Thinking Out Loud

July 12, 2017

Mother Seeks Christian Bookstore Job for Her Wayward Daughter

Filed under: Christianity, Humor, parenting — Tags: — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:12 am

This appeared last March on the Facebook page of an American Christian bookstore we have frequently visited. I’ve chosen not to link to the comment, but can authenticate it for you offline if need be. Note: This is more sad than funny.

I was a fan of this store until my prodigal daughter wanted me to pick her up a job application. The person who gave me the application questioned me about my daughter’s faith and how her being prodigal would make her basically unemployable to the store, because she would not be knowledgeable of the stores content.

In my mind I was thinking don’t they train you to do the job? I felt she was being biased and prejudiced because my daughter was not a practicing Christian. This is not only not what I expected from a supposedly Christ centered ministry, I felt the Holy Spirit telling me that this was not at all acceptable as well, in His eyes! Jesus would NEVER turn away someone who was away from Him, especially if their was even a hint of Him being able to reach the person, especially through a ministry!

I was even more appalled when I got home and read through the application! The first thing that stood out to me was what was written just below the company logo. ” We are an equal opportunity employer “. Are you kidding me! You discriminated against my daughter in the store and there was further discrimination in the application under references, “name a pastor or church leader”, give me a break! That’s out right bias right there! Oh and they conveniently left out ” We do not discriminate against race, color, sex, RELIGION etc. etc. etc “. , how convenient! To me that further proves more bias!

Oh and yet they want the person to agree to having their life scrutinized in-depth way more than I would ever tolerate, in the applicant statement and agreement section! I would not be employable just on that section alone! If a job or a landlord or a bank or anybody wants to use my credit score against me that’s not acceptable under any condition!

For reasons why, check your bibles under how Jesus treated the poor, if you think it’s OK to deny someone just because of their credit score (which may not even be their fault IE identity theft etc. )! As far as the last paragraph in that section, it needs to be eliminated that’s not acceptable to me either! I am totally appalled by this whole thing! I will never shop at the store again! I can see Jesus being infuriated by this Companies policies as well, shame on you guys! I would have given it zero stars, but it would not let me write the review but did. So technically a big zero from me sorry to say. I know you will delete this when you read it, because your even bias in what reviews you allow visible, but know Jesus has already seen it!

So how would you reply to this?


The Wednesday Link List returns July 19th

July 11, 2017

Post-Camp, Post-Festival Spiritual Highs: When they Crash

From the moment she got in the car for the one hour drive home, she didn’t stop talking. It had been an awesome two weeks. God was doing incredible things. She started talking about the people she wanted to take from her home church the following year. She described the insights the weekly speaker had shared on one particular Bible passage. When she got home she went into her room and for another hour worked out the chords for various worship songs she’d learned that week. 

So what happened? Over several days she got very sullen. On Sunday she seemed a little unsure if she even wanted to go to church. “Don’t you want to tell your friends about your great week?” you asked her. She had come down off the spiritual high and simply crashed

image 073115…Over the next few weeks, teens in your church will return having spent some time this summer

  • going to a Christian music festival
  • attending a Christian camp
  • working at a Christian camp
  • serving on a missions trip.

They return spiritually energized only to discover that their church experience now seems rather flat by comparison. Suddenly, business-as-usual or status-quo church holds no interest. I say that from personal experience. One summer, after the spiritual high of 13 weeks on staff at large Christian resort, by whatever logic it seemed to make sense, I simply dropped out of weekend services for an entire month, until a friend said something that gently nudged me back.

On the other hand, there are other teens in your church whose summer experience has not been so positive. They’ve been negatively influenced through contact with people

  • hanging out at home
  • vacationing at the campground, cabin or RV park
  • met on a road trip
  • interacting in the virtual world online

For them, returning to church has lost its appeal because they’ve either backslidden a little, or taken a nose dive into the deep waters of sin. Perhaps they’ve made new friends outside their Sunday or youth group circle.

Either way, summer is always a transitional time for preteens and adolescents, and while that’s true of mental, physical, emotional and social development, it’s also true in terms of spiritual development; and while some have soared spiritually, others have taken one step forward and ten steps backward.

