Thinking Out Loud

September 19, 2016

Rethinking Our Connection to our Jewish Friends

near-christianity-anthony-le-donneHe had me at the title.

Near Christianity: How Journeys Along Jewish-Christian Borders Saved my Faith in God by United Theological Seminary professor Anthony Le Donne is a collection of seven1 essays concerned with the manner in which dialog between Christians and Jews takes place, and the ways in which Christians perceive Jews individually and collectively. There is a flow to this, but I suppose you could read the sections out of sequence, as each begins with a new playing field across which the dialog often takes place. The book officially releases tomorrow from Zondervan.

I don’t want to get sidetracked with superficial details, but at $18.99 US for a 212-page2 paperback, I rather assumed that this title was intended for the academic reader. But I’m not sure that this is the case, hence the review here. Certainly anyone with an interest in religious history, the Holocaust, Israel or Judiasm in Western Europe and North America would find this engaging and understandable. I’m told that Le Donne is the author of seven titles, but other than one from Eerdmans — Historical Jesus: What Can We Know and How Can We Know It — the others are textbooks or have limited distribution. 

The Holocaust figures prominently into a couple of the chapters, but perhaps it’s a microcosm of a larger church history:

If this were a book about Christian “best practices” or “what you need to know about Christian beliefs,” we might live without the contradiction.  But this is a book about borders and, especially, the borders shared by Jews and Christians.  So we must ask, How did Christian morality look in Nazi Europe?  What dogmatic shape did it take?  And if we find that it looked similar to the Christian moralities at work in the heresy hunting of early Christian theology, or Constantine’s vision, or the Crusades, or our major church splits, or manifest destiny, or the Salem witch trials, or Confederate America, or the Red Scare, or countless acts of harm to LGBTQ+ children, should we not stop to wonder if there is a deeper sickness at work?  pp102-103

If the book has a central thesis, it is that we are better served if we have Jewish people in our circle of friends, or with whom we can at least have the occasional conversation. The book also points out areas where as Christians we have, sometimes unintentionally, created racial stereotypes that do not foster ideal relationships. We probably never consider this perspective:

If you walk into one hundred different synagogues on one hundred different Saturdays, you might never hear a single mention of Christians or Christianity.  By contrast, most Christian worship services – and there are many, many more of these – regularly refer to Jews and Judaism. Of course we do. Almost all of the Christian Bible was composed by Jews. Most of the early Christian theology was either adapted from Judaism or composed in departure from Judaism.  We believe that our God established a special relationship with Israel. Our Messiah is Jewish. For better or worse, Christians simply cannot stop thinking about “the Jews.”

Would it surprise you to learn that many Jews find great discomfort in this?  Would it surprise you to hear that many Jews (I will not say most because I do not rightly know) would prefer to have Christians focus on something else? Can we blame our Jewish friends for wishing that we would talk about someone, something, anything else? Take a moment to consider this. How would we Christians feel if a neighboring group that outnumbered us by billions could not stop discussing us, in most cases without our presence or permission? Now imagine that this same group has a long history of trying to convert us, punctuated by determined efforts to murder us? Wouldn’t we want those billions of people to just leave us alone? Even if billions of these folks said kind things about us and if most of them meant well, wouldn’t we want them to focus elsewhere?   pp126-127

Le Donne is indebted to C. S. Lewis for more than just the title of the book. Quotations from a variety of Lewis works appear in many if not all chapters. I tend to skip book introductions until I am completely finished reading, but he expands on the connection to C.S.L. there even more clearly. 

As to the subtitle however, the book definitely bears the subjectivity of an autobiographical work, but I may have missed the cathartic moment. I would have chosen the less dramatic ‘Shaped My Faith’ over the more sensational ‘Saved My Faith.’3 Make no mistake though, the author’s proximity to Judaism from a very young age is evident in each and every chapter. His window on this ‘border’ is unique.

This was a great book, and I didn’t even mention the section about Jewish comedy. I’ve already started to re-read a few sections and I give this my full recommendation.


1 A popular Christian retail site lists eight chapters, each having different titles than the ones in the advance copy of the book I received. I’ll try to get access to a finished copy of the book and see which was more accurate.

2 Despite the greater number of chapters, the same website lists a lower (192) page-count.

3 In the introduction, the author suggests something closer to preserved and certainly not anything in a soteriological sense.

