Thinking Out Loud

April 23, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Promised you last week when we did a feature on Kevin Frank there would be one more panel in it for you (see Genesis 8:20) …

Noah's Sacrifice by Kevin Frank

Time once again for things on Christian blogs and news feeds you may have missed and some you’ll now wish you had. Clicking anything below will take you to PARSE, which paid $1,000,000.00 for exclusive rights to this weekly feature, plus a third-round draft pick.

WordPress says this is Wednesday Link List number 200, but it doesn’t count the times I typed the word Wednesday in a hurry, or the variety of names it existed under before uniformity set in.

 

We leave you this really simple explanation of how to pray; at least according to one denomination.

Prayer image 041814

April 22, 2014

The Touch of the Master’s Hand: Revisited

Filed under: Humor, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:07 am

Not exactly the way you remember it…

 

old-violin

It was battered and scarred, And the auctioneer thought it
Hardly worth his while
To waste his time on the old violin,
But he held it up with a smile.
“What am I bid, good people”, he cried,
“Who starts the bidding for me?”
“One dollar, one dollar, Do I hear two?”
“Two dollars, who makes it three?”
“Three dollars once, three dollars twice, going for three”,

But, No,
From the room far back a grey haired man
Came forward and picked up the bow,
Then wiping the dust from the old violin
And tightening up the strings,
He played a melody, pure and sweet,
As sweet as the angel sings.

The music ceased and the auctioneer
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said “What now am I bid for this old violin?”
As he held it aloft with its bow.
“One thousand, one thousand, Do I hear two?”
“Two thousand, Who makes it three?”
“Three thousand once, three thousand twice,
Going and gone”, said he.

The audience cheered, But I just cried,
I hardly could believe
I’d almost got that old violin -
I could have had it for three.

‘Til that interfering old know-it-all sod
Stuck his nose where I wished he had not
And some overdressed twit outbid my three bucks
By a thousand times what I had brought.

So I watched that old fiddler return to his seat
Near the back where he had been sittin’
As he passed where I sat, I just couldn’t resist
I stuck out my foot and I tripped him.


Ruth Wilkinson

 

April 21, 2014

John Ortberg: The Care and Feeding of the Soul

Reviewing John Ortberg’s Soul Keeping has been like getting back in touch with an old friend. Although I never heard John live at any of the times I was at Willow Creek, I am a huge fan of his writing. Media such as the If You Want To Walk On Water You Have To Get Out of The Boat DVD small group series revolutionized my thinking about how video-based resources can revitalize home Bible studies.

Soul KeepingSoul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You (Zondervan) is truly five books in one.

From the first chapter, you realize instantly that this book is in part a tribute to Ortberg’s friend and mentor Dallas Willard. The impact that Dallas and his wife had on John cannot be overstated. The book may well whet your appetite for reading works like Hearing God, The Divine Conspiracy, Spirit of the Disciplines, or Renovation of the Heart.

Second, the book betrays — more than I’ve seen in previous Ortberg books — his training in clinical psychology. I learned much about how we’re wired from reading this, and there are sections I intend to re-read.

Third, the book is very autobiographical. Married life for John and Nancy hasn’t been the stuff of Christian romance books. They have had their tensions and stresses. There is a raw transparency here that I truly appreciate, and thereby John “earns the right to be heard” with equal authority to his academic training.

Fourth, this is very much a doctrinal book, filled with scripture references and an understanding of the distinction between words like will, spirit, emotions and soul.

Fifth and finally, this is very practical how-to type of book that therefore belongs both in the Christian Living section of the bookstore, and the Self Help section. If you miss the advice this has to offer, you need to start back at the beginning.

I really hope that this book becomes infectious. It has so much to offer on so many different levels.

April 20, 2014

Just One Day Left!

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 1:29 pm

Well, that’s two major events in the life of Christ celebrated…only one left to go…

The Jesus Story -- To Be Announced

I Thes. 4:16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

April 19, 2014

The Pastor in the Movie “Heaven is for Real”

Heaven is for Real books

Throughout all the success of the Heaven is for Real book, and with attention now being refocused because of the movie, I am sure that Todd Burpo’s phone, if he dares to still have one, is ringing off the wall. (A dated reference to wall phones, in case you’re wondering.)

