Thinking Out Loud

February 3, 2016

Wednesday Link List

Dinosaur Baptist Church - from Ship of Fools

This week a slightly different algorithm was used to find the stories you see below. Let me know what you think…

 

Pastor Job Title

Looking for more links? Tim Archer posts Links-To-Go every 2-3 days at his blog The Kitchen of Half-Baked Thoughts.

February 2, 2016

King David Takes the Week Off

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:44 am

 

God's WillThe story of David and Bathsheba is well known to readers here. (If not, read this version of it from The Common English Version edition of the Bible.) It’s movie stuff, how lust leads to adultery, which leads to deception, which leads to murder, which leads to consequences.

But I’m always struck by the way the story opens:

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army...

I’ve seen various commentaries on this, and this aspect of the story is often skipped over. For one thing, the idea of seasonal warfare is rather unknown in our time. Only Eugene Peterson’s The Message seems to give us a different take on the upcoming battle (italics added):

When that time of year came around again, the anniversary of the Ammonite aggression, David dispatched Joab and his fighting men of Israel in full force to destroy the Ammonites for good.

I think the most simple takeaway from this is that David should have been leading his troops, but instead ended up where he was not supposed to be.

Some try to put blame on Bathsheba in the story and say she was deliberately exposing herself in view of the palace, but maybe she had reason to assume the main occupant of the palace and his staff were all away.

Most of us can’t control our daily schedule, but we probably do have some leeway, and there are times we know we are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Trouble is crouching at the door, and we need to be proactive, put on our coats or shoes, and reposition ourselves in the physical place we know is best.

The center of God’s will isn’t necessarily a tiny dot, but within the circle of God’s permissive will, there are various places we can find ourselves.

The trick is knowing when we’ve left that circle altogether.

Are you where you’re supposed to be right now?


image: Ron Edmondson

For more about the dot-vs.-circle idea of God’s will, read Decision Making and the Will of God by Garry Friesen.

February 1, 2016

Know Where You Believe

 

Tic-Tac-Blinders-Church-Stage-DesignYesterday I got to visit a church in our community which offers a contemporary and a traditional service which run concurrently, with the contemporary service getting a video feed of the sermon when it begins. It was my second visit.

Opinions on music in the local church can often divide people, but this church found a way to satisfy both groups at once. Yes, the one auditorium demographic skews much younger and the other much older, but there is considerable overlap. I spoke to many people after the service; one was a couple (she’s turning 80) who much prefer the more modern service. The other was a guy half their age who much prefers the hymns and the organ.

hymnboardThere is a value to inter-generational worship, and much has been and is being written about this elsewhere on the internet. But both of these worship settings provide that accomplish this, even the demographics are more pronounced in each one.

The thing that got me however was one comment that certain people in the traditional service hold to an opinion that you aren’t truly able to worship God in the modern service, and look down on the younger worshipers condescendingly.

No, it’s not about the music.

The contemporary service meets in a gym.

Therein lies the problem. There are still a number of people who feel that you can’t truly worship God in a civic center, a community hall or a gymnasium; you need a sanctuary that has been set apart for this purpose.

(Given the choice I had when I walked into their building, I chose the gym because I felt I could make a better connection there; that the overall tenor of that service would resonate with me much, much more. I don’t mind the hymns so much, but to listen to the organ would have proved counter-productive and even a bit of a distraction.)

The story of the woman at Jacob’s well in John 4 is more than simply Jesus encountering a woman with a bad reputation; it raises theological issues as well.

19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

She was raising one of the Samaritan distinctives: Where should one worship? She’s really choosing to enter into a debate on the thing that separates Jews and Samaritans instead of focusing on the things with which they agree. She’s not looking for a basis of agreement, but looking to argue doctrine. (She’d love the internet!)

But Jesus sidesteps the question entirely.

Stephen, in his one and only recorded sermon, reiterates this:

48  “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says:

49 “‘Heaven is my throne,
    and the earth is my footstool.
What kind of house will you build for me?
says the Lord.
    Or where will my resting place be?
50 Has not my hand made all these things?

I just couldn’t believe that the person described in my conversation yesterday seriously believed you can’t worship in a gym, but this mentality still exists in 2016.

If you agree with me that it doesn’t matter, take a moment to prove it. Turn away from your computer or mobile device, or close your eyes, and take a moment to worship God right where you are.

Returning Thanks for Our Daily Bread

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:55 am

This is not a sponsored post; just something I felt was right to do today.