Thanks to Mark H. at HarperCollins Christian Publishing in Canada for an opportunity to read a pre-release copy of Near Christianity. Page numbers cited may differ from the finished work.

September 18, 2016

Christian Faith as More Than a Coping Mechanism

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:14 am

At this blog’s sister site, Christianity 201, we re-post some of the best Bible study and devotional material from a variety of sources. I try to write one original one each week, but this past week produced all but Wednesday’s reading from scratch. This is the third of three that we’re also posting here this weekend.

john-10-10When I have finished formatting a devotional study here, the last thing I do before scheduling it is to add the tags; the key words that can be used to locate the article in a search engine or internally. Many times I find myself writing trials, tribulations, suffering, difficulties, trials, etc. Often when I listen to a couple of preachers in my car, I notice they are often simply offering their listeners encouragement through desert experience, tough times, difficult circumstances.

I keep thinking there should be more.

I keep thinking that our faith should be more than just a mechanism by which we can cope with the hard times of life.

In John 10:10 Jesus said,

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (NIV)

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. (NLT)

One of the first sermons I still remember as having a big impact on me was hearing John 10:10 preached at an outdoor Christian music festival. The speaker said that in the original language the abundant life being discussed was:

  1. Abundant in quantity
  2. Superior in quality

We see picture of this abundance in quantity in the feeding of the 5,000

1 Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), 2 and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. 4 The Jewish Passover Festival was near. 5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

7 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

And we see a picture of the superior quality in the very first miracle at Cana

John 2:1 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

4 “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”

5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.

7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.

8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

Both seem to be describing a feast. The latter, at the wedding is expected. The former, with each receiving “as much as they wanted” was probably a surprise.

In each case the final verse reveals the ultimate outcome:

  1. They recognize that he is the prophet, the one expected
  2. He reveals his glory and his disciples believe.

At the blog, Yeshua=God (also the source of today’s graphic image) the contrast in John 10:10 is fully highlighted:

Whenever John 10:10 is quoted, it’s usually just the first half about Satan, or the last half about Christ. It’s not often you hear the entire verse quoted together. But the Lord showed me recently in my personal study time that this Scripture is meant to reflect what Satan does compared to what the Lord does. It is meant to be read as a whole, to compare and contrast the enemy verses the Lord.

Let’s break it down –

The thief does not come except to STEAL, KILL, and DESTROY.
The Lord comes that they MAY HAVE, LIFE, MORE ABUNDANTLY

The opposite of steal would be to give. When our Lord says they “may have”, He’s referring to the gift of His salvation. Not necessarily “will have”, because some people don’t become Christians. Therefore He comes that they “may have” this gift.

The opposite of kill is to give life. Christ does give life, as He IS the Life. So while the thief wants to steal and kill, the Lord has come to give the gift of Life.

The opposite of destroy is more abundantly. To destroy something is to pull it down, wreck it, demolish, obliterate, or ruin it. To have something in abundance is to have plenty of it, it is lavished upon you, bountiful, copious, and plentiful.

Notice how the words are all present tense. Kill, steal, destroy – these are ongoing, they are in the here and now. He has not “stolen, killed, and destroyed”, it is what the thief continues to do. When the Lord gives His rebuttal, His words are present tense as well. May have instead of “have had”. Life that’s ongoing and eternal, rather than one that can be killed. And more abundantly instead of “in abundance”. It assumes a continuance of the abundance – “more abundantly” – as if the abundance is an ever-flowing fountain.

But then the author points out that the life we can expect is even more:

The Lord gives us life, and not just life, but life more abundantly. A better life than these 70-80 years on earth. A life that continues on into eternity. A life with blessings that never end (Ephesians 1:3).

We tend to focus on our pain and difficulties, but be encouraged to look for the signs of abundance.

I Kings 18:41 And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.” 42 So Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees.

43 “Go and look toward the sea,” he told his servant. And he went up and looked.

“There is nothing there,” he said.

Seven times Elijah said, “Go back.”

44 The seventh time the servant reported, “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.

So Elijah said, “Go and tell Ahab, ‘Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.’”

45 Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain started falling and Ahab rode off to Jezreel.

