Thinking Out Loud

February 25, 2014

Mark Hall: We Were Made to Thrive – Book Review

Constitution Oak, a live oak at the junction between the Pea River and the Choctawhatchee River  in Geneva, Alabama. It is believed to be among the largest and oldest live oaks in the state. [Photo: Wikipedia Commons]

Constitution Oak, a live oak at the junction between the Pea River and the Choctawhatchee River in Geneva, Alabama. It is believed to be among the largest and oldest live oaks in the state. [Photo: Wikipedia Commons]


Like the book The Well by Mark Hall which we reviewed here in August, 2011, Thrive is both the title of a book and a compact disc. I’ve been privileged to hear the CD several times and read several sections of the book twice. While some authors may appear to write from a theoretical standpoint, Mark Hall is in the trenches, doing youth ministry first and foremost, and then what he views as a second role, as a musician with the band Casting Crowns.

Thrive - Mark HallThe book’s full title is Thrive: Digging Deep, Reaching Out and the subtitle and the cover telegraph the book’s outline and content. Using examples from his years in student ministry, as well as a few road stories from Casting Crowns, Mark delivers something fresh in each of the book’s 30 chapters. I’m struck by how he is both forthright and yet transparent and vulnerable at the same time.

The primary audience for Thrive will be people who are familiar with the band’s music, but really, this is a contemporary Christian living title that earns a place next to popular writers such as Kyle Idleman, Pete Wilson, or even Max Lucado. Almost every chapter brings new life to familiar scriptures.

I remember once hearing, “Part one of the gospel is ‘taste and see,’ part two of the gospel is ‘go and tell.'” That’s really the focus of this book. It is suitable for both new believers and those who are spiritual veterans. It is equal parts teaching, anecdotal and autobiographical.

I read parts of Thrive out loud this past week at our family devotions. I can only say that this was the right book for us and it arrived at just the right time.

Thrive is published by Zondervan in paperback at $15.99 US. Thanks to Laura at HarperCollins Christian Publishing in Toronto for a review copy. With both Zondervan and Thomas Nelson titles, you guys have the best books!

December 26, 2012

Wednesday Link List

modern church architecture
The picture: Don’t let padded seat backs stop you from having a place to store your hymnbook. This is North Christian Church in Columbus, Indiana.

  • If there aren’t enough links for you here, and you’re into apologetics, the blog Weekly Apologetics offers a weekly link list to topics of interest to its readers.
  • Michael Cheshire explores a friendship with a man that admittedly, other Christians really don’t like.  To put it mildly.  Michael was told by some they would desert him if he reached out to Ted Haggard.
  • Here is the link that was added on Sunday as an update to our short piece on the Newtown/Sandy Hook shooting. Early on, it addresses that the situation is entirely unique to the United States.
  • In all the outpouring of discussion on the shooting, I especially appreciated this one at the blog Shawn in the City.
  • And here’s what a school lockdown looks like from the inside, especially tense in the wake of recent events.
  • In just days, a quarter of a million people have signed a petition to see Westboro Baptist Church officially recognized as a hate group.
  • Candid:  Author R. C. Sproul, Jr. comments on the one-year anniversary of his wife’s death.
  • Here’s a sneak preview of the acoustic version of Casting Crowns’ Praise You In The Storm, from an unplugged album releasing mid-Janauary.
  • Also on video, Matt Papa presents a 10-minute spoken word piece that dares to encapsulate The Story of God.
  • How much of what is shared in a pastoral counseling session should the pastor share with his wife? It depends on the nature of the session, and also on the nature of the wife.
  • And Cody Sanders believes that a church that skirts around the issue of the bullying of gay teenagers that’s taking place in high schools is guilty of what he terms ministerial malpractice.
  • Not sure I fully get the Christian angle on this 105-page book that can be read in well under an hour, so I checked out a few online reviews of Robert Smith’s 20,000 Days and Counting. Like this one. And this one.
  • And how long have you been alive in days? Use the calculator on Robert Smith’s website.
  • New Blog Department: New Songs of Praise recently joined the Alltop Christian list with devotional and Bible study content.
  • New-To-Me Department: The Poached Egg is an aplogetics blog that no doubt takes its name from a C. S. Lewis quotation. Lots of resources to consider and/or share.

