Thinking Out Loud

March 25, 2017

Are You Going to Church Tomorrow?

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:34 am

Back in the day, not going to church wasn’t an option. Unless you were ill, you went. End of discussion.

These days shift work and sports often keep adults and kids respectively away from weekend services. But surely such a lax attitude doesn’t exist in more conservative denominations, right?

Actually, I’ve been doing some research into a particular aspect of Amish life, which has meant reading a number of articles which deal with related topics. On one of the articles at Exploring Amish Country, I was a little surprised to read this:

In the Amish culture, the word “church” doesn’t refer to a building, but to the people in the congregation. Since in most sects there is no church building, services are held in individual homes on a rotating basis. This limits the size of the church district to the number of members that can fit in a home, usually thirty to forty households.

Your church services are held every other Sunday. The “off” Sundays are spent visiting or taking it easy. You look forward to these social times along with the occasional wedding, barn raising or other frolics.    (emphasis added)

So we have a trade-off here: A three hour service, but only bi-weekly. Would you choose that option?


Related articles:

 

March 24, 2017

Keeping Up the Infield Chatter

Filed under: Christianity, family, marriage — Tags: — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:06 am

Not growing up playing a lot of sandlot baseball, and not having friends like Charlie Brown and Lucy, I didn’t get to hear the phrase, “Keep up the infield chatter;” until I watched the Peanuts specials on TV. The phrase refers to encouragement yelled to a pitcher or batter on your own team such as,

  • “You can do it, ______”
  • “Knock it out of the park”
  • “Easy out! Easy out!”

And probably many similar things that I wouldn’t know about.

In marriage, we’re often told that communication is the number one factor determine the success or failure of the relationship. Having a wife who is very much a natural introvert, and is therefore very reticent or taciturn, I have over the many years we’ve been together often encouraged her to “Keep up the infield chatter;” but not in the baseball sense used above.

Rather, I think in marriage communication comes in two forms:

  1. Deeper, meaningful conversation
  2. Relaying everyday common information.

Here’s what I mean by the former:

  • hopes, dreams, aspirations
  • creating holiday plans
  • spiritual conversations; Bible topics
  • political, economic or environmental ideologies
  • things intimate (conversations that could never be shared outside the marriage)

You get the idea. In contrast we have the second type of communication:

  • who we’re ordering the pizza from
  • where we put the postage stamps
  • a rattle we’ve noticed in the minivan’s front end
  • the concert that’s been cancelled
  • noting that we’ve run out of milk

These are important, but they’re important in a different way. The dinner decision has to be made. The stamps have to be found to mail a payment. The van needs to be looked at. The concert things means we have an extra night free but we need to make sure we get a refund. And at some point really soon, someone’s going to want to glass of milk.

Failing to mention any of these is serious. It’s the everyday stuff of running a household and managing family life. True, it’s not fodder for high-level, philosophical, concept-based discussion. (Though it could be: “Why do we have a minivan?”) However, if you subtract it, the fallout from communication that didn’t happen is potentially more damaging than not sharing your dreams, ideal holiday, Bible doctrine perspective, etc.

At times like this I can’t help but be drawn back to the “little foxes that eat the vines.” That’s a Bible metaphor for the little things that can do serious damage.

Failing to communicate is one of those. The solution is keeping the lines of communication open; keeping up the infield chatter however you define it.

 

 

March 23, 2017

Attack in London: Longing for a Place of Safety

Filed under: Christianity, current events — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:00 am

Yesterday’s attack in London, England was a reminder that such things can happen anytime, any place, without warning. To avoid such an event, you would need to avoid all public places, which would mean pretty much locking yourself in your own house. Even there, nothing is guaranteed.

At dinner last night we spoke about travel. You could go to Europe and try to avoid the major cities, but those are the cities that have the airports, and could you really go to France and skip Paris? I suppose your plane could land there and then you could quickly aim for a smaller destination. But the last terrorist activity there happened in Nice, not Paris. Nowhere is there a guarantee of peace and quiet.

