Thinking Out Loud

June 24, 2017

Speaking in Tongues (Part Two)

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:15 am

It’s a quiet day around here. I probably lost a few subscribers with what I posted yesterday. But it happened. It’s part of my past. I spoke in tongues. Or, if you’re not sure about all this, ‘He thinks he did.’

By calling myself a post-Charismatic — I still use Evangelical as a primary descriptive despite its liabilities — I’m saying that my Evangelicalism is product of a particular movement but one with which I no longer identified.

Why not?

I guess my issue is the excesses of that movement. When John and Elizabeth Sherril wrote They Speak With Other Tongues, they were describing something new and wonderful that was taking place in unexpected places. God used the Roman Catholics and the Anglicans to teach us about the limitless work of His Spirit. Miracles and prophecy and words of knowledge weren’t new to the Assemblies of God folks. Their movement started in the first decade of the 1900s. What took place in the 1970s was new to us.

So where did my journey take me next? The logical place would have been to hang out with the like-minded. A Pentecostal Church. A Charismatic Church. But after staying in my church about a year later, my longing-for-something-more took me to a… wait for it…

…Baptist Church.

This one was known for the excellence of its pastor’s preaching ministry. Well researched. Well delivered. Very applicable. And for a year I holed up there, not going to any social functions or midweek events or youth meetings or potluck dinners. Just Sunday mornings with my Bible and notebook open, drinking it all in.

Forgive this over-simplification, but at that point I had spirit and now I needed word. Despite spending my spiritually formative years in what was at the time Canada’s only megachurch, and being exposed to North America’s top speakers, I think for the first time I understood what would be come a passion for great preaching. And you don’t have to have a nationally renown pastor to get that. It can take place — and definitely does take place — in any church in any size city, town or village.

I did continue to connect with the growing Charismatic movement, but usually at other times and places. I am grateful for both. Someone put it this way:

Too much of the word and not enough of the spirit, you dry up.
Too much of the Spirit and not enough of the word you blow up.
A balance of both and you grow up.

My one need met simply exposed another need not met.

Of course the story continues, but we’ll catch up with that another time under a different headline.

June 23, 2017

Speaking in Tongues (Part One)

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:05 am

Myself and a friend had traveled all through the night in his bright red AMC Pacer after visiting with some newfound friends in Pittsburgh following a large outdoor Christian festival north of the city. Our destination was CBN, home of The 700 Club, back at a time when Pat Robertson’s name was held in higher regard than at present.

There was something there that was not present in our church, and we were determined to find out what it was, bottle it up, and take it home with us.

CBN of that day was not the present facility, but a less imposing Channel 27 studio on Spratley Street in Portsmouth. We were met at 5:30 PM at the door by an off-duty policewoman in uniform, who showed us around every inch of the offices and studio and introduced us to “Pops” who functioned as a security guard. “Pops” proceeded to play some hymns for us by inducing variable pitch feedback on his hearing aid. This would be deafening for most of us, but if your hearing’s shot, it’s shot; so he had nothing to lose.

Our tour guard, who also volunteered as a counselor asked us if we came from a “Full Gospel” church. My friend quickly informed her that our church preached the gospel.

I tried to gently amend our answer, saying “I don’t think that’s what she means.”

She tried again, “Does your church teach the Baptism of the Holy Spirit?”

I informed her that it did not and that we’d seen some things on the program that were somewhat foreign to our typical church experience.

Then she asked, “Would you like to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit?”

To which I replied, “I think that’s why we’re here.”

In fairness, there may have been a qualifying question as to basic salvation, but it’s the above conversation that I remember.

Let me say at this point that while my answer may have sounded confident, I did approach all this with a certain amount of fear and trepidation. I wasn’t sure what we were getting into, even though I’d done some reading.

My biggest fear was the whole slain-in-the-Spirit thing. This was around the time Benny Hinn had started his original meetings back home in Toronto, so this type of thing was not unheard of. I had always pictured my head splitting open on hitting the floor and figured it best not to do that voluntarily. But she had another plan.

She told us to begin to focus on God and who He is and to worship him audibly. I did as I was told. She said to then begin to let syllables form on the tongue and just let them come out. ‘Surely I’m just making this up’ I thought. But my pre-Pentecostal mind had already begun to formulate the idea of tongues as a bypassing of the intellect so I figured I was on safe ground. I can still remember some of the phonetic nature of what I was saying and I could attempt to reproduce that here in writing, but we’ll simply skip that part. To you it might sound like gibberish.

