Thinking Out Loud

September 30, 2016

When You’re Asked to Read the Scripture

Filed under: bible, Christianity, Church — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:25 am

scripture_readingNothing strikes terror in the hearts of churchgoers like being asked to do a scripture reading in a service, or even their small group. Some progressive, non-liturgical churches are trying things in the middle of the sermon which involve having the reader seated with a live microphone to jump into the middle of the sermon to read texts as requested by the speaker. (The change in voices might actually keep some from slipping into their Sunday slumber.)

Laypersons so asked to participate will often make a panic purchase of a resource  like How to Pronounce Bible Names only to find the pastor saying the names with completely different vowel sounds and syllable emphasis than what they read to the congregation moments earlier.

And then there’s always the critical question, “What should I wear?” This usually transcends any consideration of the words being uttered.

Talking about this on the weekend however, we decided that what is usually lacking in these moments is passion. It’s not that the participant is unsaved or involved in gross sins. Rather, they just haven’t taken the time to examine the text and draw out its key elements in spoken form.

I loved the way a reader described this in comment to a piece we did years ago, A New Way to Meditate on Scripture, where he redefined this study process as: “…like walking down a highway that you drove on every day. Longer to look, to feel, to think about.”

So let’s cut to the how-to. Here’s how to slow down on the highway and consider the text so you that can read it with passion.

Photocopy or hand-write the verses you have been asked to read. Then go through and place EMPHASIS on the KEY WORDS you want to draw out. You can do this with:

  • underlining
  • capital letters
  • bold-face type (or retracing handwritten words)
  • highlighting in yellow

In other words, whatever works for you; one, some or all of the above. This is what newsreaders on Top 40 radio stations would do to keep music listeners from tuning out during the newscast. Punch it out a little! Sell it! Make it sing! (Unless of course you’re reading from Lamentations.) 

Drawing out the text can also mean critical pauses. If the Psalmist asks a question, be sure to raise your voice at the end. If the verse in Romans says, “May it never be!” say that as you would say it to someone in your own interactions.

In other words, short of doing a dramatic reading — which you probably were not asked to — communicate some of the fire and intensity in the passage.

Because, all scripture is God-breathed.   

…There are two sides to everything, and of course public speaking/reading is not everyone’s talent. It’s important that giftedness determine areas of service. Thus the right people need to be asked. However, it’s important that the church not have a short list of the usual suspects. New people should be brought on to the team. That may involve some experimentation and a week where things aren’t ideal.

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:

July 28, 2016

New Men’s NIV Bible Acts as Spiritual Mythbuster

In the world of Bible marketing, a men’s Bible doesn’t make a splash as do similar products for women, which may be why I was completely unaware of last September’s release of the NIV Bible for Men. Perhaps you missed it as well, which is unfortunate when you consider there is probably a guy in your sphere of influence who would benefit greatly from this edition.

NIV Bible for MenA few things stand out.

First, they carefully avoided the word devotional in the title on this one, but like the Men’s Devotional Bible, there are 260 weekday readings and a single reading for weekends. The placement of these readings is next to adjacent text and there are prompts as to where to go for the subsequent reading which means you could use this as a one-year reading program, but the passages would be of varying length.

Second, they incorporated many newer church leaders and writers for this product. Much of that was probably the influence of Jeff Goins, whose name readers here may recognize; in fact any awareness of Christian social media means the names of contributors here will create instant recognition; and it also means this is a Bible edition you can confidently place in the hands of younger readers. Some names include:

  • Chris Seay
  • Tony Morgan
  • Matt Chandler
  • Joshua Harris
  • Tim Challies
  • Shane Claiborne
  • Jarrett Stevens
  • Bill Johnson
  • Jeff Manion
  • Pete Wilson
  • Bob Goff
  • Ted Kluck
  • Eric Metaxas
  • Craig Groeschel
  • Joel Rosenberg
  • Andrew Farley
  • John Ortberg
  • David Kinnaman
  • Jeremy Myers
  • Ravi Zacharias

and many, many more. (Interestingly, annotations are keyed to the Kindle editions of many of these, an acknowledgement perhaps that guys do much of their other reading on devices.)

