Thinking Out Loud

November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving to Our ‘Murican Friends

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:01 am

The First Thanksgiving

Click the image to order the IVP book.


 

Thanksgiving Cartoon


grandmas-house

The above and the one which follows were pilfered from Happy Monday at The Master’s Table blog.

turkey-and-the-farmer

…Which is a great lead-in to fall hunting season. I don’t hunt, but these words from Nashville pastor Pete Wilson resonated; maybe it’s why they resonated:

Hunting with Pete Wilson

Finally, a classic worship song with the lyrics in flowchart form; one of the many graphic innovations of InterVarsity’s 2100 Productions.

Give Thanks from 2100 Productions

November 6, 2014

Philip Yancey on the Twilight of Grace

Changing societyIn my single digit years, I collected a box filled with low-tech, low-cost “magic” tricks, one of which consisted of two large die-cut pieces of cardboard in the shape of the letter ‘C.” One was red and one was blue, and as you held them side-by-side, if the red one was on the right it always appeared to be larger; but when you switched them, the blue one then appeared to be larger. The cutout pieces are identical in size, but the mind views the second one as larger when contrasted to the inside curve of the one before.

I always have this picture in my mind whenever I read something that purports to state that society is categorically getting worse. Haven’t people said that in past centuries also? Is the trajectory of society really in what pilots call a “graveyard spiral” or is redemption possible? Or perhaps do things simply go in cycles?

Philip Yancey’s book Vanishing Grace: What Ever Happened to the Good News? (Zondervan) is in many ways a state-of-the-union address on the moral, ethical and spiritual condition of our world in general and the Church of Jesus Christ in particular. Ever the journalist, Yancey tracks down every lead while at the same time maintaining a subjectivity common to most of his other writings. So it’s our world and his pilgrimage; one man’s effort to document where the human race is heading and how it impacts on one writer in the Colorado mountains.

Vanishing GraceYou could easily read Vanishing Grace and conclude that these are the rantings of a writer who has finally reached his curmudgeon years. ‘Back in my day…’ you expect to hear him say; but Yancey is on to you and instead each section is scented with the slight aroma of the hope that no matter how dark, there are still lights and there is still The Light.

The subjectivity means that the book is rooted in an American perspective, but Yancey’s travels have made him very much a citizen of the world, and so the book is one part personal reflection, one part ripped from the pages of the newspaper and its online equivalent, and one part history lesson, borrowing from the best of both actual events and what has been expressed by poets, playwrights and novelists.

Some will find the book a little disjointed. In the introduction he states that he set out to write a book, but really wrote four books. In the afterword, he acknowledges that parts of the book previously appeared in print and online in a variety of forums. This is not a problem, as Vanishing Grace is intended for the thinking Christian who ought to be able to navigate the manner in which the material has been arranged.

Yancey writes,

The church works best as a separate force, a conscience to society that keeps itself at arms length from the state. The closer it gets, the less effectively it can challenge the surrounding culture and the more perilously it risks losing its central message. Jesus left his followers the command to make disciples from all nations. We have no charge to “Christianize” the United States or any other country — an impossible goal in any case.  (p. 253)

Just a few pages later he adds,

Several years ago a Muslim man said to me, “I have read the entire Koran and find in it no guidance on how Muslims should live as a minority in society. I have read the entire New Testament and can find in it no guidance on how Christians should live as a majority.” He pointed out that Islam seeks to unify religion and law, culture and politics. The courts enforce religious (sharia) law, and in a nation like Iran the mullahs, not the politicians, hold the real power. (p. 258)

Both the first and second halves of that excerpt are packed with food for thought, typical of what one finds in the pages of this book.

Is Vanishing Grace truly a sequel to What’s So Amazing About Grace? written nearly two decades earlier? The new book certainly brings a maturity to the subject, but I would contend that the earlier title is well-suited to new believers and house study groups, while this 2014 is more profitable for pastors, leaders, mature Christ-followers or anyone interested in how one Christian views the state of our changing world. One thing that both share however — and this is common to much of Yancey’s writing — is their acceptability to giving to someone outside your faith circle.

An advance copy of the book was provided by the Canadian marketing department of HarperCollins Christian Publishing.


Here’s a longer book excerpt that ran at Christianity 201 a few days ago:

Jesus “came from the Father, full of grace and truth,” wrote John in the preface to his gospel.  The church has worked tirelessly on the truth part of that formula:  witness the church councils, creeds, volumes of theology, and denominational splits over minor points of doctrine.  I yearn for the church to compete just as hard in conveying what Paul calls the “incomparable riches” of God’s grace.  Often, it seems, we’re perceived more as guilt-dispensers than as grace-dispensers.

