Thinking Out Loud

May 26, 2016

Straight From a Faithful Heart

Lisa ElliottA guest post by Lisa Elliott

In August, 2009 Lisa and her husband David lost their oldest son Benjamin after a heroic battle with cancer at age 19. This loss greatly impacted many others, including ourselves, and I wrote about it at that time. Shortly after, she wrote her story in The Ben Ripple which we reviewed here. We also featured Lisa’s writing in a Facebook excerpt from those days. Recently I stumbled across a more recent article and knew that I needed to help her share it with a larger audience. As I wrestled with whether it was a better fit with Christianity 201 or Thinking Out Loud, I realized I wanted to share it with both sets of readers.

I’ve made it a habit over the past number of years to visit a graveyard every Sunday before church. My purpose, you ask? To metaphorically, but in a very tangible way, and strategically before engaging in a worship service, put to death anything in my life that is dead or dying and especially those things preventing new life from taking root and producing fruit in my life in accordance with John 15. You see, I’ve experienced firsthand that the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; but Jesus came that we may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10).

You can be sure that the Enemy of our souls wants us to do anything but produce lasting fruit or enable us to live an abundant life—least of all, in our relationship with the Lord; the Lover of our souls, the One who died to give us life and who, in fact, is our life (Deuteronomy 30:19-20).

I hope you would agree that God has called us to so much more, even in this life, than what we’re often willing to settle for! He’s called us to not merely survive, but rather to thrive; whether it is in our relationships, in our investments, in our ministry, in our vocations, in our churches, or in life as a whole! Unfortunately, the sad reality is that many don’t! Rather, they forfeit the abundant life that He offers for a mediocre, lukewarm survival.

So what does it mean to thrive vs. survive? Here are some principles I have learned to thrive on:

  • Life is too short to pretend; to simply fake it until we make it. God calls us to be real, authentic, and transparent, especially in our relationship with Him (A good example is David in the Psalms).
  • Life is too short to waste our time, energies, and resources on people who suck the life out of us rather than on those whom we can mutually invest in life-giving ways (Proverbs 13:20).
  • Life is too short to use our time on activities that only serve the purpose of wasting our time. Time is precious to the Lord and we need to use it wisely (Ephesians 5:16).
  • Life is too short to exist merely for the sake of a paycheck or a pension (Luke 18:18-23; Mark 8:36).
  • Life is too short to let the fear of failure, the fear of man, or the fear of the future control us and deprive us of all that God has for us (Psalm 20:7; Matthew 6:25-34).
  • Life is too short to indulge in shallow, idol, and meaningless conversation and miss out on meaningful conversation about life and death issues (2 Timothy 2:16).
  • Life is too short to hold grudges against people who will hold us captive as long as we allow them to (Colossians 3:13).
  • Life is too short to obsess over keeping physically healthy when we should be investing in our spiritual well-being (1Timothy 4:7-9).
  • Life is too short to put off investing in and enjoying a personal and intimate relationship with the Lord until “there and then” when we could be investing and enjoying it in the “here and now”(James 4:13-15).
  • Life is too short to tolerate gossip and slander when instead we should be encouraging one another, and all the more as the day of Christ draws near (Hebrews 10:24-25).
  • Life is too short to wait for life to happen when we can choose to make life happen (Proverbs 4:6-10)!
  • Life is too short to allow the boulders in our life to be obstacles rather than opportunities to climb to higher heights (Galatians 6:10).
  • Life is too short to waste our time longing for the life that was seemingly so much better in Egypt instead of remembering the God who saved you from slavery and brought you through the wilderness (Deuteronomy 8).
  • Life is too short to wander in the wilderness when God calls us to a land promised to us that is full of life and growth and fruit in abundance (Deuteronomy 8)!
  • Life is too short to hold onto the past so dearly that you don’t have the capacity to grasp and embrace all that God is extending to us through the outstretched arms of Jesus (John 3:16).