The appearances and interviews that the family has done prior to film release have been very tightly controlled and for anyone else, access is a total impossibility. Even the Christianity Today review of this past week contains the phrase, “Burpo responded to questions sent through the film’s publicist…” which may be a polite way of saying the publicist selected phrases from a prepared list and arranged them into sentences.

A few years ago, I tried to get past what others were writing about, and dig a little deeper and get to know Todd Burpo the Pastor. Throughout this whole process he remains first and foremost a local church minister. How do you do that with reporters knocking at the door? This was the largely unsuccessful result of that quest…

Our Non-Interview with Author Todd Burpo

Feb 9, 2012

53 weeks atop the New York Times’ Non-Fiction Paperback chart and counting. That’s a great accomplishment for any writer, but even more so for a title which began its life with copies shipped to Christian retailers.

But we figured that a full year should have caused some of the excitement to die down, and thought this might be a good time to ask Todd Burpo about that side of his life that never comes up in media interviews: His role as a local church pastor. Furthermore, we thought he would find the change in interview direction somewhat refreshing.

We were wrong.

Apparently the miscalculation was the part about the excitement dying down. Despite several different approaches over the past month, the best we could come up with was some rather terse responses from Belinda, Pastor Todd’s director of correspondence. She begins, “What little free time Todd does have, he tries to spend with his family.”

However, we’re not going to let this deter us from running the piece anyway. After all, if the tabloids can come up with speculative articles based on nothing, we ought to come up with something here based on Belinda’s 190-word response. Besides, we’re just going to stick to the facts.

Crossroads Wesleyan Church

Todd Burpo is the pastor of Crossroads Wesleyan Church in Imperial, Nebraska; population just under 4,000 and the county seat for Chase County. The Sunday services are broadcast on the local radio station. This kind of church setting is actually the reality that the greatest number of people experience on Sunday mornings in the United States, but for some reading here, the image is probably a throwback to a gentler time and place. A 21st century Andy Griffith would worship here, and so would Aunt Bea. In an interview* with Pete Wilson, Todd Burpo quotes the country music lyric, “Everybody dies famous in a small town.”

So we’re talking small, mid-west town, and relatively sized church. But the publication of Heaven is for Real has resulted in a few tourists — our word — though Belinda prefers the term visitors, and leaves us somewhat in the dark if this implies the occasional unfamiliar face or if the place has become a shrine that requires tour bus parking. Either way, it would be a unique dynamic for a local church pastor to deal with. It’s one thing when a megachurch pastor is the author of Christian books for a major publisher. It would be quite different in a small town.

On this we’re told, “Todd works diligently to try to keep balance in all of his responsibilities.” Good answer. Now I know how Belinda got the job. Moving forward, I see her as definite White House material.

But we wanted to get further inside Todd Burpo, the pastor; and nothing spells out a pastor’s vision like the current sermon series he’s preaching. We’re told, “In September, he started preaching the first of a group of series of sermons that examines what Crossroads Wesleyan should look like if it is Christ’s church. The series included: A Culture of Honor, A Culture of Faith, A Culture of Giving, A Culture of Growing and A Culture of Grace.”

That was the best answer we got to our questions, and from the church website, it appears those messages aren’t posted online.

Still, a lot of pastors — even in small towns — often feel they “have a book in them.” So we wanted to know if that was the case with Todd; if there was a book that he might have considered if Heaven is for Real hadn’t happened. But the answer is one that we had heard previously, “Todd has often said, he is not an author and never wanted to write a book.”

But pressing the same question from a different angle, I asked if the publisher, Thomas Nelson, had been talking about any future projects. On this, I was somewhat perplexed by the referral to the HIFR Ministries website, but after checking the site from top to bottom, I couldn’t find reference to anything other than the DVD curriculum and the kids’ edition of the book, both of which have now released. I guess I was thinking in terms of the publisher riding on the popularity of the book but with something a little different. Publishers do tend to do that sort of thing when they have a success on their hands; though the ‘brand’ here is somewhat limited.

