Thinking Out Loud

December 27, 2013

The Christmas Story in the Gospel of Mark

Filed under: Christmas, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:04 am

This is from Clarke Dixon, a pastor in Cobourg, a city about an hour east of Toronto, Canada. I actually got to hear the first message in this series, The Christmas Story in the Gospel of Matthew, and then at the end he invited his parishioners to read the Christmas story in the second gospel for the following week… Click here to read at source where you’ll also find puppet scripts for the skits that accompanied each sermon.

When I began this series “Christmas According to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John,” I invited the congregation to read through the story of Christmas as found in Mark. I could tell by some smiles that quite a number knew that there is no story of Christmas in Mark, no angels, no shepherds, no wise men, no manger scene, and of course no mention of all the traditions we tend to associate with Christmas. That a Gospel writer would miss entirely the Christmas story can be a good reminder to us that Christmas was not celebrated by the earliest of Christians with the same intensity we do today, much of how and when we celebrate being a matter of tradition rather than of obedience to the Bible. It also serves as a reminder that we ought not to think of the Gospels as “biographies.” A biography will often leave us inspired by a person while at the same time satisfying our curiosity by filling in the details of that person’s life. The Gospel writers will have failed in their quest if we find ourselves only inspired by Jesus, they instead want us to be committed to Jesus, and details can be irrelevant to that purpose. So Mark, likely the earliest written and definitely the shortest of the Gospels spares us the details and leads us straight to “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1 NRSV).

So does this mean that Christmas itself is not in Mark’s Gospel? Consider the following (I have included the passage below for easy reference):

  • Mark 1:2 points us to Malachi 3:1 which refers to the coming not so much of a Messiah figure but actually God Himself. That’s a very Christmasy thought!
  • Mark 1:3 points us to Isaiah 40:3, where again the way is to be prepared for God Himself to come. Again, here is the essence of Christmas, that this Jesus is “God with Us.”
  • Mark 1:4-5 makes reference to a lot of people involved in confession and repentance. If you knew that God was to be on your doorstop tomorrow in all His glory, how would you prepare? It takes neither a Bible scholar nor a rocket scientist to figure out that confession and repentance is best and most natural response to the news of God’s arrival. We see people doing that right at the beginning in Mark’s account and again you can hear that echo of Christmas: “God is coming to us!”
  • Mark 1:7 lets us in on the what John the baptizer knows – He is unworthy of the One who is to come. There is an incomparable greatness in the One who is coming which makes perfect sense if God Himself is that One.
  • Mark 1:8 has John saying that while he can only baptize with water, the One to come will baptize with the Holy Spirit. Who can do that but God Himself? Again, God Himself is coming to us.
  • Mark 1:9,10 points to Isaiah 64:1 where Isaiah prays “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down” (NRSV). Isaiah’s prayer is answered through the miracle of Christmas.

So is Christmas found in Mark? Yes, right at the beginning of his account where you would expect it! Mind you, if you read through the Gospel in one sitting you will have the sense that Mark would rather have us focus on Easter. While the earliest of Christians in New Testament times did not celebrate Christmas, or even Easter the same way we do today, they did celebrate Christmas and Easter – every Lord’s Day. Every Sunday is a special celebration! So Merry Christmas and Happy Lord’s Day!

Mark 1:1-11  NRSV

1. The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way;  3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’”  4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.  6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.  7 He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals.  8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”  9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.  11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

April 14, 2013

Don’t Like Controversy? Don’t Read the New Testament

Jay Adams at Nouthetic.org writes Controversy in the New Testament:

DisagreementSometimes it may seem that we spend too much time refuting falsehood. All of us are chagrined at the preponderance of error both within and without the Church. We may write off those who attempt to combat it and set forth the truth in clarity over against it as “heresy hunters.” The term is used pejoratively; but should it be? Take a quick look at the Books of the New Testament, merely scratching the surface, and see what you think.

