Thinking Out Loud

October 17, 2016

A Life Well Lived

Filed under: Christianity — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:15 pm

I’m sorry there was no blog post here earlier today.

The funeral went well. It was interesting to see the people my mother touched at various stages of her life hearing each other’s stories and meeting for the first time. What a legacy. Each one is a story unto themselves, but she was a common element in each journey. I hope I can measure up; spiritually speaking these are huge shoes to fill.

A funeral service is always stressful and emotional. Especially when you are officiating your own mother’s, doing the music and overseeing the details. When it was over, we were hoping to relax, but instead we drove home in some of the worst weather I can remember. It feels really good to be home today.

We’ll try to get back up to speed here in a few days, but nobody is paying me to do this, so it might be short posts like this one.

October 16, 2016

Intentional Evangelism

Filed under: Christianity, evangelism — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:38 am

If you see the notes on my mom’s life of Christian service I prepared for her funeral, there are entries for various churches and parachurch organizations through which she served. But there’s also a line that says, “Valu Mart.”

She viewed the grocery store around the corner and down the street — or any other place she happened to be — as a mission field brimming with opportunities. No doubt she prayed that God would lead her to strike up a conversation with someone who would happen to be there.

And it did happen. She would relate names to me of people with whom she shared, one or two of which would end up in the kitchen having coffee, or she in theirs. Or people she had witnessed to who would just happen to be shopping for groceries the next time she was there.

For her, the produce aisle, or the dairy aisle or the meat aisle were places to connect with people. She was prepared. I have no doubt she was low-key in her witness, but also fully aware that people are hungry for God, time is limited and “the fields are white unto harvest.”

The question for the rest of us is, How many such opportunities to we miss? Put another way, How many people does God place in our past but we miss hearing his voice, or being obedient to his voice asking us to speak with them.

Evangelism that takes place in grocery stores like Valu Mart is intentional. It no doubt began with prayer before she left the house, and a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit once she got her shopping cart and began looking not for bargains, but for people.

October 15, 2016

Remembering Uncle Ted

I won’t purport that this in any way is a full tribute to my wife’s Uncle Ted who passed away several days ago. (In addition to being her uncle, she lived with their family for six months.)  Rather, what follows was presented previously on the blog in two different articles.

tedWe first heard about Partners International when Ted was doing a number of missions trips to Nigeria with an adjunct project named, appropriately, Alongside. You know how everybody is always raising money to build wells in the third world? Well (no pun intended) sometimes the pumps break down very quickly, and nobody is actually committed to repairing them. There’s no glamour in that. It’s hard to raise funds for that. It’s easier to drill a new well because then you can brag on the number of wells your organization is building and then raise the appropriate costs.

You cannot deny however that repairing them is a better use of resources. So Ted’s project involved working closely with the people already on the ground. You can’t always partner with every indigenous organization that needs help, so Partners International is especially focused on seven categories: Children at Risk, Education, Christian Witness, Entrepreneurship, Health & Wellness, Justice Issues, and Women’s Issues.  (You can learn more at

But here’s the thing: Just as there’s more glamor in drilling new wells, so also do the people who are simply fixing them not always get the same level of attention and funding. We tend to want to fund big buildings. Massive outreaches.  It’s probably much easier to raise $60,000,000 than it is to raise $60,000. People gravitate to projects that sparkle. 

And then there is another thing: Colonialism. The pros from the U.S. arrive to make everything perfect because it seems more straightforward to simply stick the drill in the ground and create another well, rather than honor the sacrifice and service of the previously group which dug the first well in the first place. ‘We know what you need and we can fix it.’ Maybe some of the motives are right, but in balance, it’s filled with impracticalities; not unlike the summer missions teams which went to Central America and kept repainting the same school which had been repainted two weeks earlier by another missions team.  Yes, that’s a true story. And despite the greater fundraising potential, it’s lousy stewardship.

The people on the ground know better. The indigenous Christian leaders know better. I’m told they are planning a memorial service for Uncle Ted in Africa sometime in the spring. Because heroes don’t always look like we think they do. Sometimes they are simply people serving in straightforward, practical ways.


October 14, 2016

Today, Lawyers Would Nix This Book

Filed under: Christianity, books — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:24 am

I really don’t know how this book came into our home. I was looking for something else and suddenly there it was, published by Zondervan in the year MCMXLVI.*


The book is part of Christian Education resource genre referred to as “Object Lessons,” and these may have been more prevalent in early days than they are presently. The book naturally fell open to the following page:


Reaching the list of necessary chemicals at the bottom I realized that this book would never be published today.

First of all, your church’s insurance policy would probably be all over quashing the idea of someone showing up for church with turpentine, ammonia and kerosene. I know that when I show up for church with those things, the greeter at the door always takes me aside.

Second, Zondervan’s lawyers would have the same concerns and not want to be in a position of liability encouraging people to do this little trick. A page later, we’re warned, “Care should be taken not to spill any of the ingredients or the completed solution.” I guess so. I would be uncomfortable with the idea of doing this with adults, let alone teens or children. Things are simply too litigious these days than to risk presenting this in a church basement.


