Thinking Out Loud

February 14, 2017

I’d Marry You Again

Filed under: Christianity, family, marriage, personal — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:30 am

ruth-3-pictures

In addition to Valentine’s Day, it’s also our anniversary. Not just any anniversary, but one of those special ones that ends in a ‘5’ or a ‘0.’ A really special one.

Where did the time go?

I decided that for today’s article, I would share the text of a poem I found on a card that my father sent my mother on an equally special anniversary. Last week I put it in a very safe place. You know how those things go, right.

It was titled, “I’d Marry You Again.” You’ve possibly seen it on cards and on plaques and on goodness knows what else. But the one you’ve seen is probably the version credited to Anne Peterson. It ends,

…With all the ups and downs we’ve had
In learning to be friends
I know that in this heart of mine
I’d marry you again.

In looking around online however, I found Lynette, a blogger in South Africa who had posted a version of the poem credited to Carla Flamm. Lynette’s blog seems aimed at creative crafters and scrapbookers and I clicked the header to see if she was still writing and she is. She says her blog is, “The place where I am free to share my love for my Lord and Saviour.” That header reads, “My life: Perfectly imperfect.” So for all those reasons, this poem seemed to fit like a glove

Do you know how much I love you
How much you mean to me
I can’t imagine my life without you
My world would be empty

It seems like only yesterday
I first looked in your eyes
But the years have passed so quickly
Much to my surprise

The life we’ve made together
Our children and our home
The memories we have to cherish
How much our love has grown

Through the good times and the bad
You’ve been right by my side
You’ve made me smile, made me laugh
And wiped my tears when I have cried

You are my partner, my companion
My lover, and my best friend
If I had the chance to do it over
I’d marry you again.

I’m writing this a few days ahead, and things are a little hectic. It’s a perfectly imperfect day. But I have so very, very much to be thankful for looking back over all these ends-in-a-five-or-a-zero years. I really married up. I got the better of the deal. And it’s just for that reason that she would never admit this. She accepts me despite my brokenness, my sometimes cold responses, my frequent inability to make decisions, and even the odd bad habit. I have the greatest difficulty accepting that; accepting that I am so very blessed.

Happy Anniversary, Ruth. We’ll celebrate that in a few months when the weather is warmer. You are so intelligent, so gifted and so wonderfully unpredictable. For today, Happy Valentine’s Day.

I’m so thankful I have someone to say that to.

February 13, 2017

My Personal Battle With PTSD

Filed under: Christianity, Faith, family — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:17 am

Originally, I never thought of it in PTSD terms, and it’s not like I did a tour of duty in the Middle East. Instead, it started our gradually, with phone calls from the seniors’ home where my mom was living. The calls always came late at night, when the staff were wrapping up paperwork once the residents were sleeping.

  • She had another fall today.
  • They’re putting on her a new medicine.
  • We’ve noticed she’s not eating so much.
  • The doctor’s concerned about her circulation.
  • She fell again today.

I realize these health care workers have a responsibility to notify families, but the calls always came at an hour when we were winding down for the evening and wanted to relax, not deal with tension. We asked for “emergencies only” notification, but we had different definitions as to what constituted an emergency.

It got to where every time the phone would ring I would tense up, and now that she’s gone, the after-effects of this stress continue.

Telephones often bring bad news. Especially now when other forms of communication happen through email or on social media or texts. Four years ago, long before the worst of this experience was to take place, I recognized that having a calming ringtone doesn’t change the fact that it’s a phone call.

ring-tone

So again, while I wasn’t in Iraq or Afghanistan, I do have little bit of empathy for people who are bound by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  It’s no fun living with anxiety, stress and tension and while having a strong faith and trust in God ideally brings peace amid the chaos, it doesn’t always work that way. Rather, the disconnect between the elements of faith we profess regarding God’s sovereignty and protection, and the inner turmoil we’re experiencing in the situation; that disconnect only adds to the problem.

A person dealing with PTSD is a person in desperate need of joy.

 

February 12, 2017

“God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life”

four-spiritual-laws-1by Russell Young

(A joint post between Christianity 201 and Thinking Out Loud)

Consider the cliché: “God has a wonderful plan for your life.”  This pronouncement is often given by those trying to evangelize.   This cliché is easy to accept at first glance.  It is encouraging to the one going through one of life’s struggles; it offers promise.   Those who accept that there is a god would esteem him to know all things and to be all powerful.  They also accept that he is all loving.  Consequently, the message is given and taken as if the person being addressed would only confess faith, his or her life would be wonderful, richly blessed and filled with joy. Although these descriptors are true, they are not true according to the world’s understanding.