Could you go to England, but skip Tower Bridge, Big Ben and the Parliament Buildings? It would be difficult, especially if you’ve never been there before. My friend Lorne Anderson wrote on his blog this morning,

When the images flashed into the TV screen, minutes after it happened, my initial reaction was “I was just there a month ago!” I was in London on business and while there had a private tour of Parliament…

…As soon as I heard the news, I sent an email to the staffer who showed me around Westminster last month. No rely, but news reports said those in the building had been grouped into a central location while police secured the area. I presume he didn’t have access…

Lorne was just there. He has a personal contact there. It’s that close. One degree of separation.

England’s Prime Minister Theresa May assured her people that today (Thursday) would be ‘business as usual.’ We visited Washington, DC not once but twice after 9/11, walking around by the White House and Capitol Building and taking their underground transit system many times. The first time, I naively asked someone in charge of the Metro if we would be safe.

“Right now;” he said, “This is the safest place in the world.”

The idea behind that is that the days, weeks, months after a terrorist attack, everyone is on high alert.

Reports this morning say the attacker was born in England. The Guardian reported,

The attacker behind the terrorist rampage at the gates of the Houses of Parliament was a British-born man previously known to MI5 due to concerns over violent extremism, the prime minister has said.

Not a refugee, in case you’re wondering.

The article continues,

The police and security services monitor about 3,000 Britons, mainly Islamists, whom they regard as potentially capable of domestic terrorism. Of these, about 500 are the subject of active investigations and only a limited number become the targets of physical surveillance. The Guardian understands the attacker was not one of them. He was regarded as posing so little threat that he did not even make the list of 3,000.

Lorne, who works in Canada’s Parliament Buildings concludes:

We live in uncertain times. Those of us who work in government know about the risks involved in our work, but you cannot live in fear. You go about your day to day activities expecting them to be normal. When the exceptional does happen, you deal with it. Dull and boring is what you hope for – you don’t want to wind up on the TV news.

So where is it safe? The sacred texts of Christianity constantly remind us that our place of rest is found in God alone; in Christ alone. It’s not a specific physical location, but our security and hope are found in proximity to Him.

Otherwise, we’re never going to find it anywhere on this planet. Especially not now.

 

March 22, 2017

Wednesday Link List

The Original Wednesday List Lynx

Welcome to this week’s list and thanks to the usual suspects for your suggestions.

This week we caught up with David Hayward aka Naked Pastor… this really speaks for itself:

Finally, when it comes to Christian music tours, what’s in a name? Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction:

March 21, 2017

C. S. Lewis’s Greatest Hits

C. S. Lewis certainly belongs in any list of the Top 10 Christian writers of the 20th Century, but for many his thoughts are more easily digested in sound bites rather than the reading of complete works. I was a little surprised when, with 2017’s season of Lent well underway I was offered an opportunity to review Preparing For Easter: Fifty Devotional Readings from C. S. Lewis, but I wasn’t about to turn down a chance to reconsider Lewis’ brilliance in a different format.

Really, the seasonal title of the book is unfortunate, a better one might be C. S. Lewis’s Greatest Hits, though the book is not limited to his apologetics but introduction makes clear that, “being a leading Christian defender of the faith would not be the only reason to explain Lewis’s posthumous popularity… [He] was also a pioneering explainer of the Christian life itself… Lewis’s apologetics are so powerful precisely because many find his vision of the Christian life so compelling and inspiring. It is this later role of Lewis’s, as a visionary prophet for how to follow Christ today, that this collection is concerned with.”

It’s also helpful to take the more more familiar passages; the Lewis-isms which have become soundbites, such as,

  • Aim at Heaven you will get earth ‘thrown in’: am at earth and you will get neither
  • If I find in my self a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.
  • The dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship…There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.
  • I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

and read these, at least partially, in their fuller original context.

But there is also the more obscure, the sections in the various Letters… collections which I have never perused. I would have liked more of these, such as his take on pacifism — a view he describes as “recent and local” — as well as his picture of heaven:

The symbols under which heaven is presented to us are (a) a dinner party, (b) a wedding, (c) a city, and (d) a concert.

