Thinking Out Loud

August 31, 2009

Inconsiderate: I, I, I, I, I, I, I

Filed under: Faith — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:35 pm

inconsiderate bumper stickerI’ve decided that the one word which best describes modern life is inconsiderate. People are not rude.   Rudeness implies intention.  Rudeness reflects lack of upbringing or refinement.

No, people just don’t think.   Well, that’s not true, they think a lot about themselves. What’s in it for me?   How does the affect me?   But they don’t think about anyone else.

They don’t think about the consequences their actions may have on others.   They may not even be aware that others exist.    They don’t think about the consequences their lack of actions may have on others.   The sins of omission.

They are the center of their universe.    They fritter away and Twitter away their lives with egocentric thoughts of:  “I am having a steak dinner;” “I am enjoying the new U2 album;” “I am getting a new Kia next week;” “I am joining the church basketball team this fall;” “I am hosting a small group this week;” “I feel I am becoming much more spiritual.”

Yeah.  The last one.   Don’t think so.   Yes it’s true, even Christians can be rather self centered.  It’s all I, I, I, I, I, I, I.


  • Will this affect someone else?
  • Will this disturb or annoy someone else?
  • Will this deny someone else this space; this resource; this peace?
  • Will this inconvenience someone else?
  • Will this disappoint or hurt someone else?
  • Will this cause someone else to fall?
  • Will this me-thing take time that should be spent on someone else?
  • Will this take money that ought to be given to someone else?
  • Will this distract me from my God-purpose?
  • Will this decision form a pattern leading to even more self-centered decisions?



August 30, 2009

James Garlow: Heaven and the Afterlife

One of the frustrations of the Christian publishing market are so many titles tripping over themselves saying essentially the same things.   I rather expected Heaven and the Afterlife to be a good review pick having read (out loud, actually) 50 Days of Heaven which an abridgment of Randy Alcorn’s longer work, Heaven. I figured it would somehow qualify me to compare two works on the same topic, and quickly write a short 150-word review.

Heaven and the Afterlife - GarlowInstead, I found myself with something completely different; a title much more comprehensive on diverse subjects that preoccupy the thoughts of many; a book  that would also appeal to those who had read 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper, or 23 Minutes in Hell by Bill Wiese, not to mention Angels by Billy Graham and a whole raft of titles by Grant Jeffrey.    In fact, the book is so wide in scope that while Garlow cites Randy Alcorn, he does so only a couple of times.

The book begins with the subject of near death experiences (NDEs) and moves on to after death communication (ADC) and takes an approach that I think would appeal to the general reader, the secularist, even the skeptic.   It’s lighter on Biblical content in the earlier chapters, instead easing into the topic by raising the questions which all of us — churched and non-churched alike — often ask when dealing with these difficult subjects.   Later chapters discuss angels, demons, reincarnation, eschatology and the concept of purgatory.

Every one of the 21 chapters in this book could really be a book in itself.  At times  —  such as the chapter on demons or the chapter on end-times judgment — Garlow leaves us wanting more; at others, he covers the ground so quickly that I wonder if skeptics would accept the progressive reasoning, or would, like Wikipedia editors, cry “citation needed.”

But I think that is exactly the point.   In 258 pages of text, the best one can offer is a general overview.  The subject of heaven specifically and the subject of the afterlife in general, is indeed a complex series of discussions which probably touch on even more than the 21 topics contained here.    Where the book most succeeds is to show us that these topics are interconnected and part of a unified whole; considerations that must be weighed against the “big picture” conceived in the mind of God, and reflective of His very nature.

So while the book assumes a basic concession to the Biblical view on such things, it also helps us improve our Biblical literacy on these topics, and builds respect for the scriptural take on death and the end-times.

