Thinking Out Loud

April 1, 2013

TImely Verse

Filed under: bible — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:15 am

Decided not to go with the usual April 1st post. Not the right season in my life, plus it’s the day after Easter.

Last night I was watching the online version of Cross Point Church’s Sunday service; the one where Pete Wilson takes live questions after he preaches.  He mentioned that he reads a chapter of scripture a day and is always amazed at how timely it is to whatever circumstance he is facing. Then he told a story of how God used a scripture reference in an unlikely place to meet a need in his own life.

But Pete’s sermon also had something I needed — and still need — to hear. One of those verses that arrests you in your tracks. It’s the rendering of Isaiah 26:16 in the updated NIV:

16 So this is what the Sovereign Lord says:

“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone,
a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation;
the one who relies on it
will never be stricken with panic.

It’s that last phrase, which I underlined, that really got me.

The Message makes a rare use of capital letters here:

And this is the meaning of the stone:
A TRUSTING LIFE WON’T TOPPLE.

The ESV has:

‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’

The CEB:

…the one who trusts won’t tremble

The Amplified:

…he who believes (trusts in, relies on, and adheres to that Stone) will not be ashamed or give way or hasten away [in sudden panic].

The NLT:

It is a precious cornerstone that is safe to build on.
Whoever believes need never be shaken.

Finally, the NASB:

A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed.
He who believes in it will not be disturbed.

Part of life in the modern world is the potential for fear and anxiety. This is a verse to claim for those who know what it means to panic.

I watch Pete at 7:00 PM EST Sundays at this link.

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August 3, 2012

Illustrated Ray Comfort Text is a Labor of Love

2016 update: Sadly the website referenced here no longer exists.

So despite everything I wrote here yesterday about posting cartoons and comics on the blog, I’m forging ahead with this one, largely because illustrator Richard Gunther seems to actually want his material to be viewed by as many people as possible.

What you see above is actually page 16 (the middle page) of Why Trials written by Ray Comfort at the blog MightyMag.org .  You can see the panels in the correct order by following this link, or if you’d rather browse the whole blog click the first link and then scroll down to the posts for July 30thTake a few minutes to do this, you might find you want to send this to someone you know. (You can also click the image.) Or perhaps you yourself are facing trials, spiritual attacks, anxiety or simply find yourself in a ‘desert’ season in life. Click the image to read Why Trials.

Note: If a keyword search online brought you here and you’re not sure why, the post tags for today are all taken from the 32 cartoon pages. Click here to see it in its entirety.

About the artist: New Zealand writer and illustrator Richard Gunther is the author of dozens of children’s books.  He is perhaps best known for his provocative cartoons about God, the Bible and the Christian life. He provides daily cartoons for the blog site of evangelist Ray Comfort. Over the years Richard has produced a mountain of free Christian material for people to use. He has the desire to make Jesus Christ known in all the world because Jesus is the source of life.

April 30, 2012

God Meets a Family in the Midst of Crippling Loss

After my time serving on staff at a local church came to an end, we took a two-year break from that church and attended another in town, somewhat renown for its children’s ministry and Bible teaching. The pastor at the time was an excellent speaker, and his oldest son, Benjamin, was in a Sunday School class with our oldest.

Flash forward more than a decade and we learned that Ben had been diagnosed with a form of leukemia. To say this seemed to hit close to home was more than an understatement. It seemed to me like only yesterday the kids were saving seats for their dads at a Sunday School Father’s Day party by crossing their legs over the empty chairs next to theirs. My wife heard about a Facebook group, Pray for Benjamin Elliott, and as new feeds came in, she would forward them to me by email. Praying for Ben became part of our nightly prayer routine as a family.

After it looked like Ben had triumphed over the disease, sadly he relapsed; and not longer after, the Facebook group was renamed, The Ben Ripple; mostly because it appeared that the stories which rippled out from Ben’s life and death were impacting so many lives both near and far. Ben’s mom, Lisa Elliott carefully crafted each post, and the thought did occur to me that someday, this material might benefit a greater readership, and sure enough, much of the material from those Facebook posts have been gathered together into a book of the same name, The Ben Ripple.  (I suspect this will not be her last book.)

I asked my wife to take another look at those Facebook entries through the book, and share a few thoughts from a mother’s perspective.

The Ben Ripple is a challenging read.  Walking through another person’s pain and loss, even in retrospect, takes some doing, especially having been one of the followers of the ‘real time’ Facebook updates, which comprised an honest, hopeful and wounded journaling from a woman of faith and intelligence whose life was suddenly shaken loose.

In this book, Elliott brings back those first raw outpourings, ties them together with some more objective reflections on what was happening in the family’s lives at the time and closes each chapter with practical suggestions for those dealing immediately with cancer, and for those on the periphery who just want to not say or do the wrong thing.

