We’re here so if anyone gets tired of it, they can know there is an alternative to it.
  • ♫ Video of the Week: We couldn’t decide among several here from a band that I believe is set for greater recognition in North America in 2017. We’re talking about Rivers and Robots. (Yes, that’s the name.) Pick a song…
  • …Unless we’re talking about the uniqueness of the video itself. Then this international production by Rivers and Robots wins. Watch Lift Up My Eyes. A couple of times…
  • …or their most-watched Shepherd of My Soul.
  • ♫ Music Memories: Thumbing through the 1996-97 Tooth and Nail Records catalog is like opening a time capsule according to one person whose band was on their roster. He describes it as a time when music mattered.
  • I didn’t watch all 77 minutes of this, but street preaching is definitely one of the extreme sports of ministry
  • The world we live in: Two new spokespeople representing major makeup companies are not women.
  • Time-waster you’ll probably click: 13 Cats Resting on the Promises of God.
  • Finally, I’m happy that the editors at Baptist Press know what makes for a good religion news story.

every-eye-closed

 

Images: Hallmark store (upper); Baptist Memes (lower)

January 7, 2017

Counseling the Counselor

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:58 am

This first appeared in January, 2008 at Internet Monk and was re-posted yesterday. It would be great if you read it at source by clicking the title below.

Fridays with Michael Spencer: Jan 6, 2017

by the late Michael Spencer

Note: The following incident is fictionalized from real experience.

I look at my watch. It’s time for a counseling appointment. I clear my desk, bring in the extra chairs and wait.

My appointment arrives and the conversation begins. This is a first time conversation, with someone I don’t know. I spend a lot of time listening. Then questions. More listening. I try to put what I’m hearing into some kind of order; to make some kind of helpful response.

michael spencerI’m not a quick thinker. My feelings are always way out in front of my thoughts. So I have to be cautious in counseling to be sure I’m doing what’s needed and helpful.

My counselee says the conversation has been helpful. He leaves. It’s been an hour and fifteen minutes. Longer than I like, but not unusual for a first conversation.

What did I hear? I heard what it means to do the best with what you have, as God brings all things into himself through Jesus Christ.

I hear about a broken marriage. Silence. Distance. Public pretense. I hear about broken children. The fear of what’s next and the impact of what has already been. I hear about ministry; a ministry that goes on under stress that’s unimaginable to me.

I hear about faith and its stumbling steps to do what is right. I hear of guilt, the certain knowledge that one has fallen short. I hear the cry for restoration of broken relationships; the longing for Christian community and the church to be what family and friends have failed to be.

I hear about secrets and the reluctance to speak of them. I hear of the learned response of looking away; the habit of staying busy; of attending to “real life” and never looking at the inner world. I hear of the pain of sin’s lingering work, its blindness creating deception and its deep roots that drive us away from God, others and even ourselves.

I hear of persistent belief in God, prayer, the Bible, the work of the Spirit. I hear the ache for a pronouncement of forgiveness.

I hear the mystery of God’s call to be a servant and a minister when life is broken. I hear the mystery of God’s presence in the midst of brokenness that is not healed and darkness that does not lift. Yet, I hear of love for others and a simple, loyal, persistent love for Jesus and for the people Jesus loved.

I hear about doing the best you can with what you have, even when what you have is broken, wounded and bleeding from our human frailties and cruelties.

The world loves to point out hypocrisy among Christians. I want to point out the inexplicable, amazing absurdity of people who continue on with Jesus when any rational, reasonable person would abandon all hope. Of course, love is not reasonable or rational. Love suffers long, all the while rejoicing in the truth.

If you are a person who believes that all ministers and their families are picture postcards, let me break this to you gently: many ministers and their families are living in hell, and you don’t know it. Perhaps right in front of you. For them, the ride to church to face you may have filled them with fear that somehow you might see past their facade and into the failure and hurt.

The tendency these days is to project the image of the minister as young, absurdly happy, socially perfect and free from care and hang-ups. In fact, many ministers are living lives of pain and facing situations that would make you wince, if not curse. The price of being the shepherd of Christ is often high; so high ordinary persons could seldom stand to see it.

Perhaps some Christians are masochists. Or truly warped from being around so much need and paying too little attention to their own lives. I cannot say what is motivating an individual person to carry burdens that would break others, and do to it for the sake of Christ, his gospel and his church.

Part of me wants to say “Go fix your marriage. Be 100% available to your kids. Let the ministry go for a while.” That’s probably very good advice.