So, sadly this is not the interview — even a short five question interview — with Todd Burpo we had hoped for; though The National Star might be interested anyway. In the meantime, we’ll leave the last word to Belinda, correspondence director extraordinaire:

It is the Burpos’ prayer that Heaven is For Real will point people to Jesus and we pray that Colton’s testimony will help people find hope and peace. Todd puts it this way—“In John 16:33 Jesus taught his disciples, in this world you will have trouble, and to that we all say, ‘Amen,’ because this world has plenty of it. But may the hope of heaven and the peace that only Jesus can give, be poured into your lives. But praise God, heaven is real, and don’t ever lose sight of that!”

If there’s a Christian author or pastor you’d like to see non-interviewed here, just drop us a line and we’ll do our best.


Images: Pete Wilson’s interview* with Todd; see below for link.

*For those of you hoping for more of a genuine interview with Todd, you can’t do any better than the 20 minutes that Pete Wilson spent with Todd and Colton in late spring 2011. Maybe it was worth coming here just to link to that. The entire interview played on a Sunday morning at Cross Point as part of a series on heaven.

April 18, 2014

I Screwed Up

Filed under: music — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 2:56 pm

A title like that one is almost guaranteed to bring in readers because we love to read about others’ mistakes. So today I’ll be one of the others.

I totally messed up a piece in this morning’s Good Friday service. A major brain cramp. It was a medley of two songs, two verses each, and when I finished the first verse of the first one, my eyes went back to to the top of the page, but my hands went on to the second piece. So there I was at the keyboard, and I just kept going because I couldn’t stop. About a dozen painful bars of this, and my brain reset enough to go into the next section.

We’ve been practicing this piece since February.

When the service was over, I went into the prayer room which is just off the front of the sanctuary and just sat on the couch in the dark.  I would probably still be there now if my family hadn’t found me. (Slightly exaggerated, perhaps; I probably would have eventually got hungry.)

Still, I haven’t had one of these screw-up in a long time.

Right now, music is a four-letter word. I think it’s time to retire.  Do you ever feel like giving up when things crash?  What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done on a church platform? Please comment; I need somebody else to be one of the others now. 

#MusicalTrainWreck

April 17, 2014

Should Christians Speak of “Mother Nature?”

“Everybody talks about the weather but nobody ever does anything about it.”

“Whether it’s cold
Or whether it’s hot
We’re going to have weather
Whether or not”

We plough the fields, and scatter
the good seed on the land;
But it is fed and watered
by God’s almighty hand.
He sends the snow in winter,
The warmth to swell the grain,
The breezes and the sunshine,
And soft, refreshing rain. 1

… He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matt 5:45)

In North America in terms of weather, this has been a rough winter, and possibly also where you live, but for different reasons. So it’s not surprising that many conversations over the past six months have been meteorology-related.

In Christian circles though, I’m always surprised to hear people speak of what “Mother Nature” has wrought. It seems contradictory that we would be monotheistic and yet invoke the possibility of a weather god, or weather goddess, even if in jest.

So what do I believe about the weather?

I do think that much if not all of the weather phenomena we experience is the natural consequence of living in a fallen world. When we speak questions like, “How could a loving God allow so much evil to exist?” we are usually talking about genuine evil, and not snow or drought; but it all comes under the same category. This world is broken, and we are continually adding to that brokenness through our disregard for the environment.

Is God powerless in all this? Not for a moment. I believe that God is positively disposed and favorably inclined to intervene each time someone prays, but that sometimes he holds back his hand and allows things to proceed naturally. A miracle is a miracle because it doesn’t happen every day. I don’t know if Pat Robertson really “prayed a hurricane back” from the Virginia coast in the ’70s, but I do believe that God is intervening in our planet more times than we realize. I don’t subscribe to the “clockmaker” theory that God simply “wound up” the planet and left it “ticking.”

So back to our subject.

