Thinking Out Loud

January 31, 2009

Deep Insight into Bible Translation, Ferrets and Weasels

maltese-wall-lizardAuthor Jason Boyett blogs epynomously* and this week unleased this information to a waiting world:

According to the King James Version of Leviticus 11:29-30, these things are unclean to you: weasels, mice, tortoises, ferrets, chameleons, lizards, snails, and moles.

According to the New International Version of Leviticus 11:29-30, these things are unclean to you: weasels, rats, any kind of great lizard, geckos, monitor lizards, wall lizards, skinks, and chameleons.

I think it’s clear that the NIV translators had some sort of crazy lizard-phobia.

The rest of that blog post was not as intense spiritually, but you can continue reading it here.

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*term reserved for so-called authors who couldn’t come up with a name for their blog; or have immense self-confidence that their name says it all

PHOTO:  Maltese Wall Lizard (Note: Your monitor is now ceremonially unclean.)


January 30, 2009

Fireproof: Never Leave Your Partner Behind

Filed under: Christianity, Faith, family, marriage, Religion — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:28 pm

fireproofThe movie Fireproof, for the most part, never played in theatres in Canada, so this week’s video release was our first look at the film.   Once again, the people at Sherwood Church delivered an amazing production.   This is the work of one local church. Where were these people when I was forced to view tacky Christian flicks as a kid?

While the result might not impressed more regular cinema attendees — hey, we don’t get out much, but we know no film is perfect —  I found myself constantly thinking, “Okay, I like how they did that;” or “It was wise letting the audience just infer that development without spelling it out;” or “It was realistic to insert that moment of comic relief in the middle of that scene.”  Christian films have matured.

The acting was credible, even on the part of Kirk Cameron, oft-criticized for his performances in the Left Behind series.   The use of music was good, too; although more would have been better; some scenes seemed “too quiet” lacking in background  sound textures and what are termed Foley effects.

But you know, even if the acting had been terrible and the thing was recorded in 16mm film; there is no denying that this is an absolutely powerful story, which delivers twists and turns right to the very end.   There is a great script at work here; which is part of a larger script:  the power of God to change lives, even lives in the middle of crisis.

Unlike its predecessor, Facing the Giants, the movie Fireproof arrives in DVD accompanied by a host of ancillary products.   There is the Fireproof Couples Kit, the Fireproof marriage curriculum (both Outreach, Inc.), the novelization of the movie (Thos. Nelson), the marriage book (Christian Literature Crusade), and the book Love Dare (Broadman).   Each one of these products is designed to allow those who have seen the movie and want to take further steps to have a means by which to do so.   (Not necessarily so noble are the t-shirts and obligatory soundtrack CD.)

This is a movie that is evocative without being emotionally exploitative.   It is evangelistic without being overbearing about it.   All couples, especially couples in crisis should watch this together.

I can’t wait to see what production the people at Sherwood bring us next.


The Final Apologetic: Francis Schaeffer

I’m taking my own advice from a few months ago, and trying to read a current title and then read a classic title, and then keep alternating like that.    This time, the book I picked up is more of a booklet — so small I’ve misplaced it twice — but it is a classic from Francis Schaeffer.     Many of the books of that era were small pocket-sized books originally; Basic Christianity and Baptism and Fullness by Stott; The Pursuit of Holiness by Bridges, New Testament Documents by F. F. Bruce, etc.   Today, publishers don’t do smaller books because there’s not enough money in it, unless the book is a spinoff of an existing larger title.

Francis Schaeffer

mark-of-the-christian…John 17:21…Jesus prays, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in in me, and I in thee, that they may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou has sent me.”  In this, his high priestly prayer, Jesus is praying for the oneness of the church, the oneness that should be found specifically among true Christians.   Jesus is not praying for a humanistic, romantic oneness among men in general.

…Jesus goes on… to say something that always causes me to cringe.  If as Christians we do not cringe, it seems to me we are not very sensitive or very honest, because Jesus here gives us the final apologetic… “That they may be one … that the world may believe that thou has sent me.”   This is the final apologetic.

In John 13 the point was that, if an individual Christian does not show love toward other true Christians, the world has a right to judge that he is not a Christian.   Here Jesus is saying something which is much more cutting, much more profound:  We cannot expect the world to believe that the Father sent the Son, that Jesus’ claims are true, and that Christianity is true, unless the world sees some reality of the oneness of true Christians.