The first challenge is knowing the difference between the two types of summer experiences. Identifying the source of the first type of disillusionment is easy because you probably already know the youth went to camp, the music festival or the mission field. It’s then a simple matter of probing what is they are now feeling after having had such an inspiring and uplifting summer experience. That might consist of finding ways to get them soaring again, although here one is tempted to caution against having teens live a manic life of going from spiritual high to spiritual high.

The group in the other category might not be so willing to open up. There may have been factors that drove them away from the centeredness of their past spiritual life. Perhaps their summer has been characterized by

  • a divorce in the family
  • an experiment with drugs or alcohol
  • delving into alternative spiritualities and faith systems
  • a loss of someone they loved or a pet
  • depression following a regretful first sexual experience.

They are dealing with pain, or doubt, or guilt, or uncertainty. Restoring them gently, as taught in Galatians 6:1, is likely your strategy at this point.

The second challenge is that many of these youth were, just a few weeks ago, on a parallel spiritual track. In post summer ministry, you’re reaching out to two very different types of kids: Those who prospered in their faith and those who faltered. Either way, they now find themselves back into the fall routine and the spiritual spark is gone.

A temptation here might be to let the first group help and nurture the second, but I would caution against that. The first group needs to sort out their own spiritual status first. They need to process how to return from what they did and saw and felt and learned and apply it to life in the real world. (One only goes on a retreat if one expects to go back to the battle and advance.) They shouldn’t live off the experience, but rather try to keep the closeness they felt to Christ during their time away.

The group which experienced everything from a lessening of their faith to a spiritual train wreck need a lot of love. They need to be reminded that their church or youth group is a spiritual home to which they can return, no matter how they feel, what they’ve done, or where their summer experience has left them.

Youth ministry is not easy. I only worked in it as an itinerant presenter, not as someone facing the same group of kids over a period of several years. If you were to graph their spiritual life, some would present an even line rising to the right, while others would show erratic ups and downs.

Either way, I think the greatest challenge would be those critical roundup weeks in the early fall when you’re trying to assess where everyone is at, and then try to collectively move on. For teens, and for all of us, the spiritual landscape is always changing.

July 10, 2017

If I Pray It But Don’t Live It

Yesterday and today we’re featuring the better writer in the family, my loving wife Ruth Wilkinson. This is a liturgical type of reading she wrote for our church service last week.

If I pray “Our Father”
and then fail to come to you as a child, trusting and learning –
Forgive me.

If I pray “who art in Heaven”
and then spend all my energy on earthly things –
Forgive me.

If I pray “Holy is your name”
and then, carrying your name, live unholy –
Forgive me.

If I pray “Your kingdom come, your will be done”
and then fail to listen for and obey your voice on Earth –
Forgive me.

If I pray “Give us our daily bread”
and then ignore the immediate and desperate needs of others –
Forgive me.

If I pray “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil”
and then choose to go where I know I’ll be tempted –
Forgive me.

If I pray “Yours is the kingdom”
and then fight for my own rights and my own way –
Forgive me.

If I pray “Yours is the power”
and then live according to what my neighbours or friends or society might say or do –
Forgive me.

If I pray “Forgive me”
and then hold grudges and dig in my heels –
Lead me in your way.
Give me your strength, your grace and your love for those around me.

So that I can pray “Amen”.

“So be it.”

“Cost what it may, this is my prayer.”

Forever.

Amen.

July 9, 2017

I Will Call You

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

Today and Monday we’re featuring the better writer in the family, Ruth Wilkinson. These are the lyrics to a song she wrote many years ago.

I will call you True and Faithful
I will call you Prince of my Peace
I will call you Strong Redeemer
I will call you Jesus, Jesus

I will call you Ever Loving
I will call you Every Heart’s Desire
I will call you God Here With Me
I will call you Jesus, Jesus

Lord, your name is the only thing I can carry when I come to where you are
Lord, your name is the only way I can stand, I can stand before you

I will call you Re-creator
I will call you Most Wonderful
I will call you Mighty Saviour
I will call you Jesus, Jesus

Lord, your name is the only thing I can carry when I come to where you are
Lord, your name is the only way I can stand, I can stand before you

I will call you, you will answer me
I will weep and you will forgive
I will cry and you will carry me
I will call you Jesus, Jesus