 

September 17, 2016

The Inner Circle Wants an Inside Track on the End of the World

This weekend I’m continuing to present a series of devotionals I wrote for Christianity 201 earlier this week. In a way there are some similarities between this one and yesterday’s. There we looked at Paul separating out his core group for an intensive teaching program. Here, Jesus takes some of his core group aside to talk about end times signs.

 

Today we’re looking at a few verses in Mark 13.

Matthew 13:1 NIV As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”

2 “Do you see all these great buildings?”replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

A few nights ago I watched a most enlightening sermon on John 3 from Dr. Gary Burge, professor at Wheaton College who teaches at Wheaton College, given on a Wedneday night at Willow Creek. You can watch the sermon at this link.

One of the things he spoke about was how the coming of Jesus replaces the things that have existed as central to Judaism with new things. Burge says that “Jesus is abundantly replacing the things he encounters in his world.”

  • In his first miracle, Jesus takes the ceremonial water for washing and replaces it with wine.
  • In his encounter with Nicodemus (the subject of Burge’s message) Jesus reminds him that “you are Israel’s teacher and yet you don’t know these things;” (Jn. 3:10) and Jesus himself replaces him as Israel’s teacher.
  • In the text above we’re told that the temple itself will be replaced with something new, the temple of his body which will die and be raised within three days.

Continuing in the chapter,

Mark 13:3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”

jesus-core-group-peter-james-and-johnThis question sets the stage for the rest of the chapter, but the thing that struck me as I was reading it in The Voice Bible was a bit peripheral, but still worth noting. There’s a sense in which they are saying, ‘Just tell us — just the four of us — what the signs will be.’ As a group of people taken aside, they felt entitled to some insider information. Who would not be eager to be the chosen of the chosen?

But it’s also worth noting the inclusion of Andrew. We tend to think of the inner circle as consisting of a type of triumvirate consisting of Peter, James and John. In a natural sense, we can see Andrew’s inclusion here, after all, James and John were brothers and so were Peter and Andrew. Two sets of brothers. But usually (see Mark 5:37 and The Transfiguration in Matthew 17) Andrew isn’t part of this select group. So what we see here with Jesus is flexibility in choosing who is part of the core group at any given time. There’s a leadership lesson here, that some other people can be brought to the table as occasion arises; the group is not tightly closed.

Mark 5 Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 6 Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 8 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.

9 “You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.

I find verse 11 somewhat paradoxical in light of other New Testament instructions such as,

I Peter 3:15b …Always be ready to offer a defense, humbly and respectfully, when someone asks why you live in hope.

There is a balance to be struck between Holy Spirit leading and proper preparation. Having been in this situation many times in my contacts with seekers and non-believers, I can honestly say there are times when, even though I feel I can offer textbook-precise answers, I have to pause and ask God to speak through me.

As to the dominant theme of these verses, I think it’s interesting that all three synoptic gospel writes include something to the effect “these things must happen.”

Luke 21:9 When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.”

Matthew 24:6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.

Mark 13:7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.

Personally, I subscribe to what I call ‘The Domino Theory.’ When people say, “Jesus could come today;” I believe that’s true in the sense that Jesus might call me home today. (In other words, he might come for me.) The imperative of the gospel is ‘Choose today whom you will serve;’ (Joshua 24:15) and ‘Look: Now is the right time, today is the day for salvation.’ (2 Corinthians 6:2; in The Message: “Well, now is the right time to listen, the day to be helped.”)

As important as this is, it remains true that there are certain prophetic markers which must occur first. This is where the dominoes kick in. I believe that those markers could be staked like dominoes and fall together in rapid succession. So yes, “the end is till to come;” but don’t kick back and relax because of that. A wise person will not wait for the dominoes to start falling, but will be observant of the stacking of the dominoes.

So we jump to the end of the chapter and see Jesus saying,

32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.

Our desire should be the deepest intimacy with Jesus that was enjoyed by Peter, James and John (and Andrew), but if our goal in that is simply knowledge, we need to know that Jesus might not grant us insider information, because some things are not for us to know.


Read the full chapter of Mark 13 at Bible Gateway

 

 

September 16, 2016

Tyrannus, Not Tyrannosaurus

This week, with our usual Wednesday exception, I did all the weekday devotional writing at Christianity 201 by myself. It’s amazing what you can do if you force yourself to minimize distraction, and even so, there was plenty of distraction this week. I thought we’d share three of the posts here on the weekend.