Therefore, I want to modify what I said last week in a preview to this review.   I still think the book might be useful to give to someone who hasn’t yet crossed the line of faith; but I think it would work better if given to someone who is already moving in that direction but has some questions.    While I might be tempted to file this book under “H” for heaven or “D” for death, I think it also has a place under “A” for apologetics.

james-garlowIf you don’t know Garlow, he is a most prolific writer, a pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego and holds six — count ’em — theological degrees.   So he’s quite capable of dealing in later chapters with two current “hot button” topics:  Universalism (which can be an ‘all roads lead to God’ viewpoint, or an ‘everyone is saved in the end’ theory)  and Annihilation (the idea that those who don’t accept Christ simply cease to exist after death.)   He deals honestly with the arguments used in support of these positions and shows respect for their proponents, but then explains why he cannot buy in.

If a book may be judged by its ability to deliver on its title, Heaven and the Afterlife contains — theologically speaking — everything but the kitchen sink.   This is the current exhaustive treatment of the breadth and width of this topic.

Heaven and the Afterlife – James L. Garlow with Keith Wall (Bethany House, 2009; paperback, $13.99 US)

nearsighted bookwormEnjoy the book reviews in Thinking Out Loud?   Then you might also want to check out “The Nearsighted Bookworm,” where reviewer Janis covers the latest Christian fiction and non-fiction titles.   Click here to connect.

August 29, 2009

Reblogging The Best of September 2008

Even though the traffic was lighter back then, this one obviously resonated with a few readers:

Getting into Classic Authors

This week my kids and I are “binge reading” a number of devotionals from a collection by A. W. Tozer, one of the pioneers in the Christian & Missionary Alliance denomination. His final pastorate was at the Avenue Road* Church in Toronto, Canada, which continues to this day as Bayview Glen Alliance. Tozer is one of a number of classic reads, in a list that includes D. L. Moody, George Whitfield, Watchman Nee, Jonathan Edwards, E. M. Bounds and others.

What is it that’s different about reading classic authors like these?

– Right away you notice that they speak with a different voice, and having studied the Philosophy of Language, I know that our use of words shapes our understanding. There is also a greater economy of words on some points, but there is laborious repetition on others, so that we don’t miss something profound. Clearly, the did understand some concepts somewhat differently than many of do today; and the “spin” on some Bible passages is distinctive by our standards.

Intensity – These classic writers endure because they were passionate about living the Christian life to the nth degree. There is an urgency about their writings that is sorely lacking in some modern Christian literature. Were they preaching to the choir, or were they voices crying in the wilderness? Probably both, and with the same message for both.

Response – They wrote in response to the issues of their day, some of which are unknown to us now, but some of which are strikingly similar to the issues of our day. There was a concern for a general apostasy, a watering-down of the gospel and of Christian ethics. Is this just preacher rhetoric, or are things truly deteriorating with each successive generation? Or do Bible teachers and preachers just get so “set apart” that they start to view both the church and the world less charitably?

Wisdom – These books represent the cultivation of much wisdom in an era that wasn’t full of the distractions of our era. While we will inevitably turn back to our modern writers; there is much to be gained from seeing how scripture was interpreted in a previous century. They did their homework so to speak, and interacted with others who were on the same path of study; and some of them were simply a few hundred years “closer to the story” than we are today.


What classic authors do you enjoy?

What about material that pre-dates this, what we call “early Christian writings?”

Why did I not mention Charles Spurgeon?

*Gotta love the redundancy of the name, “Avenue Road.” Still exists, running parallel to Toronto’s main drag, Yonge Street. (Pronounced “young street.”)

This next post is about blogging itself and my initial realization as to what it meant to be part of the blogging community.

A Great Big Blog Hug

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and suffer with those who suffer.

Blogging introduces you to a worldwide collective of people you will probably never meet in this life. Nonetheless, the online connection means that you can be a source of encouragement to many, many people. The right words, fitly spoken at the right time, can really make a difference in a person’s life. That’s why I like this picture. The words are coming off the page to bring comfort. Everybody needs a bit of that now and then. The best things that are happening in the blogosphere aren’t always happening on the blogs themselves, but in the meta. When you get to follow-up with someone who has a particular interest. Or try to offer some direct, offline advice to someone who might appreciate a bit of a challenge. Or know of a third-party resource that could be of great help. Or just to say, “I really don’t have a clue about your whole situation, but I want you to know someone is reading your blog who really cares.” Or offer to pray for them. To actually pray for them.