Equally helpful to me were the sections in books I had read previously but had somehow simply missed, which in these shorter, daily readings — most run four pages in a digest-sized volume — are brought into clearer focus, such as the excerpt I ran on Friday.

Not every word that Lewis wrote is gospel. Some of his ideas were his own opinions and perhaps a few were somewhat fanciful. But such is the nature of his writing. I don’t always get Song of Solomon, either, but it’s in the same volume that offers me the gospel of Luke or the epistle to the Romans.  Many passages are highly personal to Lewis, or perhaps the reader.

Some people feel guilty about their anxieties and regard them as a defect of faith. I don’t agree at all. They afflictions, not sins. Like all afflictions, they are, if we can so take them, our share in the Passion of Christ. (194)

Included with each of the 50 readings are references to selected scripture passages which enhance the devotional experience. The volume ends with a reading for Easter Sunday. Again, to repeat what I said earlier, this really ought to be a non-seasonal product. In the meantime however, it will well serve people charged with preparing material for the central season of the Christian year, or latecomers like myself who were able to binge-read it in several sittings.


HarperOne; 2017 hardcover; 214 pages; 17.99 US; 9780062641649. Material is suitable and helpful for all Christian traditions. Compiled by Zachry Kincaid. Thanks to Nadea Mina for a review copy.

More info at CSLewis.com

 

March 20, 2017

Over-Consumption of Internet Media

Whether it’s Facebook or internet pørn, it’s really easy to spend sections of your day staring at your device, be it phone, tablet, laptop or desktop. There are general principles from scripture I think we do well to remember; these can give us guidance regardless of which type of addiction you’re dealing with.

5 General Principles to Guide Potential Online Addiction

click image to orderSelf-Control

It’s one of the fruit of the Spirit so it deserved to be listed first. We each have this in varying degrees, though some have noticeably less than others, and all of us have times when we wish we’d exercised more. At the slightest impulse that you’ve spent to long on Facebook (or whatever) you need to close the browser and walk away from the screen. (Translations use either temperance or self-control when listing these fruit in Galatians 5, but the Wycliffe uses continence, the opposite of which is…well you know.) (See what I mean? Better self control would have left that alone!)

Mind, Thoughts and Heart

As we’ve written a number of posts here concerning out thought life, let’s just say that it is so important to guard our minds, guard our thoughts and thereby guard and protect our hearts. (See especially this post and the section dealing with our media diet.) We’re told in scripture to take captive the stray thoughts which can do damage. Previous generations contended with this in terms of television and theater. We have such a greater barrage of ideas and philosophies being thrown at us online.

The Stewardship of Our Time

In an increasingly hectic world, time is a precious commodity. We’re given 24 hours each day, no more, no less; and what we do with those is a large measure of our character. (For my article on “redeeming the time,” read this post at C201.) A good measure of this is to realize the things that you might have done, could have done, or should have done in the time you spent on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter… or worse.

Shifting Values

Without getting into specific social issues that face us currently, all of us have felt the pressure to capitulate to the larger culture, or even to the values shift happening in the capital-C Church. Isaiah 5:20 (NLT) reads, “What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter.” I can honestly say I have felt the pressure to change my mind on some issues because of internet exposure. On some of the issues, I think readers here would be comfortable, but on others I have realized the need for a reset and re-calibration. Be careful to know why if you sense your worldview shifting.

Misdirected Worship

This may seem a little strong for some readers here, but the things that occupy our time online are really the things we ascribe worth to, and that’s the heart of the word worship. I mentioned internet pørn at the outset, and it’s easy to think terms of people spending hours staring at photographic images, but even those cute cat videos could amount to a case as described in Romans 1:25 (NLT): “…So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself who is worthy of eternal praise!”


David Murray’s outline on media consumption from the book The Happy Christian.

March 19, 2017

Case for Christ Movie Opens April 7

Last night we were able to watch a preview screening of the movie The Case for Christ which opens April 7th. While I will offer a full review of the movie closer to the release date, many of you have read the book by Lee Strobel, or one of the many others in the series: The Case for Faith, The Case for a Creator, The Case for the Real Jesus, etc.