Her writing is both skilled and passionate, drawing the reader closer to understanding and empathy with a situation that most of us will never experience –  the loss of a child –  and one that more and more of us live through – fighting cancer.  She takes time to explain the treatments, with their setbacks and successes, and to appreciate the medical professionals who were involved in her family’s lives.

All in all, it is important for us to know stories like Ben’s.  The places where God meets us face to face, and the places where he stands quietly behind us.  What the family next door might be going through and what they may deal with from one day to the next.  It’s been said that we live in a world that has forgotten how to lament — to cry out to God our pain and fear and loss.  This book is just such a thing, but like so many of the laments in Scripture, it ends on a note of “nevertheless…”  The possibility of healing, the value of trusting, the necessity of faith in one who loves us.

The Ben Ripple is a remembered and continuing journey well worth walking.

~Ruth Wilkinson

The Ben Ripple is published in paperback by Word Alive Press and available through them in Canada and through Ingram and Spring Arbor in the U.S.   A copy was provided to Thinking Out Loud by Graf-Martin, a Kitchener, Ontario based promotion and publicity agency which comes alongside Christian publishers to provide key titles with enhanced visibility.

March 23, 2012

Microblogging Friday

Heard a couple of interesting quotes from The Elephant Room II at James MacDonald’s blog; here’s the first one:

T. D. Jakes on the need for the church to be more integrated:

“When you write the books you read, your truth will always be distorted.”

Second quote from ER II

I think it was Crawford Lorrits on the need for us to stop obsessing on the finer points of doctrine when we’re supposed to be evangelizing:

“When someone is drowning, don’t describe the features of the rescue boat.”

from David Platt quotations at GoodReads.com

“We are settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves.”
Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream

More microblogging this week at this entry at C201 blog

September 27, 2011

Faith Under Pressure

Filed under: Faith — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:30 am

I’m going through a period of intense personal pressure and finding myself wondering about the condition and authenticity of my faith in light of the anxiety I am experiencing. There, I said it.  Scratch my name off your list of Christian superstars. Whaddya mean it wasn’t there?

My mother often quoted Jeremiah 12:5 to me at times like this:

5If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?

In the NIV it reads,

 5 “If you have raced with men on foot
   and they have worn you out,
   how can you compete with horses?
If you stumble in safe country,
   how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?

In other words, if you panic and are stressed by a little pressure, what are you going to do when something serious happens?  Except things these days are more serious. “The swelling of the Jordan,” so to speak.

I say all this to say that it is so easy to espouse certain positional truths in scripture, but it is another matter entirely to live out those things practically when circumstances require a response.

In other words, we generally have all the answers — for someone else.  It’s easy to straighten out someone else’s life; it’s hard to accept God’s instructions when we are the ones under pressure.

Mind you, I can’t imagine not having God to turn to. 

May 25, 2011

Wednesday Link List

There are a couple of blogs I read where there are well over 30 links represented weekly.  Trevin Wax at Kingdom People does a summary of each one, at least four a day with some longer lists;  while Zach Nielsen at Take Your Vitamin Z turns each one into a post of its own.  I guess that relatively speaking I’m not that dedicated.  …The Iberian Lynx makes a rare appearance here this week, while these weekly links do contain items that deserve a few clicks:

  • A Christianity Today item last week reported that atheists want to be participants in military chaplaincies, in a story appropriately titled, Atheists in the Foxholes.
  • Here’s a fun activity for those of you who studied the maps in the back of your Bible, it actually was an ad-link from the above the story; you simply click and drag the push-pin from the tribe name to the territory on the map and thereby Locate the Lost Tribes of Israel.  (I did not do well…)
  • Living Bible Explorers, a ministry organization in Winnipeg, Ontario which tries to steer younger youth away from gang activities believes that gang member wannabes are responsible for fire destroying their three buses.
  • A Christian counselor suggests that, of all things, humility is the key to a Fresh Approach to Facing Fear.
  • Yawn!  In case you missed it yesterday, Harold Camping, everyone’s favorite prophet, has revised the 5.21.11 date… it’s now 10.21.11
  • Russell D. Moore tears a strip off the romance novel genre, and before leaving the topic suggests that while some of their Christian equivalents are different, some are not.  Can Romance Novels Hurt Your Heart?
  • Is a lazy pastor one who simply wastes time, or one who chooses the easy approach over the difficult?  Darryl Dash shifts the priority emphasis at The Pastor Who Jogged While Mowing His Lawn.
  • Justin Holcomb at Resurence thinks perhaps the parents of young girls need to consider Eleven Ways to Protect Your Daughter from Barbie.
  • Julia Rhodes guests at SCL and attracts over 300 comments with another look at the need to Proofread your Worship Slides.
  • Some of you know that in addition to whatever we do on Sunday morning, every Sunday night at 6:00 EST since last fall I’ve been part of virtual church with Andy Stanley at NorthpointOnline.TV.  Well…this week I also checked out what Pete Wilson is doing at Crosspoint.TV; a service which features a live Q&A after the message.  Their time is 6:00 CST which is an hour later, or 7:00 PM Eastern.  His guest was Jon Acuff and together with host Jenni Catron the program was both informative and entertaining to the point where I began to wonder if Leno and Letterman might have some competition.
  • It’s too bad the retail book industry was such a “sitting duck” for online takeover, and too bad that non-computer-user book-lovers have to pay a great price for the changing paradigm in book sales; as I rant yet again in Anger in the Face of Retail Contraction.
  • A timely cartoon from Sacred Sandwich