Someone peeking in the bookstore window!

Someone peeking in the bookstore window!

A few months ago, my wife was out for a walk near our oldest son’s house, and told me she noticed a Christian bookstore, Tyrannus Books. We returned several weeks later when the store was open and discovered it to be an Asian-languages store with a few English titles. Such is the diversity of Toronto, Canada.

I never asked them about the name. We tried to find it later and couldn’t remember it clearly. I kept wanting to call it Tyrannosaurus Books. But then last week I heard a radio preacher quote this passage:

Acts 19:8 Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. 9 But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. 10 This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.

So we see that:

  • Paul begins publicly, in the synagogue
  • He then separates his core group for a more intensive discipleship process
  • It’s no crash course, the commitment is for two years (or more, see below)
  • The result is the evangelization of both Jews and Greeks across a wide area.

Also:

  • Some translations use preached and reasoned; while many use discussed (or discussions), disputed, debated, and argued. Paul was a master of rhetoric, but I like to think that discussions is best, as it describes an interactive format. This is something lost in many of our modern churches, although small groups fill the void.

The NIV Study Bible fills us in on the name

Probably a school used regularly by Tyrannus, a philosopher or rhetorician. Instruction was probably given in the cooler, morning hours [although] one Greek manuscript of this verse adds that Paul did his instructing from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM. This would have been the hot time of the day, but the hall was available and people were not at their regular work.

The Reformation Study Bible adds that, “Nothing further is known about Tyrannus.”

This story takes place in Corinth. The NIV Study Bible also tells us:

[This was] Much longer than the three Sabbaths in Thessalonica (17:2), but the same approach: Jews first, then Greeks (see note on 13:14). kingdom of God. See notes on Mt 3:2; Lk 4:43.

Two years and three months (see v. 8) was the longest stay in one missionary location that Luke records. By Jewish reckoning, any part of a year is considered a year; so this period can be spoken of as three years… One of the elements of Paul’s missionary strategy is seen here. Many of the cities where Paul planted churches were strategic center that, when evangelized, served as focal points from which the gospel radiated out to the surrounding areas…

The IVP Bible Commentary offers this, which leads into the more familiar verses which follow:

The Jews’ reaction—becoming obstinate (literally, “being hardened” or “hardening themselves”; compare Ex 8:15; 9:35; Ps 95:8; Acts 7:51) and refusing to believe (literally, “disobeying”; see comment at 14:2)—shows the negative effects of rejecting the gospel over a period of time. We cannot remain neutral; we are either softened toward or hardened against an oft-repeated message. Their rejection was expressed in a public maligning of Christianity (the Way). This may mean a formal rejection, since publicly translates a phrase that literally means “before the assembly.” Paul’s withdrawal is also described in semiformal terms. He took the disciples may present a type of self-excommunication (aphorizo; Lk 6:22).

As always, Paul’s withdrawal leads to further advance, for he now reasons daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus (either the teacher or the proprietor)…This gives us a picture of a tireless apostle and an eager audience. Each is willing to give up the normal time of rest in order to speak and hear of the kingdom.

Only where there is such commitment to teach and such hunger to receive the word of the Lord will there be advances like that portrayed in the next verse. [11 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul…]


Read the full chapter at Bible Gateway

 

September 15, 2016

Career Peaks and Valleys

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:37 am

life's journey

What will your life be remembered for?

Probably about 99% of the reading that I do is Christian literature in some form, but last night I finished reading the autobiography of a guy I went to school with, who went on to achieve fame in the music business. There was no faith element to this — but for one reference of him marrying a “practicing Christian’ — though I did once give him a Randy Stonehill album because I thought their styles were similar.

Some elements of the story were known to me, especially those from the early days, where there were mentions of people I knew including my next door neighbors. The story chronicles the highs and lows of a career that is subject to the fickle whims of everyone from record company execs to consumers. It also contained the predictable sidebar of financial gains and losses that seems so commonplace in narratives of this type.

Fortunately, after his singing career peaked, he was lucky enough to have a second life as a successful songwriter…

…Everyone’s life is a story and just because you grew up in the same part of the world doesn’t mean your journey is on a trajectory similar to your school friends. There is a branching out that takes place after graduation, and if you go on to college or university, another that occurs after that graduation ceremony. Our life paths are all unique.