  • In the Gospels Jesus warns against false teachers, speaks of wolves in sheep’s clothing and the “leaven of the Pharisees.” The record of His ministry is one of conflict with those who refused to accept the teaching He set forth.
  • Acts contains the record of the church’s first major controversy over whether or not a person must become a Jew before he could qualify as a Christian. A church council was called to settle the matter. Paul goes to lengths to warn the Ephesian elders about wolves who would devour the flock and schismatically draw away disciples to themselves.
  • Romans is an entire doctrinal treatise about justification by faith alone in contrast to salvation by works, and how sanctification follows thereafter. In it, Paul also takes up the rejection of the Jewish church.
  • I Corinthians is loaded with problems; schism, misuse of gifts, church discipline, marriage and divorce, and on, and on, on.
  • II Corinthians takes on false apostles who had invaded the church and charged him with pretending to be an apostle. The place of apostolic authority is set forth, along with the qualifications of an apostle.
  • Galatians is a sterling defense of Justification by faith alone over against those who taught otherwise, and were upsetting the church by Judaistic legalism.
  • Ephesians is less controversial, being a universal epistle rather than directed to the adverse circumstances of an individual or a congregation
  • Philippians deals with a split in an otherwise good church. But it has to do with self-centeredness and sets forth a key Christological passage.
  • Colossians is consumed with fighting Judaistic Gnosticism.
  • I & II Thessalonians take up false teaching about the Lord’s coming and eschatology.
  • I & II Timothy & Titus teach “healthy” doctrine over against many false ideas. And, in them, Paul doesn’t hesitate to name specific heretical individuals.
  • Philemon is a welcome exception.
  • Hebrews, in its entirety, combats all influences that would cause Jewish Christians to revert to Judaism.
  • James utterly destroys the idea that one can have genuine faith that does not result in good works.
  • I Peter explains how the New Testament church is no longer a physical political entity, but that the church is now the spiritual people of God, the new Israel.
  • II Peter warns against scoffers and libertines unsettling the church and reveals the true picture of final things.
  • I John argues quite effectively throughout the book against Gnosticism of a Cerenthian sort.
  • II John warns against hospitality for heretics.
  • III John deals with church discipline gone so far astray as to virtually destroy a church.
  • Jude throughout its entirety is an exhortation to contend against the libertines who invaded the church that failed to listen to the warnings in II Peter.
  • Revelation speaks of the warfare of God against apostate Judaism, the first persecutor of the church, and Rome, the second persecutor, and predicts the fall. It also mentions cults like the Nicolatians.

Now, in light of the above, if you can, tell me, why we should not be prepared to detect and refute falsehood in the Church?

February 13, 2013

Wednesday Link List

ASBO Jesus - Fifty Shades of Grey

As you can see above; after a six-month break the UK cartoon ASBO Jesus is back (click image to link).

