Thinking Out Loud

August 25, 2016

Intercessory Prayer: A Different Type of Prayer Meeting

Intercessory PrayerWhen I am given books to read, unless it is a proven author, I often wonder how the title will fare in the marketplace. Will it sell? So it was a bit unusual to receive a copy of something with a cover that reads, “Over 600,000 sold.”

Intercessory Prayer by Dutch Sheets is a book I’ve always known about but never had taken the opportunity to crack the pages. Its arrival in my mail this time is because of a re-launch of the title, acquired from Regal Books, by Bethany House, a division of Baker Books. I was a little unclear as to the reason for this. Although the cover changed, the price did not, and in comparing the two versions, the book seems to be entirely the same. The page numbers vary only because of differences in typesetting. Nowhere do we find the words “Revised Edition” or “Updated Edition.” I won’t complain; I wanted to read this!

Dutch Sheets is a rather remarkable individual whose unusual and many times miraculous adventures in prayer are most inspiring. In many ways, the language and tenor of this book make it a very charismatic-friendly title, so similar to other such books I read early in my Christian life.

But the book is strangely cessationist-friendly at the same time, which may account for its sales over the years. Sheets makes it clear that he believes in praying in tongues, but says he will refer throughout the balance of the book to praying in the Spirit. That terminology may still ring of Pentecostalism for many, but it represents an attempt to reach a broader audience.

The book is really half testimonies and half teaching, and the Hebrew and Greek roots of familiar Bible passages are examined. Sheets says that a meeting takes place in prayer as we stand before God on behalf of situations or others in need of God’s intervention. Some of the exhaustive catalog of scripture verses won’t be looked seen in the same way after reading this.

Perhaps in moments of desperate or anxious prayer, we all become a little more Pentecostal; trying to see the hand of God move in the situation which presents itself. We want a miracle. Could it be that there are no cessationists in fox holes?

First published in 1996, this book has endured two decades and is a contemporary classic worthy of my recommendation.


If you think you've seen this title before, you have!

If you think you’ve seen this title before, you have!

The full title is Intercessory Prayer: How God Can Use Your Prayers to Move Heaven and Earth. (Bethany House, 304 page paperback, $14.99 US.) Discussion/reflection questions follow each chapter and there is a short leader’s guide at the back of the book. Also sold separately is a study guide which has also been recently repackaged. A repackaged eight-session DVD is releasing in a few days, with each segment containing 30 minutes of teaching. Finally, a youth edition is also available.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc

 

 

August 24, 2016

Wednesday Link List

Tomorrow is August 25th, which means only 4 months to Christmas. It’s never too early to start planning your advent services:

Advent Service Planning

Wednesday List Lynx

Wednesday List Lynx – Do Not Pet

Today something a little different. Because the 30th Weekend Link List happened on Saturday, I’m going to reiterate all those links at the bottom of today’s, just ICYMI. (Statistically many of you do miss it, and this one contained some important items.)

Adam and Eve

As promised, our first ever reiteration of the weekend list experiment, not including images and witty introduction.

 

August 23, 2016

Have the Christ Mindset

Jesus - HumilitySometimes when I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep, I will take a familiar passage of scripture and run over it in my mind and think about how I would restate it if I were paraphrasing it for someone else to better understand. I’m not sure if this helps me get back to sleep or keeps me awake, but it’s better than a dozen other directions my mind could go to at that hour.

One that I’ve focused on for years is a familiar part of Philippians 2. A couple of years ago I alluded to the fact I had done this (see link below) but hadn’t actually spelled it out at Thinking Out Loud. At C201, I posted an earlier version of the passage. This is the form it presently takes:

Have the same mindset as Christ, the anointed one.
Although he was God,
he didn’t see his divinity as something to be leveraged,
Rather, he practiced humility,
taking on the role of a servant,
And entering fully into the human condition,
Even to the point of death,
And especially a death of the worst kind.

For this, God elevated him to the highest level
and gave him a title above all others,
That at the very mention of his name,
Everyone would show submission physically,
and proclaim verbally,
that Jesus Christ is Lord.


For further reading:

August 22, 2016

Rolling the Dice on Grace

Mealtime Prayer Cube

I promised we’d come back to this image, and here we are.  The Mealtime Prayer Cube offers options to family prayer before eating. You “say the grace” that comes up when you roll. Only $1.99 US.

As a child, “saying grace” was the same at every meal:

Our Father in heaven, we thank and praise Thee for this food. We pray that Thou wilt bless it to our bodies’ use, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Every single meal.

For years.

When we started our own family, I was determined that it be different each time. It doesn’t vary a great deal, but there is room for special requests or anything else that we want to pray corporately at that time, provided the food isn’t getting cold.

I have two horror stories connected to this.

One is the way Christian camps make a mess of the mealtime prayer. What a great opportunity to model for the unchurched kids what Christian prayer looks like in a family setting. But we squander it with “Johnny Appleseed” and “the Superman Grace” and probably several you know that I don’t. A great teaching moment is lost.