Now that is frightening…

…The church is to judge whether a man is a Christian on the basis of his doctrine, the propositional content of his faith, and then his credible profession of faith…  But we cannot expect the world to judge that way, because the world cares nothing about doctrine.  …That is especially true [now] …men no longer believe even in the possibility of absolute truth.   And if we are surrounded by a world which no longer believes in the concept of truth, certainly we cannot expect people to have any interest in whether a man’s doctrine is correct or not.

But Jesus did give the mark that will arrest the attention of the world…

~Francis Schaeffer, The Mark of the Christian.

Bonus quotation today — completely unrelated — at no extra charge!

Hope returns when I remember this one thing:  the Lord’s unfailing love and mercy still continue, fresh as the morning, as sure as the sunrise.  The Lord is all I have and so I put my hope in him.   The Lord is good to everyone who trusts in him, so it is best for us to wait in patience – to wait for him to save us – and it is best to learn this patience in our youth.
Lamentations 3:21-27 (Good News Bible/TEV)

January 29, 2009

Can You Recite Your Church’s Statement of Faith?

statement-of-faithJonathan Brink, blogging at Missio Dei, has had an interesting discussion running the last few days about statements of faith:

There is an interesting discussion going on over here at this post regarding statements of faith.  And in the process of dialog something stuck out to me.

First, I get statements of belief.  Their the little list of things we say we believe.  They include very important components to our faith.  I personally have no problem with people having them because they can very much be a working out of the belief process.  I do get seriously concerned with fixed constructs of what we say we believe, which is not the same as what is truth.  Truth exists as a construct all its own.  It just is.  How much we capture of that truth is highly relative based on a huge number of factors in our life (mentors, location, access to Scripture, community, etc).  And in many ways our statements of belief create unnecessary barriers to relationship and even our own spiritual development.

And here is my point. What if our statements of believe are neat little tricks we play on ourselves?

Jesus spent almost no time focusing on the list of beliefs but instead on the action of belief.  In other words, he looked for the fruit of believe in each person’s life.  Did they step up?  Did the follow?  Did they put something on the line.  It mattered very little what they said, but instead what they did.

What if Jesus understood that our little belief statements can become just as much a hindrance as a help?  What if he understood that we’re likely to bullshit ourselves.  It’s what we do isn’t it?  We’re broken, prone to lying and deceiving, even to ourselves.  And what if Jesus understood that our lists can actually keep us locked in a perpetual state of arrested development.  Because once we say we believe something, it becomes much harder to shift gears even when we don’t believe it. (Unless that’s the point of the lists.)

I appreciate the way Blake put it in the previous post.  He said,

“I’m not interesting in something else that I have to confess or sign off on.”

Which in some ways drives home my original concern.  Statements of faith often become insurmountable barriers to entry.  They close us off from relationship.  And if the point of the mission is love and restoration, we can’t do that very well from afar, or when the barriers we have created keep people from engaging what is supposed to be called Good News.

And it is so easy to say we believe.  But Jesus even said, don’t look for the words.  Look for the actions, the fruit of our lives as the true indicator.  But we don’t like that do we.  We like lists that look pretty on paper.  We like lists that people can read and assume good things about us.  And the best part is we don’t actually have to believe the list.  We just have to say we do and it is generally accepted that we do.

I would suggest it is actually harder to not have a statement of belief.  It’s harder to live instead in the tension of becoming, of growing, and of asking do we really believe.  It doesn’t mean we ignore belief.  It means we hold lightly the things we have convinced ourselves of, leaving the true work in our lives to the Holy Spirit.

I would offer that it would be more powerful for a community to live into what it believed, wrestlign through that discovery process over time and then recognizing that we do believe.  And then holding that lightly as true, as a growing process, as something that is now.  Because things might just change.

Sorry, I tried to edit some of it out, but it was all crying to be printed here.   If you want to engage more, check out the original post linked in the quote, and then check out the comments for both posts.  (I’m #13 at the first article.)