What was “God’s wonderful plan” as experienced by the apostles? They all, but one, experienced horrible deaths.  Think of God’s wonderful plan” as experienced by the many faithful today who are being martyred for their faith in Christ. What are people to think when they suffer through disease and poverty? How are they to interpret God’s “wonderful plan”?

God does have a plan for our lives. Paul wrote to the Ephesians: “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ may be for the praise of his glory.” (Eph 1: 11─12 NIV)

The plan is not “for us” directed; it is “for the praise of [God’s] glory.” Later in that book Paul wrote, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph 2:10 NIV) This is also the declaration of a plan.

God’s plan is “wonderful” but will not necessarily bring the worldly blessings that many infer.   Paul wrote: “The Lord will reward everyone for the good he does whether slave or free.” (Eph 6:8 NIV) The rewards of God are not trivial nor are they necessarily temporal and their accomplishment requires suffering.  “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Tim 3:12 NIV) Despite the trials, persecution, pain, and poverty that true believers endure in this world, they will reap a harvest of blessings and eternal life, if they remain faithful to the end. (Mt 10:22)

The walk of truth and obedience brings glory to God and eternal rewards.  This is his wonderful plan.  It does not include ease, riches, and the pleasures of this world, and those who present clichés need to take care concerning the impressions that they leave others.  They can mislead and be destructive to furthering the gospel. Weak faith based on misrepresented truths can give way to disillusionment and destruction and the spreading of a false gospel. Should the one being evangelized know the truth about what is before him or her?  Absolutely!  They must count the cost if they are to become strong and useful. Perseverance to the end is the only way that God’s plan can become wonderful. True believers know this and have committed themselves to victory over all sorts of trials through the presence and power of Christ. It is for the fulfilment of God’s plan in one’s life that his people have been called for the praise of his glory and it is in that fulfilment that they bring him glory. His plan is to conform the faithful to the likeness of his Son and to assist in the building of his kingdom.

It should never be accepted that God has ordained a moment by moment strategy for the way a believer is to live, that his moments have been pre-destined and firmly established.  The manner in which believers are led will depend upon how well they listen and how closely they follow.  Paul wrote, “And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” (Rom 8:27 NIV) It is God who searches our hearts and from his search determines a strategy to affect the Spirit’s purpose.  Sometimes God will discipline, and at other times he will punish.  “Do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” (Heb 12:5─6 NIV) God’s plan is wonderful because he has a personal interest in accomplishing those things in our lives that will give opportunity for transformation of heart and practice so that a person might become acceptable to him. (Rom 15:16)  It is wonderful because it leads to eternal life, but most of the ‘wonderfulness’ will come in glory, not as we walk this earth.


eternal-salvation-russell-youngRussell Young has been a regular Sunday contributor to Christianity 201 for the past year and is the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available in print and eBook through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  9781512757514 $17.99 US

February 11, 2017

Life in the Twitterverse

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:10 am

Occasionally I take a day to simply reproduce Tweets here for those who don’t use that platform. For those of you with slow loading times, we’re just doing text, but you’re encouraged to visit me at Twitter.com/PaulW1lk1nson (change the letter “i” to number “1”) or simply click here and bookmark.

  • Fun car game: Flip the radio to various Christian stations carrying preacher programs and see who can first guess what major Bible story they’re doing.
  • ♫ This ban is your ban |This ban is my ban |From the Syrian desert | To the streets of I-ran… | …This ban was made for you and me. ♫
  • Attn. Middle-aged worship team members: If you wanna do all those songs which come out of youth culture, simply let the youth worship team play ’em
  • [Drew Dyck] When it comes to end times prognosticating, the trick is to change up the antichrist candidates while keeping the 1980s designs & graphics.
  • Buffalo newscaster just said, “If you go out without your gloves, you’re going to have some cold hands on your hands.”
  • The people making Christian giftware do know there are other scripture verses besides Jeremiah 29:11, right?
  • Ever wonder what’s hot and what’s not in Christian publishing? This link takes you to a pdf of the full Top 50 list
  • What does it profit a man to gain the office of President of the United States and lose the entire populace? [Mark 8:36 amended]
  • How tattoos work: Once you chose Option #1, you’ve automatically eliminated Options #2 to 999,999.
  • [Youth Group Boy] Rather than build a wall Trump just needs to talk to my church – they’ve kept minorities and those who are different out for years.
  • Need to rethink the classic Neil Diamond song: ♫ On the boats and on the planes They’re coming to America… ♫  — not anymore!
  • [Diane Lindstrom] “Opportunity is missed by people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Thomas Edison

 

February 10, 2017

Automobile Anarchy

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:47 am

car-odometer-100000My drive home from work exactly a week ago contained two surprises.