We leave you today with a classic 2009 Time Magazine article on what was then considered a growing trend: De-Baptism. “Liberate yourself from the Original Mumbo-Jumbo that liberated you from the Original Sin you never had” But the rebellion wasn’t just against a Christian upbringing: “We’ve had Jewish people write in asking, ‘Can I have a certificate to undo my bar mitzvah?'” Somehow, I don’t think you’ll see these certificates in Christian bookstores.

debaptism certificate

May 23, 2012

Wednesday Link List


  • So let’s start with Ed Young’s Pastor Fashion blog. We’re being set up here, right? Mind you, the fashion blog and Ed’s regular blog contain the same spelling error:  Taking something to a whole other level, is whole, not hole. And that is him in the videos. So maybe this is serious. Besides, it’s not April 1st.
  • But we’re not being taken at the blog No Longer Quivering, which was one of several established to question the whole “Quiverful” movement, (Check a Bible concordance for context) not to mention Christianity itself.  Lately however, things have gotten even more complicated, as in this introduction to a 9-part post. (Note: the blog is in the middle of a move from Blogspot to Patheos.) How does a former (male) pastor move from repressing gender issues to a full-blown transition? (Did I say this one is complicated?)
  • With all the drug war violence in the news, six people weigh in on the subject of safety issues implicit in missions trips to Mexico.
  • And speaking of youth groups, Rachel Marie looks back realizing that something was seriously missing from body image pep talks.
  • If Christianity is nothing more than a “hell avoidance system,” then obviously it comes crashing down if there is no hell. That’s the subject of Hellbound – The Movie releasing in September.
  • On the world stage, two of the weekend’s religious news stories involved Twitter, in Pakistan and Kuwait.
  • 36 faculty have resigned from a Baptist college in George over its new lifestyle statement.
  • Podcast aficionados: Ravi Zacharias guested at John Ortberg’s church on the weekend. Sermon audio podcast is available.
  • Nominated for four Billboard Music Awards in April, the band Casting Crowns went on to take Best Christian Artist and Best Christian album on Sunday night. Not surprisingly, top Christian song was “Blessings” by Laura Story.
  • Know someone 15 or older who has left the church?  They may fall into the prodigal, nomad, or exile category.  Here are six things to consider which might minimize the exodus.
  • On the contrary, here’s a woman who left church around age 16, has lived that much lifetime again, but now finds herself missing God. John Shore responds.
  • Along that line, what about your friends who say they are Christ followers, but don’t like going to church?  This 3 min vid suggests they’re rejecting the wrong “church.”
  • Aaron Niequist has released the third in the series, A New Liturgy.  Also, here’s a link to another of Aaron’s projects, the song, “God’s Children.”  I love the line, “God of every class, from the greenest grass, to the underpass.”
  • From our leftover from April files, the creator of Veggie Tales is planning a new project and it’s not for kids.  Learn more about the Phil Vischer Show.
  • Lots of links from CT Inc. today. (I finally opened all those newsletters!) Here’s one by Carolyn Arends on the challenges of the term “literal interpretation.”
  • I had never actually seen the site Truthinator until Monday. It’s supposed to be “humor,” but after a few posts you realize you’ve never seen so much hate on a so-called Christian blog.
  • Looking for more reading? There’s eight great links from Saturday’s Weekend Link List.
  • Finally, if the t-shirt above isn’t exactly what you had in mind for a Father’s Day gift, if Dad thinks the local church choir sounds like a bunch of howling cats, the image below includes a link where you can buy a 8″ X 10″print of the choir in question for only $25.