  • David Murrow at the blog Church for Men is running a series of posts at his blog on things that were formerly unheard of which are now suddenly OK; thinks like: Being gayextramarital sex, and less provocative topics such as informality and slacking. (Actually, I found that last article most interesting.)
  • At least check out the first part of this one: A play-by-play review of what can only be called a church service for atheists.
  • Matt Redman walks away with not one, but two gospel/CCM Grammy awards, for the song 10,000 Reasons, though one of them was so close, a tie in fact with Israel Houghton.
  • CNN talks to two characters central to the new TV show, Sisterhood, a reality show about pastors wives in Atlanta, Georgia.
  • Are you familiar with the term, “first world problems?” If not check out this blog post and accompanying video.
  • A pastor wrestles with wanting to preach the funeral service of a close parishioner, but having to be in Zambia, Africa at the same time.
  • Steve McCoy offers various types of advice to parents, including some things you might not have thought of intentionally teaching your kids.
  • And on another parenting note, preparing sermons and Bible studies may constitute time in the word, but it can substitute for time in the word with your wife and kids; or for those of you who aren’t married or don’t have children, the personal time in the word God wants to have with us.
  • What do you do when someone tells you they are  “having trouble ‘gaining access to the leaders” at their own church’”?  Maybe they just believe too strongly that only those at the top can help them.
  • Cooking the books? A 59-year old church bookkeeper is charged with stealing a quarter million US dollars.
  • The weekend weather in the northeast meant the cancellation of many church services, but that also means the week’s offering was $0.00. What can be done when it’s a snow day at church? Here are some suggestions.
  • Can’t wait for your weekly fix of Andy Stanley? North Point has a local 30-minute show that comes on after Saturday Night Live in Atlanta with repackaged sermon content. Check out Your Move.
  • This is a sequel to the ‘damaged goods’ item we linked to last week: Emily Maynard looks at the ramifications of loss of virginity for Christian girls.
  • Virtual Recording is looking for people who want to be the voices of various characters in a dramatic Bible. Learn how you can audition.
  • No, it’s not a new video; but how often do you get to see a Jesus Toaster actually making a piece of Jesus toast?
  • Social Media Department:  A new site billed as “a Christ-centered devotional and social networking platform… with unique features for prayer, and great tools to help you stay connected with the people you care about;” check out Faithbuddy.com
  • A Canadian Christian journalist can’t get any action from her bank until she takes to social media, and then she gets a response within hours.
  • Once again, for Valentine’s Day, here’s our annual link to Biblical Ways a Man Finds A Wife.
  • Randy Alcorn tells of his dad’s experience with bulging wallet syndrome.
  • If at about this point in the list you’re thinking you’d like to read an inspirational devotional article, you can’t do better than The White Harvest
  • One more time, here’s the link for the response to one of the most popular and discussed pop music songs of all time; the Reimagine song at YouTube
An all-dressed-up Matt Redman collects two pieces of hardware at the 2013 Grammy Awards

An all-dressed-up Matt Redman collects two pieces of hardware at the 2013 Grammy Awards

February 1, 2013

Getting the Most out of The Christian Blogosphere

Two weeks ago I ran an experiment at Christianity 201 that I hope will be a prototype for similar articles there in the future. The idea was to use the Christian Blogosphere as a commentary resource for particular scripture passages.

Now remember, anybody can have a blog. Just because it’s on your screen doesn’t mean it’s correct, or authentic, or that the person writing has any particular expertise or authority. (The first one below however is a highly respected author.)  But it does offer you insights into what other people just like you extrapolate from the text in question, many of whom did consult a commentary or at least the notes in their study Bible before they sat down to write.

So here is how that first one looked, and I’m always looking for suggestions for other passages that would work at C201.


for-such-a-time-as-this

Today we begin an occasional feature where we will take a particular scripture verse and see how different pastors, authors and bloggers reflected on it. If you have a verse you would like us to consider, let us know.

“For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Pastor Greg Laurie writes:

When Esther won a beauty contest and ascended the throne in ancient Persia, she was a Jew. But she kept that information quiet. And one day, because of the wicked efforts on the part of a man named Haman, there was a plot conceived to have all of the Jews in the empire destroyed.But Esther’s uncle, Mordecai, came to her and essentially said, “You are there in the palace. You are in a place of influence. You can go to the king and speak on behalf of your people.” But then he added this telling statement: “If you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).

The idea behind Mordecai’s statement was this: “God put you where you are for a reason. Now, are you going to leverage that opportunity for God’s kingdom, or are you going to keep it all to yourself? Guess what? If you don’t do it, the Lord will find someone else.”

God has put you where you are today. You have a sphere of influence. You have a circle of friends. You have neighbors around you. You have coworkers and others with whom you come in contact on a regular basis. Will you go to them? Or will you run from them?

You might ask, “Well, if I don’t go, will the job still get done?”

As a matter of fact, it will get done. The reality is that God doesn’t need you. Certainly God doesn’t need me. But God does want us to participate in the process.

When God says go, what will you say?