John records one close-up encounter between Jesus and a Samaritan woman.  Knowing well the antipathy between the two groups, she marveled that a Jewish rabbi would even speak to her.  At one point she brought up one of the disputed points of doctrine:  Who had the proper place of worship, the Jews or the Samaritans?  Jesus deftly sidestepped the question and bore in on a far more important issue:  her unquenched thirst.  He offered her not judgment but a lasting solution to her guilt over an unsettled life.  To her and her alone he openly identified himself as Messiah and chose her as a grace-dispenser.  Her transformation captured the attention of the whole town, and Jesus stayed for two days among the “heretics,” attracting many converts.

That scene of Jesus and the Samaritan woman came up during a day I spent with the author Henri Nouwen at his home in Toronto.  He had just returned from San Francisco, where he spent a week in an AIDS clinic visiting patients who, in the days before antiretroviral drugs, faced a certain and agonizing death.  “I’m a priest, and as part of my job I listen to people’s stories,”  he told me.  “So I went up and down the ward asking the patients, most of them young men, if they wanted to talk.”

Nouwen went on to say that his prayers changed after that week.  As he listened to accounts of promiscuity and addiction and self-destructive behavior, he heard hints of a thirst for love that had never been quenched.  From then on he prayed, “God, help me to see others not as my enemies or as ungodly but rather as thirsty people.  And give me the courage and compassion to offer your Living Water, which alone quenches deep thirst.”

That day with the gentle priest has stayed with me.  Now, whenever I encounter strident skeptics who mock my beliefs or people whose behavior I find offensive, I remind myself of Henri Nouwen’s prayer.  I ask God to keep me from rushing to judgment or bristling with self-defense.  Let me see them as thirsty people, I pray,  and teach me how best to present the Living Water.

(pp 27-29)


For an interview with the author, check out all six pages at this link to Leadership Journal

September 17, 2014

Wednesday Link List

T-Rex Eating Icthus Fish Eating Darwin Fish emblem

The Wednesday List Lynx still prowls the office here after dark.

The Wednesday List Lynx still prowls the office here after dark.

Welcome to this week’s link list to those of you who didn’t already have it automatically download to their phone.

My wife makes these. I didn't have a closing photo this week, so I thought you'd enjoy seeing the puppets in an international mood.

My wife makes these. I didn’t have a closing photo this week, so I thought you’d enjoy seeing the puppets in an international mood.

Paul Wilkinson failed to find a suitable Christian media link related to tomorrow’s historic separation vote in Scotland, but you can read him the rest of the week at Thinking Out Loud or devotionally at Christianity 201.

September 10, 2014

Wednesday Link List

From DailyEncouragement.net -- "...It is a camp for displaced Christian refugees in Iraq (Click to enlarge). Note the English on the center tent proclaiming in a very dark place, 'Jesus Is The Light Of The World'."

From DailyEncouragement.net — “…It is a camp for displaced Christian refugees in Iraq (Click to enlarge). Note the English writing on the center tent proclaiming in a very dark place, ‘Jesus Is The Light Of The World’.”

This week we celebrate the ellipsis, its utility as connective device, and its overuse. In other words, many of this week’s links were related.

Each week we scour the web for stories of interest to Leadership Journal readers, however several of our “usual suspects” have put up pay-walls or added pop-ups that can only be described as obnoxious. The goal is to deliver news and opinion pieces with a minimum of interruption and solicitation. Suggestions are always welcomed, you can contact me on Twitter, or at Thinking Out Loud before 6 PM EST Mondays.

Paul Wilkinson is considered Canada’s foremost authority on writing a Wednesday Link List, and he doesn’t just say that because he writes his own footer for this weekly piece.

From theologygrams.wordpress.com, a site I suspect we'll be visiting many times in the future

From theologygrams.wordpress.com, a site I suspect we’ll be visiting many times in the future

August 27, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Wonderful the matchless

You know, that thing where you take a bucket of links and pour them over your head…

So there you have it! Not a single link about the social media story of the week, unless you count the sideways reference in that last item. To submit a link, send it by noon on Monday, except for next week, which is a holiday Monday.

 

July 30, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Amish Gone Wild T-Shirt Design from Kaboodle dot com

By the look of it, this “internet” thing could be really big someday. Here’s this week’s highlights:

Remember, every time you share the link list on Twitter or Facebook, an angel gets its wings.

Paul Wilkinson hunts for devotional writing each day at C201, rants at Thinking Out Loud and tweets to a vast army of followers. (They keep leaving the “K” out after the number.)

July 9, 2014

Wednesday Link List

???????????????????????????????

I was looking around for pictures of the 2014 Wild Goose Festival, and found this one from 2013.  Anyone know the backstory on this?

Now that the eye burn-in from weekend fireworks has faded, it’s time to see what people have been reading over the past few days:

Not sure of the origin of the picture below. It was captioned, “What Happened to the Dinosaurs” and the picture file was labeled “Shoo!”