April 22, 2011

Delivered from Death

When you’re in your teens or twenties, or even thirties, you may not think much about death.  With the passing of time comes the reality that the death rate is 100%, and with that comes much uncertainty.

Some of the uncertainty is fueled by all the knowledge we have.  Every night I watch ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, sometimes flipping over to NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.  There are various health stories on the news to be sure, but it’s the commercials that do me in.  Every week brings a new “condition” — usually described by an acronym — and when you listen to the long disclaimer, the potential side effects of the “cures” seems to make them rather dubious remedies.

In other words, I’m not becoming a hypochondriac — well, maybe I little — but I am becoming too aware of the things in our fearfully and wonderfully made bodies that can break down.

Last week, on one of the blogs, someone wrote about being so medically phobic, he breaks out into a sweat when his wife trims the cat’s nails.  And I think it was one of the Christian bloggers.

Fear and anxiety should not be part of the life of the Christian.  While the communion elements were being passed this morning at the Good Friday service and everyone else was breathing a quick prayer of confession for having downplayed their income on their 2010 tax return, or looking at pornography last night until the wee hours; I was seeking forgiveness for fear and anxiety.

Every year, I write something to the effect that, for those of us who’ve been around for awhile and have had our share of Christmases and Easters, we should look for something new in the Easter story or Christmas story that we didn’t know was there before.  For me, this year, in several of the messages I’ve heard in church or downloaded, it’s been this theme that in Christ’s resurrection we’re not only delivered from death, but delivered from the fear of death.

This quote from yesterday’s post at Christianity 201 — which I encourage you to read — best describes the perspective every Christ follower should have:

…Christ Himself [became] the instrument by which the Father would — for all time — make death not a wall … but a door.

Also recommended: He Took The Nails – at Christianity 201

August 27, 2010

I’ve Got A Postsecret

In balance, Post Secret is one of the darker places on the internet.  It’s also a curiosity because it combines online interaction with the necessity of snail-mailing a postcard to an address in Germantown, Maryland.  High tech, meet low tech.  The postcards are handmade, or at the very least, amended versions of commercial products; all containing a confession.  (I suspect some send them in envelopes for privacy and protection of their art mini-masterpieces.)

Most of the overt confessions involve some type of sexual infidelity.  Affairs or affairs of the heart; cheating on a spouse, etc.  Closely following are other transgressions of the ten commandments, including stealing things from a workplace or lying to a friend.   Apparently there is a need to come clean to someone, anyone; a need to have someone to confess to; explainable if the person is of Catholic background, but that doesn’t apply to the majority American respondents.

Not all the secrets at Post Secret involve something that the writer themselves did however.   Unlike other online confessionals, this one also gets a fair degree of mail from people who have simply been hurt.   They may have been someone’s victim, or they may be a victim of circumstances.   Or they might just be expressing an anger or an angst that not all is right either without or within.


A surprising number of the thousands of postcards displayed online each year involve a loss of belief or a loss of faith, such as the one above.  (Many are more blunt, just saying, “I don’t believe in God anymore;” often with the punchline, “I’m a pastor.”)  It’s interesting that while the average person’s ten commandment list would focus on the ‘second tablet’ there are at least some people responding who regard ‘first tablet’ sins — commandments one through four — as equally serious, especially the overarching loss of regard for God Himself.

It is as though this type of confession weighs equally on the heart of the person taking the time to compose the postcard.   There is a disconnect that has taken place between themselves and God, and somehow, they know God is not at fault.  (“If God suddenly seems distant, guess who moved?”)

Of course what is most sadly lacking, especially from a liturgical point of view, is the assurance of pardon.   Ignoring the fact that the confession may have been misdirected — confessing to a stranger or online community of strangers only eases the desire to tell someone — there are no next steps; there is nowhere to begin climbing back to right relationship with either themselves, another party, or God.  Not even a Hail Mary.

