Thinking Out Loud

June 17, 2013

We’re All Afraid

Filed under: Church, current events, music — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:38 am
We're weather obsessed: Websites like track active storm systems, while Wind Map (pictured above) shows active wind patterns at

We’re weather obsessed: Websites like track active storm systems, while Wind Map (pictured above) shows active wind patterns at

I think we’re all afraid.

Different reasons in each case, but I know that my American friends — who comprise the majority of readers here — are wondering quite literally which way the wind is going to blow. Communities not devastated by hurricanes and tornadoes have been shattered by gun violence. It makes you want to build a shelter in the basement and then just stay there.

I base some of this on a monitoring of some of the worship songs that some churches did over the weekend. A recently released song by Tim Timmons invites me to Cast My Cares while Sunday Setlist founder Fred McKinnon borrowed a mainstream music song, Home by Phillip Phillips which reminds us we’re not alone.

Years ago, in a very accusatory tone, people said, ‘Christianity is a crutch.’ In other words, people who can’t get by need a faith to face the hard times. But in 2013, I believe that while we need the God’s strength to face each moment of the day, we want to have a faith that is more than just a coping mechanism.

Jesus promised us an abundant life. The Greek translated means in great quantity and in superior quality. ‘Where is that abundant life?’ people might well ask. Of course an abiding joy doesn’t mean circumstances are perfect and everybody is — to quote a children’s song from another era — “inright, outright, upright, downright happy all the time.” No, an abiding joy transcends the circumstances; it is joy in trials, peace in storms.

…Still, I think you’re going to see more worship songs that deal with our anxieties and our fears.  Our own worship this morning began with the Brenton Brown song All Who Are Thirsty.

All who are thirsty
All who are weak
Come to the fountain
Dip your heart in the stream life

Let the pain and the sorrow
Be washed away
In the waves of His mercy
As deep cries out to deep

We sing Come, Lord Jesus, come

Our music and our sermons are allowed to reflect the times we live in and the situations we face. God’s Word doesn’t change and we need our worship and teaching to be Word-directed and Word-centered, but at the same time, we have to acknowledge the felt needs people are experiencing.

The past weekends at Thinking Out Loud have contained a number of columns that Monday-to-Friday readers miss. Be sure to scroll through the back pages of the blog and feel free to comment.

January 30, 2011

God Meets Us in Our Greatest Burdens

Lets Have a Bible Study!
On Thursday, I posted the results of a U.S. pastor’s congregational survey of the “burdens” that members of his church identified as things they were dealing with.  Later that day, I considered the list in the light of a particular scripture verse in Isaiah, and posted my thoughts at Christianity 201. I’m reprinting it here not because it’s one of my best posts or an example of my finest writing, but because it basically shows my Bible study process taking place.  Some simple steps here — not in order — include (a) checking the context; (b) using multiple translations; (c) using study Bible notes; and (d) using Bible commentaries.  And of course, (e) asking blog readers for their suggestions!

He was wounded for our transgressions.

Those words, from the KJV of Isaiah 53:5 are probably among the scripture verses most known by heart.

By his stripes we are healed.

If you grew up Pentecostal or Charismatic, there is no escaping teaching on that part of the verse; no escaping the connect-the-dots between the scourging Christ suffered and the healing that is available to us today, in the 21st century.

But what about the third of the four clauses in that verse? Here’s the whole verse in the new NIV:

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

Isaiah, in this Messianic prophecy is saying that Christ’s suffering has brought us forgiveness for our transgressions and iniquities as well as (if you’re not dispensationalist) healing of mind and body.

But there it is, in the second-to-last, a reference to peace.

I mention all this because of a post I did at Thinking Out Loud, where a U.S. pastor had his congregation complete an index card indicating the trials they were facing and the burdens they were carrying. If Isaiah 53 applies, then it must apply to the point of bringing peace to the very doubts, anxieties, fears, angers, jealousies, anger, pride, insecurities, addictions, pain, disappointments, attitudes… and everything else that people mentioned on those little 3-by-5 cards.

First, let’s do some translation hopping:

  • He took the punishment, and that made us whole (Message)
  • The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him (NASB)
  • the chastisement [needful to obtain] peace and well-being for us was upon Him (Amplified)
  • He was beaten so we could be whole. (NLT)
  • The punishment which gives us the peace has fallen on him (tr. of French – Louis Segond)

Clearly, the intent of this verse is that our peace is part of the finished work of Christ on the cross.

The New International Bible Commentary says:

Peace and healing view sin in terms of the estrangement from God and the marring of sinners themselves that it causes.

The ESV Study Bible notes on this verse concur:

His sufferings went to the root of all human vice.

Lack of peace as sin? Worry and anxiety as sin? That’s what both of these commentators seem to say.

The Wycliffe Bible Commentary makes clear however that the peace that is brought is a general well-being, not simply addressing the consequences of sin.

But in the Evangelical Bible Commentary, something else is suggested, that the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 is bringing a peace that represents the restoration between God and man.

Many of the other commentaries and study Bibles I own do not directly address this phrase. A broader study of the chapter reveals a Messiah suffering for all of the burdens we bear, such as the ones listed above in the pastor’s survey. (“Oh, what peace we often forfeit; oh, what needless pain we bear…”)

I’d be interested if any of you can find any blog posts or online articles where this particular phrase is addressed apart from the wider consideration of the verse as a whole.

