Thinking Out Loud

September 15, 2018

Weekend Archives: Best of the Early Years

Three posts, with some updating, from our very first year…

My Paraphrase of II Tim 3:16 – The Purpose of the Bible:


Today’s New International Version (TNIV)

All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for

  • teaching
  • rebuking
  • correcting…
  • training in righteousness

The Message

Every part of scripture is God-breathed and is useful one way or another —

  • showing us truth
  • exposing our rebellion
  • correcting our mistakes
  • training us to live God’s way

New Living Translation (NLT)

All scripture is inspired by God and is useful to

  • teach us what is true…
  • make us realize what is wrong in our lives…
  • correct us when we are wrong…
  • teach us to do what is right

My very loose paraphrase

All scripture has its point of origin in God’s mind, and

  • shows us the path God would have us walk
  • highlights when and where we’ve gotten off the path
  • points the way back to the path
  • gives us the advice we need to keep from wandering off the path in future

What Your Library Says About You:

Several years ago we were asked to stop in at the home of man who was well known in the Christian music community here in the 1980s. He passed away on the last day of August, and because he had some books and Bibles, and because we’re in the book and Bible business, we were asked to help find a home for some things.

We were only there an hour, but it got me thinking about the stuff we own, the stuff we collect, the stuff we purchase, the stuff we save and the stuff we leave behind. Someday, everyone reading this will be gone and perhaps someone else will be going through their stuff trying to decide was is valuable and what is not; what is worth keeping, what is worth selling and what is worth giving away; what ought to go where and to whom.

I have always believed that a man consists of more than the abundance of his possessions. But the things we hold on to, the things we value, say a lot about the people we are. It tells those who follow after us what our priorities were. I remember visiting an artist once who had a vast collection of what artists and printers refer to as paper stock samples. He then — somewhat tongue in cheek, because he was a Christian — said, “These are my gods.” Others would not say this as humorously.

The man whose library we went through today was different. He didn’t really own much in the sense of having stuff that was marked for long-term ownership. His name wasn’t written in the front of a lot of books. Instead, he had temporary ownership of things he wanted to give away. Books, booklets, Bibles, sermon audio discs, sermon DVD discs. It’s a nice legacy to leave.

His ‘giving away’ ministry was much a big part of who he was, though. I said to a visiting missionary yesterday, that in our local area, after years of meeting with the broadest assortment of the Christian community, I have only met about six people who are truly passionately committed to evangelism. This man was one of them. Finding someone to fill his shoes was quite a challenge, but as I write this, years later, 90% of his materials found a home.

The Mystery Man and His Gift of Encouragement:

For over twenty years now, I’ve carried a secret that is only known to my wife and two kids. The secret concerns the identity of a guy who was used in our lives to be an encouragement to us at a time when no one else filled that role.

We had been several months into our retail store in a market where three previous stores had failed over the past six years. In fact, we were the fourth Christian bookstore and the sixth location in six years. The first and last of these were “second” stores for established retailers, the middle one was a family with a strong retail history. We figured we didn’t stand a chance. Heck, we didn’t even bother installing a telephone. I figured three to six months and it would be over; but the pre-existing business would at least have a chance to blow out some inventory in the process.

And then Mr. ___ walked in. Carrying about six bags of groceries. Interesting groceries, too; stuff we didn’t know what to do with. Lots of pork. And cabbage. And those little cubes you put in water to make beef broth. But it was all so very encouraging. A week later Mr. ___ showed up again, with more cabbage and more broth cubes. And the next week, too. And so on for about six months, and then later it switched to a weekly thing with a little bit of cash here and there to buy similar amounts of groceries.

When we finally realized why the other three Christian retailers had failed in this particular small town, we decided to wrap it up. The problem? How to tell Mr. ___ that it wasn’t working. I did not want to break his heart or make him feel like he’d been used, or that he’d contributed to something that wasn’t going to last. So we deferred the decision another week. And kept deferring it.

Not many years later, we were a chain of three stores in three cities. All because we didn’t quit. Or more accurately, because we were so surrounded by encouragement, so pumped by someone cheering us on in the stands, that we just kept running the race.