Instead, the Post Secret simply squats online for a few days — or longer if it gets picked up in one of the print editions — like a traffic accident that no one is bothering to clean up.

In The Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges says we never see sin correctly unless we see it “as against God.”   In other words, even the casual theft of office supplies is a sin against God.   We don’t fail ourselves, or fail our spouse or boss or relative or neighbor; ultimately we “miss the mark” with God.

But the assurance of pardon is that if we confess our sin, with faithfulness and according to a justice we can’t always comprehend, he will pardon that sin and help us to work out that sin-nature that caused it.

If God had a website confessional; people would walk away feeling new, and cleansed, and whole.

He’s got something better.

Wanna read more?   Here’s a continuation of this discussion at Christianity 201.

The reason Moses always appears holding two Styrofoam flutter boards is that the first four commandments involve sins against God and the second six involve sins against other people; often referred to as ‘first tablet’ and ‘second tablet.’   See, you learned something today about flutter boards.

So far, no link.   I know.   Post Secret contains content that is certain to offend some readers of this blog, but if you’re looking for the link, this is it.

May 3, 2010

Pete Wilson: An “A” Quality Examination of Life’s Plan B Experiences

I believe that with this single book, Pete Wilson moves outside the circle of American pastors and bloggers and into the arena of people we consider major Christian voices for this generation.

I had a bit of an advantage here.   After years of being aware of Nashville pastor Pete Wilson through his blog, and listening to several of his sermons and video posts, I was able to hear his voice in my head as I read each page.   I’ve been impressed over the years with Pete’s complete honesty and transparency as someone walking the journey of life as we all do, albeit in the set-apart position of vocational ministry.

So I really, really wanted to be included among the 500+ people who are posting reviews of this book today as part of a blitz by the publisher, Thomas Nelson.    The book is Plan B – What Do You Do When God Doesn’t Show Up The Way You Thought He Would? Knowing this was his first time in print having to compete for the attention of North American Christians in a crowded publishing market, I was a little unsure how Pete would fare.

Here’s my review:

This is a landmark book.

Using a large number of examples from the lives of people Pete has pastored in Kentucky and Tennessee; combining in the Biblical examples of David, Joseph, Job, Ruth, and even Jesus; and finally mixing in quotations from some of today’s most popular contemporary Christian authors; Pete delivers a treatment of his subject that would be thorough enough to meet the most rigid academic requirements, but is delivered in a totally grassroots, down-to-earth, unpretentious style.

However…

This is not an easy book to digest.   Life is hard.   This is not a feel-good book with rhyming couplet sayings.   There are chapters that seem to ask more questions than provide answers.   In the end — spoiler alert! — there is no pastoral closing scene with a golden sunset or a rainbow against a blue sky.

If anything, I got the impression that as someone who has been pastoring for just a little over a decade, Pete has had more than his share of being with people at the deepest moments of personal crisis and tragedy.

When I was pastoring in Kentucky, I would often ride with law-enforcement officials after someone had been murdered or killed in a car accident.  The officers liked having me along when they went to inform the next of kin.   I still remember the sick feeling I would get when we pulled into a driveway to do that sad job.  I would think, Inside that house is a family just living their lives, going through the normal routine.  They have no idea how my next few words are going to turn their very life upside down forever.

Not a book for people — including myself at times — who would like to bury their heads and deny that life often presents us with seemingly impossible challenges.  But a book that finds there is hope to be found at the foot of the cross.

I found the overall pacing and writing of the book very similar to another title (from the same publisher) Fearless by Max Luacdo.   I think that fans of Lucado’s writing would find this a very comfortable fit for their library, if they’re open to trying a new author.   I won’t labor the similarities, but they are many.

But I also think there’s another application here:  I think that pastors and counselors should buy this book, read it, and then have an extra copy handy to give to people who suddenly find themselves in the valley.    This is an author who understands, who gets it.

Finally, I think there’s yet another direction for Plan B, which is hinted at in an eleven-page set of study questions at the back:  This would be an excellent group study.   We all experience unique trials and we all process these difficulties differently.   What better healing process than to get people sharing some of the darkest times in their lives with others who have had, are having, or will have similar times where God seems conspicuously absent?   Combining the first two chapters also yields a viable 13-week adult study curriculum.

Those of us who’ve enjoyed Pete’s blog, Without Wax, or listened to sermons at Cross Point already knew what Pete Wilson was all about.   I believe with this single book, Pete steps into the circle of people we consider significant Christian voices in North America and beyond.

Plan B – What Do You Do When God Doesn’t Show Up The Way You Thought He Would? by Pete Wilson (Thomas Nelson, 244 pages paperback, May, 2010)

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)

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