©2004 Ruth Wilkinson

July 8, 2017

Worship Moments

Filed under: Christianity — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:37 am
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July 7, 2017

The Trivialization of Christianity

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:19 am

Or as my son Aaron put it,

“Jesus gave up his weekend for your sins.” (Or, How Memes Ruin Religious Dialogue)

“The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” – 1 Corinthians 1:18

We, the people of planet earth, disagree about many things and we spend a lot of our time trying to discover truth and to convince other people about a grand diversity of different subjects. I find this to be a rather noble quality of humanity but sometimes we do it poorly. We resort to methods and tactics that muddy discursive waters rather than clarify them and one of the worst examples of that is misrepresentation.

When we misrepresent an ideology, constructing a straw man of it, we can simply laugh at the misrepresentation without considering the potential merits of the real thing. Whether or not you agree with a position, I hope you at least agree that we ought not to misrepresent it.

To that end, I need to talk about one such misrepresentation of a position that has been floating around the internet lately that personally concerns me a great deal.

Haha, yes, laugh. Aren’t those Christians a bunch of backwards nut-jobs? No. They aren’t. And whether or not you believe the gospel, you at least ought to understand what it is and what it isn’t. To that end, listen up.

1. The Incarnation

Before we address his death, let’s talk first about his life. Philippians 2:6-7 says that Jesus…

“Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”

That word ‘grasped’ can be understood as ‘taken advantage of’ or ‘selfishly exploited.’ Before the cross we have the incarnation in which an omnipotent God lays aside all the exploits of his divinity and becomes a lowly man. That is a profound act of humility. Jesus didn’t surrender a mere weekend. He forfeited his divine status for several years so that he could be born where animals poop and wash people’s smelly feet. That’s more than you or I would give up.

2. Crucifixion

Now about the death. So, Jesus died peacefully in his sleep and woke up three days later right? Wrong. Excruciatingly wrong. Jesus’ death was not a clean injection or a quick shot to the head. It was hours and hours of arduous excruciating torture. The Romans had perfected the art of pain to such an extreme that our word for the worst pain imaginable comes from their practice of crucifixion – Excruciating. Ex Crucis. Out of the cross.

Nabeel Qureshi, a Christian apologist and M.D., explains the details of crucifixion in several of his talks available online. Here’s the first one I came across. There are others. You can find them yourself.

“Gave up his weekend.”

3. The Resurrection

Then we come to the matter of the resurrection and ascension. Yes, Jesus did not stay dead. Why this is a subject of mockery and not admiration is a mystery to me. But it does seem that in the end Jesus was no lesser for his sacrifice and thus it may seem odd to call it a sacrifice when it doesn’t seem to have diminished him.

Except that’s the whole point! He could take it!

The message of the Christian faith is that we have all turned away from God (Isa 53:6) and the punishment for doing so is death (Rom 6:23) but God himself paid that price (Gen 22:8, Isa 53 again). Without Christ, we would all die and stay dead. If Christ died but did not rise, then big whoop – people do that every day. But if an infinite God pays the price of death for us and overcomes death by rising from the grave, that might just get someone’s attention! That might just be a cause for hope!

1 Corinthians 15 teaches us that in Christ’s resurrection we can also have life after death. Yes, Jesus was, in the end, not diminished by his humiliation and torture. We should be grateful that he could overcome where we would have perished, not mock him for being stronger than death. And if he hadn’t paid our price (he didn’t have to, I remind you) we would be forever dead.

So Jesus did not “give up his weekend for your sins.” Jesus was willing to set aside his divine status to enter the world, suffer and be humiliated, be tortured and crucified, paying the price that we could not, so that through his resurrection all human kind could be free from the debt of death and have eternal life. The fact that he didn’t stay dead does not trivialize the cross, rather it should make it seem all the more wonderful that we don’t have to stay dead either.