Words communicate. People are listening. You can have a part in what they hear.

Finally… it turns out there’s enough stuff from September to do two installments in this series, so that’s what we’ll do.   Here’s one more to cap off today though, because I’d hate for anyone to miss out on this excellent resource.

Delving into Prayer with Philip Yancey

Thirteen years ago, when we changed from being a ‘behind the scenes’ promoter of Christian books and music, to being a front line retailer with our own stores, our first bona fide bestseller was the book The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey. Although I was familiar with his writing from Campus Life magazine and the NIV Student Bible, this was the first book by him I had ever read, and with my recommendation, the book remained our number one bestseller for more than two years. I still have the ISBN memorized!

So when the curriculum DVD for that book was released, I was a little disappointed. It was Philip, who is very softspoken, sitting in a dark studio, speaking in a low tones. The clips were short, too; as this kind of product is intended to be led by a small group chairperson, with the DVD serving as a supplement. Later on, Zondervan would produce some excellent DVD material for author John Ortberg (who is now linked on our blogroll on the right side of your screen under ‘sermons’) which were filmed on location. I made a mental note that the quality of these things was improving.

This weekend I watched all of the DVD material that goes with Philip’s book, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? There are six weeks in the DVD study, with each one having at least three film clips, all of which were filmed in various parts of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. The scenery certainly draws you in to the discussion of the topic, and Philip seems much more relaxed in front of the camera, and much more himself in the context of his favorite hobby, mountain climbing. (Do you have an altimeter on your wristwatch?) If you’re going to use visual media, it’s important that it look good, and this does.

I felt that the last session sometimes seemed to start to stray a little from the core discussion; but otherwise, this is an excellent lead-in to some good discussion; and since all Christians (and not a few non-Christians) pray at various times and in various ways, this is certainly going to bring out a lot of comments from your small group; many of which will be subjective and some more objective. Frankly, I would love to have some context to share this series with a group of people. (The church I attend has a policy that all small groups cover the same material; so there is no room for electives.) I think it would be an interesting process to explore something so basic to our Christian lives, yet reflects so differently in each of us, including the complexity of dealing with unanswered prayer, which is discussed in the fourth session.

You don’t need a DVD player in the home to run a good small group, but good resources like this are available, and are increasingly being released at lower cost.* Conversely, you don’t need to have read the book to use the DVD and the participant’s guide, but the book is probably one of the best and most thorough treatments on this subject. With small group season about to kick off; I give the book and DVD a five star rating.

~Paul Wilkinson

* Prayer DVD U.S. SRP is only $24.99 Each session begins with someone placing an envelope into a mail box, but when it comes to the one called “prayer problems” that deals with unanswered prayer, the letter becomes a thick package! Ain’t that the truth.

August 28, 2009

What Goes On Before and After Your Church Service?

Filed under: Church, worship — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:48 pm

I left this comment at the discussion at Internet Monk called “The Evangelical Liturgy,” a continuing analysis of the various elements that make up a church service.

I’m thinking that while the weekend service may be the hub around which the local church wheel revolves — except of course for that small handful of churches that are totally defined by what they do the rest of the week — you can also gauge much of their spirituality by watching what they do in the minutes that lead up to the call to worship and the minutes that follow the benediction.

“There’s nothing wrong with pre-service ‘fellowship’ if it’s true spiritual fellowship. Building depth and community through being invested in other peoples’ lives and allowing them to invest in yours. NOT discussing yesterday’s game, the weather or a new car purchase.

There’s nothing wrong with pre-service announcements if we see them as opportunities for greater service, building community, deeper teaching, or meeting needs. NOT ‘commercials’ for the agendas of different ministries or committees who also compete for who gets the brightest colored bulletin insert.

I’m not saying we should try to ’spiritualize’ everything we do in life, but I think we should try to intentionally spiritualize everything we do in church.”

Earn Dividends

August 27, 2009

It’s Not Your Circumstances, It’s How You Respond To Them

During the past year I have been directly responsible for a number of relational train wrecks involving myself and others.    While each of these is a story unto itself, beginning with something that I did not precipitate, I either responded in a way that was less than clear, or I responded out of anger and frustration.