Some camps redeem this by doing both however. Once the sung version is over, there is a moment of calm and someone genuinely give thanks to God for the provision of food and the health to enjoy it.

The other is a story about the outreach ministry my wife co-founded. It was decided not to do a prayer before the meal, at least not at first. The reason was that these were people who had previously been fed only in a Salvation Army-styled setting where, “you had to have the sermon before the soup.” On the one or two occasions that I became the person to announce that dinner was ready and they could line up, I think I said something like, “We’re here to share our food tonight because of the love Christ shared with us.” Short and simple, albeit mildly preachy.

But the organization, while it drifted away from its Christian roots to the point where my wife resigned, opted to use a book of prayers which came from a variety of religious perspectives. The person who is to “ask the blessing” simply flips through the book and chooses one. So we went from no prayer to having a spiritually vague prayer.

Better to roll a six-side cube, in that case.

 

Marmaduke - Saying Grace

August 21, 2016

Most Popular Church Website Tag Line

new-website-small

Years ago my wife and I noticed that the phrase, “A Different Kind of Church” was becoming so ubiquitous to the point of being meaningless. It was a decade of great ecclesiastic shuffling, books were being written at a furious pace, and church planting was the de rigeur activity for any younger pastors or leaders who wanted to keep up with the times.

Even today, the phrase will produce about 114,000 results on Google; change the word Kind to Type and you get 42,000 more. The fastest growing church network in Canada, The Meeting House boasts it is a “church for people who aren’t into church,” which will get you almost 1,500 more results.

But these days, it seems like, where I live anyway, the most popular tag line for church websites is something like,

Website Under Construction

Admittedly one was hacked, but one church signed up with a new provider only to find themselves being down for over a year. It’s up and running as of a few weeks ago.

This week we’re visiting a church that is in-between websites, and it’s frustrating not having the advance information as to what to expect, or if the regular pastor will be speaking. At least we were able to verify the service time, and get the location from Google Maps. You are referred to a Facebook page, but it seems to be more about reflecting back to the previous weekend than looking forward to the one to come.

Someone has said that in the 21st Century, if you’re not online you don’t exist. It’s true. I’m betting that internet searches now exceed word-of-mouth as the top reason people visit a church. And don’t even mention those adverts in the weekend newspaper. Waste of money.

I recently tried to contact a pastor whose church is about 45 minutes east of me, only to discover they never had a website. Not even a static, single page. That’s a major blunder as I see it.

Service industries and other commercial ventures couldn’t tolerate being down for more than a few hours. An IT guy would be called in to fix the glitch and get the thing going. So why do churches let it slide for so long before the sites become operative again?

I think a greater level of urgency and prioritizing is needed when the site goes down. Your church can’t afford to be without it.


A year ago we linked you to this related article by Derek Ouellette

If you’re not already aware of it (and don’t mind the title) check out Church Marketing Sucks

August 20, 2016

Weekend Link List

Do you accept the one on the far right as your personal watermelon? (Must be an Evangelical thing.) Image via Rachel Held Evans.

Do you accept the one on the far right as your personal watermelon? (Must be an Evangelical thing.) Image via Rachel Held Evans. Just pray the ‘Shopper’s Prayer.’

Cat reading Dog DelusionIt’s Weekend List Link #30!

Never been here before? This weekend edition is a version of our popular Wednesday Link List. Yesterday, we discovered that all those years later, Jeffrey Smith is still writing Prayer Pups. Click the image below to read more.

Prayer Pups Church-Newsletter

August 19, 2016

An Alternative to Sending a Card

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:13 am

Book Presentation Page

We recently spent some time with someone who shared with us her desire to place good reading into the hands of friends, family and acquaintances. She looks for an opportunity — some life event or occasion — and then instead of sending a card, keeps a number of books on hand in which she then inscribes something in the front.

As we conversed, it occurred to me that with some greeting cards running as high as $5.99 US, and some trade-size books having list prices as low as $11.99 US; you’re already half-way there when you’ve bought a card, so why not give something more substantial and probably more lasting? 

This is great stewardship and it will be kept a lot longer, especially if the book was well-chosen, for a special occasion, from a close relative (as in the graphic below) or a combination of two or three of these factors.

books instead of greeting cards

August 18, 2016

One Day at the Christian Bookstore (Sort of)

From the archives at Christian Book Shop Talk, this never appeared here until now.


The exchange below didn’t actually follow the exact script shown, but when it comes to Sunday School teachers and Christian Education directors purchasing novelty items it’s a scene I’d like to see repeated…

Customer: I’m looking for something to give my Sunday School class on the first week; maybe some pencils or something…

Clerk: You know, kids are pretty high-tech these days, they’re not really impressed with pencils anymore and we’ve kinda stopped ordering them.

smileCustomer: Well, what does that leave? How about some rubber stamp things, or stickers; or one time I got bookmarks with smiley faces…

Clerk: You know, forgive me for saying this, since I don’t know you well, but maybe you should just give them you.