Like some others who have leaked bits and pieces of this online, I also was struck by the authenticity of the two primary characters in the movie, Lee and Leslie Strobel. While the theme of the movie is very obviously evidentiary apologetics there is also a sub-theme dealing with the time when Leslie was a Christian and Lee wasn’t. It’s probably no accident that their 2002 book Surviving a Spiritual Mismatch in Marriage is now in re-release by Zondervan.

With those two themes in mind…

  • Think of friends you could invite to see the movie; and
  • Plan to see it, if at all possible, during the first weekend of release.

I’ll have more to say about it in a few days.  Use the following image on your Facebook page to make more people aware of this significant film.

March 18, 2017

Parents to Kids: We’re Called to be Different

A lot of modern Christian parenting consists of making sure when your kids arrive at the age where they are making choices, that they avoid the pitfalls which have brought down many a young life. Usually mentioned are promiscuous sex and the varieties of drugs and alcohol. Many of these messages come across as “Don’t do this;” “Don’t do that;” Don’t ever let me catch you doing…;” and “I never want to hear that you…” (I think the wording of the last two needs some refining; it could suggest a workaround is possible if one doesn’t get found out.)

Better, I believe to say to your kids, “We follow Christ. We’re different from the world.” The NLT rendering of Romans 12:2a (and The Living Bible before it) has always stuck with me:

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.

For a certain period of my formative faith years, I kept running across the phrase, ‘Maintenance of a Separate Identity.’ You don’t hear it much these days, and when I ran it through a search engine it took more than 30 results before I found one in a Biblical context out of the 70-odd results located. (Most of the results were in reference to ethnicity and nation.)

John White, in his book Flirting With the World, relates his experience growing up as a boy in the 1950s. He tells us that his church knew what worldliness was back then: lipstick, make-up, short skirts, bobbed hair, wedding rings and jewelry, movies, and church kitchens. Then he makes this statement: “Church leaders who fought the liberalizing trends of education, affluence, mobility, and urbanization may have pitched the battle in the wrong places, but you can’t fault their instincts. They knew that something vital was at stake: the maintenance of a distinct identity.[source]

If you’ve ever read Leviticus and wondered, ‘Why, oh why all these obscure rules and regulations?’ the answer may be found in God’s desire to see His people maintain a distinct identity; to be distinct from their surrounding neighbors. Why not wear garments woven with two types of fabric? I think there’s a lot more going on there than what appears on the surface, but it’s part of that unique characteristic God wanted his people to have. Why wear tassels on their garments? I believe it’s again, identity; perhaps a precursor to the days when soldiers in The Salvation Army would don a uniform to be highly identifiable in a larger culture.  The old KJV at 1 Peter 2:9 calls us “a peculiar people;” the NIV translates that as “God’s special possession.”

The idea of distinction is seen in the context of God’s revelation to Moses, and in turn his declaration to Pharoah as to what was planned for the final plague that will bring about their release from captivity:

Ex. 11:6-7 There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again.But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any person or animal.’ Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.

On the surface, this is saying that the morning after, it will be clear that while the firstborn of all of Egypt’s families will have perished, the firstborn of all of Israel’s families will have survived. It demonstrates a difference that has always been despite the years of assimilation that have come before Moses’ mission to liberate those people.

So we tell our kids, “The world does their thing and we do ours. We are citizens of a different world. We intersect with the world constantly, but we’re following a different, though parallel script.” Or something like that; your kids may need that in simplified language.

In Matthew 13:30 we read how it is possible for there to be a people of God existing in the greater world but how God knows who is who:

Let the weeds and the wheat grow together until the harvest time. At harvest time I will tell the workers, “First gather the weeds and tie them together to be burned. Then gather the wheat and bring it to my barn.”‘” (NCV)

 

 

March 17, 2017

Currently Reading: Preparing for Easter by C. S. Lewis

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:17 am

There’s a lot going on in this collection and my intention is to offer a full review after I’ve finished reading. But I couldn’t go any further without sharing this interesting analogy of the incarnation of Christ:

Did you ever think, when you were a child, what fun it would be if your toys could come to life? Well suppose you could really have brought them to life. Imagine turning a tin soldier into a real little man. It would involve turning the tin to flesh. And suppose the in soldier did not like it. He is not interested in flesh: all he sees is that the tin is being spoilt. He thinks you are killing him. He will do everything he can to prevent you.  He will not be made into a man if he can help it.