The bottom line is that life is too short to settle for anything less than what God wants for His children. The question is what are you going to settle for?

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21).

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12).

Casting Crowns has a song that fits so well into what I’m trying to say. You might want to have a listen:

Lisa Elliott is an award-winning author of The Ben Ripple; Choosing to Live through Loss with Purpose and Dancing in the Rain; One Family’s Journey through Grief and Loss. She is a dynamic inspirational speaker; often described as “refreshingly real” as she passionately shares the life-changing truths and principles of God’s Word in her ministry, Straight from the Heart. Additionally, she has appeared on Christian television and radio and is a regular contributor to Just Between Us Magazine. Lisa is also a pastor’s wife, mother of four (3 on earth, 1 in heaven), and is thrilled to have recently joined the grandmother club. She and her husband, David presently live and serve the Lord together in London, Ontario.

Visit her website — there are more articles in the “Straight from a … Heart” series — at

Like her on Facebook at Lisa Elliott – Inspirational Speaker and Award-Winning Author

Lisa’s books can be purchased directly from her,, Amazon, Indigo/Chapters, and Christian bookstores across Canada and throughout the U.S. via Anchor Distributors.

April 15, 2012

Brandon Cox: Five Cautions

Brandon Cox is a Pastor, planting Grace Hills Church in northwest Arkansas. He also manages and Rick Warren’s Pastor’s Toolbox newsletter. Grace Hills Church is only eleven weeks old but Brandon has some cautions he wants to share.

If you read what follows, you’re joining the article in the middle, so I suggest you read this at Brandon’s blog, where it appeared under the title, Why Grace Hills Church is in Jeopardy.

If we fail to intentionally be the church, we will unintentionally just do church. And that’s true, no matter how much we say we’re going to “be the church.” Doing the Sunday gathering thing is what we’re good at, and even though we spend a lot of time and money on it, it’s still easier than scattering to be the church in our community.

If we fail to intentionally make disciples, we will unintentionally just make fans. I believe in making Jesus famous and bringing people into the enjoyment of His glory, but our mission is more than increasing the popularity of the church. The mission is to help people become reproducing, sold out Jesus-followers.

If we fail to intentionally be authentic, we will unintentionally just perform. I’ve performed before. In fact, I’m a recovering performer and have struggled with an addiction to the approval of others, so admitting my weaknesses is tough, but essential. I no longer trust my autopilot to lead me into genuine authenticity. Being real takes effort, and if we aren’t real, nobody heals.

If we fail to intentionally embrace all people, we will unintentionally play favorites. And the apostle James warned us about the danger of insulting the cross by picking and choosing those with whom we want to do ministry. Rather than hanging out with only the “churchy” people, of our color, of our political persuasion, of our cultural background etc., the gospel itself demands that we purposely break free and seek out new friendships for the gospel’s sake.

If we fail to intentionally be generous, we will unintentionally consume everything. By default, we spend it all, and we tend to spend pretty much all of our resources on ourselves. Churches tend to fall into the trap of sustaining their institutional machinery, maintaining their buildings and budgets, and begging for more volunteers and bigger offerings to keep the snowball rolling. Generosity requires purposeful sacrifice (if we can even use that word in light of the cross).

~Brandon Cox

February 12, 2012

Don’t Follow Television Jesus

About three decades ago, I was writing monthly checks to three different television ministries. 

I believe in the good that Christian television can do, and I know a number of people who — with apologies to their pastors — receive their greatest spiritual nurture from Christian television. 

And I worked in Christian television.

As the only community television producer at a Toronto station who was allowed to direct his own program, I produced 48 half-hour Christian music showcase shows. I also was an audio engineer and worked in guest relations and music coordination for a national daily Christian television show. I also assisted a local church with their weekly broadcast of their Sunday morning service, seen on a national network to this day.

So you would expect me to be a little more supportive, right?