First, there was the red light at the freeway exit ramp I take each day. I get into the left lane and wait for the light to turn green. Traffic in the right lane is required to stop for the light; there is no green arrow or provision to turn right without stopping.

But they did. One. Two. Three. All minivans for some reason. No regard for the red light. Not even a hint of a stop.

Then, not two minutes later, I was on the single lane road that leads to my home and noticed a guy weaving two cars behind. Sure enough, he pulled onto the inside — a combination paved pedestrian walk and bike lane — and passed the vehicle directly behind me on the right side.  At that I decided to get out of the way of the guy and pulled over to let him pass, which he did, swinging way out into the other lane to do so.

At the top of the hill a police car was in radar mode, but the guy wasn’t actually speeding so he sailed through. And the police had missed the drama of his approach because of a hill.

In both cases, there is a Friday factor; alcohol could have been involved.

What do I say to this?

  • There is a complete disregard for the rules
  • There is a great deal of impatience
  • There is a sense of “me first” with many drivers

However, if I start regarding every approaching vehicle as being operated by a potential menace the paranoia and over-cautiousness will start to affect my own driving style and could result in a worse situation.

Driving is based on trust. Trust of the other guy on the road.

It’s an act of faith if ever there was one.

February 9, 2017

Books Which Influenced Me

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

bookshelf-backgroundIn more spiritually formative years — and spiritual formation should be ongoing — there were several books I was encouraged to read which had a lasting effect. Many of these are now out of print, but I’ve included here things published in the last 40-50 years only. I have read some classics as well, especially Andrew Murray and A. W. Tozer. Glancing at my bookshelf, here’s what I came up with:

Less recently published

The Mind Changers – Emory Griffin  – Compared the evangelism process to candle-making with three stages: Melt, mold, make hard. Was recommended at a conference.

Contemporary Christian Communication – James Engle – Central to this was a chart showing the spiritual formation process from pre-conversion to decision to post-decision.

The Translation Debate – Clark Glassman – From the perspective of a Bible translator this looks at the challenges faced on the mission field. Wish IVP could find a way to revise and update this.

Shout it From the Housetops – Pat Robertson – Not exactly a popular name with some people today, but this early bio challenged me as Pat and his wife Dede sacrificed a posh lifestyle to buy a rundown TV station.

Destined for the Throne – Paul Billheimer – This was the first doctrinal book I was encouraged to purchase in the two years I was attending a charismatic congregation. It was recently repackaged.

Flirting with the World – John White – Showed that it’s the inner life that matters, not the externals by which people might be judged.

The Pursuit of Holiness – Jerry Bridges – A wonderful companion read to the above title, this proved to be Bridges’ signature work.

Your God Is To Small – J. B. Phillips – Especially the first half, dealing with the false ideas people have about God. Should be required reading.

The Liberator and The Word on the StreetRob Lacey – Written for street youth in Manchester, England this was the most extreme paraphrase I’d ever encountered.

The Jesus I Never Knew – Philip Yancey – Based on some well-made and badly-made films on the life of Christ, a look at shaping an accurate picture of Jesus.

Theology for Non-Theologians – James Cantelon – One of the first of many I would read in the theodicy genre.

More recently published

Radical – David Platt – A challenge to be aware of and consider giving time to the cause of third world missions.

Irresistible Revolution – Shane Claiborne – What happens when a young man takes the teaching in an Eastern College course seriously.

Mark and Luke – Michael Card – There are actually four gospels in the series, I read these two and on each page Card brings the narratives to life in a fresh way.

Jim and Caspar Go to Church – Jim Henderson – Our modern church scene through the eyes of an atheist.

The Shack – Wm. Paul Young – Love it or hate it you have to admit this started a ton of conversations about the nature of God and the place of Christian fiction.

Days of Elijah – R. T. Kendall – For an Old Testament study, Kendall brought a lot of Christ to the table in this look at key Bible figure.

Not a Fan – Kyle Idleman – A great “first book” for a new Christian; it is a good representation of the Christian Living genre previously typified by Lucado and Swindoll.

If You Want to Walk on Water You’ve Got to Get out of the Boat – John Ortberg – Maybe it was because I read this concurrent with the video series; a great faith-builder. 

There’s also the writers who brought significant elements to the discussion table; alternative thinkers like Rob Bell and Brian McLaren; church planters like Michael Frost and intellectuals like Greg Boyd.