Blogger Shanda Hasse adds:

This is SO powerful because I have known that I have a calling from God to reach out to this dark world for His glorious Kingdom, as we all do, and I have really been praying into exactly what he wants from me, as his faithful servant. I definitely know that direction, but it isn’t fully clear yet as to when and how to take action. Money is a large portion of the wait, but I know God will provide me in His timing with all of the resources I need to take flight with this calling.I just love the articulation, “you were made queen for just such a time as this” — we are called as followers of Christ to reach out in His name and not stay silent. This is such a relevant command, especially in the wake of the disaster our world is facing through these perilous times. We are to be queens & kings for Christ now more than ever . . . by that I mean LEADERS. We are to lead people to Christ and the abounding, endless love and hope that he has for all those called according to His purpose — that CAN be everyone if they choose!!

SO, get out there in this mess, don’t try to hide or segregate yourselves and your family from what is going on now with the economy, government and society. We must dive in and radiate Christ’s light and help those in panic and need. The jobless, homeless, seniors who have lost all of their retirement money and many others come to mind. Seek these people out, and help them in Jesus’ name. Pay for their dinner, help them look for a job, point them to the limitless resources of our merciful God. We are being called to serve a powerful purpose in such a time as this, so let’s get out and show the weak, lonely, desperate, lost and so on, the love of our AWESOME God. You go, you Kings & Queens of Christ.

Blogger Suzanne Benner writes:

This is a great verse. Esther was afraid to approach the king and ask him to save her people because approaching him without being asked was risking her life. When Mordecai answers her, it shows a lot of faith. He’s basically saying… if you don’t do it, God will still save our people, but you and I will die. And maybe this is the reason that God has put you here. As it turned out, it was. … I think that is a good thing to ponder as we approach all of our problems. Yes, it is very true that God will accomplish his purposes on this earth without us, if need be. But being where we are, and who we are, we all have unique opportunities to participate in his work. And perhaps we are exactly where we are for such a time as this. Today, wherever we are, and whatever position we are in, let’s overcome our fears, and stand up for God and his work.

Blogger B. Kessler (whose blog’s name is taken from this verse) writes:

…Esther did end up going to the king and because of that the Jews were saved. I am not the kind of heroine Esther was. In fact, I would describe myself as pretty average. But I do realize that by Ethiopian standards I live in a palace. I have luxuries I take for granted. In fact, compared to most of the world I live like a queen. It leaves me to wonder why I have so much when others have so little. Do I deserve more? Well, you may not know me but let me assure you the answer to that is no. I can’t give a good reason for why I was born in the U.S. and not some remote village in Africa or some country where the people are so oppressed they can’t even worship God without fear of being beaten or even killed. I have been thinking lately, as we pursue the adoption of an orphan whose name I don’t know and whose face I have never seen, maybe God has placed me here in these circumstances for “such a time as this”.

Finally, from Truth and Freedom Ministries:

There are those in the Bible that were right on time, others went ahead of God’s appointed timing, and then there was One, born in the fullness of time

…Esther’s words – “…if I perish, I perish.” gives me assurance that she believed this was God’s timing for her to act. In her words you don’t see an assurance that everything will work out in her favor, but you do see the character that it takes to step out in God’s timing and leave the results to Him.

January 2, 2013

Wednesday Link List

II Cor 10_13--15  Online Translation

And you thought I would take the day off, didn’t you? Well, the link list crew worked all New Year’s Day to bring this to you.