The general expectation is that when one finally gets around to entering adulthood, they will work at a particular profession and continue there until retirement, right? Not any more. In the new, often turbulent economy, people may undergo career changes quite frequently, with the result that our lives are not too dissimilar to the actors and novelists and pop stars of the world…

…When I read something like this biography, I often wonder how my life would read bound between the pages of a hardcover book. My friend’s career peaked when he was still in his mid-twenties, but there are stories of people, like KFC founder Harlan Sanders, whose life really didn’t take off until he was 60.

What will your life be remembered for?


I wrote this when I was much younger from the perspective of an older man who nearing the end of life — or having a mid-life crisis — who wishes he had lived life differently. It was written with music, so the rhythm bends a bit to accommodate the lyrics, but hopefully just reading it doesn’t distract from the content.

The time has come to look around
Just before the daylight ends
Wish I could have accomplished more
The life I lived seems empty
Now I wish it had been full
What will my life be remembered for?

Some men have built great buildings
Some men have written songs
Others were heroes in a war
I’m not a writer or inventor
Nor a teacher or a preacher (so tell me)
What will my life be remembered for?

Some men have found diseases’ cures
Others ways to lighten loads
Some gave leadership, and more
Doctors, lawyers, Indian chiefs
I’m neither one of these (so help me)
What’ll my life be remembered for?

Society bears the mark of ones
Who contributions made
To boldly go where no man’s gone before
Butchers, bakers, candle-makers
Libraries list their names (but not mine)
What’ll my life be remembered for?

Some men make it in Who’s Who
While others write on walls
While astronauts and pilots higher soar
The Guinness Book of Records
Shows what other men have done (but not me)
What will my life be remembered for?

If I could leave a painting
Or a book or an idea
Or maybe sail uncharted shores
Entertainers, living legends
Athletes, immortalized
No famous quotation have I to share
So what’ll my life be remembered for?

I’d like to be in pictures
And no introduction need
And give of my time, talents, wealth and more
The hour glass runs out of sand
No moments for me
A lonely poor man cries out loud
“What’ll my life be remembered for?”


Psalm 90: 12 Teach us to realize how short our lives are.
    Then our hearts will become wise.  (NIrV)

Luke 12:16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself? (NIV)

Psalm 139:6b    … all the days ordained for me were written in your book  before one of them came to be.  (NIV)



 

September 14, 2016

Wednesday Link List

It may not catch on like WWJD, but...

It may not catch on like WWJD, but…

 

This Lexus owner is either a NKJV supporter, or expressing a Christmas wish for a new copy of the classic. Will that be 1611 or 1789?

This Lexus owner is either a NKJV supporter, or expressing a Christmas wish for a new copy of the classic. Would that be 1611 or 1789?

the-bard-and-the-bibleWelcome to WLL#325. If you love theater and love God, have we got a devotional book for you; pictured at right, published by Worthy Inspired.

I hope you find something of interest in this week’s list…it was lots of fun putting it together for you.

September 13, 2016

Pete Wilson Resigns Cross Point Pastorate

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:28 am

As reported on various websites yesterday, Pete Wilson resigned on the weekend from Cross Point, the Nashville church he founded in 2003.

Pete Wilson 3.25.12Part of the reason you’re reading this today is because in late 2007, I decided I wanted to get closer to a fraternity of writers, pastors and Christian leaders that were doing this “blogging” thing. One of them was Pete.

I began watching Cross Point services, and made a point to get my hands on review copies of his books, Plan B, Empty Promises, and Let Hope In.  It was through him that I met Justin and Tricia Davis, whose Eight Things That Destroyed Our Marriage is the all-time most visited page here at Thinking Out Loud. Brandi and the boys — Jett, Gage and Brewer — were like family.

The thing that impresses me most about Pete is his raw transparency. So for him to step down now is a bit of surprise, but not out of character.

I’m also possibly one of a small percentage who know why Pete’s blog URL is Without Wax:

The word sincere comes from the Latin sine cera, which means ‘without wax.’ The phrase comes from a practice where people would hide the cracks in cheap pottery with wax in order to pass the pottery off as being worth more than it actually was. Quality products were often stamped with sine cera to show that it had not been doctored, that it was authentic.