And you would also expect after all the flak I took two years ago for posting a picture of a prominent TV Bible teacher’s luxurious house — or, houses — I wouldn’t have wanted to do it again yesterday, right?

But that opulence; that excess is wrong. Just plain wrong.

There’s a saying in ministry that as a pastor, you should get a salary reflective of the median income of the people you are serving, live in a house that is typical of your parishioners, and enjoy vacations and benefits equal to the average member of your church.

That should apply with parachurch ministries as well, such as relief and development agencies, music ministries and (especially) television ministries.

The ease with which some people are corrupted by the finances involved in Christian broadcasting makes their theology somewhat suspect. I’m not saying that they are guilty of completely misreading the Bible or ignoring the basic laws of Biblical exegesis. But they either are (a) not understanding the text, (b) skipping sections they don’t want to read, (c) or fully understand what it all means but feel it applies to someone else. Or of course there’s always (d) they are in ministry for the money.

Certainly, this does not apply to everyone in television ministry. Not by a long-shot. Many are sincere, and present the gospel with clarity.

However,  I think the very thing in the personality of some people compels them to go on television means that the Jesus they present on air will be partially skewed by the elements of their own personality.

Christian television is a great place to let the introduction to Jesus happen. But from there it’s time to move on to (a) corporate worship in a local church, (b) interactive Bible study in a small group or coffee klatch, (c) finding a personal mentor, counselor, or prayer and accountability partner, (d) finding a place of Christian service, (e) finding a context for Christian witness; or (f) all of the above.

Generally speaking, Christian television doesn’t give you an outlet to do the things listed above. You receive — on various levels depending on the type of program or number of programs you watch — some degree of Bible teaching and exhortation; as well as the opportunity to give money. But that’s really all these shows can do for you.

Though you do get a kind of look at Jesus as he appears on television; the “television Jesus”  somehow robs you of the full picture. There are so many other voices who want to share in your fullest discovery of the infinite aspects of Jesus Christ.

And unless you’re reading this in a really, really remote place; you’ll find the opportunity to pursue Jesus in a local church not too far from where you live.

February 10, 2012

Praying Out of Habit, Not Belief

I’m currently 50 pages into a biography of Moishe Rosen, the founder of a high profile U.S.-based ministry to those of Jewish background or ancestry.* I’ll review the book in detail later on, but I was struck by a story of an interaction between Moise and his father, Ben.

Busy as he was, Ben [Moishe’s father] set aside an hour or so each evening to teach his sons his philosophy of life. Moishe recalled this as, “a combination of the Jewish sense of culture and achievement and his own brand of homey diligence.” He said, “Dad periodically made sure we could recite our Hebrew prayers and he stressed business principles that, had we written them down, would have made a valuable course in any business school. He taught us how to deal with people, how to determine the value of an item, and how to buy and sell.”

Regarding the prayers, Ben never hid the fact that he did not think much of religion in general.  Moishe knew that if his father believed in God at all, it was not the God of the Jewish religion.  At one point he asked, “Dad, why do we say these prayers if you don’t believe God is listening?”

“Sonny boy;” his father replied, “We say the pledge of allegiance to the flag because we are Americans. I don’t think the flag can hear us, do you?  We say the prayers because we are Jews. If we don’t do these things, how else will people know we are Jews?”

And so Moishe learned from his father that the Jewish religion, though not necessarily to be believed in, was to be respected and practiced because it was part of what made people to be Jews.

This got me wondering if there are those within the fold of Christianity whose attendance at worship or performance of perfunctory (because the children are watching) prayers is no different.

  • “Of course we go to Church on Sunday. How else will people know we are Christians?”
  • “No, I’m not sure God is listening to my prayer, but hey, I say the Pledge of Allegiance don’t I?”
  • “Of course we’re Christian. Our family has always been Christians. But that identifies us socially and culturally, it doesn’t mean we believe the Bible.”

There’s probably more of this going on in local churches than anyone of us would care to admit.

II Timothy 3:5 (NLT) They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!