His weekly visits lasted over a year. I learned later that he could ill afford to be buying us groceries. He said that God would tell him when it was time to quit, and once we rounded the corner financially, his visits stopped. I only ever saw him two or three times after that.

This guy did not want to be known. This was our secret. He was quite clear on that. It reminded me of Jesus performing a miracle and then telling the recipient to say nothing about it. (But wait; it was a miracle!) The man in our story and his wife may have been the last people on earth that you would guess would play a pivotal role in a ministry that would bless the entire Christian community in three towns. But my wife and kids know differently. God used this couple to get us to keep going when everything around said it was time to pack it in.

The world needs a lot more people like Mr. ___ .

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September 21, 2017

Hope for Beachgoers

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:31 am

We worked our way down the trail to the local beach. It was September already, but high water levels earlier in the year meant that we changed our routines a little, and this would be our first trip.

“Isn’t there a bench somewhere here?” I wondered aloud. I remember sitting on it in the late afternoons soaking up the sun.

“There it is;” my wife advised. Only when we got to it we discovered it had been mildly re-purposed. Someone had left a set of gel markers — I guess they don’t dry up in the sun as quickly — and a collection of small rocks and stones, one of which was inscribed with an invitation to write something to share with everyone. I guess they see this as a way of making a difference.

Ruth bought in immediately, choosing a stone and a marker while I continued to make my way down to the water where she joined me two minutes later.

“Did you write ‘Jesus loves you’?” I asked.

“No;” she replied, I wrote, ‘Don’t give up.'” 

“Are you ashamed of your Lord?”

Okay, I didn’t say that last one.

She said she wanted something that would be relatable for most people. She felt ‘Jesus loves you’ would make for a lot of eye rolling. It may be true, but it’s trite. Furthermore, I’m sure that message, ‘Don’t give up,’ is exactly what some broken people need to hear.

Would I have written ‘Jesus loves you?’ Honestly, probably yes. I would have seen this as a ministry opportunity. I would have seized on the time and place to be salt and light. I would have set down the marker and walked away proud of having ‘done my bit’ for the Kingdom of God that day.

And yet… perhaps someone would have picked up that particular stone and tossed it down the hill into the lake. This is Canada after all. We don’t have Chick-fil-a and Hobby Lobby and K-LOVE and the Republican party. We make no pretense to be a Christian nation. 

So isn’t that all the more reason to proclaim Christ’s name? Yes and no.

See, I agree with her, and I agree with me.

It’s complicated…

Just because you can use something as a ministry opportunity doesn’t mean you should.

…Don’t give up.

“I tell you,” [Jesus] replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” – Luke 19:40 NIV

 

October 3, 2016

The Mystery Man With the Gift of Encouragement

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:17 am

For a sixteen years now, I’ve carried a secret that is only known to my wife and two kids. The secret concerns the identity of a guy who was used in our lives to be an encouragement to us at a time when no one else filled that role.

We had been several months into our Christian retail store in a market where three previous stores had failed over the past six years. In fact, we were the fourth Christian bookstore and the sixth location in six years. The first and last of these were “second” stores for established retailers, the middle one was a family with a strong retail history. We figured we didn’t stand a chance. Heck, we didn’t even bother installing a telephone. I figured three to six months and it would be over; but we would at least have a chance to blow out some inventory in the process which we had bought previously.

And then Mr. ___ walked in. Carrying about six bags of groceries. Interesting groceries, too; stuff we didn’t know what to do with. Lots of pork. And cabbage. And those little cubes you put in water to make beef broth. But it was all so very encouraging. A week later Mr. ___ showed up again, with more cabbage and more broth cubes. And the next week, too. And so on for about six months, and then later it switched to a weekly thing with a little bit of cash here and there to buy similar amounts of groceries.

When we finally realized we weren’t immune to the reasons why the other three Christian retailers had failed in this particular small town, we decided to wrap up the business. The problem? How to tell Mr. ___ that it wasn’t working. I did not want to break his heart or make him feel like he’d been used, or that he’d contributed to something that wasn’t going to last. So we deferred the decision another week. And then another week. And kept deferring it.