Who ever said, “Don’t shop at the grocery store when you’re hungry,” could have equally said, “Don’t write e-mails when you’re angry.”

Furthermore, if I examine the situations analytically, often the person or organization met by my vent or rant is not the person or organization that has caused me to have a bad day, a bad week or a bad month.

As someone who has come through periods of physical illness, I have also discovered, sad to say, that I am a mellower person when I am also dealing with something that has left me broken or humbled or aware of weakness.   It’s when I’m feeling  “good” that I sometimes through caution to the wind and say things I shouldn’t.

Yesterday, I spoke with a former pastor who described to me the feeling of not having to care what people might think about a particular course of action.   While before some things might have mattered a great deal, now he simply doesn’t have to factor in the opinions of a church board, church staff, or church membership.

I can’t speak fully for him, but I know that lately I have simply “shut down” trying to build on interpersonal relationships.   While in a couple of cases I have been the one to seek reconciliation and restoration of the relationship, in several other cases I have found myself simply no longer caring what people think of me.   In fact, I think that lately some of my best “relationships” have been with people who don’t really know me at all; insofar as I have achieved a depth of mutual communication, empathy and understanding with people I’ve only met a short time before.

I want to “learn my lesson” in this department, but I have come to regard any relationship that I had over 90 days as just about to reach its “best before” date; I’ve come to almost expect that something will go wrong, relationally; and I’ve decided those relationships aren’t worth consideration because they’re probably minutes or hours from disintegration.   And I fully acknowledge that — without specific intention — it has often been entirely my fault.

Twenty-four hours ago, I returned from a long day at work — eight hours without even so much as a restroom break (too much information, I know) — and found a business e-mail waiting for me containing information that was contrary to what I thought we had committed to.   Because of past history with this company, I assumed this was just another in a long line of broken expectations.   So I typed a short, angry, over-the-top e-mail figuring, “Maybe, just maybe, this will get their attention.”

What I didn’t factor in was that the person I sent it to may not have been responsible at all for what happened.  I was simply building on the anger of some contact from previous in the week.   In fact, without going into details, in my mind I was being the ‘good guy’ in the broader exchange, as I was going along with his assumption that I would enter into a certain venture that I had previously indicated I would not.   So having jumped through their hoops, how could they possibly then mess it up on their end?

But I also didn’t factor in — though I was aware of it in our earlier e-mails at the start of the week — that this person has just come through a personal crisis dealing with the sudden loss of a family member.   He didn’t need the stress of my letter.

So now, in more specific terms, I must write an apology.   I’ll leave out the background analysis.   It doesn’t really matter.   What matters is hitting the “send” button before thinking it through more carefully.   What matters is that other people have feelings, too.   I’m sorry.

August 26, 2009

Link Land

I’ll keep these short and sweet so you have time to click on all of them!

  • Michael Spencer, aka Internet Monk is blogging through a series of analysis and commentary on the elements that make up an Evangelical church service.   No particular post link here, as you’ll have to scroll up and down to catch the entire series, The Evangelical Liturgy.   (But if you’re coming to this beyond early September ’09, then use this link to the first six posts.)
  • Christianity Today has done an interesting piece for women called What Not To Wear, advice for women in church leadership.    Apparently “Sally is too pretty to preach.”  (No, guys, there’s no pictures.)
  • Regent College professor John Stackhouse suggests that it might be to our advantage to stop the drive towards extinction of that endangered species known as the Christian bookstore.   The piece  is titled, Good Bookstores: If We Ignore Them, They’ll Go Away.
  • Congratulations to Denver-bound Jeff McQuilken at Losing My Religion on the occasion of 500 thought provoking blog posts.   Well, maybe not the anniversary one.   BTW, that blog title would make a great song title, don’t ya think?
  • Ben Bateman at Mankind Toons has picked up his pen or brush or whatever cartoonists use after a long break, and also launched a new website.    See below for a sample of his work.
  • Blogger Michael Kruse at Kruse Kronicle posts the 2013 Beloit College list, significant for me since I have one headed to college in a week.
  • If you ever endured Philosophy 101, you know all about Plato’s Cave aka Plato’s Cave Analogy.   Someone has done a short Claymation, which in turn has been posted at Clarion: Journal of Spirituality and Justice.
  • Worried about Fluffy and Fido after the rapture.   Here’s another service that will take care of them, for a fee that is, at Eternal Earthbound Pets.  But don’t worry any longer, because in an interview with Jayson Boyette, the atheist founder admits they have no intention of ever actually having to feed the cats and dogs.     Part One.   Interview Part Two.