  • Russell D. Moore has a unique observation post from which to consider the decision by the Russian government to suspend adoptions of Russian children by Americans. I think his two Russian born children would agree with his summary.
  • Hi readers. Meet Matt Rawlings. Matt read 134 books last year. How did you do? 
  • And here’s another Matt. Matt Appling has put together an amazing essay on why the concept of shame is ripe for a comeback.
  • David Murrow has an interesting idea in which popular TV pastors are a brand that is a type of new denomination. He also has other ideas about what the church will look like in 50 years. (Or read the Todd Rhoades summary.)
  • Some readers here also blog, and if that’s you, perhaps you do the “top posts” thing. (I don’t.) But if you had a post-of-the-year, I can almost guarantee it weren’t nothin’ like this must-read one.
  • “This is the most egregious violation of religious liberty that I have ever seen.” Denny Burk on what is largely a U.S.-based story, but with justice issues anyone can appreciate: The case of Hobby Lobby.
  • Can some of you see yourself in this story? “It’s really hard for me to read God’s word without dissecting it. I like to have commentaries and cross references. I like to take notes. I like to circle, underline, rewrite. And then my time with God turns into another homework assignment.” I can. More at Reflect blog.
  • This one may be sobering for a few of you. David Fitch offers three signs that you are not a leader, at least where the Kingdom of God is concerned.
  • “We put people into leadership roles too early, on purpose. We operate under the assumption that adults learn on a need-to-know basis. The sooner they discover what they don’t know, the sooner they will be interested in learning what they need to know…At times, it creates problems. We like those kinds of problems…” Read a sample of Andy Stanley’s new book, Deep and Wide, at Catalyst blog.
  • So for some of you, 2013 represents getting back on the horse again, even though you feel you failed so many times last year. Jon Acuff seems to understand what you’re going through.
  • Dan Gilgoff leaves the editor’s desk at CNN Belief Blog after three years and notes five things he learned in the process.
  • More detail on the Westboro petition(s) at the blog Dispatches from the Culture Wars; along with our get well wishes to blog proprietor Ed Brayton, recovering from open heart surgery.
  • Rachel Held Evans mentioned this one yesterday: The How To Talk Evangelical Project.  Sample: “If Christianese was a language, evangelical was our own special dialect. A cadence. A rhythm…” Click the banner at the top for recent posts.
  • Not sure how long this has been available, but for all you Bible study types,  here’s the ultimate list for academically-inclined people who want to own the best Bible commentary for each Bible book. (And support your local bookstore if you still have one!)
  • Bob Kauflin salutes the average worship leader, working with the average team at the average church. Which despite what you see online is mostly people like us.
  • Flashback all the way to September for this one: Gary Molander notes that the primary work of a pastor is somewhat in direct conflict with the calling they feel they are to pursue. He calls it, Why is it So Stinkin’ Hard to Work for a Church?
  • Nearly three years ago, we linked to this one and it’s still running: CreationSwap.com where media shared for videos, photos, logos, church bulletins, is sold or given away by thousands of Christian artists.

Christian books I hope you never see

October 25, 2012

4th James Rubart Novel Boldly Goes Where Few Have Gone

I may never pray the same way again. Seriously. And all this from reading a work of fiction. As in, a made-up story.

Soul’s Gate is the fourth novel from James Rubart, author of Rooms, The Book of Days and The Chair; and he continues to excel with each new release.

For this book, he digs deep into the unseen realm(s) of the battles ordinary people wage each day against invisible spiritual forces. ‘We wrestle not against flesh and blood,’ right? In so doing, Rubart has brought to market a story that rivals the original in this genre, Frank Peretti’s landmark title, This Present Darkness from the late 1980′s. (C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters notwithstanding.)

But this is not fantasy. The book revolves around four people whose lives are not that different from yours or mine. Yes, there are things that take place that I believe Rubart would say exceed possibility — such as inferred from the title — but his take on praying with great, expectant faith is also down-to-earth and practical. Life application fiction, if you will, though I suspect the phrase is already copyrighted. It definitely can change your prayer life.

Reviewers often mention the page count of a book — 372, if you need to know — but this is a book that adds value with every single page. During the first few chapters I was already given ideas to process, and am considering restarting at chapter one once my wife is finished.

There is also a very strong Christian presence in each situation and character and the narration places a high value on scripture. This is the book you hand to someone who wants to know what a work of Christian fiction looks like; what makes it distinct.