Our Daily Bread - Radio Bible ClassFor years, many of us have used the devotional booklets from the organization formerly known as Radio Bible Class. We’ve picked up copies of Our Daily Bread in our church lobby, at a Christian bookstore or perhaps were given one in a hospital or prison.

Today is a good day to say thanks and encourage this ministry.

In the United States go to odb.org. In Canada go to ourdailybread.ca .

Also, whether or not you’re familiar with the devotional, here is a list of other resources produced by this fine organization.

January 31, 2016

The Lord’s Prayer – Remix Edition

This was sent to me five years ago as an e-mail forward. (Remember those?)

It is in two parts, the prayer (in blue type)
and GOD (in red type) in response.

*********

Our Father Who Art In Heaven.

Yes?

Don’t interrupt me. I’m praying.

But — you called ME!

Called you?
No, I didn’t call you.
I’m praying.
Our Father who art in Heaven.

There — you did it again!

Did what?

Called ME.
You said,
“Our Father who art in Heaven”
Well, here I am..
What’s on your mind?

But I didn’t mean anything by it.
I was, you know, just saying my prayers for the day.
I always say the Lord’s Prayer.
It makes me feel good,
kind of like fulfilling a duty.
Well, all right.

Go on.

Okay, Hallowed be thy name ..

Hold it right there.
What do you mean by that?

By what?

By “Hallowed be thy name”?

It means, it means . . good grief,
I don’t know what it means.
How in the world should I know?
It’s just a part of the prayer.
By the way, what does it mean?

It means honored, holy, wonderful.

Hey, that makes sense..
I never thought about what ‘hallowed’ meant before.

Thanks…

Thy Kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in Heaven.

Do you really mean that?

Sure, why not?

What are you doing about it?

Doing? Why, nothing, I guess.
I just think it would be kind of neat if you got control,
of everything down here like you have up there.
We’re kinda in a mess down here you know.

Yes, I know;
but, have I got control of you?

Well, I go to church.

That isn’t what I asked you.
What about your bad temper?
You’ve really got a problem there, you know.
And then there’s the way you spend your money — all on yourself.
And what about the kind of books you read ?


Now hold on just a minute!
Stop picking on me!
I’m just as good as some of the rest

of those people at church!

Excuse ME..
I thought you were praying
for my will to be done.
If that is to happen,
it will have to start with the ones
who are praying for it.
Like you — for example ….

Oh, all right. I guess I do have some hang-ups.
Now that you mention it,
I could probably name some others.

So could I.

I haven’t thought about it very much until now,
but I really would like to cut out some of those things.
I would like to, you know, be really free.

Good.
Now we’re getting somewhere.

We’ll work together — You and ME.
I’m proud of You.

Look, Lord, if you don’t mind,
I need to finish up here.
This is taking a lot longer than it usually does.
Give us this day, our daily bread.

You need to cut out the bread..
You’re overweight as it is.

Hey, wait a minute! What is this?
Here I was doing my religious duty,
and all of a sudden you break in
and remind me of all my hang-ups.

Praying is a dangerous thing…
You just might get what you ask for.
Remember, you called ME — and here I am.
It’s too late to stop now.
Keep praying. ( pause … . )
Well, go on.

I’m scared to.

Scared? Of what?
I know what you’ll say.

Try ME.

Forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sin against us.

What about Ann?

See? I knew it!
I knew you would bring her up!
Why, Lord, she’s told lies about me, spread stories.
She never paid back the money she owes me.
I’ve sworn to get even with her!

But — your prayer —
What about your prayer?

I didn’t — mean it…


Well, at least you’re honest.
But, it’s quite a load carrying around all that
bitterness and resentment isn’t it?

Yes, but I’ll feel better as soon as I get even with her.
Boy, have I got some plans for her.
She’ll wish she had never been born.

No, you won’t feel any better.
You’ll feel worse.
Revenge isn’t sweet.
You know how unhappy you are —
Well, I can change that.

You can? How?

Forgive Ann.
Then, I’ll forgive you;
And the hate and the sin,
will be Ann’s problem — not yours.
You will have settled the problem
as far as you are concerned.

Oh, you know, you’re right.
You always are.
And more than I want revenge,
I want to be right with You . . (sigh).
All right, all right . …
I forgive her.

There now!
Wonderful!
How do you feel?

Hmmmm. Well, not bad.
Not bad at all!
In fact, I feel pretty great!
You know, I don’t think I’ll go to bed uptight tonight.
I haven’t been getting much rest, you know.

Yeah, I know.
But, you’re not through with your prayer, are you?

Go on.

Oh, all right.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

Good! Good! I’ll do that.
Just don’t put yourself in a place
where you can be tempted.