Super Apostles - Mankind Toons

August 25, 2009

Reblogging The Best of August 2008

Filed under: blogging, quotations — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:46 pm

Here’s three short posts I ran around this time last year that I thought worth repeating. Summer reruns, I guess.

The Dangerous Act of Worship

“Our central lie is in the discrepancy between the language of worship and the actions of worship. We confess “Jesus is Lord” but only submit to the part of Christ’s authority that fits our grand personal designs, doesn’t cause pain, doesn’t disrupt the American dream, doesn’t draw us across ethnic and racial divisions, doesn’t add the pressure of too much guilt, doesn’t mean forgiving as we have been forgiven, doesn’t ask for more than a check to show compassion. We “sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” expressing our desire to know Jesus, but the Jesus we want to know is the sanitized Jesus that looks a lot like us when we think we are at our best. Despite God’s Word to the contrary, we think we can say that we love God and yet hate our neighbor, neglect the widow, forget the orphan, fail to visit the prisoner, ignore the oppressed. Its the sign of disordered love. When we do this, our worship becomes a lie to God.”


Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship: Living God’s Call to Justice (Downers Grove: IVP, 2007), 71 — h/t Andrew Hamilton blogging in Australia at

To all the hearts that have been broken,
To all the dreamers with abandoned dreams,
To everyone in need of a friend,
— You are loved, You are loved;
To the rebels wounded in battle
To all the rockers that have lost that beat
To all the users who are all used up now
— You are loved, You are loved.

~from the mid ’80s by Christian Rock band, THE ALTAR BOYS; this was running through my head this morning as I felt a hunger and desperation to know deeper the reality of God’s love for me as an individual; something that we all need to strive to be more aware of. His love for us is there and it is constant; it’s our perception of it that changes with circumstances and feelings.

I’m standing on the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She’s an object of beauty and strength and I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and the sky come down to mingle with each other. And then I hear someone at my side saying, “There, she’s gone.”
Gone where? Gone from my sight, that is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side. And just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of destination. Her diminished size is in me, not in her.
And just at the moment when someone at my side says, “There, she’s gone;” there are other eyes watching her coming, and there are other voices ready to take up the glad shout, “Here she comes!” And that is dying.

No, it’s not C. S. Lewis. Attributed to Henry Scott Holland or Henry Van Dyke, depending on who you ask.

August 24, 2009

Life Among The Lutherans: Garrison Keillor

“…So our family celebrated [the fourth of July], a day in one group of people split off from another group of people — it seemed like a happy thing to us — and we kept right on splitting off — we believed in the value of a good snit and walking out, slamming the door and never speaking to those people again.  Better yet, never speaking to them in the first place.  We were Sanctified Brethren, we believed that God had bestowed his truth on us and nobody else, and if you number had ever gotten above 12, we’d have found some way to break off with the others and form a new and purer group.  A church of, say, 3 people.  Two to procreate and one to watch and make sure they didn’t do it in an unscriptural way.”

GarrisonKeillorGarrison Keillor is an American humorist, author and the force behind “A Prairie Home Companion,” a permanent fixture of Saturday evenings in many U.S. homes as it broadcasts live, for two hours, on National Public Radio.   The show is a mix of music, poetry and radio drama, culminating with the monologue, which always begins, “It’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, my hometown.”

“…now even ice fishing, in all its sanity and silence, has been blighted by the curse of this century which is communications.  Never before have we learned so much we didn’t need to know from people we don’t like and can’t get rid of in media that has only one purpose, to sell, sell, sell, and which has been steadily encroaching and circling and crowding out whatever peace and quiet is left in the cosmos…”

Much of his writing has to do with life in middle America.  On the one hand, he laments the passing of simpler times, while on the other hand he highlights the ability of some communities to preserve a sense of that simpler past.