Customer: I’m sorry. What was that?

Clerk: Maybe you should just give them yourself. Pour your life into them. Spend time listening to their stories. Invite them over to your house a few times.

Customer: Okay. I get that. But I really felt I was meant to come in and buy something here today.

Clerk: And so you should. Invest in your own spiritual development. Build yourself up in God’s Word, and then, out of the overflow, you’ll have so much more to give your Sunday School students.

Customer: Like what?

Clerk: I don’t know. It will be different for each person. But something that challenges you to get deeper into Bible study, deeper into prayer, deeper into global missions, deeper into witness… deeper into Jesus.

Customer: But that doesn’t directly benefit my Sunday School class.

Clerk: Actually it does directly. As you are being moved deeper into grace and deeper into knowledge; as you are being moved toward the cross; your kids will pick up on that spiritual momentum. It’s truly the best gift you can give them.

August 17, 2016

Wednesday Link List

Saw this one on the weekend; it can be ordered from Grimm.ca

Saw this one on the weekend; it can be ordered from Grimm.ca

Bridezilla of ChristLet’s be realistic here. After last week’s 38-point link list, you weren’t expecting another huge one, were you?  You do know I don’t get paid for this, right? At right, our Book Cover of the Week, published this year by Multnomah, authored by two of the Happy Rant Podcast guys.

 

How many of you have this as your life verse. See the Phil Vischer link above; this shows up starting around the 17:00 mark (or thereabouts)

How many of you have this as your life verse? See the Phil Vischer link above; this shows up starting around the 17:00 mark (or thereabouts)

August 16, 2016

Once Again, God’s Not Dead

God's Not Dead 2 BillboardReleasing today on DVD, this is, by my count, the third movie in a highly successful franchise for Pure Flix Entertainment, if you count the first God’s Not Dead from 2014 and then 2015’s Do You Believe? Like Snakes on a Plane, the film’s intention is clear from the outset; you know what you’re expecting.

With Do You Believe? I remarked at the time that there were more characters, more plot lines to follow and a lot more on-screen action compared with GND1 . With God’s Not Dead 2, there is less activity. This is a more cerebral film providing food for thought for the skeptic as well as the already converted. In some respects, I felt this 2016 movie was more ‘preaching to the choir,’ though I’ll grant that its potential to impact the unbeliever is still present.

With the two previous films, I observed that one of the major wins was the ability to transcend Christian clichés and awkward screen moments. This time around, I decided that a certain number of each may be inevitable if one is going to portray authentic Christians doing Christian things.

There were also what some might consider gratuitous appearances by two Christian apologists, J. Warner Wallace and Lee Strobel, but their presence was essential to a major plot point, though it’s unclear how the lawyer in the courtroom scene in which they appear was able to snag them. (Gary Habermas and Rice Broocks also appear.)

Melissa Joan Hart realistically plays the central character in the movie, a teacher under threat of losing not only her job, but everything else in a punitive action hoping to curb the presence of Christianity in the classroom once and for all. Her crime isn’t so much quoting what Matthew attributes to Jesus as it is doing so from memory, with conviction and being able to cite chapter and verse.

Jesse Metcalfe is cast as her somewhat inexperienced atheist lawyer who might not get the whole Jesus thing, but understands clearly the issues the case raises.

Hayley Orrantia of The Goldbergs TV series is student who is the supposed victim in the legal case in which her parents are the plaintiffs. Other cast members include Pat Boone, and Duck Dynasty‘s Sadie Robertson. And yes, The Newsboys are back. 

Boone also gets this line early in the film, “That’s the thing about atheism, it doesn’t take away the pain, it just takes away the hope.” Another key line is in the graphic above, a billboard which — in a real life imitates the film moment — was refused space at the Republican National Convention last month as being “too political and way too incendiary.”

Having fewer plot lines and characters to track than Do You Believe? made this more enjoyable, but with this third film in three years, I do wonder if the genre is being overworked. On the other hand, fiction is a great vehicle for apologetics — including some of my favorite books — and so I was fully engaged as the movie developed. 

Note: If you’re watching the DVD, be sure to continue through the closing credits for what is either an interesting sequel-begging scene, or a nod to the composers who end their pieces with an unresolved chord.


Movie has been provided courtesy of Sony Home Entertainment Canada and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

I received a screening link, features on the full DVD include:

  • Deleted Scenes
  • Man, Myth, Messiah with Rice Broocks
  • Between Heaven and Hollywood with David A.R. White
  • Visual Effects of God’s Not Dead 2
  • Filming in Arkansas
  • First Liberty
  • Trailers
  • English and Spanish Audio
  • English and Spanish Subtitles

 

 

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