“Now,” she said, “I’m going to lay you out.”

I’ll never forget that wording. I’m not sure if I had been standing or kneeling to that point but very gently and without injury I found myself lying on the floor. I felt like I was being obedient to something that God wanted. But it didn’t seem especially supernatural.

This was back in a time before BankAmericard (now known as VISA) or MasterCharge (now known as MasterCard) so we were traveling paying for things with American Express Traveler’s Checks. I remember at one point placing my hand over my front pocket to verify that they were still there, the way men often reach over a pocket to verify they have their wallet. In other words, I wasn’t off in some distant astral plane. I was calm, awake, aware, rational, and trying to tell God I loved Him while seemingly nonsense syllables were pouring out of my mouth. In other words, maybe this wasn’t such a big deal. Perhaps I was making the whole thing up.

We thanked our uniformed counselor and proceeded to find a motel for the night, returning the next day to watch a broadcast of the show. Because of my interest in television production, I got to watch from the control room, while my friend arranged for an audience seat next to ‘Moose Smith and The 700 Club Band.”

We drove back talking about all types of things, making notes, looking up scriptures, and determined to bring the things we had bottled up back to our friends at our home church in Canada.

Three days later, we would share our story at a large Tuesday night interdenominational Bible study that met in a home. As I was getting ready to leave, the phone rang. It was my friend. He wasn’t going to be there. He had to pack and make travel arrangements as he was leaving in 48 hours for South Africa to do a six-month tour with an international music group that had its roots in Oral Roberts University. He had a call waiting when he got home, and despite being very young, on learning another musician friend was going to do the trip, he had said yes.

So much for bringing change to our home church. Didn’t Jesus send the disciples two-by-two? I thought we were a two but now he was leaving for Africa with another friend, creating a different two. I started to tear up, but remembering all we had learned at the music festival, decided it was better in the long run to rejoice with those who were rejoicing, so I thanked God for this new circumstances and opened my mouth, and some strange syllables came out.

The same syllables.

Up to that point, I would have challenged the validity of my experience in Virginia. This time, the circumstances were different and for me, that three-days-later experience was a confirmation that what I had experienced was not entirely of my own manufacture. I know there are people who read my blog who will want to analyze this and tell me that it was all borne of emotion — there’s a reason it’s taken me nine years to share this story on the blog — but I know the viability of what took place.

…It’s been a long time since I last spoke in tongues, but while I consider myself a post-Charismatic today, I do so recognizing the things I gained from being part of that movement. I am not a cessationist. I believe God is working in the lives of people in unusual and supernatural ways. Aren’t they all just making it up? Some are. But you can’t have a counterfeit $20 bill unless there’s a real $20 bill in existence. There is a genuine experience of worship, obedience and the Holy Spirit that is tied up in this thing called speaking in tongues. I don’t believe it’s the only possible evidence that God is at work in someone’s life, but it’s definitely one of a number of possibilities.

 

 

June 22, 2017

Christian Leaders Have Feelings, Too

Have you ever received a letter or an email where you could acutely feel the pain of the person writing? It happened to me about a week ago, and not for the usual reasons that people experience hurt. This person had unexpectedly come out on the wrong side of a business dealing some other Christians. Though the letter wasn’t written particularly to evoke an emotional response, but it really affected me and has stayed with me throughout the week.

Interestingly, if I am to be perfectly honest I don’t particularly like this person. Circumstances necessitate a relationship that would not exist otherwise. Really, that’s how it is in the body of Christ. Look around your church on Sunday morning and ask yourself how likely you would otherwise be to interact with this set of people. Would you have another context to make their acquaintance? Would the ones you count as friends have ended up so through some other means?

Meanwhile, all’s fair in love and business, right? Tough luck. Easy come, easy go.

Ruminating on this continually however, I’ve been reminded that people in Christian leadership are not immune to hurt and pain. Years ago I was at a crossroads where I could have gone into pastoral ministry. “Don’t do it;” a mentor advised; “You’re not thick-skinned enough.”

But who is thick-skinned enough? We’re human. We bleed. Electing to choose a ministry that must be, by definition, compassionate means that pastors may be more sensitive than many of us. We all have different degrees of sensitivity, but I think pastors bear the biggest brunt of this. They are particularly vulnerable on Sundays, especially right after the sermon. If you want to bring someone down a notch or two, that’s the perfect time. As an aspiring Bible teacher, I had just finished a Sunday morning sermon at a Christian conference center that was transitioning into a summer camp; so adults from offsite were still in the habit of driving there for services. I don’t remember the topic, but I felt it had gone reasonably well until the director called me into his office immediately after.