*70 years ago in 1946

October 13, 2016

I’m Not Ashamed – The Movie

Filed under: Christianity, media — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:35 am


This film, the story of Rachel Joy Scott, the first of several students murdered in the 1999 Columbine shooting, opens next Friday in the U.S. Visit the website, or watch the trailer below.

October 12, 2016

Wednesday Link List



Lots of people trying to sell you things. Maybe I could combine the two elements above with a weight loss and worship workout timer.

From the archives of randomness:




October 11, 2016


Filed under: Christianity, Faith, family — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:10 am

spiritual-legacy-2Yesterday my mom passed away just before noon after a long, gradual decline in health. It was a day for processing many different emotions

  • the mixed feelings you get when you know it’s someone’s time to go and you’re even praying for that, when in earlier days you would have prayed for strength and healing
  • the myriad of things which must be done at a time you would rather just relax and deal with the loss itself but now you’re too busy
  • the reactions from other people who knew her albeit in a completely different relationship than your own and finding yourself envious of those relationship dynamics
  • the tremendous amount of support from people who are for you and in your corner, who you didn’t realize would react so strongly to your loss
  • the people who tell you that they were praying for you; that they have been praying for you for a much longer time than you would have otherwise known

I will write something about my mom’s life here on another day. There is so much to tell. For now I am so grateful to be surrounded by a faith community that impacted me so powerfully in the past several hours.

Related: Four Ways to Pass Down a Spiritual Legacy

October 10, 2016

The Thanksgiving Spirit

This is Thanksgiving Weekend in Canada. Russell Young is a weekly contributor to Christianity 201, our sister site featuring daily devotionals released each day at 5:30 EST. This is his first time at Thinking Out Loud.

by Russell Young

Thanksgiving is often celebrated as a harvest festival, a time of bringing in the riches of all that the land has provided the labors of man from the season just past. It is a time of rejoicing for God’s provision. In norther climates where leaved trees grace the land, thanksgiving is also a time of exceptional beauty. Autumn leaves reveal their varied colours and brilliance as green leaves are changed into many oranges, browns, reds, and yellows.

The idea and even command to thank God goes back to the beginning of the Bible. The Lord told his people how they were to present thank offerings. However, King David’s prayer of thanksgiving gives some idea of his heart. “Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him tell of his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice…” (1 Chr 16:7-10…NIV)

David’s thanksgiving was for and all-sufficient and merciful God. It was not for the bounty of a season but for the character of God and his faithfulness…for his “wonderful acts.” He recognized God’s everlasting covenant promise, for protection against enemy nations, for the splendor of his holiness and for his majesty. David’s praise of thanks was, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”

The God of creation is preparing an eternal place in his presence for those who love and obey him. His people should think of this. Is there not more to be celebrated than a bountiful harvest? Is He not more to be celebrated than temporal riches or good times?

It is easy to let discouragement destroy our joy and our hope when the world seems to have turned against us. Many lose their faith when trials come. They expect to live in the blessings that they imagine God should supply them. All people go through difficult times. God did not promise to relieve us of all our challenges and to satisfy our wants. In fact, his Word says that his children will suffer persecution and trials and that he disciplines and punishes those he loves. The challenges of life are to prepare us for the real hope of a place in his coming kingdom and they are to be considered blessings. Paul taught: “[G]ive thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you.” (1 Thes 5:18 NIV)

In spite of challenges, many people can celebrate that they live in the presence of peace and safety. They don’t have to seek shelter from blazing guns or falling bombs as believers must in Iraq or Syria. They are not wantonly tortured as they are in many African countries. Not many have to fear suicide bombers. Many will have something to eat tonight. Their children are not starving and have access to adequate healthcare.

give-thanks-to-the-lord King David remembered who God was. He proclaimed, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (Ps 107:1 NIV) His love and mercy extends to all who are contrite in heart and who will humble themselves before him. The prophet Isaiah revealed God’s words: “This is the one I will esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” (Isa 66:2 NIV)

King David had taken another man’s wife and even had him killed. His penance brought redemption and forgiveness. God was truly merciful to him. All of the redeemed can appreciate the sins that cost the life of God’s one and only begotten Son? David did not just thank God for a bountiful harvest and a full stomach. He thanked God for his awesomeness and mercy.

God is not only near the righteous but he lives within them as Holy Spirit. Without him victory over the world, the evil one or the sin loving flesh could not be gained. Temptations would command the believer’s attention and as Paul has reported, the weakness of the flesh would result in defeat and death. He called the flesh, “the body of death.” (Rom 7:24 NIV)

God placed Adam and Eve in an ideal setting, the Garden of Eden, and yet they sinned. He started the human race again with righteous Noah following the Great Flood, and they sinned. He chose a special people, Israel, and offered them many promises of blessings for obedience, and they rebelled. He redeemed them from Egypt and led them in the wilderness; even then they continued to sin. He gave them the law and the prophets and the tabernacle system of worship. He made his requirements clear and recorded them on stone…and his people sinned. Finally, he gave the life of his Son as a payment for sin, and the Spirit of Christ, his Son, to live in the repentant. Just as Christ had lived a sinless life in the body that the Father had prepared for him in the womb of Mary, he has made provision for victory for all who live under his lordship through obedience. This is the believer’s great hope and the ultimate expression of God’s love for a helpless sinner. Christ in you.