What do you mean by that?

You know what I mean.

Yeah. I know..

Okay.
Go ahead.. Finish your prayer..

For Thine is the kingdom,
and the power,
and the glory forever.
Amen.

Do you know what would bring me glory —
What would really make me happy?

No, but I’d like to know.
I want to please you now..
I’ve really made a mess of things.
I want to truly follow you..
I can see now how great that would be.
So, tell me . . .
How do I make you happy?


…YOU just did.

January 30, 2016

When Worship Leaders Actually Minister

This week, we had much discussion about a pivotal event in my wife’s worship leading career, that came about after I rediscovered this blog post in the archives. Even then, it was many years in the making, and something that both of us had been thinking and talking about for a long, long time before she wrote it.


• • • by Ruth Wilkinson

A number of years ago, a terrible thing happened.

Our local Christian school had just celebrated their Grade 8 graduation. Excited 14-year-olds, proud parents and grandparents, a ceremony, a party.

That was Friday evening.

One of the students, a girl, went home that evening, full of life and fun and hope, said good night to her parents, went to sleep, fell into a diabetic coma and died in the night.

The next day, phone lines burned up as the word spread and the Christian community prayed together for this family and for the girl’s friends.

Sunday morning during the service, the then pastor of #thechurchiusedtogoto mentioned the terrible thing in his ‘pastoral prayer’ before the sermon and the congregation prayed together for the comfort and healing of us all.

Over the next week, it started to sink in as these things will do, and a lot of people, solid believers who love Jesus, began asking hard questions. People deeply wounded by the fact that God could allow this to happen.

We own the local Christian bookstore, and some of these folks came in looking for answers. The best we could do was share their questions and their pain. Because there are no answers, besides the trite ones that don’t work.

The next Sunday, I was scheduled to lead worship. I chose songs that were familiar and simple, songs that spoke only of who God is and always had been and avoided “I will worship you” and “Thank you” types of lyrics.

On the platform, in my allotted one minute of speech, I said that a terrible thing had happened last week. That a lot of us were still hurting and questioning and angry. That it can be difficult to sing praises at a time like this, out of our woundedness. But that God was still God and though we don’t understand, we can trust him.

And we sang.

The next day, I got an email. From the (P)astor. Telling me off.

Apparently I had crossed a line. I’d been “too pastoral”. He said that I had no right to address the need in the congregation that week because he had “mentioned it” in his prayer the week before. And that was his job, not mine.

This was in the days before I was liberated enough to allow myself to ask, “What the hell?” so I went with the sanctified version of same, “What on earth?”. How could I possibly have been wrong to acknowledge what we were all thinking, and to act accordingly?

But, knowing from long experience that there was no point in arguing, I acquiesced and he was mollified.

However.

That episode stuck with me. Like a piece of shrapnel the surgeons couldn’t quite get.

“Too pastoral”.

Ephesians 4:11 speaks about gifts given to “each one of us”. The writer lists 5. Widely accepted interpretation of this verse sees each of the 5 as a broad category of Spirit-borne inclination and ability, with every one of us falling into one or another.

Apostles – those whose role it is to be sent. To go beyond the comfort zone and get things started that others would find too intimidating or difficult. Trailblazers.

Prophets – those whose role it is to speak God’s heart. To remind us all why we do what we do, and, whether it’s comfortable or not, to set apart truth from expediency. Truth-speakers.

Evangelists – those whose role it is to tell others about Jesus. To naturally find the paths of conversation that lead non-believers to consider who Christ is. Challengers.

Pastors – those whose role it is to come alongside people, to meet them where they are and to guide them in a good direction. To protect, to direct, to listen and love. Shepherds.

Teachers – those whose role it is to study and understand the written word of God, and to unfold it to the rest of us so we can put it into practice. Instructors.

I’ll be the first to point out that “worship leader” isn’t included in the list. Which means that those of us who take that place in ecclesial gatherings must fall into the “each one of us” who have been given these gifts.

Every time a worship leader (or song leader or whatever) stands on the platform of your church and picks up the mic, you are looking at a person to whom has been given one of the 5-fold gifts.

But can you tell?

Don’t know about you, sunshine, but I want to.

I think that, after a week or two, you should be able to tell. From their song choices, from the short spoken word they’re given 60 seconds for on the spreadsheet, from what makes them cry, smile, jump up and down – you should be able to tell that:

  • This woman has the gift of an evangelist. She challenges us to speak about Jesus to the world because he died for us.
  • That guy has the gift of a teacher. He chooses songs with substance and depth of lyric. He doesn’t just read 6 verses from the Psalms, he explains things.
  • That kid is totally a prophet. He reminds us of what’s important and what’s not.
  • This dude is an apostle. He comes back to us from where he’s been all week and tells us what’s going on out there.
  • This woman is a pastor. Her heart bleeds when yours does. She comes alongside and walks with you through the good and the bad and encourages you to keep going.