Third and finally, there are the weekend readings. Set out as Myths, the series of 52 two-page articles cover ideas that are common in society and sometimes even found within the church, such as:

  • It’s possible to get something for nothing
  • Sexual thoughts are harmless
  • The purpose of the church is to meet my needs
  • Image is everything
  • This world is all there is
  • Christians are guaranteed health, wealth and a stress-free life

and some of these will resonate with some guys more than others. Generally, I found this approach more topical than is usually found within the pages of a Bible, but the second page — the response — drives you back into scripture. Some guys will want the extra day to cover the material in these weekend readings.

A subject index at the back is extremely helpful for returning to previous topics.

I hope this Bible is doing well as anything which plunges guys into scripture is a resource that needs to be celebrated. Is there a young man you can think of who might appreciate this?

Note: The Myth section readings appeared previously in Manual: The NIV Bible for Men, published in 2009.

Thanks to Mark at HarperCollins Christian Publishing Canada for an opportunity to have a closer look at this product many months after its release date.

ISBN 9780310409625; 1,684 pages; hardcover; black-letter, double-column format; $34.99 US

June 4, 2016

Evangelical Relics: The Bible on View-Master®

View Master Bible StoriesI don’t know if my parents purchased them or if my grandparents bought them, but somewhere in the house we have a few Bible stories on View-Master®. Sometimes images from your childhood will appear for no good reason, and for me, a few days ago, it was the scene where the head of John the Baptist is brought to Herodias’ daughter on a platter. Wikipedia explains:

According to Mark 6:21-29 a daughter of Herodias danced before Herod and her mother Herodias at the occasion of his birthday, and in doing so gave her mother the opportunity to obtain the head of John the Baptist. Even though the New Testament accounts do not mention a name for the girl, this daughter of Herodias is often identified with Salome. According to Mark’s gospel Herodias bore a grudge against John for stating that Herod’s marriage to her was unlawful; she encouraged her daughter to demand that John be executed.

If you don’t know the story, Mark 6 (NLT) records it:

17 For Herod had sent soldiers to arrest and imprison John as a favor to Herodias. She had been his brother Philip’s wife, but Herod had married her. 18 John had been telling Herod, “It is against God’s law for you to marry your brother’s wife.” 19 So Herodias bore a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But without Herod’s approval she was powerless, 20 for Herod respected John; and knowing that he was a good and holy man, he protected him. Herod was greatly disturbed whenever he talked with John, but even so, he liked to listen to him.

21 Herodias’s chance finally came on Herod’s birthday. He gave a party for his high government officials, army officers, and the leading citizens of Galilee. 22 Then his daughter, also named Herodias, came in and performed a dance that greatly pleased Herod and his guests. “Ask me for anything you like,” the king said to the girl, “and I will give it to you.” 23 He even vowed, “I will give you whatever you ask, up to half my kingdom!”

24 She went out and asked her mother, “What should I ask for?”

Her mother told her, “Ask for the head of John the Baptist!”

25 So the girl hurried back to the king and told him, “I want the head of John the Baptist, right now, on a tray!”

26 Then the king deeply regretted what he had said; but because of the vows he had made in front of his guests, he couldn’t refuse her. 27 So he immediately sent an executioner to the prison to cut off John’s head and bring it to him. The soldier beheaded John in the prison, 28 brought his head on a tray, and gave it to the girl, who took it to her mother. 29 When John’s disciples heard what had happened, they came to get his body and buried it in a tomb.

Anyway, the image flashed into my brain this week for some reason, and I looked for it online this morning, but it’s probably just as well I didn’t locate it.

“Why did you buy that one?” I asked my mom on Thursday.

She remembered the product but didn’t recall the purchase, which leads me to believe it was my grandparents. Despite the rather gruesome image — here’s one to give you the idea — I wasn’t traumatized, I do have a healthy relationship with the New Testament today, but I don’t advise this story be told or illustrated if you kids under a certain age.