What are you giving thanks for? Is it a meal? A comfortable bed, close friends? Or, is it for the faithfulness of a loving and all-sufficient God and creator. What is your celebration about? Be thankful for God and his mercy. Celebrate his love and the hope he offers. Celebrate him, not just what he has done.

Like King David be prepared to say, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

October 9, 2016

The Gospel According to Paul

Filed under: Christianity, doctrine, Jesus — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:45 am

king-jesus-gospelI’m currently reading The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited by Scot McKnight*, in which he notes that one chapter of I Corinthians forms the basis of much of The Nicene Creed. I thought it would be different to reproduce it here from The Voice Bible**, but instead of presenting the full chapter, we’ll focus just on the verses McKnight highlights as comprising three sections: verses 1 and 2, 3 to 5, and 20 to 28.

Let me remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I preached to you when we first met. It’s the essential message that you have taken to heart, the central story you now base your life on; and through this gospel, you are liberated—unless, of course, your faith has come to nothing.

3-4 For I passed down to you the crux of it all which I had also received from others, that the Anointed One, the Liberating King, died for our sins and was buried and raised from the dead on the third day. All this happened to fulfill the Scriptures; it was the perfect climax to God’s covenant story. Afterward He appeared alive to Cephas[a] (you may know him as Simon Peter), then to the rest of the twelve.

the-voice-bible20 But the Anointed One was raised from death’s slumber and is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep in death. 21 For since death entered this world by a man, it took another man to make the resurrection of the dead our new reality. 22 Look at it this way: through Adam all of us die, but through the Anointed One all of us can live again. 23 But this is how it will happen: the Anointed’s awakening is the firstfruits. It will be followed by the resurrection of all those who belong to Him at His coming, 24 and then the end will come. After He has conquered His enemies and shut down every rule and authority vying for power, He will hand over the Kingdom to God, the Father of all that is. 25 And He must reign as King until He has put all His enemies under His feet. 26 The last hostile power to be destroyed is death itself. 27 All this will happen to fulfill the Scripture that says, “You placed everything on earth beneath His feet.”[f] (Although it says “everything,” it is clear that this does not also pertain to God, who created everything and made it all subject to Him.) 28 Then, when all creation has taken its rightful place beneath God’s sovereign reign, the Son will follow, subject to the Father who exalted Him over all created things; then God will be God over all.

a Luke 24:34
Psalm 8:6

*Newly released in a revised edition in paperback from Zondervan.

**McKnight does not use The Voice Bible in his work. Sections in italics in The Voice Bible are supplemental and not found in original documents; this translations adds significantly to create flow of the narrative. The use of italics for this type of addition originated with the KJV.

October 8, 2016

Nothing But The Best

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:08 am

This is an expanded version of short article that first appeared in our e-mail newsletter in May, 2007

All but one of the banks in the small town we live in are located in the downtown core, so driving to the bank requires me to trek there, which usually involves having eyes on the road, ears listening to radio and thoughts entering and exiting my head at lightning speed. I am focused on everything vital, but anything not central to my agenda is usually not registering.

The route takes me by the town’s Roman Catholic Church. At the entrance to the church they had hung a large banner celebrating their 125th anniversary, but my tired mind didn’t process the details correctly and instead out of the corner of my eye morphed the sign into the type of banner that manufacturing plants hangs outside to announce that they have met the criteria for the International Standards Organization. (I tried really hard to find a picture at this point.) As far as I was concerned, the banner said, “I.S.O. 9001 Certified;” until I did a double-take and more carefully noted the church’s anniversary.

That got me wondering though what it would be like if our churches had to meet something like I.S.O. standards.What if there was an independent body out their testing to see if we’re meeting our objectives, conveying our message accurately, using only best materials, best practices, best processes; getting our “product” to the community efficiently, etc.? Like a “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” on a product, or a AAA (American Automobile Association) Approval Rating on a motel. Would your church be able to meet a world standard of performance?

And what if some churches passed the test and got to hang that all important banner… who would be impressed? Would neighbours who have passed that church by for 20 years or more suddenly say, “Well, we really should go and visit sometime… after all they are I.S.O. certified”? What would be the impact on people in other churches that hadn’t reached the gold standard?

(One pastor recently shared with me that in all the research that’s been done and all the articles and reports that have been written about church growth, church planting and church marketing, there is very little concern about two issues that are central to the experience of visitors: The quality of the chairs and the room temperature of the auditorium. Guess we’re all too spiritual to worry about such things. Too trivial? Maybe you should write that book.)

Nevertheless, I believe that God calls his Church to excellence. That includes excellence of the heart. Excellence in motivation. Excellence in attitude. But it also includes excellence in worship. Excellence in preaching. Excellence in Christian Education. Do everything as unto the Lord. We should aim for nothing but the best, regardless of whether or not we are a church of 200 or 600 or 1,400, or a church of “two or three gathered together.”


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