August 16, 2011

The Well by Mark Hall Turns John Chapter Four On Its Head

John’s gospel, chapter four.  Some of you might even have it memorized.  Jesus.  A Samaritan woman.  A conversation of at high noon.  We call the story, “The Woman at the Well.” 

But Jesus promises her living water.  He tells her that he is that living water.  The structure they are standing beside is just a hole in the ground.  He — Jesus — is the well.  We should call it “The Woman Who Spoke to a Well.”

That’s my paraphrase.  And that’s just my takeaway from the first chapter of Mark Hall’s book The Well: Why Are So Many Still Thirsty? (Zondervan).  Additional insights from the lead singer and road pastor of the Christian music group Casting Crowns tumble out of each successive chapter.  And I don’t believe in packing book reviews with spoilers, so you’ll have to get the book. 

The Well would certainly suit any Casting Crowns fan, but this is a book that really transcends age or level of spiritual maturity.  There’s enough here for everyone.  Having said that however, I really hope that, with its straightforward writing style, The Well finds a market among teens and twenty-somethings.  I know some stores will stock this in the music section, but it needs to be in the youth section as well.

But also in the self-help section.  As Hall points out, the problem stated in the book’s subtitle is that we tend to look for hope and help from substitute wells — approval, control, resourcefulness, talent, entitlement; looking for “something else,” even religion — instead of looking to The One who is The Well.

When I finished the book, I immediately started in again, reading four chapters out loud in our family devotional time.  We really liked an insight into the time, just before his ascension, Jesus builds a fire to cook fish.  A detail I’d missed.  And will never miss again.  But you’ll have to get the book.

This one’s a keeper.

The Well: Why Are So Many Still Thirsty? by Mark Hall with Tim Luke publishes the first week in September from Zondervan in paper at $14.99 U.S.

September 15, 2010

Wednesday Link List

This week's links lynx is actually an Iberian Lynx

A special blessing will come your way if you click all these links and then send the list to ten friends.   Seriously.   Would I lie to you?

Actually, it’s just a list of things I found worth reading this week.   This weekly list is now consider the #1 list of links published on a Wednesday by a blog called Thinking Out Loud.   BTW, the Iberian Lynx is making what is only his second appearance here.  The first was in January this year.

  • If 56 million Bibles are printed annual in China, why would you bother to smuggle any?   Maybe because the number of Bibles produced are often English Bibles and Bible story books for kids which are exported for sale here in the west.   So the need is still there.
  • She was the champion of the use of the arts in church worship.   And still is.   But right now, former Willow Creek creative arts guru Nancy Beach is sitting in a director’s chair in Toronto on the set of a movie.
  • Sometimes you hear about charity fund raising projects and you wonder if anything is actually being accomplished.   18 months ago, I wrote about one involving worship musicians, Compassionart.   (I still enjoy the CD/DVD combo, especially the DVD.)   This past week, Rick Apperson dug up the stats on the projects accomplished by the project so far.
  • You can vote in the comments section whether or not you love this week’s YouTube clip or hate it.   But how can you not like little Mary Margaret’s flawless dramatic narration of the story of Jonah?
  • Back to the heavy stuff.  Here’s a great piece at Think Christian that helps you identify American “civil religion” when you see it. Simple marker: “Any statement that identifies the USA as God’s unique instrument for the salvation of the world is by definition blasphemous and idolatrous for a Christian to make.”
  • Mandy Thompson’s husband discovers that he didn’t actually marry that Mandy Thompson.
  • Thirty seconds of thinking:  Seth Godin on why it matters that there’s a difference to jazz versus bowling.
  • David Fitch wants you think twice about church planting in an auditorium as opposed to church planting in a living room.   Your choice could have repercussions for decades.
  • Here’s a great 5-minute animation of the Casting Crowns song, Praise You In The Storm.
  • Actually, I’ll give you a bonus video this week.   This is by Aaron Niequist, former Mars Hill (Grand Rapids) now doing the same job at Willow Creek.   The song is simply titled Changed.
  • Then again, why not go three-for-three.   This one may not fit your definition of a worship song, but it earn the adjective as much as anything else.   Check out Owl City’s Meteor Shower.
  • It’s one thing to have a more gender-inclusive translation of the Bible, but T.C. Robinson wonders aloud what do you do when “elders” in Titus 1 is gender-neutral as it is in the Common English Bible?
  • Are you a book-review blogger?  Here’s some advice to put what you do in perspective.
  • Skye Jethani is concerned because there are people attending church each week who are just plain bored.   Certainly that shouldn’t be.
  • Personal link:  This is what my oldest son gets up to when we’re not looking.   The musical instrument he’s playing here is called a Sonome.   Elsewhere on his channel you can do a quick tutorial he posted and find out how they work.   (If you’re reading this months later, it’s the Super Mario clip that was upfront when I wrote this.)
  • Our comic this week should be familiar to you.  Here we have Dolly partially deep in prayer at The Family Circus by Bil Keane.   Do you ever pray like that?   I’ll bet Mary Margaret does.