What Happened to the Dinosaurs

June 4, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Arch Enemies

Clicking anything below will re-direct you to PARSE, the blog of Leadership Journal who snapped up the rights to this weekly aggregation of linkage before Salem Communications could even submit a bid. From PARSE, click again on the story you want to read.

So that’s this week’s list. We didn’t even steal anything from iMonk or Rachel H.E. Tune in next week; same bat time, same bat channel; or visit during the author during the week at Thinking Out Loud, C201, or Twitter.

Hitler's Pants after the assassination attempt. Some feel that surviving the event only empowered him more.

Hitler’s Pants after the assassination attempt. Some feel that surviving the event only empowered him more. Source: Rare Historical Photos

January 6, 2014

We Track a Story People Were Willing to Die For

Crucifixion of St. Peter (Wikipedia Commons) Click image for link

Crucifixion of St. Peter (Wikipedia Commons) Click image for link

This appeared back in August — that’s forever ago in blog years — at Nailing It To The Door, a blog by Dan Martin. It was the eighth in a series of posts titled, Why I Believe; this one being The Testimony of Witnesses. To read this at source and then navigate to find the other parts, click this link.

There is no question in my mind that one of the most compelling reasons to believe specifically the accounts of Jesus’ life and teachings is the testimony of those who were there.  This is, I’m quite sure, a problematic claim for those who object to faith; I’ve encountered many rants on the unreliability of the gospel accounts, though I find that the same people who protest about the unreliability of the gospels tend to be far more credulous when looking at any other ancient written histories.  But there are two particular things about the Apostles and other first-century Christians that I find highly compelling.

The first is specific to the Evangelists who wrote the four canonical gospels (and I really do mean the canonical ones; I’ve read a number of the others and they differ so much in character that the judgment of the councils in rejecting them seems to me quite sound).  C.S. Lewis probably said it best in his 1959 lecture “Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism:”

“I have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know that not one [of the stories in the Gospel of John, for example] is like this… Either this is reportage – though it may no doubt contain errors – pretty close up to the facts; nearly as close as Boswell. Or else, some unknown writer in the second century, without known predecessors or successors, suddenly anticipated the whole technique of modern, novelistic, realistic narrative.” (see the full essay here; quote on p. 155)

Put perhaps a little more simply, the gospels just don’t look like anybody else’s idea of what mythical or divine characters ought to be, do, or say.  Weird and off-center as they might seem now, they were even weirder and less-probable in the time they were written.  Things only turn out that oddly if they’re either real (truth really is stranger than fiction) or very creatively written.

But even more compelling to me is the fact that the authors and their other compatriots were willing to die for the truth of what they had written or said.  And die they did, in some pretty horrible ways.  According to tradition and Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (1563):

  • Philip was crucified
  • Matthew was “slain with a halberd”
  • James the brother of Jesus was beaten, stoned, and clubbed to death
  • Matthias (elected to replace Judas) was stoned and beheaded
  • Andrew was crucified
  • Mark was “dragged to pieces”
  • Peter was crucified upside-down
  • Paul was beheaded
  • Jude was crucified
  • Bartholomew was beaten and then crucified
  • Thomas was speared
  • Simon the Zealot was crucified
  • John was “cast into a cauldron of boiling oil,” survived, and was later exiled to the island of Patmos; “He was the only apostle who escaped a violent death.”
  • Barnabas is said to be martyred, though the means of his death is not reported.

These guys, unlike later generations of Christians killed by the thousands under various rulers, knew exactly what they were dying for.  They claimed to have seen and heard it themselves.  If they were faking it, they sure were willing to take their deception to a really crazy, extreme end.

I’m not saying that death alone testifies to truth.  Many hundreds and thousands have died for falsehoods throughout history … I think of the infamous Jonestown mass suicide in the 70s … but the difference, at least as I see it, is that these people were deluded by a charismatic leader who ordered them to their deaths.  Jesus did no such thing, and in fact he was already dead and gone (if we presume fakery) or dead and raised (if we accept the Gospels) before any of the apostles faced their deaths.  These men went willingly to gruesome deaths because they couldn’t recant the truth of what they’d spent their lives teaching.

There are, of course, many more martyrs since the first century.  While I have no desire to diminish their testimony, it seems to me that it’s of a different category.  Except for however they may have experienced the Holy Spirit in their own lives, the thing for which they died was removed from them in that they no longer could testify to having seen Jesus with their eyes, heard his teachings from his very lips with their own ears, and even sat and broken bread with him.  No one, however intense their experience, has had the same level of personal, experiential linkage to Jesus Christ that those first-century apostles had.  And when they were invited to either confess to their lie or die in pain, they insisted it was no lie and accepted the consequences.  Two millenia later, that testimony remains, to me, difficult to refute.