“…Our public reputations depend on the opinions of the uninformed.  Each one of us is a book reviewed by critics who only read the chapter headings and the jacket flap.  We’re all a mystery.  We should all respect each other on that basis.”

Garrison Keillor - LutheransLife Among the Lutherans is a collection of those monologues, going back as far as 1983, and featuring the particular essays that deal with the religious side of life in this fictitious Minnesota town.  When you consider that most of them do contain some mention the equally fictitious Lake Wobegon Lutheran Church, narrowing it down to 28 stories must have represented a rather difficult editing process.  The book is appropriately published by Augsburg, a leading Lutheran publishing house.

“The organ is the enemy of worship, as most Christians know.  Scripture says, ‘Be still and know that I am God.’  This is not the organist’s philosophy.  Organists despise stillness.  They’re sitting there with the organ equivalent of a 300 hp Ferrari and they want to put the pedal to the metal and make that baby fly.”

In the preface, Keillor admits he did not grow up as a Lutheran.   But he understands the people intimately, and he understands the role that the church(es) play in a small town.    We only hear of one other church in town, the Roman Catholic parish, Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility.

“…It’s not easy being a minister and preaching to your own family — sometimes it gives a Lutheran pastor real respect for the rule of celibacy over across town.  Preach on forgiveness and forbearance to a congregation that includes one woman with whom you’ve had some arguments you’d rather not remember, including one that isn’t over yet.”

Truth be told, the book deals in the superficialities of church life.   But that said, once you get past the meandering plots and colorful characterizations, the book is actually rich in deep theology.   People live and breathe and act the way they do because they are acting on certain beliefs and convictions.   Keillor confronts issues and ideas which, in a pluralistic, politically correct, mostly secular society, simply never come up in normal conversation.

“…The people divided over the question ‘will we recognize each other in Heaven or will our spiritual forms not have our earthly features?’  The clergy fought this out for two years, some arguing ‘Yes, of course we’ll know grandma there, and she will know us — the family was meant to be eternal,’ and other people saying ‘No, we will go on to a finer and better life there and if you think your face is anything God would allow in a place of perfect bliss, then you ought to take another look.'”

Garrison Keillor (2)But Keillor doesn’t always celebrate this particular church culture.   Every page consists of material that could represent hours and hours on an analyst’s couch.   In the second to last chapter, there is an outpouring of angst greater than the sum of the previous chapters, wherein Keillor seems to regret a religiously repressive past that made him lack adventure or lack confidence or lack certain kinds of experiences.    However, much of this may simply consist of looking at growing up in the mid-20th century through a 21st century lens.

“The honest truth is that most of these young people marry because they desperately want to have sex and be normal nice people…so two people sense each other’s interest and availability, and powerful forces come into play…and the mothers of the two of them exert their influence.   A candidate is brought in for inspection and goes home, and afterward the mother says, ‘Well, I thought he was nice.’  And the way she says, ‘I thought he was nice’ communicates the fact that the boy is a dolt, about as bright as a mud fence, and none of this has much to do with honesty.   It’s more about sheer hope — that if you love somebody, or try to, and try to do the right thing, somehow it’ll all work out over the long haul.   And you set out down the highway of marriage, trying to ignore the many vehicles you see overturned in the ditch.

Why is that some of the most tormented people seem to produce the most innovative and quirky humor?   With Christmas fast approaching, Life Among The Lutherans is a natural gift idea for someone who, like Keillor, enjoys some sentimental reminiscing.    But it should also be read by a younger generation, if only to see what they escaped.   Unless they happen to currently reside in Lake Wobegon, that is.

“Christmas is a holy day that the early church fathers invented because they were in competition with the Roman religion.  One thing Christianity lacked was a big feast and the Romans had one toward the end of December, Saturnalia, so the Christians established Christmas, sort of like one chain putting up a store right near its competitor.  It doesn’t have so much to do with Jesus as it does with business, and it’s been a big hit;  the number of people celebrating Saturnalia and offering sacrifices to the gods has really diminished.”

