Thinking Out Loud

December 22, 2012

Where is God When Trouble Strikes?

In February, 2011, I ran a piece at Christianity 201 by David MacGregor, a pastor in Brisbane, Australia; the area which had been hit by record flooding over the preceding months. The same day, I also linked to another of his articles where he is most honest about the trials of dealing with the flood’s aftermath. The unsettled feeling he gets looking toward the future makes it hard to sing certain songs, like “It Is Well With My Soul.” I recommend reading it again today, as well, in light of more recent events here in North America.

After stumbling on his blog, I decided to scroll back and read more of his writing, and uncovered this post and poem, written more closely after the catastrophic weather events there. I think that both articles combine to show that we can be broken, and yet still see the presence of God even in the middle of it all. He called this piece, Christ Shows His Face: A Flood Reflection.


Long time since I last posted. Combination of post-Holy Land acclimatization, everything Christmas, helping out at NCYC 2011, beginning a holiday at Hervey Bay, coming home prematurely because of Brisbane River floodwaters entering our house, moving back into our home just two days ago and finally getting power restored just two hours ago.

This has been an incredibly draining time – and that’s without the massive hardship and loss experienced by so many. It was SO hard being stranded for those days at Hervey Bay, yet unable to get back to Brisbane due to flooded rounds between there and Brisbane. I reckon it’s been some of the hardest few weeks of my life.

We had no option – from afar – to leave the evacuation of our home (either to the top story OR the church OR friends’ places) to an incredible armada of folk from our church, longtime friends and of course Joel and Jeremy back at the ranch. Like so many others, I find myself not starting the year anywhere near refresh. I feel totally drained.

I was taken by a Facebook posting by radio station 96.5 FM’s Billy Diehm last weekend. Billy was asked basically, “Where was God in all this?”. His marvelous answer was loosely along the lines of: God was there in every volunteer, every emergency services worker… So true.

So – the song that had been ‘coming’ for weeks finally poured out yesterday – Christ shows his face… This song is dedicated to all of those “face of Jesus” folk these past weeks, and especially those who ministered to us…

Christ shows his face

 

Christ shows his face
when lives are pained
weary hearts are breaking.
shows God’s grace
while troubles rise,
past foundations shaking

Every smile
Every hand
Every soft embracing
Christ shows his face
when lives are pained,
hope is hard, displacing

Christ shows his face
in thirsting souls
When hunger’s met with feeding
When nakedness for all to see
is met with love, with clothing

Offered rest
Offered home
Offered hope’s new morning
Christ shows his face
when all seems dark, the
light of Christ keeps shining.

Christ shows his face
in community
extending past their comfort
Sharing steadfastly as one
Self-giving for another

Every smile
Every tear
Every soft embracing
Christ is found
when all seems lost, when
When love’s true heart
When love’s true hope
When love’s true light keeps shining.

© David MacGregor 2011
Willow Publishing

click the article link in the introduction to locate a link to a lead sheet for the music for this poem

the link to 96.5 was added because way up here in frozen Canada, I’m actually a regular listener

July 27, 2012

Truly Healed

Filed under: prayer — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:39 am

“Tony Campolo tells a story about being in a church in Oregon where he was asked to pray for a man who had cancer.

Campolo prayed boldly for the man’s healing.

That next week he got a telephone call from the man’s wife. She said, “You prayed for my husband. He had cancer.” Campolo thought when he heard her use the past tense verb that his cancer had been eradicated! But before he could think much about it she said, “He died.”

Campolo felt terrible.

But she continued, “Don’t feel bad. When he came into that church that Sunday he was filled with anger. He knew he was going to be dead in a short period of time, and he hated God.

He was 58 years old, and he wanted to see his children and grandchildren grow up. He was angry that this all-powerful God didn’t take away his sickness and heal him. He would lie in bed and curse God. The more his anger grew towards God, the more miserable he was to everybody around him.

It was an awful thing to be in his presence.

But the lady told Campolo, “After you prayed for him, a peace had come over him and a joy had come into him. Tony, the last three days have been the best days of our lives. We’ve sung. We’ve laughed. We’ve read Scripture. We prayed. Oh, they’ve been wonderful days. And I called to thank you for laying your hands on him and praying for healing.”

And then she said something incredibly profound. She said, “He wasn’t cured, but he was healed.”

July 18, 2012

Wednesday Link List

It’s Wednesday, but Friday’s a-coming!

June 6, 2012

Wednesday Link List

Wednesday List Links

Welcome back to WLL. You’re not playing the game unless you click through. Place your mouse on the underlined section of each story and click.  (“Oh, you mean that’s how it works?”)  Above image: Sacred Sandwich archives.