One more note. Some versions of this image attribute the quote to Michael Shermer. I haven’t confirmed that he is the original source of this quote, but in case he is I want to say something brief about him. I am familiar with his work. I listen to his debates and lectures and I read his articles. He is not terribly bright. He is an irresponsible thinker who suggests that it is epistemically impossible to differentiate a deity from a sufficiently advanced alien (“Shermer’s Last Law”, which makes it impossible to have any reasonable discussion about the possible existence of God) and whose flagrant lack of understanding on the doctrine of the Trinity reduces his interpretation of the cross and atonement to “it’s barking mad” (which it would be if we were Unitarians and not trinitarians, but that’s a matter for another time.)

In conclusion, I want to reiterate this issue of misrepresentation. I understand that an atheist may look at the language of ‘sacrifice’ and then look at the resurrection and have some questions. Unfortunately I don’t hear questions. I hear mockery. An effective refutation of Christianity will have to refute what Christianity is, not what it isn’t, and the cross is plainly far more significant than that Jesus just took a weekend off. To the detractors of Christianity: you will be able to offer a much better refutation of Christianity the more you study and understand it, and understand it from christian theologians, not just lay people or, worse yet, non-Christians.

You may feel better about yourself for joking about the crucifixion but for those of us who are trying to have serious conversations you just look childish.

P.S. Let me suggest, as a Christian, some more fruitful topics of conversation: the transmission and preservation of the New Testament text, the problem of the unevangelized, and the feasibility of secular morality. I’ve also heard some interesting dialogues on whether an un-designed universe could produce creatures capable of reason so maybe there’s something in there for you to use.


I’ve closed comments on this one; click the blue title above to leave a comment at the source.

July 6, 2017

Fixing the Problem

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:20 am

“We are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside… but one day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that a system that produces beggars needs to be repaved. We are called to be the Good Samaritan, but after you lift so many people out of the ditch you start to ask, maybe the whole road to Jericho needs to be repaved.”

~ Martin Luther King Jr., from “A Time to Break the Silence” (sermon, Riverside Church, New York, April 4, 1967) 

July 5, 2017

Wednesday Link List

Our lead graphic this week comes from This is Indexed, a blog I’ve been following for many, many years.

I think the fundamental thing about compiling this each week is to look at an array of stories, many of which turn up on other roundup lists like this, and say, ‘Is this the type of story that fits our Wednesday list?’ Hopefully we’ve evolved a style where you might know what to expect. 

The link list won’t be here next week. We’ll see you in two weeks.

The media and graphic arts division of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) is the gift that keeps on giving! At their Twenty One Hundred Productions Facebook page you find things both of interest to IVCF staff members and also broader topics for the rest of us.  Like this one from 2014:

(Here’s another one of my favorites from them that we’ve used before.)

July 4, 2017

For July 4th: Where Does the USA Fit into Prophecy?

America in Bible Prophecy

Three years ago we spun the magic Google wheel and landed on these answers to the question, “Why isn’t America in Bible prophecy?” We thought it was good time to haul these out again.

We start with Greg Laurie:

When I look at Bible prophecy, one thing that is of great interest to me, and of great concern, is the absence of the United States. It is interesting to note that a number of nations are mentioned in the Bible that will be active in the last days. Libya is mentioned by name. Persia, which became modern Iran and Iraq, is mentioned. Ethiopia is specifically mentioned. Quite possibly China and Russia are mentioned. And certainly Israel is mentioned. But the one nation that is strangely absent is the United States of America.

Where is the United States? Why are we not in the last-days scenario? Why is it that we can read of nations like Iraq and Iran and Libya and that we possibly can find China and Russia mentioned, but we cannot find the United States?

I would like to offer three plausible answers.

[…continue reading here…]

From The Remnant Report:

…Maybe we’re just not as important as we once thought…we in the Western world tend to think of prophecy in terms of “prediction/fulfillment.” In other words, something is predicted in the Bible which is later fulfilled.

But, Jewish scholars and many good Christian theologians tend to think of prophecy in terms of biblical “pattern.” For instance, nations fall into patterns of behavior which results in God’s judgment again and again. These are clearly outlined in Scripture.

In terms of pattern there is no question that almost all nations including America fit into biblical prophecy. For example, Deuteronomy 28 & 29 lists the blessings of following God’s law and the consequences of disobeying it. Hosea 4 and Ezekiel 7 are two books which also list patterns of disobedience and God’s judgment. We might include Isaiah chapter 5 to feature consequences of disobedience, too. This one mentions large, beautiful houses sitting empty due to God’s judgment.

