Thinking Out Loud

March 15, 2021

Our Sister Blog Celebrates 4,000 Consecutive Posts

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:57 pm

On April 1st, 2010, I had seven blogs. Yes, seven. The one that eventually overtook my interests was a devotional project I developed to keep my mind focused on things of greater eternal value. If Thinking Out Loud was the parent blog, then Christianity 201 was the daughter blog, since these things are never masculine. (When a church splits off to form a new plant, it’s always a daughter church which must really grate on those who want churches to use more masculine language.)

Anyway, today marked post #4000. There were a few music videos at the end, so feel free to click the title which follows for a direct visit.

Christianity 201 Devotional #4000

Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.
– I Cor. 4:2 NIV

Then Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.”
– I Sam. 7:12 NASB

Celebrating 4,000 consecutive days of devotional readings at Christianity 201.

A year ago at this time I was publishing a countdown to the end of publishing 7 days per week. I figured I’d settle into a routine of Sunday thru Thursday or Tuesday thru Saturday.

Then Covid-19 hit and (a) I found myself with more time on my hands, and (b) I figured people were stuck at home and more likely to be seeking more online content. (I was right, starting in March each month’s stats are higher than the previous year.)

I also found myself writing more of the pieces myself, while continuing to return to past contributors, highlight the work of newer authors for the first time here, include the occasional quotations feature, and format the submissions from regular Thursday writer Clarke Dixon, and my wife, Ruth Wilkinson.

I do this with a great sense of personal responsibility, always mindful of:

Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly.
– James 3:1 NLT

I’ve also had to fight the severe pandemic depression that set in, particularly in the first 2-3 months. I know that I speak for many of us.

At the same time, Ruth has been working on a graduate degree in theology, which has raised the bar on mealtime discussion subjects. I recently find myself deferring to her on hermeneutical questions which arise…

…It is interesting how few pastors and Christian writers I encounter who are interested in writing devotional literature. Fortunately, this is more than made up for by the number of bloggers. If I only ran posts which began, “Today we’re featuring a new writer;” I could easily find 4-6 high quality devotions per day based on the hunting-and-gathering process I use to find the ones which do appear.

Devotions should be read — and written — out of devotion to God. Unlike writing a book, this particular genre comes with a daily deadline. In the spirit of Psalm 100, where the Psalmist says, “Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into His presence with singing!” it should be done joyfully, not out of a sense of an onerous duty or obligation. I am fortunate to be able to say that when an idea or concept presents itself, I do get lost in the pleasure of crafting 800 – 1300 words on that particular subject. The pre-pandemic feeling I had of wanting to cut back the frequency of C201 has disappeared.

This verse,

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.
– 1 Corinthians 15:58 NLT

was one that a ministry mentor often shared as part of the signature line on his correspondence. Another word which comes to mind is fervent which the Oxford Dictionary defines as, “having or displaying a passionate intensity.” It’s found in the KJV of a verse in Romans that this mentor used in his “tentmaking” business signature line.

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
– Romans 12:11 – NIV

Obviously, God presented me with an opportunity to do something unique and I have tried, as our opening verse at the top of the page instructs, to do this faithfully.

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.
– Ecclesiastes 9:10 NIV

In that light, what do you think is the best original devotional I’ve posted here, or the best themed topical devotional I’ve assembled?

The answer is, the one I’ve posted that day. I really do try to make each one better than the last.

You could expand that principle. If I was still leading worship in a local church, and someone asked me, ‘What’s the best worship set you’ve put together?’ I would like to be able to say, ‘The worship set we did this past week.’ Each one should represent a greater striving for excellence.

So yes, I do enjoy this.

But also, I need this.

I need the discipline that the daily deadline presents or I would get lost in the many distractions that modern life has to offer. (See yesterday’s post for more on this.)

And so we celebrate 4,000 days of writing, including the times we were away in Europe for up to two weeks and devotionals had to be written ahead and schedule. Again, I just wanted to be faithful to something, and on April 1st — with much less fanfare — we’ll mark eleven years of so doing.

May the words that come out of my mouth and the musings of my heart meet with Your gracious approval, O Eternal, my Rock, O Eternal, my Redeemer.
– Psalm 19:14 (The Voice)

April 1, 2020

Celebrating 10 Years of Christianity 201

Filed under: blogging, Christianity — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:23 am

It’s our daughter’s birthday.