To repeat, this kind of transparency is Pete Wilson. I’ve loved tracking with his ministry and believe that we will cross paths again….

without wax

…We’ve run this a few times here, but it seems timely to do so again. I know this is Pete’s wish for his church… and yours.

Pastors, I pray you’ll preach the hope of Jesus Christ like never before. Preach as if you were there the day it happened and is if this were the last message you are ever going to give!

Worship Leaders, I pray you’ll lead worship with the same awe and amazement as if you just watched the stone roll away. Whether you have lights or no lights, production or no production may they see the wonder and awe in your eyes and voice that you actually believe what it is you’re singing.

Kids’ Teachers,  I pray you look your kids in the eyes and use every bit of passion, energy, and excitement you have to tell them a story that can and will impact their life forever.

Volunteers, I pray you’ll serve, sing, hand out programs, park cars, turn knobs, and make coffee as if eternities were on the line, because they are!

Worshipers, I pray you’ll open your heart and raise your voice and pour out all you have and all you are in honor of a God who has defeated death so you may have life.

I pray [each] weekend we’ll all drop our cynicism, egos, and agendas and will stand amazed and marvel at the wonder of  a God who has set us free from the penalty and the power of sin!        

~ Pete Wilson

Watch Pete’s announcement to his church on this 9-minute video at Relevant.  Though I’d heard this story before, I was struck by the story he tells at 00:45 to 3:22. A bittersweet motivation to start something new.

September 12, 2016

Selah

guitar-solo

The Saturday Ramblings column at Internet Monk always proves interesting. It’s basically like our (occasional) Weekend Link List, but they tend to feature different types of stories.

Like everyone else, they’ve been captivated by what Adam Ford is doing at Christian fake news site, The Babylon Bee; and recently featured the item below, which sparked me to get creative. First, the article:

Ancient Documents Confirm ‘Selah’ Best Translated ‘Extended Guitar Solo’

ISRAEL—Ancient documents uncovered by archaeologists working in the West Bank confirmed Friday that the disputed term “selah” present throughout the Psalms and Habakkuk is actually best translated “extended guitar solo.”

While many scholars had previously believed the Hebrew word referred to either a period of quiet reflection, a musical pause, or a time of heightened musical crescendo, the recent discovery of scrolls in remarkable shape lend overwhelming evidence to the theory that the term actually instructed Hebrew worship bands to shred across all six-strings in a blistering, melodic guitar solo.

“This is an astounding find—it really can’t be overstated,” biblical archaeologist Dr. Thomas Earl told reporters excitedly. “While we knew that Old Testament worshipers often incorporated instruments into their singing of the Psalms, we had no idea that biblical worship was often accompanied by a gratuitous, performance-oriented electric guitar solo.”

Other experts in Old Testament language studies have confirmed that scribbled on the back of one of the newly discovered scrolls was a piece of tablature notating a rudimentary version of famed guitarist Slash’s soulful solo from hit single “November Rain.”

“While many Christians have cautioned against excessive use of showmanship and flashy musical performances in our times of worship, well—it seems like the Scripture now confirms it’s okay to wail, if the Spirit so moves,” Dr. Earl continued.

This prompted me to leave prose behind with this free verse concoction:

The lyric screen goes blank.
The guitar solo begins.
We stand there.
And stand there.
We have heard this solo before.
It’s a copy of the one on the album.
We take a deep breath to sing the next line.
Nope.
Too soon.
He’s going for another eight bars.
An older woman sits down.
A small child follows.
They’re dropping like flies.
The computer guy puts the next verse up in anticipation.
I’ve lost the worship vibe completely.
Now I just want the song to end.
This isn’t right.

Guitars in Church

 

September 11, 2016

When War Came to America

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:11 am

sept-11-headlineToronto’s 680 News has a somewhat staccato, somewhat robotic approach to the news. Everything in its place and a tone to set your clock by on the hour and half hour. So when the top of the hour comes and someone keeps talking, you know they’ve suspended the format in order to follow a major, breaking story. It must be something big.

I was arriving for work at 10:00 AM, and running three minutes late. Technically, I should never hear the tone, I should already be out of my car. But this time, I realized that they were following something that had happened in New York involving a passenger airplane flying into the World Trade Center.

No, that can’t be right.

I couldn’t wrap my head around what they were saying.

I ran into work and turned on a radio there. Two planes. Reporters saying, “This was not an accident; this was a deliberate act.”