Oh yeah… about the graphic.  To see this one full size; flames and all; link here.  (Even Christian motorcycle clubs have statements of faith…)

January 28, 2009

On Today’s Lunch Menu: Roast Preacher

Filed under: Christianity, Church, Religion — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:17 pm

roast-preacherOne of our pastor experiences was really strange.   One never knew truly what the guy was thinking, which means the drive home from the morning service was always filled with differing opinions as we tried to dissect the various points.    One time, he placed a coffee maker on the podium suggesting, “God is the water;” and concluding with, “We are the beans.”   This got us singing the chorus from  “We Are The World” all the way home, substituting “beans” for “world.”

On the other hand, we attended another church where the pastor clearly had a double portion of the gift of preaching.    Never once did we discuss anything he said in the car heading home.   He said it all.    Perfectly.   With nothing to add.

In hindsight, I’m not sure which is to be preferred.   I actually like discussing the sermon in the car on the way home, especially when there is a point of doctrine that was controversial, or the use of an analogy — such as the coffee maker one — that is a bit rough around the edges.   I  often think what I might have done with the same passage, or how a particular point might have made more clearly.    I am not ashamed of this at all, in fact I wish I had kept a journal or notebook solely for the purpose of recording when particular sermons might have served as a springboard to another idea based on the same text.

On the other hand though, on many of those drives home, there were a couple of sets of little ears in the back seat.    Little ears don’t understand the difference between a critique and a criticism.   The difference between unhelpful criticism and constructive criticism.   The difference between not liking what someone said versus not liking them as a person.   So one has to be careful.

The problem arises when adults are equally lacking in understanding the distinction.   If you are a pastor, know that I can violently disagree with something you said, but it doesn’t mean I don’t like you and it doesn’t mean I won’t love everything you say the following week.   Unfortunately, people tend to take things far too personally.   (It was once said of me, in reference to a particular pastor, “He can’t stand that guy.”   ‘Twasn’t true at all.)

Furthermore, I know some pastors who would be thrilled to think that people were discussing their sermons in the car on the way home, or over dinner.   Better that than forgetting them the minute they leave the building.   Better heated engagement of the topic or text than apathy.

But maybe not so much in the actual church building, in earshot of others.   Jon Acuff makes that quite clear in yesterday’s Stuff Christians Like post.   In keeping with the spirit of “Roast Preacher,” I wouldn’t necessarily give this particular post a “10” or even an “8,” but the set up was positively brilliant:

Two weeks ago at church, on my way to pick up my kids after service, the guy behind me said, “It was entertaining I guess, but that didn’t feel like church at all.”

I immediately turned around and was about to hit him with my copy of the English Standard Version of the Bible, which I’ve been told leaves bruises that are 14% closer to the original intent of the Hebrew, but he threw up the gang sign for “First Time Visitor.” I backed off instantly. If there’s one group of people you can’t strike with a Bible at church, it is first time visitors. Pastors really frown on that.

So instead, I just glared at him with a look that said, “You enjoy that first time visitor status, because next week, it’s gone. Soon you’ll just be a second time visitor and there’s not a gift basket that comes with that.” Then I backed away slowly, keeping my eyes on him.

It didn’t happen exactly that way, but I did hear someone complaining and it made me sad. …

January 27, 2009

Emptiness: More Likely in Good Times Than Bad

Filed under: apologetics, Christianity, Religion — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:21 pm
Ravi Zacharias:
ravizacharias2“We experience emptiness not when we are wearied by our trials, but when we are wearied by our happiness.”

~From a recent broadcast; the quotation may not be word-for-word, but the concept certainly makes sense.    Listen online to more from Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias at

Stuff Christian Organizations Like: Creating Junk Mail

Filed under: Christianity, Church, missions, philanthropy — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:01 pm

return-to-senderFrom televangelists to missions agencies to … you name it!   Once you get on an organization’s mailing list it can be really difficult to get your name removed.    You tried not making a donation for five years and that didn’t work.   You moved three times, but they kept finding you.   Finally you faked your own death; but the magazines, heartwarming stories, devotional booklets, calendars, free books, etc., etc., etc., just kept coming.

Furthermore, any donation you ever made to the organization’s true mission work has now been totally undermined by the cost of all the materials they’ve sent you since.   Even if you make it really clear that, “This is a one-time gift;” or make it conditional, as in, “I’ll make a single donation if you promise not to add me to a solicitation list;” it doesn’t matter.   Once they have your name…

So here, as a public service we present:

How to get your name removed from an organization’s mailing list.

Step One:   First of all, the most important thing to remember is … oh, forget it, we don’t know either.