The full context of the verse is that this trend increases as “the last days” get closer. But the passage isn’t about predicting a trend, the passage is a warning! Why “steer clear” (The Message translation) of such people?

I Tim 3:6-9These are the kind of people who smooth-talk themselves into the homes of unstable and needy women and take advantage of them; women who, depressed by their sinfulness, take up with every new religious fad that calls itself “truth.” They get exploited every time and never really learn.

But that’s the opposite of how we view things.

We view the people who are nominal Christians or apostate Christians or social Christians as somewhat innocuous; non-threatening. To be sure they need to be restored to the faith, but their presence — while it weakens a local church overall — isn’t exactly detrimental.

But the Bible calls such people dangerous.

*I’ll spell out that organization when I do the review. You know your blog is a hit when you’re trying not to attract search engines to a particular post; and I’d rather engage all those discussions all at once.

February 22, 2011

Trying to Find a Church That “Works”

L. T. posted this a few days ago at and I decided it’s definitely worth stealing borrowing. It’s about discovering a church online which is described, and then there are links in the last paragraph where you can learn more about this group.  You’re encouraged to read the article at its source, where it appeared under the title Finding a Biblical Church

I’ve done lots of thinking about church in my life.  I think that even many forms of simple church don’t live up to the biblical standard.  I read about one group on online.  It did some things right.  They talked about scripture and did some missionary work but they had several obvious failings.

The people in the group had a obvious lack of commitment to each other.  It took years before a real community gelled and in the crisis moment’s people would scatter.  There were some in the group that fought with each other over leadership roles in the group.  There were some in the church that didn’t really respect the leader and thought they he should have taken a completely different approach.

At times the church was really popular with the community and did a lot of outreach.  They followed the Luke 10 approach so popular with the house church movement today but they never actually got around to planting any more churches.  Any church that isn’t fulfilling committed to multiplying disciples and churches isn’t fulfilling the great commission.

Their leader was a real liability to the movement at times.  Sometimes his teaching was cryptic and irrelevant.  At other times he was just plain offensive and managed alienate almost everyone who could have become good members of the church.  Josh was a real hot head and sometimes he would mock or insult other leaders of the faith.  It appeared at times like the leader had favorites in the church.

There was an obvious lack of church commitment to the truth and accountability.  As time went on it became readily apparent that the treasurer was taking money out of the church account.  The leader had to have known this was happening and he did nothing about it.

That isn’t to say this church didn’t do some good.  They did but it was obvious that its members really lacked the commitment to each other to be a real biblical church.

Three of the church members kept a blog about it. You can read them here, here and here.

September 1, 2010

Wednesday Link List

The August Bank Holiday brought U.K. Christians to Cheltenham for the annual Greenbelt Festival

Welcome to September!   Here’s where the three w’s took us this week:

  • CNN has an interesting piece about Kenda Creasy Dean, author of Almost Christian, a book about ‘professing’ teen Christians whose faith the author views as “mutant Christianity.”   Read more.
  • David Fitch looks at the “ritualized” activity we call “going to church;” and thinks the “going” should be more connected to everyday life.   More at Reclaiming the Mission.
  • Talbot Davis doesn’t spend a lot of time in courtrooms, but couldn’t help but notice that the place seemed eerily familiar.
  • Zach N. at Vitamin Z has a video embed of Joshua Harris taking 15 minutes with Francis Chan discussing where The Chanster sees his post-Cornerstone future heading.
  • Challies spotted this insightful analysis by Russell. D. Moore on the weekend’s unscheduled revival meeting — attracting anywhere from 87,000 to 287,000 depending on who you ask — in Washington featuring Fox News’ Glenn Beck.
  • A speaker at England’s annual Greenbelt Festival suggested on the weekend that despite his previous sympathies, Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams is sidelining the LGBT agenda in favor of the issue of church unity.
  • What do you do when an old flame pops up on Facebook and wants you to “friend” him or her?   Janell Williams Paris thinks this through for your consideration.
  • If your musical taste runs to classical stylings, here’s a video discovery of  Camilla Kerslake and a string section performing “Abide With Me.”
  • Justin Wise asks himself the question, “Who is my pastor?”  Check out his multiple answers.  Can you relate?
  • Legal battles notwithstanding, The Shack author Wm. Paul Young continues to look forward to the day that a movie version of the book becomes reality.
  • A February, 2009 post at this blog continues to attract readers and the occasional comment, as those with allergies continue to deal with people wearing perfume at church.
  • Some inane antics at The Thinklings where it’s time for your favorite TV show, America’s Next Top Pastor.
  • Our cartoonist this week is Dennis Fletcher with the appropriately named Fletch cartoon at Baptist Press.  (Click image for more.)