Daughter blog that is.

Christianity 201 was started ten years ago today, and with only two early-days hiccups I am aware of, has posted every single day for ten years.

As I write something for later today, I wanted readers here to be part of the completion of this milestone, and also thank the writers from whom we’ve “borrowed” material over the years…

Last week one of our contributing writers reminded me of a paragraph on our “about” page, I had forgotten,

Why “201” –A lot of energy is expended in the Christian blogosphere debating and discussing things that are either divisive or fleeting. I wanted this particular voice in the blogosphere to be about things that were more lasting, and the possibility of God’s blessing on those who read this to be a realistic expectation.

That sums up why I started Christianity 201 on April 1, 2010, and it remains its purpose today.

The original articles weren’t formatted the same however. I didn’t demand of myself that each day include scripture — that came months later — but only that the focus be centered on Christ and His Church. So there were a lot of quotations. Here are some excerpts from some of the early posts:

On the first day of C201, April 1, 2010:

When we say we begin with God, we begin with our idea of God, and our idea of God is not God. Instead, we ought to begin with God’s idea of God, and God’s idea of God is Christ. – E. Stanley Jones.

On the uniqueness of Christ:

If Jesus had never lived we never would have been able to invent him. – Walter Wink

On staying the course spiritually:

Collapse in the Christian life is rarely caused by a blowout. It is usually the result of a slow leak. – unknown

On the cross:

I simply argue that the cross be raised again at the center of the marketplace, as well as on the steeple of the church. I am recovering the claim that Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a high cross between two thieves: on the town garbage heap; at a crossroad so cosmopolitan that they had to write His title in Hebrew, in Latin and in Greek…. At the kind of place where cynics talk smut, and thieves curse and soldiers gamble. Because that’s where He died. And that is what He died about. And that is where churchmen ought to be and what churchmen should be about. – George MacLeod

On Grace vs. Religion:

The thing about grace is that it makes religion totally redundant. – Bruxy Cavey

On treasuring scripture:

You Christians look after a document containing enough dynamite to blow all civilization to pieces, turn the world upside down, and bring peace to a battle-torn planet. But you treat it as though it is nothing more than a piece of good literature. – Ghandi

On the Holy Spirit:

The Ten Commandments… are impossible to fallen people, but not God whose nature they are. …It is the indwelling Spirit of God who, alone, can reproduce and express the moral character of God within us. – Charles Price

On intimacy with God:

There is a way to read the Bible that keeps God at an arm’s length. If you primarily read the Bible as a book of principles to follow and people to imitate then your relationship with God won’t be intimate, it will be contractual. – David Paul Door

A guide for those who preach:

1. How often is Jesus mentioned?
2. If Jesus is mentioned, is he the subject of the verbs? In the sermon is Jesus and his work proclaimed… or is someone else and their work proclaimed?
3. What are those verbs? Are they that Jesus came, lived, died, rescued, saved, and the like? Are they biblical terms? – R. Alan Cole

On the nature of sin:

We never see sin correctly unless we see it as against God. – Jerry Bridges

On evaluating ourselves:

I don’t want to underestimate my sinfulness because all that does is cheapen the grace of God! But more importantly, I don’t want to underestimate the grace of God. We need to be reminded over and over again that the grace of God is so much bigger than our biggest failure! – Mark Batterson

On not worrying about what others see:

Both Blaise Pascal and Jonathan Edwards were known to arrive home with a couple dozen hand written notes pinned to their jackets. Yes, they looked like dorks, but we remember them hundreds of years after their deaths and don’t even know the names of the cool people anymore. – Tim Keller

…The other thing that struck me about the early days of Christianity 201 was the use of music. Sometimes, in the early days, a post was simply an embedded video and a reflection on the lyrics. Ten years later, we have “the worship industry” and it’s far too easy for writers to be dismissive of the power a Christian song can have in the life of a believer, so few devotional writers include music. For an index of the songs we’ve used — updated last about a year ago — click this link.

I’ll probably add a few more words to this when it’s posted at C201 later today — it rolls out at 5:35 EST daily — but I wanted readers here at Thinking Out Loud to share the excitement.

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