  • Like his father before him — and at almost the same age and circumstances –  a Pentecostal minister from a snake-handling sect dies from a rattlesnake bite.
  • A former marine gets assigned to preach the section of the Sermon on the Mount dealing with non-violence. Reactions were strong, but not from military people.
  •  “For an insecure 16/17-year-old kid whose life, identity, main social activity, and faith were wrapped up in the church she’d been a part of her entire life, it was devastating.”   Check out 11 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me When My Church Split.
  • Saturday, May 26, 2012 was supposed to be M.’s wedding day. But in between, after reading the book, When Sinners Say I Do by David Harvey, things changed.
  • Thanks to whoever sent me info about Cardiphonia. Original worship songs on three different themes on a pay-what-you-can basis. The newest is Hymns for the Ascension.  Or just listen.
  • Just when you thought you had solved the dilemma of whether to be buried or have your ashes scattered to the four winds, now there is the option of diamond burial.
  • On a similar theme, here’s a major discussion at Parchment and Pen on the subject some of you have considered, How Can Heaven Be Heaven When People You Love Are In Hell?
  • Got 9 minutes? On video, an orthodox priest teaches the difference between the Protestant view of salvation and the Orthodox view of salvation, under the title, Love Wins – An Orthodox View.
  • Got 53 minutes? That’s a greater commitment. But you’d get to hear the very first ever Phil Vischer podcast with Skye Jethani. (This is for you adults, not the kids.)
  • Got all day?  Check out the video-on-demand apologetics programs featuring Ken Ham at Answers in Genesis.
  • Joel Osteen is set to sit in the producer’s chair for a new movie about the life of Mary which he hopes will be “the biblical prequel to the story of The Passion of The Christ.”
  • Remember that story about the 43-building college campus that was going to be given away free of charge?  Well, it’s down to two finalists.
  • Here’s an article by yours truly at C201 designed for those of you who want to rethink how you draft your prayer lists. (I actually do some serious writing once in awhile.)
  • And a message to those graduating from the hallowed halls: The academy doesn’t need more academics, but the local church does.  Advice for theological seminary grads.
  • Mystery link: Does anyone know the story behind this Elevation Church music video? The YouTube location has no information and the blogger who posted this was equally silent.
  • Matt Hafer’s advice to pastors actually has application to anyone who proposes to stand before a group of people and lead them into God’s Word.
  • It’s “the only billion dollar house in the world.  Ironically, it’s found in one of the poorest countries; India.” America’s Next Top Mommy looks at over-indulgence.
  • You have to read the comments on this one: Advice for students heading off this fall to a Christian college or university.
  • Todd Rhoades thinks it’s only a matter of time before a pastor legally changes his name to something ending in dot com.
  • If the Blue Like Jazz movie missed your town, you can arrange for a showing.

Classic auto emblem from The Holy Observer

March 20, 2012

Powerful Testimony: Nancyjo Mann from Barnabas

This was recorded nearly 30 years ago at a Christian music festival somewhere in Canada. Nancyjo Mann was lead singer in the band Barnabas. I always knew that I had this in my possession, but for the last few days I’ve had this very strong leading that more people need to see this. For those of you who knew me back in the days of the Searchlight Video Roadshow, you’ll remember that I often closed each night with this particular testimony.

 

January 20, 2012

God, Make it Go Away

Filed under: prayer — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:01 am

This is a re-blog from three years ago this month. Ever had days where your prayer is, “God, just make it go away.” ?


I haven’t been sleeping well lately. I wake up and then have way too much on my mind. Last night I woke up at 2:30 and all I could think of was an accident that had taken place on Tuesday night, which I had just heard about on Wednesday night, where two local elementary school teachers had been killed in a collision with a transport truck. They both left young families behind.

I figured my best response to those thoughts was to pray, but pray for what? We’d already prayed for the peace and comfort of God to reach into those families, but it was 2:30 AM and I wasn’t thinking clearly.

So I prayed, “God, this is too hard. Turn back the hands of time to Tuesday and make it so it never happened.”

Of course, you can see a number of problems in that prayer. First, if anything, it’s probably inspired by the Superman movie where he sets the earth spinning backwards to reverse time. Secondly, of course, it’s just not a prayer that can be answered. Nobody can criticize my lack of faith for a request so big, but it’s very misplaced.

I guess what I was really praying at that hour was, “Make it go away.” Not just the hurt of those two families, but the hurt everywhere; the broken marriages, the people in the U.S. and U.K. getting hit the hardest in the economic slowdown and losing their homes, the hungry and thirsty in the arid parts of Africa, the people dodging the rockets in the middle east.