But another part of me senses that brokenness is part of ministry, and it is not for me to say to God or another person what forms of brokenness should stop the show, and what others can be carried on and through.

I do know that my eyes are opened, again and again, to the immense pain that surrounds me in the Christian family. So many of God’s servants are hurting in their body, families, marriages and in ways I cannot label or identify.

Yet these are some of God’s best servants and most Christ-filled saints. Some of his most useful, loving people. The crucible does not need to be approved by me or you to be effective. God chooses his own instruments, preparing, sharpening and equipping them as He chooses. His agenda is Jesus. Mine would be comfort, wholeness, happiness and so forth, with Jesus as the end result. God is only interested in making us like Jesus.

So the cross, and the instruments of crucified glory, are his doing. I am a listener; an observer.

I bow my head and pray for what I’ve heard and seen. I will do so many times in the future as I realize I am watching, in the midst of pain, a kind of holiness that is only a rumor for me.

We do the best with what we have given to us, or what we have left over or with what still works after the latest wreck. And God forms Christ in us, brings Christ through us, glorifies Christ in us and all in all.

In such colors, the Spirit paints the Incarnation every day, and presents the painting to the Father. And each picture looks more and more like the Jesus we have never seen with our eyes.

Or have we?

 

January 4, 2017

Wednesday Link List

A new year brings a new list… Each one of these takes on a life of its own and differs from the week previous in terms of the type of links and the overall tone of the collection as a whole.

December 28, 2016

Wednesday Link List

For our graphics this week, we pay a return visit to TwentyOneHundred Productions, the media division of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Know a young person with a flair for graphic art or video? Have them consider an internship at 2100.

myrrh

meh-christmas

December 21, 2016

Wednesday Link List

bee-top-book-list-case

Our graphics this week are from The Babylon Bee’s Top 10 Christian Books of 2016. Click either image to read in full.

bee-top-book-list-purpose

December 16, 2016

The Resource Nobody Wanted

Short Stories 2When Pastor Craig and his wife Linda were one of three hundred couples in ministry selected to fly to El Paso last winter to preview a new type of video teaching series, they knew right away it would be a great fit for their church. Churches had two weeks to consider the series and get introductory pricing, but Craig completed the forms signing up on the spot.

The series was a hybrid of every elective the church had offered before rolled into one super-course. The twelve weeks were divided into three weeks each on marriage, parenting, spiritual development and finances; but all interwoven with material from the other sections to form a holistic approach to Christian family life.

Craig’s hunch about the series proved correct. They did registration by families, irrespective of whether one or both spouses would attend, and out of a just-under 500-member church with weekend attendance averaging around 900, he was thrilled when 154 people signed up representing 96 families. In other words, during the course of the 12 weeks, about one in every 6 people in the church were taking the course.

During each session of the videos, there were promotions for something called the Home Resource Kit. While these were available from the same source as the course itself, they were also sold in Christian bookstores. Craig was a bit wary of the $40 per kit price, but when he found a store willing to sell it to him for $30 — albeit non-returnable at that price — he figured about a third of the families would buy-in and committed to 32 kits.

The 96 families paid a $29 fee which covered the cost of buying the videos, renting a neutral auditorium in the community and also having coffee and snacks. A future showing of the series would someday put the church ahead financially. But immediately Craig saw that selling the Home Resource Kit was going to be a challenge. About half of the people really didn’t think the teaching offered anything new, although they stuck it out with only a handful dropping out. But the other half felt the course material was so helpful that no further aid was needed.

So Craig cut the price to $25 with the church taking a loss of $5 on each kit, but again found himself with no — as in zero — interest in owning the home kit. When he cut it to $20, it soon became apparent to everyone that he was holding a fire sale, which resulted in him finally announcing in week twelve that if there were families that would commit to using the resource kit, they could have it for free. All but a couple of the kits were then claimed; after all, the price was right.

church-budgetBut there was this small matter of the bill for the 32 kits, which was over $1,000.00 with State Tax. The problem was, that while Craig and Linda had gushed over the course and got the church finance committee to approve the cost of the seminar series at the last minute — confident that it would be recovered — there had never been a budget approval for the resource kit purchase; and in their denomination, purchases over $500 needed to be pre-authorized.

While $1,000 in a 500-member church averaging 900 people per weekend may not seem like much to you or me, this was a church that took their finances seriously and there was considerable discussion that the pastor had acted unilaterally without going through what is, in church governance, called process.