A worship leader who is free to express their giftedness in the congregation is, himself, a gift to the congregation.

A worship leader who is bound by rules and by “what we do” is a time filler.

Church “leadership” who restrict the use of Christ-given gifts are, in my humble opinion, sinning against the Spirit and the congregation.

Those gifts are there for a reason.

Let us use them.


January 29, 2016

Learn to Fly Again

Filed under: Christianity, personal — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:10 am

img 012816Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of the day the space shuttle exploded. It paralleled how my life was going at the end of January 1986.

Just shortly after New Year’s Day, I had left for Southern California hoping to enter into a career in the management side of what was becoming known as Contemporary Christian Music. It was also the name of the magazine most associated with the genre, and I was being interviewed by a man I greatly respected for the job of Assistant Editor of that publication. While I didn’t have the proverbial “green card,” my knowledge of the business and experience as a music journalist were certainly in my favor. Besides, I had no moving costs, so what they were budgeting there could easily be switched over to the some relatively minor costs of getting my immigration status established.

But I didn’t get the job.

Undaunted, I went for an interview with a small independent record label. The guy running it could surely use my expertise and we’d worked together before.

But then I got a call that another record company executive wanted to speak with me. Three interviews in ten days, or so I thought. It turned out he wanted to tell me why I shouldn’t give up what I was doing in Toronto on the basis of the other company’s offer.

Wait, what? What was I doing in Toronto?

I was gigging from speaking engagements to youth group presentations of something called The Searchlight Video Roadshow. Me, some sound equipment, a by-today’s-standards primitive video projection system, and a bunch of Christian music videos. Part of the reason I flew back from Los Angeles on the 25th was to do a particularly important presentation of the show at the end of the month.

We had a contact at MuchMusic, which was the Canadian equivalent of MTV, and with its Latin, mass-inspired lyrics, the song “Kyrie” by Mister Mister was getting some crossover airplay on some edgier Christian radio stations. We asked our friend if he could dub us a “clean” copy of the song, as this would be a large group that had seen the show twice before, and we needed some new tunes.

At the last minute I asked him to include another Mister Mister song.

And then the Challenger blew up, 73 seconds into the flight.

While this affected everyone differently, the explosion seemed a metaphor for my life at that point. Three interviews in So. Cal. and no job. But it wasn’t about me.

As a peripatetic youth minister, I probably could have done more the night of the show to capture what the kids were thinking that night. It was a news cycle from which there was no escape; and that one of the astronauts was a teacher only added to the event’s proximity. Some youth pastors probably played to the emotion of the moment.

But we did one thing right that night, we played the other Mister Mister song. Take your broken wings, and learn to fly again. Not a Christian song exactly, but the right song for the right moment.

I spent the next weeks and months in a bit of a slump. My body was back in Toronto doing what I had been doing before, but my heart was in the editorial offices of CCM Magazine, or the management offices of the record company…

…Later that year I learned to fly again. In June, my own little music business made the largest individual sale we’ve ever made in 30 years. The same month I got invited to be the Staff Training Week speaker at a Christian summer camp, where I met the girl who just weeks later at Thanksgiving (plus one day) I would ask to marry me. The year ended quite differently than it had begun…

If you’re reading this in the middle of your own explosion, your own brokenness, take those broken wings and learn to fly again.


2 Corinthians 4:8 NIV We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

 

 

 

January 28, 2016

What’s On Your Fridge?

Filed under: Christianity, family, prayer — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:53 am

Prayer2

Sometime during the summer I posted a small list of prayer requests to our refrigerator. It was during one of those periods where the needs of people around us seemed to be growing and I wanted to make sure that nobody fell through the cracks of forgetfulness. This doesn’t mean that other requests aren’t shared at mealtime as needed, but it’s a core list that is glanced at every time someone reaches for food, and it hasn’t changed much over the past six months.

Prayer Requests on RefrigeratorThere are 17 requests on the sheet. What’s below is going to have some considerable overlap into a few different categories.