View-Master Herod Kills John the Baptist


May 10, 2016

The Bible Project: An Overview of the Book of Joshua

Last night I discovered that although we very briefly alluded to The Bible Project in one of the link lists, we haven’t really said much about it. So today, we solve the problem by giving you a sample of what it’s all about. A video is worth a thousand words, right?

The Bible Project is the work of Dr. Timothy Mackie. You can learn more about him by listening to an episode of the Deconstructionists Podcast as well as at or by going to directly to (or subscribing to) their YouTube channel.

So without further introduction here’s a look at Joshua. (We’re also posting Joel later today at Christianity 201.) If you’re like me, you’ll wish this type of resource had existed a long, long time ago. New videos are being uploaded rapidly, so stay tuned.



February 14, 2016

‘Edgy’ Bible Translations Often Overlooked

The classic New Testament edition of The Good News Bible

The classic New Testament edition of The Good News Bible; got one of these at home?

When we think of Bible translations that were considered ‘fresh’ or even ‘radical’ in the last couple of generations there are usually three that come to mind:

  • The Living Bible
  • The Message
  • The Voice

Each of these resonated with readers who were looking for a unique or fresh take on familiar words, and The Living Bible was ‘renovated’ years later to become the NLT.

However, in the last ten days or so, I have been reminded through various sources that it is too easy to overlook two translations done by the American Bible Society:

  • Good News Bible aka GNT aka Today’s English Version (TEV) aka Good News for Modern Man
  • Contemporary English Version aka CEV

(The CEV should not be confused with the CEB, the recently-released Common English Bible.)

If you’re scanning, it’s a good idea to check out how the verse or passage in question is rendered in these two versions. A warning though, sometimes we think a verse says something and then we try to find a translation that says what we want it to say. This is where having multiple translations can help us have greater clarity of meaning.

This week I’ve found both the GNT and CEV to be exactly what I needed with a particular reference. Each is its own version — the CEV wasn’t an update to the Good News as some of us believed at the time — with the CEV having the lower (easier) reading level.

And… if you have a bent for philanthropy don’t forget to support the work of The Bible Society in your country.

Our goal in sharing scripture is not to make the Bible relevant, but to communicate the relevance it already has.


February 5, 2016

“Treat Your Bible With Respect” vs. the Bible Journaling Trend

I’m not saying I don’t like this. Quite the opposite. I think it would cause me to be spending more time focusing on (i.e. meditating on) the words on the page. I’m just saying I think a lot of grandmothers are rolling over in their graves right now and a few retired Sunday School teachers are freaking out.

Bible Journaling 1

Bible Journaling 2

Bible Journaling 3

Bible Journaling 4

What do you think? There was another image I wanted to include here but there was a weird technical glitch each time I tried, and I couldn’t get the # of pixels to reduce using my usual tricks. For the record, available texts at the moment seem to be NIV and ESV. Many of the images I found on line were Mommy Bloggers who would fit the stereotypical Calvinist and ESV mindset. [Warning: Don’t take the bait on that last sentence… just quietly walk away.]

This is an interesting trend to be sure. It definitely is a women’s thing, though I’m sure some guys are doing it as well. The last picture above looks like the person had some graphic art training. And I’m sure there will be critics who hate anything new. [Internet trolls: This is your moment!] I just wonder what it says about our Bibles and how we interact with them. Ideas?

January 2, 2016

It’s Not Just a Story – Part Two

"Jonah Leaving the Whale" by Jan Brueghel the Elder, 1600. Do our children treat the story as a record of a true event or do they mentally classify it with Jack and the Beanstock?

“Jonah Leaving the Whale” by Jan Brueghel the Elder, 1600. Do our children treat the story as a record of a true event or do they mentally classify it as fable, along with Jack and the Beanstock?

I didn’t set out planning a second part to Friday’s post here, but Bruce Allen put so much thought into his comment, I decided we needed to share it more visibly. This is a response to part one, however, so if you haven’t read that, click this link. He lives in Nova Scotia and owns and operates Time Zone Media which does communications work for a variety of ministry organizations and businesses.