“You really think you’re hot stuff, don’t you?”

I stood there not quite sure how to respond. It turned out later that there was a enormous political power struggle going on in this organization, and he didn’t want me feeling in any way empowered.  The rest of that conversation is a bit of a blur.

Christian leaders have feelings. Some no doubt pursue ministry not realizing the emotional price they will have to pay. This undoubtedly leads to the rather high attrition rate in this profession. But heads of missions, parachurch organizations and other Christian charities could be included in this, as well as lay-leaders who may have a role in the life the church which is quite a contrast to their primary vocation.

It’s important for the rest of us to bear that in mind.

Don’t cause hurt. If you need to confront an individual, do it lovingly. If you think something needs to be done differently, make a suggestion, not an order. If you feel someone is going astray, scripture tells us to lead them gently back.

Watch for leaders who are hurting. They’re all around you. In the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee, you can be a pastor’s pastor. They need to talk, too. Remember them in prayer.

Rebuke the person who causes hurt. If you know someone who loves to stir the pot, who loves to be ‘Brother Sandpaper,’ pull them aside and remind them that the Christian leader in question is human just like them.

Bear your own hurts well. If you’ve continued reading this far, perhaps you have some leadership role in the church and need to expect at sometime to have to manage the emotions which arise when the inevitable attack happens, because it probably will.

Make love your rule of life.

 

June 21, 2017

Wednesday Link List

I keep thinking the title of this game implies that it focuses more on the edgy, racier stuff in the Bible.

As of 12:24 this morning, it’s officially summer in the Northern Hemisphere. Welcome to WLL #364. I guess you know what that means? Right. Next week is WLL #365.

See y’all next week!

 


*Referenced in the links this week: Australia’s Hot 25 Countdown. An Aussie equivalent to 20 The Countdown Magazine.

 

June 20, 2017

Christian Television from the Other Side

Filed under: Christianity, media, ministry — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:09 am

Forty years ago, I was getting up daily at 5:30 so I could down a quick breakfast, catch a 6:00 AM Toronto bus to the subway, and by 7:00 be on the set of 100 Huntley Street, North America’s longest running daily Christian talk show, plugging in microphones and doing all the things for which an audio technician is responsible. I worked for the production company, Crossroads Christian Communications for a grand total of only five months before getting caught in the middle of a situation where a former friend, also gifted in audio, arranged for his mother to make a large donation so that he could basically steal my job. I was moved over to another area — the music department — where I would love to have stayed for a lifetime, but for the fact they already had a music director and after a couple of months of growth, the organization staged what would be the first of many job cuts.

Last week 100 Huntley Street had its 40th anniversary. In all of their various celebrations, I have never once been asked to be among the former staff invited to the party. I guess I wasn’t there long enough.

I do have a story to tell. It’s a shared story, one highlight of which is being a part of that miracle morning where the first show went to air on the Global Television Network. We all stayed overnight, but there wasn’t much I could do with a studio that wasn’t ready, given that the audio system is applied only after the set is completely dressed and much of the lighting work is done. I would say that by 5:30 AM we did not have a working studio. By 9:30 we were on the air. It was a 90-minute show back then. Today it’s 30 minutes.

My other memory is approaching the host and senior producer — a husband and wife team — and asking if an upcoming music guest could be given a block of time instead of the usual spacing out of songs at various points in the script. They agreed, and what happened when Keith Green started ministering to people on the program was unforgettable.

Today, Christian television is not in high regard in several quarters, including among the evangelicals who were responsible for its growth. The format has been exploited for profit and for ego, and there are too many people out there creating a fragmented viewership. Contemporary Christian Music gets a somewhat negative attitude from many as well. I find it interesting that the two vehicles — the two media you could say — that God used so powerfully in my life are now looked down upon by so many. 

From the other side, the inside, I can say that to the extent I knew the hearts of my co-workers, the desire to produce an excellent program each day and the desire to see the message of Jesus go out over the air was first and foremost. I know there is much skepticism about this today and I’m sure there are those simply in it for the paycheck, but at that time, the young skeleton crew and office staff with whom I worked were forging something new, something vital, something that was all the motivation anyone needed.