I refined my prayer to ask that God, in His mercy, would intervene and give protection to those who travel on icy roads this winter; and give a heightened sense of diligence to those who maintain those roads. And peace to the families dealing with such sudden loss.  “In Jesus name, Amen.”

January 14, 2012

Wednesday Link List – Saturday Edition

Weekend List Lynx

The link list bucket is overflowing and needs to be emptied a few days early…

  • We’ll start out serious. Here’s a scorecard, so to speak, of how your persecuted brothers and sisters in other parts of the world made out over the holidays.  “Because the persecution of Christians in the Islamic world is on its way to reaching epidemic proportions…”  Read. Pray.
  • Stuff Fundies Like has a Sunday School curriculum done in the style of the Westminster Catechism. If you grew up in church this is a must-read, must-forward.
  • Another Baptist church dumps the NIV in favor of the Baptist-owned HCSB translation.  If it turns out that the majority of SBC churches switch to the Holman-published HCSB, then this whole affair was undermined by a massive conflict of interest.
  • Mars Hill’s Shane Hipps reflects on the departure of Rob Bell.  “I was aware of something stirring in him for some time.  While I wasn’t surprised, I was full of grief and joy.”
  • Because the people need to know, here’s Justin Bieber’s take on the subject of church attendance.  “…I focus more on praying and talking to Him. I don’t have to go to church.”
  • And in the same vein, here’s rapper Jefferson Bethke’s rap, Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus.  “Religion’s like spraying perfume on a casket.”
  • And going for the three-peat on this subject, here’s Matt Hafer’s take on why “good enough for church” just isn’t good enough.”People, without saying it out loud, seem to think that God exists in about 4 places.The church building…,funerals,hospitals, sporting events…”
  • Did you sponsor a child through Compassion or a similar organization?  For those who need motivation, here’s ten reasons to write your child.
  • For all the young moms and new moms in the audience: How does a mother in a large family create some time for God in the course of a day? Alyssa gives a great answer.
  • In one of the longest articles I’ve ever seen on Christianity Today online, Duanne Litfin writes about clothing; in particular, what we wear to church.  “…[W]e should not conclude too quickly that because God looks on the heart, what we wear to church doesn’t matter.”
  • Also at CT, an interview with David Crowder on the occasion of the band’s retirement after sixteen years, and David’s move to Atlanta. “There’s just so much life has passed among us, and the depth is really deep relationship feeling, friendship.”
  • The Wall Street Journal sits up and takes notice when Christian media company Salem Web Network surpasses one million Facebook friends. Be sure to read the last paragraph; you may interact with this corporation more than you realize.
  • And speaking of corporate culture, Shaun In The City thinks churches should rethink the concept of competition in ministry.  “In the end you end up with dozens (even hundreds & thousands) of organizations with similar missions, visions, and goals that are not only not speaking, but are often downright combative.  They miss collaborative opportunities and so much more because of this faulty way of thinking.”
  • Also on the topic of church, here’s a megachurch in Nigeria with a major staff shakeup involving the resignation of 200 pastors.
  • In an election year, we have to forgive our U.S. friends for forgetting that the rest of the world still exists. So we tend to ignore American politics here to balance things out, but this article accurately identifies the issues that the election brings to church in 2012.
  • Thanks this week for link leads goes to Todd Rhoades.

December 22, 2011

Book Review: The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson

Before this blog started four years ago, I was already a regular reader of Evotional, the blog of Mark Batterson, pastor of National Capital Church (NCC)in Washington, DC, recently reformatted as MarkBatterson.com .  In the short space that followed, Mark has written In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day, Wild Goose Chase, Soul Print and Primal; while at the same time NCC continues to expand with new campus locations in movie theaters located along the DC Metro route.

With The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears, Mark moves over to Zondervan; borrowing a story from Jewish antiquity about Honi The Circle Maker and propelling that story into a challenge to all of us “draw circles around” the thing or group of things that constitute our greatest needs or righteous desires.

In many ways, The Circle Maker follows in a line from two titles you may already have on your bookshelf: Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala and Sun Stand Still by Steven Furtick.

The former comparison is appropriate because this is a book about vision birthed in prayer, though unlike the large prayer gatherings described by Cymbala at the Brooklyn Tabernacle, much of the growth at NCC began with Mark quietly walking around sections of Washington, often not fully cognizant of what he was praying for or what the answer would look like when it appeared.  It was only when there was a major development in the life of the church that Mark realized that his prayers had become reality in ways he never dreamed.