October 16, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Follow Me

Sometimes people say I don’t share enough personal stuff on my blog. Fine. Here we go.  As I compile this link list, my wife is frying fish in the kitchen. There. Is that the kind of thing you mean?  For the link list with the actual links in them, click over to the Wednesday Link List’s new owner, Leadership Today’s blog Out of Ur.

  • Ever wondered how the Catholic Church ended up with an amended Ten Commandments? Maybe there were Fourteen Commandments to begin with.
  • Think it’s bad where Malala Yousafzai is from? One writer thinks it’s just as bad in the United States where the daughters of homeschooling parents are being held captive and denied higher education.
  • Is it possible that we’ve missed a major nuance of a most-familiar story because of the placement of the chapter division?
  • Because it would be nice to know ahead of time, here’s six signs you’re dealing with a toxic person.
  • Programs, growth strategies, and ministry tools can all be helpful, but in this piece, a well-respected church blogger apologizes for seven years of misplaced emphasis.
  • The Hour of Power telecast is now airing fresh programs from their new home at Shepherd’s Grove, with pastor Bobby Schuller.
  • Facebook isn’t just posting your cat pictures, they’re also running the stats on info you provide, including your odds of getting engaged at a Christian college…
  • …But from a pastor’s viewpoint, what does a wedding ceremony look like when God isn’t invited?
  • CNN doesn’t so much interview Sarcastic Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Webber as it does ask for a guided tour of her various tattoos.
  • Stop the Presses! It’s a Justin Bieber photo album with pics of  J.B. with Pentecostal and Charismatic pastor friends.
  • Most Concise Reponse: Shane Claiborne on Texas’ capital punishment record.
  • September’s Best Object Lesson: Spiritual Warfare: What To Do When You Encounter a Lion. (Don’t miss page two!)
  • Essay of the Week: This week it’s another look at the (sometimes contentious) issue of infant baptism…
  • …while another writer suggests that errant doctrinal positions that led to the Protestant Reformation are slowly creeping back into Protestantism.
  • Most Linked-To Everywhere Else: An interview with Tipping Point author Malcolm Gladwell on the reigniting of his faith while working on David and Goliath.
  • From the Land of Unusual Allegories: Preaching is Basically a Hail Storm. (Are you making a dent?)
  • “Are we doing the right thing?” A prolific Canadian Christian author and mom to four boys on refusing to feel guilty in six different parenting departments.
  • Open Letter Department: Tony Jones to Marcus Borg: Jesus rose from the dead.
  • When writers Tweet older blog pieces: Michael Patton on reasons for and against the inclusion of the Apocrypha. (December, 2012)
  • And it came to pass that See You At The Pole begat Fields of Faith.
  • 25 Years Ago on this date (give or take several months) before we had the word ‘tween,’ the children’s music sounds of Prism Red.
  • Does your church dim the lights when the worship time begins? Lee Grady wishes you would leave the lighting alone.
  • If you’re in Atlanta on Thursday night, you can always catch the pairing of Ravi Zacharias with Jeff Foxworthy (and radio host Dennis Prager) but you’ll need tickets.  (Can’t wait to see if the next one is Hank Hanegraaff and Billy Ray Cyrus.)
  • When I say “Darlene Zschech” you say “Hillsong,” but more recently the word you want to remember is hope.
  • As wooden pews are slowly facing extinction in favor of chairs, this trend in church furniture has attracted the attention of The Wall Street Journal.
  • Married? Here’s a great checklist: Five Questions to Ask Your Spouse Every Week.  (Okay, I added the italics.)
  • Magic Musical Moment: Sam Robson’s acapella O Love That Will Not Let Me Go. Like that? Here’s a bonus: It is Well With My Soul.
  • Weird Video of the Week: Hosanna by Hillsong for Synthesia (Don’t think Michael W. Smith learned piano this way.)
  • Those “Get Inside Rob Bell’s Brain” mini conferences (my title, not his) must be going well, since there are two more events scheduled.
  • Last week was the 1,700th anniversary of the Edict of Tolerance aka the Edict of Milan. (Sorry I didn’t get you anything.)
  • Before you click the link, take a guess as to the Top 5 Bible translations in the U.S.
  • The Boy Scouts in the UK now have an alternative pledge for atheists.
  • King James Only advocates have a problem with the fact that HarperCollins publishes both the NIV and The Satanic Bible. So whatever you do, don’t show them this page.

Without giving away his age; Paul Wilkinson spent his formative years in Toronto’s Peoples Church at a time when it was Canada’s only megachurch, and attended their horse ranch, where one of the beasts once stepped on his foot. (More amazing personal details to follow…)

The upper image is from Church Funnies where it got 1,000 likes.  The lower image is from Christian Funny Pictures, where they’re trying to locate the artist.

vegan feeding 5000

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