While a university student, my goal was to work in Christian television. An opportunity in Virginia to study at CBN University fell through because, in order to achieve accreditation, the school couldn’t accept foreign students in its first year. I looked at studying journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa, but in this country, the feeling is that working journalists should be fluent in both official languages. After four years of college, suddenly people were probing into my high school marks in French, which were not great. That left a journalism program in British Columbia which was further than I wanted to travel at that stage of life.

And then along came 100 Huntley Street. I walked out of a set of exams right into a job doing the thing I wanted to do, but was caught in a series of circumstances — a major equipment failure on air being one — over which I had no control, but still took the blame. I didn’t know the power of arrangement back then or I would fought harder to keep my job, stood up for myself, and exposed the politics of the organization whereby a large donation by a relative ensured someone getting a job. I was young. They were inexperienced in managing a large enterprise.

However, all that said, I believe God had other plans for me and that having fulfilled my dream, however briefly, he wanted me to move on and do other things. A couple of decades later I began to see how the various pieces of the puzzle of my life were starting to fit together to form something useful, though in all the intervening years, an actual title, desk, office or salary have proved unattainable. I relate to the missionaries who serve for an entire career and then have nothing material to show for it. I often wonder what a lifetime at Huntley Street would have looked like.

I do congratulate the people at Crossroads Christian Communications. In the last few years the daily program has been rebuilt and restructured and I believe is something its former critics can actually enjoy watching. It’s the sixth longest running television program in the world of any genre, not just talk shows; and every weekday morning the production staff and on air guests walk into that studio and by 9:30 AM, the miracle I experienced 40 years ago is in many ways repeated.

 

June 19, 2017

Two by Two, Door to Door

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:42 am

Winston was deep into a dream about a summer camp he attended as a child, when he was awakened by the doorbell. The alarm clock said exactly 9:00 AM. He grabbed his dressing gown and thought the camp might be fun to track down when he retired in five months.

Looking through the security peephole on the door he saw a nicely dressed young man and woman. He grunted but decided to be partially polite.

“You know, Saturday and Sunday are my only days to sleep in and Saturday didn’t work out well. “

“We’re sorry,” said the woman, “We’re — “

“I know, Mormons.”

The young man took over at this point. “No actually we’re — “

“Jehovah’s Witnesses?”

“No we’re not from any — “

“You can’t be Baptists; it’s Sunday, they’re all in church.”

“No, we’re heathens.”

Winston blinked and just stared at them without comment.

The young woman took over again, “No we figured if all those groups could go door-to-door we could as well. Have you ever considered the possibility of living guilt free?”

“You don’t have rules?”

“No.”

“You don’t have sin?”

“No.”

“How often do you meet?”

“We don’t.”

“How do I join?”

“There isn’t really anything to join, although there are groups of pagans that are similar in some ways who do some things together. You just have to decide you’re all in.”

“Okay;” Winston worked really hard to formulate this question as he was still a bit sleeppy; “The thing I don’t get is, you come here and knock on my door at the ungodly hour of 9:00 AM on a Sunday — hope you caught the ungodly thing, I did that just for you — and you’re inviting me to join something completely unorganized; so what’s in it for you?”

“Well,” said the young man, “We –“

“Are you getting paid?”

“No.”

“Is this for some hidden camera thing on YouTube?”

“No, it’s — “

“Do you get personal satisfaction out of getting people to declare themselves disconnected from any form of religion?”

“Well, it’s more like — “

“I want to hear this. I’ve lived in the same house for 45 years. Nobody like you ever came to the door before. I want to know why heathens are suddenly evangelizing.”

to be continued … perhaps

 

 

June 18, 2017

The Rainy Season

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:20 am

Whenever I would visit Southern California, even though the weather was somewhat consistent for twelve months, there was still a sense of the succession of the seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter. When we were in Cuba, in speaking with the locals, there was clearly no such differentiation. There is the dry season, and there is the rainy season.

Here in the Great Lakes region we’ve experienced a rainy season. As I type this, the day started out bright and Sunny, but as of 9:00 AM, the clouds had totally obscured Ol’ Sol.  I started thinking about the Biblical phrase, “He sends the rains.” The passage is from Job 5:10 and in the ISV it reads, “He sends rain on the surface of the earth, and waters the surface of the open country.” Most other translations have a different shade of meaning to this, “He gives rain…”

Sometimes someone will say that in scripture, rain is a sign of God’s blessing. But Jesus, in Matthew 5:45b is clearly using it in the more common sense, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Rain is seen here as the opposite to “his sun;” a sunny day versus a day you are stuck inside and can’t work your fields.