••• Guest post by Bruce Allen •••

In our English-language-world, words come and go and even reverse their meanings, such as “wicked” which meant “wonderful” for at least a few years. There is a long list of English words reversed meanings or held captive. People who blow themselves up in crimes against humanity are called martyrs by their fellow zealots and the news media picks it up and repeats the word until the general population accepts the new definition: Martyrs are cold-blooded killers rather than those murdered. Older English speaking Christians may sort out those “reversed meaning” words but what about a younger generation that stares blankly at their cell phones while texting and doing “selfies?” How should Bible translators deal with a language in flux? Is a “wicked” king now an “awesome” king rather than an evil king?

When the time arrived for Christian leaders to jettison words from earlier eras, there was a lot of brain-storming by Bible orality ministries to figure out what would replace “Bible story.” For my work with the words Bible and Bible stories, I came up with Bible chronicles.

Dictionary: Chronicle – noun, a chronological record of events; a history.

Wow! History, events, and accounts all sounded serious enough words to be Christian so I bought the Bible Chronicles web address and launched my Bible story word revolution with positive vibes.

After using Bible chronicles for several years, I discovered that fellow believers could never remember our web address: . Whenever I felt duty-bound to tell church goers that “Bible story” didn’t cut it in today’s changing world, they fretted and worried. After tiring of explaining, I abandoned the revolution and returned to using Bible stories.

When a word like story is so embedded in a language, it is difficult to suddenly abandon it for other words, especially when the general population is unaware of the Christian world of words and their meanings. As far as teaching our own children, maybe we could begin with not telling them that Santa is real. If Santa knows that we are naughty or nice, who needs God? And what about the Easter bunny and a host of other fables? Do we set our kids up to think we never tell the truth?

Whatever we parents are, our kids become. It may not be so obvious during the teen years, but give it a decade and they become like mom and dad. If they come to understand that we parents truly love them and that we love Jesus and believe his words, we are on solid ground.

Of course we need to teach by the example of lived day to day. We also need to teach them from the Bible and about the Bible. If we see on TV that ISIS just took sledgehammers to Jonah’s tomb in Nineveh, that is a good historical lesson. Who would put a tomb there if there were no Jonah?

Christian kids need to be taught by parents that the world of Christians and Jews is rooted firmly in history – and with the war in Syria and Iraq, history is right in front of our biblical noses. Recently, tens of thousands of Christians have been driven from the city of Mosul and the Nineveh plain by the ISIS murderers. Why not find out about those ancient Christian churches and why they celebrate the Jonah fast? Why not tell the story of those Christians and then read the Biblical account to anyone who will listen – including our children? We have the best stories ever – they are in the Bible and they are true.

From Wikipedia:

Nineveh’s repentance and salvation from evil is noted in the Christian biblical canon’s Gospel of Matthew (12:41) and the Gospel of Luke (11:32). To this day, oriental churches of the Middle East commemorate the three days Jonah spent inside the fish during the Fast of Nineveh. The Christians observing this holiday fast by refraining from food and drinks. Churches encourage followers to refrain from meat, fish and dairy products.

Here is a video of ISIS smashing the tomb of Jonah. Scroll down the page to view it. 

Bruce Allen is a Christian communications consultant to ministries using solar audio Bibles to reach an estimated 3 billion people who cannot read God’s written Word. He is also a software developer who has created ToucanChat for ministries and businesses. A simple installation of Toucan Chat helps ministry workers connect with visitors on their website in real time. Bruce’s personal opinion in the “Bible story” article is his own and does not reflect the views of any particular ministry. 

Stephen Rue, Jonah in the Whale, oil on canvas, 26.25″x25″, 2006. Say what you will about Jonah, packing the waterproof matches was good foresight.

Stephen Rue, Jonah in the Whale, oil on canvas, 26.25″x25″, 2006. Say what you will about Jonah, packing the waterproof matches was good foresight.