I’m sure I could have listed this many again and I’ve left out somethings I would have wanted to include. The reviews on the blog are also books I recommend.

I’ll be away the day this publishes, so if you leave a comment and it gets caught in moderation, I’ll catch up to it eventually.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 8, 2017

Wednesday Link List

jesus-bible-no-b-c-full-size

Welcome to Link List #346. Please shake off the snow and leave your hats and boots at the door.

Re the image ↑↑ Granted, it’s a promotional piece for a new product from Zondervan Bibles, but it makes you think, doesn’t it.

Our closing item below is a bit different, I waited an extra week before including it. Found at Ben Witherington’s blog.

heartburn

There won’t be a link list next week; we’ll see you back on February 22nd.

February 7, 2017

I’ll Have Some Expository with a Side of Topical

Expository versus Topical

From Todd Rhoades who sourced it at Sacred Sandwich.

Expository preaching consists of working through a passage on a verse-by-verse basis. For many of you, it’s the sermon style you grew up with; for a few it might be the only Bible teaching form you know.

Topical preaching seeks to look at selected scriptures and build a picture of the Bible’s wider teaching on a particular subject or issue. It grew in popularity when the seeker-sensitive church movement started, and is therefore often associated with that paradigm.

preacherExpository preaching is a necessary skill for pastors. If you can’t exegete a passage, you don’t pass homiletics or hermeneutics in Bible college or seminary.

Topical preaching is sometimes mistakenly thought of as “sermon lite.” It’s been — dare I say it? — demonized because of its association with things traditionalists don’t care for: contemporary music, casual dress, modern Bible translations, seeker-targeted services, etc.

A good speaker should be able to do both approaches, and should know when to do both.

But every once in awhile I run across an online article that is waving the flag for the expository style, and therefore reiterating an implied disdain for the alternative, topical preaching.

On many aspects of the debate I agree that there is an engagement at a different level with the expository style. But the rhetoric of these articles is usually completely over-the-top; indeed there is almost a venom in the words chosen to state what is, at the end of the day, the author’s preference. The following, archived here, is a good example:

Topical preaching is more like a steady diet of fast food. It takes great but is not good for you. McDonald’s will make you happy and it does taste good but a steady flow of McDonald’s is not good for you. You need healthy substance to survive. Fast food makes one fat and lazy… A steady diet of fast food Christianity that tastes good but is not producing healthy disciples. Fast food Christianity produces shallow, self-focused people who want their felt needs met and view God as an end to their own problems. Lost is the holiness of God, the hatred for sin, the passion for God in prayer, the hunger for the Word of God, a zeal for evangelism, a passion to have a biblical worldview and to be as godly as one can be in a sinful world.

You can’t teach the holiness of God in a topical sermon? A steady diet of theme-based teaching fails to produce healthy disciples? By what metrics? Where is the research on this?

Then the writer felt the need to add one more paragraph, just in case you missed it:

So why do most churches avoid expository preaching? I would answer that by saying that 1) many churches want to entertain to draw crowds which equals money and success in their view and 2) the preacher is simply spiritually lazy and will not take time to study the Word of God to teach the Word as it should be honored and taught. In turn, topical preaching doesn’t teach the Word of God but is simply the preacher picking what he wants to say, makes his points, and then proof texts his points. That is not teaching the Bible. That is your teaching backed up by proof texts from the Bible.

Did you catch that second last sentence? Topical preaching “is not teaching the Bible.” Wow! That’s a rather heavy accusation to level. Caught up in the genuine emotion and passion about this subject, the writer kept keyboarding too long. (It reminds me of the writer describing an upcoming conference whose favorite speakers were noted as “friends of the gospel;” as if the others were not.) This is spiritual pride, plain and simple. A religious superiority complex.

Still, in the spirit of conciliation and peace-making, I decided to wade into this blog post’s swamp and try to post something redemptive; borrowing an idea from the music wars that have plagued many a church:

In February, 2013 I responded to their article:

This may not be popular here, but I want to offer a third way.

Many years ago, as churches agonized over the “hymns versus choruses” debate, the late Robert Weber introduced the term “blended worship;” a mixture of classic and modern compositions.

I believe there is some merit in bringing that mindset to this topic. I don’t necessarily lean to either the topical or expository style of preaching, as I believe there is only good preaching and bad preaching. The problem with topical preaching is that sometimes you never get deep enough into the context of the passage to learn anything new; it tends to have a guilty-by-association link with weak or entry-level teaching. The problem with expository preaching is that you miss the beauty and majesty of how the whole of scripture fits together, how the Bible speaks to various themes, and how seemingly contrasting verses hold a particular issue in tension.