[the article then lists a variety of these patterns of judgments]

…I think you could make a good case for America suffering this kind of judgment at God’s Hands today. The pattern fits, doesn’t it?…

[…continue reading here…]

From a lengthy article at WARN Radio

1 Peter 4:17
For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?

This last September 11th we remember the trouble on that date and the many lost lives. We have people who are mourning the lost and many others who let the moment of the day bring swells of tears and pride. During this time we have many who see and are blinded at the same time by the same thing Israel was blinded by. Their own pride and stubbornness. They simply did not see their sins, nor acknowledge that the LORD God would judge them so severely. Even today the churches and many Americans do not see the trouble that is coming.

Simply put, it will come to this nation, in like manner as it did to Israel. The reason again, pride and stubbornness, with an unwillingness to repent of their sins. This nation was raised out of the earth by God himself. It stood so many years for his good pleasure, not ours. Yet, the sins of the nation has become past being as bad as Israel. America is blinded!

[…continue reading here…]

A short interview with author Joel Rosenberg:

…The bottom line is there are a lot of theories over the years over what prophecy in the Bible might refer to the United States. A careful analysis of all of them indicates that there is not a single direct reference to the United States as a player in the last days.

So, the question really is ‘Why not?’ If we are already in the last days, how could the United States not be a clearly defined player? The answer is, we don’t know because the Bible doesn’t say.

Something happens by which the U.S. is paralyzed, sidelined or neutralized and therefore unable or unwilling to project influence to be a major force in the major events of the last days. That’s what Implosion is about, walking through a whole series of things that could happen to the United States, things that are consistent with Bible prophecies and what the Bible says will happen to various nations in the last days.

There is not a verse specifically about what happens to us. You have to look at a whole range of scenarios and say any one of these, or even a combination of them, is possible…

[…continue reading here…]

A differing opinion: In this 35-min audio, the presenter feels America is in prophecy.

July 3, 2017

Car Accidents Happen Fast

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:33 am

I had this picture in my files and figured it served us better than a scene from a horrific traffic accident or the type of highway rollover I witnessed.

On Friday evening I was driving home on the freeway when the car ahead of me wandered off the road and then totally lost control on some soft gravel. It took out one of the supports for a large highway sign and then flipped over sideways landing upside-down.

I pulled over and pulled out my phone to call 9-1-1. Although I was relatively calm, I couldn’t really see what I was doing. The sun was shining in my car obscuring the screen and I wasn’t wearing my reading glasses. I think it took me nearly two minutes to fish out my glasses and get my password entered properly, and find the keypad to dial a number not in my contact list. (Isn’t there an emergency shortcut for 9-1-1 on these things?)

Meanwhile other people had stopped and were running into the ditch to check on the condition of the driver. I considered the possibility he had been killed instantly — he survived — and felt I was of greater use providing information to the police dispatcher.

It turned out there were three people in the car, the driver was pulled out and then walked away from the car but the two others were badly winded. I assume the ambulance paramedics would have them checked out for internal bleeding or other such injuries.

It was like a scene from a movie. 24 hours later, I am surprised that I remained so calm, apart from the minutes of fumbling with my phone. Here are a few reflections.

The thing I did right: I followed this guy for a few miles at a bit of a distance because his right turn signal was on continuously. I’ve always figured that this is a sign that a driver is not entirely focused. For that insight, I am thankful to God.

The thing I did wrong: I should have pulled off more onto the shoulder of the road. I was very careful getting in and out of my car, but if you look at police vehicles in those situations, they pull well over.

What the driver did wrong: The guy tried to jerk his car back onto the road too suddenly. Once he hit the soft gravel he should have braked — I never did see brake lights — and then followed the shoulder until he could get back on the road safely. This was the Friday of a long weekend here, so I don’t know if drugs or alcohol were a factor. Or a cell phone.

What the driver did right: I’m going to assume he had to have been wearing a seat-belt to not have not been thrown from the car.

What I learned: These things can happen in a second. Or less. The cliché is true: Driving is a full time job. A driver needs to stay focused. If one is tired, it’s time for a rest stop. 

Again, Thank you, Lord for your protection.

 

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