My only concern is that after accepting a review copy I discovered this is the first in a series of Well Spring novels. A series. Something I swore I would never do, especially as someone for whom non-fiction, doctrinal books are dominant on my shelves. ‘I will read this first one,’ I told myself, ‘and then move on to other writers.’ By the half-way mark, I decided such was not the case.

I’m hooked.

Soul’s Gate will resonate well with Christian readers, but I wouldn’t stop there, as the book may work well with people who enjoyed that other popular Christian fiction title from last few years which also featured a cabin on the cover. If you know what I mean.


A copy of Soul’s Gate was provided to Thinking Out Loud by Thomas Nelson and is available in paperback wherever good books are sold.

For some other reflections I had after reading this book, click over to this article at Christianity 201.

July 14, 2012

Manipulating Scripture

Filed under: bible — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:41 am

I am sure that some people will read today’s title and assume this to be a discussion of how to force scripture to say something it isn’t saying; to use a Bible verse as a proof text in order to make some point; or simply do a terrible job of interpretation.

But I am thinking of manipulate in the sense of

to handle, manage, or use, especially with skill, in some process of treatment or performance [Dictionary.com]

If it is true that in Old Testament times, scripture was regarded as a jewel or precious stone — one that reflected and refracted the light in infinite ways depending on how it was held — then we ought to approach scripture with similar expectations.

A few weeks ago I was focusing on the verse that, in the old KJV reads, “Thou wilt keep in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee.”  I couldn’t help but notice there were several four-letter words there: Thou, wilt, keep, mind, thee.  I got to wondering if I could compose the whole text with words of four letters. This has nothing to do with whatever some of you are associating with “four letter words,” and in fact, I did another verse that week with five letter words, but can’t recall now what it was.  Anyway, I came up with:

Thou
will
give
them
pure
calm
when
they
keep
body,
mind,
soul
firm
with
thee.

Nothing particularly profound there, and I did take the liberty of adding ‘body’ and ‘soul’ to what was originally just ‘mind.’  (And I’m normally not a ‘Thee’ and ‘Thou’ person!)

But I can’t say how much this little exercise, and a few others, kept me focused on that scripture, brought related scriptures to memory, and crowded out other thoughts which would have brought me down instead of lifting me up.

Is this too far outside the definition of “meditating on scripture” for you? Or does this fit the idea of figuratively holding the verse in your hand and watching the light (the truth) reflect and refract in different ways?


Read another related thought-life post here from a few weeks ago: You Control This Moment.

July 6, 2012

God’s Will But Not God’s Desire

Several days ago at Christianity 201, I shared an audio clip of someone reading  C.S. Lewis on the subject of free will. Lewis talks about that are freedom actually is God’s will, but within that freedom we can choose wrongly, or choose the thing that God would not necessarily desire.

Rob Bell approached this subject in a chapter titled, ‘Does God Get What God Wants?’ in his controversial 2011 book, Love Wins:

In the Bible, God is not helpless, God is not powerless,

and God is not impotent. Paul writes to the Philippians that “it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

Once again, God has a purpose. A desire. A goal. And God never stops pursuing it…

…God in the end doesn’t get what God wants, it’s declared, because some will turn, repent, and believe, and others won’t. To explain this perspective, it’s rightly point out that love, by it’s very nature, is freedom. For there to be love there has to be the option, both now and then, to not love. To turn the other way. To reject the love extended. To say no. This perspective allows that while God is powerful and mighty, when it comes to the human heart God has to play by the same rules we do. God has to respect our freedom to choose to the very end, even at the risk of relationship itself. If at any point God overrides or co-opts or hijacks the human heart, robbing it, and us, of our freedom to choose, then God has violated the fundamental essence of what love even is.

So here, with all its British flavor, is the 3-minute C. S. Lewis reading.  As I stated to C201 readers, this was posted on YouTube on the ‘Islamic Worldview’ channel. I’ll leave it for you to ponder that one.  (For those of you reading on mobile devices or dial-up or limited data plans, this takes mere seconds to upload.)