Three years later, we were a chain of three stores in three cities. All because we didn’t quit. Or more accurately, because we were so surrounded by encouragement, so pumped by someone cheering us on in the stands, that we just kept running the race.

His weekly visits lasted over a year. I learned later that he could ill afford to be buying us groceries. He said that God would tell him when it was time to quit, and once we rounded the corner financially, his visits stopped. I only ever saw him two or three times after that.

This guy did not want to be known. This was our secret. He and his wife may have been the last people on earth that you would guess would play a pivotal role in a ministry that would go on to bless the entire Christian community in three towns. But my wife and kids know differently. God used this couple to get us to keep going when everything around said it was time to pack it in.

The world needs a lot more people like Mr. ___ .

August 15, 2016

Life Intersections

Giving Your Best in Worship

Something weird happened in church on Sunday: I got mentioned in the sermon. What’s more it wasn’t one of those, ‘Here’s a really bad example of someone trying to live the Christian life; whatever you do, don’t be like this guy.’

Fortunately, it wasn’t one of those moments where you’re about to fall into a deep slumber, and then you hear your name, and wake up and loudly go, “Yes! What?” (I hate when that happens.)

Actually, I knew this story was coming as soon as he launched into it. Our topic was worship. While these usually a take a ‘worship is more than just singing’ approach, this time we focused on what we do when we sing. The speaker was describing his start in music ministry as having its beginning during a service in that very church, at a time when I was music director — we didn’t have the phrase worship director back then, or electricity — when I allowed a 15-year old kid to play bass guitar for a Sunday.

And here’s one of the best parts of this story:

I have no memory of that particular service.

The reason I call that one of the best parts, is because I can’t look back and say, “Oh yes, well I saw such great potential and I just knew that God had wonderful things in store for this young man, that I wanted to give him a ministry opportunity.”

No. That would be an opening for pride. The type of pride that would take the whole situation and write a blog post about it. (Oops!) Well, you know what I mean.

Anyway, I heard my name, and I knew the story, and I was happy to be a part of his journey, and was anxious to hear the rest of the sermon, and settled back to enjoy the message along with everyone else, following my 3.1415 seconds of fame.

But then it happened. He went on to tell more of that story, and while I had heard some details before, I didn’t realize he had gone on to become Operations Director for a YWAM base in a major American city.

The magnitude of where his journey had taken him suddenly hit me. It was at that point, I realized the significance of my inviting him to play bass all those years ago. That’s when I started to get a little teary.

I started wondering if there were any other people who I helped or influenced whose story I will never know, at least not in this life. I then wonder how much we — you included — are part of someone’s journey without realizing the impact we have.

Interestingly, this episode on the weekend comes in the middle of a dry season. It was like, ‘Okay, my life has a purpose after all.’ I’m being overly dramatic here, but you get the idea. It’s nice to know that you’re part of a chain of grace, as your story intersects someone else’s.


Dallas Holm is talking more about evangelism in this song, but there are a few lyrics appropriate to today’s thoughts:

…Oh to be a link in this line of faith,
To help steer somebody to see His face;
Then watch them turn around and do the same thing,
In this chain of grace…

…I praise the Lord
For those I may never meet
Who some time and place I may have reached,
Through Your perfect love.

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 17, 2016

Our Need for Affirmation

img 011716 TYA few weeks ago a guy came up to me after church and told me how much he was thankful for the leadership of my wife and I while I was on staff at that church for four years more than 20 years ago. It’s nice to know our contribution was appreciated and remembered after all that time, especially when the population of that church has changed so much over the years.

We all like a thank you every now and then. It reminded me of the story of the ten lepers. Most of you know this, but for those who don’t you can take 60 seconds to read it in Luke 17:11-19.

We tend to think of this as a story of Christ’s strength and power.

First of all, we see Jesus in his divinity. He cures the ten lepers with just a command; he speaks the word and they are healed, not necessarily instantaneously, but as they take the steps of traveling to show themselves to the priest. But it happens at his word.