So Pastor Craig found himself the target of a very upset group of board members on a Thursday night just two weeks after the course had ended — they quickly named another similar transgression a year earlier which apparently they had quietly voted to overlook — to the point where he started to reach in his wallet for a blank check before realizing this was the very day of the month the payment for his daughters braces was due to come out of the account…

So what do you think? Was this expense, not covered by a line item in the church budget, the unforgivable sin? Was there not a reasonable expectation that participants would purchase the Home Resource Kits? Should Pastor Craig pay this out of his own pocket just to keep the peace? Also, why did Craig and Linda stay an extra night in El Paso? And how will Max the dog communicate effectively to the church finance committee that little Timmy has fallen down the well behind the church parking lot?

 

December 14, 2016

Wednesday Link List

scc-shirt

The return of the Christmas List Lynx

The return of the Christmas List Lynx

So each week we track which links you liked the most. And then there was last week. I’d never seen stats like this, but our last 2 or 3 items, which were all from the same location — MichaelEPierce.com — drew a record amount of traffic. (There’s a new one this week.) How did we never hear of this site before? Anyway, the picture above is from his 2015 list of great Christmas gift ideas. Click the image. You may also click the image at the bottom which is from Arthur Sido.

many-faces-of-john-piper

By the way, in case you’re wondering where it is, we’re still waiting with bated breath for the new list of the Worst Christian Book Covers of 2016 from Englewood Review of Books. Perhaps one of the following from their summer list (click the image) will win the prize.

worst-book-covers

December 7, 2016

Wednesday Link List

In response to J.D. Hall’s book for children called, “Help!! Arminians are Giving Me Nightmares Again!”, blog readers at Spiritual Sounding Board gave alternate titles...

In response to J.D. Hall’s book for children titled, Help!! Arminians are Giving Me Nightmares Again!, blog readers at Spiritual Sounding Board gave alternate titles

Sidebar from Christianity Today. See first item in today's link list.

Sidebar from Christianity Today. See first item in today’s link list.

Some extended quotes from this week’s linked articles because even if you don’t click, I didn’t want you to miss the substance; each one of which could have been a single blog focus here.