I’ve watched this several times now, and would love to memorize this so that I could present it others.

The version of this at C201 also contains a full video clip from Ravi Zacharias.

July 4, 2012

Wednesday Link List

From the Sojourners Magazine slide show and report on the Wild Goose Festival


With an over 70% U.S. readership, I don’t have a lot of high hopes for record high stats on the 4th of July, but here goes anyway.  Lots of Wild Goose Festival coverage here, too.  If you’d like more links, there was a Weekend Link List here on Saturday.

  • So why does Mark’s gospel begin with a quote attributed to Isaiah when it’s actually taken from the book of Malachi?
  • Small-town pastor Chuck Warnock did a graduation address to a Christian high school that’s worth reading in full, but if you can’t take the time, at least check out The Monkey Experiment illustration.
  • Author Cathleen Falsani (Belieber) goes off the grid (not by choice) at the Wild Goose Festival and then comes back on the grid (via Sojourners) to share her experiences.  “The revolution is not dead.”
  • Speaker Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove reflects on the festival, an event he sees in a long line of camp meeting culture.
  • He was the only explicitly non-religious speaker invited to the Wild Goose Festival.  Bryan Parys travels with Chris Stedman.
  • Ian reflects on the theologically relaxed atmosphere, while a Unitarian Universalist fills us in on the LGBTQ issues that were raised, and more details on the music.  There are many more reports — use Google Blog Search — to help you get the picture…
  • Have your say: It’s Open Forum Week at Internet Monk.
    • Monday: Open Forum for Pastors
    • Tuesday: Open Forum for Readers around the World
    • Wednesday: Open Forum on America (Independence Day Special)
    • Thursday: Open Forum for Mission Workers
    • Friday: Open Forum for Bloggers and Writers
  • Thomas Kinkade’s wife and Thomas Kinkade’s girlfriend are in a battle over the artist’s fortune.  (There’s one of his works in one out of every twenty homes in the U.S.) Sixty-six million is at stake.
  • Apparently Church Executive magazine — it’s usually racked next to Newsweek — thinks the new generation of pastors isn’t speaking out on national issues. As one of those mentioned, Pete Wilson responds.
  • Randy Alcorn has a three-in-one post with an update on Steve Saint, a discussion of the problem of men not being readers, and a related reblog of a Russell Moore piece on men and online addictions.
  • Author Timothy Paul Jones fills us in a little on some of the books that did not make it into our New Testament.
  • Brave New World Department: The first genetically modified humans have been born. Yes. Only in America.
  • A Christian writer gives a thoughtful and thorough review of Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, albeit with a few spoilers.
  • Okay, we do have a link that’s tied to the 4th of July: Chad Hall looks what happens when patriotism comes to church. “Conservative Christians rightly resist religious syncretism …but we fail to see that equal and greater harm comes from the syncretism of Christianity and nationalism.”
  • Medical Complications Department: “The medicine he had to take as a child to fight his cancer had eventually caused his heart to wear out… he had to have a heart transplant…[years later]…the medications Chuck had to take to maintain his new heart had given him cancer.” Read J.’s tribute to his friend.
  • Dan Kimball has a new book and a new website coming. Here’s the 411 on his new project: Adventures in Churchland.
  • And Mike Breen (Lifeshapes) has a new blog. A good place to learn more about what he and 3DM is doing with church-planters is to start with this 5-minute video.
  • Website Discovery of the Week: HarvestUSA — Proclaiming Christ as Lord to a Sexually Broken World.
  • Mark Sandlin explains why he, a pastor, is taking three months off from attending church.  “I want to understand what it is that the ‘spiritual but not religious’ like about not being in church AND I want to understand what I, a life long churchgoer, miss about not being in church.”
  • It’s been a year since we introduced you to Aimee Byrd, Housewife Theologian who is still blogging regularly and living proof that not all radical Calvinists are male. (Hence, no specific link here.)
  • Yes, I know just about everybody else has blogged this by now…but here’s the bacon graphic… Everyday Theology had the best intro: “If you live in 17th century Holland, it’s fine to summarize your theology using flowers. But in 21st century America, we prefer our theology a little meatier, and saltier, and greasier. So forget the five points of TULIP, here is the new creed for the Five Strip Baconist!”