Not only that, but when the one leper returns to give thanks, he turns it into a teachable moment.

But I wonder if, second of all, we also see Jesus in his humanity? While he didn’t need the lepers to head off to Hallmark after and buy a package of ten assorted thank-you notes, I wonder if it warmed his heart to be thanked for what he had done?

Leper #4: Here we go, boxed Thank-You cards.
Leper #3: We can’t all send the same card.
Leper #7: What if we all sign one card.
Leper #2: That’s cheesy.
Leper #8: Look this package has an assortment.
Leper #5: Ask if they take MasterCard.

And when you think about it, isn’t that verbalization of thanks, that opening of the lines of communication — don’t miss the similarity between that word and the word communion — not also a characteristic of his divinity? (Yes, I know, it tends to come full circle.)

Apply this →→ Is there someone who was instrumental in your life in past years who would appreciate a thank-you? Can you track them down on Facebook, or Twitter? Your words might minister to them today as their life did to you all those years ago…

…and also, do you owe the Lord a thank-you for something you haven’t actually expressed to him?

October 22, 2015

Making Your Comeback

Louie Giglio, pictured here with wife Shelley, isn't a household name among Evangelicals, unless you're under a certain age

Louie Giglio, pictured here with wife Shelley, isn’t a household name among Evangelicals, unless you’re under a certain age

Louie Giglio is probably a name better known to people who are under a certain age. The founder of the Passion Conferences is also the founder of Six Steps records and Passion City Church in Atlanta. In its various forms, his Laminin video has been viewed several million times on YouTube.

Louis Giglio - The ComebackThe Comeback: It’s Not Too Late and You’re Never Too Far (Thomas Nelson, 2015) is, at least my opinion, positioned to become Giglio’s bestselling book to date. The topic is certainly relevant to anyone who has ever been knocked down, beaten up, rejected, or alienated.

The book weaves autobiographical snapshots from the author’s life with contemporary stories and familiar Old and New Testament narratives. The writing style is very similar to other authors we frequently review here: Kyle Idleman, Pete Wilson, Mark Batterson, etc. and the genre probably owes a lot to Max Lucado.

This is a very well-crafted book with generous helpings of scripture stories for people needing encouragement for people celebrating a fresh start, people needing a comeback in their future, and people for whom the reality exists that a comeback is simply impossible.

But I want you to meet Louie Giglio, so I’ll let him tell you about the book himself…

Look for Comeback in the bright orange wrapper wherever you buy books!

 

March 3, 2014

Creating a Church Social Media Hub

Church social media directory

How a social media hub is different from a Church directory

I’m writing this in a vacuum, because I haven’t exactly seen done what I am proposing here. I just see a need. So here’s the proposal, and if you have any suggestions or revisions based on experience with a church that’s doing this please leave a comment.

Social media, as we have come to know it, is with us to stay. The platforms will migrate over time, but a generation has grown up communicating on line, and overall, I would say that for the church, this is a good thing. We can start a conversation at a weekend service, and continue it all week. We can learn that people have specific interests, and send them links to articles and channels of interest. It replaces the classic “encouragement notes” or “thinking-of-you cards.”

  • Ideally, a church directory lists every member and adherent. A social media index lists only people who want to share their various social media platforms.
  • A Church directory contains addresses and numbers for mobile phones and land lines.  A social media index has names and locations for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, tumblr, WordPress and YouTube pages.
  • A Church directory often exists in print; a church social media hub exists only online.
  • Church publications generally promote the church’s own social media pages. A social media index highlights what the church family is doing online.
  • Church directories are usually only distributed to the people whose names are contained in them. A social media index can just be a page on the church website — “Central Community Church on Social Media” — with no restricted access, because each of the pages concerned are public anyway.
  • Knowing that anyone in your church can access your pages is a wonderful way of keeping yourself accountable for what you write, post or link to. Your social media pages may reflect a personal family focus and other interests and hobbies you have; but ultimately you are aware that fellow church members might drop in at any time, unannounced.
  • Social media is constantly changing. A social media index for your church family needs to be updated on a regular basis, perhaps weekly.
  • If any social media platform from any church member is reported to have questionable content, all their listings would be removed.