  • 2 are for people living outside North America. I wish our world concern was higher. One is a family from our church who are in Africa for two years; the other is my oldest son’s Compassion sponsored child. (And yes, we prayed intensely for Saeed’s release, but somehow that transcended the list.)
  • 3 represent our family; two of these are our sons and one is extended family.
  • 2 would fall into the category of prayer for salvation for someone yet to cross the line of faith.
  • 9 would fall into the category of prayer for healing, 8 for physical healing, 1 for mental health. Since the list was posted, 2 of these have improved to the point I wouldn’t add them to a future list, one is facing final days.
  • 4 I would categorize as prayer for God’s direction in life.
  • 1 would be a prayer for finances, and another 1 is a health situation that is affecting finances.
  • 1 had to be amended since the list was posted; the request for prayer in my friend’s life involved a name that was crossed out and was replaced with another name.
  • 1 is more institutional, the other 16 are names of individuals or families.

So what’s on your fridge?


Image: Couldn’t find what I wanted, so did some cutting and pasting. Full disclosure as required by FTC rules: Our own fridge door opens the other way.

January 27, 2016

Wednesday Link List

In cooperation with Christian Humor, our gift to all of you still recovering from Jonas:

Shovel Shoes

So what’s news? As I go a-huntin- and a-gatherin’ each week, it occurs to me that entirely different things are important to different interest groups within the broad category we call Christianity. There are items here that I would never consider clicking, but experience (and stats) teach me that these are things that Christian people want to be made aware of.  Let the games begin:

No, it's not just the whole "Two Corinthians" thing; it's a lack of understanding of all things Christian. CNN noted that Falwell, Jr. is not ordained; not a "Rev."

No, it’s not just the whole “Two Corinthians” thing; it’s a lack of understanding of all things Christian. CNN noted that Falwell, Jr. is not ordained; not a “Rev.”

Tedious (Yawn!) Job of the Week: Staff at Moody Press proofreading all 1,000+ pages of the index to the John MacArthur New Testament Commentary. “Can we get another round of coffee in the board room?”

Proof reading commentary index

 

January 26, 2016

“If You’re Visiting, Let the Offering Plate Pass By”

Offering PlateOne of the elements of the seeker sensitive movement which caught on within the wider circle of Evangelicals is the idea of not presenting ourselves as just wanting money. When Bill Hybels founded Willow Creek, it was one of two things that turned up in his community survey: ‘We don’t want to be asked to give money.’ (The other was anonymity: ‘We don’t want to be asked to stand up and give our names or be identified as visitors.’)

The line, “If you’re a visitor with us today, don’t feel any obligation to give;” or “This is an opportunity for our own people to worship through giving; if you’re visiting, just let the offering plate pass by;” has become a mantra in many of our churches. They say this in my church, and if I were asked to do the announcements — something for 20 years I’ve been deemed incapable of — I would certainly echo the same sentiment.

But I’m not sure it applies anymore.

For the four reasons below, I want to suggest doing away with it, or at least amending it somewhat.

First, we had the Willow Creek study, which showed that the spiritual characteristics of seekers had changed over the (then) 25-or-so years the church had been operating. Seekers wanted to go deep, they wanted to sit with their Bible in one hand and a pen in the other. They certainly didn’t see themselves as visitors or observers, they wanted to engage with the service the same as everybody else.

Second, there was the study North Point did which focused on people who had been attending for five weeks or less. This survey showed that what we would call visitors were already wanting to “discern next steps.” They wanted to fully plunge in, including volunteering to help. They saw themselves as potential participants, not outsiders. This echoes the saying that, “You’re only a visitor once.” Both of these studies were conducted by professional researchers.

Third, there is my own observation of what happens at Christmas services where an offering is received; a practice we can debate at another time. It’s assumed that many are visiting these services, so sometimes the line is simply skipped, and on those occasions, I’ve seen people who I know to be visiting reach into their wallets and pull out twenty dollar bills, or more. Perhaps they have a spirit of giving because of the season and want to be generous. Maybe it’s guilt for not having been more philanthropic throughout the year. For whatever reason, they seem to want to give.

Finally, there is simply my own hunch that people want to join in because they see the community value in what is taking place because the church is there. The church I attend is making a difference our town, and is in fact in the middle of a project involving refugee placement that has attracted interest from the broader community and has created some partnerships with local charities. (Matthew 5:16b “…that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.“) I think we’re doing things that people want to encourage.

Having said all that, I do understand the spirit of the original Willow Creek goal of not being seen as simply wanting money. I don’t think we should abandon that altogether. But there are other ways of phrasing it that might stay in step with the spirit of the statements we’re using and at the same time invite visitors to join in if they choose, and hopefully eventually come to a place of entering in with their hearts as well as their wallets.


1 Peter 2:12
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

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