What you would have done about that tin soldier I do not know. But what God did about us was this. The Second person in God, the Son, became human Himself: was born into the world as an actual man – a real man of a particular height, with hair of a particular colour, speaking a particular language, weighing so many stone. The Eternal Being, who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became not only a man but (before that) a baby, and before that a foetus inside a Woman’s body. If you want to get the hang of it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab. 

The result of this was that you now had one man who really was what all men were intended to be: one man in whom the created life, derived from His Mother, allowed itself to be completely and perfectly turned into the begotten life.  The natural human creature in Him was taken up fully into the divine Son.  Thus in one instance humanity had, so to speak, arrived: had passed into the life of Christ. And because the whole difficulty for us is that the natural life has to be, in a sense, ‘killed’, he chose an earthly career which involved the killing of His human desires at every turn – poverty, misunderstanding from His own family, betrayal by one of His intimate friends, being jeered at and manhandled by the Police, and execution by torture. And then, after being thus killed – killed every day in a sense – the human creature in Him, because it was united to the divine Son, came to life again. The Man in Christ rose again: not only the God. That is the whole point. For the first time we saw a real man. One tin soldier – real tin, just like the rest – had come fully and splendidly alive.

You can imagine that I was surprised to learn this excerpt is from Mere Christianity. How did I miss this before? He doesn’t just leave it as an analogy for incarnation, but rather overlays that with the idea of the transformation that must take place in the child of God. Brilliant!

Preparing for Easter: Fifty Devotional Readings from C. S. Lewis; HarperOne, 2017, hardcover. More information at this link.

March 16, 2017

Recurring Dreams

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:14 am

I suppose it’s appropriate that a faith-focused blogger should have recurring dreams about the church he attended through his teen years, and a Christian summer camp he worked at in his twenties. My dream rotation isn’t limited to those two themes; last night was the one where I’m back in my parent’s house/neighborhood, and then there are some work-related ones.

The church theme is the one which seems to recur most often. Each time it’s a variance on that church however; things are never exactly as they are in reality. In some the lobby is a cross between an airport terminal and a grand marketplace. The architecture of the place — which in real life is rather bland — is what features; there are very few impressions of the people I knew when I attended there.

The camp dream is similar in the sense it’s more of a presque vu than a déjà vu (and yes, I’m actually using the former incorrectly in terms of its common meaning, but I’m borrowing from an author whose name is on the tip of my tongue but I can’t think of it — an irony in this case.) There are features of the camp property that are similar to its real life situation, but certain factors are rearranged to make the building layout or topography different.

There’s never a nightmarish quality to these, or a message or a lesson. They are simply the ride my subconscious takes me on while I sleep; a movie with no tickets required and no popcorn. In the neighborhood dream last night I am further from home and having to ride my bicycle up a steep hill. Anyone want to have a go with that one? I’m not sure it’s terribly significant. 

Do you have a recurring dream theme? 

Do you look for messages in your dreams?


We have a great article on sleep at C201: 

Three well known Christian publishers have looked at the subject of dreams:

  • Cindy McGill and David Sluka’s What Your Dreams are Telling You: Unlocking Solutions While You Sleep was published in 2013 by Revell, a Baker Publishing Group company.
  • Ira L. Milligan’s Understanding the Dreams You Dream: Biblical Keys for Hearing God’s Voice in the Night was published in 2012 by Destiny Image Publishing, a charismatic publishing company. This theme occurs more frequently in charismatic writing and preaching.
  • Another Charismatic publishing house released Benny Thomas’ Exploring and Interpreting Dreams which was published in 2013 by Whittaker House.

We looked at sleep and dreams a few times here before:

 

 

 

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