June 9, 2010

Wednesday Link List

From my computer to yours, here’s just a few of the online adventures I had this week…

  • “The day after we here in the U.S. paused to remember the men and women who had died fighting for our country, the fight continued from beyond the grave. On Tuesday [June 1] in the town of Göttingen, Germany a World War 2 era bomb exploded killing three people and injuring six others.” So begins a short essay by Julie Clawson, “Violence from the Past.”
  • The Rev. Scott Schmieding didn’t let a physical impairment stop him from taking a pastor job — which includes preaching — even though he has no tongue.   This CT story will make you reconsider whether or not you’re letting circumstances stand in the way of calling.
  • Christian author Diana Gresh, aka ‘The Secret Keeper Girl,’ shares a concerned one-parent-to-another open letter to Billy Ray and Tish, mom and dad to superstar Miley Cyrus.
  • Remember that street-preacher in the UK who was arrested for saying homosexuality is a sin?  Here’s actual video of him being placed under arrest.
  • Rick Warren tells the people in his congregation that if they’re just faking Christianity, it’s time to find another church.
  • “Social networking does have its perils. This much is for sure. Loss of privacy, device obsession, check-in overdose … Bad. But this new wave of human communication opens doors that have previously remained slammed shut.”  Read more at BeDeviant.
  • American churches (and other buildings with large auditoriums) have only three days left to convert their wireless microphones over to a new operating frequency.  Many can’t afford to do so.   (First it was the digital television conversion; now this…)
  • A German family receives asylum in the U.S. under rather strange circumstances — they are home schooling refugees.
  • Here’s seven great over-arching principles for Children’s ministry from the blog by Will Mancini.   Pass this link on to your Christian Ed. person where you worship.
  • Flashback to February; the blog is called Sim’s Zone, the piece is short but poignant:  Lent Reflections.
  • Blog discovery of the week:  The Aristophrenium.    Four young men; three Australians and one in Canada; writing on Apologetics; often at a deeper, academic level; and often with with the common touch and bit of heart.
  • Rick Apperson launches a blogapalooza with guest writers all throughout June.  It was good to connect earlier this week with Dawn Fehr who blogs at Blown to Smithereens.
  • Two popular UK figures team up to have some fun writing a book together.
  • Christian news and information blog highlight of the week:  New Church Report.
  • New homes in new neighborhoods constructed with new building materials and  filled with new furniture… equals major indoor air quality issues.   It seems that rapid economic advancement is actually killing young people in China.
  • Have a worship moment (or many) interacting with God’s creation:  If you remember the BBC DVD series from a few years back, Planet Earth, you need to know about the new series, Life.  Here’s a trailer.
  • Internal link from this blog two days ago, in case you missed it, on the passing of CCM veterans Dana Key (DeGarmo & Key) and Kevin Thomson (Sweet Comfort Band).
  • Speaking of Christian music, for my Canadian readers who are into modern worship, CCM, southern gospel or even children’s music — and anyone else who wants to take a peek — check out the redesigned (as of yesterday!) from the Music & Media division of David C. Cook Canada.
  • Our cartoon this week is from Sacred Sandwich:

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