So a blended approach would involve the use of related passages, but with a particular key passage more fully exegeted. None of this approach negates any of the nine points above, but it avoids the mindset that I’ve seen exist among some who are steeped in the expository approach and seem to have a phobia about introducing cross-references or parallel passages.

Now, at risk of being guilty of the very thing that I abhor about the approach taken in the article, let me add something else: It is far too easy for someone to get up, open their Bible to a single passage and basically ‘wing it.’ Drawing on your familiarity with the text, it is extremely easy to simply start reading verse by verse and improvise or amplify what is on the page without providing any added value.

In other words, while it’s possible for either type of preacher to get up unprepared, the topical sermon must have involved, at the very least, some gathering of related or parallel texts through commentaries or word studies.

So I’ll take my sermon topically, please, with a slice of exposition; and hold the personal opinions.

The most powerful thing a pastor can say in his sermon is, “Take your Bibles and look with me please to the book of …” And anywhere Bible pages are being turned or text is appearing onscreen, as far as I’m concerned, that’s a good thing.

February 6, 2017

What it Means to be a “Christian Country”

Canadian and U.S. dollar coins

Greg Boyd’s book The Myth of a Christian Nation notwithstanding, many people believe that the nation whose currency proclaims ‘In God We Trust’ is indeed “a Christian Nation.”

Canada has no such illusions. Religious pluralism is normative across most provinces. We refer to ourselves as “a cultural mosaic.”

However this past week we saw an interesting inversion of national stereotypes. In a front page article Saturday in Canada’s largest circulation newspaper, The Star, Robert Benzie writes:

Ontario is flinging open its operating-room doors to provide health care for foreign children whose life-saving surgeries stateside have been cancelled due to U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban.

In the wake of Trump’s temporary immigration ban against citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries, which has affected thousands of families, Health Minister Eric Hoskins offered a prescription to help.

“This is a particular subset of children who require life-saving surgery, so, absent that surgery, they will certainly die,” Hoskins told reporters Friday afternoon at Queen’s Park…

…“What we’re saying is that Canada is a country that has always looked to ways that it could reach out and support vulnerable people around the world.”

Hoskins, a former aid worker in the Middle East and Africa and co-founder of War Child Canada, a non-governmental organization that helps kids from war zones, said Toronto’s world-renowned Hospital for Sick Children is on the case.

“SickKids has been approached by a number of hospitals in the United States with regard to a number of cases,” he said, noting most are for “highly specialized cardiac care” for infants as young as 4 months old…

…continue reading the full article at TheStar.com

Obviously this is a developing story and the United States is making concessions in many cases, but in the meantime, the Canadian province is acting consistent with the federal government’s posture of an open door as indicated in the Prime Minister’s tweets:

This at the same time as a prominent Christian author, familiar to readers here, Ann Voskamp shows up in Washington, DC:

Back to the children needing charity, it does appear that the not-so-Christian nation is espousing Jesus-like charity, while the Christian nation is simply sending a confusing message to the rest of the world as to its commitment to compassion.

February 5, 2017

A Blog Post No One Will Read

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 2:44 pm

Church and SportsI’m later posting today, and I’m writing this knowing that this will largely go unread in North America, as everyone is preoccupied with a major sporting event, the one Internet Monk referred to yesterday as the Superb Owl, because there is an obsession with not trespassing on the event’s trademarked name.

I’m also listening to a delayed broadcast of this morning’s service from North Point as I type. I was late for that one as well, but I can tell that their game-related “opener” ran about nine minutes. That’s a lot of time to subtract from a worship service for the purpose of creating a visitor-friendly welcome or setting a relaxed atmosphere for regulars. I mean, try explaining this part of the “liturgy” to an Episcopalian. There isn’t a section in the Book of Common Prayer that says, ‘the officiant will pause and do a stand-up routine about the closest state college football team.’

At risk of offending a whole lot of people, I don’t think sports commentary has any place in the worship service. Ditto comments about the weather. From the call to worship to the benediction, the service should focus on God, Jesus, confession, forgiveness, the body of Christ, the resurrection and commissioning to leave and take the good news into the world.

I don’t want to be a curmudgeon, and I’m all for seeker-friendly services (though seeker-targeted is another subject) but I just think we overindulge the sports enthusiasts and alienate those who came for the purpose of connecting with God and getting what they need for the 167 hours in the week to follow.

To everything there is a season: A time for sports and a time for worship. But that worship hour is precious and let’s not squander a minute of it.

…Okay, now go enjoy the game.

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