December 16, 2009

Link Time!

Once again, free of charge, here are a few things you might not have known were just a link away…

  • Jeff Goins at the blog, Pilgrimage of the Heart, noted that his webzine Wrecked for the Ordinary, showed much interest last week on this topic, “Is The Cross The Wrong Symbol for Christianity?”     Before I even got to the article, I made the following observation at his blog:

    I remember years ago hearing people talk about recovering the towel and the basin as the symbol of Christianity; the idea was that the core concept of following Christ is to follow him as he washed his disciples’ feet.

    The discussion was still going on today here.

  • Did you hear the story this week about the eight-year old boy sent home from school for drawing a picture of Jesus on the cross?    Asked to draw something that reminded him of Christmas, the boy drew a simple crucifix — pictured at right — with an ‘X’ in place of each eye to show that the person on the cross had died.   The school sent him home citing concerns of violence and ordered a psychiatric evaluation.   You can read the original Taunton Gazette Dec. 14 report here, and the latest update on the story here from Fox News.
  • Here’s an internet archives classic:  A much younger looking 22-Words blogger Abraham Piper, pictured alongside his personal testimony — “When I was 19, I decided I’d be honest and stop saying I was a Christian…” — offers advice for the parents of prodigals in this 2007 article at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association website.  (22-Words regulars might notice the resemblance between him and his son Orison)
  • Sadly the Alltop blog aggregator is rapidly losing its usefulness when overtly commercial sites like Best Travel Deals are accepted.  Currently however, if you’ve never checked out the site, you can scan the titles of the last five posts at top blogs in the Christianity, Church and Religion categories.
  • A few nights ago I ended up at a YouTube video containing the Casting Crowns song, Prayer for a Friend, when I was suddenly reminded of a CCM classic song by Debby Boone, Can You Reach My Friend? also on YouTube.  While both are homemade vids,  these are both great compositions.  How much time do we spend crying out for friends — both current and long lost — who have not yet crossed the line of faith?
  • While the Grand Cayman Islands may not be the place to picture Christmas done up with snowmen and sleighs, they really do the lights thing to the max.   Zach and Cory, who attend Thabiti Anyabwile’s church,  post a few pics  at the appropriately named blog, Life in Grand Cayman.  (See sample at the top of this blog post.)
  • Got more Christian books and Bibles lying around than you know what to do with?   In the United States, check out a program called Bare Your Bookshelf, where you can directly ship up to four pounds of books to someone in need.   In Canada, consider a program that gets large container loads of Christian resources to missionaries overseas at Christian Salvage Mission.    (Read the history and then click on “area coordinators” to find the closest contact to you.)
  • Our cartoon today is from Mike Waters at Joyful Toons:

HT – for the Taunton, Mass. student story to Tom Bauerle at WBEN radio in Buffalo, with additional links from David Mercier at the blog Redeem The Time.

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