Wait, what?

I kept listening trying to fathom what was taking place, and wishing I had access to a television. 

Then, something about the towers falling down.

Those are big buildings. They don’t just fall down.

I phoned my wife at home. “Turn on the television right away.”

“What channel?” she asked.

“Doesn’t matter, you’ll know.” I then hung up…

…I’m told that one newspaper chose the headline, “When War Came to America.”

Yeah, that’s it. The war landed on America’s doorstep instead of being fought on some foreign soil somewhere else.

I tried to find the image for that newspaper on several occasions. I now know that it belonged to The Times of London, but in this collection of front page images, they show a page wrapper that was published instead. In another collection, you see The Daily Star asking, “Is This the End of the World?”

For 72 hours, America sat stunned. George Bush, who you will remember was reading a children’s story in a classroom when notified of the attack, realized the consumer economy of the U.S. had ground to a halt and told people to go out to the mall.

Ironically, September 11th ushered in age of domestic terrorism and mass killings to the point that for many, the mall or the theater or even the church is the last place you want to be. I’m sure that this type of fear grips many, who simply prefer to stay in their own suburban cocoon. But recent history teaches us that suburbia is no safer than Main Street.

Maybe The Daily Star had it right.

In the days following 9/11 we kept our little Christian bookstore open, despite a dearth of customers. I wanted to be there — albeit deprived of television — for anyone who had a need.

On the third day after the attack, a motorcycle pulled up out front and a huge dude dressed head-to-toe in black leather got off the bike and headed for the door.

He’s going to kill me, I thought.

Instead he said, “I need a book. My teenage daughter is devastated by what’s happened, and I need something that will give her faith and hope.”

Many of those books would be written in the wake of the World Trade/Pentagon/Pennsylvania hijackings, but I know that day I struggled for something that reflected the magnitude of what we’d just experienced…

…The day that war came to America.

september-11th-newspaper-headlines


→→ What happened that day? Follow President Bush in the hours immediately following the attack in this newly released compilation of memories from Air Force One.

September 10, 2016

Quick Ordination to Perform a Wedding or Two

Filed under: Christianity, marriage — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:52 am

Wedding RingsMatt Marino is an Episcopal Priest who in a previous lifetime spent 17 years with Young Life. He blogs at The Gospel Side.  Several months ago — admittedly at the start of the wedding season in North America — he posted this article. At one time I tried to pursue ordination through an independent organization, and never went through with it because every organization I contacted assumed I was just another guy wanting to perform weddings…

No. You don’t want your uncle Jimmy to get ordained online to do your wedding.

It is trendy to have someone you know buy an online ordination and do your wedding ceremony. Every year I have multiple (otherwise solid) Christians contact me to ask where and how to find the “least weird” way to be ordained. Here is my response:

It is an honor to be asked, and good on you for wanting to make it as right as possible. Unfortunatelywhat you are asking just isn’t. Would you ask a teacher help you get a “less weird” online teaching certificate? Or a doctor to help you get a “less weird” online medical license? Getting ordained through Billy Bob’s Online Church of the Twenty-Buck Blessing may seem like a good idea, but it overlooks the training and experience needed to do a wedding well. A teacher does more than pull off classroom management as a one-time substitute, and a doctor more than demonstrate mastery of the tongue depressor in a routine visit. In the same way, a pastor does much more than simply read a wedding service.

Your friend will be putting someone who has never done a wedding in charge of the single most expensive and important party of their life. Will they also be asking a friend who takes nice Instagram pics to be photographer? A minister is air-traffic control. They make all of the many parts and people move in coordination. Brides are under a lot of stress. They do not need a rookie at the helm.

More than that, a non-ordained friend doing the ceremony is a bad setup for the marriage. Marriage is a sacred act originating in the mind of God. Marriage is tough. It needs God’s participation to have more than a Powerball player’s chance of making it after you scratch the ink off and see what resides below the surface of each of us. There are important roles in a wedding a friend can handle, but when it comes to making the vows, you want to have every bit of oomph possible behind those promises. You want a couple, even ones without faith involvement, to say, “I promised God and God’s representative in front of all of my friends and family in that church that I will love this girl/boy no matter how bad a time I am having of it. I’d better make good on this!”

Do them a favor, ask them to find someone duly ordained. Probably not what you wanted to hear.🙂

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