Thinking Out Loud

March 22, 2019

Of Miry Clay and Wretchedness

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:10 am

Brain flashback…

I remember it being sung in a children’s meeting:

He lifted me up, yes up
Up from the miry clay

We were kids, we played in the dirt and we played with the hose. We knew a thing or two about miry clay. Well, we did and we didn’t. We didn’t use the word miry in everyday speech.

For the adults it was:

From sinking sands he lifted me

Quicksand is something with which most of us do not have direct experience. Sometimes a person who was caught in the throes of addiction will talk about reaching bottom where there was nothing else to do but look up. But for the most part, the analogy of quagmire gets lost on us.

A more contemporary lyric would be

That saved a wretch like me

I remember in youth group we when we were coming up to “me” we would turn and point to the person next to us and sing “him” or “her” instead of “me.” None of us wanted to be the wretch.

The point is, in Western Europe and North America we have it pretty good. We’re comfortable. We enjoy our materialism. We celebrate our excesses on social media. Sin is become as archaic a word as miry clay; we’re comfortable redefining it — “that’s not sex” — as needed.

Nobody is covered in clay anymore, no one is sinking, no one is wretched.

What would anyone need to be saved from?

October 13, 2017

Pigs in the Parlor

Filed under: books, Christianity, ministry — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:59 am

It’s no secret to people who work in Christian publishing that over the past 40+ years, the number one bestselling Charismatic book title has been Pigs in the Parlor by Frank & Ida Mae Hammond. Published in 1973 by Impact Books, the book may be a few million short of making this list but is well-known among Pentecostals and Charismatics, but little known outside that circle.

With the full title, Pigs in the Parlor: A Practical Guide to Deliverance, there are in fact only two small piglets on the cover, though the title always catches peoples’ attention. Through a series of circumstances, I attended a ‘deliverance’ church for two years in my early 20s and though I then moved on, I don’t in any way minimize that there are times when this type of ministry — along with seasoned practitioners of it — is what is called for.

The Hammonds credit Derek Prince for his influence on this subject. The first chapter opens with two sentences that some would challenge theologically: “Demon spirits and invade and indwell human bodies. It is their objective to do so.” The title premise is explained,

Twenty-five times in the New Testament demons are called “unclean spirits.” The word “unclean is the same word used to designate certain creatures which the Israelites were not to eat. (Acts 10: 11-14) The pig was one of these…

In the 22 successive chapters, various aspects of deliverance are explained. The publisher website highlights some of these:

Frank Hammond presents information on such topics as:
• How demons enter
• When deliverance is needed
• Seven steps in receiving & ministering deliverance
• Seven steps in maintaining deliverance
• Self deliverance
• Demon manifestations
• Binding and loosing
• Practical advice for the deliverance minister
• Answers to commonly asked questions, and more.

The Hammonds also present a categorized list of 53 Demonic Groupings, including various behavior patterns and addictions.

Testimonies of deliverance are presented throughout the book including Pride, Witchcraft, Nervousness, Stubborness, Defiance, Mental Illness and more.

Although I’d seen the book, I’d never taken the time to look closely at a copy until this summer. I didn’t read it all but did check out a few chapters in depth:

6. Seven Ways to Determine the Need for Deliverance
11. Deliverance: Individual and Group; Public and Private
12. Self Deliverance
14. Ministry to Children
15. Binding and Loosing
16. Pros and Cons of Various Techniques and Methods

Most readers here would quickly affirm that this simply isn’t their type of book, but I would challenge dismissing this genre too soon. I think it’s something most non-Charismatic and non-Pentecostal Christians need to at least be aware of; something more of us should have some basic familiarity with.

On a more personal level, it was interesting a few years ago while working at a summer camp how the leadership, when faced with a situation of demonic possession, wasted no time in contacting a Pentecostal pastor who was known for this type of ministry. While it’s entirely possible that in the days leading up to the event some might have stated they don’t believe in the danger of the demonic realm, it was a whole different story when they were confronted with it directly. 

It’s also interesting to note here that manifestations of demonic activity are somewhat foreign to the experience of Christians in North America, but such is not the case in other parts of the world.

Here’s how The Voice Bible colorfully renders Ephesians 6:12

We’re not waging war against enemies of flesh and blood alone. No, this fight is against tyrants, against authorities, against supernatural powers and demon princes that slither in the darkness of this world, and against wicked spiritual armies that lurk about in heavenly places.

Pigs in the Parlor is a book with a funny title, but spiritual warfare is no laughing matter.