The personification or anthropomorphizing of someone else or something else being in charge of the environment simply grates on my spiritual conscience. Sure, it’s said almost randomly when said by Christ-followers, but is it any different than the Greeks ascribing natural forces to a series of gods and goddesses each dealing with winds, and rains and heavenly signs?

In scripture this was Israel’s great failing. Their neighbors believed in gods that were specific to various aspects of life (but not all) and had power over a certain geographic area (but not all areas); and then they found themselves sometimes falling into the mindset of the dominant culture. (Thus the Shema, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one.”)

So how do we speak of the fury of natural forces unleashing tornadoes, hurricanes, ice-storms, great heat or other manifestations of extreme weather? I have no answer. I simply don’t want to confuse things — especially among those who have not crossed the line of faith but know that I have — by invoking either Mother Nature or Father Nature or Jupiter or anyone else.

What do you think?

Do you use this phrase in conversation?

On New Year's Day 2009, Ippswich in Australia was expecting a high of +38C, which is about 100F.  Meanwhile, back at home, my Weather Network indicator on my computer is showing that we’re heading to a low of -18C, which is about -1F.   Their high temperature on a summer mid-afternoon Thursday would be occurring at the same time as my Wednesday mid-winter night. That's 101 degrees F difference. That day I was asking, "Are we even on the same planet?"

On New Year’s Day 2009, Ippswich in Australia was expecting a high of +38C, which is about 100F. Meanwhile, back at home, my Weather Network indicator on my computer was showing that we were heading to a low of -18C, which is about -1F. Their high temperature on a summer mid-afternoon Thursday would be occurring at the same time as my Wednesday mid-winter night. That’s 101 degrees F difference. That day I was asking, “Are we even on the same planet?” (The left picture was actually Bondi Beach.) Where I live, houses, cars and our collection of clothing has to withstand wind chill factors as low as -50 C (which was reached in Winnipeg several times this year, almost not needing the chill factor) and humidity index temps higher than +40 C.

1Classic hymn based on a poem published in 1782 and set to music in 1800; also the basis of the song All Good Gifts from the musical Godspell; section cited based on Psalm 147:16.

Surely, if Mother Nature had been consulted, she would never have consented to building a city in New Orleans. ~Mortimer Zuckerman

A Ton of Religion

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:18 am

Ton of Religion

Source: Gloria Dei Evangelical Lutheran Church

April 16, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Pet Blessing Service

I’m writing this assuming everyone survived the prophetic implications of the blood moon, but maybe the April 15 income tax deadline is a form of judgment. 

As we do each Wednesday, clicking anything below will take you to PARSE where the links are live.

Paul Wilkinson writes the rest of the week at Thinking Out Loud, and edits the daily devotional Christianity 201 page.

Lettuce Pray from _ChristianHumor Twitter

April 15, 2014

Gospel Music Association to Induct Rich Mullins to Hall of Fame

Filed under: media, music — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:52 am

Ragamuffin Rich Mullins Movie

It’s an honor that would have made Rich Mullins blush.

The GMA (Gospel Music Association) will induct Rich Mullins, writer of “Awesome God,” into the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame at their inaugural GMA Honors Ceremony to be held on Tuesday, April 29th at Lipscomb University’s Allen Arena. The event celebrates those being inducted into the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame as well as individuals and organizations that are impacting our culture globally both past and present. Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant are the first performers announced for the ceremony, with more to be added.

The GMA honor comes on the heels of the Color Green Films Ragamuffin movie inspired by the life and legacy of Mullins whose tour launched earlier this year and is currently screening across the nation.

source: Christian Cinema

The movie has been on a tour of single-night showings across the U.S. since January, due to wrap up at the end of May. A full list of remaining venues is available here. Here is a short trailer:

Mullins left a legacy of great songs — including Our God is an Awesome God — but this will always be my personal favorite:

Another one was the powerful song Creed, a declaration of faith and doctrine which we featured here.

I realize that I may not get to see this until it is released on video, but I would not want to miss this story.

Ragamuffin Movie

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