June 29, 2012

A Dose of Humility

I haven’t done a lot of cross-posting with Christianity 201 lately, because that blog has taken on a life of its own. But it’s the start of a long holiday weekend here in Canada — Monday is the actual holiday — so I’m feeling a bit lazy.

While this blog follows topics, trends, and current issues; Christianity 201 — see the button in the sidebar — almost always begins with a scripture portion and Bible exposition or devotional thought by some of the best Bible study bloggers. It really provides a spiritual balance to this blog.

Anyway, for those of you who are new here, I want you to know I am capable of writing other types of material… and who knows? You might just decide you want to be a regular reader.

Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. ~Romans 12:3b NIV

At 6’0″ I usually find myself in conversation with people not as tall as myself, but in the last few months I’ve noticed that I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable carrying on conversations with people taller than myself, probably because it happens so seldom. Yesterday we ran into Tim, the son of one of my mother’s best friends, and I again found myself registering the fact I had to keep looking up to make eye contact.

Perceptions about who’s the leader often depend on who is looking up to who

I can see how people like myself who are tall of stature might get confused and think that they are somehow ‘taller’ intellectually or emotionally; and there is always the danger of thinking oneself to be ‘taller’ spiritually. Of course, we all know our inward shortcomings and weaknesses, but when we’re out and about with members of the wider faith family, it’s easy to posture. In the key verse today, Paul says we should use ‘sober judgment’ of ourselves.

Another application of this principle is that we look up to God, who scripture tells us looks down on us. This is repeated in various passages; it’s important to remember who is where! One prayer pattern that I learned years ago contains the phrase, “You’re God and I’m not;” or “You’re God and we’re not.” When we come to Him in prayer, we need to remember who is ‘taller.’

Here’s a similar application of how we deal with our own estimation of ourselves from Luke 14. Jesus is teaching…

7 When Jesus noticed that all who had come to the dinner were trying to sit in the seats of honor near the head of the table, he gave them this advice: 8 “When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited? 9 The host will come and say, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table!

10 “Instead, take the lowest place at the foot of the table. Then when your host sees you, he will come and say, ‘Friend, we have a better place for you!’ Then you will be honored in front of all the other guests. 11 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” ~NLT

A month ago we attended a family funeral. My wife’s uncle passed away and we didn’t realize that some seats were being held for nieces and nephews, so we took a seat toward the back. Her cousin saw us and immediately told us that special seats were reserved for us, and invited us to “come up higher” in the seating plan. We appreciated this, but I couldn’t help but think of this passage as we were walking to the front, and also of the potential embarrassment that could occur if the situation were reversed.

The brand of Christ-following that is portrayed on television is centered on people with very strong personalities and — dare I say it? — very large egos. I think some of this is given away by the very fact these people want to be on television, though I don’t preclude the use of media to share the gospel. But you and I, the average disciple, should be marked by humility; the type of humility that takes a back seat in a culture that wants to proclaim, “We’re number one.”

We serve the King of Kings. We have the hottest news on the rack. We are seated with Christ in heavenly places. But we approach this in a humble spirit, with gratitude that God chose to reach down and rescue us from our fallen state.

Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. ~ James 4:10 NKJV

How tall do you feel?

~PW

Christianity 201 is a repository of some of the best devotional and Bible Study material in the Christian blogosphere. Selections come from a variety of doctrinal and theological viewpoints. You’re encouraged to read articles at source, and if you like what you read, click that blog’s header to discover more about the writer and consider subscribing.

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