October 25, 2012

4th James Rubart Novel Boldly Goes Where Few Have Gone

I may never pray the same way again. Seriously. And all this from reading a work of fiction. As in, a made-up story.

Soul’s Gate is the fourth novel from James Rubart, author of Rooms, The Book of Days and The Chair; and he continues to excel with each new release.

For this book, he digs deep into the unseen realm(s) of the battles ordinary people wage each day against invisible spiritual forces. ‘We wrestle not against flesh and blood,’ right? In so doing, Rubart has brought to market a story that rivals the original in this genre, Frank Peretti’s landmark title, This Present Darkness from the late 1980’s. (C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters notwithstanding.)

But this is not fantasy. The book revolves around four people whose lives are not that different from yours or mine. Yes, there are things that take place that I believe Rubart would say exceed possibility — such as inferred from the title — but his take on praying with great, expectant faith is also down-to-earth and practical. Life application fiction, if you will, though I suspect the phrase is already copyrighted. It definitely can change your prayer life.

Reviewers often mention the page count of a book — 372, if you need to know — but this is a book that adds value with every single page. During the first few chapters I was already given ideas to process, and am considering restarting at chapter one once my wife is finished.

There is also a very strong Christian presence in each situation and character and the narration places a high value on scripture. This is the book you hand to someone who wants to know what a work of Christian fiction looks like; what makes it distinct.

My only concern is that after accepting a review copy I discovered this is the first in a series of Well Spring novels. A series. Something I swore I would never do, especially as someone for whom non-fiction, doctrinal books are dominant on my shelves. ‘I will read this first one,’ I told myself, ‘and then move on to other writers.’ By the half-way mark, I decided such was not the case.

I’m hooked.

Soul’s Gate will resonate well with Christian readers, but I wouldn’t stop there, as the book may work well with people who enjoyed that other popular Christian fiction title from last few years which also featured a cabin on the cover. If you know what I mean.


A copy of Soul’s Gate was provided to Thinking Out Loud by Thomas Nelson and is available in paperback wherever good books are sold.

For some other reflections I had after reading this book, click over to this article at Christianity 201.

August 27, 2011

Need a Rescue?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:53 am

When Jesus’ teaching began to go a little deeper, and his many followers realized that staying with him wasn’t going to be a constant free potluck dinner, the scriptures record that some of them decided to go rabbi-shopping elsewhere.  Jesus turned to his core group and asked them, “Are you going to leave as well?” and Peter says, “Where else can we go?”

60On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”

 61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”

 66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

   67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.

 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

It’s easy to think Peter was just choosing among several lousy options and saying, ‘Oh well… this will have to do… nothing better is going to come along….;’ and in so doing we miss the power of verse 69:

69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

Last night we spent some time with some people for whom the summer has brought their person version of what Paul Young would call “a great sadness.”  Maybe you’re dealing with something similar. For them, and for you, I want to share a song that has been on my heart all week.


You are the source of life
And I can’t be left behind
No one else will do
And I will take hold of You

‘Cause I need You Jesus
To come to my rescue
Where else can I go
There’s no other name
By which I am saved
Capture me with grace
I will follow You

My heart is Yours for life
I need Your hand in mine
No one else will do
I put my trust in You

I will follow You
This world has nothing for me
I will follow You
This world has nothing for me

I need You Jesus
To come to my rescue…

© 2003 Vertical Worship Songs (Admin. by Integrity Music, Inc.)
Jared Anderson

November 1, 2010

A Post-Halloween Consideration of Demons, Spirits, et al

I’m finding that I am starting to look forward more to my daily post at Christianity 201.   Many of the posts there are re-posts from other blogs, but it helps me keep a more Christ-centered focus.     I wasn’t sure yesterday which one should go where, so I thought today we’d just reverse them with a few minor changes…


So...Are your kids experiencing a Halloween Hangover?

For the message I prepared for a church in Toronto on Sunday, rather than running away from Halloween, I chose to confront it.

We looked at some supernatural encounters in scripture, including

  1. Simon the Sorcerer (aka ‘Great Power’) in Acts 8:9ff. He was a baptized follower of the Apostle Phillip, and yet parts of his old life — the love of the spotlight, for example — still lingered.
  2. The Seven Sons of Sceva in Acts 19: 11-16. The demons they tried to confront knew of the Apostle Paul and they knew Jesus, but they basically taunted the seven sons with “Who are you?” The world isn’t interested in what we have to do or say on our own strength, but rather, on whether or not Christ is flowing through us.
  3. Demetrius in Acts 19: 23-27. Christianity was turning out to be bad for the whole idol-making business. There are entire industries with a vested interest in retaining followers. If people really do turn to God, that will change. (But we have to be careful that we don’t create similar industries in the Christian world. Hmmm.)
  4. The Demon-Possessed Man in Mark and Luke and Men in Matthew 8:24-34. This wasn’t just a healing. There was a third party — demons — involved in this story. Jesus affirms their reality.