If one of the basic problems in the church is that we don’t really know each other, I know of no other way to change that than to be interconnected online. This allows us to get to know each other to a greater degree.

 

Graphic: Sacramento Metro Church of Christ (click image to link)

November 2, 2012

A Guest at the Table

Filed under: blogging, writing — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:21 am

This week I was a guest blogger over at The Master’s Table, the blog of Clark Bunch. I decided to pick up on the ‘table’ theme and used that as a springboard to look at what it means to add value or substance to a situation where we find ourselves; the issue of conflict and unity in Christian community; and creating ministry environments and community where everyone is given a voice. You can read by clicking here.

May 30, 2012

Wednesday Link List

They didn’t talk about this at seminary: A Russian Orthodox priest blesses the Soyuz TMA-20 spacecraft on the launch pad at the Russian leased Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The rocket is set to head to the International Space Station on December 15, with US, Italian and Russian astronauts on board.

  • I don’t spend a lot of time tracking Roman Catholic theology or books, but I was intrigued the other day to see this title: 100 Biblical Arguments Against Sola Scriptura. Here’s how they introduce the subject.
  • Members of an Anglican Church in Virginia are paying a high price their convictions about same-sex marriage, but 90% of them decided they had to take a stand.
  • Meanwhile, in Canada, a group of breakaway Anglicans are launching their own college.
  • And speaking of higher education; if you flunked Biblical Greek in Bible College and failed Biblical Hebrew in seminary, you get one more chance: Two villages in Israel are trying to revive the Aramaic language, with help from a TV station in Sweden.
  • Be among the first to watch this 2.5 minute preview of the movie Hanged on A Twisted Cross, The Life, Convictions and Martyrdom of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
  • Jamie the Very Worst Missionary is coming home from the field. “Aww;” my wife said, “Now what will she be the worst at?” Here’s her husband’s version of it, and here’s Jamie’s.
  • BDBO posts an announcement from Benny Hinn about the restoration of the relationship with his former wife; along with a link to an article suggesting some news may be premature.
  • A disturbing news story about a high school girl who couldn’t attend a state leadership event because the non-denominational service provided wasn’t up to the standard of her Roman Catholic mass, gets dissected at Get Religion by a Lutheran who admits her denomination would react the same way — all this on a blog that was established to confront bias in religious reporting. Sorry, but exclusivity is one of the primary marks of a cult.
  • One of the pastors at Cross Point gave an amazing sermon on Sunday, comparing listening to and obeying God with listening to your guide when you’re river rafting. Hope it’s available online soon.
  • John Dyer looks at the three major issues arising from the use of “Bible apps” on smartphones during worship services.
  • LGBT Discussion Link of the Week: A pastor shares a Twitter conversation with someone who wants to diminish his church’s orthodoxy on the basis of this one issue.
  • Monday night I watched an amazing lecture by Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis. Later that night, I discovered that the program I watched, Only One Race, is available at the ministry’s video on demand page.
  • Police in Indiana arrested a 55-year old Christian Reformed pastor who had placed cameras in the women’s restroom.
  • Meanwhile, a California pastor and his associates are facing a range of charges including assault, child abuse, kidnapping  and torture following a disciplinary action involving a 13-year old at a Bible study.
  • After a bad review from Tim Challies, Ann Voskamp takes the high road, leading TC to admit he sometimes lacks sensitivity, but One Thousand Gifts fails to earn the Challies seal of approval.
  • Just ’cause you’re talking about an individual, doesn’t mean it’s bad: Floyd and Sally McClung want encourage positive gossip.
  • 99.99% of everything at Lark News is fiction, but the story of the pastor whose Tweets destroyed his reputation is so totally believable.
  • if you want to avoid having your blog posts copied to other blogs, just have a blog where you write everything in lower case. most of us will keep our distance, except for a few type a people who will go through and capitalize where needed. mark oestreicher, this means you.
  • Okay, so if you’re part of ‘prayer cloth’ culture, today’s closing picture is a bit irreverent — and a bit dated — but…

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