The title of this post is a tribute to the popular blog, Stuff Christians Like, listed in our blogroll or use today’s link.

January 26, 2009

God Accepts No Substitutes for Himself

Filed under: bible, Faith, God, prayer, Religion, theology — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:36 pm
Charles Price:
When in combat with the Philistines, the Israelites brought the Ark of the Covenant into the camp.  “And when they learned that the ark of the Lord had come to the camp, the Philistines were afraid, for they said, ‘A god has come into the camp.’ And they said, ‘Woe to us!  For nothing like this has happened before.  Woe to us!  Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods? … Take courage, and be men, O Philistines, lest you become slaves to the Hebrews as they have been to you; be men and fight'” (I Sam. 4:6-9)

Motivated by this rallying call, they took on Israel, fought them, and actually beat them.  They captured the Ark of the Covenant and took it back to Philistine territory.   The particular point from this narrative is that the Philistines identified the Ark itself as a god, and more specifically as the god responsible for Israels victories in their history.   That is understandable.   But the Ark was not God, and in that sense they were wrong.   However, the Ark respresented God, and to that extent there was substance to their fear.

The Philistines actually beat the Israelites on this occasion because the Israelites had made the same mistake.  Having just been defeated by the Philistines, they had retreated with their tails between their legs and said, “let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord here from Shiloh, that it may come among us and save us from the power of our enemeies.” (I Sam. 4:3)

Instead of recognizing what Joshua had recognized — it was the Lord who would take them over the Jordan and it was the Lord who would give them Jericho — they substituted the Ark of God Himself and declared that it would save them.    And of course it didn’t!   Only He could!   The moment we substitute God Himself with even a legitmate means by which He works, God moves out.   Anything God may bless as an expression of Himself, He curses when it becomes a substitute for Himself.

~Charles Price in Alive in Christ; Kregel ©1995 — Charles Price is pastor of The Peoples Church, Toronto, Canada. [via WITW]

Blog of the Week: Without Wax

Filed under: Christianity, Church, Faith, family — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm


A few months ago, I would never have suspected that our fourth-ever Blog of the Week would be a pastor’s blog.   But I think Pete Wilson has a good thing going here.   If I’m ever in Nashville, TN; I know what church I want to visit.

Here’s the 411 on Without Wax:  Pete is pastor of CrossPoint a multi-site church in Music City, and married to Brandi, who contributed an article to Anne Jackson’s Mad Church Disease which releases officially at the end of the week.  Pete and Brandi have three boys:  Jett, Gage and Brewer.   The name of the blog is explained on the banner of each page, but it essentially is a synonym for “sincere.”

Many pastors live in isolation from their parishioners.   With thousands of members, there’s no way Pete and Brandi can get to know everybody; nor can everybody get to know them.  But at, everyone can get to know them. This site is a prime example of why pastors should blog.   All pastors.   The opposite of without wax, is wax, which Pete explains represents an effort to hide our cracks, our faults, our emotions, our failings.   There’s too much of that in the church already; and if things are going to change, Pastors need to lead by example.

I applaud anyone online who is making an effort to be real. From the very first post of the kids banging on pots and pans, to today’s Baptism interview with one of Pete’s Bocci Ball friends; you can read and bookmark the site here or by clicking on the image above.

January 25, 2009

Eugene Peterson on the Difference Between Listening and Listening

Filed under: bible, Christianity, Church, God — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:24 pm

This appeared last week on the blog formerly known as Danno’s Dangerous Mind, now simply known as 12ddm.   He got it from a Christianity Today interview with Eugene Peterson:

clock-spiralIn the last class I taught at Regent, a young woman came up to me and was very irritated. “Dr. Peterson,” she said, “three times during the lecture you did not say anything for twenty seconds. I know because I timed you. I’m from Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, teachers go: Bang! Bang! Bang! I want my money’s worth.”

We’re going to have people like that, people who want very polished and efficient teaching. But when I see people in my congregation taking notes during the sermon, I stop and say, “Put your pencils away. I want you to listen. LISTEN to the Word of God. It’s not something for you to figure out; it’s something for you to respond to.”

It’s slow work, and pastors are not patient people.

I also found this quote interesting in light of the Michael Frost/Alan Hirsch book I mentioned last week, which has a chapter dealing the Hellenistic way of thinking vs. the Hebraic way of thinking; the western approach vs. the eastern approach.

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