The latter comparison is apt because this is a book about praying the big prayers, the impossible prayers.  Since Furtick’s book is more recent, this might be a good book to read as a sequel to the Charlotte pastor’s challenge to pray “audacious” prayers.   All three books are faith-inspiring, and all are written from the perspective of pastors building churches but with connection to your biggest hopes and prayer concerns.  Mark Batterson also encourages readers to pray intensely and to pray continually over the long term for the big prayers that can result in big answers.

Ironically, there is a section in the book where Mark shares his “bucket list” of things he’d love to do, and one of them is to “write a New York Times bestseller;” and today Mark reports the book is in fact to be mentioned in the January 1st list as a recommended title.  Perhaps you’ll want to add a checkmark to that item when you get your own copy!

  • Read a sample of The Circle Maker at Christianity 201
  • Watch a preview of the DVD curriculum Zondervan has developed for the book at YouTube.

December 5, 2011

Celebrity Guest Post … Sort Of…

Celebrity Christian Blogger

I’ve noticed recently that while a number of the more prominent Christian bloggers have people do guest posts at their blogs, you don’t see these same celebrity Christians anywhere in the rest of the blogosphere.  So I thought it was a particularly unique opportunity when I uncovered this ten minute video was available to add here — until the blog police catch up with us — by Jon Acuff at the always witty and insightful Stuff Christians Like, though proper blog etiquette dictates that all of you will now click over and watch it there, right?  Please do, since SCL is now copyrighted by the sales and marketing division of Dave Ramsay’s organization, and we don’t want to upset them just in case we need some investment advice moving forward.

Seriously, this video was actually produced by lifechurch.tv as the first in a series of four for high school students, though the hope is that its content will be suitable for people of all ages who find themselves in the middle of a “desert road” experience.

November 13, 2011

Not All Local Churches Look Like Ours


Mental exercise. Imagine it’s Thanksgiving Day. You’re seated at the table at home with your family. You’re looking at the biggest feast you’ll have all year. It’s nice and warm inside, snappy cold outside. The house smells wonderful and all of your favorite relatives are there. The Thanksgiving service on the weekend was great. Fantastic music, good sermon.

Got the picture? OK. Time for some cut and paste.

Cut the turkey, potatoes, gravy, stuffing, salads, pie and all of the food on the table. Paste in spicy chicken, rice, dumplings, stir fried vegetables and fresh fruit.

Cut your house and paste in one that’s half the size or smaller. Or a 3 bedroom apartment containing 6 beds. Cut the new dining room suite and paste an old table and a bunch of chairs that don’t match.

Cut your TV(s), VCR(s), DVD(s), computer(s), game system(s), stereo(s), iPod(s), portable(s) and paste one small b&w TV and an AM/FM radio.

Cut the local Christian radio station and paste silence.

Look around the room and cut half of the kids. They died in infancy, so they’re not there. Paste in the woman next door and her 3 children. Paste an empty chair for her husband. He was arrested 6 months ago for telling somebody at the factory about Jesus. She hasn’t been allowed to see him for two weeks, but she keeps trying every day. In the last half a year she’s aged 10.

Cut your church building and paste an empty lot.

Cut the recent church service and paste 8 people in a living room reading the Bible while one keeps peeking out the window.

How many Bibles do you have in your house? Cut them all. While you’re at it, cut every book by Max Lucado, every worship CD, everything recorded by the Gaithers, every poster, card, plaque or T-shirt that has scripture or the name of Jesus on it. Paste one very worn and much mended paperback Bible that has somebody else’s name written inside the cover. It was given to you years ago by a Canadian “tourist” when he was told that you’d given your only Bible to somebody who needed it more. You’ve since heard that it was ripped up into sections to be shared. You’re very happy about that.

Got the picture now?

OK. Bow your head to say grace. “Thank you God for…” What? That none of it’s true? That, try as you might, you can’t even really imagine it?

Sunday November 13 is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. For our brothers and sisters for whom it is true. Take time to find out what you can and do what you can to support these Christ followers.

There is much we can learn from them.

~Ruth Wilkinson

The following groups are actively serving the persecuted Church. We urge you to use the links below to get more information about these groups and to visit their Web sites. They are your key to active involvement with the persecuted Church.

Christian Freedom International

Christian Solidarity Worldwide

Christians in Crisis

Compassion Radio

Fishhook International

Gospel for Asia

Greater Calling

International Christian Concern

Iranian Christians International

Jubilee Campaign

Mission India

Open Doors

Persecution Project Foundation

The Voice of the Martyrs

World Bible Translation Center

World Evangelical Alliance

The Last Harvest

Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. Hebrews 13:3

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