December 31, 2015

It’s Not Just a Story

Is the story of Balaam and his donkey something that actually happened or just a story the Bible tells to make another point? It's possible to accept it as something that happened, but be sending your kids a completely opposite message through your choice of words. Image: Source

Is the story of Balaam and his talking donkey something that actually happened or just a story the Biblical writer tells to make another point? It’s possible to accept it as rooted in genuine events, but be sending your kids a completely opposite message through your choice of words. Image: Source

Several weeks ago I attended a Saturday morning breakfast organized as part of a national initiative, the Canadian Christian Business Federation. They are currently operating in six provinces here, and this was my second time at the local chapter.

Some of the best interactions in situations like this happen outside the boundaries of what was formally organized. It turned out that the person sitting next to me at breakfast was from Florida, where he is part of a Creation Science ministry.

We met up later in the morning at the Christian bookstore, and he was looking at Children’s products. I started talking about some of my recent conversations with parents on how as kids, we learn the ways of God through narratives. Adam and Eve. David and Goliath. Jonah and the large fish. Joshua and the Wall of Jericho. Three men in the fiery furnace.

At one point, I used the word story to describe these, and at that point he corrected me, and it’s a correction I’ve been very consciously aware of over the past few weeks. Better, he suggested to use the word account.

The problem with story is that in some peoples’ minds it is synonymous with tale or myth. Now, I realize as I write this, that there are some people — even among readers here — who do in fact see some of these as allegorical tales. Especially the creation narrative with which he works so closely. I suppose we need to save that one for another day.

I also realize that the New Testament in particular is full of parable. There wasn’t ever a lost sheep, a lost coin and a lost son; right? Or had this played out somewhere? Were there several prodigal sons? Or is the parable an amalgam of things that have actually happened at different times in different places?

There’s even a classic Old Testament parable, told by Nathan, that we could call The Farmer and the Lamb.

So how do little children — who are being taught things that are myths and tales in their English classes — separate fact from fiction? Can a Christian kid say categorically that there was a David, a Jonah, a Joshua? Or are they just reading these things as literature?

Much of our attention in the church at large is currently focused on establishing the authority of the New Testament gospels. We know the disciples were willing to die for what they believed; what they had heard and seen with their own eyes and ears, or the testimony of witnesses they considered to be reliable.

But what about the authority of the Old Testament historical books?  Are the children in our sphere of influence as confident in the story account of the three men in the fiery furnace, or in their minds, is it in the same class as the one about Goldilocks and the three bears?

By better controlling our use of language, and especially thinking in terms of scriptural accounts we are testifying to the verity of the people and situations described.



December 20, 2015

New Bible Edition Highlights O.T. Christological Passages in Blue

Filed under: bible, books — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:41 am
Page sample of NLT Jesus Centered Bible. Print bleed through from previous page is at no extra charge.

Page sample of NLT Jesus Centered Bible. Print bleed through from previous page is at no extra charge.

With The Jesus Storybook Bible providing children with insights as to how the Old Testament narratives point toward the coming of Jesus — so popular it necessitated the recently released adult version, The Story of God’s Love For You — it was inevitable that someone would pursue this at a deeper level looking at the entirety of the O.T. text, not just selected stories.

While I don’t have a relationship with Group Publishing that I do with other publishers — they did not supply a review copy — I had a rather cursory look at this edition of the New Living Translation on the weekend, and was reminded of this again watching the preview video which pastor Bruxy Cavey at The Meeting House in Greater Toronto included in the middle of a Sunday sermon two weeks ago. (Link is to full sermon, click the video below to source.)

The printing of key texts in blue letters — highlighting more than 600 passages in the Old Testament pointing to Jesus — is mentioned in the video almost as an afterthought, and I thought they could have done a better job of showing page samples, but for what it’s worth, here’s the trailer.

Learn more at this link to Group Publishing.

Published: September, 2015 1410 pages
Translation: NLT
Hardcover 978147073404 $24.99 US
Turquoise Imit. 9781470722159 $34.99 US
Slate Imit. 9781470726881 $34.99 US
Related youth ministry resources also available; though the Bible itself is not, strictly speaking, a youth-only product.

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