At this point, let’s conclude by saying that the finished work of Christ on the cross is sufficient for all manner of needs we face; all types of burdens we carry.

January 27, 2011

The Burdens We Carry

Yesterday in the link list, I noted a sermon preached by Ron Edmondson at Grace Community Church in Kenwood and Rossview (Clarksville), Tennessee.  In it, he asked his congregation to complete an index card indicating the particular “weights” and burdens they were carrying. Though the cards were anonymous, they collected over 1,000 of them and compiled them statistically showing the areas in which people are struggling.

Here are the results:

I would have guessed that health concerns was high on the list, but presumably included in the section of general anxieties (the green section at 20%) and combined with doubt, which I would think is a whole different matter altogether, this area of concern did not rate #1.

The third largest area, dealing with disappointments from the past, is something I’m dealing with right now. I think a lot of people fall into this category. The sale they didn’t make. The girl that turned down the date. The offer on the house that didn’t go through. I wrote about this a year ago in a review of a Steve Arterburn book I called Regrets, I Have a Few.

But the number one area, as you can see clearly in the pink section, has to do with four areas that I’ll list in bullet points so that together, we can read them slowly and consider each one:

  • Jealousy
  • Pride
  • Grudges
  • Anger

Let’s re-list those differently

  • Wishing we had the possessions or status that others have
  • Consumed with the image others have of us
  • Wanting to ‘play God’ and thereby ‘level the playing field’ of perceived inequities
  • Thinking that individual inequities mean that God is unfair, and boiling over with resentment toward Him and/or others

If the stats at Ron’s church are right, this will strike a response with many people reading this, as will other areas included in the chart. God wants to bring healing change into our lives to deal with these issues. In the sermon attached to the link with the graphic — if you have problems switch over to his church site and simply listen to the audio — he tells stories of people whose life journey has involved intense pain. It can be so hard to move on. It can be so difficult not to “be defined by” the circumstances of personal life history.

While Ron’s focus is on the burdens we carry, I think it’s fair to also mention that we need to be sensitive to the needs of others around us who are carrying their burdens.

Ron asks his congregation these questions:

  • What do you need to leave behind?
  • What changes do you need to make in your life in order to live fully for Christ?
  • What failures do you need to forget.
  • What disciplines do you need to take on?
  • Whom do you need to forgive?
  • What grudge do you need to release?
  • What burden do you need to give back to God?
  • Do you need to trust God more?
  • Do you need to serve others more?

Ron concludes, “One of the roadblocks to your future may be the past that you refuse to let go of.”

To listen to the entire sermon as a podcast, click here and select 1/2/2011

January 26, 2011

Wednesday Link List

IMHO, everything here is a must-read / must-watch this week.

  • Should I stay or should I go? If you’re in leadership, remember that not everybody is told to journey into a far country like Abraham, or for that matter Francis Chan. Steven Furtick shares a special 9-minute video message.
  • With people hungry or in great physical need, why invest money in Bible translation? This link will take you to a series of four articles by Eddie and Sue Arthur that will deal with the question(s), ‘Why not provide water or food or medicine first?‘ If you can’t get to all of them, read The Bible and Hunger.
  • Imagine my surprise on learning that the beloved King James translation of the Bible — celebrating a four-century anniversary this year — relied heavily on borrowing from a previous translation.
  • What burdens are you carrying?  Ron Edmondson asked his congregation that question and provides a statistical breakdown of the over 1,000 responses on the common struggles we all face. You can also watch the sermon he preached at Grace Community Church in Clarksville, Tennessee. I may come back to this in a few days here, too.
  • It’s Cross and the Switchblade all over again; only this time it’s the lions and the kings who are gettin’ ready for a rumble at the schoolyard. This video has actually been out six months now, but check out “God Save The Foolish Kings” by House of Heroes, a song that truly reminds me of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run.”
  • Many have expressed concern over the ‘Christianization’ of yoga; concern with some churches offering yoga classes weekly. But now a Hindu group is sharing that concern, and want to see the religious roots of yoga brought to the forefront, albeit for different reasons.
  • What’s in a church name? Plenty. Do it right or you’ll end up — justifiably — on Fail Blog like this church did.
  • And speaking of names, next time you’re in a wider-market bookstore and you see the word “devotional” on a title, you can no longer assume it’s a Christian or even a religious title.
  • There will always be things that take place in the Body of Christ that cause the corners of our mouths to turn up a bit. But what about this whole subject of humor? In a rare editorial, the curator of  Sacred Sandwich explains why the Christian humor and satire site has been heard from less frequently over the past few months.
  • What can’t computers tell us? First it was CCLI tracking the top 25 worship songs; now it’s Bible Gateway telling us the top ten Bible verses. “This week on the countdown show, Matthew 6:33 moves up five notches from number 14 to number 9 [applause].”
  • What if you invited a seven-member band to perform at a service that only four people showed up for? Apparently, that happened to Mark Batterson, as outlined in this review of his new book Soulprint at Christian Post.
  • In an excellent lead to what follows, here’s a look at the spiritually-themed panels in the funnies section from the Comics Curmudgeon.
  • Our cartoon this week is artist Vic Lee’s 2007 tribute to the Left Behind series.

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