For a good spiritual showdown, we also looked at I Kings 18: 16ff, the confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Elijah just knew that God was going to come through. The buckets of water were a nice touch!

We contrasted Jesus’ words to the imprisoned John the Baptist (“Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor…”) with his words to Thomas after the resurrection (“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”)

We also were reminded of Ephesians 6:12, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms…”

We finished up with John’s admonition in 1 John 4: 1-6 to test the spirits.

1Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

4You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.

Some credit for this message concept must go to my favorite Reformed pastor and friend, Jack Vanderveer.

April 2, 2010

God Help Me

Or should I perhaps say, “God, Help me.”  (What a difference a comma makes!)

The following is from John Cassian (365-435)

There is something which has been handed on to us by some of the oldest of the Fathers and which we hand on to only a very small number of the souls eager to know it: To keep the thought of God  always in your mind you must cling totally to this formula for piety:  “Come to my help, O God; Lord hurry to my rescue.”  (Psalm 70:1)

It is not without good reason that this verse has been chosen from the whole of scripture as a device.   It carries within it all the feelings of which human nature is capable.  It can be adapted to every condition and can be usefully deployed against every temptation.  It carries within it a cry of help to God in the face of every danger.   It expresses the humility of a pious confession.   It conveys the watchfulness born of unending worry and fear.   It covers a sense of our frailty, the assurance of being heard, the confidence in help that is always and everywhere present.   Someone forever calling out to his protector is indeed very sure of having him close by.   This is the voice filled with ardor of love and of charity.   This is the terrified cry of someone who sees the snares of the enemy, the cry of someone besieged day and night and, exclaiming that he cannot escape unless his protector comes to the rescue…

This little verse, I am saying, proves to be necessary and useful to each one of us and in all circumstances.   For someone who needs help in all things is making clear that he requires the help of God not simply in hard and sad situations but equally and amid fortunate and joyful conditions.   He knows that God saves us from adversity and makes our joys linger and that in neither situation can human frailty survive without His help.

~as quoted in Devotions for Lent adapted from the NLT Mosaic Bible (Tyndale Publishing)

October 14, 2008

Porn Again Christian: Believers and Pornography Addiction

Filed under: Christianity, Church, theology — Tags: , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:33 am

Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill (Seattle, WA) has written an excellent online resource for Christian men who are dealing with addiction to internet (and print) pornography. The online book is called Porn Again Christian.    Because I also have something online — The Pornography Effect — on this same topic that we’ve referenced here a few times, I thought it would be useful to point out some similarities and differences.

  • Both contain 15 chapters and they are short chapters which deal with different aspects of this issue in a direct and concise way.
  • Both are currently available online.   Porn Again Christian is adding new chapters every few days, The Pornography Effect is presented over two spreads of a blog page, the chapters appear in order, you click “previous entries” to get to chapters 7- 15.
  • Porn Again Christian is directed at men who are caught in the trap of pornography, while The Pornography Effect is directed at women who really don’t have a clue how the whole thing works and are trying to figure out what someone else in their life is viewing and the effect that it is having
  • Because it’s written to men, the language in Porn Again Christian is quite blunt, and the spiritual admonition is hard-hitting.  Okay, now let me say that again:  The language in Porn Again Christian is very blunt and direct at times. Because it’s written to women (or other collateral victims of someone else’s addiction) the language in The Pornography Effect is toned down somewhat.
  • That said, there’s nothing stopping a man from reading The Pornography Effect, and there’s nothing stopping a woman from reading Mark’s message to men in Porn Again Christian.  Both resources also point out that the issue of internet porn is not restricted to men, either.
  • The Pornography Effect deals with the mechanics of the internet in general, and looks at this issue from a Christian perspective.  It presents some new ideas as to what constitutes porn and the intentions of the producers.   Porn Again Christian deals much more directly with the theological implications of the lust and self-control issues associated with viewing pornography as a Christian.   As with everything theological, not everyone will agree on everything, but that does not diminish my enthusiasm for recommending this resource.

So here are the links:  Porn Again Christian and The Pornography Effect.

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