  • Jen Wilkin, speaking to Christianity Today notes that “while most evangelical women know their Tim Kellers from their Rick Warrens, male pastors aren’t expected to parse female teachers. The bookshelves in their offices contain no books by contemporary female authors, and their sermons typically do not reference female voices, other than the usual suspects of Elisabeth Elliot or Corrie ten Boom—both dead, for the record.” The article concerns the popularity of Jen Hatmaker and other women speakers, see CT sidebar at right for her social media popularity.
  • ♫ It was only later I noticed this was a 2014 article, but the songs were so interesting I have to share it. 20 alternative Christmas songs, many of which are covers of more familiar carols. Warning: Don’t try to copy/paste the titles into YouTube, this site has the most annoying pop-ups I’ve ever encountered.
  • Playing Second Fiddle: “In nearly every great church, nonprofit, ministry, or business, there’s a vital #2 person working, and without them, those organizations would struggle.” What it takes to be #2.
  • Now it’s no longer just gay wedding cakes, it’s wedding invitations. Two young Christian women in Pheonix face the prospect of prison.
  • Quotation of the Week: Paige Patterson ends a chapel service at Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary, of which he is the President. “I know there are a fair number of you who think you are a Calvinist, but understand there is a denomination which represents that view, It’s called Presbyterian.  …I honor their position, but if I held that position I would become a Presbyterian. I would not remain a Baptist, because the Baptist position from the time of the Anabaptists, really from the time of the New Testament, is very different… If we are not careful a myriad of related beliefs and practices will enter our camp, hidden within the Trojan Horse of Calvinism.”
  • Planning Christmas Eve Statistic: “25% of all your visitors for the entire year will come (or not come) on Christmas Eve.” 3 things to consider when planning that service.
  • Bye, Bye Bibles: “…While Marriott International supplies a Bible and Book of Mormon in every other hotel in their franchise, their millennial-geared Moxy and Edition hotels will be free of religious literature. ‘It’s because the religious books don’t fit the personality of the brands.'” 
  • Is God sovereign, even in the midst of the recent US elections? People looked to the Bible to find out. So this link is complicated. First, click on this one to get accustomed to how to read the 3-year comparison of searches at BibleGateway.com. (Give yourself a minute to figure out how the graphs work.) Second, click on this one and check out the first image to see the searches for sovereign skyrocket in November. (Yeah, they might have formatted that graph better, but who are we to say?) Scroll further down to see the top words searched in English and Spanish, and let your mouse hover over a word to compare the two languages’ rankings.
  • ‘And then, when He had given thanks, He took the lamb and killed it.’ That verse isn’t in your Bible. He took bread, “because he wanted it to be clear to us that there was no more shedding of blood required… For all the symbolism of the lamb already established, there was a greater, more significant over-riding factor. And that had to be made clear: No more sacrifice, no more death for sins.”
  • The “Cultural Commute” or “what it means to be an iPhone pastor in a typewriter church.”
  • This article on reading older books begins with a quote from C.S. Lewis; “It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.”
  • Although it takes a restorative therapeutic approach that some may bristle at, it’s still relatively rare to see articles on ministering to transgenderism.
  • Window into Another World: I felt like I was coming in on the middle of a movie reading this short article about ministering to the children of hillbilly families.
  • Is Kellogg’s the target of the next major conservative Evangelical boycott? (What? No more Eggo? No more Pop Tarts?)
  • We are not the enemy. Such is the spirit of this article aiming to show that Calvinists and Classical Arminians are more related than you think. “I like to say that they are theological first cousins, both residing under the ‘Reformed’ umbrella.”
  • There’s a difference between giving your testimony and sharing your faith. The latter must begin with the resurrection.
  • Preaching Place:
  • It’s deja vu all over again: With the release of the movie in March, 2017, all the venom that was poured out over The Shack book is now being recycled as condemnation for the movie. This link is but one of many.
  • Announcer: “And now, we bring you the first episode of Perry Noble, Church Growth Consultant.”
  • He writes what many of us are feeling: The Christian liturgical calendar is growing on us.
  • Christian giftware supplier Abbey Press is closing.
  • ♫ The Voice is the name of a Bible version as well as a TV show. Relating to the latter, after Monday night I think we’ll be hearing a lot more from Christian Cuevas.
  • Women in the Church: “I didn’t really believe I could exercise any other gift in my local church beyond nursery duty and craft projects. Teach? Lead? Those things weren’t on my radar screen at the time, and they certainly weren’t on the radar screen of my own church leaders. When I did find my way into a seminary classroom more than a decade later, this Methodist minister was one of the first people I contacted to thank…”
  • ♫ Popular Christian songwriter Darlene Zschech (Shout to the Lord) has re-signed with Integrity Music.
  • Phil Vischer and Christian Taylor talk to Josh Lindsay about movies which have redemptive themes or spiritual analogies
  • Your Word of the Week — Just in time for the holidays — Orthorexia
  • …Also, with December 25th close at hand: “Back in the days when I was a fire-breathing Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher, I encouraged church members to use the Christmas holiday as an opportunity to witness to their unsaved relatives. Hell is hot and death is certain, I told congregants. Dare we ignore their plight?  Remember, the Bible says that if we fail to warn our wicked relatives of their wicked ways and they die and go to hell, their blood will be on our hands. Despite my attempts to guilt church members into evangelizing their relatives, not one member reported successfully doing so.” From there, the language gets stronger.
  • Bee of the Week: A mandatory heresy warning before each TBN broadcast
  • Finally, Matthew Pierce on being a Church kid in 1997
  • …or better yet, Michael’s investigation of bizarre Christian websites including — no really, we have to give this one its own link…
  • …including Rebecca St. James Transvestigation, which is actually just a YouTube link. Michael describes it: “The intersection of trans issues and theology is a fascinating, fertile ground that is ripe for discussion. A topic that begs further scholarly debate. This is not that. This is an 8-minute rant that questions whether Christian singer Rebecca St. James is a man in disguise, sent from the Illuminati…The woman behind this video is the Apostle Laura Lee, AKA Laura Lee Dykstra…Exploring her channel is exhausting. I did, and I will summarize it for you: She claims that Kenneth Copeland might be Tom Hanks, and that Obama is both Stephen Colbert and also a woman.” (Underlining added. Just in case you doubted what you were reading.)

Canada Corner and Catholic Corner along with Leadership Lessons and Essay of the Week return next week. Maybe. There were several articles that crossed all these categories for your consideration. Have your suggestions to me by 9:00 PM Monday if at all possible.

November 30, 2016

Wednesday Link List

my-brain-has-too-many-tabs-open

We’re not part of the online echo chamber. You’ll find links here you won’t find elsewhere, plus a few we stole outright. The piece of wall decor above is from P. Graham Dunn; you can order it by clicking the image.

 

i-will-cut-you

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