Again, while rain is a blessing to people living in agrarian times, it’s also shown in Zechariah 10:1 in purely practical terms, “Ask rain from the Lord in the season of the spring rain, from the Lord who makes the storm clouds, and he will give them showers of rain, to everyone the vegetation in the field.” It makes the crops grow.

But the idea of the rain of God’s blessings (a phrase that some may be intending while others may be saying ‘the reign‘ of God’s blessing) is indicated in Hosea 6:3,  “Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”

In my younger days we would sing a chorus, “It’s Beginning to Rain.”

It’s beginning to rain, rain, rain hear the voice of the Father
Saying “Whosoever will come drink of my water.
As Joel prophesied ‘My Spirit will pour on your sons and your daughters.’
If you’re thirsty and dry
Look up to the sky
It’s beginning to rain.”

We should probably adopt the mindset that each time we think of the first type of rain, we’ll consider the second.  Not ‘rain down blessings,’ but ‘rain down Himself,’ or ‘rain down His Spirit.’ Here’s another more recent song song which expresses this:

 

June 17, 2017

Imagining Something Different

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:31 am

Given that this week a certain song was named Song of the Century this week, it seemed timely to pull this one out once again. This is one of my all-time favorites, even though only a few thousand people have ever heard it. Skillfully done by some people I am privileged to know.

“An uplifting, original song that furnishes a concept of peace and oneness for humanity in deliberate contrast to John Lennon’s iconic anthem, ‘Imagine’.”

June 16, 2017

You Have New Challenges; You’re Making Progress!

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:35 am

How do you spell success?

It turns out the source of yesterday’s item here is the gift that keeps on giving. Well, at least for one extra day. My son Aaron has gone multi-platform, and this is his first video. In some ways it’s connected to yesterday’s post. See what you think…


Bonus item: I swear my children get their creativity from their mother. Recently she posted this to Facebook:

 

June 15, 2017

Keeping Creativity When Originality is Elusive

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:24 am

Sometimes I relax at the end of the day listening to old songs on YouTube. I’ll hear something and be struck by the fact that they were doing whatever makes that song unique for the first time. “Just think;” I will passionately preach to my wife, “Nobody up to that point had ever done that before.” She just goes back to her knitting.

I would think for musicians and writers and fine artists, there must be a constant frustration that all the mountains have been climbed and the flags have been planted. In a competitive world, it’s hard to come with an idea that is a true first.

This is a guest post from my son Aaron’s latest blog Voice of One Whispering. Aaron is a writer, actor, and armchair theologian. Later on today I’ll ask him for permission to use it here.

Nothing Under the Sun

All creatives I have known have run into the situation where they set out to do a project and then find that it has already been done before. Someone had the same idea and got there first. You’ve worked weeks or maybe months on something only to discover that it’s not as original as you imagined.

I personally find that this experience is sort of like the stages of grief. Not step for step identical but we still wrestle through reviewing the value of our work which tends to involve a lot of denial and bargaining. I try to come up with new justifications for my work. “Do I approach the subject matter from a different angle? Do I present it in a unique style? Can I add insights that this other person can’t? Can I do it better in general?”

The objective is to not scrap everything you’ve accomplished so far but giving up can be awfully tempting.

Sometimes you do find that different angle, unique style, insight, or means of improvement. Sometimes it’s obvious and easy to build on what has already been done. I think that’s the best case scenario. The worst case scenario is when you can’t re-justify your work to yourself and your standing there staring at your notebook, computer, canvas, or whatever and honestly can’t see anything in your own work that hasn’t already been accomplished. Then what?

The trash can is right there. You could just give up and move on but something in you is reluctant. Why? Because you’re doing this for yourself. You didn’t sit down in front of the canvas or word document just to have this or that impact on society. That may be a big part of it but you’re also doing it for yourself. You’re doing it because you were made to make things and have works to call your own. Who cares if it’s identical to something else? Let someone else be the judge of that. Chances are your perspective is too clouded to see something that would be obvious to an outside observer.

Throw that trash can in the trash can where it belongs and finish what you started. You will likely find a purpose to your work when it’s done that you couldn’t see before. If you can, forget the other thing exists.

Do the best you can, wrap it up, put a bow on it. To respect and finish your own work, in the spirit in which it began, is a gift you give yourself. And I guarantee that at least one other person in the world will be glad you did.

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