August 23, 2009

Currently Reading: Heaven and the Afterlife – Garlow

Filed under: books, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:15 pm
Heaven and the Afterlife – James L. Garlow

Heaven and the Afterlife - GarlowI’m about a third of the way through this one and will be doing a full review on it in later in the week.  My first reaction is that this book takes a more secular, more scientific approach to this topic than the book Heaven by Randy Alcorn, beginning with the whole NDE or near-death-experience phenomena.   (Admittedly, it was the abridged 50 Days of Heaven that I read.)   Thus, I see the possibility of giving this one as a gift to a non-churched friend who may not get into Alcorn’s “bible study” approach to the topic.   But remember, I’m only one-third in.

The only other major observation is that among many of the early NDE anecodotal stories, Garlow presents a few wherein the subject is not at all headed to a place of light and love — rather, the other direction — but is offered a last chance at salvation, while in some intermediate state between this life and the next.   Does this mean Garlow believes that ultimately, everyone is included in Christ’s finished work of the cross?

I guess I’ll have to keep reading.

Thinking Out Loud – Matters of Faith Because Faith Matters

August 22, 2009

Come and Get Your Healing

Today we were in the big city, where, if you lift your gaze above the retail shops at street level, you see the one-flight-up storefront churches, tucked in among the dance studios and offices of insurance adjusters and pool halls.

The one that caught my eye today had lettered on one window the words, “Come and Get Your Healing.”

I believe in healing.   I’m one of those people convinced that the gifts of the Holy Spirit did not cease at the end of the Apostolic age, including the gift of tongues.   (The real gift of tongues, not the people who are faking it.)   I believe in praying powerful prayers.   I believe in a limitless God who invites us to stretch our faith muscles to believe in limitless possibilities.  (Based on His resources, not our possibility-thinking things into existence.)

So my personal beliefs lean slightly in a more Charismatic direction, even if I find some of the forms excessive and find that identifying myself as part of the broader Charismatic movement places me in a category of people with whom I largely don’t identify.    (I keep meaning to read and review Rob MacAlpine’s book Post Charismatic here sometime, as I feel that term better describes me.)

church upstairsEven so, I find the lettered sign in the window of the walk-up storefront church a little distressing.   While church-planting is the rage and the home-church movement is producing little organic fellowships at a rapid rate, the nature of many of these small groups is such as to place them at the extreme fringes of the Evangelical mainstream, perhaps even the Charismatic mainstream itself.

How about a sign that says, “Come and discuss life issues related to the quest for meaning.”    Maybe the Alpha Course fills that void.   Or, “Come in for a look at the various religious belief systems available.”    Maybe the more cerebral, more intellectual, more ‘bookish’  members of our faith tribe just aren’t the kind of people to put first and last month’s rent down on a former ballet studio or fabric trade sweat shop.

But no, it’s “Come and Get Your Healing.”    Will these people get healed?   Will they get what they saw promised on the window sign?   Will they be asked to jump through a number of hoops before their healing manifests itself?

I’m also current wrestling with the question, “What if Jesus had never healed anyone?”    Certainly the healings demonstrated His divinity and it’s hard to imagine the gospels without them; though the power of His words also arrested men and women in their tracks.   But it would seem that a modern expression of the Christ-follower movement begun 2,000 years ago would contain the potential for healing.    And many who came to Jesus, attracted by the miracles He performed, stuck around and became part of the core group; while others were told to go back to their home communities and share what they had seen.

“Come and Get Your Healing.”

It just seems too simplistic.

How about, “Come and find acceptance.”   “Come and find forgiveness.”  “Come and find meaning to your life.”   “Come if you’ve been hurt.” “Come and meet Jesus.”   “Come and let us love you.”   “Come and help change the world.”

TODAY’S BONUS ITEM — On one my wife’s many blogs, she recounts the story of doing a ukulele performance this week for a group of developmentally challenged adults.   As a well-known local worship leader, this collection of songs represents her “alt-repertoire” which seemed highly suitable for the assembled audience.    Read her post here, and see why I say she is the better writer in the family.

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